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Top Five Things to Look for in a Flight School

by Tori Williams 2. September 2017 11:00
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So you have finally decided that you will chase your dreams and get your pilot license. That’s great! The next big step in the process is to pick a flight school. However, with the number of flight schools around nowadays (sometimes multiples at single airports) it can be difficult to know which flight school to choose. Ultimately you will be giving a large amount of money to them, so it is very important you find the right fit for your goals and needs as a flight student.

In this article I would like to outline some of the most important things to look for in a flight school, to hopefully assist you in choosing the perfect fit. Sometimes it is worth driving to the next town over for your preferred flight school.

1. Availability of aircraft

One of the number one complaints I’ve heard from my flight student friends is that they are unable to schedule their flights when they need to because there is limited aircraft availability. Having too many students trying to fly too few aircraft can lead to a lot of frustration and unhappiness from all involved. Speak with current students and see how often they are able to fly. Is it flexible or will you be fighting for a plane when the weather is nice? Another important thing to think about is what you will be flying after you complete your training. Does the flight school offer rentals without instructors? Is there a local flying club that has ties to the school? Having a game plan for when you’re flying on your own will save you a lot of work once you achieve your goals to earn your license.

2. Experienced instructors

One of my pet peeves with flight instructors is when they are clearly just instructing to get the hours to move to the airlines. Although this is what the majority of instructors are doing, it doesn’t mean they get to be lazy or haphazard with teaching you. Watch out for instructors who do not take your training seriously, or will cancel your flight for the slightest inconvenience. A good instructor will tailor your lessons to your learning style, and will do the best they can to advance you through the lessons so you aren’t wasting money. Remember, no matter how nice the person is, you have the right to switch to a new instructor if you feel you are not making the progress that you should be.

3. Training Options

The training options that you look for in a flight school have a lot to do with what your personal goals are as a pilot. Do you intend to fly as a hobby or are you ultimately wanting to make a career out of it? There is a notable difference between a Part 61 and Part 141 certified flight school and it is up to you to decide which you prefer. This goes along with the availability of aircraft as well. Do you want to fly the classic Cessna 172 or are you looking for a more “mission-oriented” type of aircraft? Have an open mind about new aircraft if you’ve only ever experienced one type, but be picky if you need certain type ratings or endorsements for your ultimate aviation goals.

4. Good Maintenance

I can assure you that when I first started looking at flight schools, I didn’t think twice about how their maintenance was. However, once I started flying and planes continually went out of service for the most random things, I began to wonder how smoothly our maintenance department was operating. Ask any potential flight schools who is in charge of maintenance, how a student would report a discrepancy with the plane, and how quickly the turnaround time usually is if a plane does go down for maintenance. Keep in mind that aircraft have regularly scheduled inspections, and ask how long they usually take to complete them. You may be surprised to learn that they are not up to standards. Determining the airworthiness of a plane is ultimately up to the pilot in command, so knowing how well the maintenance has been kept up is important.

5. Safety Record

Even if all of the above features of your soon-to-be flight school appear to check out perfectly, safety should always be the number one concern for pilots. Closely tied to maintenance and instructor experience, the safety record of the flight school directly impacts you. Keep your ear to the ground for any stories of unsafe operations and be watchful for regulation compliance. If the flight school ends up getting shut down for operating unsafely, you may be questioned about it during an interview for an airline. In the short term, you won’t have access to the planes you were flying. Keep tabs on the history of the flight school and be cautious if anything seems off.

The time you spend comparing flight schools will always pay off in the end. Don't be afraid to be picky and ask the hard questions. Flight schools would not be around without students so make sure you do your due diligence in the beginning, and enjoy your time training. What do you look for in a flight school? Let me know in the comments below!

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Aviation Safety | Airports | Tori Williams

The Latest Lycoming Engine Airworthiness Directive: What You Need To Know

by Greg Reigel 31. August 2017 08:41
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Are you one of the estimated 778 unfortunate aircraft owners affected by the latest Lycoming airworthiness directive (“AD”)? If you are, I am hopeful this article will help you navigate your current situation.

The Airworthiness Directive

On August 4, 2017 Lycoming issued a “Mandatory Service Bulletin” requiring inspection, and potentially replacement, of connecting rod bushings in certain Lycoming engines that had been overhauled or repaired using replacement parts. The MSB identified the potentially affected engines and replacement parts, and it also included instructions for completing the inspection as well as the installation of replacement connecting rod small end bushings. It also indicated that the inspection and/or replacement be performed within the next 10 hours of engine operation.

As we know, although a manufacturer may state that its service bulletin is “mandatory,” for most operators flying their aircraft strictly under Part 91, service bulletins are not, in fact, mandatory. So, when it was issued, the MSB wasn’t mandatory for most Part 91 operators.

Unfortunately, the FAA received 5 reports of uncontained engine failures and in-flight shut downs due to failed connecting rods on certain Lycoming engine models identified in the MSB. Based upon its evaluation of the information available to it, the FAA determined that an unsafe condition existed or could develop in products of the same type design. As a result, on August 10, 2017 the FAA issued the AD with respect to the Lycoming engines requiring compliance with the MSB in order to prevent uncontained engine failure, total engine power loss, in-flight shut downs, and possible loss of the aircraft.

And, as we also know, an airworthiness directive is mandatory, regardless of the particular regulations under which you are operating. So, if your aircraft’s Lycoming engine is one of those specified in the MSB/AD you have no choice but to comply with the AD if you want your aircraft to be airworthy.

Cost of Compliance

According to the AD, the FAA anticipates that initial compliance with the AD (the inspection of the connecting rod small bushings) will cost engine owners approximately $1,425 in parts and labor. If connecting rod replacement is required, the FAA estimates the additional parts and labor costs will range from $2,170.00 for a four cylinder engine up to $6,850.00 for an eight cylinder engine. Of course, these are just estimates and they do not take into consideration any warranty coverage or variations in the costs of parts or labor.

Fortunately, this AD isn’t as extensive, or expensive, as the 2006 Lycoming crankshaft airworthiness directive. That airworthiness directive required replacement of the crankshaft in approximately 3,774 engines to the tune of about $16,000 per engine.

So, what are your options if your options if this AD applies to your engine?

Warranty Coverage

One option is to pursue a warranty claim with Lycoming. Lycoming has several types of warranties: New and Rebuilt Engine Warranty; New Non-Certified Warranty; Overhauled Engine Warranty; and Replacement Parts Warranty. You will need to determine which warranty applies to your engine and then file a claim with Lycoming. Lycoming will then determine whether you have coverage and, if so, to what extent. Although I haven’t reviewed Lycoming’s various warranty programs, the coverage typically includes parts only. And it certainly does not cover loss of use or other losses an engine owner may suffer as a result of the AD.

Litigation

If you don’t have warranty coverage, or if you are unsatisfied with the warranty coverage applicable to your engine, you could also consider suing Lycoming to try and recover the costs of complying with the AD and any other losses you suffer as a result of the AD. However, given the anticipated cost of compliance, unless you have other significant losses as a direct result of the AD, the cost of litigation would likely exceed your losses with no guaranty of recovery. (Although given the number of affected engines, I wouldn’t be surprised if some owners attempted a class action lawsuit against Lycoming).

Also keep in mind that manufacturer’s warranties typically include language making the warranty your sole remedy and excluding your ability to pursue other claims for recovery against the manufacturer. So I would anticipate that Lycoming would raise this and other legal defenses in responding to any lawsuits. But litigation is certainly an option, although not necessarily a practical or preferred option.

As you may recall, the Lycoming crankshaft airworthiness directive resulted in numerous lawsuits brought by engine owners against Lycoming. Of course the cost of compliance for that airworthiness directive was significantly higher than the current AD, which certainly made the economic analysis for litigation more attractive in that situation. Some lawsuits were brought by engine owners in their individual capacities, and others sought class action status on behalf of all affected engine owners. Lycoming also sued its crankshaft manufacturer, although it ultimately lost the case.


Conclusion

The bottom line for most engine owners affected by this AD is that they will need to comply in order for their aircraft to remain airworthy. How or whether they are able to recover their costs of compliance will initially depend upon how Lycoming handles the warranty issues. If Lycoming doesn’t treat its customers fairly, I would anticipate at least some litigation. However, whether such litigation will be successful is hard to say at this point in time.

High-Wing Vs. Low-Wing Aircraft

by Tori Williams 3. May 2017 17:28
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One of the first things an aspiring pilot learns is that not all aircraft are created equal. At least, not in the eyes of other pilots. It doesn’t take very many conversations with a pilot to find out exactly what type of aircraft they love and hate. Some pilots have good reasons for preferring one type over another, while others just have a soft spot for a certain type they trained in or became infatuated with.

The disagreements cover a variety of aircraft types. Tailwheel verses nose gear, retractable versus fixed gear, G1000 versus the historic six-pack. Each of these has been debated between pilots for years and I’m sure they will continue to be debated. Another popular category is high-wing verses low-wing aircraft. I personally have a preference for high-wing, as the vast majority of my flight time has been in Cessna 172s and a Stinson 10A.

I was curious what the general consensus was on where the best location for the wings is, so I took to the Internet and… Found no clear answer. It seems that there are pros and cons to both configurations, and it almost always boiled down to preference over hard facts. I have compiled a few major things to consider if you are in the scenario where you must choose between a high-wing or low-wing aircraft.

Visibility

Visibility was one of the first things pilots commented on when debating between the two. High-wing aircraft simply give pilot and passengers a better view of the sky around them and ground below them. They are ideal for an introduction flight, cruising around for fun, or flying on missions that require a clear view of the ground. Low-wing aircraft offer outstanding views of the world above the cockpit, but the wings can block anything below.

Accessibility

When fueling on the ground, it is usually much easier to access the tanks on a low-wing aircraft. Most high-wing fuel tanks require standing on a ladder to reach. However, the flip side of this is that it is more difficult to reach the fuel drains and visually inspect the underside of the wing on a low-wing aircraft.

Ground Clearance

Pilots of low-wing aircraft have to be more conscientious of any obstacles on the ground. This includes taxiway lights, tie-downs, and airport signage. The high-wing pilot still has to watch out, but has the ease of knowing their wings are not in such close proximity.

Safety

In the event of an emergency landing, low-wing aircraft have the advantage of being able to absorb some of the crash impact in the wings instead of the fuselage. They also help in the event of a water landing, having the potential to float above the water for a short period of time.

Some pilots love having shade under their wings on a hot summer day. Other pilots prefer being able to set maps or logbooks on the wing during preflight. Some pilots hate having to walk on the wing to get into the aircraft.

At the end of the day, there is no clear winner. It seems that it mostly comes down to personal preference and familiarity with the type of aircraft. Do you prefer high-wing or low-wing? What do you think makes one better than the other? Let me know in the comments below!

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Aircraft Sales | Aviation Safety | Flying | Tori Williams

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

BasicMed: A Big Deal?

by Lydia Wiff 1. February 2017 08:00
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Several months ago, I wrote about the 3rd Class Medical Reform and what it meant for pilots.  Recently, the FAA published a new rule called BasicMed which is the latest in the medical reform issue. 

In a Nut Shell

In the wake of the 3rd Class Medical Reform ruling, BasicMed comes as a relief for pilots that have held a valid medical certificate within the last 10 years – this look-back period starts July 15, 2016 and applies to regular and special issuance medical certificates.  However, you cannot just go back to flying if you had a medical certificate revoked in that period.

First, pilots must find a state-licensed physician and complete the associated checklist for the BasicMed.  Next, an online aeromedical course must be taken and passed.  These tasks must be done in that order as the information will need to be transmitted on successful completion.  The online course has to be taken every two years and pilots must visit their primary physician every four years at least.

As we saw in the 3rd Class Reform ruling, the pilots that complete the prerequisites for BasicMed will be able to fly aircraft with up to six passengers and weighing up to 6,000 pounds, in IFR or VFR, day or night, up to 18,000 feet and 250 knots in the United Sates.  However, BasicMed prohibits flying for compensation or hire.  While not being able to exercise the privilege of a full commercial license, it is important to note that some preexisting medical conditions make flying for hire inherently dangerous.

Currently, there is not an online aeromedical course, but AOPA.org is currently working to have the FAA approve their course “Fit to Fly”.

What This Means for General Aviation

This particular ruling is a big deal for those in general aviation.  This means that many pilots that were precluded under the old 3rd Class Medical rules now have the chance to take to the skies again at a reduced cost with almost all of their previous privileges, excluding flying for hire.  While the ruling is but days old at this point, it will be interesting to see if this will revitalize the general aviation population and perhaps to encourage younger generations to fly. 

Is this rule a big deal?  Of course!  As a proponent of general aviation, anything that gets people out there back flying is a good thing.  As someone who has seen friends lose their medicals for innocuous reasons, I hope BasicMed allows them to get back to the skies where they belong.

Have comments? Leave them below!

For more on this rule, check out these articles:

EAA & AOPA

 

Images courtesy of Google.com

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Aviation Medical | Aviation Safety | Lydia Wiff



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