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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.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Deciphering Accident Statistics


Digging beyond the numbers for the complete story



Deciphering Accident StatisticsThe aviation industry sure loves its statistics—there's an X% chance of this, and one aircraft is Y times safer than Z.
Friday, June 1, 2007

Flight Level Fliers


How to stay safe at high altitudes



Flight Level FliersWe live in the best of times and the worst of times. Imagine flying with glass panels that allow you to visualize terrain, position, weather and traffic all at the same time. Fly coast-to-coast with only a nod to weather. Anytime, anywhere, faster than ever before.

 

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Designing Your Flight Review


Customizing your training will make you a safer, smoother and more efficient pilot



flight reviewLike many newly minted instructor pilots, my first “dual given” was a flight review. I didn’t know how to put together a review. At the time, the regulations gave almost no guidance and didn’t require a minimum amount of time on the ground or in the air (this has since changed).
Sunday, April 1, 2007

When To Abort


Continuing a flight with a known problem may be possible, but is it wise?



I was just over three hours out of Santa Barbara on my way to Honolulu in a Piper Chieftain when the HF radio suddenly went quiet. “Hmm, not good,” I thought, “but not a world-shaking emergency.” The HF was my old reliable Kenwood TS-50S ham rig, temporarily “mounted” on the right front seat. For 12 years, it had served me well on the oceans with never a hiccup. Now, it was dead.
Sunday, April 1, 2007

Getting That Sport-Pilot Ticket


Sport-pilot certificates are an invitation to fly



Getting That Sport-Pilot TicketIt’s been official since September 1, 2004, and it’s working: the sport-pilot rule is a reality; light-sport aircraft (LSA) and flight training are available; and maintenance facilities are catching on. So, how does one get that sport-pilot certificate? What does it take, and how much does it cost?

 

Monday, January 1, 2007

Box Canyon Hazards


Beyond mountains, airspace restrictions & tall buildings can also define tight spots



Box Canyon HazardsThe visibility isn’t the best going up the mountain pass. On the far side lies better weather and home. Behind are a tent, camp, cold and wet weather, and insufficient gas to go elsewhere. The pilot continues deeper into the pass, hoping conditions will improve. The ceiling is steady, but the terrain is rising. They’re headed south, and winds are westerly at 20 knots, with gusts. The pilot hugs the right side of the pass for traffic.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Make New Year’s Resolutions Count


All of us should be able to handle one self-promise per month



Make New Years Resolutions CountThe human race has an insatiable need for self-delusion, so every year we make promises to ourselves. Even though they’re made in earnest on December 31st, they usually prove very hard to keep as the year progresses. Hey, when it’s July and you’re gorging yourself at a picnic, it’s hard to remember that six months earlier you pledged to lose weight. Twelve months is a long time.

 

 

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Go/No-Go Decision


Putting the pieces together



The Go/No Go DecisionIt’s probably the toughest decision a pilot must make, and it’s often tainted by factors that shouldn’t even be considered. To paraphrase the Bard, “Go or no go, that is the question.”

 

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Littlest Emergency


What To Do If Your Door Pops Open



The Littlest EmergencyPicture this: You’re cruising straight and level at 8,500 feet in your A36 Bonanza. You’re luxuriating in smooth air and sunshine, and there’s perfect weather at your point of departure, destination and all points in between. The engine is running perfectly, everything is working well, your passengers are happy and then…

 

 

Sunday, October 1, 2006

10 Tips For Happier Passengers


Putting the backseaters at ease



10 Tips For Happier Passengers At any airport social gathering, you can expect to come across a group of grinning avgas burners in one room, enthusiastically telling tall hangar tales, their hands weaving imaginary flight paths through the air over their heads. They’re comparing fancy “must-have” equipment, optimistic “true” airspeeds and brilliantly heroic escapes.

 

Friday, September 1, 2006

Romancing the Stone


Her husband’s love for aviation and camping inspired Carlana to learn to fly



Romancing The StoneCarlana Stone and her husband John Lawson love nothing better than going camping with their 1977 Maule M5-235, fondly nicknamed Molly. Lifting off from Whiteman Airport in the busy Los Angeles area, they fly to campgrounds ranging from remote bush strips, such as Idaho’s Johnson Creek, to local romantic getaways in the vineyard country of Santa Ynez. Typical camping activities ensue: pitching a tent under Molly’s wing, exploring the area and swapping flying stories around the campfire.

Friday, September 1, 2006

Is 35 Hours Enough


If you don’t fly much, make each hour pay for itself



The world’s flying community looks at the 35-hour yearly average for U.S. pilots and shakes its collective head. They bemoan what they perceive as a general lack of proficiency and place blame on the pilots, as though they’re doing it on purpose.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

ADS-B: The FAA’s Bold New Bid To Change The Way We Fly


What’s this new technology we’re hearing so much about?



Aircraft owners usually cast a wary eye when the FAA introduces a new technology. With each announcement, owners are concerned about paying a price to retain their rights to use the country’s airspace, and there’s usually a mass grumbling that begins with “What’s in it for me?”

Saturday, July 1, 2006

Soloing At 14 Years Old


He’s the world’s youngest air show pilot and much, much more



Soloing At 14 Years OldJamail Larkins took his first airplane ride when he was twelve. As he recounts, “I remember going out to the airport. It was a partly cloudy day in the middle of summer. Mr. Fox pulled out his 1956 Cessna 172 and I watched him preflight. Then we hopped in and I helped him go through the checklist. I remember thinking, ‘I really can’t believe that I’m in the middle of an airplane right now.’”
Saturday, July 1, 2006

Bernoulli Or Newton: Who's Right About Lift?


Misconceptions abound about one of the most important forces in flying



Just about every pilot would agree that studying certain aspects of flight can be a time-consuming mental workout. Any attempt to master complex aviation subjects can be frustrating, if not impossible, when pilots are given conflicting or incorrect data. One topic in particular, how lift is generated, tends to muster a tremendous amount of heartache among aviators and aerodynamicists alike. In fact, if you look at five different aviation references, you’re likely to find five different explanations about how lift comes to be. Even worse, some sources advocate a specific theory, while rejecting the premises favored in others.
Saturday, July 1, 2006

The Traveling Polosons


Explorers of the Yukon for three decades



The Travelling PolosonsIn 1978, Bert and Grace Poloson, both licensed pilots, flew a wheeled Cessna 182 from their Montana home into northern Canada. From the air, they surveyed the expansive scenery and the myriad remote lakes, and they pondered what it would be like if they brought a floatplane on their next trip.

 

Monday, May 1, 2006

Getting To Know AOA


This is an angle you should know more about



It’s a pristine, fair-weather day, so you can’t resist the urge to hit the sky for some pattern work. After a few rounds, your circuits begin to get a bit messy, which you attribute to a slowly escalating wind. It’s time to call it quits. On base to final, the darned wind is blowing even harder than before, causing you to overshoot. You crank over toward the runway and pull back. But to your surprise, the plane quickly rolls more than you expected and now you’re looking at the runway, but it’s upside-down. You’ve just become a stall/spin statistic.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Avoiding CFIT


Despite constant warnings, controlled flight into terrain continues to vex general aviation pilots



It seems as though every time you read a paper, there’s something about a pilot crashing a perfectly good airplane into the ground. These sad events are typically referred to as controlled flight into terrain or CFIT. Most of these CFIT catastrophes result from a pilot’s breakdown in situational awareness (SA) instead of one of the more arresting emergencies, such as an engine failure or a fire. In other words, these accidents are, for the most part, entirely preventable by the pilot.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Spins


The realities and the rumors



SpinsThe “Shall we or shall we not teach spins?” debate has been raging since spins were removed from the private-pilot curriculum decades ago by the FAA, who preferred instead to concentrate on stall recognition and prevention. Under today’s FARs, only flight instructor candidates are required to do spins. Even then, it’s usually not in-depth training because all the candidate needs is a logbook entry saying that he or she has seen spins. We won’t get into that debate except to say that as an industry, we must be doing something wrong because stall/spin accidents are still killing people.

 

 

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

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.”

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.