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.
We 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.
Customizing your training will make you a safer, smoother and more efficient pilot
Like 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).
It’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?
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.
Beyond mountains, airspace restrictions & tall buildings can also define tight spots
The 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.
Picture 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…
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.
Her husband’s love for aviation and camping inspired Carlana to learn to fly
Carlana 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.
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.
In 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.
He’s the world’s youngest air show pilot and much, much more
Jamail 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.’”
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.
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.
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.
The “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.
There’s a right way and a wrong way to bring your airplane down
Descents 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.