Archive for October, 2008

Learning to Fly – Not

Thursday, October 9th, 2008

It’s no secret that the number of people who start learning to fly is down significantly. AOPA and other industry organizations have made several efforts over the lasts several decades to increase the student starts. The problem isn’t with starts, it’s with completions. The drop out rate is estimated at 70-80% .

This hasn’t changed much over years either. But since fewer people are starting out to learn to fly, we are getting fewer completions, and the numbers of new pilots is dropping faster than that needed to sustain even the present number of pilots.

So why such a drop out rate? There are many speculations as to why. Don’t have time, don’t have money, instructor was bad, airplanes were bad, it wasn’t what I thought it would be – too much work, etc.

Some may think this isn’t a big deal – WE all get to fly, and it means less traffic in the pattern if there are fewer pilots. The problem is twofold – the industry needs enough people coming into the business to keep it viable. Not enough people to buy aircraft, fuel, parts, etc. and support businesses close, as do small airports. Political numbers are critical. If you don’t have the votes, you don’t get to play.

How does all this relate to safety and safety education? One of ASF’s roles is pilot education, and the delivery system is certainly a part of that. Poor training haunts us AFTER the pilot finishes. How often have you heard that CFIs are the most important person in the business, but few seem to want to invest in them. More importantly what should we do about it?

I have my views, but I’d like to hear yours.

Keep to the Right

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Right traffic patterns at non-towered airports are where you find them. Not everyone, few in fact, carry the FAA’s Airport Facility Directory and perhaps they don’t consult all the available information, per the regulation, to find non-standard patterns. That’s why the FAA decided to put the notation RP 5 12 on sectional charts to denote that right turns were required. Pilots didn’t need to look in so many places to get flight critical information. The info was readily at hand.

Air Safety Foundation has proposed that NACO, the folks who provide the government alternative to Jeppesen IFR charts, adopt the same notation in the small airport diagram of Instrument approach procedure chart booklets when a non-standard pattern exists.  Many IFR pilots do not carry sectional charts and unless they are especially diligent, may not check other sources. Since most IFR flights end in VFR conditions that means a  VFR pattern.  Life can get interesting when  someone is flying a mirror image of the correct pattern.

Two questions: Do you find the notation on the VFR charts helpful?  Would this notation be helpful on the IAP airport diagrams? By the way, Jepp already does this on their IAPs. Good idea or are we over thinking this?