Posts Tagged ‘flight training’

Bessie Coleman’s journey to flight

Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Jean Moule last wrote about being a 67-year-old student pilot 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.

Bessie_Coleman_and_her_plane_(1922)Who was the first American to hold an international pilot license?

Early in my training, my flight instructor introduced me to this aviation pioneer, Bessie Coleman. Steve Larsen, CFI, knew from my observations that I needed familiarity with the existence of Black women in aviation to help me, a woman of African descent, feel more comfortable in the left seat. He had connected me to another Black female student pilot as well.

Curious and inspired, I spent hours in Coleman’s history. Because flight schools in the United States would not teach Blacks, Bessie taught herself French, then went to France to learn and earn her pilot’s license.

Bessie was born in Texas in 1893 as one of 13 children of sharecroppers. She was gifted in math, loved books, and walked eight miles round trip to attend a one-room school for Blacks. She went to Oklahoma where she managed one term at a university, but had to leave due to lack of money. She returned to Waxahachie, Texas, and worked as a laundress. The small southern town had little to keep her challenged and engaged.

In 1915, at 23, Bessie moved to Chicago. She lived with her brothers and worked as a beautician, one time named as the best and fastest manicurist in the city. In Chicago Bessie heard and read stories of World War I soldiers and pilots as they returned from Europe. The stories opened possibilities. She and her brother, a soldier, talked.

“Those French women do something no colored girl has,” her brother teased. “They fly.”

Taking the challenge, Bessie decided to become a pilot. Due to both race and gender discrimination, she gave up trying to enter a flight school in the United States and began her study of French. She learned the language well enough to grasp the principles of flight and aeronautical terms in that language.  Then she went to France.

She completed a 10-month course in seven months. She earned her license and returned to the United States. She earned her living barnstorming and performing aerial tricks, specializing in stunt flying and parachuting. Beyond her own support, her goal was to start a flying school for African Americans.

Bessie’s high-flying skills wowed audiences of thousands. She was well known all over the United States, with huge headlines whenever she would be in the air.

During a rehearsal for a show in 1926, she leaned out of an airplane flown by her mechanic to check her parachute-landing site. The airplane began an unexpected dive toward the ground.

Bessie, unbelted and thrown out, fell 1,500 feet to her death.

The mechanic was unable to gain control of the airplane and died as well.  A misplaced wrench was later found lodged in the wreckage of the engine.

Thousands mourned for Bessie. Ten thousand people attended her three funerals. After her death at age 33, others took up her cause to begin flight schools that allowed Blacks entry.

Some of those who learned to fly in her memory and inspiration in these flight schools were early enrollees in the World War II Tuskegee Airmen Division.

Now I had a family link: My grandson’s great-grandfather was an instructor in that WW II division.

Bessie’s legacy continues down through the years: In 1929 the aviation school she worked to establish was founded in Los Angeles. Roads, highways, and flying clubs for women were named after her. In 1995 the U.S. Postal Service issued the Bessie Coleman stamp. And every year on Memorial Day, the Tuskegee Airmen fly over Brave Bessie’s grave and drop flowers in her honor.

My children have all flown commercially, as have my grandchildren. One grandchild, Chance—great-grandson of Tuskegee Airman Instructor James A. Hill—leads the rest: Before he was 5 years old he had flown on 120 flight segments.

For leading the way, I give my thanks to Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman, the first American aviator of any race or gender to hold an international pilot license, the first person of African descent to be licensed in the United States, a pioneer in aviation education for all people, and a motivator for my own flying.

Here’s to Bessie, a woman of my hue and the first American licensed to fly anywhere in the world. Here’s to all those who venture into the air!

Bessie said, “Do you know that you have never lived until you have flown?”—Jean Moule

Just ahead in the July issue

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

GliderWhat great summer trips are you planning this year? What hot-weather issues confound you as you progress through your flight training? Our July 2013 issue, just off to the printer, touches on weight and balance, density altitude, and nailing your best glide speed in the event of an engine failure.

  • Weigh in: Why You Should Calculate Weight and Balance—Every Time: Your instructor makes you calculate weight and balance, but it shouldn’t become one of those “I’ll never need to do this again” situations once you become a certificated pilot. In fact, it will become even more critical for you to go through the calculations, as you’ll learn in this article.
  • Just Like the Real Thing: Moving Training Toward Reality: When you start training with real-world situations in mind, that simulated short-field landing on a longer runway gets a little more challenging.
  • Glider Pilot for a Day: How Fast to Fly When The Engine Quits. We take some tips from the folks for whom an engine-out is an every-day occurrence—glider pilots.
  • Technique: Short-Field Takeoff: When you absolutely, positively must get off the ground quickly.

There’s a lot more, of course, so keep an eye out for your digital edition–hitting your device May 28–or your paper copy, arriving in your mailbox after June 6. Happy reading and safe flying!—Jill W. Tallman

 To get a free six-month membership to AOPA and receive six free issues of Flight Training magazine, call 800-USA-AOPA or visit our website. To switch your paper subscription to digital, visit our website.

Nana Jean faces a challenge

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

After reading a letter to the editor in the June Flight Training about a lack of women and minorities represented in aviation, Jean Moule sent this previously published blog to Editor Ian Twombly. We post it here with her permission.—Ed.

Jean Moule and her flight instructor, Steve Larsen.

Jean Moule and her flight instructor, Steve Larsen.

“75765, is there an instructor on board?” My erratic taxiing had been noted by the control tower. The basics seemed so difficult. Maybe it was a good thing that the threatening weather kept my instructor and me on the ground in our plane.

I stared through the raindrops on the aircraft windshield. Would I ever learn to fly? I have seen my grandchildren and my students begin a difficult task, become frustrated and put the material or task down with a sigh, lacking the will to continue. I have learned how to help them move past the barriers to try again. Could I do that for myself?

Rarely in my adult life have I faced tasks I found challenging beyond learning a new skill on the computer or how to work a new appliance or gadget. And rarely do these tasks have high emotional impact or the kinds of pressure one may experience when the task is complex, cognitively difficult and watched over intently by a teacher.

Perhaps I needed a reminder of such experiences. Five years ago in “Ask Nana Jean” I wrote about my climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and concluded with my desire to reach more heights. Climb another mountain? Learn to fly? And that is how I found myself behind the controls of an airplane, I in the pilot seat and the instructor on controls on the right. Could I reach high places in a plane?

This was my 3rd lesson; this time with a substitute instructor. The checklist with 120 items and a cockpit with a lot more dials than a car seemed bewildering. Afterwards, as I paid for my half hour on the ground my head filled over and over with “Why am I doing this?” I reminded myself: I want to learn to fly…

  •  Because I like heights.
  • Because I want additional perspectives.
  • Because I need exhilaration and a new challenge.

I drove home feeling dejected, the rain and gray clouds matching my mood. I knew that at some point I would have to find the reserves to try again. I tried to encourage myself by thinking about other challenging things I have accomplished:

  •  Remember learning to drive a car?
  • Remember handling an excavator that one time?
  • Remember learning to ski or pull a sled while on ski patrol?
  • Remember learning to teach!

I made a list of resolutions and requests that I believed would help me continue on:

  •  Get a copy of the preflight checklist and go over it at home
  • Get a life-sized poster of the cockpit and practice touching the right switches
  • Ask my instructor to taxi next time to at least get us off the ground

And finally, I remembered the pleasure I receive when my own students begin to grasp a concept that is hard for them. So my final reason for continuing with my lessons? My instructors may feel blessed when their challenging and challenged student finally makes progress. They, too, will have a student whose success they will remember fondly…when she finally leans to fly solo.

Ten days later:

I flew today. My instructor watched as I turned the plane over our house, circled the small town of Lyons where we used to live, flew over the road I take to work. Up and down. Level flight, smooth turns and a deep satisfaction. Now I need to learn to take off and land!

What a contrast to just a few days ago when I almost put down my pilot log-book for good.

My words for myself and others: when the journey gets tough, be strong and continue on. No matter how long it takes.—Jean Moule 

Jean Moule is an emerita faculty member of Oregon State University, and a published writer and artist. Visit her website.—Ed.

Just ahead in the June issue

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

13_Stall Spin_We’re in the home stretch on production of the June 2013 issue. All the pages go to the printer on Friday, April 19, and your copy begins making its way to you as of May 9. Digital subscribers get theirs May 2, so if you’re one of our readers who can’t wait for the next issue, keep that in mind!

Here’s a quick look at what’s headed your way:

The Not-So-Obvious Cause of Stall/Spin Accidents: You know how your instructor is always trying to get you to make a really nice turn from base to final? Here’s why.

Little Fish in a Big Pond: Have you landed at a primary airport in Class B airspace? No? We’ll show you how to plan and execute such a trip.

Calling Dr. Landing: Common-sense solutions for the same problems that hamper your ability to pull off a greaser.

OK, that’s enough teasers for now. Happy reading—and happy flying!—Jill W. Tallman

To get a free six-month membership to AOPA and receive six free issues of Flight Training magazine, call 800-USA-AOPA or visit our website. To switch your paper subscription to digital, visit our website.

Handling a failed checkride

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Overcoming FearFor any training that you complete as a pilot, you will be evaluated on a checkride. The ride represents the culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of both you and your instructor. People are often their own worst critics, and it must be part of a pilot’s DNA to get that characteristic in double doses. Whenever pilots get ready to take a checkride, it seems that they begin to develop a lot of doubt and concern about how prepared they are.

It is imperative that you trust your instructor here. If your instructor is telling you that you’re ready, you can be sure that you are (it’s very, very rare that an instructor will send a student for any kind of evaluation if that student is not ready). Likewise, if the instructor is telling that you are not ready, then rest assured that you really do need more practice. Just because you have done a maneuver to the Practical Test Standards once or twice may not matter. It needs to be consistent.

Once you begin a checkride, your nerves should calm down. If they don’t, then just slow down a bit and take your time. Relax. The examiner wants you to pass. More than one has been known to help a bit more than they should, so long as they have overall confidence in the applicant.

But what if you totally blow something? What if you are doing an emergency landing and come up short of the runway? What if you totally screw up an ILS?

The beauty of the system is that you can finish the rest of the tasks that require evaluation, and that’s what you should do. If you know you failed something, or even if you just think you did, then put it behind you and press on. Get as many items done as you can, so that when you are re-examined you can just concentrate on the one or two areas that need to be revisited.

It’s very rare that an examiner will not allow an applicant the opportunity to finish the balance of the ride. If the rest of the ride is stellar, you may get a free pass on something that was otherwise questionable. If you totally blew something, you will have to retrain on it, and go back up. But if you’re lucky, you may be able to finish that day.

I’ve always made it a point to enjoy checkrides. Not everyone can do that, but if you can, you should. It’s a chance to show off your hard-earned skills, and the best examiners will also try to genuinely teach you something.

And there is nothing like having a new certificate in your wallet!—Chip Wright

Going to Sun ‘n’ Fun?

Friday, April 5th, 2013

Sun_n_funIf you’re headed to Sun ‘n’ Fun next week, we invite you to join AOPA staff who will be talking about a variety of topics close to your heart—namely flying, how to fly a little cheaper, and how to get started learning to fly.

 

 

  • Wednesday, April 10, 9-11 a.m. Flying Clubs Meet-up and Information Sharing—Forum Room #1

The Flying Club meet-up and information sharing session will be an opportunity for startups and clubs to discuss ways to improve their clubs.  Coffee and snacks will be served, and we plan to run a series of short breakout sessions on topics like insurance, marketing, financing, maintenance and starting a new flying club.  Adam Smith, Woody Cahall, and Chris Lawler will be moderating the event.   

  • Thursday, April 11, 10-11 a.m.: Adventures Beyond the Pattern—Room #4

You’ve earned your pilot certificate… now what? Join AOPA’s Shannon Yeager for a discussion on creating flying adventures beyond the flight training environment. Learn about things to consider, where to go, and what to do next now that you’re officially the pilot in command.

  •  Thursday, April 11, 11 a.m. to 12 noon: Reduce Your Cost of Flying… the “New” News.—Room #7. Speaker: Woody Cahall

Over the years you have no doubt heard about or attended a seminar about how to reduce the cost of flying. I’ve conducted many of those seminars over the years and those techniques to save a few dollars here and there still work. But, this is a new era and the ability for every pilot to dramatically decrease their cost of flying is at hand. Stop over to the “Reduce Your cost of Flying… the “New” News” Forum and learn what AOPA and individuals are doing to reduce the cost of flying throughout the country.

  •  Saturday, April 13,  11 a.m. to 12 noon: Your Path to Pilothood  Learn to Fly!—Room #1. Speaker: Brittney Miculka

Don’t miss this opportunity to get answers to prospective pilots’ most frequently asked questions. Find out how to save time and money, overcome common obstacles, and get access to free student support resources.

Hope to see you there!—AOPA staff

Alaska calling

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

The June issue of Flight Training, going to press this week, Juneauis full of great content about the great state of Alaska. Pilots can’t get enough about Alaska (and can’t stop dreaming about going there, flying there, living there, or working there). Maybe it’s because general aviation is so entrenched in the state because there’s almost no other means of transportation for many communities. Maybe it’s the allure of the bush-pilot lifestyle, whatever that may be. Maybe it’s the endless possibilities of where you can land: water, snow, a glacier, gravel. I don’t know; you tell me what it is in the Comments section.

But anyway, as I was saying—Alaska! The photo you see is one I took from the left seat of a modified Cessna 150 in June 2008, somewhere near Juneau. I was midway through a weeklong cruise from Seattle, and I knew that the 12 hours our cruise ship was docked at Juneau was the only window I’d have to do some affordable flying. (Much as I wanted to do a glacier flight, that wasn’t in the budget. But if you can afford one, do it and tell me how it went.)  So I went on the Internet, found a flight instructor, called him from Maryland, and scheduled some dual. Two weeks later, he picked me up in downtown Juneau, drove me to the airport, and I had the most memorable 1.3 hours of flying of my life at that point.

The scenery was spectacular. The flight instructor pointed out several little sand bars and gravel strips. We overflew a 1,900-foot gravel strip that from 200 feet looked like a dirt path made by a couple of four-wheelers. For $168, I considered my flight a bargain.

Editor Ian J. Twombly has fond memories of Alaska, too. It’s where he got his seaplane rating–an experience he describes in this 2005 article (see the sidebar, but read all of Katie Writer’s discussion of what’s involved in becoming a bush pilot).

Do you have Alaska dreams? Better yet, do you have Alaska memories? If so, share them in the Comments section. The June issue of Flight Training starts shipping to homes on April 4; digital subscribers will see it a on March 28.—Jill W. Tallman

 

The January “Since You Asked” poll: What element of landing an airplane is/was problematic for you?

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

No matter what we accomplish in flight training, nothing (it seems) quite eclipses the ability to nail a landing. Is it any wonder? Landing the airplane is probably the toughest part of flying it. (If you disagree, feel free to do so in the Comments section.)

So it was that our January digital poll asked the question in the title of this blog. The idea for the poll was sparked by the student pilot who wrote Rod Machado to ask for guidance on how to control the airplane during rollout. Rod was puzzled, and so he contacted the student to ask for some additional details. It turns out the guy had a shoe size  13-1/2. Aha! Rod theorized that the student was having difficulty properly placing his feet on the cockpit floorboard so as not to accidentally touch a brake pedal.

Mystery solved, I wondered what other types of problems with landing plague us. I could’ve guessed the outcome,  but here are the unofficial poll results to bear it out: It’s the flare.

  • 71 percent of respondents chose the flare as their problem area.
  • 14 percent of respondents said it was the sight picture.
  • 7 percent said the rollout.
  • 7 percent said other. (I’m curious to know what that might be–perhaps gauging your airplane’s height above ground?)

“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.

Student or teacher: Which is harder?

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

So which is harder: learning to fly, or teaching people how to fly? I’ve been on both ends of that spectrum, and looking back, it’s hard to say.

There are a lot of things in life we have to learn, some which we don’t see the immediate value in or have an interest in, such as learning rote math facts or the difference between verbs, adverbs, and dangling participles. Other things that we learn are the result of optional endeavors, such as learning to play an instrument, painting, and flying. Those optional endeavors are not necessarily easy to learn, but because we choose to do them, they are either fun to learn, or “easier” to learn, because we are motivated to learn them.

Let’s face it. Some parts of learning to fly are easy, and some parts are downright hard. Learning the FARs is rote memorization, and much of it is common-sense stuff: Don’t fly too low over houses and highways; stay out of clouds; and get a good weather briefing. All of these are pretty simple.

Other stuff is much more work-intensive and more difficult to learn, landings being the most obvious one that comes to mind. Everyone has more trouble learning to land than anything else because you simply can’t replicate the same approach (or even the same control inputs and hand-eye reactions) on each attempt. That’s also one of many variables that make teaching landings so challenging.

Every student has certain maneuvers they struggle with more than others. I recall one who was absolutely terrified of steep turns, but had no trouble with stalls and slow flight. Another—a teenager, no less—had so much trouble learning to taxi that we spent an hour one day just following yellow lines and working on using his feet to turn. Talking on the radio comes naturally for some, but creates stage fright for others.

As a student, it’s possible that you will complete your certificate and possibly never take another organized lesson again outside of a flight review.

The CFI, on the other hand, must master not only the private syllabus, but also those of the commercial certificate and the instrument rating. Further, the CFI must also be able to fly and teach these maneuvers all from the right seat, which can be a challenge.

Learning the various maneuvers is one thing, but being able to break down all the material into bite-sized chunks that students can digest is something else. We’ve all had instructors who were better than others, whether it was because of patience or the ability to convey the subject in terms that student can understand. Having had it both ways, I think that learning to fly is more difficult, only because you are getting your initial exposure to so much. You need to learn the terminology, the acronyms, the skills, and so much more. Teaching flying forces you to slow everything down, but at least you already have (or should have) a basic grasp of the material.

Of course, it would be more accurate to say that one of the bigger challenges is learning how to teach people how to fly. Unfortunately, the first several students become the guinea pigs, and the airplane becomes the lab.

What are your thoughts?—Chip Wright

A holiday flight

Monday, January 7th, 2013

Back in December, we asked chat participants what was on their Christmas wish lists. There was a prize at stake—a free eBook.

Chatters wished for more money to fly with, more time to fly with, a handheld nav/comm, and just plain more flight time (40 hours, to be exact, so that the chatter could complete an instrument rating). The wish that got us was David Kincade’s. He asked for 10 hours’ block time at his FBO. To finish up a rating? No. Turns out he wanted to fly his wife to her parents’ home for the Christmas holiday.

David won the eBook—and what’s more, he actually made the trip. He posted a photo on our Facebook page with a note:

“Hey Ian and Jill; thanks again for the book I won in December’s chat. I did get some flight time for Christmas, and did indeed use it to take me wife from St. Louis (KSET) to Branson West (KFWB) to visit with her parents. I even got to take her mother for a sightseeing flight around Table Rock Lake. We had a blast, discovered some fun airports, and met some great people along the way.
Just Southeast of Springfield, MO, there are some giant TV towers, 2000agl, photo enclosed.
This flying thing is kinda fun.”

Thanks for checking in and letting us know, David! And yeah, no argument there—this flying thing is kinda fun.—Jill W. Tallman

Our next Flight Training Facebook chat will be at 3 p.m. Tuesday, January 8. The topic is paying for flight training with guest chatter Brittney Miculka. Go here to set up an email reminder, or just join us at the chat!