Your connection with the sky

In the air, out, and back again

Chris Findley is a flight instructor in the Nashville area and founder of He majored in Professional Flight Management at Auburn University where he earned his Commercial, Instrument, Multi-Engine and CFI ratings. After a 15-year hiatus from flying Chris returned to flying and instructing. About Chris Findley, CFI

Real IMC for Private Pilots?

March 9th, 2011

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by Chris Findley, CFI, CFII

I recently did an IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) trip with a private pilot friend of mine. I had been his instructor through his private training and we had done all the required work for that certificate. This included three hours of flight by reference to instruments only. As a private pilot, this is mainly to allow you to handle an accidental flight into IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions). It is in no way designed to make you a proficient instrument pilot. The main idea is to teach you to maintain aircraft control and reverse course to fly to clearer weather. Read More >>

First Things First

January 25th, 2011

by Chris Findley, CFI, CFII

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When you first begin flying you may feel overwhelmed with the amount of information you encounter.  It seems like there is so much to learn and much of it sounds like a foreign language!  You'll hear your instructor and other pilots talk about things like: Class B, ATC, VSI, Static Port, Asymmetrical Thrust, Nimbus, ATIS, and the Pattern.   In the air the radio will crackle with odd sounding phrases that seem only vaguely related to English.  A lot of students feel overwhelmed early on.  That's why we must keep "First things first." Read More >>

Setting Yourself Up for a Great Landing!

December 7th, 2010

by Chris Findley, CFI, CFII

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Learning to land is one of the greatest thrills in flying.  In fact, I think most pilots, even if they have been flying for years, still love the challenge of making a great landing.  It  is a common misconception (particularly among students) to think that the main thing we have concentrate on is the round-out and flare.   Certainly these are important, but a great landing really begins in the pattern, specifically on the downwind leg.

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In most trainers, when we are abeam our touchdown point, we reduce the power, add our first flap setting, and establish an appropriate descent.   Learning to establish this configuration enables us to arrive at the roundout and flare in a condition that allows for a great landing. Read More >>

Getting Over "Mic Fright"

September 20th, 2010

by Chris Findley, CFI

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For some students, it isn’t the flying that makes them nervous. They eagerly learn the four fundamentals, they practice their stalls and steep turns with diligence and they don’t take their bounced landings as permanent failures. They are solid students and thoughtful pilots. But there’s often one thing that causes these otherwise excellent students to break out in a cold sweat– talking on the radio. They have "Mic Fright."

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It’s amazing how this fear can take hold of a pilot. Usually this Mic Fright is rooted in fear of making a mistake, of saying the wrong thing, of looking like an idiot. (What they don’t know is that most ALL of us know of times when we ALL have been there, done that!) Talking on the radio produces a fair amount of anxiety in new pilots. So how can we, as instructors, help our student-pilots to get over their fear? Read More >>

Performance, Navigation and E6-B, Oh My!

August 31st, 2010

by Chris Findley, CFI

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As you approach your solo you will likely feel that your training has become repetitious.  You will spend a good bit of time on stalls, slow flight, steep turns, slips, and landings.  As you now move into the post-solo phase of your training, a new series of lessons will be a welcome change.  Now your training will focus on performance and navigation as you prepare for your cross countries.

“Performance” basically refers to knowing the limitations and the capabilities of your aircraft.  In the air you will learn how to perform maximum performance takeoffs and landings in order to fly off of or land on short or soft (grass or other unimproved surface) fields.  Your ground lessons and study will pick up again with learning how to load your aircraft safely.  Read More >>

Learning to Fly: What Will I Fly?

August 10th, 2010

by Chris Findley, CFI

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What is available at your local airport might vary, but it will likely be one of about four airplanes.  Probably the most common is the Cessna series of trainers, particularly the 152 and the 172.  These high-wing, single engine planes are among the most popular entry-level aircraft ever built.  Their proven design dates back to the 1940s and the Cessna 172 continues to be in production today.  The 172 is a 4 seat aircraft that flies at about 120 miles per hour.  It’s little brother is the 152, which is a smaller 2-seat version.  Both of these trainers are very forgiving and easy to fly.  More pilots have learned to fly on the 152/172 combination than any other plane in the world. Read More >>

A Primer on Personal Minimums

August 4th, 2010

by Chris Findley, CFI

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“What is the weather predicted to do while we are flying?  And will the changes that occur be beyond your capabilities?”

My student arrived on time and, after exchanging pleasantries, I asked him about the weather. It was a local flight, but I had been on my student to begin sharing in the decision-making process. I had begun to sense that he simply relied on my level of comfort and advice to make the decision to fly or not.

“AWOS says the ceiling is 3000 feet, with the wind 260 at 6.” he said, already heading for the flightline.

“Whoa…hang on.” I said. “You have to understand that weather is dynamic, not static. It’s always changing. What is the weather predicted to do while we are flying?  And will the changes that occur be beyond your capabilities?”

He looked at my blankly for a minute.  I explained, “Say we take off  and 2 things happen: 1.) The ceiling begins to drop as a warm front begins to pass, from 3000 to 1600 feet and 2.) As it does that little westward wind becomes 12 gusting to 18.  Would you,  particularly where you are in your training, want to take off solo in those conditions?” Read More >>

What to Expect on Your First Flight

July 19th, 2010

by Chris Findley, CFI,

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You're going to take your first flight in a light airplane!  First things first, be sure to bring a camera!  This is an exciting day for you and for those of us who teach and encourage people to learn to fly.  This might well be a much bigger day than you imagine.  These first flights are where many of us catch the "flying bug" and begin a journey that literally lasts a lifetime.

But what can you expect?  While experiences vary from flight school to flight school, here's are some thoughts on what a great first flight should be. Read More >>

Preparing for Your Solo Cross Countries

July 1st, 2010

by Chris Findley, CFI

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GoOne of the great milestones in your flight training, after your initial solo, will be your solo Cross Country.  Don't let the name intimidate you, you'll only be going 50 nautical miles, but it is nonetheless a huge step in your flying.  One of the things that makes your solo XCs so exciting is that you'll actually be going somewhere!  It will be the first time you use the plane and your training to do what flying does so well-- travel!

As you get ready for this flight, you'll have a million things to think about.  The good news is that it gets easier the more you do it and you'll get faster and more proficient as you do more of these trips.  Your instructor is required to review your route and planning with you and you'll receive an endorsement from him/her for each solo XC you make as a student.  Remember, the fact that your instructor is kicking you out of the practice area indicates that you have progressed in your knowledge and training and are ready!  Let that fact alone give you confidence!  Here are a few things to remember as you prepare for this historic event:. Read More >>

Getting Back into the Cockpit Again

June 23rd, 2010

by Chris Findley, CFI

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What do you do when you look up and realize that its been 2 years or 10 years since you last flew?  Getting back into the plane can seem a little intimidating.  As I often work with people who are getting back into flying after a break, I've found that the longer the break, the more apprehensive the pilot is about their ability to recoup their knowledge and skills.  I know, I was in that position myself.

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I had a 15 year break from flying.  After earning my degree in Aviation Management and my Commercial, Multi, Instrument and CFI ratings from Auburn University, I was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and entered active duty.   Between getting my feet on the ground with the military and shortly thereafter getting engaged and married, I just slipped away from flying.  It was never a conscious decision, but just something that happened.  After a couple of career shifts over 15 years, an almost comical turn of events got me back in the pilot's seat.  It was mis-handled mail.

I went to my office mailbox one morning to find a single piece of mail-- Plane & Pilot's Annual Guide to Aviation Careers.  I thought it ironic as no one at my office knew my background in aviation.  Why was this in my box?  I kept it and over my lunch break began leafing through it.  Something within me awakened, a long-lost passion for flying and a hunger to feel the response of the flight controls in my hands once again.  But I was nervous.  Would I remember everything (or anything) a decade-and-a-half later?  Would my skills in the air be miserable or would they return? Read More >>