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What is a Missionary Pilot?

by Tori Williams 1. October 2017 08:30
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Missionary Pilots go through years of training to make a huge impact on the world. Image via Mission Aviation Training Academy.

A few days ago, a friend of mine announced that he was accepted to an internship with the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF). He will be spending a summer in Lesotho, Africa working closely with their flight operations to transport medicine, supplies, and pastors into remote villages on the mountains. Of all the internships my friends have announced lately, this one really blew me away. To travel into a completely foreign land to utilize your skills in aviation with the sole purpose of spreading goodwill and the Gospel is truly brave!

When I heard this, I began to wonder just how people ended up becoming missionary pilots. It is certainly not a career field they advertise at flight university. It may get a mention here or there, but it is rare to find someone who has an end goal of becoming one. Why is that? Clearly there is a need to use the modern technologies and capabilities we have to help those who are unable to unable to access important things without them. However, as I have learned, it is not as simple as putting a pilot in a plane with some supplies and taking off.

At the heart of the need for missionary pilots is the fact that some people in the world live in extremely remote and impoverished areas. Most of these people have never seen an airplane, let alone had the thought to build a working airport. Because of this, missionary pilots often have to land on whatever semi-suitable ground they can find. This may very well be a particularly long strip of dirt nestled in a mountain range. These pilots expertly land at these dangerous locations and bring in anything that the villages may need, such as doctors, pastors, or even groceries.

Missionary pilots who fly missions into remote locations have to be ready for anything that could possibly go wrong. They are required to have advanced pilot certifications, as well as advanced mechanic certifications. There is no “typical day” in the life of a missionary pilot, so they must be well prepared for all possibilities. Many missionary pilot hopefuls choose to prepare for their futures by doing apprenticeships with established training institutions. For example, The Missionary Maintenance Services (MMS) Apprenticeship program is an intense, thirty month, full-time aviation maintenance ministry that prepares students for the life of mission work.

Another interesting fact about missionary pilots is that they have to raise their own financial support for missions. They do this through connections with churches and individuals. Sometimes it can take years to raise the money required to do the mission where they are needed. Thankfully most missionary organizations have a network of support that the pilots and mechanics can become a part of.

It may seem crazy to go through all of this training just to have to raise your own funds to even go on a mission. The reality is, that doesn’t matter to those who feel they have been called to serve the Lord in this way. They delight in the process to ultimately share their expertise with those in need. They are able to make a real, tangible change in the world for the better. In the end, I do not think you could find a missionary pilot that did not think it was worth it.

Are you interested in helping a missionary pilot make positive changes in the world? Check out the MAF website for more information on sponsoring them!

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The Best Free Online Aviation Resources

by Tori Williams 1. February 2017 20:30
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It’s no secret, being a pilot is expensive. Especially during the initial training phase where you have to worry about plane rental, fuel costs, paying your instructor, purchasing study materials, paying for written exams and checkride fees. That doesn’t even include the hundreds of dollars you spend on a headset, kneeboard, charts, foggles, and any other required materials for beginning your piloting career or hobby.

While it is worth spending a little extra money for quality flight training, there are also plenty of free resources available for student pilots to take advantage of. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite completely free aviation resources for you to check out and hopefully benefit from! Do you have a favorite free resource? Let me know in the comments below!

1. FAA FAR AIM

As any good student pilot knows, the Federal Aviation Regulations are everything. Love them or hate them, you’re going to have to know and understand a good chunk of them for your checkride. Luckily for you, these regulations are publically available for free on the FAA Website. This might not be the most exciting news, but it is handy for quick reference if you don’t have a physical copy on hand.

2. Podcasts

I was surprised by the amount of times I heard my fellow pilots talking about aviation podcasts that they listened to while I was at my flight university. As it turns out, there are quite a few great quality podcasts out there for new and seasoned pilots alike. A few of my favorites are The Finer Points, Coffee Break Flight Instruction, and Airplane Geeks. There are tons more out there with topics ranging from flight instruction to military aircraft to aviation current events. A quick Google search can bring up dozens!

3. AOPA Student Resources

An AOPA membership is known for being a great resource to the world of aviation, but they also have several free resources available without a membership. Student pilots have access to tons of articles, event calendars, and flight planning tools right at their fingertips. To sweeten the deal, AOPA is offering 6 months of free membership to student pilots, including 6 monthly issues of their Flight Training Magazine. That’s an offer you can’t refuse!

4. Pilots of YouTube

For someone like me who is an extremely visual learner, YouTube has been a lifesaver. A quick search on YouTube for “flight training” resulted in 5,180,000 videos. Of course, not all of these are going to be winners. However, there are several that have a great way of explaining private and instrument pilot techniques and information. I highly recommend poking around to see what has been created, or searching for the specific problem you are stuck on.

5. GlobalAir.com

Did you know that the very site you are on right now has several wonderful (and completely free!) aviation resources? Our Aviation Directory is a great source to find links to all things in the flying world. Check out the “Airport Resource” tab to look up detailed information about any airport, or to check the fuel prices at thousands of airports around the nation. There is so much you can learn from the information listed on GlobalAir.com. Go ahead and check it out!

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Aviation Safety | Flying | Tori Williams

10 Comments Pilots are Tired of Hearing

by Tori Williams 2. July 2016 01:02
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Anyone who has been flying for any amount of time has been exposed to his or her fair share of public opinion. Whether it comes from genuine curiosity, ignorance, or just an urge to make conversation, people typically ask the same things over and over. I discussed the topic a few of my pilot friends and compiled a list of quotes that we are just tired of hearing.

1. “But you don’t actually FLY do you?”

This is the most common question I am asked when it comes up that I am in flight training. It is hard to answer this without sounding a little condescending. Yes, when you are training to become a professional pilot you actually get inside of an airplane and fly it around in the air. I am not sure what they think it means to be in flight training. I find this is a great opportunity to broaden their worldview and explain how the pathway to becoming a commercial pilot starts in much smaller airplanes than a jumbo-jet, which you have to fly several days a week.

2. “Will you fly me to Florida?”

This is typically the follow up question from the causal non-pilot acquaintance. Will you fly them somewhere really far away? This question can get awkward when the asker is serious and persistent. In most cases I explain how it will cost hundreds, if not thousands more to rent a small airplane and make the trip than to just fly on a commercial airline. Don’t be “that guy” to your pilot friends.

3. “You must be so rich!”

This assumption always rubs me the wrong way. It is no lie that aviation is an extremely expensive career or hobby, but I have worked hard to earn every flight hour I have accumulated. The majority of my flight training has been financed through scholarships awarded to me by the Ninety-Nines and I am so proud to be part of an organization that helps passionate students that are not able to afford flight training. Somehow people seem to forget they are talking about a sometimes-sensitive subject because they assume you are rolling in money. I can assure you that the majority of student pilots are not.

4. “So it’s not like you’re actually in college.”

I have gotten this response more than once when I tell someone I am in the flight program at my university. Yes, aviation students are in college. We have to take general education classes like everyone else. In a lot of ways our schedules are way more challenging than that of a regular college student, because a flight lab (which includes an average of 6 flight hours a week) only counts as 1 credit hour. Not to mention the time we spend preparing for flights and driving to and from the airport. Being in an aviation program is no walk in the park!

5. “I don’t trust [insert plane type] you won’t see me flying those.”

This was a major pet peeve of my friend who occasionally flies a Cirrus aircraft for flight instruction. He said that other pilots are terrified of the plane because of the horror stories they had heard about the parachute that they are equipped with malfunctioning. He said that they don't parachute into the airport every time, and they are really quite safe aircraft.

6. “You aren’t a real pilot until you fly tailwheel.”

This one gets thrown around a lot between nose gear and tailwheel pilots. Often coupled with, “a tricycle gear lands itself,” or “true stick and rudder skills come from tailwheel.” While I do appreciate the respect given to tailwheel pilots, I think it can sound unnecessarily degrading. All pilots are trained to be as good as they can be, and they should all be recognized for their unique skills, no matter the airplane they use.

7. “So do I really have to turn my cellphone off in an airplane?”

Nowadays I just give a simple “yes,” to this common question. It is one thing for me to have my cellphone with me on a training flight in perfect weather, it is another thing entirely for 150+ people to have their phones simultaneously transmitting while the pilot tries to land in extremely limited visibility. When your whole life depends on your instruments being accurate, there is no room for messing around. Just turn your phone off, you won’t have signal anyway!

8. “Who is the better pilot?”

My fiancé Daniel and I get asked this all of the time. We have a good laugh about it and say that it is the other one. Some pilots are very competitive and a question like this can spark some tension. In general it’s probably best to not compare two pilots with similar skills and qualifications, unless you are evaluating them for employment.

9. “I didn’t know women could fly!”

Despite huge advancements in the last several decades, aviation is still a male-dominated and sexist world. I became aware of this the first time that I went to take my private pilot written exam and the test administrator scoffed and said, “You don’t LOOK like a pilot.” People tend to picture either an old man or Tom Cruise when they imagine a pilot or aviator. I hope to see the normalization of the word aviatrix in the next few years. Women pilots are growing in numbers and there is no room for sexism in this industry.

10. “I could never do what you do. Flying is SO unsafe.”

The people that say these things typically have it in their mind that pilots are some daredevil risk takers that thrive off of the adrenaline of putting their lives on the line every day. Flying is not nearly as dangerous as the media makes it out to be, and I have always felt much safer while flying than I ever did while driving my car. I can only jokingly respond, “there’s a lot less things to hit when you’re flying!” so many times.

I hope that you enjoyed this article of 10 things pilots are tired of hearing. Do you agree that these are overused? Are there any phrases that drive you crazy? Let me know in the comments below!

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Tori Williams

Valdez STOL Aircraft to be Showcased at AirVenture

by Ray Robinson 21. January 2014 11:59
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Specially modified aircraft originally created for Alaskan bush-pilot necessity that also created one of the world’s most unique aviation competitions, will be part of the “Valdez STOL” (short takeoff and landing) flying activities at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014.

EAA AirVenture 2014, known as “The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration” and the 62nd annual convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association, will be held July 28-August 3 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

Demonstrations featuring the unmatched capabilities of the airplanes that compete at the annual Valdez, Alaska, fly-in and air show in May each year, will be held several days at Oshkosh. More than a dozen of these aircraft, including homebuilt and specially modified production airplanes, will be participating at AirVenture 2014. They are based on aircraft that provide supplies to the rugged and far-flung outposts throughout Alaska. The demanding terrain in that state requires that aircraft take off and land on rough runways often less than 500 feet long.

Along with flying demonstrations during AirVenture’s daily afternoon air show on July 28-30, the Valdez STOL aircraft will also stage a “fun flying” demonstration from the grass ultralight runway on Friday evening, Aug. 1. In addition, the aircraft will be on display in special parking areas and on the main showcase ramp at Oshkosh, with pilots and builders part of forums and evening programs throughout the week.

“Most people think of airport runways of concrete a mile or more in length, but these aircraft can land on almost any flat surface – sometimes in less than 100 feet,” said Jim DiMatteo, EAA’s vice president of AirVenture features and attractions. “The necessity of creating aircraft that can serve Alaska’s remote population also inspired a competition that is nothing like you’ll see in the Lower 48.”

Further details and schedules of the Valdez STOL aircraft activities will be announced as they are finalized.

For footage of aircraft at the Valdez fly-in, see the video below:

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News | Press Release

Confessions of a Student Pilot

by Tori Williams 30. December 2013 14:38
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Over the past 5 years I have more than earned my right to be called a student pilot. Between when I was 12 years old and now I have attended 3 different flight schools, passed my FAA Written Exam twice, and been lightheartedly made fun of by CFIs for rookie mistakes countless times. It’s been said that it’s about the journey, not the destination, and this rings incredibly true in the world of aviation. I have learned more about life and passion through aerospace than I ever learned in my standard high school curriculum. I have been taught discipline, self-control, dedication, logical thinking... All through my experiences in chasing my dream of becoming a pilot.

I hope to help other student pilots remember why they are doing this. It can be such a challenge to continue training when you feel you are stuck in a rut, or you will never achieve the dream that we all chase after. I have compiled a few observations or “confessions,” if you will, that have stuck out to me during my journey. A few come with stories, a few are simply food for thought. Here are my confessions of a student pilot.

Keep your training consistent. This may seem obvious, but it keeps many student pilots from advancing quickly enough to reach their full potential. It is far better to wait and save up enough money for a flight lesson every week or so than to attend your flight school sporadically. For the first 3 years of my training I could only afford one lesson every month (between allowance and babysitting money that wasn’t too bad!) If I could go back and do it again, I would have saved up for a year or so and had lessons sequentially in just a couple months. In having to wait, I kept relearning the same concepts every month and was nowhere near reaching my full potential.

Don’t be scared to be assertive. On June 19th, 2013 I was on a routine flight with my instructor, going around the traffic pattern at Capital City airport. As my instructor continually pointed out, I was spending too much time with my eyes glued to the instrument panel and not enough time looking outside. As I turned for my downwind leg, he held a sheet of paper over the instrument panel to stop my nervous eyes from glancing inside too much. I huffed a bit, then began making a call to other traffic that I was on downwind. “Capital City traffic, Cessna -” my heart sank. I hadn’t memorized our tail number yet and the sheet of paper was obscuring my view of it. Without skipping a beat, I forcefully moved (read: slapped) my instructor’s hand out of the way, read the tail number off, and finished my radio call. I immediately felt bad and apologized for what I had done, but I had never seen my instructor so thrilled. “That’s what I’m talking about! THAT was a pilot in command move. If you know what you need to do, don’t ask my permission.” The very next day I was endorsed and did my first solo flight. Which is the perfect segway into my next point...

Your solo IS as big of a deal as everyone says. Let’s say you have comprehended enough knowledge to safely takeoff and land an aircraft, and your instructor has enough faith in your abilities to let you do it completely by yourself. Congratulations, it’s time to fly solo! The whole ordeal in and of itself isn’t a big change from your previous lessons, as you have probably done exactly the same routine of taking off and landing many times before your instructor steps out. The real value and importance of a solo isn’t in the fact that there is one less passenger, it is that YOU are now the pilot in command. According to Federal Aviation Regulation 91.3, “The pilot in command of an aircraft is directly responsible for, and is the final authority as to, the operation of that aircraft.” You are now the CEO head honcho in charge of all aspects of safely executing your current flight mission. The boost of confidence that a student pilot gains after safely landing their first solo flight is astronomical. Celebrate this accomplishment and truly think about what it means to now be the pilot in command.

Networking is everything. I am a first-generation pilot. Nobody in my family has any ties to aviation, besides a strange obsession with warbirds my father and grandfather share. When I first started my flight training I felt like a very tiny fish in a very huge pond. All that I knew was that becoming a pilot was extremely expensive, difficult, and overwhelming... but that I absolutely could not live my life without doing it. I had not met a single female pilot in my first two years of training, but I knew they had to be out there. I began doing google searches, talking to family friends, and subscribed to seven different flight magazines in an attempt to gain an understanding of the general aviation community as a whole. Through a family friend I came in contact with a female UPS pilot, and she introduced me to the Ninety-Nines. From there I learned about Women in Aviation, AOPA, EAA, NBAA, all of these crazy acronyms which represented different organizations in the aviation community. I have met tons of interesting people who have taken a genuine interest in my future as a pilot, and I have learned so much about the different pathways that are available to me in the aerospace industry. Having a good network to support you is incredibly important for an aspiring pilot.

Do not give up. The most important "confession" I have for fellow student pilots is to not give up, no matter how difficult it becomes. Keep trying. Stay motivated. There have been times in my training where I have been completely overwhelmed and felt very unsure as to whether or not I would actually achieve my dreams. When this happens, I like to take a step back and evaluate what really draws me to aviation in the first place. I watch episodes of The Aviators, or read aviation literature and really soak in the pure beauty and freedom that a pilot can obtain. The challenge is half the fun, however daunting it may seem. I encourage all student pilots to really think about what keeps them going and to cling to it until they finally reach the day of achieving their ultimate goals.

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