Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Beyond The Checkride

Advanced training means new skills, reduced insurance premiums and renewed passion

G1000 Training
Garmin's G1000 "glass" panel has become the standard in the industry. For those of us who cut their teeth on steam gauges, the idea of the G1000 is daunting. With hundreds of button/knob/soft key combinations and more capability than the average pilot will ever use, Garmin's do-it-all display is the future of aviation. It's not if you'll ever fly the G1000, it's when. Any pilot wishing to advance in aviation needs to be comfortable with glass cockpits, and the G1000 has become the gold standard.

Sporty's (of Pilot Shop fame) has come to the rescue once again with their excellent "Garmin 1000 Checkout" course that's worth every penny (priced under $100). The course even comes with the much-reviewed PC-based G1000 simulator. I used it during glass transition training, and the course saved me at least five hours in the cockpit. I pop it up on the computer whenever I want to try something complex, saving me a lot of stress and knob-turning in the "clag."

King Schools also offers an excellent G1000 video course. Both are ideally suited to go along with instruction in the aircraft. The transition from steam gauges to glass cockpits can be intimidating, but with proper training, it can open up a whole new world of advanced avionics.

Drag Your Tail
Flying a taildragger is easy. Landing one well isn't. Taildraggers (or "conventional gear" aircraft as they're properly called) have a center of gravity that makes the tail want to swing around, so it points forward instead of the nose. It's what gives these airplanes "character."

Getting a tailwheel endorsement should be a no-brainer. First, it satisfies the biennial flight review (BFR) requirement. Second, it's more rewarding than bowling a 300, and you don't need those silly shoes. When grizzled geezers say that earning your tailwheel endorsement will make you a better pilot, they aren't kidding. Learning to land and fly a taildragger forces you to learn all about rudder control—and use it. It makes you cognizant of coordination, of wind, of runway centerlines and of the importance of a good approach. Like learning to drive a stick-shift automobile, learning to fly a taildragger opens the world up to you, because if you can fly one, you can fly anything.

Expect to pay for 10 to 20 hours of dual instruction, depending on the model of aircraft you train in. For example, a Decathlon or Citabria is known to be easier to land than, say, a Luscombe. The tradeoff is that older tailwheel aircraft are dirt cheap to rent (comparatively), and can be had anywhere from $60-$120/hour. Make no mistake, once you've earned the endorsement, it truly is a "license to learn," because mastering the sometimes-twitchy little birds is a lot different than just being competent to solo one. But greasing on a taildragger in a decent wind and keeping it on the centerline is one of life's more sublime pleasures.


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