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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.

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.
Tuesday, March 1, 2005

The FAA’s Capstone Project


Phase II brings this remarkable high-tech situational awareness a step closer to the Lower 48 states



capstoneGeneral aviation in Alaska is different. Changeable weather and difficult terrain create an environment where you’d expect most flying to be done on instruments, but an antiquated route structure and limited navaids make this impossible in many places. Yet many towns and villages depend on aircraft to a degree that’s almost unknown in the rest of the country.
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

Why Every Pilot Should Take Acro


Learning the basic maneuvers is more important than you think



Why Every Pilot Should Take AcroYou may wonder about the benefits of aerobatics to general-aviation pilots, especially when most pilots’ main mission primarily consists of pleasure flights to try another $100 hamburger. After all, why bother with inverted loops when you can merely enjoy the view and have a pleasant flight? The answer is simple: Anyone who practices aerobatics becomes a better, safer pilot, and the skills you learn from a professional aerobatics instructor not only can be applied to your general-aviation flights, but also to saving your life one day.
Tuesday, February 1, 2005

The 10 Commandments Of Aviation Safety


There are some things you should absolutely positively know about any airplane you’re flying before you even start the engine



The 10 Commandments Of Aviation SafetySafety has always been a tough sell. Ask Bruce Landsburg of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation. Landsburg has been in the safety business for 25 years, having worked for FlightSafety in Wichita, Kan., before moving to AOPA. “The sad thing is,” says Landsburg, “much of the time, safety consciousness is a direct result of an accident post-mortem.”
Friday, October 1, 2004

The New Sport-Pilot License Is Here!


Landmark changes from the FAA have just made Flying cheaper and easier



The New Sport-Pilot License Is Here!It took more than 2 ½ years to review the more than 4,700 comments on the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) 2002 proposal to simplify pilot training and make the sport more affordable and accessible. After a tremendous amount of debate, research and consideration (and a certain amount of suspense), the FAA made its announcement on September 1, 2004: The new sport-pilot license became official, and with it came an entirely new category of planes, the light-sport aircraft (LSA).
Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Mastering The Panel-Mounted GPS Part 2


Last month, we explored the commonality of the Bendix/King KLN94 and Garmin’s CNX80, and 430 or 530 for VFR operations. This month, we’ll discuss how to use these units during instrument procedures.



Mastering The Panel-Mounted GPS Part 2The Honeywell Bendix/King KLN94 and Garmin’s CNX80 and GNS 430 or 530 are representative of IFR-approved GPS units, and their commonality extends to IFR operations, in which flight plans are modified in very interesting ways as IFR procedures are added. So, we’ll explore the addition of IFR procedures, which can complicate a simple VFR flight plan.
Wednesday, September 1, 2004

Taking On Extreme Runways


Flying into backcountry strips makes you a better pilot and can be a welcome relief to your flying routine



Taking On Extreme RunwaysHave you ever wanted more from lightplane recreational flying than driving from point A to point B for the $200 hamburger? (Well, there’s aerobatics, but that’s another story.) So, instead of thinking of flying from A to Burger, how about A to Backcountry? Before you dismiss this with a “Hey, my airship is a 172, not a Super Cub,” read on.
Sunday, August 1, 2004

The Last Spin


Why do experienced and inexperienced pilots alike fall victim to this all-too-common traffic-pattern accident?



The Last SpinThis is how it happens. The pilot turns base to final and notices a following wind is causing him to overshoot the centerline. He adds a little left uncoordinated rudder in an attempt to bring the nose of the aircraft back toward the runway. The aircraft rolls a bit to the left and he compensates by adding some right aileron to hold the 30-degree bank angle.
Tuesday, June 1, 2004

The 10 Dumbest Things Pilots Do


Although pilots continue to try to find new ways to screw up, there’s an amazing similarity to accident scenarios from today and from 75 years ago. Here’s a list of the most common stupid pilot tricks.



The 10 Dumbest Things Pilots DoAsk any pilot about the danger zones of pilot experience and most will give you a blank stare. Ask Bruce Landsburg of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation or veteran instructor/aviation journalist Rod Machado and you’ll receive intelligent, informed answers.
Thursday, April 1, 2004

The Ultimate Preflight


The assumption that the airplane has always worked in the past is no excuse for a hasty inspection



preflightThe operative word there is “almost.” “Almost zero” isn’t zero. Although we’ll never get an airplane to be 100% in terms of condition, wouldn’t it be silly to get hurt just because we didn’t bother to spend an extra five minutes and missed a loose nut or a crack that was right there, ready to be discovered?
Thursday, April 1, 2004

Got Insurance? Are You Sure?


You may be as surprised as we were to discover that as many as half of America’s active pilots unknowingly fly without it



insuranceA pilot rents an airplane from a fixed base operator. After an hour of flightseeing, he returns to his home airport and is cleared to land behind an arriving biz jet. The pilot gets into a small bit of leftover wake turbulence, the rental aircraft wobbles just before touchdown and a wingtip catches the runway. Head in hand, the pilot taxis the aircraft back to the FBO. A mechanic looks at the damage and estimates $15,000 to $20,000, and almost at the same moment, the pilot learns the FBO’s aircraft insurance deductible is $10,000. Any guesses who gets to pay the 10 grand?
Thursday, April 1, 2004

10 Fast Fixes For Lousy Landings


Pilots put their passion and their pride on the line with every landing. Here’s some advice from the pros.



10-fixesPeople place too much emphasis on landings. Non-pilots often base their entire evaluation of a pilot’s ability on nothing more than the smoothness of the touchdown at the conclusion of the flight. Never mind that the pilot in command may have made a clumsy takeoff, forgotten to retract the flaps during climb, leveled at the wrong altitude, left the cowl flaps open at cruise, descended without richening the mixture or almost landed at the wrong airport—a smooth return to Earth usually forgives all sins.
Monday, March 1, 2004

The NASA Report: Looking For Absolution


Should you make a mistake, filling out some simple paperwork might just save your bacon



handBefore you ask, yes, I’ve filled out my share. Like most reasonably conscientious pilots who try to play by the rules, I don’t go around deliberately violating FARs, but on those rare occasions when I think I might have clipped a corner of a Class B, busted an IFR altitude or come closer than I like to another airplane (no matter who was at fault), I whip out a NASA report and send it in.
Sunday, February 1, 2004

Faces Behind The Microphone


Twenty-six tips to help you get more from air traffic control



atcPilots and air traffic controllers share a unique relationship, a mutual trust and understanding that supports the modern system of flight. Virtually every time a pilot climbs into the cockpit of an airplane, he or she engages in some sort of verbal exchange with the ATC environment.
Sunday, July 1, 2001

Upset Recovery Training


More and more pilots are beginning to understand that anyone can find themselves in unusual attitudes



Upset Recovery TrainingI hate roller coasters. Little tykes who are barely out of their diapers scamper away from the Superman Ride giggling and laughing. I, on the other hand, stumble away with nausea, posttraumatic stress and a desire to sue the park for mayhem, reckless endangerment and domestic terrorism. So what am I, a nonaerobatic pilot, doing here at 7,000 feet—with my eyes closed, mind you—falling inverted out of a tailslide in an airplane I’ve never flown before?