Posts Tagged ‘CFI’

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 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.

What I miss about GA

Monday, May 21st, 2012

I recently did a flight from DTW to Kalamazoo (AZO). We had some time on the ground to kill, and our gate’s location gave us a great view of the approach end of Runway 17. Several airplanes were doing pattern work, including a Cessna 172 (with a horribly ugly paint scheme, I might add), a Piper Cherokee, and one or two others. A couple were flown by students, as evidenced by the hesitant radio transmissions and the near-misses of nosewheel-first landings. Others were likely someone out just practicing, taking advantage of the clear sky and summer-like March weather.

My first officer and I began chatting about how nice it would be to trade places for a day with these pilots.

The truth is, I can’t tell you how much I miss general aviation flying. I don’t get to do it nearly as much as I would like because of the cost, and when it comes to travel, you can’t beat the free flight benefits of the airline.

But I miss everything about GA—getting dirty on a preflight, being able to turn the radio off, tracing my flight on a sectional (not easy at 400 knots true while in the flight levels), or just taking the airplane around the patch one more time because I didn’t like my landing. If I tried that at my day job, I’d have more than a little explaining to do. They might even deduct the cost of the extra fuel from my paycheck. And I especially miss doing primary flight instruction. I’ve long maintained that if I could make the same income as an instructor as I do now, I’d trade my uniform for shorts in a heartbeat.

On occasion, we will see a 172 or a Cherokee on our TCAS that is flying at or below 1,000 feet just sightseeing or slowly going from place to place, or maybe even nowhere in particular. Once in a while we see those airplanes doing ground reference maneuvers or lazy 8s. It’s hard not to think about how far my own career has come watching somebody else go through those maneuvers that I too had to master.

If you are pursuing a professional career, take the time to enjoy the steps along the way, and if you can pull it off, stay involved in your GA roots. You will miss it more than you ever will imagine. I fly whenever I can, and I keep my CFI certificate active; I worked way too hard to ever let it expire.

There may be a thing or two about GA that I don’t miss—the broken orange juice cans in the Cessnas, not having a weather radar, bouncy fuel gauges, and I’d like to have an autopilot—but the benefits way outweigh the cons. I think I’d like more than anything to be able to fly a cross-country and substitute my iPod for ATC…just once.—By Chip Wright

The best and worst of 2011

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Welcome to the second annual Best and Worst of [Insert Year Here] for the flight training industry. The 2010 blog, which you can read here, pointed to flight training dropout rates and the erroneous detention of John and Martha King as lowlights, but we saw some bright spots, too. (Hello, Young Eagles! Looks like you’re getting a shoutout this year as well.)

What did 2011 bring? Well, we didn’t see any beloved flight training figures erroneously detained, but we did see the FAA administrator abruptly leave his job following a drunk-driving arrest in early December. However, I’m not including him in the to Best of/Worst of list. You can tell me in the Comments if you think that was an error of omission.

So here we go, in no particular order.


1. The ongoing fracas at Santa Monica airport. Short version: The city council would like to close the six flight schools in operation there, citing “potential safety hazards” to the local neighborhoods, in spite of an impressive safety record. I guess the city of Santa Monica thinks pilots are hatched out of eggs or found in the cabbage patch. And hey, Santa Monica–your airport was good enough to train Greg Brady to fly. How many other airports can make that claim?

2. Another university aviation program gets the the ax. The University of Illinois’s Institute of Aviation had been turning out pilots since 1946.

3. A California flight school owner is arrested and charged with helping foreign nationals fraudulently apply for student visas to attend flight schools. Innocent until proven guilty, but are we looking at a troubling trend here? See number 4.

4. Meanwhile, the TSA is being dinged for not enforcing the Alien Flight Student Program for several months back in 2010. (The temptation here to remark that the TSA is probably busy with other matters, such as protecting the nation’s skies against grandmothers, is overwhelming. But all jokes aside, TSA, thanks for easing up on the whole patting-down-children thing.)

4. Isn’t flight training hard enough without some moron shining a laser in your eyes? (Thankfully the student in this incident had a CFI on board who was not affected.)


1. Remember that California education-reform law we cited last year that would have required flight schools to pay $5,000 in initial fees? Flight schools are now exempt.

2. Redbird Flight Simulations opens arguably the most state-of-the-art flight school ever envisioned in Texas. Data will be collected from the students who learn to fly there, and that’ll be used to create more effective training strategies.

3. With the number of female certificated pilots languishing at 6 percent of the total, women in the United States and Canada decided to do something about it. “Get women to the airport” events were held worldwide in 2010, and their organizers say they’re going to keep going for 2012. AOPA honored Mireille Goyer, creator of the international Women of Aviation Worldwide Week initiative, for her efforts.

4. The FAA publishes a change to the regulations enabling student pilots to apply for the private certificate and instrument rating concurrently, and count dual cross-country instruction flight time toward eligibility requirements for the concurrent training. This sounds like a no-brainer, and a good way to save some money in the process. It’s not for everybody–I couldn’t have pulled it off–but if you’re up to the challenge, why not?

5. EAA’s Young Eagles program makes the list for the second year in a row, this time because EAA announced at AirVenture that it would be targeting its program to get more people to continue their flight training, and possibly opening it up to older individuals (the Young Eagles cutoff is 17).

Now it’s your turn. What’d I miss, and what would you nominate?–Jill W. Tallman