Posts Tagged ‘Air Safety Institute’

Under pressure

Wednesday, October 9th, 2013

My flight to North Carolina this past weekend was one of those scenarios that causes me to have anxiety dreams about flying days before the actual event.

I had signed on to join Pilots’n'Paws’ “Operation Special Delivery” fall flyout. This fine organization helps to connect pilots with animal shelters around the country. The volunteers pull dogs, cats, rabbits, and other small animals out of high-kill animal shelters; pilots sign up to fly them to rescues and, hopefully, new homes. Once or twice a year, Pilots’n'Paws puts together a large event and moves hundreds of animals in a day. Last weekend’s big flyout originated in Hinesville, Georgia.

Jewel (left) and Pink get a ride to a new home, thanks to Pilots 'n' Paws.

Jewel (left) and Pink get a ride to a new home, thanks to Pilots ‘n’ Paws.

My Piper Cherokee 140 gets a little uncomfortable after three hours. Rather than fly all the way to Hinesville, I opted to go to Pinehurst, N.C.—about three hours from Maryland via Cherokee—where I would pick up dogs from another pilot, and fly them back up to West Point, Va. A third pilot would be waiting at West Point to transport the dogs to an airport in New Jersey.

So far so good. I’m instrument-rated but not current, so the next step was to keep fingers crossed that the weather would cooperate.

I asked my daughter, Maddie, if she would like to join me for the dog run, and for once her jam-packed college senior schedule permitted it. Things were coming together! Except…

We are getting a lot of morning fog in Maryland. If I tried to launch Saturday morning for North Carolina, I might be grounded for who knows how long until the fog burned off, and it would put the third leg of the long day behind schedule. OK, I’d fly down Friday afternoon, get a hotel room, and be at the Pinehurst airport as early as needed. Except…

My daughter said she’d leave College Park by 2 p.m. With luck on our side, we’d launch from Frederick no later than 4 p.m. I didn’t want to land at a strange airport at night.

I could feel the pressure of the mission mounting. If I wasn’t able to get to North Carolina, the chain would be broken and the dogs would have to be moved to other airplanes. But I would have my daughter on board, so it was crucial that I not allow get-there-itis to overwhelm my decision-making process.

At some point that week, I previewed the forthcoming Air Safety Institute online

The author (right) and her daughter, Maddie, on the final leg of a Pilots 'n' Paws run.

The author (right) and her daughter, Maddie, on the final leg of a Pilots ‘n’ Paws run.

course, Weatherwise: VFR into IMC. This great new course, optimized for use on the iPad, is coming out soon. It includes a video snippet with our own Rod Machado talking about how to break the mission mind-set. Rod said something to the effect of, “Don’t ask yourself what you have to lose by not flying; ask yourself what you have to gain.”

With those words, everything came into focus, and the pressure eased. If morning fog created a delay, so be it. I could launch late, or I could cancel altogether. Cancelling the flight would be hard, but if it had to be done, I would have the conviction to do it.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to cancel. We were able to make the flight down to North Carolina on Friday with plenty of daylight to spare. On Saturday, we were at the airport bright and early—but our Georgia pilots were grounded because of morning fog, so we had a pleasant wait at a nice FBO while Pilots’n'Paws volunteers provided a free lunch. The only downsides to the day were unseasonable heat and haze (90 degrees!) that made it rough on the poor dogs while we were on the ground.

In the end, I transported two dogs, enjoyed a wonderful weekend with my daughter, and worked through a go/no-go scenario with tools that will serve me on flights to come. It doesn’t get much better than that.—Jill W. Tallman

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

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.

Spring is just around the corner…and so are birds

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Editor’s note: Thanks to Ron Klutts, who snapped this photo just for this blog. Follow Ron on Twitter (@Captain_Ron).

If you see a bird hanging out on the empennage of an airplane, I have news for you: She’s not admiring the scenery. She is looking for a nesting place. She may have already found one–inside the airplane she’s perched on.

This fake owl is parked on top of an airplane that sits outside in the hopes that it will scare away actual birds from building nests.

It’s getting to be that time of year when birds go from being a lesson in ground school to a practical, hands-on exercise in good preflighting. Birds can and do nest in airplanes. They nest in airplanes that are sitting outside; they nest in airplanes inside hangars. They will nest in the tailcone and the engine compartment and probably would slip inside an open window and make themselves at home in the cockpit if given the opportunity. And all it takes is an opening the size of a quarter or so. As these Bird hazard photos from the Air Safety Institute show, even cowl plugs can prove ineffective.

And they are super-fast at what they do. As Steve Ells reported in AOPA’s Reporting Points blog, he parked his airplane in his hangar and came back 10 days later to find a complete nest and four eggs on top of the engine’s number 1 and number 3 cylinders. (Click the link to see a photo.)

I see barn swallows every year. If I have a decorative wreath on my front door, they will nest in it. Mind you, this is a door that sees a lot of activity–we go in and out of it several times a day.

Another article from the Air Safety Institute explains why some birds build their nests in what you’d think would be dangerous locations. “Birds don’t associate nest removal with predation,” an expert says. “Nesting materials will naturally drop, so they’re used to seeing some disappear.” When a nest with eggs or baby birds is removed, it finally sinks in that this could be a bad neighborhood.

Perhaps the best thing to do is to assume that a bird has built a nest in your trainer every single time you head out to the ramp or hangar. Then prove otherwise.—Jill W. Tallman