Flying - Page 5 Aviation Articles

Hindsight is 20/20

The title for this week’s blog post I’m sure applies to many areas of our lives.  However, today I’ll just be focusing on three ways I wish I had done my flight training differently.  Perhaps, as you read this article, you too might think of bits of wisdom from the past to carry forward to future flight training.

I Wish I Had Started Earlier

Now, I realize that many of us probably cannot change the timing, the availability of funds, etc., but I do wish I had started younger.  When I started flight training in 2011, I was out of high school and already feeling behind the curve.  I’m sure many of us know about the rule that allows kids to get their pilots license after barely being legal to drive a car (which in retrospect, that’s actually pretty scary!).  I felt like I was late to the game and had to prove I could catch up – looking back, I was probably in the best position because I didn’t have college to worry about.

I only wish I had started earlier because once I was out of high school for a year, I started working part-time, and then eventually enrolled in a local community college.  I commuted every day a fair, had long days, and worked on campus during the week and then at a local airport on the weekends.  I found myself struggling to keep flying even once a week and, therefore, spent a lot of time re-learning maneuvers while balancing work, life, and school on top of flying.  Then there was the weather changing as the seasons changed – living in the Midwest meant that it wasn’t always great weather during the winter either.

Of course, looking back, that was good preparation for where I am currently.  I work more than one job, I’m involved with an industry student group, I have many classes, I write, I manage a scholarship program, and more.  Maybe learning to juggle wasn’t such a bad thing after all…

I Wish I Had Started Ground School After I Started College

The University of North Dakota (UND) has almost all flight courses set up to include a flight lab during the same semester you are taking Ground School for a particular rating.  For instance, if you are working on your Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) rating, you are taking ground school for IFR at the same time.  Doing the ground school first, and then the flying is one way to do it, but sometimes it helps to be able to connect concepts from the textbook to flight lessons.

In college, I find that I benefit from the face-to-face lectures along with the interaction of students.  I also learned to develop different ways of studying depending on the different professors I had and knowing what my learning styles are.  When I went through the Private Pilot License (PPL) Ground School at my local airport, I had several different “professors” that all had different teaching styles all trying to cram all the information from that giant textbook into 7 weeks.  Needless to say, I wasn’t as experienced at handling accelerated courses as well then as I am now.

A few years later, I have several accelerated classes under my belt, including a semester-long version of the PPL Ground School I was required to retake when I transferred.  The second time around the class went much better - this was due to the experience I had in applying solid study habits that really only could have come from experiences in several classes.  Additionally, from having one professor who was very thorough, I learned so much more that second time and while it was a stressful 5-credit class, it was a class that still sticks with me.

I Wish I Had Gotten Beyond My PPL

I want to preface this section by saying that we can’t plan for every situation in life – we also have to navigate around whatever comes our way and sometimes goals take a backseat for awhile.  Now, had I known I’d end up in the Airport Management program after switching from Commercial Aviation and Aviation Management, I would have started and finished my IFR rating instead of just waiting until I transferred to UND.

Something like this inevitability happens to everyone in life I suspect.  We decide that we make Decision B since Decision A isn’t always feasible at the time, for one reason or another.  It’s not a bad decision or even the worst decision – it’s simply the best decision at that particular time.  While I wish I had completed my IFR rating, looking back I really did make the best decision for the long run.  Plus, I now get to look forward to having a goal when I am back to flying on a regular basis – I love having goals to work towards.

Hindsight Is Better Left Behind

We all wish we could have done lots of things differently, not just flight training.  We all think “had I known that, I would have done something different”.  While that is very true, we wouldn’t have actually learned from the decisions we made.  We would probably find ourselves in a much different place than we are today.

I admit, sometimes I get really hung up on how I went about my flight training.  However, when it comes right down to it, I wouldn’t change a single thing.  I know for a fact that I wouldn’t be where I am today had I changed those decisions along the way and I certainly wouldn’t have all the experiences in flying, education, or in life that I now have today.

So, my advice is: learn from the past, but keep looking forward.

Top 5 Most Common Mistakes Among Pilot In Training

I want to first off begin this post by saying that I highly encourage everyone to go see the movie Sully now playing in theaters. In fact, this past weekend I went with the Sooner Aviation Club to see the movie at the Warren Movie Theater in Moore, Oklahoma. Here’s a group picture that we took right before we went and saw the movie.

Now onto more important things. With the semester in full swing and everyone trying to survive there first major exams and essay, I’ve also noticed that a lot of private pilots are taking a major step in their aviation career by soloing for the first time. I will never forget the first time I soloed back of October 13th 2015, and it’s a day that sticks with you for the rest of your life. As these students begin to work on the cross county portion of their private pilot’s license, I want to share my top 5 most common mistakes that students, and even myself, have made and continuously make.

#1- Forgetting the Checklist- By now I’m sure everyone has heard their flight instructor repeat this phrase multiple times “Are you forgetting to do something?” and 99% of the time they are referring to a checklist. Believe me I’ve heard this multiple times when it comes to flying and it’s definitely something that is easy to forget; however, it’s there for a reason and that is for the safety of yourself, your passengers, and the aircraft so if you are constantly forgetting a checklist this is a habit you need to break ASAP especially when it comes to a check ride.

#2- Landing too fast or to slow- When it comes to landing on final it’s all about your airspeed and making sure you are keeping it constant which means you absolutely need to be working the throttle constantly; however, never add too much power or pull it out when you are on final. This can lead to floating down the runway for a long time, or in the case of taking too much power out, you risk the chance of stalling the aircraft. In any case you feel like it’s going to be a bad landing it’s okay to call a go around, in fact it’s the best option. Remember you aren’t forced to land the aircraft on your first try if it looks like it’s going to be an unsafe landing.

#3- not flaring or over flaring- Along with the speed of the aircraft, a lot of people forget to flare the aircraft before hitting the runway which can lead to a hard landing, bouncing down the runway and even possible damage to the aircraft. Believe me if you don’t flare you could possibly damage the front of the aircraft or worse the propeller, so make sure you add that flare once you are over the runway to ensure not damaging the front. Equally as important is not to over flare since it could lead to a tail strike damaging the back of the aircraft and damaging the landing gear. The biggest thing I’ve noted when it comes to flaring is to just add small amounts of back pressure as I get closer to the ground preventing me from damaging the front or the back of the aircraft.

#4- wind corrections- So this is by far the biggest thing I always get harped on, not going to lie. Remember as pilot in command you are responsible for adding any wind correction because at any time a sudden burst of wind can hit your aircraft and possibly cause for you to flip over. It’s also important you add wind correction during takeoff and landing for the exact same reason, you don’t want to end up upside down like this aircraft.

#5- Situational Awareness- When it comes to flying it’s very easy to get fixated on your instrument especially during a maneuver. For example, when I use to do steep turns I would always focus on my turn coordinator to make sure I rolled on the proper heading. Next thing I knew the nose of the airplane was facing down and I was losing 500ft per minute and it took me a while to break that habit. While your instruments are a great resource, guess what? Your eyes are a better resource and you should always be aware of what’s going on around you. For all you know there could be another aircraft in your area, you could have a bird strike, or in my case you could be losing altitude so always be looking out outside to make sure you are aware of your surroundings.

 

By Cameron Morgan

3rd Class Medical Reform - What You Need to Know

Recently, I wrote about some new legislation that had come into effect in April about Student Pilot Certificates.  This seems to be a banner year for the FAA as a new piece of legislation, centered around the 3rd Class Medical was recently signed into law by the President.  This particular piece of legislation has been a long time coming and allows more people the ability to exercise the privileges of their Private Pilot certificate even if they have run/will run into medical issues.

A Law 37 Years in the Making…

As early as 1979, the American Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has been petitioning the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for an extension in validity of a 3rd Class Medical from two years to three years.  AOPA continued to advocate for pilots with medical issues by proposing to create a recreational, or sport pilot, certificate.

The development of the sport pilot certificate took over a decade and allowed a pilot to fly aircraft in the sport category with only a valid driver’s license instead of having to hold a 3rd Class Medical.  Pilots have been using the sport pilot certificate for over 10 years now and the journey towards a reformed 3rd Class Medical started in earnest back in 2012.

Interest Groups Hard at Work…

AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) first petitioned the FAA back in early 2012 to allow pilots seeking a 3rd Class Medical exemption to fly under the following conditions:

  • Day Visual Flight Rules (VFR)
  • Fixed gear
  • Single engine
  • Up to four seats
  • 180 horsepower engine
  • Fly no higher than 10,000 feet Mean Sea Level (MSL) or 2,000 feet Above Ground Level (AGL)
  • Carry no more than one passenger

Later, in September of the same year, the FAA closed the question period – this is referred to as a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) which lasts 90 days.  There were over 16,000 comments filed under this particular NPRM with the general consensus that thousands of pilots were in favor of a 3rd Class Medical Reform.  However, despite introducing the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act (GAPPA) into the House in December of that year, there was a long wait ahead for the aviation community.

The GAPPA expanded on the AOPA-EAA petition to allow pilots to carry more passengers (up to 5), fly a six-seat aircraft weighing up to 6,000 pounds under VFR conditions.  In March of 2013, the GAPPA legislation was finally introduced into the Senate.

The FAA Process…

Over the next several months, the FAA began a process to review the current 3rd Class Medical rules and processes.  This process was dubbed as the “Private Pilot Privileges Without a Medical Certificate”.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the FAA medical certification process was full of major flaws including technological issues, lack of clarity and inappropriate standards.

As 2014 went on, the GAPPA gained 100 sponsors in the House, and 10 in the Senate making it a very strongly supported piece of legislation.  Later that summer, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta announced that a rule to reform the 3rd Class Medical process was being presented to the Department of Transportation (DOT).  The DOT had 90 days to review the rule before making a decision.  EAA and AOPA continued to appeal to the DOT to quickly review the rule along with many others in both the Senate and the House that were co-sponsoring the GAPPA – however, the review was never fully completed.

In December of 2014, the 114th Congress came to an end with no progress on GAPPA and it then expired.  Not one to be beaten, the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBR2) was introduced into both the House and the Senate in 2015 that included the 3rd Class Medical reform which included what the GAPPA had introduced but also added the ability to fly in IFR conditions along with VFR.  Between June and July of 2015, over 140,000 calls were made to elected officials encouraging support of the PBR2.  Support in the House and Senate for the bill grows to over 160 co-sponsors. 

All the persistence paid off when the PBR2 passed the Senate by unanimous consent on December 15, 2015.  3rd Class Medical reform language is introduced as a part of FAA reauthorization and other laws and legislation on and off again throughout 2016.  Then, the big day comes when in July of 2016, the FAA funding bill is passed in both the House and senate including language for 3rd Class Medical reform.  By July 15, 2016, the law was signed by President Obama singling the end of a very long process by advocacy groups, the FAA, and Congress.

So, What Does This Mean for Pilots?

After doing some research, it doesn’t appear that the rule will go into effect for another year.  The FAA will be going through the rulemaking process which could take up to one year.  In the meantime, here are the important facts about the 3rd Class Medical allowances:

  • Aircraft: Up to 6 seats, no greater than 6,000 pounds, and covered (unlike the previous iterations, no restrictions on complexity, horsepower, etc.) – sorry folks, no biplanes
  • Flight rules: Day/Night VFR and IFR
  • Passengers:  Up to 5
  • Aeromedical:  Pilots must take a free online aeromedical course every two years
  • Altitude:  Up to 18,000 feet
  • Airspeed:  No greater than 250 knots indicated airspeed
  • Pilot:  A pilot cannot fly for compensation or hire

Pilots looking to take advantage of this new rule need only to have a valid U.S. driver’s license and have had held a medical certificate (regular or special issuance) in the last 10 years from the date the legislation became law.

Are You Effected by the New Law?

Are you, the reader, benefiting from this new legislation?  What’s your story or thoughts?   Feel free to leave a comment with stories and/or comments on the 3rd Class Medical reform.  

More information about the reform can be found at www.AOPA.org and www.FederalRegister.gov.

Images courtesy of GoogleImages.com and the writer.

 

 

Are You Working SMARTer?

There’s an old saying: “Work smarter, not harder.”  I can’t tell you how many times someone has told me that, or I’ve had to tell myself that.  It’s so easy for me to get into the rut of approaching a goal from a disorganized process – it becomes an arduous process that has little to no intrinsic value, seems to drag on forever, and ultimately becomes a discouraging and frustrating process.  Today I’ll cover a common (or is it?) approach to accomplishing goals that has helped me to work SMARTer and not harder.

What Are SMART Goals? – A little history

In the early 19th century, a fellow by the name of Elbert Hubbard, a renowned American philanthropist, observed that many individuals would fail in their endeavors.   He concluded that they failed not because they had little intelligence or where with all, but because they failed to organize their efforts around a goal.  However, it wasn’t until the late 20th century that a new method arrived in the form of SMART goals.

Later, in 1981, we find the first record of the SMART acronym written down in a paper published by George T. Doran, a consultant and former Director of Corporate Planning for Washington Water Power Company entitled “There’s a S.M.A.R.T. Way to Write Management’s Goals and Objectives”. While the SMART acronym words have changed over the years, the overall concept has remained the same – it approaches goals in an organized fashion to maximize one’s efforts.  So, let’s dive into SMART with some definitions and some examples.

S Stands for “Specific”

I like to equate the first step in the SMART process to choosing a topic for that thesis.  You may love airplanes, but you can’t just write on every airplane.  It’s hard to write an exhaustive paper with such a subject that folks can read in its entirety before falling asleep.

In the same way, a goal must be very specific.  Too broad and you find yourself getting frustrated because you don’t seem to make much progress – too narrow and you may not be feeling very challenged or accomplished.

A good example of a specific goal is to say: “My goal is to get my Instrument Rating.”  An example of a non-specific goal is: “I want to fly.”  The difference is that a specific goal has a narrow focus, i.e., the Instrument Rating, as opposed to a general want to fly.

So, let’s run with the goal of an Instrument Rating for the rest of our SMART process.

M Stands for “Measurable”

To be measureable, a goal should be shaped in such a way as to measure success or progress.  For instance, when training for an instrument rating, you should be able to measure your success upon completing the hours of training, completing ground school, or taking the written and practical exam (and passing).

Too often we get into a rut where we’re working on some project, but don’t really have a way to measure what we’ve accomplished, or not accomplished.  This could be especially challenging when studying for the Instrument written exam, but perhaps try approaching it by measuring your progress based on what chapters or sections you have studied.  It might help to break the study guide into sections and measure your progress that way.

 

A Stands for “Attainable”

I often feel like this third step should really be somewhere closer to the beginning of the acronym just because it could save you a lot of time and grief.  That being said, it is an important step, regardless of where it is placed.

Having a goal that is attainable in the first place is crucial in your success in accomplishing a goal.  For instance, you really can’t make a goal to get your Instrument Rating if you don’t even have your Private Pilot’s License (PPL) yet.  If you find yourself in that position of needing one thing to make another goal happen, this might be the point to go back to the beginning and further narrow the specificity of your goal.

For instance, “My goal is to get my PPL, so I can get my Instrument Rating.”  Now you have your true starting point, which is getting that PPL.  This narrowed focus allows you to discover the underlying action items for a particular goal, or to realize that one goal is really subset of another goal.

R Stands for “Realistic”

This goal seems to go hand-in-hand with the previous goal, but not always.  This step really seems to fit into the phrase “time and money.”  For instance, you may have the time (it’s attainable), but you may not have the money (it’s not realistic).  I actually experienced this the first year I was at the University of North Dakota (UND). 

I had the time to get my Instrument, and eventually my Commercial Ratings, but I didn’t have the money.  So, while my goal was specific, measureable and attainable, it wasn’t realistic because dollar bills really do make an airplane fly.  If you get to this point and realize your goal isn’t realistic, it’s very important to not get discouraged and give up.  It really means that you need to further narrow your focus into something a little more specific.

Now, I can speak from experience that giving up something as enjoyable and rewarding as flying is not easy.  However, finding an alternate path, maybe a diversion of sorts, is a very smart option.  When I realized this, I chose to switch degree programs from Commercial Aviation to Airport Management.  This switch kept me in the field of aerospace and aviation, and I found that I really enjoy the business side of aviation, but I still get my dose of being an aviation nerd.  I also found out I love being around airports almost as much as being in the airplane.

I haven’t given up flying altogether, but I’ve adjusted my course to include those additional flight ratings down the road when that goal becomes more realistic.

T Stands for “Time-Bound”

Lastly, we come to having our goals being time-bound. 

Let’s start with a bad example of this: “I want to get my Instrument Rating sometime in the future.”  Now, we can see right away this is going to be a problem.  This gets us into the mindset that we’ll finish it sometime, and then sometime comes and we still haven’t made any progress.  This is frustrating, to say the least, and really is a hindrance to accomplishing some very specific goals.  A lack of a deadline actually keeps great people from accomplishing great things!

Now, a good example of a time-bound goal is: “I want to get my Instrument Rating by next June.”  Now, this is good!  You have a rough date and you know what you need to do to accomplish this goal.  You can further break down this goal by planning to take the ground school for 7 weeks in the fall, start your actual flight instruction after that, and then schedule your written exam in early spring, and practical exam by June.  You could further be specific by putting in actual dates and updating your progress as you go in addition to deciding how much time per week (or day) to spend working towards that goal.

The great thing is, you can be very flexible as long as you don’t get into the habit of doing something maybe someday.

Work SMARTer, Not Harder

Overall, I wouldn’t say that the SMART process is a fail-proof method, but it has been very successfully used by individuals, management, and corporations alike.  However, you can’t just plug things in and go.  You need to commit to following a goal through and periodically reevaluating your progress as you go and make changes as needed.

So, do you have a goal that you used the SMART process on that you’d like to share with our readers?  Feel free to comment below with your story and how you used the SMART method.

Happy SMART Planning!

Images courtesy of Google.com.

Avoiding Cognitive Biases in Aviation

The human brain is an immensely complicated and fascinating system. It has information processing capabilities far beyond that of any computer. It is impossible to understand every single process that the brain is constantly doing on a daily basis. However, there are parts of the brain process that are terribly flawed. In being so quick at information processing, some major mistakes are also constantly being made without notice.

Recently in my Crew Resource Management class we have been talking about cognition and cognitive biases. Cognitive biases are psychological tendencies that cause the human brain to draw incorrect conclusions. There is a really good video on Youtube that goes into more detail called "Cognition: How Your Mind can Amazing and Betray You." Basically, your brain is so good at processing information that sometimes it processes the wrong information and causes terrible misunderstandings that you may never realize you have had.

The reason we have been discussing this in my Crew Resource Management class is that this can have a huge effect on pilots. They often have to make split-second decisions completely based on the information immediately available to them. It could be extremely dangerous if they are subconsciously making poor choices because of a bias.

I have compiled a few examples of cognitive biases that would have a negative effect on flight operations. It is important for pilots to understand how these work so that if the time comes that they are in a situation where a cognitive bias is clouding their judgment, they will be able to see through it and make the best choice.

Attention Bias

Humans have a tendency to pay more attention to things that have an emotional aspect to them. If a pilot has a traumatic experience during training, they will likely be more concerned about that issue rather than other issues. A good example of this is a pilot who fixates on avoiding bad weather without paying attention to the rapidly diminishing fuel supply. They likely had a bad experience during training where the weather crept up on them, but they can end up with total fuel starvation without even noticing it.

Confirmation Bias

A person will ignore facts or information that does not conform to their perceived mental model, and will only acknowledge information that agrees with their perception of the situation. This can be particularly hazardous when dealing with emergency situations in an aircraft. Perhaps a light is on that should not be, or an alarm is sounding that you have never heard before. It is easy to ignore other warning signs when you have an idea in your mind of what the issue may be.

Gambler’s Fallacy

This is the tendency to think that future probabilities are altered by past events, when in reality they are unchanged. Some pilots are very superstitious, and this could go to two extremes. A pilot could believe that because they have had thousands of accident-free hours then they will never have any type of accident. On the other hand, a pilot could get in an accident and assume that they are bad luck, or they will never be able to fly safely again.

Never take a dangerous gamble when you are unsure, especially in the world of aviation!

Clustering Illusion

This is the tendency to see patterns where actually none exist. When a pilot is attempting an instrument approach late at night into an airport with extremely low visibility, they are making some of the most vital decisions possible. A pilot suffering from clustering illusion may believe that they see a pattern in the approach plate and follow that when really there is none.

As stated eelier, it is extremely important for pilots to be aware of any subconscious biases that may be affecting their decision-making skills. I believe that every pilot should research cognitive biases and figure out which ones they personally experience the most. Our latest homework assignment in class was to write a paper about which biases we are most prone to and what we can do to overcome them. This is a valuable activity and one that even the most seasoned pilot could benefit from trying.

Stay safe out there, and never let your judgment be clouded by a false perception!

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