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What You Should Know About the New Student Pilot Certificate

by Sarina Houston 2. February 2016 00:33
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New changes to FAA student pilot certificates are coming our way, and although there was an initial display of panic from some members of the flight training community, the new student pilot certificate rule might just be a good thing. Here’s what you need to know about the new rule, which begins April 1st, 2016:

The Details
First, don’t panic. Although students could have a delay in getting their student pilot certificates, it’s not all bad news. Here’s the scoop:

  • Students won’t have to go to the FSDO to get a student pilot certificate. FAA certified flight instructors, designated pilot examiners, Part 141 programs, and the FSDO will be all able to accept and submit applications for student pilot certificates. The student pilot applicant will have to show up in person and bring a photo ID to verify identity.
  • The new student pilot certificate will not expire, which brings it in line with the other certifications.
  • Instructors will no longer have to endorse both the student’s logbook and the student pilot certificate. Only one endorsement will be necessary from now on, which simplifies the process.
  • The student pilot applications will go through some kind of TSA approval process, which, whether we like it or not, should add a layer of security to flight training that we don’t currently have.
  • Student pilots who already have a paper student pilot certificate may continue to use it until it expires, or may choose to obtain a new plastic student pilot certificate from the FAA.

What could possibly go wrong?
Okay, so we know that it won’t be a perfect process, and as with any new process, there are sure to be frustrations involved. The biggest frustration that people foresee is that there will be a delay in the processing of student pilot applications. The FAA says it will process the applications as quickly as possible, but that it could take weeks or even months before the student receives the new plastic pilot certificate in the mail.

This delay in processing will potentially make it impossible for student pilots to solo right when they’re ready to. Some students, especially those in fast-paced flight training programs, will get to the potential solo flight in a matter of days or weeks, and will be left waiting on a student pilot certificate to arrive in the mail. This can be a source of frustration, to be sure.

Finally, should a student pilot applicant be denied a student pilot certificate based on information gleaned from the TSA check, the student will be faced with an appeals process that, as we all know, could take an extended amount of time. This, perhaps, will be the greatest source of frustration for those who may be “flagged” in the system for some reason, but who are otherwise eligible for a student pilot certificate. And perhaps, sadly, we’ll lose a few potential student pilots to yet another lengthy appeals process.

What do you think about the new student pilot application rules? A good thing or bad?

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Flying | Sarina Houston

How to Afford Flight Training

by Sarina Houston 3. January 2016 23:14
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It’s a new year, which means you’re thinking, once again, about that resolution you had to get your private pilot license. Or maybe you want to work on an instrument rating or even a commercial certificate. You finally have the time to fly - but how, exactly, will you pay for it?

Cash
If you’re lucky enough to be able to pay cash outright for flight training, then you’re doing it right. But even if you don’t have 10,000 dollars in the bank waiting to be spent, don’t discount the idea entirely. Many flight students pay for flight training through careful budgeting combined with a set training pace. If you can afford one flight per week, for example, and can budget it into your regular expenses, then your goal might be completely attainable, after all. Most instructors will tell you that flying less than once a week isn’t ideal, but if you can compensate for the slow pace by doing ground school on your own, chair flying from home or supplementing with simulator time, then you’ll be well on your way. If there’s a will, there’s a way, and paying cash for flight training might just mean you have to put forth a bit more effort on your own than otherwise.

Financing
Sometimes, the only way to get ahead is to get behind… temporarily, at least. Many people have successfully financed flight training through private lenders. Taking out a loan is a good option for those who can or will be able to repay it quickly and easily. And it’s a good option for those who want to go through an accelerated program in which the private pilot certificate is earned very quickly through an intense study program. These fast-paced flight training programs often demand a flat-rate payment up front instead of the pay-as-you-go program that local FBOs often use.

If you’re looking for a flight training loan, check out AOPA’s financing program.

Scholarships
Scholarships are more abundant that you’d think, but you do have to search for them and get your timing right. Often, the scholarships that you hear about are ones that you aren’t eligible for, and it’s tempting to give up. But just because they all seem to be meant for other people - like the college kid who has already obtained a private pilot license or the female that wants to become a corporate pilot - doesn’t mean that there aren’t any out there for you. You’ll just have to look harder to find them.

And you don’t always have to be a minority to earn a scholarship. It’s true that many scholarships are offered with minorities in mind, but the same scholarship offerings often don’t exclude anyone, and you may find a scholarship for you on the Women in Aviation scholarship list, even if you aren’t a woman. Don’t pass over opportunities because you assume that they aren’t for you. Read the find print, and keep digging.

Where to look? Professional organizations at the local and national level will often offer scholarships to a variety of potential candidates. Check your local EAA or CAP chapters, AOPA, or your local and national Women in Aviation or 99s groups, the OBAP or the NGPA. And if you’re reading this, you don’t have to look any further than this website - Globalair.com offers a scholarship of $1,000 annually to four students who are dedicated to blogging on a weekly basis about flight training,

Get Serious.
If funds for flight training are tight, it’s time to get serious about your priorities. Here are a few ways to continue to keep your flight training budget in check:

  • Do as much ground study on your own as possible.
  • Complete an online ground school course before you begin flying.
  • Chair fly at home.
  • Observe flights whenever possible.
  • Be a safety pilot for someone.
  • Take advantage of simulator use.
  • Eat, sleep and breath aviation.
  • Choose your flight instructor wisely.
  • Choose your flight school wisely.
  • Ask for a discount or a flat rate.
  • Offer to help someone else study and they can return the favor.
  • Spend some time thoughtfully completing the homework that your instructor gives you instead of just trying to memorize answers.
  • Ask a lot of questions.
  • Work with a CFI who understands your personal aviation goals.

Have you made it through flight training on a tight budget? What are your tips? Share them with us in the comments section.

The Flying Club Advantage

by Sarina Houston 1. November 2015 22:30
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Until last year, I’d never been part of a flying club. I had always received training at established flight schools throughout the years and rented aircraft at local FBOs. I’d always heard that flying clubs, while less expensive, could be troublesome. Rumors of old airplanes, casual maintenance practices, scheduling problems and bad management always seemed to accompany discussions about flying clubs.

But as it turns out, it’s possible that I was actually just a victim of shady marketing tactics and misguided beliefs that implied that flying clubs were somehow not as good as traditional aircraft rental businesses and flight schools. The aviation business is a tough world, and the flight student often goes to the flight school with the newest airplanes and the best website. After years of flying, I’ve learned that sometimes the old airplanes are the best, and as much as I hate to admit it (I’m a marketing snob), marketing doesn’t mean anything if you can’t follow through. While I love a good marketing plan, the product is what really counts, and the same - or better - product found in traditional businesses can, in fact, be found in a flying club.

What is a flying club?
A flying club differs from a traditional flight school because it’s not-for-profit, whereas a flight school operates as a profitable entity. Flying clubs are completely run by the membership, with a board of directors leading the way. AOPA says there are about 600 flying clubs active today, and on average, each club has about 50 members and operates four aircraft.

Operating a flying club
Operating a flying club, like any flight school, is a lot of work for not much reward, and it’s often hard for clubs to stay in business. It takes a special group of people to manage a flying club and another special group of members to invest their own personal time and money into its success. Flying clubs will charge membership dues to offset operating costs, but otherwise don’t take in any revenue. And club members in a flying club operate club airplanes as owners instead of renters, which means they often have to pay a deposit upfront, but pay less in rental charges.

Advantages of flying clubs
The most obvious advantage of flying with a flying club is the cost. Aircraft rental rates are often high enough to just cover the operating costs, meaning you don’t pay the steep markup that a for-profit business charges.

But there are a lot of other advantages, as well, including the availability of different types of airplanes, the ability to take an airplane overnight or on a weekend trip (many businesses don’t allow this), the availability and presence of flight instructors who are also members, and the camaraderie. One of the most beneficial parts of joining a flying club is the camaraderie and the educational value of having other pilots and instructors around to answer questions or offer advice.

Joining a flying club has been the best aviation decision I’ve ever made. In the short time I’ve been there, I’ve learned more than I ever would have at another flight school or FBO. I’m always being challenged, and my flying skills are always being improved. The rates are less expensive than the other FBOs in the area, there is always another pilot around to bounce an idea off of, and there’s always a fly-out or an event to attend. And it’s family-friendly, too. I can bring my kids to the club building for a Saturday cookout, and they have just as much fun as I do socializing with other club members.

For me, the advantages of the flying club are clear. Not every club is perfect, but if you have a flying club nearby, it might be worth checking out!

Paying It Forward: The Importance of Giving Back to Aviation's Next Generation

by Sarina Houston 16. August 2015 15:34
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Remember back in the good ole' days, when you were eating ramen noodles and living out of a crash pad so that you didn't have to move in with your parents after college? Remember when you had nothing but your dreams ahead of you, only to be knocked down once or twice because you couldn't afford to follow through with them? Were you, by chance, one of those starving pilots who handed over your paycheck for a single flight in a 152, or a budding manager who lived out of your car during your first low-paying airport job? Or maybe you just came to your aviation career later in life, after struggling, maybe even giving up once or twice along the way, only to find some other way to make it happen years later?

Maybe your parents helped you along the way, or maybe a stranger, or maybe a supervisor who saw potential in you and gave you that well-deserved promotion. Perhaps you got a scholarship, or maybe you had a good mentor, or friends who made important connections for you along the way.

However you got to where you are, chances are good that you had some help. Whether it came to you financially, through a scholarship or a leg up from your parents, or whether you just worked hard every single day, you probably witnessed the importance of a helping hand as you worked your way to where you are.

Had I not had help along the way, my life would have taken a very different course. Perhaps I wouldn't even be in aviation today. Perhaps I'd have been pushed into a different, higher-paying job just to make ends meet. I'm certain I'd have found my way back into aviation, but it would have been a much longer road. But that didn't happen, thanks to a variety of generous people who helped me along the way. It seems like each time I ran out of money or resources or good fortune, I was offered a helping hand. Whether it was in the form of a place to stay, extra cash, a scholarship, or just words of encouragement, those acts of kindness and pure generosity meant that I could continue on my path to become a pilot.

During the early years of anyone's developing career path, this kind of help is so important. And aviation's next generation can use all the help they can get. Aviation is expensive, right? Flying, for those of us not blessed with unlimited financial resources, can seem so far out of our reach that some people just can't or won't even consider it. And even for those who have the resources, or those of us who have dug down deep and saved enough money, it seems like it's just never enough to get where you want to go.

I remember the feeling I had when, years ago, I got a scholarship letter in the mail. I was so grateful. It was more than just money, although that was important, too. It meant that somebody, somewhere, believed that I had what it takes to become a pilot, and that my hard work spent keeping up my grades and volunteering had paid off. It meant that I, and my family, would struggle less to come up with money for me to fly. And it meant, for at least the following year, I could continue on with my dreams. Months later, I met the generous man who had given me this scholarship, along with a couple of other scholarship recipients, and what he said has stuck with me. He didn't want anything in return, he said. He wasn't going to track our whereabouts or even our grades. He was just going to trust that we'd do the right thing, and that someday, after we've "made it," maybe we could pass on our good fortune to a younger generation. Pay it forward.

If you've "made it" in the aviation world, have you considered giving someone else a leg up? If you're financially sound, have you considered offering a scholarship to a young person who wants to follow their dream to work in aviation? If you succeeded, even in part, due to someone else's mentorship or coaching in the early years, have you made an effort to mentor someone else who may benefit from a friend in the industry? If your success in the aviation world today is due in part to the generosity of someone else, whether in the form of a scholarship, a mentor, a friend who offered you a place to stay or a supervisor who put in a good word for you, have you thought to pay it forward?

Pay it forward. You might just make someone's dream a reality. And the aviation industry will thank you.



Did you know that GlobalAir.com offers a scholarship? Track last year's scholarship recipients here, and stay tuned for more news on the 2015 scholarship winners!

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Flying | GlobalAir.com | Sarina Houston

7 Reasons an Instrument Rating Will Make You a Better Pilot

by Sarina Houston 1. November 2014 16:11
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Photo: N. Tackaberry/Flickr-CC BY-ND 2.0
Getting an instrument rating means you’ll be able to fly in the clouds and you won’t be stuck on the ground as much because of bad weather. But an IFR rating also comes with a few other advantages. Here’s why getting an instrument rating will make you a better pilot:

  1. You’ll become more accurate.
    There’s no doubt that accuracy improves with instrument flight. In order to remain safe while in the clouds, you have to stay on your altitude and heading. Deviations become much more of a safety hazard when you can’t see the ground below you or other aircraft flying around you. During your IFR training, you learn to fly more precisely, staying on your assigned altitude, heading and airspeed, or making exact pitch and power changes for, say, a precise 500 foot-per-minute climb. These skills will transfer over to your VFR flying, too.

  2. Your preflight planning will be better.
    Preflight planning is always important, but when you introduce low ceilings and fog into the equation, planning is done with a whole new outlook. IFR flight presents new challenges like icing hazards, holding procedures and traffic delays, and it’s more important than ever to be prepared for fuel stops, flight plan deviations and alternates.

  3. You’ll learn more about your airplane’s instruments and technology in general.
    In-depth familiarization with your aircraft’s instruments is one of the challenges of the IFR rating. You’ll not only need to know how these instruments work, but you’ll become familiar with what to do in case of instrument failure. The extra knowledge of autopilot systems and GPS technology will come in handy for flying in different environments, both VFR and IFR.

  4. You’ll always be ‘two steps ahead’.
    Any instrument student knows that part of IFR training is transforming your mindset from real-time flying to being at least two steps ahead of the airplane. Being ahead of the airplane is necessary for instrument flight, as there are numerous things going on and you’ll need to react quickly. Planning for the next two or three steps will become second-nature to you, and before you know it, you’ll be using this mental trick all the time – even for non-aviation tasks!

  5. You’ll be more prepared for inadvertent flight into IMC.
    Flying in the clouds is safe when it’s predictable, and when on an IFR flight plan. But there are times when you might find yourself in less-than-VFR conditions without intending to be, like at night, when the clouds roll in sooner than predicted, or if it’s tough to see the horizon in rain or hazy conditions. An instrument rating will greatly increase your chances of remaining in control of the aircraft should you encounter an inadvertent flight into IMC condition.

  6. You’ll be better at finding traffic in the area.
    As a VFR pilot unfamiliar with IFR operations, it’s difficult to know where exactly another aircraft is when the pilot reports “localizer inbound” or “on the 7 mile arc.” With an instrument rating, you’ll finally be aware of the exact locations of all of these other aircraft in the local area, improving your situational awareness and collision avoidance capabilities.

  7. You’ll become more skilled at noticing and predicting the weather.
    IFR training gives pilots a really thorough look at weather theory and weather reports. As you gain experience flying in IFR conditions, you’ll get much better at recognizing hazardous weather like icing, thunderstorm activity and frontal passages. This proves to be valuable knowledge to have during any flight, of course, and as a bonus you might also become the go-to guy for weather reports and forecasts among your family and friends.

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Aviation Safety | Flying | Sarina Houston



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