Posts Tagged ‘Rod Machado’

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

The March “Since You Asked” poll: Two at a time?

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

In the March issue, we asked digital subscribers whether they have ever tried to train with two instructors at the same time. The question was sparked by a situation in Rod’s column that involved a student pilot who was getting frustrated with the pace of his training. His instructor didn’t want to work weekends, which meant between his own work schedule and weather, he wound up flying only a few times a month. While he enjoyed working with the CFI, he wanted to keep moving forward. The CFI had promised him that he would more time to devote to the student’s training in a month.

It’s generally not a good idea to work with more than one CFI at a time, but I get the sentiment behind the student’s question. Rod said:

“It’s simply too easy for you to become confused when another instructor—one who has different training priorities and methods than your primary instructor—contradicts your previous learning (and yes, there’s a very good chance that this will happen).”

Our poll respondents generally had not flown with more than one CFI at a time, although not quite in the overwhelming numbers I’d predicted. Here are the results:

  • 56 percent had not.
  • 39 percent had.
  • 5 percent had not, but were considering doing just that.

What do you think? And if you’ve flown with more than one instructor (at the same time), I’d love to hear how that turned out for you.—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.

The December “Since You Asked” poll: Looking for the traffic

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

When air traffic control notifies you that there’s traffic in your vicinity, what do you do first? That’s the question posed to digital subscribers in the December 2012 Flight Training’s “Since You Asked.”

A reader asked Rod Machado whether he is expected to look first and then reply to such a call, or immediately key the mic and indicate that he’s looking. Rod’s response:

When air traffic control calls out traffic for you, the first thing you should do is direct your attention in the direction of the traffic. So look for the traffic first. There’s no need to clog the airwaves by telling the controller that you’re “Looking,” either. The controller knows you’re looking, assuming you received the message.

I’ve automatically hit that mic key and said “Looking” while straining my eyeballs, so, ATC folks, I’ll back off on that one. Rod continues:

It typically takes only a few seconds to identify traffic if it’s close, at which point you’ll identify yourself to the controller and say either “Contact” if you see what was called, or if the traffic is converging on you and you don’t see it you can say “No contact.” If the traffic is close and you don’t see it, then request an avoidance vector. [Editor's note: Since this column was published, a reader pointed out that the correct phrases are "negative contact" and "traffic in sight."]

So, how did readers respond? Oddly, it was almost split right down the middle. Forty-nine percent of respondents said their first response is “Looking for traffic.” And 49 percent said they look for the traffic and then respond. Just one person said their first response is “Tally ho,” so congrats to the rest of you who didn’t pick that. To the one person who did pick it: You get a pass if you happen to be a fox hunter. Remember, if it’s not in the FAA’s Pilot-Controller Glossary, you probably shouldn’t use it.

January’s digital poll is on one of your favorite topics: landing. Don’t forget to cast your vote on p. 14!—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.

November “Since You Asked” poll: Would you have canceled the flight?

Friday, November 16th, 2012

The November “Since You Asked” poll was prompted by this question from “No Name, Please”:

I just started taking flying lessons to become a commercial pilot and currently I have about 15 hours logged. Recently on one of my dual circuit flights, I called off the flight based on the weather briefing from the FSS, and my instructor didn’t like that idea. Now he is refusing to fly with me.

We asked digital respondents what they would do if the weather looks threatening for an upcoming dual flight. Eleven percent said they would cancel the flight on their own initiative, much as Rod’s reader did.

Thirty-seven percent said they’d head to the airport anyway to consult with the flight instructor. (Who knows, maybe he or she would have a back-up plan in mind. Flight instructors are resourceful that way.)

Twenty-nine percent said they’d call the flight instructor in advance. And 1 percent chose “Other.”

We don’t know what type of weather prompted the student to cancel the flight, or whether he talked it over with the instructor first, but clearly there was a breakdown in communications on both sides of the fence. If I were that instructor, I’d want to know why the student canceled the flight. And if I were that student, I’d want the instructor to know exactly why I canceled it.—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.

The August “Since You Asked” poll: Where’s your hand?

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Many student pilots are mystified when something their flight instructor has taught them is overruled by another flight instructor or a designated pilot examiner.

Such was the case in the August 2012 edition of Rod Machado’s “Since You Asked?” No Name Please (there are a lot of people with that monicker who write in to Rod, it seems) recounted that another CFI at his airport insists that a pilot flying have his hand on the throttle pretty much at all times and “goes bonkers” if he catches someone removing a hand from the throttle during final approach–no matter if a trim or flap adjustment is needed. He’s even been known not to sign off a pilot for a checkout if that hand comes off the throttle.

We asked digital readers to finish this sentence: “On takeoff or on final approach, the hand that’s not on the yoke is…”

The vast majority (94 percent of you) said their hand is on the throttle, but “I will take it off to adjust flaps or trim.”

The remainder (6 percent) said they keep that hand on the the throttle, “and it stays there.” Nobody admitted to keeping that hand in their lap.

Rod’s position is that while it’s reasonable to instruct student pilots to keep their hand on the throttle during takeoff or landing, but there’s no good reason whatsoever that a student pilot–or any other pilot–not be permitted to take his or her hand off the throttle to “do his cockpit business.” Those of us who fly airplanes with non-electric trim are thankful.–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.

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.

The May “Since You Asked” poll: Preflighting

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

In the May issue of Flight Training, we asked digital subscribers a very particular question: “If you preflight an airplane the night before a planned flight, do you:

a. Conduct a thorough preflight the next morning as well. You never know what could have happened over night.

b. Conduct a streamlined version of the preflight, focusing on only certain things.

c. Kick the tires and light the fires; I’m good to go.”

The question was pretty directed because it was inspired by a particular set of circumstances put to Rod Machado in the May “Since You Asked” column. Specifically, K.L. wanted to know what Rod thought of this situation:

“I met someone who was preflighting his airplane the night before he was to take a trip. He was the sole owner, and the airplane was hangared. He indicated he would do a quick walkaround in the morning, but he felt taking his time the night before would result in a more thorough preflight and nothing significant would happen overnight. So the question must be asked: Do preflights have an expiration date (time)? How long is a preflight good for?”

First, let’s look at our responses to the digital poll. A whopping 87 percent of respondents said they’d conduct a thorough preflight the next morning. Just 13 percent said they’d conduct a streamlined version of the preflight, and no one–not one person–confessed to the notion of kicking the tires and lighting the fires.

When you consider that our readership is aimed at primary student pilots, many of whom rent aircraft that sits outside and unattended, it stands to reason that they would prefer to do a preflight both the night before and the morning of the planned flight. This is your last chance to check everything before you go hurtling into the air, so why waste the opportunity?

Then again, 13 percent said they’d be comfortable with conducting a streamlined version of the preflight on the morning of the flight. This could represent our readers who own aircraft and are reasonably confident that nothing will have happened to their aircraft over the eight, 10, or 12 hours preceding the flight.

And here’s what Rod told K.L.: Preflights do have an unofficial expiration time that’s based more on common sense than a timepiece. “If the airplane is secured in a hangar,  then it’s entirely reasonable to do a thorough and detailed preflight the night before departure and a less-detailed inspection the morning of the flight. This is based on the assumption that the hangar is completely secure.

“On the other hand, if the airplane is out in the open, it is unreasonable to assume that something or someone can’t adversely affeected the airplane’s airworthiness overnight. Therefore, the next morning’s flight should be preflighted by an equally thorough preflight.”

In the year I had access to a hangar for my 1964 Piper Cherokee 140, I never preflighted the airplane the night before a flight with the intention of saving time and doing a quickie the next morning. It never even occurred to me to do something like that. I know myself too well. Any tasks that take place after 6 p.m. aren’t going to be ones that involve operating an aircraft or checking its airworthiness. I prefer to leave enough time in the morning to do a thorough, unhurried preflight, when my brain is sharpest.–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.

The April “Since You Asked” poll: Talking on the radio

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Rod Machado’s discussion of listening to ATC and ATIS reminded us that we get many, many questions from student pilots about talking on the radio. So that’s why we posed the following question in the April Flight Training: How comfortable are you when communicating with ATC?

If our poll results can be extrapolated, many of us are comfortable in the ATC environment–but only because we train or fly in the system regularly. A good many of us are still struggling to sound like Joe Cool, and some of us won’t talk to ATC at all. Here’s how things stacked up:

  • 50 percent of respondents to the poll said they train at a towered field, so they’re OK.
  • 25 percent said they stumble on the radio.
  • 19 percent said they fly out of a nontowered field, but their communication skills are OK.
  • And 6 percent said they don’t talk to ATC.
It bears repeating, so we’ll pass along several tips we’ve collected over the years.
  • Listen to the pros. Use LiveATC to listen in to any number of airports big and small. (A feed for our own homedrome, KFDK, was just added!) Alternatively, a sunny afternoon and a bench at the airport with a handheld transceiver can be a great way to spend your afternoon and pick up communications tips. If you can, ride along with a pilot friend. Don’t do anything in the right seat except focus on how he or she talks on the radio.
  • Understand what you’re trying to communicate, and why. Bob Gardner’s Say Again, Please, is one of the best books available to help you with this. It’s available at many aviation retailers. ASA also sells a companion tutorial that can be played on a computer or MP3 player. The Air Safety Institute’s Say It Right: Mastering Radio Communication is a FREE interactive online course. (It does use Flash.)
  • Practice, practice, practice. You can go whole-hog with something like Comm1′s VFR Radio Simulator, which lets you practice dialogue using a headset and your computer (and is a very neat program that’s been on the market quite a few years). Or you can keep it simple by practicing your radio calls in the car or in the shower. I’m told that you might accidentally tell your spouse that you’re turning base when you crank the steering wheel in the car toward the driveway.

What did we leave out? Share your best tips for improving your radio technique in the Comments section.

“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

 

 

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