Archive for the ‘Learn to Fly’ Category

Extremes

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Jean Moule last wrote for the Flight Training blog about flying in Alaska. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

Sea cliffs of Molokai, Hawaii.

Sea cliffs of Molokai, Hawaii.

Extreme tradewinds, extreme cliffs (the highest seacliffs in the world), and extreme isolation. We travelled from Oregon, my CFI from Argentina. Jean again tests the training waters, this time in the middle of the ocean in Hawaii.

John, the owner of Maui Aviators, says his endorsement notation for a student pilot for solo flights was questioned when he added the following conditions, “able to handle winds to 25 knots gusting to 30 and a 40 degrees off the nose crosswind.”

People in the midst of training from Kahului Airport must contend with the winds every takeoff and landing. The winds reminded me of the one that blew my preflight sheet off the cowling of the airplane in Salem, Oregon, and elicited the comment from a flight instructor that student pilots would not be allowed to function solo in those winds. “Anything over 6 or 7 knots could be a challenge,” he said.

Here in Maui that is all there is.

mapproachingOf course my CFI Lucas knew how to handle such winds, and I was surprised how easy he made this flight. For the first time a CFI was honest and just put in my log, “scenic flight,” oops, I misread, it says, “basic flight maneuvers.” I have had “mountain flying, bird avoidance, scanning,” and, “climbs [duh],taxi, trim, turns.” The more experienced CFIs have led me through “stalls, steep turns, t.o. and landing.” One of my favorite simple ones: ”Intro to seaplane flying.” Another CFI, recognizing my infrequent lessons, wrote, “Discovery Flight.” Six weeks from my last training flight, I was OK with that.

Though only 29 and in his fourth year as a CFI, Lucas in Maui was wise in the ways of this area and did all he could to increase our air time, doing much of the runup himself as I was in need of review and, of course, most Cessnas are slightly different by year. Fuel injection and no carb heat in this one. And, for the first time, I helped the CFI fuel the airplane. He clearly stated each item on the checklist as he performed it or asked me to do so. I felt refreshed by his manner and the winds.

As usual, I felt the surge of energy as I pushed the throttle in and rotated for takeoff.

We crossed the channel, then we flew near the cliffs of Molokai. Lucas wisely took over the plane as I gawked.

“Wow” and “I had no idea,” I exclaimed over and over as we flew. My photos cannot begin to convey the vastness, the isolation, or the height of these falls. At one point when we flew along, I noted that the cliff tops were higher than the airplane and the altimeter read 2,000 feet. Yep. Highest drop, highest seacliffs in the world. Except some of the falls fell into pools nestled in the rocks before continuing the dizzying descent. Verdant green of many hues, inaccessible except by boat or air. And Lucas calmly communicated with the rare flights near us.

As we flew along the cliffs of Molokai and I took over the airplane again, Lucas asked if I wanted to do a touch and go on a flat spot of the island. “Sure,” I said. This isolated site is reached by mule, boat, or airplane. For many years lepers were dropped near shore to swim to their isolated treatment at this former leper colony.

The excitement of the touch and go kept me from sightseeing here. With help I land and take off and soar again near the cliffs. We edge just a bit closer when I ask Lucas to take the controls while I take photos.

The extreme isolation of the leper colony and its small, short runway reminded me of my last lesson in the Bay Area in California (flight school unnamed). There I reached an extreme I wish not to repeat. The headsets did not work properly. Although I could hear the CFI, he could only hear me if I talked loudly in the cockpit. With such a glitch I was not comfortable landing the airplane, even with detailed instruction and his handling of the radio communication.

Yet I have landed enough so I have a feel for the approach and altitude for a comfortable, non-emergency landing. We had on board my husband and a former college instructor who had been a pilot. Instead of turning in the pattern and lining up the runway, the CFI overshot the end of the runway way too high and, after the necessary correction turn, too little of the runway left in my humble and inexperienced opinion. At this point I heard my former college professor/former pilot calmly and assertively say from the backseat, “We need to go around.”

We did not. The CFI steeply banked the airplane and descended very quickly. With a bit of dryness in my throat I watched as the CFI, knowing the weight in the airplane and the long length in the runway, brought this bird down safely with a bit of runway to spare. One lesson about safe parameters learned, but not one I plan to practice on purpose (or is this a standard lesson? And what about not scaring the student?).

In Kahului, Maui, Hawaii, with help, I landed in the crosswind in between large commercial jets, the runway nicely stretched out in front of us before we taxied to Maui Aviators.

Extreme flight training at its worst and best. Adrenaline high reached on both.—Jean Moule

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

Just ahead in the January issue

Friday, November 14th, 2014

takeoffIf it seems like these posts about upcoming issues are coming closer together, well, they are. Our production schedule is compressed somewhat so that we can publish issues while enjoying the holidays. After January 1, 2015, things will settle down a bit.

With the January issue, we go “back to basics.” We are, first and foremost, a training magazine for aspiring pilots. Longtime readers may recognize that we hit certain subjects—landing, weather, maneuvers—over and over again. That’s the nature of our readership; we cycle through topics for primary flight students, because we expect that they will earn their pilot certificates and perhaps move on to our sister publication, AOPA Pilot.

But we also know that we have a group of faithful readers who stay with Flight Training, because “a good pilot is always learning.” That’s why we try to hit on instrument flying and other advanced pilot topics when we can.

What you can look forward to in the January issue:

  • Trading ground for sky. Few things are more basic in aviation than the takeoff. We perform one on our very first flight lesson. But there are ways to take off, and ways to take off that recognize the aerodynamics and make you look better doing it.
  • Work smarter, not longer. If it’s taking you three-quarters of your lesson to get from startup to takeoff, we have some ideas for you.
  • Wise words: a pilot’s guide to the flying life. There are a lot of sayings in aviation, but we’ve distilled some very basic truisms that can be applied to your daily flying and make you a better pilot.

There’s much more, of course.

Our January issue hits digital devices on Nov. 26 (you can read while you digest your turkey!) and starts in-home delivery Dec. 9. As always, we welcome your letters to the editor (flighttraining@aopa.org).—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

Just ahead in the November issue

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

ian helicopterIt seems ridiculous to be thinking about ice, snow, and frigid temperatures when the rest of the region is still experiencing summerlike weather, but those are the vagaries of our publishing schedule: Our November issue goes to the printer this week. And so we bring you at least one winter-centric article (“Weather: Just Say No—A zero-tolerance policy for snow, ice, and frost,” by Jack Williams).

The rest of our issue concerns topics that could affect your flying no matter what the temperature is.

  • Go Vertical: No more excuses not to fly helicopters. Watch out! Editor Ian Twombly has gone over to the fling-wing side, and in this highly entertaining article he’s determined to take you with him.
  • Escape Plan: Keep a go-around ready whenever you need it. Jamie Beckett wants you to understand not just how to execute a go-around, but when you’ll need them, and why it’s so important.
  • Practical Weather: Five tips for putting your weather knowledge to good use. It’s one thing to memorize weather theory for the checkride, but pilots need to know how to put that theory into practice when it’s time to go on a trip–lest you remain forever in the traffic pattern.

Our November issue hits digital devices on Sept. 24 and starts in-home delivery Sept. 30. Happy reading! As always, we welcome your letters to the editor (flighttraining@aopa.org).—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

 

Surprises all around

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Jean Moule last wrote for the Flight Training blog about flying with different instructors. She is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

glacierYou have spent months planning, days hiking. Your tents are pitched on a finger of land that sticks out into Bench Lake in the wilderness on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. Suddenly a floatplane lands on the water and comes to a stop in the middle of the small lake you had thought your own. The plane taxis to the end of the lake to again face into the wind and takes off. You stand with others in your group wondering, as you always will, why did that plane land here? What was that all about?

Watching the airplane fly off into the distance, you see it even more mysteriously take a turn in the air. Is it wildlife? Unknown to you, the airplane circled around a snowmobile abandoned in this wilderness.

This introduction to floatplane flying by a new, young CFI certainly had its moments for both me and life on the ground. The bear we circled was as surprised as the people. My sense is that a more experienced CFI would not have caught such attention from both the wild and people life. And while he never scared me exactly, flying close to the mountains to catch the updrafts for flight caused me to not take the controls as much as I might. In the end, I controlled the flaps and the water rudder because, in the Super Cub, he could not reach them anyway. The bottom line: Did I have fun? he asked after we returned to the dock. Oh yes.

tailnumberThe views were awesome. Could I say anything but “Wow!” asked the pilot in the other airplane that held most of my family. We took off and landed together on Trail Lake; I circled Paradise Valley while my family flew over the Harding Ice Field in a bigger, faster airplane.

Alaska will never be the same for me now that I have seen the backcountry, which makes up most of Alaska anyway, from the air. So many lakes, almost always a place to land—or maybe “land” is not the correct word, when you finish up on water.

My family and I have a lively conversation the night before about how a floatplane pilot gets to the dock. Carefully, and with experience, I find out. My CFI is embarrassed when our airplane goes quiet and still several feet from the dock. Only the presence of someone who could throw him a rope saves us from other ways to make that dock.

His mentor, the 75-year-old pilot who took my family up, stands just a tad mortified as the airplane is pulled into place.

bench lake with tentsI don’t mind. I was along for the ride and scenery anyway. And I did learn a bit about floatplanes. My first pleasure was the water taxiing (no yellow line to nail) and the views, especially the images of the other airplane carrying my family were incredible. Our hour in the sky was well worth our weeks of planning, days of travelling, and getting seven people up and out on schedule for our flights. The Alaska weather cooperated. No rain and the clouds rested at about 5,000 feet. The group on the Cessna 206 sometimes seemed a tad squeezed between the Harding Icefield and the clouds. Our smaller airplane played in the hidden valleys and did a practice land and takeoff for those surprised hikers. They wonder why we landed. I wonder if I will ever get in a floatplane again. Mysteries.—Jean Moule

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resouces for student pilots. Click here for more information.

 

 

Why be normal?

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Why indeed? We often preach the gospel of consistent, frequent flight lessons because research says that’s what works best.

But for some of us, it just isn’t possible. Take Bill Adams, whose travel for work conflicts with a regular flying schedule. But he hasn’t let that stop him. Here’s what Bill says has worked for him:

Bill Adams soloed this Aeronca Champ, and says flying six different airplanes hasn't hampered his flight training experience.

Bill Adams soloed this Aeronca Champ, and says flying six different airplanes hasn’t hampered his flight training experience.

 

Why be normal? My job takes me all over the country for short periods of time. So, my instruction cannot be normal. I have to take what I can get. In my case it turned out to be better than normal.

By the time I soloed, I had flown six different airplanes and had about half my time in tri-gear and half my time in tailwheel. I have flown high wing and low wing, tandem and side-by-side, a glass panel and a plane with no electrical system that had to be hand-propped (my personal favorite). I just completed my first solo in a taildragger at a tower-controlled airport—a 1940s-era Aeronca Champ at Livermore Municipal in Livermore, California. My instructor was Pete Eltgroth, with Red Sky Aviation. I had just as much fun (or more) as the person soloing in a tri-gear at an uncontrolled airport.

While all these differences did extend the length of my training a little, so far, they have also provided a more comprehensive (and more fun) learning experience. And, I am much farther along than if I had waited for more ideal circumstances.

To which we say, “Congratulations!” Because, at the end of the day, whatever works to get you into the sky.—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resources for student pilots. Click here for more information.


 

Beat the heat

Friday, June 27th, 2014

Summer is here—boy, is summer here. After the winter we’ve had, it’s nice to welcome the sunshine. But relentless rays aren’t always a treat when you’re flying–ask any flight instructor.

How can you keep cool while flying? Here are some tips:

  • Water. Can’t say this enough—you need to keep hydrated. Drink water, carry water in the airplane, and drink it while you’re flying.* And when I say water, I mean water. Coffee is not water; it has caffeine, which is a diuretic that can cause you to become dehyrated. Soda is not water; it has sugar, which can make you thirsty. I’m not a fan of sports drinks, but if you are fond of those, by all means. Here’s more on the importance of keeping hydrated.
  • Wet towels. Wear one on your head or around your neck.
  • Loose, lightweight clothing that absorbs perspiration and allows it to evaporate quickly is best. Think cotton, not polyester or wool.
  • Sunblock. This won’t help you keep cool, but you do need to wear it in the cockpit.

*Drinking lots of water in the airplane can lead to the need for a bathroom break. I have a bladder with about a three-hour endurance, so I plan my flights accordingly. Here’s a blog from the male perspective on other ways to handle the problem.

What are your tips for keeping cool? Please share in the comments section and I’ll do a follow-up.—Jill W. Tallman

 

The power of the written word

Monday, June 9th, 2014

Orlando Showalter MentoringThey say that the pen is mightier than the sword. Having been stabbed by a pen and poked by a knife, I have learned that taking the phrase literally is at your own risk. But, taken metaphorically, we can apply the wisdom imparted by these words to aviation.

In the early days of flying, a brief walk-around was followed by  starting up the engine, adding some power, and away we go. That still happens to a lesser degree with aircraft like the Piper J-3 Cub, but for the most part we’ve gotten away from such a cavalier approach to making approaches.

Starting with the Boeing B-17, pilots have been conditioned to use a written checklist for nearly every phase of flight. And why not? If we make a grocery list, we don’t have to worry about forgetting the one thing that sent us to the store in the first place. Using a checkbook register keeps our finances organized. I’ve used checklists that had only two items, but they were important items. Quickly done, too.

It’s easy to get complacent in an aircraft with which you are intimately familiar. I have enough hours flying in a pre-GPS, pre-fancy-schmancy 172 that I could undoubtedly walk up to it, get in, start it up, fly it from A to B and back, shut it down, and walk away looking at the checklist. And I used to do that.

Until the day I got a phone call from the flight school informing me that I had left the master switch on and drained the battery.

We are supposed to use the checklists that the manufacturer gives us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t tweak them or add to them. Many do. As you fly bigger, faster, more advanced airplanes, there are more checklists. Quick Reference Handbooks (QRHs) are go-to books filled with all manner of checklists for nearly every conceivable scenario. Airlines and flight departments routinely add to them. Mine has included some supplemental information on various approaches (setting up the avionics), de-icing procedures, and other rarely used procedures.

The key here is the initials: QR—Quick Reference. It’s just that. It’s an easy-to-find, easy-to-use cheat sheet to make sure that an expensive airplane doesn’t get damaged by doing something wrong, even if at first glance the pilot believes it is “obvious” what needs to be done.

There are other examples of the written word. Placards are a great example. You are being given free information, right in front of you! Jets and turboprops are loaded with placards. Use them!

Airline pilots typically fly 80 hours a month, and if they skip a checklist, they feel…uncomfortable. They know something isn’t right. They will not feel OK until they know it has been done. So, they do it, even if they’ve done it thousands of times. If a pilot who makes a living flying more hours in a month than most pilots fly in a year is dedicated to the use of the written word to fly safely, shouldn’t we all be the same way?

Even if you have “memorized” the checklist, you need to use it. In fact, when you memorize it, you need it more than ever, because your complacency will eventually catch up to you.

The written word is a powerful tool. Don’t be afraid to use it.—Chip Wright

Checklists and flows

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

Driving and flying have some similarities. In both cases, you are responsible for the operation of a heavy piece of machinery that has the potential to hurt you as the operator, as well as others that get in your way. In both cases, poor operating practices can lead to unnecessary outcomes that can create a combination of inconvenience and high out-of-pocket costs. A case in point: Running down a battery. It’s easy to do in a car (leave the door cracked open with the key in the ignition and the dome light on) and in an airplane (leave the master switch on).

When we learn to drive a car, though, we don’t learn to use checklists. We just…do stuff. But think about what you learn fairly early as a driver. You learn to work in a pattern to start up and to shut down the car. Some of us put the seatbelt on before closing the door, some after. Some of us set the parking brake before the car is shut down, some after, and some not at all.

The reality is that we learn to do things in a predictable pattern, or flow, when we drive. We don’t use checklists. Airplanes are different. The environment is three-dimensional versus two-dimensional. Cars do not have retractable landing gear or adjustable propellers. We don’t need to memorize speeds in our cars that affect the operation of certain items like the flaps or the aforementioned retractable gear. Plus, we don’t fly airplanes nearly as often as we drive our cars.

But the idea of a flow is transferable. If you watch pilots in more sophisticated airplanes—especially those with crews of two or more—you will see that they often follow a predictable pattern for each checklist. While companies and manufacturers differ in their philosophies, the flow is a commonly accepted practice.

At its simplest level, a flow is a series of visual and tactile checks that a pilot can use to verify proper switch/lever/button/dial/control position. For example, prior to applying electrical power to a airplane, a pilot might physically touch each switch in the cockpit, or only certain designated switches, to make sure that everything is set just so. This is done primarily to avoid a problem as a result of mechanics doing work on the aircraft and forgetting to return systems to their normal condition. Likewise, after electrical power has been applied to an airplane, the pilot will usually follow a pattern of testing the functionality or set-up of each system.

In each case, the flow is followed by the checklist. It can be done as either a Challenge-and-Response (C/R), in which one pilot reads the checklist line by line and the other responds accordingly, or it can be done as a Read-and-Response (R/R), in which case the pilot who performed the flow reads the checklist aloud and verbalizes that each item is complete. What is very rare is one pilot reading each item, and then doing it. This actually slows things down and increases the risk of an error because of a radio call or other distraction.

Flows transfer well to most general aviation aircraft. In fact, some never really had a checklist (Piper Cub), so a flow is the only option. Flows are not always appropriate, but they can expedite pre-departure checks (runups) and after-landing and shut-down duties.

Work with your CFI to set one up (assuming s/he is game), or carefully practice one yourself using a poster or photo of the cockpit. A flow is not a replacement for the checklist, but merely a tool to use the checklist more efficiently.—Chip Wright

Don’t forget

Monday, May 19th, 2014

Cash DrainWhen going flying, don’t forget…

…your headset. Even in a non-radio environment, the noise of the engine will give you a headache.
…your sunglasses, especially if flying into the sun or in instrument meteorological conditions.
…something to write with and to write on. Writing clearances on your arm uses a lot of space. I knew a pilot who used a grease pencil to write on the window, but an FBO may not appreciate this. This fellow owned the airplane.
…something to eat and drink, but make sure you use the restroom first.
…a credit card for fuel.
…your cell phone and a charger in case you get stuck somewhere. Put a flashlight app and an E6B app on your phone.
…to cancel your flight plan on arrival.
…charts. Electronic is great, but paper doesn’t rely on batteries. Either way, have them—and ensure currency.
…your medical, your certificate, the pilot’s operating handbook, and a photo ID.
…to check the weather. Twice. At least.
…a back-up plan, in case the weather forces itself upon thee.
…to take as much fuel as you can.
…a handheld radio with fresh batteries.
…clothes appropriate for the terrain, especially if you are flying over rugged or mountainous terrain.
…at least one flashlight. Even during the day, a flashlight can be handy. See the tip about apps above.
…to check for TFRs, notices to airmen, and pilot reports.
…to untie the airplane from the tie-down. Don’t laugh. It’s happened. Damage can occur to more than your pride. But your pride will be damaged if you do this, because it’s funny to watch.
…to call ahead for overnight parking information, crew car info, et cetera.
…cash for vending machines and to tip the fellow putting fuel in your airplane.
…and most importantly, don’t forget to have fun. Flying is fun, and we are privileged and lucky to be able to do it. If it isn’t fun, you need to recapture that feeling—or take a car.—Chip Wright

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resources for student pilots. Click here for more information.

So long, Neil

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

121012transatlanticA few years ago I met a pilot named Neil Bradon.

Neil stands six feet something. He hails from the United Kingdom. And he loves aviation.

Neil loves flying so much that, after trying for years to get a license in Europe, he took a job with Intel Corp. here in the states so that he could train quickly and efficiently in the bright sunshine of Arizona. He earned a U.S. pilot certificate in 2012.

Though his stateside gig was time-limited, Neil wasted absolutely none of that time. He flew as much as possible; he took friends and family flying; he made scores of new aviation friends through Facebook and Twitter. He went to AOPA Summit in Palm Springs, Calif. (that’s where we met; the photo is of Neil standing next to AOPA’s Sweepstakes Husky). He went to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. He is a tireless advocate of general aviation, and his excitement about any chance to get up in the air is refreshing and a joy to experience.

Neil goes back home on May 28. He has pledged to fly practically right up until the moment he has to board the much bigger aircraft that will take him back across the ocean.

He wrote this on Facebook recently:

“Next time you visit the airport, take time to say hello to fellow pilots. You might just inspire someone to push a little bit further with their flying adventures.

“After landing today I spoke to a C152 pilot. He asked me where I had been today and told him I had landed at Portland International (KPDX). This blew him away. Could see his eyes light up. He told me that was his dream but in the year since getting his ticket he has yet to take that dream flight. I explained to him how easy it was with a little bit of planning. I encouraged him to think about taking the flight one day. Dreams can come true.

“The U.S. has something special in terms of GA. After I leave on the 25th for Europe, I wish you all good luck fighting to keep what you have. Godspeed my aviation friends.”

The United States does indeed have something special when it comes to general aviation, and sometimes we don’t appreciate it until we view it through someone else’s eyes. In the meantime, Godspeed Neil! I hope you come back to the states sometime. I’m sure there will be empty right seats in airplanes waiting for you all across this nation.—Jill W. Tallman

Are you interested in learning to fly? Sign up for a free student trial membership in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and receive six issues of Flight Training magazine plus lots of training tools and resources for student pilots. Click here for more information.