All Aviation Articles By Tori Patterson

How Safe is Flying?

There is an age-old question asked to pilots and professionals in the Aviation industry by concerned passengers and family members time and time again. The question, "Is aviation REALLY safe?" is asked more frequently than ever now that the media spends weeks analyzing every single detail of any plane crash. The simple answer is yes; flying is statistically a very safe thing to do. However, I believe that a fear of flying stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the airline industry works. I’m sure everyone has heard the statistics, but I want to point out some facts about the industry that lead to logical reasons why aviation is the safest form of travel.

You can describe flying in a way that sends chills down anyone’s spine. It is where you hurdle yourself through the air in an aluminum box, at altitudes higher than the tallest mountains on earth, at speeds in excess of 500 MPH. For a large majority of people, this is all that they can focus on when they think about flying. There is a lot more to it than that, because the airline industry is an extremely complex and innovative system that is entirely designed around safety.

The statistics are everywhere. Evidently your chances of being killed on a single airline flight are a measly 1 in 19.8 million. The Bureau of Aircraft Accident Archives has recorded a steady decline in crashes over the last several years. Worried about the aircraft mysteriously disappearing? The average over the past 40 years has been one disappearance per year. Add this to the fact that roughly 100,000 aircraft take off per day, and you have an extremely low probability.

Despite all the statistical evidence, some people still experience fear and anxiety over the thought of flying. Everybody loves lists, so I want to list some of the most factual and logical reasons that airline flying is extremely safe.

1. Aviation is the most regulated and scrutinized means of travel. There is an old saying, "The FAA: We are not happy until you aren’t." The regulations and rules that airline operators and pilots must follow seem to never end. They pertain to types of equipment onboard, crew training, fuel reserves, weight and balance of the aircraft, and hundreds of other things. If it pertains to the safe operation of the aircraft, the FAA has a regulation about it.

2. Security is tight. After 9/11, the airline industry upped their security measures as much as possible. Passengers go through extensive searching and monitoring, doors to aircraft cockpits are locked. Try to look at the random frisking and excruciatingly long TSA lines as a positive thing – they are just a side effect of excessive security measures to keep you safe.

3. Pilots go through rigorous training. As an aspiring airline pilot, I have seen firsthand just how much training pilots have to go through. When you first earn your Commercial license, you are far from piloting in the airlines. Pilots have to immediately begin building hundreds more hours, gaining experience, and even when they reach the airlines they act as copilot for several years. Having two individuals with years of extensive training at the controls should ease your worries a little.

4. Pilots also go through rigorous examinations. In order to maintain a First Class Medical certificate, a pilot must be in top physical and emotional shape. There is an ever-increasing list of medications and physical ailments that will keep them out of the cockpit. This is a sore subject for many, but a reasonable point as to why airlines are safe.

5. Aircraft are expensive. The typical commercial airliner can cost a company upwards of $100 million. If you paid $100 million for a company asset, would you be uptight about the way it was handled and operated? A crash can completely bankrupt a smaller airline, so it is also in the best interest of the number crunchers that flights do not go down.

6. Aviation is constantly evolving. Since that fateful first flight by the Wright brothers, aviation has been growing and advancing at a breakneck pace. Every year new innovations are made that help make operations smoother and safer. Ask any pilot about NexGen and you will see firsthand just how quickly new equipment and systems are being implemented.

I hope that these points will help you reconsider any remaining fear or anxiety you feel towards flying. What safety fact do you find most comforting? Let me know in the comments below!

Checklist for Flying Your Private Aircraft Internationally

The view leaving the East Coast from inside a Mooney

One of the most appealing benefits of owning your own aircraft is having the freedom to fly whenever and wherever you want to. Although sometimes you are limited by TFR’s or weather, you still have more freedom than the typical aircraft renter. Without having to deal with availability or tedious flying club paperwork, you are free to explore the skies more thoroughly. There are thousands of airports to explore in the US (Approximately 18,911 for those curious) and thousands more internationally. There are valuable skills you must learn in order to fly internationally, and it is certainly a challenge worth pursuing.

A good friend of mine recently flew with his family in their Mooney M20C to the Bahamas. After flying 210 nautical miles over open water, they landed at North Eleuthera Airport and took a boat to the tranquil and beautiful island of Spanish Wells and spent a week fishing, snorkeling, and relaxing. When you fly out of the U.S. you can explore exotic and interesting places in the world that many others do not have access to.

As I said before, flying out of the U.S. comes with its challenges. There is a lot of paperwork, planning, and in some cases extra gear for your aircraft involved. AOPA has a great series of guides for flying to specific international destinations. They have guides for the Bahamas, the Caribbean, Canada, Central America, Alaska, and Mexico. Pilots certainly have to reference these along with multiple other sources before leaving for their journey.

I have put together a list of a few of the major items you must have when flying internationally. This is not comprehensive, and a few international destinations have specialized legal information they require, but it will give you a good idea of what is to come if you choose to begin a flight plan out of the U.S.

1. Passports and legal Information. When you go through Customs and Boarder Protection, you will be asked to show all legal documentation as though you had flown in on an airliner. This is in addition to your usual flying legal documents. It is important to locate and carry your passport, pilot license, and medical certificate. All passengers must have a passport too, and any children flying without one parent must have a notarized statement of approval from the absent parent for the dates of the trip.

2. Paperwork for the aircraft. In addition to all of the paperwork required to operate an aircraft in U.S. airspace (Airworthiness certificate, registration, weight and balance, etc.) you must also have aboard a radio station license.

3. Charts You will have to seek out and purchase charts of the route you are flying. These foreign charts are similar in typography to their U.S. counterparts, but it is important to look over them and memorize features along the route of flight well before you depart.

4. Aircraft Insurance Certain aircraft insurance policies do not cover international flight. It is important to contact your insurer and discuss appropriate coverage. Proof of insurance that covers international flight is required to be carried aboard for certain destinations.

5. Radiotelephone Operator Permit You may remember vaguely from your Private Pilot Written exam that you need a Radiotelephone Operator Permit to fly outside of the U.S. Here is all the information you need to obtain one. Thankfully they are issued for the holder's lifetime.

6. Life Vest When flying over open water, you are required to have onboard a life vest or flotation device for each passenger. It is also recommended that you bring a life raft, but it is not legally required.

7. Sunscreen This one is certainly not legally required, but if you are traveling to a tropical destination such as the Bahamas or the Caribbean it is certainly recommended. Keep your skin safe to ensure that you get the most fun out of your vacation.

I hope that this article inspires you to look into the possibility of flying your private aircraft somewhere internationally. The new experiences are unbeatable and you will have fascinating stories to tell. Do you have any advice for pilots who are new to international flight? Let me know in the comments!

A Beginners Guide to General Aviation Aircraft Identification

If you are the type of person who can visit an airport on any given day and accurately identify the make, model, year, and flight characteristics of any aircraft that you happen to see, this article is not for you. This article is for the good-hearted airplane enthusiast who is just starting out, or the student pilot who feels inadequate when their pilot friends rattle off airplane facts like nobody’s business.

I took a poll of my friends at school, asking them how confident they are in their airplane identification skills. The majority of sophomores and juniors said they were extremely confident, and could identify most military or civilian aircraft with ease. Some freshmen had grown up around aircraft, and felt mildly confident. However, I found a surprising amount of new student pilots who felt they would not know the difference between a Diamond and Cirrus, and referred to the majority of single-engine aircraft as simply "Cessna."

This article is designed to give an overview of the most common single-engine aircraft, and to give a new airplane enthusiast a good starting point for their upcoming years of impressing friends with their aviation knowledge. After all, even the most experienced plane-spotter had to start somewhere.

Stepping out onto a busy tarmac, one has a very high chance of seeing any combination of the following aircraft. The hope is that by the end of this list you will be able to easily pick out the subtle differences of each and take your first steps at being an airplane guru.

Cessna - The most popular single-engine general aviation aircraft has to be the Cessna 172. The four-seater aircraft has high wings, and the imaginary line from the bottom of the fuselage to the tail is almost perfectly straight. They are very angular and boxy, but have a classic look that is easily recognized. Cessna also has the 150, 152, 180, 182, and several other models, all of which have the same basic shape. Overall a very recognizable aircraft, and 80% of the time if there is a high winged aircraft on the ramp at the airport or flying around, it is a Cessna.

Diamond -The Diamond DA20 is a low-wing, curvy aircraft with a very large wingspan that could be mistaken for a powerful motor-glider. The fuselage is oval shaped, which flows into a skinny tail section and T-tail (position of vertical and horizontal stabilizers resemble an uppercase T) that makes me think of this aircraft as having a dolphin tail. The canopy opens upward, encasing the pilot and passenger in a bubble with great visibility. This aircraft also has four-seat model, the DA40.

Cirrus - Often confused with the Diamond DA40, a Cirrus SR20 is similarly shaped, but much less curvy and thin. The low-wing aircraft has a roomy interior, and features sporty doors that open upwards with a forward-pivoting hinge. The horizontal stabilizer is positioned similarly on the tail as a Cessna 172. These are not to be confused with a Cessna Columbia, which has a very similar shape but a perfectly straight nose gear.

Mooney - One of my favorite aircraft is the Mooney. These are easily identified by the vertical stabilizer, which appears to have been put on backward. It forms a sharp L-shape in the tail. This is also a low-wing aircraft, known for its speed. Another interesting feature is how the leading edge of the wing is perpendicular to the fuselage while the trailing edge is angled forward, giving it the appearance that the wings have been put on backward as well.

Piper Cherokee – Another popular training aircraft is the Piper Cherokee. They have chunky low-wings, and appear to sit closer to the ground. It seats four passengers and the majority of models have a fixed gear. This is the Cessna of low-wing aircraft. They are sometimes confused with the Beechcraft Bonanza, but are much smaller and less bulky looking.

Beechcraft Bonanza – A popular personal aircraft, this six-seat beast has been in continuous production longer than any other airplane in history. The oldest models have an easily recognizable V-shaped tail, but newer models sport a conventional tail, and all models have a trapezoidal gear leg fairing. They have a rather beefy fuselage, and occupy a lot of space.

I hope that this basic guide to identifying the most widely known and flown aircraft has been helpful. Next time you visit an airport, see how many of these legendary planes you can recognize. The more practice you have recognizing the different models, the better you will be.

The Top Five Skills a Pilot Must Learn (Besides all That Airplane Stuff)

On the first day that I met my instructor who ultimately helped me earn my Private License, he said something that has stayed in my mind until today. He sat me down and said, "Look. Anyone can be a pilot. They have taught monkeys how to fly. It is not difficult at all. I will teach you how to be a safe and proficient pilot, that is the part that takes work that you have to be willing to put into it."

Now that I’m attending a flight university, I have met a lot of different people who are serious in their pursuit of becoming a professional pilot. I have also met several who have dropped out of the program within the first few months. It isn’t the fault of the program, or the flight instructors, but it is because these students had it in their minds that being a pilot is a way to avoid getting a "real job" and had no idea how much work they need to put in to achieve what they wanted.

I’ve come to learn that there is a big difference between being a professional pilot, and having piloting as your profession. You can pass a checkride or earn a rating with a little effort, but the true professional pilot continues to learn and challenge him or herself every day. You never stop learning as a pilot. There are skills that every pilot must be proficient with, such as navigation and maneuvers, but there are also several life skills that pilots must strive to achieve and exemplify.

1. Good Study Habits. A friend and I were discussing a mutual friend who seems to breeze through any portion of his training with no effort. My friend said, "He reads too much." Truly, the friend that appeared to learn so easily had just dedicated way more time to reading and learning the material than we had. Pilots are often berated with a whole lot of information in a very short amount of time. If a student can effectively learn to study and absorb the information they will have a much easier time as they work their way through their careers.

2. A Willingness to Make Mistakes. Every pilot will make mistakes in their career. It is just a fact of life. With such complicated systems and flight rules, it is impossible to not mess up eventually. It feels terrible when you do mess up, and you may wonder if learning everything is just too much for you. The only way to deal with such instances is to learn from your mistakes and move on.

3. Quick Decision Making. There is very rarely a flight that goes completely according to plan. Pilots quickly learn to expect the unexpected. It can be something as small as unanticipated instructions from ATC to an engine failure. In my Multi-Engine Ground class the other day, the teacher was talking about minimizing the typical reaction time to an engine failure. He said an inexperienced student would spend 7-10 seconds processing what just happened before they begin to act. Those can be valuable seconds, which could ultimately save your life.

4. Punctuality. Nobody wants to hire someone who is perpetually late. Being late is a way of telling the person who is waiting that your time is more valuable than theirs. Whether is be for classes, a flight lesson, or a meeting with a potential employer, you had better always be punctual and arrive prepared. It makes you look better and more on top of your priorities.

5. A Sense of Adventure. Let’s face it, piloting can be a very fun and interesting way of life. The best pilots appreciate it for the fascinating profession that it is, but never forget to preform their best while in the cockpit. There are opportunities to travel many places, meet new people, and to enjoy the beauty of the world from above. Because of how monotonous training can seem at times, the ability to keep in mind why you started this journey in the first plane is essential.

I hope that this list has helped inspire you to work harder in some aspects of your life, or to reevaluate your priorities. Do you have any skills you believe a pilot should possess? Post them in the comments and let me know what you think!

New Years Resolutions for Pilots

The sun is setting on 2014, and this is the time that most people feel reflective and contemplative over their past year. Perhaps they achieved all of their year’s goals, or they fell short of a couple. My theory has always been to try your hardest, and even if you fail you can feel good knowing you did all that you could.

I was writing down my goals for the upcoming year, and I realized that most of them had to do specifically with aviation. My list included earning my instrument rating, getting my tailwheel endorsement, and hosting at least one Ninety-Nines meeting. I began thinking about how a pilot could create a whole list of aviation resolutions in addition to their personal list. I decided to create a handy guide to some aviation resolutions and goals to inspire your planning for 2015.

Earn a New Rating/Endorsement – This one is fairly easy for a student pilot already viciously working their way towards their next certification, but perhaps even the casual Private Pilot should consider this for 2015. An Instrument rating or tailwheel endorsement can only serve to make you a safer and more proficient pilot. A year is plenty of time to earn either of those, and will they will give you a huge sense of accomplishment.

Log X Amount of Hours Have you been tearing up the skies with your frequent trips or has chair flying been the more of the reality for 2014? It could be time to set aside the time and money to get back into the air. This could also be a great incentive to get current again. Planning to fly a certain amount of hours a week or month could inspire you to start up the engine and...

Go Mountain Flying (fly somewhere new) – I say mountain flying because it’s something new and different that a lot of pilots haven’t tried yet. This could also mean exploring airports around you that you have not visited yet. One of my favorite flights was when I went to Georgetown (27K) airport with my boyfriend just to fly somewhere. When we arrived a girl happened to be there waiting for someone with her 4 dogs of different breeds. As soon as we walked in the FBO they saw us and got so excited. One dog kept slipping on the floor as he excitedly paced back and forth. We asked if we could pet them and spent a good 20 minutes just playing with these dogs. Exploring new places lends itself to chance encounters like this, and great stories to tell later on.

Purchase a New Airplane This might be more along the lines of a 5-10 year plan, but it is still worth mentioning! If you aren’t quite ready to shell out thousands of dollars, there are other things worth saving up for. A new headset, an updated kneeboard, or even a leather logbook cover are all good options.

Give Back – There are so many ways to give back in the world of Aviation. You could volunteer your skills to fly for an organization such as Pilots N Paws or the Volunteer Pilots Association. If you don’t have the resources to fly for them, consider giving a donation. I will be volunteering at Clark Regional Airport this summer when the Air Race Classic comes to town for a stop. There are a lot of opportunities out there and you never know what neat things you’ll see in aviation.

When I asked a dear friend what their aviation resolution was, they jokingly said it was to only have one forced landing a month. Whatever your plans are for 2015, I wish you the best of luck and want to encourage you to have fun and follow through. Happy New Year!

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