Archive for the ‘Training advice’ Category

Lessons from my most recent cross-country

Monday, August 5th, 2013

TripFor some people, flying a cross-country trip is no big deal. Check the weather, file a flight plan, and off they go. Sometimes I envy those people.

For me it’s usually a huge production involving much gathering of gear, checking and re-checking the weather, and making sure I have contingency plans in place for every aspect of the flight.

And still things don’t always go as planned, and I come away with valuable lessons learned. Here are a few, gleaned from my most recent trip in my Cherokee 140 from Maryland to Wisconsin and back:

  • iPads don’t like heat. I knew enough not to put my iPad on the glareshield, but just having it sit in the right seat in a hot cockpit was enough to make the thing crap out.
  • Flight planning programs suck up a lot of battery on an iPad. A three-hour leg used up all the juice in my fully charged iPad, putting it out of commission for the second three-hour leg of the day. (I had paper charts for back-up.)
  • Noise fatigue is a real thing. Try flying two three-hour legs with a passive noise reduction headset, then come back and tell me it’s not.
  • Crosswind landing proficiency comes in handy when you least expect it. A planned fuel stop in Ohio presented a 15-knot direct crosswind. I coached myself through it and landed, but kept an alternate airport in mind just in case the winds proved too much of a challenge.
  • Watch the weather, always. At that same ground stop in Ohio, I spent an hour on the ground, just trying to rest and recharge a bit before launching on my second leg. A bit of bad weather was off to the north, but I didn’t think it would be a problem—until it reached the vicinity of the airport before I was ready to leave.
  • There’s nothing quite as satisfying as traveling the country by GA. All of these minor glitches aside, the planning and (eventual) successful execution of my flights was a fun and fulfilling experience, something that certainly can’t be matched in Seat 34A, Aisle 12 of a Boeing 737 or riding in the relative comfort of a car.—Jill W. Tallman

GIFT keeps on giving

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

A-145-0274I was in Vernon, Texas, in November 2012, watching a remarkable crew help women from all around the United States put aside their worries and fears and press forward to obtain pilot certificates. The program is called GIFT (Girls in Flight Training).

As I wrote in “Women with Wings” (click the link to read the article), during that week Mary Latimer and her crew fed and housed more than 30 women, taught ground school and took them flying for 12 hours a day. At the end of the week, there were two new private pilots, eight solos, and five knowledge tests passed.

Is that the end of the story? Of course not. Mary keeps in touch and is happy to report that four more private pilots and a new instrument pilot have graduated from the 2012 GIFT. Several others are still plugging along; some are returning to Vernon to train with Mary, who works with her husband, Lawrence; her daughter, Tamara; and her granddaughter, Amanda—all flight instructors.

The 2013 GIFT is filled with a waiting list. Mary loves what she does, but also would love to see other flight schools put together this type of program to fill the need for this type of supportive, immersive training.

Mary says the 2012 FAA airman statistics reveal that the percentage of women pilots now stands at 5.29 percent (down from 5.35 percent in 2011). “Not a big change, but certainly in the wrong direction,” she says. “I think it says a lot about the industry. Any flight school that wants to increase their business needs to figure out how to get more women in the door and then get them through the training.”

Flight school owners and operators, Mary will be at AOPA Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, scheduled for October 10-12. Want to find out more about GIFT? She’s happy to talk to you. Contact me at jill.tallman@aopa.org and I will put you in touch with Mary Latimer.—Jill W. Tallman

Just ahead in the September issue

Monday, July 8th, 2013

Listening WellWe’re in final production this week on the September issue, but most of my thoughts are still stuck on the month of July—and Airventure! Be that as it may, here’s a glimpse of some of what you can expect to find when the magazine reaches your mailbox or electronic device:

  • Upside Down, Inside Out: What’s the first thing most people ask about aerobatic training? Hint: It has to do with your stomach.
  • No More Monkey Business: If you stumble, miss radio calls, or just don’t like chatting on the radio–we have suggestions for all those ills.
  • Stop, Look, Listen: Ways you can avoid a runway incursion.

There’s more, but I don’t want to give it all away. Look for the September issue to land in your mailbox beginning August 1. The digital edition goes live July 25.—Jill W. Tallman

To get a free six-month membership to AOPA and receive six free issues of Flight Training magazine, call 800-USA-AOPA or visit our website. To switch your paper subscription to digital, visit our website.

Your favorite armchair aviation activities

Thursday, April 25th, 2013

Cessna in fogChip Wright’s recent blog on LiveATC.net got me wondering what other kinds of armchair aviation activities pilots like to do. We always tell our readers to “keep your head in the game” when you can’t fly. But how, exactly, do you do that? I posed the question to our Facebook friends, and they came up with a list of great suggestions. Here are some:

  • “[Sit] on the flight line and watch the other planes. … You can learn a lot by watching the landings.”—Stephen Bristow
  • “I love studying sectionals.”—Chris Hatcher
  • “Hang out at the airport if it’s nice or watching videos if it’s not nice. Most of all I like sitting around with other pilots and talking about our past or future flights.”—Ken Ludwick
  • “[Study] for the private checkride. And practice the maneuvers in my head.”—Regina Coker
  • “[Read] the good ole’ [private pilot] textbook! I’ve been a pilot for almost two years and I read it all the time!”—Angelo Zullo
  • “[Watch] Sporty’s videos.”—Bill Boczany
  • “[Read] back issues of training magazines.”—A.K. Hassan
  • “My flight sim.”—Jack Weston
  • “[Look] at my logbook and corresponding photos from favorite flights, like an SNJ over Pearl Harbor and a 172 over volcano on Big Island.”—Rich Dusek

Great suggestions all! And the best part is, most of these are easy to do right from home.

If you would like to review past issues of Flight Training, you can do that right here. Search training topics in the archives of AOPA Pilot—your Flight Training membership gives you access to all of the members-only content on our website.

And don’t forget that the Air Safety Institute has a stellar lineup of free online courses, quizzes, and mini-courses on a variety of topics for all levels of airmanship. The full-length online courses are eligible for FAA WINGS credit. Happy armchair flying!—Jill W. Tallman

Using LiveATC as a learning tool

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Listening WellLearning to fly encompasses trying to master a broad range of new skills and tasks. While some pilots want nothing more than to be able to fly solo on a weekend afternoon or fly from one small airport to another, others want to reap the full benefit of what flying can bring.

A big part of maximizing that benefit is learning how to utilize air traffic control (ATC). Recall that if you are working toward your private certificate, you are required to have at least a minimal interaction with the controllers on the other end of the radio.

There are a number of good sources that you can use to learn the proper phraseology and techniques for radio communication. The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) is probably the most convenient place to start, but it isn’t necessarily the best learning tool. Other books have been written, and over the years, radio communication software for computers has sprung up. While I haven’t used one of these personally, I have no doubt that they are quite good given the advances in computing power these days.

But there is another source that exists. It isn’t structured and it doesn’t allow you to respond to commands per se, but it will help you. The source is the website LiveATC.net.  LiveATC is just that: It’s a live feed from facilities all over the country, and you select which frequency at which airport you want to monitor.

If you are still new to the ATC world, remember the order in which you talk to controllers: clearance delivery, ground control, the tower proper, departure control, center, approach, the tower again, and then ground again. In slow periods, the same controller may function in multiple roles (ground and tower or approach and departure), so you may recognize the same voice answering to different requests.

At major airports, you will do well to focus on one frequency for a while, the busiest being approach and departure. If you start with something on the ground, you might be able to follow a specific flight for a while.

While you cannot actually participate in Live ATC, you can learn how the cadence and process works. You’ll also realize that even the best pilots and controllers make mistakes, and even the most harried controllers have a sense of humor (try a YouTube search for a bad day at JFK). LiveATC can be a great learning tool, especially from the comfort of your living room, for understanding the processes and language of busy airspace. In spite of the machine-gun chatter, you’ll find that there really is order in the chaos and it isn’t as difficult as it seems.

Another feature that is very cool about LiveATC is that you can download clips to your computer. That means that after you fly (there is a time limit) you can pull down all of your own transmissions and save them.

Check it out at varying times of the day, and choose a few airports when you know the weather is good and when you know the weather is bad. You will get a good feel for the on-the-go adaptations that need to be made as conditions constantly change. Then, after you have flown, download your own transmissions and see how you stack up!—Chip Wright

Just ahead in the June issue

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

13_Stall Spin_We’re in the home stretch on production of the June 2013 issue. All the pages go to the printer on Friday, April 19, and your copy begins making its way to you as of May 9. Digital subscribers get theirs May 2, so if you’re one of our readers who can’t wait for the next issue, keep that in mind!

Here’s a quick look at what’s headed your way:

The Not-So-Obvious Cause of Stall/Spin Accidents: You know how your instructor is always trying to get you to make a really nice turn from base to final? Here’s why.

Little Fish in a Big Pond: Have you landed at a primary airport in Class B airspace? No? We’ll show you how to plan and execute such a trip.

Calling Dr. Landing: Common-sense solutions for the same problems that hamper your ability to pull off a greaser.

OK, that’s enough teasers for now. Happy reading—and happy flying!—Jill W. Tallman

To get a free six-month membership to AOPA and receive six free issues of Flight Training magazine, call 800-USA-AOPA or visit our website. To switch your paper subscription to digital, visit our website.

Handling a failed checkride

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Overcoming FearFor any training that you complete as a pilot, you will be evaluated on a checkride. The ride represents the culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of both you and your instructor. People are often their own worst critics, and it must be part of a pilot’s DNA to get that characteristic in double doses. Whenever pilots get ready to take a checkride, it seems that they begin to develop a lot of doubt and concern about how prepared they are.

It is imperative that you trust your instructor here. If your instructor is telling you that you’re ready, you can be sure that you are (it’s very, very rare that an instructor will send a student for any kind of evaluation if that student is not ready). Likewise, if the instructor is telling that you are not ready, then rest assured that you really do need more practice. Just because you have done a maneuver to the Practical Test Standards once or twice may not matter. It needs to be consistent.

Once you begin a checkride, your nerves should calm down. If they don’t, then just slow down a bit and take your time. Relax. The examiner wants you to pass. More than one has been known to help a bit more than they should, so long as they have overall confidence in the applicant.

But what if you totally blow something? What if you are doing an emergency landing and come up short of the runway? What if you totally screw up an ILS?

The beauty of the system is that you can finish the rest of the tasks that require evaluation, and that’s what you should do. If you know you failed something, or even if you just think you did, then put it behind you and press on. Get as many items done as you can, so that when you are re-examined you can just concentrate on the one or two areas that need to be revisited.

It’s very rare that an examiner will not allow an applicant the opportunity to finish the balance of the ride. If the rest of the ride is stellar, you may get a free pass on something that was otherwise questionable. If you totally blew something, you will have to retrain on it, and go back up. But if you’re lucky, you may be able to finish that day.

I’ve always made it a point to enjoy checkrides. Not everyone can do that, but if you can, you should. It’s a chance to show off your hard-earned skills, and the best examiners will also try to genuinely teach you something.

And there is nothing like having a new certificate in your wallet!—Chip Wright

The March “Since You Asked” poll: Two at a time?

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

In the March issue, we asked digital subscribers whether they have ever tried to train with two instructors at the same time. The question was sparked by a situation in Rod’s column that involved a student pilot who was getting frustrated with the pace of his training. His instructor didn’t want to work weekends, which meant between his own work schedule and weather, he wound up flying only a few times a month. While he enjoyed working with the CFI, he wanted to keep moving forward. The CFI had promised him that he would more time to devote to the student’s training in a month.

It’s generally not a good idea to work with more than one CFI at a time, but I get the sentiment behind the student’s question. Rod said:

“It’s simply too easy for you to become confused when another instructor—one who has different training priorities and methods than your primary instructor—contradicts your previous learning (and yes, there’s a very good chance that this will happen).”

Our poll respondents generally had not flown with more than one CFI at a time, although not quite in the overwhelming numbers I’d predicted. Here are the results:

  • 56 percent had not.
  • 39 percent had.
  • 5 percent had not, but were considering doing just that.

What do you think? And if you’ve flown with more than one instructor (at the same time), I’d love to hear how that turned out for you.—Jill W. Tallman

The long way down

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Earlier this week, news broke of a pilot who had fallen out of his airplane last Friday in Tennessee while on a training flight. Unfortunately, the pilot was a few thousand feet in the air at the time, and the fall resulted in his death.

The facts go like this. The pilot was being checked out in his Zenith Zodiac 601, when the instructor on board said the student had trouble controlling the airplane, the canopy opened, and out he went. They found his body the next day. Critically, it appears he wasn’t wearing his seatbelt.

The idea of falling from such a great height is downright scary. There’s a reason our stomachs sink when we peer over a tall bridge or stand on the edge of a big drop. Falling happens in nightmares, and it’s not something that we signed up for when we began learning to fly.

I remember vividly the uneasiness I felt when I was learning to fly in a Cessna 152, my thigh pressed against the door. I was sure that if the door opened, there would be nothing holding me back from certain death other than a thin strip of nylon. Over time that feeling has faded—thankfully. I’ve since flown open-cockpit biplanes, Trikes, and even an AirCam, all without feeling like I was about to make international headlines.

Actually, the fact this particular story made international headlines is significant. It speaks to the rarity of it. That’s not to say it never happens. On a surprisingly regular basis, someone will willfully throw themselves out of an airplane to commit suicide. And no, I’m not talking about skydiving. But the accident variety, which this seems to have been, is so rare it could be probably be considered an anomaly. It happens, at most, once every few years.

The lesson to take away from this tragic accident is that seatbelts should be worn at all times. I’ve never flown with someone who didn’t wear a seatbelt, nor have I had to remind a student to do so, as this instructor should have done. Knowing that a seatbelt would have likely produced a different outcome in this flight–and the fact that this is rare to begin with–should help quiet any nightmares of the same randomly happening to you.—Ian J. Twombly

What did you ask at the February Facebook chat?

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

The topic was adventure flying and acquiring additional certificates and ratings, but as usual, the Flight Training Facebook chatters tossed us a wide variety of questions. Here’s an except from the Feb. 5 chat:

Jill: Ian, what was your most adventurous flight?

Ian: Good question. Probably landing a Cessna 185 on the Pica Glacier on Denali. That was a thrill.

Ian: So who is thinking of going beyond the private? Anyone have interest in gliders, seaplanes, etc.?

Comment from Your Name: I just finished my instrument rating. I am building time for the commercial, then I will get commercial ASEL, seaplane as well as gliders.

Comment from Bob: I started my private several years ago, but had to stop due to life issues. Looking to get back into flying and would love to get my seaplane rating after that…

Comment from Your Name: Jill, you own a Cherokee 140, right? How is flying different as an owner vs. a renter?

Jill: Hi there, Your Name! : ) Yes, that’s correct. Flying is different in that, as an owner, I am more mindful of things like how I am on the brakes, whether I remember to turn off the switches—stuff that can affect my pocketbook. Plus, while I was careful not to misuse rentals, I am careful about how I stow my aircraft—always put in cowl plugs, wipe off bugs ,and such.

Comment from Andrew: I have a commercial ASEL and instrument, but have been thinking about doing both a commercial AMEL and/or a commercial ASEL add-on and possibly tailwheel training as well. Not sure which of them would be most beneficial.
 
 
To read the entire transcript of the chat, go to the Flight Training Facebook chat page and click “replay.” The next Flight Training Facebook chat will be held on Tuesday, March 5, at 3 p.m. Eastern. Our guest chatter will be Adam Smith, vice president of AOPA’s Center to Advance the Pilot Community (CAPComm). He’ll discuss AOPA’s Flying Club initiative and much more. Go to the chat page for more details or to set an email reminder.