Archive for the ‘Learn to Fly’ Category

How many different airplanes have you flown?

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

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

CA Into cockpitAs we walked down the aisle to our seats on our last of eight commercial flights in three weeks, I did a little gig when I saw our exit door seat row with four feet of space for a 3,000-mile trip. These weeks in New York City, Massachusetts, and the Cayman Islands had given me time with family, ski patrollers, professional connections, and lots of gawking in NYC. And on flights, I kept my eyes open for flight attendants or pilots who could continue to open my eyes and mind to the behind-the-scenes culture of flying that I have entered in the last year.

While I have not kept track, I know I have flown, as a passenger, in most types of large jets during my hundreds of commercial flights over the years. But I know a new small airplane when I meet it. And a deHavilland Twin Otter flight from Cayman Brac to Grand Cayman gave me another small aircraft experience. The most incredible part of that flight for me was the open cockpit door that allowed me to watch the instruments from my seat in the third row. Instruments also watched by a male pilot of African descent and a female co-pilot. During our 40-minute island hop I was entranced and delighted to know I knew something about some of those gauges!

 CaymanEven before that long flight with the excellent legroom from NYC to Portland took off, I was just plain bored. Too tired to work or write, nothing good to read. No movies I wanted to watch. I noticed a pilot in transit heading to the restroom. He graciously answered a question, and I soon was delighted to know that we knew some of the same people and he lives a mere 20 air miles from me. Very quickly, he and his iPad were sitting next to me, and he opened a world I did not know existed.

He began to fly as a 3-year-old on his mother’s lap, as his mother ran a flight school with 40 airplanes. My head became full of stories of his flying and images of the airplanes he flew from the gallery on his iPad. While a commercial pilot, he also test flies everything from new designs to ancient planes a museum or collector wants to check out for its ability to take to the air. He seems to have a connection to each.

“How many types of planes have you flown?”

“Over 300,” he says.

“And which is your favorite?” I ask.

“Whichever one I am in.”—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.

 

 

Aaron Tippin gets his CFI

Thursday, January 16th, 2014
aaron tippin performs at sun 'n fun 2009

Aaron Tippin performs at Sun ‘n Fun 2009. He recently earned a CFI.

How cool is this? Aaron Tippin—country music star, passionate pilot, and all-around nice guy—earned his CFI late in 2013 at Murfreesboro Airport in Tennessee.

AOPA members know that when it comes to airplanes, Tippin is one of us—literally and figuratively. He loves to fly. He’s a longtime member, and in 2002 he showed up at AOPA’s doorstep for a headquarters tour. He had come to Frederick, Md., to perform at the Great Frederick Fair that year.

I recall Tippin spied a copy of Flight Training that had recently come from the press. “I don’t have that one,” he said. I tried to give it to him, but he thought I was asking for an autograph, and he promptly obliged.

I interviewed Tippin in 2011 for a Debrief, which you can read here. It’s interesting that, unlike many folks in the entertainment industry who learn to fly as a hobby, Tippin planned to be an airline pilot. When the energy crunch of the 1970s made that dream fade, he decided that the second-best thing he liked was to pick up a guitar and sing.

Tippin flies his Stearman in the video for “Ready to Rock (In a Country Kind of Way).”—Jill W. Tallman

Time flies when you’re landing an Airbus on the Hudson

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Hard to believe that January 15, 2014, marks the five-year anniverary of the day that will always be known as “Miracle on the Hudson.”

As most of us recall, US Airways Flight 1549, piloted by Capt. Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger and First Officer Jeffrey Skiles, landed in the Hudson River in New York after striking a flock of Canada geese. Both engines failed on climbout from LaGuardia Airport in New York City en route to Charlotte, North Carolina. Sullenberger decided they didn’t have enough altitude to turn back or make an emergency landing at Teterboro, New Jersey. He told New York Tracon, “We’re gonna be in the Hudson,” and that was the last transmission from the airplane before it touched down in the river.

Just writing that last sentence gave me goosebumps.

Thankfully, all turned out well. All passengers and crew were evacuated safely.

Now retired from US Airways, Sullenberg remains an active and vocal figure in the aviation industry. Jeppesen created an approach plate commemorating the “Miracle” landing.

Skiles took a leave of absence from the airline and is working for the Experimental Aircraft Association. He eventually got a seaplane rating, too [insert your own joke here].

One of the passengers on that fateful flight went on to earn a private pilot certificate. I interviewed Clay Presley shortly after his solo for this Flight Training magazine article, and you can hear him tell the story of the Miracle on the Hudson from the point of view of someone who was sitting in the cabin section on this AOPA Live video.  —Jill W. Tallman

This entry was edited to correct the date to Jan. 15—Ed.

The best and worst of 2013

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Hard to believe an entire year has rolled by since I last posted a Best and Worst of Flight Training blog (you can read the 2012 one here). This is my fourth annual Best Of/Worst Of list, and while I fully expected to see some of the same names on the roster (Hello, City of Santa Monica!), this year’s tally brings some brand-new players to our flight training game.

On an uplifting note, it took some digging for me to find five “worst” candidates for 2013.  In previous years, it seems there was more bad than good.

Worst:

  • Federal budget cutbacks prompted the U.S. Air Force to reduce flying time071014-N-5476H-721 for pilots, meaning fewer training hours. A Wall Street Journal article maintains they’re flying fewer hours than military pilots in some European allies, India, and China.
  • The same budget cutbacks kept the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds from making appearances at airshows across the nation. What does this have to do with flight training? Well, I may be grasping here, but we know military aircraft are a huge draw at airshows, and it’s likely that reduced attendance means fewer people (children in particular) got to forge bonds with aviation that could pay off down the road with the creation of new pilots.
  • Another “self-taught pilot” a la the Barefoot Bandit was accused of flying a stolen airplane that belonged to a soldier on deployment in Afghanistan. What makes this story doubly sad is that the 18-year-old who allegedly took the Cessna 150 was studying to be an airframe and powerplant mechanic. The teen has pleaded guilty, and sentencing is set for Jan. 6.
  • Santa Monica Airport makes the list for the third year in a row. A fatal accident in which an airplane crashed into a hangar (but did not cause any fatalities among people on the ground) has added fuel to the City of Santa Monica’s ongoing campaign to close the airport, which is home to at least six active flight schools. The city is now involved in a lawsuit to gain control of the airport.
  • The FAA has decided that overweight pilots are a cause for concern, even though there apparently aren’t any safety statistics to back this up, and has issued a proposed rule that would require pilots with a neck size of greater than 17 inches or a body mass index greater than 40 to be screened for and possibly treated for sleep apnea. [UPDATE! The FAA announced it is putting the rule on hold---but that doesn't mean the issue is going away.]

Best:

  • Thousands of student pilots told us the good, the bad, and the ugly aboutDisneys planes their flight training experiences, and helped us to find the Best Flight School and Best Flight Instructor in the Flight Training Initiative Awards. The winners—San Carlos Flight Center and Conor Dancy of Aviation Adventures—are profiled in the upcoming February issue. We’ll be doing it all again in 2014, so make sure you vote!
  • After the FAA stonewalled repeated requests from AOPA and EAA to consider a movement toward a driver’s license medical for private pilots, two members of Congress introduced a bill that would allow pilots of noncommercial VFR flights to use the driver’s license medical standard to fly aircraft of up to 6,000 pounds and no more than six seats.
  • The airlines are hiring. This means regional pilots will have an opportunity to move to the majors, and flight instructors will be moving on to the regionals, leaving flight instructor openings for new CFIs.
  • Disney’s Planes landed in theaters in August (and a real-life Dusty Crophopper visited EAA AirVenture). We’ll take any opportunity we can get to introduce children to aviation. A sequel is planned for release in 2014.
  • Shell Aviation has been working on a lead-free “performance drop-in” replacement for 100LL that could power any aircraft in the piston fleet. The new formula has passed preiminary tests on Lycoming engines on the ground.

Now it’s your turn. What would you add? How was your 2013, flying-wise? Please let me know in the Comments section. Thanks for reading the Flight Training blog, and I wish you blue skies and lots of flying in 2014.—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.

 

 

 

Flight training when the weather is bad

Friday, December 13th, 2013

Social Media Editor and student pilot Benét Wilson last blogged about five holiday gift suggestions for student pilots.—Ed.06-492  Learn to Fly

As I sit at home and watch the snow falling, I can’t help but think how much I’d rather be out taking a flight lesson in my Cessna 172 Skyhawk. But when the weather is bad, we student pilots are grounded. Just because the weather is bad, it doesn’t mean that you can’t continue your lessons. So here are some suggestions to move ahead in the flight training process.

If you’re like me and studying for the knowledge test, the pause you get in cold weather is an ideal time to get some cramming in. I’m using Sporty’s Study Buddy app, and I find the flash cards to be especially helpful. Speaking of flash cards, check out these great ones from the Air Safety Institute to help you learn your airspace types and runway signage and markings.

My original flight instructor recommended that I use Microsoft Flight Simulator to practice the basics.

For those of you who are still nervous, like me, when talking to air traffic control, then there are plenty of tools you can use to help break up the nerves, including: LiveATC; a free King Schools course on Non-Towered Airport Communications; and this free Air Safety Institute course, Say It Right: Mastering Radio Communication.

I hope these help in the study process. Please feel free to pass your recommendations on to me (benet.wilson@aopa.org) for a future blog post.—Benét J. Wilson

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.

Cascade mountain high

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

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

Flying over the Hoodoo Moutain Resort, Oregon

From left to right: Hoodoo ski area, Big Lake, Mount Washington

During my years of ski instructing and ski patrolling I have “gone over the pass” many, many times. And I have spent hours on patrol handling dispatch at the top of Hoodoo Mountain Resort. From there you can see what we call Sand Mountains, and the multiple snowmobile tracks that climb up their smooth, snow-covered banks as high as possible.

 Weather in Oregon can be overcast and cloudy most of the fall and winter. I have a shirt that says, “Oregon State Rain Festival: January 1 to December 31.” Rain and overcast had set in, yet there was a week of clear, sunny weather, and my hopes of flying over the Cascades to the Sisters airport and back reawakened.

Flying over the Three Sisters and Sand Mountains, Oregon

Three Sisters top middle; Sand Mountains, bottom left

I had not flown above 5,000 feet yet. With the pass at 4,800, the surrounding peaks at 10, 000, we would go first to 5,500, then 7,500, and then 9,500 as needed to help ensure distance from other airplanes. I was excited. Sounded like more fun than practicing stalls. My CFI was willing. My husband-photographer would go along.

 Ground school before the flight had Steve explaining the angle needed as we came up on the elevation of the ridge as the high and low pressure might make the turbulence more than we (I) could handle. As we took off and headed east, first over our four acres and then over the towns in Santiam Canyon that I knew so well, we noted the smoke from home chimneys rising straight up in the cloudless calm skies.

 As we climbed higher and talked about potential landing spots in the seemingly endless forests in these mountains, the tops of the Three Sisters came into view. We noticed the snow on the top of North Sister being blown strongly south and west by the winds coming up from Eastern Oregon.

Flying over the Sand Mountains, Sisters, Oregon

“Sand Mountains” are really part of a string of craters.

Sure enough, as we came to the summit of Santiam Pass, seeing the road under us winding its way over, the winds began to shake us up quite a bit. “I don’t like this!” I said. And, angled as we should be, I slowly turned us away and back into smoother air. But not before Rob took a photo of the ski area we have enjoyed for years. We saw the backside of Hoodoo Butte and the runs coming down in parallel rows. And, to our amazement, we discovered that the Sand Mountains were actually part of a row of small craters. The view from the air opened our minds to this incredible new understanding of the earth terrain we had travelled and viewed for years.

 And I had a new respect and understanding of winds.—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.

 

5 gifts to buy for your favorite flight training student

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Social Media Editor and student pilot Benét Wilson last wrote about lessons learned from her aviation friends.—Ed.

5 gifts for the student pilot on your list

Beaded airplane ornament photo from CreativityinPieces.com

Now that we’ve all managed to survive Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday, it’s time to get serious about how to show the holiday love to student pilots. My husband asked me for my Christmas list (but this is also good for Hanukkah, Kwanza, and Festivus), and everything on it was to help me with my flight training.  So below, please enjoy my picks for student pilot gifts. 

 

  1. Flight bag. For my first year of training, I carried m gear in an AOPA tote bag. It just looked bad. So at this year’s AOPA Summit, I bought the AOPA flight bag, which looks remarkably like this one offered by Sporty’s for $59.95.
  2. Headphones. I used an old pair from the AOPA Pilot magazine review cabinet. They were big, bulky, and uncomfortable. So when I had the chance to buy a slightly used Bose Aviation Headset X, I leapt at the chance. There are headsets out there with different features and prices, so use this handy headset finder created by MyPilotStore.com to find the best ones for your student pilot.
  3. Kneeboard. I originally inherited a kneeboard that curved to my letg, But it was raised, so it was hard to use in that tight Cessna 172 Skyhawk cockpit I use. So I went over to Aircraft Spruce and bought this ASA IFR and VFR kneeboard for a bargain $14.95.
  4. Sporty’s Study Buddy iPad app. If your student pilot is studying for the FAA knowledge test, spend the $9.99 for this app. it fatures three modes— learning, simulated tests, and flashcards—and covers everything on the exam. You can even take practice tests in preparation for the real thing.
  5. Leatherman Wingman Multitool. I used to have trouble taking the oil cap off during my aircraft check. So now I have this handy tool, available for $39.95 in the AOPA Store, in my flight bag and I’m ready for any task.

So—what did I miss?—Benét Wilson

My aviation bucket list: soaring, helicopters, finishing that RV

Monday, November 25th, 2013

glider, soaringIt’s good to have an aviation bucket list. Mine has stayed pretty consistent over the years. Much of it I have accomplished, but there are some items of unfinished business on it. When I first started flying, I wanted to fly airplanes with retractable gear and more than one engine. My first multiengine experience was in a Piper Aztec, and on that first leg, it might as well have been a 747. It just felt huge! I got my multiengine rating in 1994.

Seaplanes were always a favorite, and I bummed rides in them whenever I could. I finally got to the point where I couldn’t stand the wait anymore, and with my wife’s blessing, took a five-day trip to Florida, two of which were spent splashing around in the lakes getting a seaplane rating. It’s some of the most fun flying one can do, and it’s more challenging than it appears.

Seaplanes are right up there for me with ultralights. Some think that the UL world is filled with lunatics, given that many of the airplanes have little or no structure surrounding the pilot. That’s true, but the open air, the slow speed, the grass landing…they all add magnitudes to the fun. If you haven’t done it, you don’t know what you’re missing.

IRV-8, experimental aircraft, homebuilt’ve always wanted to build my own airplane, and I have at least begun that. Several years ago I finished the empennage of an RV-8. I don’t know if or when I will be able to start on the next sub-kit (the wings), but it was a very rewarding process at the time, and it convinced me that I can do it. For me, it wasn’t the time that was the issue, but the money. I may have to wait until my kids are out of the house, but it’s a dream that is only dormant—not gone.

helicopters, learn to flyAlso on my list of “gotta do” is to learn to fly helicopters. It’s such a different kind of flying, with totally different skills. Whirly-birds just look like so much fun (to match the danger!). Again, this one will have to wait a while (also because of the cost), but I have long vowed that I will achieve this particular dream. Not for any particular reason, but just because. That’s good enough for me.

I taught my dad how to fly, and something we both long wanted to do was to learn to fly gliders. Glider flying is pure flying, since the duration of the flight is up to your skill in finding the thermals. My dad has since passed away, but I’ve never forgotten how much he wanted to learn to fly gliders. One day, I will take the time to go somewhere where I can devote the time necessary to master this particular art.

I’ve been lucky to also get a few other items on my list knocked out. Flying jets, including one of my favorites—the 737—has been a blast. The high-speed, high- altitude regime is totally different from the low and slow of an ultralight or a Piper Cub, but both are rewarding for different reasons. Fast airplanes are much more complex, but the personal satisfaction can be just as rewarding.

My list still has a few items on it, and hopefully for each one I knock off, I can find another one to add to it. After all, with nothing to strive for, what’s the point in getting out of bed every morning?—Chip Wright

Is learning to fly on your aviation bucket list? Get 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.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high…

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

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

learn to fly, student pilot, flying in Hawaii

Rather than go snorkeling, student pilot Jean Moule (right) arranged a flight lesson during her visit to the islands.

Spiraling up on thermals in a glider, circling Kauai dodging clouds: what a way to spend time and funds for vacation fun.

I expected to take to the air between islands and headed home. Yet…something called…

Normally time in the tropics leads to sunset and/or snorkeling cruises. Fancy meals overlooking the beach. And, for more active adventure: zip lines, parasailing, scuba diving, SUP (stand up paddling), horseback riding. There are hikes and special coves for swimming. So, what did I unexpectedly do?

Oahu

This time…it was different. Even as we landed from the mainland onto Oahu, I knew I wanted to see more from the air. On some of the islands 80 percent of the scenery is only visible from a boat or from the sky. A bit of research and a few calls and I was scheduled to take a mini-glider lesson.

What was it like without an engine? Everything seemed different. Until Yuki had us up in the air after our release from our tow plane and we turned slowly upward and she let go of the controls. Somehow it began to feel familiar. She had told me earlier, “A student pilot learns a lot about flying from the engineless experience.” Now, if only I could take my eyes off the scenery long enough to solidify my growing skills.

She let me take the glider wherever I wished, while maintaining her watch on the altitude, the other gliders, and parachuters in the air not far from us. I FLEW. As we got ready to return to the airport she took over the controls and did a few steep g-force turns that had me laughing and joyful. Then she landed. My mini lesson helped me understand the power of rising air and the feel of an airplane, as all of them are, designed to fly on its own.

Kauai

Quite a day. This is an adaptation of what I wrote to my Salem, Oregon, flight instructor:

Remember the time you took over the controls after we were landing to quickly clear the runway for a corporate jet flight coming in? As we landed in Lihue, Kauai, Hawaii, my flight instructor took over the controls to get out of the way of an American Airlines flight about to take off. Oh my…amazing to be intertwined with the big guys. And, like, holding them up!? We also had to wait in line for the takeoff earlier. Almost cartoonish: Big planes and little us. A first for me.

As I took off Bruce said, “You’ve done this before.” He also appreciated that I was gentle on the controls. Certainly learned a bit about flying in the mountains, near the rainy clouds and in some turbulence. Now I know to say 492 Echo Romeo unfailingly (OK, confession: Since my regular N number is 75765, I had never asked for a briefing with a tail number with letters. The briefer let me know my error when I said E R, even added “November” for the N part of the number! I have studied, my husband has tested me: At this point I think you can wake me up in the middle of the night, give me a letter of the alphabet, and I can tell you the standard word…I am even dreaming of them).

As a CFI, Bruce, a former college prof, freely shared that he could not get a student to pilot certificate level as I believe the island situation has limitations. He certainly knew his island. I was surprised that we carefully avoided flying over populated areas to reduce the noise to those communities. And I learned to skirt clouds. Raindrops on the window did not freak me out this time either.

The scenery was awesome and the cost—that had both Robbie and me up in the air—was all of $2 more than if we had both taken the regular scenic flight with the same time and route!

Worked for me. And Robbie took 100 photos.

I think I enjoyed it most when Bruce and Robbie were talking and I just flew over the coastline with some turns and altitude adjustments as I felt like it. 1.1 Hobbs and I have an entry to paste into my logbook.

Thought you might like to know…

And, one last surprise: having now flown a different Cessna 172, my heart races every time I see one…and I want to fly it.—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 we need GIFT

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

GIFT1 Tamara and CatherineThis week my Facebook and Twitter feeds have blown up with many smiling faces of ladies learning to fly, or getting back into flying. That’s because the skies of Vernon, Texas, are filled with the Girls in Flight Training (GIFT) participants.

I went out to GIFT last year and spent a couple days with the GIFT gang, led by designated pilot examiner Mary Latimer; her daughter, Tamara Griffith, a CFI; and granddaughter Amanda Griffith—who, at age 18, had just become a CFI. Here’s the complete article.

Briefly summarized, Mary wants to create more women pilots, and she does that by conducting a free week of flight instruction for women, aimed at helping them get over hurdles, or make them more comfortable with notion of flying. Here’s a video of the 2012 event.

Some people periodically question why we need programs like GIFT that are aimed at getting more women to fly; or Girls With Wings, which strives to introduce girls to flight at a young age; or the global Women of Aviation Worldwide Week, which seeks to celebrate women in aviation while introducing women to the opportunities that aviation offers.

Their arguments generally run along these lines: Women aren’t being held back from flying, so why should a special effort be made to include them?

The best counter-argument to that likely comes in the form of a survey of airline travelers conducted in the United Kingdom, published this week in the U.K. Telegraph. The survey found that 51 percent of respondents said they would be “less likely” to trust a female pilot. The survey polled nearly 2,400 survey respondents, all of whom had taken a flight in the previous year, according to an article in the Telegraph.

It would be easy to say that the British survey respondents are harboring some stereotypes, or that perhaps they just are a little off-base in what they want from an airline crew. (A survey conducted in 2012 among 1,000 British travelers found that a majority of respondents prefer their airline pilots have a Home Counties accent—I’m not sure what that is—and they found Cockney and midlands accents least reassuring. But I digress.)

I’d like to think that a survey of 2,400 U.S. travelers would be a little more progressive in their responses–but I can’t say for certain that they would be. Women make up just 6 percent of the U.S. pilot population and represent 5 percent of airline cockpit crews. So, until such time as the sight of a woman in an airline uniform is as unremarkable as the sight of a woman in a doctor’s white coat or any other professional occupation, I will say that we need female-centric programs like GIFT (and GWW, and WOAW, and the Ninety-Nines, and Women in Aviation International…).—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.