Posts Tagged ‘student pilot’

Using LiveATC as a learning tool

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013

Listening WellLearning to fly encompasses trying to master a broad range of new skills and tasks. While some pilots want nothing more than to be able to fly solo on a weekend afternoon or fly from one small airport to another, others want to reap the full benefit of what flying can bring.

A big part of maximizing that benefit is learning how to utilize air traffic control (ATC). Recall that if you are working toward your private certificate, you are required to have at least a minimal interaction with the controllers on the other end of the radio.

There are a number of good sources that you can use to learn the proper phraseology and techniques for radio communication. The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) is probably the most convenient place to start, but it isn’t necessarily the best learning tool. Other books have been written, and over the years, radio communication software for computers has sprung up. While I haven’t used one of these personally, I have no doubt that they are quite good given the advances in computing power these days.

But there is another source that exists. It isn’t structured and it doesn’t allow you to respond to commands per se, but it will help you. The source is the website LiveATC.net.  LiveATC is just that: It’s a live feed from facilities all over the country, and you select which frequency at which airport you want to monitor.

If you are still new to the ATC world, remember the order in which you talk to controllers: clearance delivery, ground control, the tower proper, departure control, center, approach, the tower again, and then ground again. In slow periods, the same controller may function in multiple roles (ground and tower or approach and departure), so you may recognize the same voice answering to different requests.

At major airports, you will do well to focus on one frequency for a while, the busiest being approach and departure. If you start with something on the ground, you might be able to follow a specific flight for a while.

While you cannot actually participate in Live ATC, you can learn how the cadence and process works. You’ll also realize that even the best pilots and controllers make mistakes, and even the most harried controllers have a sense of humor (try a YouTube search for a bad day at JFK). LiveATC can be a great learning tool, especially from the comfort of your living room, for understanding the processes and language of busy airspace. In spite of the machine-gun chatter, you’ll find that there really is order in the chaos and it isn’t as difficult as it seems.

Another feature that is very cool about LiveATC is that you can download clips to your computer. That means that after you fly (there is a time limit) you can pull down all of your own transmissions and save them.

Check it out at varying times of the day, and choose a few airports when you know the weather is good and when you know the weather is bad. You will get a good feel for the on-the-go adaptations that need to be made as conditions constantly change. Then, after you have flown, download your own transmissions and see how you stack up!—Chip Wright

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

Photo of the Day: The best CFI in the world

Monday, April 8th, 2013

Senior StudentWe often repurpose the photos our photographers take for Flight Training and AOPA Pilot stories so as to get the most bang for the buck. So the guys you see here might have appeared in an article about older students and younger flight instructors; or flying fathers and sons; or just flying for the pure fun of flying.

I used the photo last week to ask the Flight Training Facebook crew to say something nice about their flight instructors, and I didn’t have to ask twice. More than 50 of you responded. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Dan Simonds: William Bowen at Airwolf in Greenville SC figured out how to push me hard and get out of the way. He didn’t teach me to fly. He made a pilot of me. Many thanks!
  • Ken Gardner: I have had several instructors throughout my flying time, two stand out the most and for the same reason, both love to fly for the sake of flying, neither was using being a CFI as a means to an end. Ed Martinez out of KSBD and Flabob in Southern CA.and Drew Kemp of Oakland both pass this love onto their students in the most thoughtful and joyful way. Thank you both!
  • LeeAnn Lloyd Bailey: Patrick J-y Nuytten with San Angelo Flying Enterprise helped not only me, but my husband, brother & nephew earn our tickets! Our motto became Instructor for 40 hours, Friends for Life!
    KSJT – Mathis Field Airport, San Angelo, Texas

So there you go, flight instructors; if your earns were burning on Friday, now you know why. Kudos to all the great flight instructors who are changing lives by helping others to realize the dream of flying.—Jill W. Tallman

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

Photo of the Day: Pattern or practice area?

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

So, what’ll it be today? A trip or two (or 10) around the pattern, or a jaunt to the practice area to practice maneuvers? Maybe a little of both? If you’re flying solo, make sure you have a plan for your valuable Hobbs time. Don’t just fire up the airplane and start taxiing. Sure, all flight time is good time, but it’s also somewhat expensive time. So figure out what you’re going to do before you do it, and make your solo time count. Photo by Mike Fizer.—Jill W. Tallman

Got a checkride this weekend?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

Whenever we ask our Facebook friends what their flying plans are for the weekend, invariably they report they’ve got a checkride scheduled. (Makes sense; we are, after all, a community for student pilots.) So here are some tips for doing your best and nailing that ride.

  • The night before: Get plenty of rest. Review for your oral exam and prep if you need to, but don’t burn the midnight oil with late-night cramming. This isn’t college. You’ll need to be fresh and your mind clear.
  • The morning of: Eat a good breakfast. See the above part about feeding your brain and your body. Watch the caffeine intake; you don’t want to be jittery (or worse).

If your checkride is a few days off, take a moment to read this excellent piece by Ron Levy, an ATP and veteran of 11 certificate or rating checkrides, including four with FAA inspectors. It first appeared (to the best of my knowledge) on the Pilots of America web board. Click here or cut and paste this link (  http://www.pilotsofamerica.com/forum/showthread.php?t=15706 ). And good luck!—Jill W. Tallman

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.

Pete’s solo story

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012

Pete Nardo (left) shows off his snipped shirt tail with his flight instructor, Ron Klutts.

While in Palm Springs for AOPA Summit, I hung out with student pilot Pete Nardo and his flight instructor, Ron Klutts. Pete had soloed just a week or so before the show, and after I got back to Maryland he sent me his account of the big day. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did, not only for the encouragement it gives to pre-solo students but also for the perspective it lends to those of us a little farther down the path.—Jill W. Tallman

The morning of Sat. Oct 6 2012 started for most people the normal way. For me, it was anything but normal. The day before, I flew with a chief pilot aboard. He said I had it in me to solo, but today we would put that statement to the test. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, flying the pattern in my head and watching aviation videos till the wee hours of the morning. I imagined Lindberg had similar anxiety flying the Atlantic, 33 hours without sleep.

0900- I make a cocktail of energy drink and soda, plus a light snack. “Charlie-Alfa-Tango, Hold Short” I said to the cat as I made my way out the door. I looked to the sky and it was blustery, gusts to almost 18, Clear visibility. Would this be the day? Would I orphan my cat. Ultimately the answer was yes to the first question, no to the second. 

I take my first step out the door. I would return as a pilot.

 1400-I brought along a photographer friend Johnny to document the event, waiting for me was a crew setting up cameras in N48849.  I did my preflight, checklist in hand, as I had a number of times before. To me, this is an act that ties me to the Wright brothers, Chuck Yeager, Neil and Buzz, and Amelia Earhart. 

They all had their first flight alone…This one, however, was mine.

 1530-It seemed to take longer than I wanted it to but we got through to taxi and run-up. It’s a good idea to practice a few times around the pattern with Ron my CFI aboard before committing to the solo. The winds at KPAO rattled us around a bit for an hour, and I was getting fatigued and dehydrated so we decided to put her down and decide if it would be go, or no go. We talk aviation stories at the terminal till the ATIS weather is updated. 

 1650- The weather was not improving much, indeed, the wind picked up another knot. Crosswind component was 4.5 knots, I’ve landed in worse than that. After agonizing for a few minutes it came down to one question. Do you have it in you? Yes I do. 

Back in the plane for a few more practice laps.

 1800- Taxing back we felt good about my chances. Ron warned me that the plane would climb like it had JATO bottles stuck to it without him in the right seat. Filling out the paperwork it felt like, this is the real deal, it’s official. I get to do this. We turn this into a photo opportunity because the sun is lighting up the sky a pretty shade of orange. 

We shook hands.

 1815- I turn to my instructor and say “Ron you’re good a pilot, a friend and a fine instructor…But get the hell out of my aircraft”. He smiles, shuts the door behind him, the cabin grows eerily quiet. “Well, that’s just great, now what am I supposed to do?” Ron’s voice in my head: Mixture in, Clear Prop, Master on, Key to ignition…Go. “Time to get some,” I must have said as the little Cessna started rolling with one guy in it. That guy was me. Run-up and make calls to the tower like I did a hundred times before, then the “Hold short” call.

 “Iv’e waited all my life for this,” I said. “Cleared for takeoff,” they said. “What do I stand for, What’s in you?…Throttle up, Gauges green, Airspeed alive, Rotate 50…..YeeHaw!” 849er went up F-16 style. I’m a 7-year-old kid flying his kite all over again. Today I’m not building a model airplane, I’m flying a real one!  Two times around, it feels like the plane was on rails tracing around the pattern. Training kicks in and you don’t think much about the nitty-gritty aspects of flying, you just do it like you did a hundred times before, almost on reflex. A look left revealed the most beautiful sunset I have ever seen. This is exactly why I fly. To experience firsthand the beauty, the majesty, the wonder of it all. There will not be another sunset like that one in my lifetime. I wanted the clock to just freeze right then.  

It was my defining moment, Pete Nardo—Pilot. 

  I could have been in the pattern all day, but it was getting dark, and as much as I would have liked to stay, I had to put the plane down…safely. Planes like this one don’t land themselves, It’s all on me. A little bit of crosswind wanted to blow me to the left, so I did a crab then a slip to maintain centerline. Flare, Flare (I could hear Ron’s voice in my head). The chirp of the tires meant I was on the ground, but no time to celebrate yet. I gotta park this thing. I roll to a stop, tower says, “Great landing 849er.” I said thanks but was too choked up with emotion to say much more. I take a minute at the taxiway to clean up the aircraft, and say “I did it, I’m a pilot”.  Then I put on a Hachimaki (Japanese headband worn for inspiration, mine literally said Kami-Kaze) in honor of my Senseis (Teachers). I got clearance to park, which I did, and then the motor was silent. 

 1845-As I sat there in front of the flight school the sun was emitting the last of its rays, I was in a quiet moment of reflection. Everything about my life up to this point prepared me to do this. In my flight bag were three photos. One of my family, one of my Grandparents, and one with a 7-year-old kid who is flying a kite, and missing his front tooth. That kid, this pilot….Was me. 

 I must have had a tear in my eye, probably balling too, and I was so happy, I didn’t care.

Every pilot that solos has their own story to tell. This one was mine….What will yours be?

 Peter Nardo

Cessna 152, Palo Alto Municipal Airport

October 6, 2012

Cross-country to Summit

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

CFI Ron Klutts (left) and student pilot Pete Nardo at Palm Springs Airport (KPSP).

Newly soloed student pilot Pete Nardo and his CFI, Ron Klutts, decided to fly from Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County (KPAO) to Palm Springs, Calif., for AOPA Summit last week. The trip exposed Nardo to lots of Southern California airspace, but he got much more out of it than that.

Nardo is at that giddy “I love flying and I want to shout it from the rooftops!” stage. Apart from AirVenture (yes, he’s been there and plans to go again), there wasn’t a better place on Earth for him to express that joy and revel in it. He got to see the Flying Wild Alaska pilots and learn about bush flying in Alaska; he wandered the static display and exhibit hall; he attended many thought-providing educational seminars; and he got to spend every waking minute immersed in aviation.

It was a treat to talk about airplanes with Nardo over a sushi dinner at Summit, because his excitement was contagious and reminded me that we all should strive to nurture our love of GA. Meeting new pilots–at your airport, at a pancake breakfast, or at a national aviation venue–is a great way to do just that.—Jill W. Tallman

Dumb things pilots have done, part I

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

This is a random series of dumb, sometimes just “plane” stupid, and often funny (in retrospect) things that pilots have done. There isn’t a rhyme or reason to the order. But looking back over more than 20 years I’ve been flying, I’ve seen—or heard first hand—some real doozies. These are some of my favorites.

Tried to leave, but couldn’t. One pilot, a student, forgot to untie the tail of the Cessna 152. He started it up, did his After Start checklist, and with his instructor’s consent, juiced the throttle. The nose immediately jerked, went up a bit, and then came back down as the airplane rolled backwards a bit. The CFI had not seen that the tail rope was still tied either, but immediately figured it out. He also acted as though he let all of this happen: “Don’t make me do that to you again! Now, shut this airplane down, and go untie the rope. I hope you’ve learned something!”

At least he was a quick thinker.

Left, but shouldn’t have. Airline crews have certain things that they simply can not leave without. The maintenance log is one of them. I’ve heard of several captains, though, who have, and if they are lucky, they take off, get a radio call before they get too far away, and return to the airport. The tower usually knows what’s going on, and they take enormous pleasure in introducing the world to Captain Forgetful. It’s never happened to me, but I can only imagine what the speech to the passengers is like, let alone the explanation to the chief pilot.

What’s worse is when the crew gets where they are going, and then a special ferry flight has to be scheduled if the company can’t get the logbook onto another flight to XYZ.

As a result, guys come up with all kinds of reminders to make sure that they don’t make this mistake: turning screens off, moving their rudder pedals out of reach, writing notes on their clips or their hands. Hey, whatever works.

Left, but he shouldn’t have, Part II. Did you ever try to retract the landing gear, only to find that you didn’t remove the gear pins? Me either, but others have. The pins are put in to move the airplane after the hydraulic systems depressurize. But even modern hydraulic systems can’t overcome those pins. About the time you notice it, the tower can see the “REMOVE BEFORE FLIGHT” flags flapping the slipstream. “Hey, did you guys know…?”

Maybe they’ll get the chief pilot mentioned below.

Left…the engine running. This has happened twice that I know of. The first time, jets were new to the property and the crew left for the hotel. Upon arriving in his room, the captain got a phone call from the station. He talked the station through the shutdown procedure, and went to bed. Rumor is the company never knew.

The second time (different captain), the company and the FAA got wind of it, and the captain had to do the carpet dance, as he had several thousand hours in the aircraft. Not too long after, he became the chief pilot. Go figure.

In part II, Chip Wright will share incidents that illustrate how the FAA has eyes in the back of its head, and much more.–Ed.