Archive for the ‘Training advice’ Category

Got a checkride this weekend?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Whenever we ask our Facebook friends what their flying plans are for the weekend, invariably they report they’ve got a checkride scheduled. (Makes sense; we are, after all, a community for student pilots.) So here are some tips for doing your best and nailing that ride.

  • The night before: Get plenty of rest. Review for your oral exam and prep if you need to, but don’t burn the midnight oil with late-night cramming. This isn’t college. You’ll need to be fresh and your mind clear.
  • The morning of: Eat a good breakfast. See the above part about feeding your brain and your body. Watch the caffeine intake; you don’t want to be jittery (or worse).

If your checkride is a few days off, take a moment to read this excellent piece by Ron Levy, an ATP and veteran of 11 certificate or rating checkrides, including four with FAA inspectors. It first appeared (to the best of my knowledge) on the Pilots of America web board. Click here or cut and paste this link (  http://www.pilotsofamerica.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15706 ). And good luck!—Jill W. Tallman

Airplane, SUV don’t meet cute

Friday, November 9th, 2012


Another week, another YouTube video to pass along to the Flight Training blog readers. This one involves what looks like a Cessna 172 that struck an SUV while on short-short final to a nontowered airport in Texas. Sorry about the ad at the beginning of this clip (and if the video window does not work in your browser, you can click here), but I chose this version for a reason.

I’m not passing judgment on either the pilot or the driver of the SUV. But it’s a good object lesson for flying in and out of a nontowered airport where ground vehicles or pedestrians (or, for that matter, animals) may have pretty unrestricted access. It’s interesting to note that in this version of the video, the local news reported that the driver was traveling on a private road near the airport. A stop sign she was supposed to have seen was painted on the ground.—Jill W. Tallman

CFIs: Are these students talking about you?

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

This week I have the happy task of writing profiles on the three CFIs who were named Outstanding Flight Instructors in our Flight Training Excellence Awards. I can’t divulge their names just yet–you’ll find out when we make the official announcement at AOPA Summit 2012.

But I can share with you some of the glowing recommendations that their students wrote. And I challenge all flight instructors who might read this: Could these students be talking about you? If so, congratulations–you’re a winning flight instructor in my book. If not, well…maybe you have some homework to do?—Jill W. Tallman

“An exceptional instructor, who always delivers professional training, exceptional feedback, and extraordinary knowledge transfer.”

“Has exciting new ideas for teaching and brings laughter to difficult learning.”

“Is a natural flight instructor that is imaginative in finding ways to help struggling students.”

“Is very positive and there isn’t a flight that I leave not inspired … for the next lesson. [Instructor] loves to teach!”

“Dedication to students’ success and safety, knowledge in aviation, great pilot…great communication skillls, patience, always available for questions. [E]mbodies the best in flight training, [is] an example for other flight instructors.”

Don’t forget the logbooks! And other useful checkride tips

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

This was our Photo of the Day on Friday, August 31, and while it’s not a very exciting image all by itself, it depicts an important aspect of a pilot’s checkride: the aircraft logbooks! If you wait until the morning of your checkride to review them, Murphy’s Law says you will find something that the examiner will not like: a missed 100-hour inspection, a pitot-static inspection that isn’t logged. Until you get that straightened out, no flying for you.

I asked the Facebook audience to share useful tips for taking checkrides, and here’s what they said:

I got a friend who was an examiner to give me a pre-checkride for my private. We ironed out some last-minute areas that I was weak on and my instructor hadn’t fixed. Just another set of eyes… and yes, I did pass my checkride the first time!–Christian Roberts

Maybe it seems like common sense to some, but I really appreciated my instructor walking the plane with me at the end of my training, making sure I actually knew what all of the antennas on the airplane did, and then he quizzed me the next lesson.–Brittney Miculka

Don’t be afraid to delay the flight. For my commercial checkride it was windy, gusting, and a line of dark clouds was rolling in. Decided to wait on the flight after passing the oral.–Mike Borkhuis

Double-check the weights. I was 15 pounds off on my empty weight during my checkride. I used the previous weight rather than the new one.–Neil Bradon

Tab or paper clip each page in your log book upon which you meet an individual requirement of a particular certification. IE; Tab the page where your 50th X-country hour is logged for your IFR ride. Tab where your 5 solo hours of night are completed for your Commercial etc etc. Doing so will make it easy for the DPE to locate each specific requirement thus not making him have to thumb through the entire log looking for one requisite. Treat that DPE like a king and spoon feed him everything so it’s as easy as you can make it for him to pass you.
CLEAR THE AREAS WHEN DOING MANEUVERS AND TELL HIM YOU ARE DOING SO. It’s amazing how many PPL, IFR and even commercial candidates don’t do this simple thing.
Additionally, paper clip your written test results, government issued ID and medical and or pilot certificate all together along with his payment and stick it in folder so its easy for him.
Finally…do your IACRA ahead of time so he does not have to wait for you to pour over your log computing Solo from PIC time etc etc.
There are more tips I can offer but these will go miles for you and are easy to do.
Finally (I mean it this time)- Come PREPARED. Study and know the material! –Cm Thrasher

Presentation and preparation is key. Highlight your sectional for a quick glance at information. Be confident.--Mario Merendon

Sectional, AF/D, FAR/AIM….and a proper flight plan is a must….–Cap Sandeepan Das (I think Cap means make sure you bring all these to your oral…)

Talk to someone else who has taken a checkride with your examiner. Examiners usually do very similar checkrides with small variations.–Nicholas Anhold

[A]nswer your questions with confidence. Stay calm. They are examining whether it not you can fly safely and have good ADM. And have fun, after all you are flying.—Jason Taken

Relax, enjoy meeting a professional pilot who would like nothing more than to sign your certificate. Also, your instructor didn’t sign you off without knowing you have what it takes.—Jack Britton

Don’t panic if you think, or even know, that you messed something up. No one will ever fly the perfect checkride! You just need to do well enough to pass–so put errors out of your mind and just focus on the next thing the examiner asks you to do. Good luck–you WILL pass!--Jeff Stephenson

Just remember the DPE is more scared of you than you are of him/her.–Matt Everett (I think Matt meant this tongue in cheek, but I know for a fact that my examiner was not more scared of me than I was of her.)

As always, if you missed out on this conversation you are invited to share your checkride tips in the Comments section below. Future checkride-dreading pilots will thank you.—Jill W. Tallman

 

The Idaho crash video: This is density altitude

Monday, August 13th, 2012

If you live in the flat lands like I do (303 feet above sea level), you’ve heard about the effects of high density altitude–but maybe it’s still a tough concept to grasp. The air’s less dense so there isn’t as much lift? Huh? AOPA’s aviation subject report puts it like this: “On a hot and humid day, the aircraft will accelerate more slowly down the runway, will need to move faster to attain the same lift, and will climb more slowly.” (There’s a lot more information in the subject report. It’s worth your time to review it, and your CFI will give you a gold star.)

A pilot and three passengers in Idaho have provided us with probably the most compelling, graphic display of high density altitude’s effect on aircraft performance that you could ever hope to see. Please be advised that while all four in the aircraft survived the crash, disturbing footage of the pilot’s injuries appears at 5:20. Click here for the video. Student pilots: You’ll note that the aircraft takes a long, long, long time to lift off from the runway, which was near the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness.  

The preliminary NTSB findings for the accident are here.–Jill W. Tallman

The July “Since You Asked” poll: How many hours to solo?

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

For some, it’s a badge of honor. For most of us, it is what it is. We’re talking about the number of hours it took you to solo.

We asked that question of digital subscribers in the July issue of Flight Training magazine, and here’s what you said.

The majority of respondents–39 percent–said it took from 11 to 20 hours to solo.

More interesting–or troubling, depending on your viewpoint–37 percent said it took more than 20 hours to solo.

Just 10 percent had soloed in 10 or fewer hours, and 14 percent said they hadn’t soloed yet.

Our poll is admittedly very unscientific since we don’t draw from a very large sample. Still, it raises some interesting questions. Are we taking longer to solo? If so, why?  Is it the aircraft? Are instructors trying to make sure that students know more before they sign them off for solo? Are we just slower? (I offer that last one in jest, sort of.)

It’s expected that people who aren’t teenagers might take a little longer to solo. A student who has logged well into 20 or more hours, however, runs the risk of becoming frustrated, and we all know where that road leads.

Your thoughts?—Jill W. Tallman

“Since You Asked” polls appear monthly in the digital edition of Flight Training. If you’d like to switch your magazine from paper to digital at no additional charge, go here or call Member Services 800-USA-AOPA weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.

Photo of the Day: Night flight

Monday, August 6th, 2012

Many pilots enjoy flying at night. The air is usually calmer and smoother, and radio frequencies are quieter. Are you ready for the additional requirements of nighttime VFR flight? See the Air Safety Institute’s Safety Spotlight on night VFR flight for additional resources.

The June “Since You Asked” poll: How many instructors?

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

June’s “Since You Asked” digital poll dealt with a subject that’s been of particular interest to those of us who monitor the flight training industry. We asked, “How many flight instructors have you had/did you have in primary training?”

For years we’ve heard horror stories of people dealing with multiple instructors. I wrote about how to cope when you have to change CFIs in the September 2008 Flight Training article, “Same Dance, Different Partner.” When the airlines are hiring, flight instructors leave flight schools—sometimes very abruptly—because they’ve racked up enough time to become attractive hires. Sometimes people wind up with multiple flight instructors because of personality issues. Sometimes it’s a run of bad luck—nobody’s fault, really. But the end result can be disruptive to your training progress. Just ask Brook Heyel, who told me that it took her a whopping 23 flight instructors to finish her private pilot certificate. (Her story is its own sidebar in “Same Dance, Different Partner.” She shocked the normally unflappable Rod Machado at an aviation event when she told him the number.)

Accelerated flight schools like Tailwheels Etc. in Florida see a lot of frustrated students who can’t handle yet another change in instructors and they just want to push ahead and cross the finish line without having to start all over. American Flyers (which has several locations in the United States) has a private pilot “finish-up” program.

I was gratified–and a little surprised–that our small and unscientific sample turned out as well as it did. Forty-two percent of those who responded said they had just one flight instructor. Just over half–53 percent–said they’d had two to five CFIs. And just 5 percent reported learning to fly with more than five flight instructors. (Those respondents deserve a medal, in my book.) If I’m drawing conclusions, I’d say that the relatively stagnant state of airline hiring had something to do with this. Flight instructors tend to stay put when the airlines aren’t hiring; hence you’re more likely to start and finish with the same person. That could change, given that we’re starting to see hiring ramp up again.

I was lucky to have just two flight instructors over the course of 18 months (this was back in 2000-2001, to give you an idea). My first CFI left for the airlines, but she was thoughtful enough to hand me off to an instructor she believed would be a good match for me. Turns out, she was right. And even though he also left full-time instructing at the flight school to go to another aviation job, he stayed on as an independent instructor so that he could see me to the checkride. For that, I’m eternally grateful to John Sherman.

How many flight instructors did you have? Please let us know in the Comments section.—Jill W. Tallman

Since You Asked” polls appear monthly in the digital edition of Flight Training. If you’d like to switch your magazine from paper to digital at no additional charge, go here or call Member Services 800-USA-AOPA weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern.

Did you know? Opening your flight plan

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Opening a flight plan should be the easiest part of your cross-country. Tune in the nearest Flight Service Station on your radio, call ‘em up, request that the plan be opened, give your departure time, and on you go.

Except it isn’t, sometimes. You forget to call up flight service. Or you call them up and nobody’s home because you copied down the wrong frequency. Or you call them up and they hear you, but for some mysterious reason the flight plan you filed is not actually on file, so you have to give them all the details while trying to keep the airplane upright.

Last week, pending a VFR flight from Maryland to Tennessee, I called Lockheed Martin to get a standard weather briefing. (I don’t usually file by computer.) After the briefer and I had gone over all the weather and notams, he offered to have the flight plan opened at the specified time without my having to contact flight service. I was pleasantly surprised–I hadn’t known this option was available. And it worked! How do I know? Because I was a few minutes late closing the flight plan, and flight service called me to check up on my whereabouts.

When I called for a briefing on the return trip, no such offer was made. So if you want to take advantage of this service, you might have to ask. And make sure you make a realistic prediction of when you’ll be wheels up–because when you say you’re in the air, the clock is ticking.–Jill W. Tallman

A flat start

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

A good pilot is always learning.  Here’s what I learned a few weeks ago: If you don’t  fly for two weeks, and you don’t visit your airplane within that two weeks, you could find this the next time you want to go flying:

Flatter than the proverbial pancake, the tire’s sidewall most likely had been compromised, and so the folks at Landmark Aviation removed the tire, installed a spare (a spare tire for airplanes! Who knew?) and a brace for the wing, and prepped a new tire and tube. They had it installed and ready go to within about 90 minutes of my discovery.

On the grand scale of airplane maintenance, this is minor. It went flat at my homedrome, and it didn’t blow on a takeoff or landing roll. The repair was quick because Landmark had the tire in stock. I was able to go flying in a couple hours. The winds had picked up by then, which was a minor annoyance, but not a compelling reason to cancel the flight.

But you can bet your next tire change that I will not let two weeks–or even one week–go by without checking on my airplane and giving it a once-over. After all, it’s tough enough to get the stars aligned so that your schedule, the weather, and airplane availability work in your favor. Why stack the odds against yourself? —Jill W. Tallman