Posts Tagged ‘iPad’

Lessons from my most recent cross-country

Monday, August 5th, 2013

TripFor some people, flying a cross-country trip is no big deal. Check the weather, file a flight plan, and off they go. Sometimes I envy those people.

For me it’s usually a huge production involving much gathering of gear, checking and re-checking the weather, and making sure I have contingency plans in place for every aspect of the flight.

And still things don’t always go as planned, and I come away with valuable lessons learned. Here are a few, gleaned from my most recent trip in my Cherokee 140 from Maryland to Wisconsin and back:

  • iPads don’t like heat. I knew enough not to put my iPad on the glareshield, but just having it sit in the right seat in a hot cockpit was enough to make the thing crap out.
  • Flight planning programs suck up a lot of battery on an iPad. A three-hour leg used up all the juice in my fully charged iPad, putting it out of commission for the second three-hour leg of the day. (I had paper charts for back-up.)
  • Noise fatigue is a real thing. Try flying two three-hour legs with a passive noise reduction headset, then come back and tell me it’s not.
  • Crosswind landing proficiency comes in handy when you least expect it. A planned fuel stop in Ohio presented a 15-knot direct crosswind. I coached myself through it and landed, but kept an alternate airport in mind just in case the winds proved too much of a challenge.
  • Watch the weather, always. At that same ground stop in Ohio, I spent an hour on the ground, just trying to rest and recharge a bit before launching on my second leg. A bit of bad weather was off to the north, but I didn’t think it would be a problem—until it reached the vicinity of the airport before I was ready to leave.
  • There’s nothing quite as satisfying as traveling the country by GA. All of these minor glitches aside, the planning and (eventual) successful execution of my flights was a fun and fulfilling experience, something that certainly can’t be matched in Seat 34A, Aisle 12 of a Boeing 737 or riding in the relative comfort of a car.—Jill W. Tallman

Your instrument training tips

Friday, June 14th, 2013

04-348_IFRTrainingSince many pilots start instrument training almost immediately after completing their private pilot certificate, I wondered if our Facebook friends had any tips for those about to take the plunge. Turns out, you do—probably based on personal experience. As with almost any aviation topic, there were some divergent views.  Here’s a sampling:

  1. “Learn paper! Get the iPad out of the cockpit until you can master paper plates!”—Patrick Smith, seconded by Jim Chambers.
  2. On the other hand, “Use what you’re going to use in reality. This isn’t primary training anymore so if you’re going to use an iPad for charts use it in training. That way you won’t be fumbling your first time out alone with your orginazatiom of electronic charts. Learn your GPS, it will save your butt in training and in real life.”—Miranda Noble Rydstrom
  3. Get experience flying in actual instrument conditions—Anne Scheer Wright, seconded by Steven Bristow, Bill Green, Sam Grice, and Brian Harman.
  4. “As an instrument instructor for Army flight school, I would encourage instrument students to focus on their basic instrument (BI) skills for getting too focused on the advanced (AI) procedures such as departures, approaches, etc. If your BI is bad, your AI will be even worse.”—Wylie Mathis Sr., seconded by Mackey Simbajon, Luca Simioni, and Cm Thrasher.
  5. Use a simulator to help you practice approaches.—Daryl Sweeney, seconded by Brad Rodriguez, Jim Chambers, Chad Baker, and Alejo Echevarria.

Some had very specific suggestions for choosing the right CFII.

  • “Find an instructor who has experience outside of instructing. Someone who has worked as a Part 135 pilot and has flown a great deal in the ATC system.”—Collin Hughes
  • “A few things: 1. Make sure you are working with a syllabus that your instructor initials after completing tasks satisfactorily. 2. Interview the instructor to make sure he’s a good fit. 3. Ask the instructor if he is working as a CFI in order to build time to head off to a corporate or airline job. If he is, ask if he is currently interviewing and where he is in the process. 4. Is he willing to use a simulator to accomplish part of your training. 5. How can he integrate the use of a home simulator, like FSX into your training.”—Kevin Jarchow

There were many more suggestions, and you can read them all on our Facebook page. In the meantime, I’ll close with this very smart advice from Damian M. Campayo, because it happens to tie in brilliantly with an article in the upcoming issue.—Jill W. Tallman

  • “Keep money in reserve. You’ll need it to keep your currency!”

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