Flight Training Aviation Articles

Tips Your Instructor Wish You Knew

Flying Tigers at KEFD

 

Writing this for all the frustrated instructors out there who want better for their students and wish they would listen when you give advice- you're welcome.

As a student, flight training is expensive, time consuming, and sometimes stressful. You want to be a good student for your benefit and for the benefit of others, but it just doesn't always work out that way.

Well what if I told you this post can help? What if I said instructors secretly hang out outside of the flight school and share all the wisdom they wish their students knew? Would you believe me? Well, bring out your pen and paper because I have some super top secret advice to give. Some of it is obvious, some of it is something you may not have thought about. 

1) Flight Training & Personal Life Shouldn't Mix

For clarification, I do not mean to not become friends with your instructor. In fact, getting along with and liking your instructor is really important. Having a bond with who you're flying with makes it fun and you retain a higher quality of learning.

But don't get in the plane to start the prop and start crying about how you and your spouse had a fight that morning. Your instructor has skills in flying and teaching, but hardly any skills in being a therapist. So don't make them be one! Especially during a flight lesson, because now you're just paying to not learn how to fly. 

When you walk in the flight school, leave your emotions behind and just be ready to learn and dominate your lesson(s). If you can't do that, think of I'M SAFE. Are you really good to fly that day then?

This also goes for ground lessons - try not to interrupt with too many personal stories or get off topic talking about yourself. Yes you are paying for that time but is it really getting you somewhere at that point? Not every minute will be spent learning and discussing nothing but aviation but there's a fine line between learning a topic and wasting time.

2) Stop Cancelling

Go back and read that again. Okay now one more time. Did you get it yet? This is so important!! There's so many reasons I can write why to not do this. Will you have cancelled lessons due to weather and maintenance? Absolutely. Is there some days your instructor has to take off work for something important too? Absolutely. But DO NOT be the student that cancels half their lessons each week.

-If you have something going on in your personal life, it is best to take care of it and fly again when you're ready.

-If finances are an issue, stop and save up so you can pay for multiple lessons at a time rather than having just enough to pay for each lesson. If you schedule 4 lessons a week then always cancel 2 because you can only afford the other 2, your instructor is not going to have the happiest feelings towards you and you in fact may face cancellation charges which making cancelling pointless then. Remember too that there are lots of scholarships out there for this, and the ones that are less than $5000 usually have the least amount of applicants so you have a better chance at receiving these. Winning multiple small scholarships adds up! We even offer a Globalair.com Scholarship for $1000 to 4 students each year and are always happy to see more people apply. 

3) Be Prepared for Your Lesson

You should almost never show up to a ground or flight lesson without knowing what you're doing. So be ready by knowing what's coming (asking your instructor or if able refer to the syllabus), study for it, and if you need to chair fly it! Even seasoned airline pilots will say chair flying is a valuable technique to learn a new maneuver and use it towards mastering it for a check ride. 

4) Don't Blame Mistakes on Your Instructor

Unless you have an awful instructor who has no business teaching, don't blame all of your mistakes on the fact that you weren't taught something. Each instructor has different techniques on how they do things so if you fly with different people just expect it. Don't be upset when they show you something new - usually it's not being done to show you you're wrong, but instead to just give you multiple ways to do things so you develop your own style of flying.

If you're on a stage check or something similar and mess something up, don't sweat it, just ask to do it again. Try to always avoid "I messed up because that's how I was taught to do it." Remember instructors are in the right seat for a reason, and we've just about seen it all! We can tell the difference between having been taught something completely wrong and just messing up and trying to cover it up. Read this: it is okay to make mistakes. Everyone does. We are human. Breathe!!

5) Right Rudder

That's it. That's all I have to say about that. You know what I'm talking about. So don't forget it!

6) Speak the Native Language Fluently

This truly goes for flight training in all countries, wherever you decide to do yours. English is the interntaional language of aviation but that does not mean everyone truly speaks it fluently. Common phrases might be the bare minimum they know. So just because you may be fluent in English does not mean you are set up for success. So, the best advice is to just learn the native language to where you're at, which may be English but it may not be.

You need to be able to ask questions and have detailed conversations on things like debriefing after a flight, and if there's a language barrier that is a HUGE stump to your training. More time, more money and lots of frustration will make it a not so fun experience anymore. 

7) Relax and Have Fun

Lastly, don't forget to breathe. Whether you're in a strict academy, military program, private part 61 instructor etc. flying should put a smile on your face, otherwise you need to question whether being a pilot is right for you. So remember to work hard but have fun doing it. Flying is a blast, so let it be.

Breathe, let your shoulders down, add more right rudder and keep on keepin' on. 

Understanding Departure Procedures and its Two Different Types

 

I look back to a year ago and remember the lessons I was covering in my instrument training— Fight instruments, Nav-aids, system limitations, etc. We, my flight instructor and I, had not quite reached the point of learning the full details of instrument approach plates, departure procedures, arrival routes, etc. When we did discuss it, it was a lot of terms and concepts to learn. Instrument flying has a great deal of information essential to safe IFR operation, including its many different plates and procedures. Generally, when you are training for your instrument rating, you tend to spend most of your time focusing on holds and instrument approaches and not nearly as much time with the encompassing factors associated with IFR departures.  

Let’s take a closer look at DP’s (Departure Procedures) and the two different types— ODP’s (Obstacle Departure Procedure) and SID’s (Standard Instrument Departure). 

To understand the importance of departure procedures, there are a few standards that need to be recognized. According to the U.S. standard for TERPS (Terminal Instrument Procedures), there is a specific obstacle clearance that must be maintained. Your aircraft must climb at least 200 Feet Per Nautical Mile (FPNM). This is determined through an observed obstacle penetration slope of 152 FPNM. If an obstacle does not penetrate the 200 FPNM climb gradient, the pilot has a minimum obstacle clearance of 48ft.

Side Note* the 152FPNM is the 40:1 ratio often referenced. 1 mile is roughly 6067 nautical miles, therefore 6067/152 = 39.9 or 40 to 1.

When obstacles penetrate that 40:1 obstacle slope, this can increase your required climb gradients as well as none standard takeoff minimums. ODP’s (Obstacle Departure Procedures) are created by the NFPO (National Flight Procedures Office) to ensure requirements are put in place to maintain sufficient obstacle clearance. ODP’s can be published either Textually or graphically. Do not be confused in that SID’s are only graphical (but may have text on them).

Highlighted in red is an example of a textual ODP. In the TPP, it is easy to confuse the ODP section with the “takeoff Obstacle Notes”. These are not the same thing. Takeoff Obstacle Notes are “low-close in obstacles” that are less than 200 ft above the departure end of the runway (DER) as well as within 1NM of the end of the runway. These do not require greater take-off minima. It is the pilot’s responsibility to see and avoid these obstacles.

Highlighted in yellow is a notable feature of graphical ODP’s that differentiate them from SID’s. On the plate, it will state OBSTACLE. Graphical ODP’s have identifiers (Ex. DRAKE2.DRK) which allows them to be filed during your IFR flight plan, while textual ODP’s can not.

Lastly, SID’s (Standard Instrument Departures) require an ATC clearance prior to flying the route. They are used to increase efficiency by expediting traffic flow and alleviating some pilot/controller workload. These are often seen at larger airports where congestion is high. If you received clearance from ATC via the SID, you are automatically cleared for the ODP. But if you are cleared for an ODP, that does not mean you are cleared for the SID. You have to make sure before accepting a SID, that your aircraft can perform to required climb gradients. If it can not meet requirements, put “No SID” in your remarks section of your flight plan.

There are two main types of SID’s — Vector and pilot navigation SID’s.

Vector SID— ATC will provide radar vectors right after takeoff and will continue until you reach your fix charted or an assigned route. As you can see here on the MEADOW FOUR, common to vector SID’s they do not have transitions or departure routes to follow. Depending upon your route of flight, after you follow the initial directions (heading and altitude) ATC will vector you via a Nav-aid in the direction of your flight. 

Pilot Navigation SID— have a set of instructions for every aircraft to follow a particular route. You may see two or more transitions listed on this form of SID. As you see here on the KKIDS ONE it has a visual (graphical or plan view) section and a textual description. This confuses a lot of people because SID’s are only graphical. Textual descriptions simply re-iterate what the graphical depicts but in some simple transitions textual descriptions will not be included. 

To all of the pilots who have personally flown departure procedures, what was your experience with them? 

Transitioning Into Bigger Jets: What to Expect

A few weeks ago we did a post on how to prepare for 121/135 training, aka having to go to a training facility to do ground and sim training and pass a check ride at the end. We talked about tips for how to prepare, how to study and even what to study (biggest things to focus on). This week we're building on that foundation!

So let's start with the basics. Transitioning into bigger faster airplanes does not happen overnight. Studying over a period of time and making sure you're adequately prepared for your check ride that will eventually come up is the best strategy.

1) Memory Items & Limitations:

Same thing I wrote about last post: know your memory items and limitations BEFORE you even get to the training facility. This includes knowing max airspeeds and stall speeds. This will help for your first situation in handling the aircraft. You should have flash cards or an AFM with a limitations chapter & procedures tabs where you can find these items. Studying the AFM as well helps understand why these are memory items and in turn can help you memorize them

2) Don't Fly with Max Thrust Until You're Ready

This is a simple trick, and yet it's one of the most important. If you're jumping in the sim or airplane to fly for the first time, don't get overexcited about it! Sure it's exciting to get to go faster, but with "great speed comes great responsibility." That's a quote I just made up but there is a lot of truth to it!

After you takeoff, pull the power back

When you're cruising and having to fly a complicated clearance or getting ready for an approach, pull the power back as much as you're allowed

Giving yourself more time to set up and not having to rush through the flight generates less room for mistakes. 

3) Use the Autopilot Accordingly

Learn how the autopilot on this plane works: do you have FLC mode? VS? Any VNAV or APPR mode along with NAV? 

As soon as you have it available, click the mode you want and activate it. And if autopilot transfer is a mode on it then MAKE SURE it's selected to the side that is flying.

During training before you have a check ride or before a critical time, mess around with hand flying and no autopilot. I even shot an approach on the standby instruments without a PFD to see how sensitive the controls and power inputs are. This all just builds into better skill.

4) Learn How Your Thrust Levers/Throttles Work

I add this note in because not all levers have the same sensitivity. For example the Citation II takes some work, you have to use a little muscle to move them forward or backward. This is juxtaposed to the Learjets, where 1cm of movement changes N1 by 8%. Just getting a feel for how they work in your plane will be the first biggest step in flying well. 

Remember during your transition to take your time learning things to learn them thoroughly and to ask questions often. Sometimes learning an aircraft with more power can be frustrating and have you doubt your flying skills. Just know it takes time and will come. Fly safe and fly smart!

Questions/comments below

Commercial Add-On: Transitioning From Fixed-Wing to Rotary Ratings

One of the most common commercial rotary transitions is helicopter pilots wanting a fixed-wing add-on. This is seen pretty often with military helicopter pilots such as former Apache or Blackhawk crews. 

But, does anyone ever get an add-on from previous fixed-wing to rotary? It's not common but it's out there. Some do it for fun and some do it to add to their resume and expand their job opportunities. 

A good resource that can help with this type of transition is Veracity Aviation. I went here about a month ago at the Pearland, TX location to talk with some of the instructors, and here's a briefing of what I got:

The general requirements for a commercial add-on through a 141 program would be to 

  • Already hold a fixed wing commercial pilot certificate
  • Current FAA Medical Certificate
  • Helicopter Instrument Rating not required
  • No FAA Written Exam
  • Pass an FAA Oral and Practical Flight Test
  • 30 dual flight hours
  • 5 solo flight hours
  • 10 hours instrument hours

If you're looking to do a CFI add-on as a way to build rotary hours then you would be required to 

  • Hold a Commercial Pilot Helicopter Certificate
  • Must Read, Write, Understand, and Speak English
  • Hold a Current FAA Medical Certificate
  • Pass an FAA Oral and Practical Flight Test
  • Fixed wing CFI license
  • Complete 25 hours of flight time

as with any CFI rating as well, you must be 18 years old.

However, this posted above is for a part 141 program. Here's what the regs require for a part 61 program:

at least 150 hours of flight time as a pilot that consists of at least: 100 hours in powered aircraft, of which 50 hours must be in helicopters.

  • 100 hours of PIC, which includes at least - 35 hours in helicopters, 10 hours in cross-country flight in helicopters.
  • 20 hours of training on the areas of operation listed in 61.127 (b)(3) that includes at least -
  • 5 hours of helicopter hood time/instrument maneuvers
  • One 2-hour cross country flight in a helicopter in daytime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure
  • One 2-hour cross country flight in a helicopter in nighttime conditions that consists of a total straight-line distance of more than 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure; and
  • 3 hours in a helicopter with a CFI in preparation for the check ride within the preceding 2 calendar months from the month of the test.
  • Ten hours of solo flight time in a helicopter or 10 hours of flight time performing the duties of PIC in a helicopter with an authorized CFI on board
  • 1 cross-country flight with landings at a minimum of three points, with one segment consisting of a straight-line distance of at least 50 nautical miles from the original point of departure; and 5 hours in night VFR conditions with 10 takeoffs and 10 landings (with each landing involving a flight in the traffic pattern).

All of these requirements can be found in the FAR AIM under 61.129 helicopter rating. A 141 program can cut down testing requirements however to make the add-on even easier.

Who knows, the add-on may lead you to new career opportunities flying something like an Airbus H130. I'd say it's worth your time to get through those requirements and learn to fly a new aircraft. Join the "dark side" and comment below how it goes!

How to Pay for Flight Training

It's no doubt, flight training is expensive and a big challenge to get through. 

As a CFI, the biggest complaints I get from students are having to pay for lessons. How to save money on them, how to get through training faster etc. I'm here to say paying for flight training is not impossible, but is in fact very possible. I started flight training as soon as I turned 19 and got through it in 2.5 years while being a poor college student. Here's how:

1) Scholarships

Over $15,000 dollars of my flight training was paid for by scholarships. Rule number one: don't only apply for all the big scholarships that offer a lot of money. Those have the most competition! The ones that are around $1,000 have less applicants, and if you apply for multiple ones of those you're likely to get some of them.

When applying for scholarships, there's so many tips that I could give from being a successful applicant and now scholarship curator. Take your time on your application, but get it in as soon as possible. And make sure everything that was asked for is there! You may be a great applicant but if you forget even one thing you're disqualified. Do email the scholarship committee/organization with any questions you have and ask what they look for in picking recipients because they're likely glad to help, DON'T email or contact saying only how much you need the money. Financial need is not the only thing that creates a worthy recipient. 

2) Be Smart With Your Money

THIS. This is a good tip for flight training and LIFE. Don't be the student that goes out every weekend, buys a BRAND NEW car, walks in with a Bose headset....(the list goes on) and then complain about not being able to pay for lessons. Try to work it to where almost all of your money is put towards training. It's okay to be the person eating lunch from home, only getting water to drink at restaurants, using coupons at the grocery store and so on. If it helps you reach your dreams you do what you need to do. 

If you need to buy a headset, buy like a DC brand from Sporty's Pilot Shop or even something used on Amazon or Ebay. There is a ton of options where you can find something quality less than $300 that will last without breaking. As far as a logbook if you don't even want to spend money on a paper one then use an online one that meets FAA requirements. Even the logbook on Globalair.com will get the job done!

If you can help it, as in if a school does not require you to buy a certain kit, get your study materials online for free. Remember the Airplane Flying Handbook and Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge are free for PDF download from the FAA, just Google it. 

3) Study at Home

Don't rely on your instructor to teach you everything on ground lessons or in flight. Ask them to help guide you to what to study, but read it all at home and make it to where lessons with them are just building on what you don't understand. Especially steps for maneuvers as well. This can literally save you THOUSANDS of dollars. 

When I say to study maneuvers, do what's called chair flying. Let an instructor demonstrate a maneuver for you the first time, then write down the steps during your debrief with them, and go home and imagine sitting in the cockpit and practice flying those steps. Manuevers like power off stalls, slow flight, and approach checklists that have a lot of steps are much better mastered this way. This all pays off on your check ride too, you'll have it down better because you established a better foundation for your skills. 

4) Fly Often

Don't take a break from flying to pay for each lesson if you can help it. Save up as much as you can and THEN go into training. If you fly 2 times a month versus two times a week, it costs more in the long run because you have to redo each lesson. You're staying at the same spot rather than truly moving forward. 

There's so many tips I could give on how to save money and pay for flight training, but these are the biggest ones. Be smart and make wise decisions, you work hard for your money so do your best to put it to good use. It doesn't matter if you come from a poor family, if no one around you is a pilot to give you advice, or even if it takes you a little longer than other students around you to learn. If you're really dedicated and cut out to learn to fly, there will be a way. Pave it for yourself. 

Until next time, happy landings!

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