Flight Training Aviation Articles

Should I Become a Pilot?

Well, the very short answer is yes. Yes 1,000 times.

Becoming a pilot is the most fun, insightful journey and deciding to extend that to making it a career makes that the journey of a lifetime (see what I did there ;) ).

But the harsh truth is not everyone is meant to be a pilot. Flight training isn't easy and can become very time consuming. Those who make it through have to be dedicated, motivated and self-disciplined. Even then, someone can have all the dedication it takes and just not have the skills needed to safely fly an aircraft. These skills are partly developed over time and partly come from the abilities you carry as a person. Let's talk about them:

1. Can you multi task?

Being a safe pilot means you have to be able to handle multiple things at once. Takeoff is a perfect example, especially on an IFR flight when you're single-pilot. Power settings are in, gear comes up, you're having to monitor all the engine instruments have good readings, ATC comes in with new instructions that you have to repeat back and then comply with, and throughout all this you're still having to fly the plane and be ready for any emergency. Imagine doing this in a jet...all that happens in about less than 20 seconds. 

Even as a VFR only pilot in a small fixed-gear plane it's still busy. During the takeoff you're ready to abort it or do an emergency landing at any time, respond back to ATC and comply, then don't forget after takeoff checklists. This sounds simple but in the air it can be a lot to handle. I find students struggle the most with remembering their after takeoff checklist and on a cross country keeping up with their checkpoints as soon as we're off the ground. It's like as soon as you rotate, everything is forgotten and you get tunnel vision.

2. Can you work under pressure?

With everything I just described on multi tasking, this doesn't come without a drop of sweat or two. As you're keeping up with all of your tasks you can feel the pressure sitting on your shoulders to get everything done and keep flying the plane safely. During flight training, you'll feel the pressure of your instructor sitting next to you watching everything you do and being ready to point out the first mistake you make (it's literally our job, that's how you learn!). You can have an instructor who points them out nicely, or not so nice one.....but at some point you have to learn to be able to do it all yourself. The same pressure is there when you carry passengers. They may not know as much of what's going on as your instructor did, but sometimes you can still feel them watching and listening to everything you do. They don't know how to fly, so they're relying on you to get them somewhere safely!

Now imagine if an emergency occurs, the pressure is REALLY on there. This isn't being said to scare you, but a good pilot always expects the unexpected and handles it without panic. They go through their checklists with ease, keep everyone onboard calm and then neutralize the situation as much as possible in order to land safely. Remember that story about Captain Tammie Jo Shults who lost an engine on a Southwest flight? Here is the article link of her story and an attached audio link. Listen to how calm her voice is. If she didn't say there was an emergency, you would've never guessed what had been going on. 

3. Are you motivated and self-disciplined? 

This one is most important when it comes to flight training. I see time and time again students who come in and say "I want to be a pilot" and then 6 months later they have like 2 flight lessons under their belt. Let's be honest, flight lessons aren't cheap. If you're going to pay out of pocket try and save up a lot first and apply for as many scholarships as possible, this way you don't have to slow down training and only be able to pay for one lesson at a time. Second is when you have the finances available, schedule flight lessons for at least several times a week and show up to each one prepared! It will do you no good to rarely fly (like once a month for example) and to never study. Don't show up to each lesson and depend on your instructor to teach you everything. Teach yourself as much as you can at home and let them fill in the gaps. This helps you progress much faster and also save money if finances are tight. 

Being able to multi task, work under pressure, be motivated and be self-disciplined are some of the most important factors that create a good pilot. Of course there's a few others that could fall into desired aspects, but without these you'll never "lift off the ground."

Think you meet these though and want to become a pilot? Go for it and don't let anything stop you. If you need some help paying for lessons go to Globalair.com/scholarships/ and apply for ours! Applications accepted until August 15th this year. 

Have anymore questions about if being a pilot is right for you? Maybe some tips to add? Comment below! 

Counteracting a Bad Landing

How to counteract and prevent a rough landing:

Go around. That's it. That's the whole post.

Just kidding! Somewhat....

Okay we've all had those days where we landed the plane so rough that we just taxied back in silence and thoroughly inspected the landing gear afterwards. In fact, my student and I had one yesterday so bad that we ended up popping the left main gear tire. It happens! You live and you learn. So let's talk about it.

First things first: set up for a good approach by having a good traffic pattern. Get your 'before landing' checklist done BEFORE getting established in the pattern. That's part of staying ahead of the plane. The less you're having to rush and scramble to make sure everything is complete, the better your odds are of being ready and stable.

Bad Landings

                                       KEFD 2/28/2020

In the picture above we're getting ready to land on 35L at Ellington, so we're entering at a 45 degree right downwind. By this point, all the 'before landing' items were done and our passenger briefing was complete so we could focus on the actual landing.

The second thing is to fly the actual traffic pattern. By this I mean take it back to your rectangular course maneuver: if there are winds, then establish the proper crabbing correction to actually hold your downwind, base, etc. If you're fighting winds the whole time and getting too close or too far from the runway, then by the time you turn final, you won't be lined up with centerline. 

Now, when you actually turn final, work to maintain centerline the WHOLE TIME (not just as you're coming into flare) and fight for the right glide slope. What if you're too high? Don't accept it and chop some power out. If you're too low, add power in. If there is a PAPI or VASI lighting system then make yourself hold the red and white colors. The main thing about being on final is not to accept anything that isn't "perfect" and fight to get the airplane where you want it to be. 

You keep descending on final and now it's getting time to flare: the key part. Don't start the flare too low and especially not too early because you have the danger of stalling too high. Know your plane and know when to flare it. Obviously, something like a C-130 won't flare at the same time as a C172. For the sake of this post and discussing flight training, we'll pretend we're flying a typical GA plane like the C172.

Don't flare until you're about 10 feet about the runway. This is when you transition your eyes from your landing point to the end of the runway and start working the nose up and power out. Remember, the goal is to have the nose wheel touchdown as late as possible. I've found the most common mistakes are that people don't pull the yoke/stick back far enough and the nose wheel hits first, and they jerk the controls rather than smoothly pull it back. Part of a smooth landing is always being smooth with your controls. SMOOTHLY work that nose up and keep pulling until the plane touches down. For the most part, your yoke/stick should be pulled almost all the way back. After the side wheels touch down, just hold the controls and easily start relaxing them to let the nose wheel come down on its own. 

Let's say you do this and still balloon or bounce. What do you do?

That's easy: GO AROUND. Every single time you should execute a go-around because you don't know how hard your second touchdown will be. 

Stepping away from my CFI role and preaching about go-arounds, we all know we'll have those days where we still try and stick with the landing. If it's a small and very minor balloon, hold the controls where they are and then as the plane comes back down go back to pulling back SMOOTHLY again and you should have a nice touchdown (again this is for a balloon that's small and under about 8 feet). 

If you bounce 9/10 times, it's because you hit all 3 wheels at once rather than the nose wheel last so keep pulling back until your nose is up more. Again, this is only for a minor bounce under a few feet. If the plane bounces back up really high, throw in the power and GO AROUND. 

I can't preach go-arounds enough. They not only give you another chance at trying to grease the landing, but they can also save the plane from being damaged. 

The last and most important thing aside from pitch attitude in the flare is airspeed. Watch your airspeed and know your Vref. Let's say Vref is 70kts and you look down, having not even flared yet you're at 60kts. You know what will happen? An early stall and a rough touchdown. Now, let's say the airspeed is at 80kts rather than 70kts. This time you'll float and have the danger of running out of runway before being able to touchdown and bring the plane to a stop. 

Landing is a game of airspeed and altitude. Once you get these down, then get the pitch attitude where it needs to be in the flare. Whenever you get a really smooth and soft landing, look up and take a mental picture of where your nose is in relation to the horizon. THAT'S what you want to work for every single time. 

There's a lot to talk about with landings so you can expect more blog posts on them in the future, but I covered all the basic things that'll keep you safe and smooth. 

Have any tips to add? Feel free to contribute below!

Until next time, Happy Landings!

Transitioning Between Low and High Wing Planes in Primary Flight Training

As a flight instructor at a school with both low and high wing planes, I've found that students ranging from pre-solo private to commercial have issues with swapping between planes. It's not that they have issues in flying the planes, but it's trying to get them to learn to fly in both rather than just one type.

To go more in-depth, for example, most people prefer either the Grumman Cheetahs or Tigers or the Cessna 172s. If they've flown in one type but not the other, it's almost a battle to get them to jump in the other type. I've found this is due to a confidence issue. While they don't admit it, it's because they know how to fly one type of plane and don't think they will be successful in another so they don't even want to try. 

So, let's talk about some of the main differences between the planes starting from preflight to landing.

Believe it or not, most general aviation planes almost all fly the same. Going back to the example of a Grumman verse a Cessna, these planes fly almost exactly the same even when it comes to landing. They are not two completely different worlds, and in fact, I tell my students the more planes you can fly, the better off you are for a check ride and the better skills you develop for real-world flying! It makes you a better pilot. 

On a typical Cessna, you lower the flaps on preflight all the way down and then bring them up after engine start. In-flight you bring the flaps down in 10-degree increments and can bring the first notch down outside of the white arc (Vfe) range on the airspeed indicator. 

On a Grumman, you usually bring the flaps down then back up on a run-up/before takeoff check. Still in increments, however, it's a switch by your leg rather than by the yoke and you HAVE to be within the Vfe range in-flight to even lower the first 10 degrees. 

The next "big" difference between low and high wing planes is the visual sight picture when you look outside: the wings are in different places!

Whether you're doing ground reference maneuvers or entering the pattern to land, you use the same area on the plane to look outside and measure the distance. On a high wing, you place your marker about 3/4th the way up the wing strut. On the low wing planes, just use the wingtip (because after all, it's not like you can see below the wing this time). This sounds like it may be a huge factor, but give it 2 minutes and you're used to the change in the new plane. Trust me on this. 

The last change: landings.

Again, either put your wing tip or top of the wing strut on the runway as you enter downwind and there's your sight picture! Bring your flaps and power back as set by the POH and keep your descent coming along with the proper speeds (also set by the POH). If you can get a stabilized approach, most GA planes will land the same here: main wheels touch down first and nosewheel last. Pitch attitude will be similar, again especially with the Grummans and Cessnas, and by the time you touchdown airspeed will have bled off appropriately and your yoke will be almost all the way back. 

If you're reading this because you're in flight training and needing to swap between model planes due to maintenance/availability issues, don't be upset. It's going to develop better skills for you in flying and the planes will likely fly almost identical so don't sweat it! 

Have any more tips to add to help someone in flight training who's having to swap between the two types? Comment below!

Happy Landings,

-Addi

First Solo Preparation

Hey Hey everyone! Happy February! 

Let's talk about some "first solo preparation" today from both the student and instructor side.

As of yesterday, I soloed my first student and let me just say it was the most fun, yet most nerve-wracking thing EVER. I crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's making sure he was ready and yet, when I hopped out of the plane and gave him a thumbs-up, I think I was more nervous than him! It went well though because I made sure he was prepared and that he felt confident in flying the plane. Here's how:

First: we went thoroughly through everything that 14 CFR 61.87 requires us to do. Remember the FAR AIM is the pilot's bible! I obviously studied that section during CFI training but I didn't memorize it, so as it was getting closer to solo time and I wanted to be sure we were covering everything, I looked at the regs to double-check I was doing this the right way. 

I didn't just do the bare minimum either when covering those maneuvers, like power off and on stalls for example. We went out to practice them multiple times and while I didn't make sure they were "check ride material", I did make him talk me through them every time and perform a proper recognition and recovery consistently. 

We did the same thing for landings as well. We practiced normal landings but also emergency scenarios including how to abort a takeoff, engine failure after takeoff, engine failure and electrical failure in the traffic pattern, slips, and crosswind techniques. While it's scary to think about and rarely ever happens, the pilot in command should always be ready for these scenarios and react quickly to keep the flight safe. 

Okay, that's how to prepare for a solo. But when you actually go out to solo, there are several things to consider there as well.

Number one: is the person who's about to solo comfortable with that airport? If you, the student, aren't comfortable with the runway length, airspace, etc. then tell your instructor! Most instructors will ask their students 500 times that day if they're sure they're ready to solo and won't pressure them into it until the time is right. However, we know it does happen here and there so just remember from the student side, as the pilot in command, you have every right to turn something down. 

Number two: as the instructor, where are you going to go once you hop out of the plane? As you can see in the picture above, I just hopped out and stood on the side of the runway where I could get some good pictures and videos. Somewhere a safe distance away but close is normally good.

Number three: for both students and instructors here, how will you communicate once you're no longer in the plane together? Easy, invest in a handheld mic! Seriously the best invention ever. I had one and it came in handy because the student accidentally leaned his mixture too much for taxi and shut the plane down (it happens, mixture sometimes gets the best of us). So, I was able to talk to him and keep his nerves down while he restarted it on the taxiway. CFI's, you know what I'm talking about when I say we're the momma ducks and these are our ducklings. I would've hated not to have that mic and know that I couldn't talk to him from the ground! 

Remember, if you're looking for a good airport nearby to go solo at, Globalair.com has an awesome Airport Search and Information Tool to help you get prepared!

I hope everyone has blue skies and tailwinds this month and for anyone about to solo/solo a student feel free to leave comments or questions to add to this post! We always appreciate everyone's input. 

Happy Landings!

-Addi

 

Initial Radio Calls for Beginners

Have you been working on radio calls lately and struggling to get them down?

Let's talk about how to at least make your initial call and go from there.

Ok so here's the scenario: you're sitting at a towered airport and completed all your checklists that were called for so now you're ready for taxi. Your hand goes to the PTT (push to talk) and your mind goes blank. What do you say?

This is the format to use on the ground:

-Who you're talking to

-Who you are

-Where you are

-What you want

So let's say this towered airport is KEFD (Ellington Field), your plane is a Grumman Tiger N9696W (this is just a fictional tail number I created), and you're in front of the FBO Signature there waiting to go on your flight to KACT to Waco. Using all of that information as well as knowing they have an ATIS there you need to listen to for information, let's put it together for a radio call.

"Ellington ground, Grumman 9696W at Signature, ready to taxi with information Papa"

Some people can argue you don't need to say direction of flight on the ground, only after you switch to tower, but I sometimes let ground AND tower know. I simply do this because often when I call ground at a towered airport, if I don't say it they come back with "say direction of flight." So here it's your preference, given that at the minimum you let tower know which direction you're headed.

Okay now let's say it's the same situation except you're at an uncontrolled airport T41 making an announcement call. This sounds almost the exact same (using the same format still) but you start AND end the radio call with who you're talking to. Remember at uncontrolled as well you're not asking for clearance, so you're only announcing what you're about to do.

Assuming there is a Signature there as well (though in reality there is not) and we want to taxi to runway 12 via Alpha here's what this radio call would sound like:

"La Porte traffic, Grumman 9696W at Signature taxiing to 12 via Alpha, La Porte traffic"

The call for takeoff would sound the same, except then we'd be announcing which direction we'll be departing to to let other traffic know. If we're going to Waco from T41, the direction is to the northwest. Here's what that would sound like:

"La Porte traffic, Grumman 9696W taking the active 12, departing to the northwest, La Porte traffic"

Still generally the same format as we first talked about. Just to keep elaborating, if I'm now holding short of 17R on Bravo at Ellington and ready to takeoff here's my call to tower:

"Ellington tower, Grumman 9696W holding short of 17R on Bravo, ready for departure VFR to Waco"

You notice how in every call they're all similar? The format may change in some calls as you'll learn the more you practice using radios, but this is always the basis most of them follow. 

There comes the subject of after making your initial call what to repeat back at a towered airport and what you don't need to repeat back, or in uncontrolled airspace how to communicate well with other pilots. There's a lot more that can be talked about with radio calls, so we'll likely talk about them another day. 

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, stays safe, and sounds like a pro on the radios now!

Questions or comments concerning radio calls? Let us know below!

Happy Landings,

-Addi

 

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