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Pilot Skills

Hone your pilot skills with the articles and advice below. Our sport-pilot articles cover topics of interest to novice and advanced general aviation pilots. Trust our ongoing training articles to improve your piloting skills.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Uphill/Downhill Landings


Making sense of tricky landings



Uphill/Downhill LandingsWhat are the best conditions for landing uphill/downwind or downhill/upwind? It may seem dangerous to land into the wind but downslope on a snowy runway; yet landing upslope with a tailwind seems equally precarious.
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

From Tailwheel To Turbine


Total transition training, the Gauntlet way



From Tailwheel To TurbineBill Stewart, until recently a lapsed pilot, sounds like something between a fighter jock and a kid in a candy store as he recounts his latest aerial exploits on the ramp at Chicago’s Aurora Municipal Airport (ARR).
Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Be A Great Pilot!


Top tips for all aspects of flight



Be A Great Pilot!The sheer enormity of the subject is a little intimidating. You probably could name several thousand characteristics of a “good pilot.”
Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Staying Centered


If you’re a pilot, there’s more to staying centered than transcendental meditation



Staying Centered It was 1984, and I was ferrying one of the last of the Cessna 207s to South America. It was a midsummer afternoon in South Texas, and the mushroom cumuli were climbing high into the stratosphere all along the border and south toward the Gulf of Mexico.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Flying The Corridors


VFR flight corridors serve a useful purpose in congested and some not-so-congested airspace



Flying The CorridorsV­FR corridors have served an important function in U.S. airspace since the creation of the old TCAs (Terminal Control Areas) and TRSAs (Terminal Radar Service Areas), now less telegraphically renamed Class B and Class C airspace, respectively.
Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Formation Flying! Part II


The cognitive challenges of flying lead



Formation Flying! Part IIFormation flying is a dangerous and, for me, compellingly beautiful and engaging experience.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

You Spin Me Round!


Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety takes the unusual out of unusual attitudes



You Spin Me Round!When I was a student pilot and my instructor would send me on solo flights to practice maneuvers, stalls were always last on my list.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lowest To Highest


From below sea level to a Colorado high in a light jet



Lowest To HighestI spent over a year making the transition from piloting a TBM 700 turboprop to becoming a jet pilot; a process that has taken me through an ATP rating, two type ratings, a lot of simulator time, a jet trip to Paris, a bit of mentoring, one or two scary moments, some frustration and piles of cash
Tuesday, July 7, 2009

10 Signs Of A Great Pilot


Observations from around the patch



10 Signs Of A Great PilotAll of us have spent considerable time observing our fellow aviators’ takeoffs, landings, radio communications, preflight inspections and general behavior at (and away from) the airport.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Formation Flying


The risks and rewards of flying wing



I’ve seen few things in my lifetime as beautiful as looking down on other planes in flight while on the top of a wingover. Multiple airplanes acting as one require a significant amount of discipline, dedication and practice. Even after more than 3,000 hours of flying within 20 feet of other airplanes, I know that this is an extremely risky activity that should never be attempted without considerable ground and flight training.
Thursday, June 11, 2009

WAAS


GPS Approaches for Every Airport?



waasThe benefits of transitioning from pilotage to dead reckoning, four course ranges, ADF, VORs, Loran and then to GPS have been nothing short of spectacular.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A New License To Learn


Advanced training leads to more than just proficiency; it can also save lives



new licenseA few weeks ago, my friend Ray recounted a scary experience he’d had in his high-performance single while on a trip with his wife and daughter in IMC and at night.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009

First 500 Feet, Part I: Engine Failure!


What to do when the worst thing happens at the worst moment



500 ftEngine failure on takeoff is every pilot’s worst nightmare, but there’s one basic rule that applies to all in-flight emergencies, regardless of the situation: Keep your cool (easier said than done) and fly the airplane. Having said that, the most important aspects of survival can be summed up in two words: mental preparation and training/practice. Okay, that’s four words, but you get the point.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Last 50 ft.


Making it all come together



the last 50 ftWhen you’re on short final and descending through 50 feet, it really doesn’t make much difference how good you are at centering airways, whether you can spout FARs or if you scored 100% on the written: The only thing that counts is how well you actually fly. Everything else is superfluous because every single thing you know about actually flying the airplane is compressed into a 10-second time span and an ever-decreasing sliver of altitude. This is literally where the rubber meets the road and where every one of your moves has measurable consequences.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cell Phone To The Rescue


In the air or on the ground, it could save your life



cell phoneI was doing my first solo out to the practice area north of the airport. I was doing some ground reference maneuvers and noticed that the GPS and NAV lights were on. I thought that was strange, then noticed the annunciator flash, “low fuel.” I knew the fuel tanks were full because I checked them during preflight.
Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Controlling Control Pressure


On becoming one of the “smooth ones”



controllingWe’ve all seen super-pilots, such as Patty Wagstaff and Sean Tucker, who seem so in control of their airplanes that they’re never where they’re not supposed to be. Their airplanes flow from one position to another in a seamless rendition of flight that we know, for a fact, we can’t come close to duplicating. Or can we?
Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Going The Distance


Tips for planning a long cross-country



going the distanceAs pilots, we’re used to flight planning. Flights are usually straightforward and easy to plan, but occasionally, they involve multiple legs and traversing congested or complicated airspace. Longer flights require more-than-normal flight planning. I recently completed a 1,600-mile flight in my Garmin G1000–equipped Columbia across seven western and midwestern states and three time zones. It was apparent to me that, to do it right, longer flights entail more than just sitting longer en route and making additional fuel stops, particularly when the flight is more than 1,000 miles.
Saturday, November 1, 2008

Flight Planning In The Real World


Realistic flight-planning requires far more than simply measuring the distance, figuring the book speed and fuel burn and then launching



flight planning My first airplane, a 1947 Globe Swift, purchased in 1966 for $3,700 when I had a whopping 80 hours in my logbook, was a cute little devil. It offered quick handling and was a ball to fling around the sky, but it obviously hadn’t read its own press releases. The stock Globe GC-1B came up short in virtually every performance parameter—it wasn’t nearly as fast as advertised, didn’t climb as it was supposed to, burned more fuel than the POH suggested and couldn’t carry nearly as much weight as it “should” have. I learned the airplane’s true nature by trial and error, probably not the best method in any aeronautical pursuit.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

True Confessions


NASA reports are good for your certificate, as well as the air safety system



If aviation in the United States was a religion, its confessional would be the Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS). Pilots, air traffic controllers and other people involved in aviation are encouraged to send reports to ASRS when they’re involved in, or observe, a situation in which aviation safety might have been compromised. These reports are often called NASA reports because they’re submitted to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Telling The Truth On Your Medical


What You Need To Know



telling the truthA few days ago, I received a call from a pilot who was being seen by a physician in the emergency room. Did he want a second opinion? No, he wanted to know if the condition affected his medical certificate!
Monday, September 1, 2008

Crosswind Survival


Does your adrenaline level skyrocket on gusty days?



We can all admit that, at some point, we’ve scared ourselves in a crosswind. Sure enough, most flying accidents occur during landing, and most of those are in crosswinds. Almost all crosswind-related accidents happen due to loss of control after touchdown; only a tiny portion involve a crash on approach or on a go-around. To stay safe, we should examine the true risks we face when landing in a crosswind, and the big risks come after touching down.
Thursday, June 19, 2008

Making ADS-B Work


The technology looks promising, but there are still unanswered questions about its implementation



ADSWhen it comes to owners being told they must install expensive new equipment in their planes, it’s always better to offer them more carrot and less stick as an incentive. For now, the FAA’s proposed mandate on Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is looking like too much stick and too little carrot.