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Sport-Pilot Training

Our pilot training articles are designed to help you improve your flying proficiency. Bone up on beneficial skills as well as the biggest mistakes to avoid as a pilot. Fly right with articles on topics such as dealing with ice and the most dangerous things you can do as a pilot.

Wednesday, February 1, 2006

Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum


You won’t believe what these kids are doing



Tomorrow's Aeronautical MuseumEvery day—yes, even Christmas—between 50 and 150 kids show up at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM), an incredibly unique nonprofit flight school in Compton, Calif. First they must finish their homework (there are even tutors there to help), and then they can take advantage of a variety of opportunities to earn money. The jobs might include graffiti mitigation, picking up trash from a local community park or even washing the occasional Cessna on the school’s flight line. But the money they earn is not available to the kids as hard cash. Instead they receive credit for flight lessons at the TAM flight school. The result is that an amazing number of kids from a tough inner-city Los Angeles neighborhood are learning to fly.
Wednesday, February 1, 2006

The Lowdown On Descents


There’s a right way and a wrong way to bring your airplane down



The Lowdown On DescentsDescents are too often regarded as throwaway maneuvers. Pilots place great emphasis on proper techniques for takeoff, approach, landing and cruise, but few are educated in the best techniques for descent. If you’re one of those pilots who loves to fly low and slow—or even low and fast—descent planning may not be much of a concern. Most of the time, Cub and Champ drivers need hardly worry about descents from 1,500 to 2,500 feet AGL.

 

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Balancing Act


Understanding the center of gravity



Balancing ActSometime back in the dark ages, I was getting ready to take my instrument instructor check ride, and the examiner, who was an actual FAA type from the FAA headquarters, asked me if I had done a weight-and-balance for the flight. Two thoughts flashed through my mind, the first being the obvious question: What has a weight-and-balance calculation got to do with an instrument check ride? The second was a little panicky thinking while I tried to remember how to do the calculations.

Sunday, January 1, 2006

Top 10 Rules Of Thumb


Piloting an aircraft requires decision and precision. Quick references to the basics can make both easier.



Top 10 Rules Of ThumbPilots are expected to know lots of stuff. So it should come as no surprise that they like all the help they can get when memorizing, analyzing and calculating aviation concepts. This is one reason why there’s so many mnemonics and abbreviations associated with flying. Pilots are also aided with staying on top of things by the various rules of thumb. According to Wikipedia.com, a rule of thumb is “an easily learned and easily applied procedure for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.”

Thursday, December 1, 2005

World's Stupidest Pilot Errors


So many mistakes are just asking to be corrected



World's Stupidest Pilot ErrorsIf you’ve ever been to a farm, you know that when one cow makes up his mind to blaze a trail to the feed trough, the other cows always follow. It doesn’t matter if there are obstacles along the route or the farmer hasn’t put corn into the hopper—cows blindly follow. They don’t use judgment, ask questions or learn from their mistakes. I call this the Moo syndrome. Pilots may be eons apart on the Darwinian scale, from cows, but they, too, follow each other, disregarding the mistakes made by their predecessors. The outcome could very well be disastrous, but they still blindly follow.
Thursday, December 1, 2005

Switching To Glass


Take the plunge! Here are some remarkable tips for transitioning to the new cockpits.



Switching To Glass It has finally happened. While waiting for you to land one day, your significant other saw the advertisement for the new glass-cockpit rental airplane, looked it over and now wants a flight in it. “It’s so much cleaner than those old airplanes you always fly.” Those words stung. “Why can’t we fly the new one?” That didn’t sting. After some serious negotiating on the flying budget—the new airplane wasn’t your idea—you’re off to your first glass-cockpit transition lesson. Ensuring your significant other was at the airport on the day of the flight school’s glass-cockpit open house was a grand idea. Reading this article before the first lesson is another. These FAQs will make your first glass-cockpit flight go much more smoothly.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

Aircraft And Engine Preheat Is A Big Deal


Pilots need to stay warm during the winter months. Your airplane deserves the same consideration.



Aircraft Engine Preheat Is A Big DealYour engine needs preheat. Starting a cold engine can give it the equivalent of 500 hours of cruise wear and tear, according to engine authorities. Assuming no other potentially catastrophic damage occurs, this single event easily could raise the hamburger price to a healthy four-digit value.

Tuesday, November 1, 2005

How High Are We Now?


We all fly at erroneous altitudes—even when accompanied with a GPS. Here’s how to determine and understand the best way to get the most precise reading.



How High Are We NowIf you have a GPS and a blind encoder in your panel, you may have three independent ways to determine your altitude. But which one is most accurate? We all grew up on baro altitude, so after a short review, we’ll plunge into the GPS world of the WGS84 datum, your height above ellipsoid (HAE) and mean sea level (MSL) altitudes.

Saturday, October 1, 2005

Busting TFRs


Pilots continue to fly into restricted airspace. Are the feds losing their patience?



Busting TFRsOnce upon a time, you could pull the airplane out of the hangar, fire up the engine, point it into the wind and fly. Wherever you want, whenever you wanted. As time went on, rules and procedures began to be as much a part of a pilot’s skills as the ability to fly with a stick and rudder.
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Thunderstorms: Managing The Risk


Day or night, how do you fly responsibly?



Thunderstorms: Managing The RiskIt was June 1977, and I had climbed out of Reading, Pa., in a new Rockwell Commander 114, heading for Bethany, Okla. The weather was characteristic June gloom, hot, hazy and humid, typically unstable for summer in the Northeast.
Thursday, September 1, 2005

Flying With Floats


There are a whole lot more places to land when your airplane can get wet



Flying With FloatsYou ready for your check ride?” asks Tom Brady of Traverse Air nonchalantly. What the heck is he talking about? That was only my second flight! My mind raced with the implications of a check ride and the possibility of failure. I think I’m getting the skills of flying a floatplane on and off the water, but how can I be proficient enough to take a check ride already?
Monday, August 1, 2005

Avoiding Midair Collisions


Here’s what you can do to “see and be seen” when flying into high-traffic airspace



Avoiding Midair CollisionsIt was over so fast, it was almost as if it hadn’t happened. And, of course, fortunately for everyone, it hadn’t. It was only a blur in my peripheral vision, so fleeting that I wasn’t really sure it was there. It may have been a Seneca or Twin Comanche, angling in from my 10 o’clock. The airplane was slightly below me, and I had one of those terrifying, stop-action glimpses of two people in the cockpit, the pilot looking down at his instruments and the right-seater staring at him.
Monday, August 1, 2005

Top 10 Pilot Errors


Here’s a smart way to look before you leap onto the next flight



Top 10 Pilot ErrorsOne of the most disturbing statistics about general-aviation accidents is that more than 75% of them are made because of pilot error. Considering that it’s unlikely that pilots are going away anytime soon, the solution comes in the form of prevention. Saying this is easy, but actually making progress toward this goal is rather problematic. The first step toward eliminating pilot error is to examine the enemy. Just what types of errors are pilots committing and why? Then, armed with this information, pilots can make a concerted effort to avoid such mistakes through a fusion of training, planning and keen attention.
Friday, July 1, 2005

Moving On Up


Advanced training is the easiest way to become a better pilot



Moving On UpIs there life after the check ride? The obvious answer is a re-sounding yes, there is definitely life after the check ride. Before the check ride, you’re a student; after it, you’re a pilot and the world is open to you.
Friday, July 1, 2005

Saving Money On Fuel


With the price of avgas at record highs, here are some thoughts on getting the most out of your budget



Saving Money On FuelI was told when I bought my first single-engine airplane back in the last century that I could estimate my total hourly operating cost by multiplying fuel expense by three. In those days, I flew a Globe Swift that burned six gallons an hour. Fuel was only about 70 cents per gallon as I remember, so I figured my fuel cost at $4.20 per hour and total cost to operate the Swift at a whopping $13 per hour, an intimidating number in those days.
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Control The Crosswind!


It can be vexing to any pilot, but is there a right and wrong way to take on the wind?



Control The Crosswind!There are several ways to start an argument. They range from the old favorites, politics and religion, to the blonde/redhead/brunette thing. Or you can simply state that there’s only one right way to land an airplane in a crosswind and that’s the way you do it. Stand back, folks, brutal words to follow.
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

12 Tips To Beat The Heat


Here are a dozen effective suggestions for safer summertime flying



12 Tips To Beat The HeatMost new-production and many high-performance aircraft have fuel-injected engines. There are some advantages of fuel injection over carburetion, but one drawback is that injected engines can be difficult to start when hot. Fuel vaporizing in fuel pumps and lines needs to be purged before the engine can fire. Here’s where a good read through the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) is worthwhile—it should contain a hot-start procedure that takes into account the airplane’s design and make of its fuel-injection system. What is good hot-starting practice in some types can be downright damaging in others.
Wednesday, June 1, 2005

The Stigma Of Mayday


As reluctant as we all can be to declare an emergency, there are times when nothing else makes sense



The Stigma Of MaydayFace it, no one likes to admit mistakes. Probably because of the Superman syndrome, pilots are especially reluctant to acknowledge errors to authority figures. Aviators are even more reticent to confess to dangerous mistakes if they have passengers on board.