Flight Training Archive

Missing Meigs and Cousin John

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Monday, March 30, is the six-year anniversary of the demolition of Meigs Field in Chicago. I know lots of you had a soft spot in your hearts for this jewel on the lake.

Ten years ago, my family drove out to Chicago to visit my husband’s cousin, John Houghtaling. John was a great guy, a former submariner with the U.S. Navy, who had eight children–two of whom became pilots. When he learned I was taking flying lessons, nothing would do but that he give me a copy of a flying simulator program that he had used and enjoyed.

While sightseeing in Chicago we stopped at Meigs Field, and the family good-naturedly let me spend a half-hour watching aircraft take off and land. Meigs went right to the top of my “someday I’ll land here” list. Of course you know it never happened. Meigs was bulldozed, and John died in 2003 at the age of 86. Thank you, John, for sharing my excitement at learning to fly. Thank you, Meigs, for giving me something to shoot for as I practiced crosswind landings.

If you have Meigs memories, please share them in the Comments section.

Scholarships…for a limited time only!

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

We get a lot of press releases about flight training scholarships, and we try to publish them in the magazines and our electronic newsletters. These days, every little bit helps.

From time to time, I’m going to highlight some deadlines for scholarships as well as showcase some others that may be somewhat narrow in scope but are nonetheless great opportunities–if you fall into the right category.

For example, the Oklahoma Chapter of The Ninety-Nines is offering a $5,000 “Wings of the Future” scholarship. The qualified applicant is female and presumably a resident of Oklahoma, so that kind of narrows the field a bit. But still, $5,000! So, Oklahoma pilots, if you know a lady who has been on the fence about flying because of the cost, this could be her ticket to ride. Get more information on the Web site–but hurry, because applications must be postmarked March 31.

Coming up in just a few days (March 15) is your last chance to apply for one of three scholarships (two for $500 each, one for $1,000) offered by the folks at Pilotmall.com. Qualified applicants must be training for a sport or private pilot certificate, and you have to write an essay; see the Web site for the complete details. Five hundred dollars will buy you at least a couple more hours of dual with a rental airplane; $1,000 could get you through your checkride, depending on where you are in your training. So what are you waiting for? Good luck!

Fun, fun, fun on Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Wednesday, February 25th, 2009

The winds were gusting to 30 knots at Bay Bridge Airport last Friday, and there wasn’t a whole lot of flying going on. Saturday, however, dawned calmer and clear, and pilots came out in droves.

I was there to write a story about sport pilot aviation, which is blossoming at this modest nontowered airport that’s located a few hundred yards from the Cheapeake Bay. (If you’re landing on Runway 11, your base and final are over the water.) From my perch in the pilot lounge, I could view a steady stream of aircraft taking off and landing. It was gratifying to see, given all of the crappy economic news we’ve been dealing with.

Even better was the opportunity to talk to student pilots who, quite simply, love flying. Some of these folks drive more than an hour to train here. None of them seemed to think that was any hardship.

In an upcoming issue of AOPA Flight Training, you’ll meet:

  • Barry, whose years of sailing experience means she knows the watery landscape of the Eastern Shore intimately–but admits she has a little more trouble picking out landmarks on the ground…
  • Anthony, a master mechanic who completed the King Schools home study program before he ever took a flight lesson…
  • Tim, who at over 6 feet tall is probably the last person you’d think would want to fold himself into a light sport airplane–but he does, and has room to spare…
  • Karen, a grandmother who lights up the room when she talks about learning to fly; and…
  • Whitney, who soloed in November, plans her weekends around her lessons, and prefers her trainer’s handbrake to toebrakes.

Refunds do exist in aviation

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

There is justice in this world. Just ask the students at ATP, the nationwide flight school dedicated to training career pilots. This week ATP announced the career pilot program students who enrolled at mid-2008 prices will be given a rebate check of up to $2,500 because the cost of avgas has dropped more than $1.50.

Can you imagine what these students must be thinking? You want to give me money back? In this economy?

When you work the math, even a student eligible for the full refund will only get around 4 percent of the course fee back. That’s not much when you’re talking almost $60,000. But, the money isn’t really the point. It’s the principle. How many of us still pay fuel surcharges at our flight schools, or on the airlines for that matter? Yet, as we’ve closely watched the price at the fuel pump decrease rapidly, the surcharges remain. Why? Maybe supply of students has dropped off, or maybe insurance rates have gone up. Then why not raise the rental rates or instructor rates? Surcharges always have been a thinly veiled way of telling customers the business needs more money but doesn’t think they’re smart enough to compare pricing with a competitor.

So as the holiday season comes to a close, I say thanks ATP for doing what’s right and continuing the merriment just a little bit longer.

What makes a good flight school?

Monday, December 22nd, 2008

A conversation over lunch turned to flight schools as a fellow pilot talked about the poor customer service he experienced on his vacation while checking out in an airplane. Although we all may have similar stories to tell, I challenged those around the table to think about some of the good experiences they’ve had at flight schools–beyond the basic thrill of slipping the surly bonds of Earth.

And there were many bright spots. I heard about schools that always had a pot of coffee brewing, at least during these chilly winter months, and it was complimentary (each cup said, “Hey! Great landing!”). One pilot’s school sponsored weekly cookouts and other social activities. A flying club arranged monthly fly-outs of one to three days; students shared the flying and the expenses, and enjoyed sharing new experiences as a result. (You thought these were all going to be about food and drink, didn’t you?)

What do you like the most about the flight school where you trained, and why? What did that business do right? How did your instructor or school staff keep you coming back for more, especially as you struggled with landings, navigation, or whatever it was that you struggled with in training? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

New guidance for your IPC

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Those of you with instrument ratings know what an IPC is, and those with VFR ratings are saying, “Huh?” Pilots with instrument ratings are required to stay proficient, or to take a test if they don’t. An IPC is that test, the instrument proficiency check to be exact. Here’s a guide from the FAA.  Take a look.

I also found an IPC Sporty’s video on YouTube that covers standard rate turns. For VFR pilots, that is the type of turn you want to make if you enter weather unexpectedly. Click here to go to YouTube.

Pilots working at AOPA are required to take an IPC every year, whether they maintain  proficiency or not. It’s a great idea for finding out what you don’t know.

She ought to be in pictures

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

As a renter pilot, have you ever been disappointed to learn that one of your favorite airplanes had been sold, and was no longer on the rental line at your airport? Of course you have. But did you ever feel that way about an airplane you’ve never even flown?

It happened to me today.

There’s a Cessna 172, N505SP, that holds the title for airplane appearing most frequently in AOPA Flight Training. It was all a coincidence, really. The Skyhawk was purchased by a Wichita pilot for his daugher’s use in learning to fly. Our senior photographer, Mike Fizer, is based in Wichita, and 505SP’s availability allowed her image to make its way into the magazine. A lot.

So imagine my surprise when I opened an e-mail from a reader in Australia, who told me the airplane on Flight Training’s October cover (shown) was in a shipping container, en route to a flight school in Brisbane.

Fizer tells me the daughter earned her certificate, flew for a regional airline briefly, and now flies jets as a corporate pilot. Her dad’s moving up to a late-model Cessna 182, so 505SP was listed for sale. And it sounds like the Skyhawk is going to a good home; Gerry Dick says she’ll be used as a trainer and will share hangar space with a Super Decathlon and Citabria Adventure.

Even better, he’s encouraging me to visit. I may yet get to fly this Skyhawk the whole AOPA Flight Training staff has come to know so well.