Posts Tagged ‘flight instructor’

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.

Catching up with…True Course Flight School

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Just about 18 months ago, I interviewed Jeff Vandeyacht, the proud new owner of True Course Flight School at Oswego County Airport in Fulton, N.Y., for a brief article in the March 2011 issue of Flight Training. At a time when flight training seemed to be hemorraghing student pilots (and we’re not in the clear yet), Jeff had decided to purchase the flight school at his home airport when he found out that the owner was planning to shut it down and retire to Texas.

How’s the flight school doing? I checked in with Jeff this week on a whim, and he quickly got back to me. “We’re doing pretty well,” he reports. True Course has a Cessna 150 and a 172 on the line, as well as a Socata Trinidad on leaseback, which is used for commercial and complex/high-performance training. A tailwheel aircraft is the next planned acquisition.

Jeff hired a retired military pilot who is a part-time instructor, and he has been looking for a full-time CFI for months. “We’re busy enough that a person could make a fair living,” he says. (So, CFIs, if you’re looking for a change of venue, please give Jeff a call. Click here for the website.) Four or five students are preparing to take their private pilot checkrides in the next month.

Jeff went into this with the desire to provide quality training as well as a learning atmosphere where students can feel connected and excited about their progress. He regularly posts students’ accomplishments on a Facebook page, along with photos like the one you see here of Kevin Todd earlier this month. And yes, solo students get their very own T-shirt to commemorate the great day.

Shortly after Jeff got back to me, a prospect came in to True Course Flight School. After a tour, a review of the aircraft and the syllabus, “he’s all in and he starts his training tomorrow,” Jeff reported. “I think you’re bringing me luck!” Maybe, but the more likely explanation is that the prospect liked what he saw–a flight school whose owner is knowledgeable about business and good customer service, as well as someone who can help him make his aviation dream a reality.—Jill W. Tallman

Pilot dad memories

Tuesday, June 19th, 2012

Such wonderful stories about pilot dads came to me last week! From an airline pilot dad who taught his daughter to fly to a helicopter pilot dad who took his young son flight-seeing, these flying fathers–and some dads who didn’t fly themselves but nonetheless nurtured the flying passion within their sons and daughters–get our spotlight this week.

  • Molly Flanagan Littlefield learned to fly as a teenager, and her father, Tom Flanagan of Merced, Calif., was her flight instructor. “I remember watching his face in the mirror and seeing the peace he felt while airborne. He would say that flying assured them there was a God,” she writes. In 1979, when she was hired as a pilot for United Airlines, she was certain she wouldn’t make the cut and wanted to quit before she was asked to leave. She called home and talked to her parents. “There was a very long silence on the other end of the phone. Finally Daddy said words that carry me still…’I wouldn’t have let you go if I didn’t think you could do it.’”
  • Meredith Randazzo

    Meredith Randazzo’s father, Ernest R. Dixon, has had a lifelong love of flying, she says. (That’s Meredith at age 5 strapped in a safety seat, getting ready to participate in a flour bombing competition.) Meredith’s dad no longer flies, but she caught the bug and became a naval aviator and served more than eight years with the U.S. Marines as a CH-46E helicopter pilot. “Today my dad’s interest in aviation is as strong as ever and he regularly takes my niece to watch the airplanes take off and land, as he did with me decades ago!”

  • Jay Fleming remembers flying in a helicopter with his father, Jack, as a youngster. “One day, when I was about 5 years old, my dad flew a Robinson R22 from Wiley Post Airport to my grandparents’ property and picked me up to fly back to PWA, where he worked. Many of the neighbors thought my grandpa was being medi-flighted since he had had some health trouble recently.” On another flight when Jay was 14, his dad flew him from Torrance to Malibu and back, pointing out celebrity homes en route. “Thanks to him, I have the desire–not necessarily time or money though–to get a helicopter private pilot certificate.
  • Dr. Harold Brown

    That’s Flight Training Contributor Greg Brown’s father, Dr. Harold Brown, in the photo. He’s kissing the good engine of his Cessna 310 at Santa Maria, Azores Islands, after losing the other one over the Atlantic Ocean in 1962. Greg wrote about the experience in his November 2001 Flying Carpet, “Made My Dad Proud.” If you read the column you’ll find out about the last memorable flight Greg flew with his dad. His upcoming September column will be devoted to a memory of annual family trips in his father’s airplane to visit an uncle who lived on an island in Sudbury, Ontario, Canada.

  • Jim Mauro flew with his dad, Ben, from age 8 until his college years. “I had the great experiences of flying in Taylorcrafts, Bellancas, Sea-Bee, Grumman Widgeon, and Bonanza. I even flew in an airplane that I think was branded Amphicar, but I’m not sure.”[Editor's note: Paging Al Marsh! He's the in-house expert on car-airplane hybrids.] Jim’s dad had a grass strip in Conway, Penn., and was president of the Taylorcraft Corporation during the 1950s and early 1960s, so the aviation force is strong there, as you can see.
  • And finally, Andy Matthews, the co-founder of iFlightPlanner, wrote to pay tribute to his nonpilot dad, Jerry. Andy grew up in a golf-playing family. “A weekend pastime with my parents turned into summer golf camps, junior tournaments, a college golf scholarship, and now I’m humbled to be in my ninth season as a professional golfer who has competed with the best players in the game, all over the world.” So where does flying figure into all this? Well, Andy injured his back a few years ago, and golfing had to be put on the back burner while he recovered. In the meantime, his father suggested that this might be the time to start taking flight lessons. “He was there for my first solo, and he was also in the right seat as my first passenger soon after I got my license,” Andy says. Jerry also noticed all the work that went into planning a cross-country flight–the charts spread out on tables, manuals, notes, and a laptop computer–and “hinted that I needed a more efficient way to plan my flights. That spurred an idea, and with the help of my college roommate from the University of Michigan, we began to lay the foundation for what is now iFlightPlanner.”

Thanks to all who submitted these great stories. If you’d like to salute your dad in the Comments section, please do. I hope everyone had a happy Father’s Day!–Jill W. Tallman

Training showcased at Sun ‘n Fun

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

Usually airshows such as Sun ‘n Fun and EAA Airventure in Oshkosh are dominated by news from aircraft manufacturers, GPS makers, and headset companies. Rarely is flight training ever discussed or featured. This year’s Sun ‘n Fun was different. There were a number of exciting announcements, including some from AOPA. Here’s a wrap-up:

Redbird

When a simulator company announces the biggest nonairplane order of any company at Sun ‘n Fun, you take notice. Redbird is growing at a breakneck pace, and the company’s $1 million sale to a Brazilian customer was some of the top news of the show. With the simulated ATC program Parrot now shipping, look for more to come.

King Schools

You probably know King Schools from the company’s video training. Now they are getting into the business of requalifying flight instructors. A new Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic will be aimed not at traditional content, such as FARs and aerodynamics, but rather on soft subjects, such as how to make sure your students pass the checkride, and how to get better at teaching risk management. I couldn’t be more excited about this. Flight instructors treat FIRCs much like students treat the written test. It’s a hurdle with little applicability to the real world. I’m hoping the King Schools course is a good step toward changing that.

AOPA

Of course I had to throw in AOPA’s news. The association is doubling down on its efforts to grow the pilot population. We’re creating a center within the organization dedicated to the flight training initiative, and strengthening the pilot community. It’s a sign of the association’s commitment to fixing the problems we face.

As another part of the press conference, we announced the latest winners to the flight training scholarship program. There are some great stories here, so make sure you take a look and apply again later this year if you didn’t win this time.

Piper

Every pilot in the world, and many people who aren’t pilots, recognize the Piper J-3 Cub. Finally, someone who leads Piper Aircraft recognizes them as well. For far too long the company has ignored its flight training heritage and has not embraced its roots. People have a deep love and affection for the Cub, and while Piper has known enough to sell a few hats and T-shirts around the iconic  brand, it’s done nothing to further capitalize on the good feelings the Cub brings about. For the first time in some years, Piper displayed a Cub at the show. No, don’t get too excited because it will be a cold day in product liability litigation before the company will manufacturer them again, but at least they are telling us they get it. And to top it off, new President Simon Caldecott said, “I want to get Piper heavy back into the training business.”

Sennheiser

Didn’t win a flight training scholarship from AOPA? Try again with Sennheiser. The headset company is launching its Live Your Dream campaign, which provides eight $1,500 scholarships. Applications will open in May.

Did you go to Sun ‘n Fun this year? What did you think about the show? What was your impression for those who went for the first time?—Ian J. Twombly

The March “Since You Asked” poll: That problem student

Friday, March 16th, 2012

“Dear Rod,

“I have a really difficult student problem. This student has been through two other flight schools for an instrument rating, failing the practical exam at both. I am his third instructor and his check airman for his third stage check. It took him four attempts before I passed him (with reservations). I am trying to prepare him for his final stage check and practical.

“I have found many faults that I have pointed out to him, and given him tools and techniques to help him fly better. Under benign conditions he is relaxed and can fly a decent approach. But if there is a wind aloft, he gets rattled and is all over the sky. When I point out his mistakes, he always has a ready excuse. He is a poster boy for defense mechanisms.

“I have told him he will only succeed with a lot of practice, which he feels he doesn’t need (or want). I’ve also tried to convey the seriousness of what we’re doing, that this training is vital because flying in IMC is for keeps. I haven’t gotten to the point of telling him to give up. However, I don’t know what else I can do for him. Any suggestions?”

Wow. That’s a tough spot for a flight instructor to be in, especially when you consider, as he did, that “flying in IMC is for keeps.” We asked our digital subscribers to play the role of the CFII and tell us what they’d do in this instance. Here’s how the 43 responses stacked up.

  • 2 percent said they’d pass the student off to someone else. (Maybe four times is the charm for this student?)
  • 30 percent said they’d hang in there, and keep trying. (A few votes for optimism here.)
  • 60 percent said they’d tell the student straight out, “I can’t sign you off for the checkride,” and they’d spell out the reasons why. (We’d like to be a fly on the wall during that conversation.)
  • 7 percent said “Other,” which we left unspecified.

What would you have done in this instructor’s shoes? If none of our answers is to your liking, what would you suggest? We’ll leave off Rod’s response so as not to influence your opinion.

“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.—Jill W. Tallman