All posts tagged 'flight training' - Page 6

Remembering my first soft field landing

In flying, as with anything else, when you have a goal, it helps to stay laser-focused. It helps to avoid distractions.

This is especially true when you're working on earning a new rating or trying to learn a new skill.

Take soft field landings, for instance.

I did my first soft field landing in April 2018. It was several months before I would get my private pilot ticket, and my instructor at the time, Justin, was intent on teaching me soft field landings on actual SOFT FIELDS.

That's the only way to learn it if you want my opinion. Simulated soft field landings might get you checkride-ready, but there's nothing like having some actual grass and hard dirt under the wheels to show you what it's really like.

The field in question was Lee Bottom Airport (64I), a gorgeous 4,000-foot-long nicely kept grass strip tucked away among trees in Hanover, Indiana. While it made some instructors nervous, Justin loved that field, and would often be happy for any excuse to touch down there, as long as the grass wasn't wet.

I still have video of my first landing there. With my Go-Pro pointed out the window – slightly crooked, as always seemed to be the case – I swung the plane onto final, at Justin's direction. Nervously, I could see the tops of the 60-foot trees passing below me as our aircraft glided closer to the airstrip's threshold, the branches seemingly reaching up trying to snatch our little Cessna in their clutches.

I was always nervous at this point -- particularly on days when there was a strong headwind and the airplane appeared to be moving slowly over those trees. On days like this, I was tempted to add power and come in too fast, floating down the length of the airstrip.

"I just feel soooo slow coming in over those trees," I once quipped.

"That's because we've got the headwind," Justin replied. "Don't worry about your groundspeed. Your airspeed is what is important."

But invariably I would glide over the trees and come down beyond them, landing just past the white cones of the airstrip's threshold. I'd try to add just a little bit of power just before the wheels would touch down on the grass.

The rough feeling of the grassy strip just rushing by under the wheels was so alien to a student pilot like me, who was so used to the smooth concrete of runways at controlled airports.

But I thoroughly enjoyed applying full back pressure to the yoke as I held the nose up and gently pumped the throttle so as not to lose momentum before turning the plane around near the end of the grass strip. Using no brakes, to avoid getting stuck in the grass, I'd taxi back to the threshold, set the flaps at 10 degrees and take off again.

We did this over and over again, in all types of winds, lesson after lesson. Because I was determined. I wanted to get my soft field landings down perfectly. I had a goal. I had a checkride. And I wasn't going to let anything distract me.

But one evening was different.

It was June 16 of 2018. It was sometime around 7 o'clock in the evening, and Justin and I were once again returning to Lee Bottom Airport to do some soft field landings. It was supposed to be a short lesson, and after one or two landings, we were going to fly back to the flight school and head for home.

But as we were gliding down on final, something caught our eye. A small plane was parked midway down the field, off to the side of the airstrip. We couldn't tell what it was. As we drifted closer, we could begin to make it out.

"It's a Pietenpol!" Justin said.

As we touched down on the grass strip and rolled passed the airplane, it grabbed my attention.Pitenpol

"You wanna stop?" I asked.

"You wanna?" Justin replied.

Thankfully, no one else was scheduled to rent the plane after us that evening, so there was no need to get back to the flight school right away. Sure, I had a lesson, but we could get back to that later. Right now, I wanted to check out the classic plane. After landing, we pulled our plane over into the grass on the side of the strip and climbed out.

The kind owner of the aircraft -- I don't recall his name, unfortunately -- had flown in from the north that afternoon and was more than happy to show us his plane. It was bright yellow taildragger with an open-air cockpit, with two big front wheels that reminded me of oversized wheels that came from a child's wagon.

On the side of the aircraft was mounted a device we could tell was the pilot’s pride and joy. It was labeled the "Bacon Savor" -- a simple pointer that warned the pilot when he was about to exceed the critical angle of attack and stall out.

On the ground next to the airplane was a simple blue mat. The pilot had actually flown in and planned to camp out that night under the stars – perhaps making use of the fire pit near the airfield to cook some grub.

It seemed like the perfect life.

Of course, we had to get going. I had a lesson to finish -- more stuff to learn -- I had to get ready for that checkride. But just as we were about to head back to our plane, we spotted another aircraft about to land on the field.

It turned out it was Elijah -- another pilot who flew out of our flight school. Cheerfully, he landed and taxied over to where we stood.
Quickly joining the conversation, the four of us found ourselves laughing about the things pilots and student pilots often joke about: Eccentric flight instructors, strange airplanes, predicaments we shouldn't have gotten ourselves into but did anyway, upcoming checkrides, stupid oral exam questions, etc.

Before we knew it, two more hours had elapsed.

By the time Justin and I climbed back into the plane and took off, the sun was setting -- and we were way later than we planned. As we flew west, we followed the Ohio River with the burning horizon in front of us. Behind us in his airplane, Elijah tried to race us back. He lost, but to be fair, we had a pretty big head start.

So much for avoiding distractions. Truth be told, I wasn’t very focused that night. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time practicing landings or doing maneuvers like I originally planned.

But we did have a whole lot of fun. And in the final analysis, I guess those are the lessons you remember most.

Travis K. Kircher is a private pilot based out of Louisville, Kentucky.

 

What You Should Know About the New Student Pilot Certificate

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?

How to Afford Flight Training


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


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

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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