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5 Major Items Pilots Miss During Their Preflight Inspection

Perhaps the most critical part of any general aviation flight is the preflight inspection of the aircraft. For most pilots, the preflight inspection follows a checklist along with a routine flow around the aircraft. Most pilots and student pilots perform what would be considered a sufficient inspection, following their checklist and routine items.

Surely 100% of pilots would be able to find discrepancies if they were present right?

Well...not exactly. Sit down, strap yourself in and get ready to read some interesting real-life statistics!

Every year at the Sun N Fun airshow the FAA partners with a local flight school to host the Project Preflight event. The purpose of the event is to test the preflight efficiency of pilots and student pilots of all ages, hours and experience. A flight school volunteers one of their airplanes for the event. Participants are invited to preflight the aircraft like they would before any other flight – checking the fuel, oil, tire pressure and anything with blue tape is unnecessary. The catch is, the aircraft has several intentional discrepancies, some are major squawks! This year we hosted the event and gathered the data from 144 total participants.

Here are the results...

Water Bottle Lodged Behind Rudder Pedals – Out of 144 participants only 30% found this major discrepancy.

Cotter Pin Missing In Right Wheel – Only 28% found this one!

Elevator Nut Missing – 39% found the nut to missing from the right side of the elevator.

Rag Behind The Alternator – Easy to spot but only 63% of participants found the rag!

Cotter Pin In Control Lock – Only 42% found a small cotter pin in place of the control lock, hard to miss but deadly if left in.

Interesting right?! The statistics are concerning to say the least, but what a great insight into a previously unknown sector of general aviation that can be used to educate pilots and future pilots.

So how can we improve these statistics?

Yes, of course we can say “pilots need to be more thorough in their inspections” or “we need to apply more focus and attention to detail during a preflight” but what are some other realistic strategies we can implement to actually achieve that?! Here’s one – maybe it’s extreme and definitely hypothetical but it’s worth pondering.

Again, hypothetical but let’s break it down. We need pilots to perform thorough inspections, how can you put yourself in that “attentive” frame of mind? If you’ve ever rotated the tires on your vehicle yourself, isn’t it likely that you’ll double check and triple check the tightness of the lug nuts before you call it a job done? The theory is that you’ll be taking more responsibility for the state of the aircraft rather than assuming the mechanic or previous pilot left the aircraft in an airworthy condition. This doesn’t mean you should become an aircraft mechanic or add an hour to your preflight, the goal is to find a way to improve our attention and focus when preflighting an airplane.

Project Preflight was certainly educational and we had an absolute blast hosting the event. On behalf of SunState Aviation we would like to thank all of the 144 participants for stopping by and giving us your time, without you this educational piece and the safety of future pilots would not be a reality!

By Alec Larson – May 8, 2017
Flight Training, SunState Aviation

University Life 101

As we are only 13 days away from graduation, I thought it would be fun to pass on some university life knowledge that might be helpful for our readers, or students that they know.  As I am about to finish my second degree and, hopefully, add another certification to my resume, I guess one could say I have picked up a few tips in academia.  So, here are my three tips for keeping your cool in school (pun intended).

#3: Never Underestimate the Power of Sleep

For all of you more experienced readers, I am sure you are shaking your head because I am suggesting getting more sleep and skipping class – yes and no.  While I am a morning person, and a firm believer in not wasting the day, I have also learned the hard way that not getting enough sleep or rest is physically damaging and can only be maintained for so long.

We have all heard that a solid eight hours is recommended especially the younger you are.  I have learned on several occasions that I need at least seven hours, if not eight.  However, anything less than seven is really pushing it – especially if I maintain that for several days.  It is important to figure out your threshold for sleep early on in college, because things only get busier after Freshman year.  Also, when you are scheduling your classes, flight labs, or work hours, be aware of when you do your best work.  For instance, I know that I am a morning person, so I would rather be at work at 0730 than going into an eight hour shift at 2pm.  The great thing is you have a lot of control over your schedule in college, so use that to your advantage, because after graduation you are there when the boss says, regardless of how little you slept.

#2:  Schedule Time for Fun

I learned in college that people had very definite ideas of what “fun” was and it was not the same for each person.  Do not worry if your idea of fun is a book versus your roommate’s plans to have a party in your dorm room.  If you want to spend your free time introverting, or working out, that is OK.

You will find that there will be pressure to do this and that in during your free time (in fact, that is when the fun things seem to always happen).  If you are an extrovert, go hang out with your friends – play basketball, see a movie, etc.  If you are an introvert, it is OK to sit in your room to unwind.  I am an introvert and sometimes it is difficult to explain to others that after being around people all day, I do not want to be around people.

However, do not just introvert your life away.  If you can get out for a movie, or dinner, or coffee, do that!  It is important to rest and recharge and sometimes all it takes is a few hours away from your room or apartment or house (or roommates).

#1:  Build Good Habits Now

This a fairly open-ended tip, so I will just cover a few good habits to have that will benefit you for years post-graduation. 

Learning to write well is a good habit I have carried with me since high school.  I remember my parents urging me to write about one of my experiences when volunteering with the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) and 10 years later, it is one of the most important habits I have.  It is also shocking to learn from Seniors that expecting them to write like Seniors in a Senior-level class is an “unrealistic” expectation – if you want to argue with me on this one, I can argue every way until Monday that learning to write well is one of the most important skills and habits a young adult should have.

Learning to schedule your time wisely is something you will take with you for a lifetime.  I cannot count how many times people have been surprised and astonished when they see the calendar in my binder, or my day planner.  Truth be told, I have about four different calendars, which may be overload, but it helps me remember everything.  You do not have to be that organized by any means, but just having a place to put down every activity and knowing when that activity will occur will help you make good use of your time.

Put in the effort now, so you can enjoy your free time later.  My parents always stress doing a job well and putting in the effort to produce excellence.  I cannot tell you how many students comment that “Cs get degrees” or that no employer will ever look at your Grade Point Average (GPA).  Wrong!  Your first few jobs after graduation you won’t have quite enough experience to take your GPA off your resume and it is a good indicator of how hard you worked in college.  Building the habit of putting in the effort to learn and do well translates into life after college in more ways than one.  Hard work is how people get promoted, get job offers, and get the jobs they really want.   

The End?

Now, if you are thinking that I have just handed you the comprehensive checklist to university success, think again!  Just take all I say with a grain of salt and realize what works for me will not always work for you.  However, I think these tips are generic and easily scalable to your daily lives.

My last piece of advice for this week is to develop these good habits and to find your student/work/life balance – honestly, that might take a lifetime to achieve.

Images courtesy of Google.com.

Private aircraft for sale under 5 million, what to buy?

 

What kind of private jet can I purchase for 5 million dollars?

We hear that question alot!  The quick answer, there are all kinds of private jets that can be purchased for 5 million or less.  But, there are many factors that you must consider first.  The most important decision you must make is what is your “Mission Profile”? Just like cars and trucks what are you going to do with it? You buy a truck to haul stuff, you buy a Volkswagen to save gas, you buy a van to haul kids. All three could be priced exactly the same given the year of manufacture and condition. If you don’t know your mission profile I will promise you that the 5 million will go right out the window and maybe without ever flying what you purchased.

Questions to consider (just to name a few); Are you carrying a lot of passengers or is it going to be you and your cat? Are you going to fly it or hire professional pilots. Are you flying cross country or over the Atlantic once a week or just going to a vacation spot once a year.

The second thing to consider is the cost to operate and cost to maintain. Most single aircraft (not all) corporate flight departments in general have an operating expense of one million US dollars per year (again depending on several different factors).

So with that all said here is a list that you can review:

Gulfstream IV - Priced in the 4–5 million dollar range. This aircraft can fly from Chicago to London non-stop on almost all conditions. Carries around 15 people in jetsetter style. Maintenance though is going to be well over a million plus each year.

Gulfstream IV private aircraft under 5 Million dollars

 

The new “Fly it yourself” aircraft the Cirrus Vison SF50 - holds 3.5 people comfortably and you fly it yourself. Other wise know as “Dr. Killers”. Around 3 million.

Cirrus SF50 private aircraft under 5 Million dollars

 

Another newbie on the block the Hondajet - Base price is about 4.5 million. Seats 4–5 comfortably and has a range around 1200 nm at about 420 knots.

HondaJet private aircraft under 5 Million dollars

 

If you are looking at an aircraft with less cost to operate but shorter in range and capacities then the Pilatus PC12 is a good choice.

Pilatus PC 12 private aircraft under 5 Million dollars

 

We could go on and on about what to buy for 5 million bucks. Bottom line there are several different types of aircraft to choose from. Your best bet right off the bat is to look on line at an aircraft for sale website like Globalair.com, and look at the many different type aircraft there are. Then do yourself a favor and hire a good qualified aircraft broker that can help you figure out what you mission profile is. That in itself will save you at least a million!

3 Ways to Dust Off Your Logbook

Spring is here!  It’s hard to believe I was just writing about winter weather flying and now spring has officially sprung (as of nine days ago).  For many of you, you might be tied to the weather during the winter when it comes to flying.  This could be due to the ratings you hold, the airport you hanger at, or even the equipment your aircraft is equipped with.  Whatever your reason may be, the arrival of spring means the return of better flying days!  So, today I will share a few ways to dust off your logbook.

#3: Get Current

I know, it’s probably the old standby for when we want to fly, but have no idea where to fly to.  Spring is the perfect time to sneak in an early morning flight to get day current.  So, that means that every 90 days, you need to get out there and do three take-offs and landings, full-stop, to carry passengers.  This could easily take up an hour of flying and it gets you back into the pattern at your home airport, or maybe a nearby airport.

Likewise, you should get night current while you are at it.  Although, darkness comes a lot later these days, so plan accordingly.  Another great way to get current, as an Instrument Flight Rules (IFR) rated pilot, is to get instrument current.  Every six calendar months, you will need to log at least six instrument approaches, holding procedures, including intercepting and tracking courses using a navigation system.

While you probably should not wait every 90 days to practice landings, or every six months to do instrument work, it does happen.  If it has been awhile, be sure to take up a current pilot with you as a safety pilot, or better yet: find an instructor!  Getting current is a great way to ease back into fair-weather flying.

#2: Do Your Flight Review

What once used to be called the Biennial Flight Review, now is just shortened to Flight Review (FR).  This requires a pilot holding any certificate to go through a review flight with a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) every 24 calendar months.

I would describe the FR as an abbreviated check ride.  You go through many of the same topics in a checkride, but it is much shorter.  You might remember reading about my interview with Woody Minar, a seasoned Designated Pilot Examiner.  In that interview, he gives some good tips in preparing for your upcoming FR.  If you want some additional tips from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), check out this link to their FR guide.

Lastly, did you know that safety seminars through the FAA Safety Team (FAAST) can give you credit towards an FR?  Through attending seminars in various topics around or at your home airport and a little extra flying with an instructor, you can get credit for an FR.  I’ve done this once before and made it through the Basic Level – you get to learn a lot, fly a little, and get a cool pin to wear.  Furthermore, the goal of working through all the levels is a good way to push yourself to keep up with your weekend flying (or whenever you can work it in).

#1: Fly for Fun!

I realize that all of us can’t afford to rent an aircraft all the time.  Sometimes the harsh reality of the bank account is enough to keep even the most passionate pilot from flying on a sunny spring day.  For this reason, I encourage all you pilots to find a flying buddy.

Finding a fellow pilot to fly with is great for several reasons: you have someone to talk to, you can both brush up on your skills, and (most importantly) you can split the costs!  Not only do you need to find a fellow pilot to fly with, but you need to find somewhere fun to fly to – this could be a lake place, a golf course, a friend’s private airport, a museum, and more.  The possibilities are endless and they give you a purpose for flying. 

Enroute to fun destinations is a great time to practice slow flight, stalls, Commercial maneuvers, landings at other airports, dead reckoning, instrument approaches, going under the hood, or simply building cross-country time.  You really can’t go wrong when your fun flying has a learning purpose.

Happy Flying!

Hopefully you have some ideas now on how to take advantage of the better weather and dust off your logbook.  I’m hoping to get some flying in myself in a few weeks when I get back home for Easter – by the way, did you realize that is just around the corner too???

Happy Spring Flying!

Images courtesy of Google.com

Tales from the Red River Valley

At UND Aerospace, the sense of community and family is strong among the current students and faculty, but even more so among the alumni.  My first opportunity to connect with my interviewee was through my work with the UND Air Race Classic Team when Mr. Leppke sent me a brief message relating his time in the UND Flying Club which preceded the School of Aerospace Sciences.  I have been wanting to share Mr. Leppke’s story for some time, and I was excited when he and I could exchange emails and read his tales from the Red River Valley. 

Bob Leppke, a UND alumnus, studied in John Odegard’s first aviation class.  Retired, he lives in Seattle where he enjoys his grandkids and the area’s aviation culture. 

Lydia Wiff (LW): Tell me how you ended up at UND.

Bob Leppke (BL): I grew up on a farm southwest of Carrington, North Dakota.  Prior to UND, my education included 8 years in a one room school house close to our family farm and 4 years at the Carrington High School.  In high school, I became interested in business.  Through my older brother, a UND graduate, I became familiar with the university. Because of the strong reputation of the College of Business, I decided to attend UND. 

LW: Tell me about your degree program at UND and how you got involved in the Flying Club (precursor to UND Aerospace).

BL: I selected the Business Administration BS/BA degree program in the College of Business.  I enjoyed the business curriculum especially, the courses on management.   The four years went by quickly.   Not only did I gain an education, I gained a wife two years into my college career.

In the spring of my senior year, I needed an elective to fill out the semester. I wanted something different, so I ended up enrolling in the Introduction to Aviation course.  I did not have any aviation experience but always loved airplanes. As a kid, I loved to build model airplanes and watch a neighbor fly his Piper Cub over our farm. 

It was the first time the course was offered at UND.  The class included 11 other students and was held in one of the basement rooms in the UND Law building.  I can still remember the first day.    John Odegard, our instructor gave us a summary of what he would cover and what materials we would need.  The goal of the class was to prepare students for the FAA private pilot written exam.  I did not know where it would lead, but I was thrilled with the course material and was especially impressed with John Odegard’s instruction.  I studied harder for this class than the business-related classes and it paid dividends because I ended up with an “A” and passed the FAA exam.  

Since I had to stay in Grand Forks for the summer, I talked to John about flight lessons.  I was concerned whether I would have time to complete the requirements for the PPL before I needed to leave Grand Forks for the military.  The Vietnam War was in progress and I ended up being drafted after graduation.  John laid out a schedule that convinced me I could complete the training in time.  I joined the UND Flying Club and scheduled lessons with one of the club instructors.  There is no doubt that John’s enthusiasm had rubbed off.  I could not wait to get started.  At that time the club had a Cessna 150, Piper Cherokee 180 and a Mooney.   

LW: Tell me about your flight instructors.

BL: My first flight instructor was Ann Ross Anderson. I met her at the UND Flying Club hanger and she took me on my first flight using the Flying Club’s 1967 Cessna 150 (6232S).    John Odegard’s course had already planted the desire to fly, but after the first flight, I was really hooked.  I reached around 10 hours of dual instruction when Ann told me she accepted a job with the FAA in Grand Rapids, MI and was leaving Grand Forks. During my time with Ann, I learned that she served our country during WWII as a member of the WASP’s (WWII   1942-1944 Women’s Auxiliary Service Pilots).  She was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2009.  I was ready for my first solo but Ann felt it would be best to get started with another instructor before I soloed. 

My second flight instructor was Col. Lincoln L. White.  He was serving in the US Air Force at the Grand Forks Airbase as a B-52 navigator.  He told me many stories about his love for flying and his time in the military. Because of his military background, he expected perfection in my flying, navigation and knowledge of the airplane.  I looked forward to each lesson with him.   Thankfully, he was able to stay in Grand Forks until I was ready for the PPL check ride. 

Five days before I was scheduled to begin my US Army training at FT Lewis, WA, Col. White gave me my last review and scheduled me for the PPL check ride with Elton Lee Barnum.  After an hour and half in the air, Mr. Barnum shook my hand and said I passed.  I was thrilled and could not wait to tell my wife who was waiting in the Club hanger.   I took my wife for a short flight and then called John Odegard to thank him for all the instruction and encouragement.   I could not think of a better way to cap off my time at UND.  That night we left Grand Forks. I did not know at the time that two years later I would be back. 

LW: Tell me about your experience interacting with John Odegard.

BL: During the spring semester Introduction to Aviation class, my contact with John was primarily in the classroom.  But something was different.   His passion for aviation was rubbing off.  He made learning fun and brought a high level of enthusiasm to the class.  

After I found out that I had passed the FAA written exam, I went to his office to talk to him.  He congratulated me and asked me questions about the exam.  During the discussion, he expressed a disappointment that a number of students had failed the exam.  He told me that he felt he had not included some topics in his instruction.  He did not blame the students.  It was after I completed the course that I started to have more contact with John. His help in getting me started on flight lessons was greatly appreciated.  The relationship changed from instructor to mentor.    

During my second year in the Army, I found out that I could get discharged two months early if I went back to college.  The timing was excellent because I could leave the Army with just enough time to start a fall semester.  I had been in contact with John Odegard during my time in the Army and learned that he was able to implement curriculum for a full aviation administration major within the School of Business.  After some back and forth mail and encouragement from John I decided to return to UND. 

I left Ft Lewis, Washington August 15th, my last day in the Army and returned to Grand Forks.   It was great to see the expansion of the aviation program.  John had also managed to obtain two new Cessna 150’s. I enrolled in 24 semester hours of junior and senior-level aviation courses over the 70-71 school year.  The classes included Advanced Aeronautics, Air Transportation, Airline Operations, Airport Management, Advanced Instrument, Intro to Air Traffic Control, and Aerospace Law.  I also enrolled in one Advanced Aero Lab and flew 44 hours toward a commercial license.  Classes were held in the rooms on the first floor of Gamble Hall.   John’s office was located next to the classrooms. 

It was like coming back home.   I ended up have both John Odegard and Mr. Barnum for instructors.  John taught the airport management class.   I remember two projects that I worked on, one was picking an airport and writing a paper about it.  I picked the new Houston International Airport in TX.  I also built a model of one of the terminal buildings.  The second study was on airport snow removal.   One milestone during the class was John taking us on a tour of the Winnipeg Airport in the UND DC 3.  (No Passports, customs.  Can you imagine what it would take today) It was my first and only ride in a DC3.   Mr.  Barnum taught the Advanced Instrument course.  There were new instructors teaching the other courses.   One instructor would fly to Grand Forks from North Central Airlines in Minneapolis.   He would later open the door for me to interview with North Central Airlines.

Things had changed at the airport.  UND had a small trailer used as a pilot lounge on the west side of the large Quonset hanger. The airport was now controlled by a tower.   The Cessna 150s were tied up outside the Quonset. The DC 3 was parked inside the Quonset.  They also had a maintenance shop in the Quonset and had one mechanic on staff.

As I was getting close to the end of the 1971 spring semester I started looking for a job in aviation.  John helped by creating a booklet with information about those of us that were completing the major.   He also helped arrange an interview at Republic Airline in Minneapolis.   

Through the years I have always been grateful for John’s impact on my life during those years at UND.   John’s approach to learning and pursuit of excellence was a major help during my career in software engineering and IT.   The fact that John is the only classroom instructor that I remember from my college days tells a lot. 

LW: Where did you end up after graduation and where are you at today?

BL: After adding the Aviation Administration major to my degree I left Grand Forks to look for a position in Airline management.  It was bad timing because the airline industry was in one of its deepest recessions.   I needed work so I fell back on my business major and ended up with an IT management position in Chicago.   I stayed in Chicago for 10 years and then moved to Boston where I managed a software engineering group. After 14 years in Boston I moved to Seattle to work as an IT Project Management Professional until I retired in 2010.

LW: What are some important lessons you learned at UND?

BL: One of the lessons I learned while at UND was to set goals and be persistent in pursuing the goals.  It is interesting that after all the business courses it was the aviation training that added the most valuable aspects in pursuing a successful career.  Being a pilot there is structure and discipline that you learn that is so important in life.   It also is a great confidence builder.   Every time I was faced with something difficult in my career, I would think back to my aviation days at UND.

LW: What have been some of your networking experiences with UND alumni? 

BL: In my business travels, I started to run into aviation graduates and loved to share those early days of aviation at UND with them.  I have enjoyed the Alumni get-together in Seattle where I have met a number of UND aviation graduates.  Through my 40 year career in IT and Software Engineering, I told countless people about the program.  My co-workers in Chicago, Boston, and Seattle all heard about UND Aviation.  If I ran into anyone looking for a career in aviation, I always directed them to UND.

I noticed as the years went by that more people, especially those connected to aviation, knew about the aviation program at UND.   In 2010 I got to know the CEO of Alaska Airlines.   He talked about hiring from UND.   I also have found out that some of the graduates from the air traffic control program are now working in Seattle.

LW What is your advice to UND students and recent graduates?

BL: Do not be afraid to take risks.  Try new things.   All your experiences are building blocks in your career path.  With hard work, you will find success in all that you do.

LW: What’s one thing you’ll always take away from UND?

BL: I have always been proud to have my degree from a university in my home state.  It was a solid stepping stone to start a career.  The aviation training was a plus in that it gave me confidence that I could do new things.  I accomplished more than I could have imagined than when I started college at UND.  Most of this I owe to the aviation training and my relationship with John Odegard.

I have always enjoyed the statement from Leonardo da Vinci.  I have displayed it in my offices over the past 45 years.  Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”   Leonardo da Vinci

 

 Image courtesy of Bob Leppke.

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