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 all fly at erroneous altitudes—even when accompanied with a GPS. Here’s how to determine and understand the best way to get the most precise reading.
If you have a GPS and a blind encoder in your panel, you may have three independent ways to determine your altitude. But which one is most accurate? We all grew up on baro altitude, so after a short review, we’ll plunge into the GPS world of the WGS84 datum, your height above ellipsoid (HAE) and mean sea level (MSL) altitudes.
Pilots continue to fly into restricted airspace. Are the feds losing their patience?
Once upon a time, you could pull the airplane out of the hangar, fire up the engine, point it into the wind and fly. Wherever you want, whenever you wanted. As time went on, rules and procedures began to be as much a part of a pilot’s skills as the ability to fly with a stick and rudder.
Here’s what you can do to “see and be seen” when flying into high-traffic airspace
It was over so fast, it was almost as if it hadn’t happened. And, of course, fortunately for everyone, it hadn’t. It was only a blur in my peripheral vision, so fleeting that I wasn’t really sure it was there. It may have been a Seneca or Twin Comanche, angling in from my 10 o’clock. The airplane was slightly below me, and I had one of those terrifying, stop-action glimpses of two people in the cockpit, the pilot looking down at his instruments and the right-seater staring at him.
Here’s a smart way to look before you leap onto the next flight
One of the most disturbing statistics about general-aviation accidents is that more than 75% of them are made because of pilot error. Considering that it’s unlikely that pilots are going away anytime soon, the solution comes in the form of prevention. Saying this is easy, but actually making progress toward this goal is rather problematic. The first step toward eliminating pilot error is to examine the enemy. Just what types of errors are pilots committing and why? Then, armed with this information, pilots can make a concerted effort to avoid such mistakes through a fusion of training, planning and keen attention.
Advanced training is the easiest way to become a better pilot
Is there life after the check ride? The obvious answer is a re-sounding yes, there is definitely life after the check ride. Before the check ride, you’re a student; after it, you’re a pilot and the world is open to you.
With the price of avgas at record highs, here are some thoughts on getting the most out of your budget
I was told when I bought my first single-engine airplane back in the last century that I could estimate my total hourly operating cost by multiplying fuel expense by three. In those days, I flew a Globe Swift that burned six gallons an hour. Fuel was only about 70 cents per gallon as I remember, so I figured my fuel cost at $4.20 per hour and total cost to operate the Swift at a whopping $13 per hour, an intimidating number in those days.
As reluctant as we all can be to declare an emergency, there are times when nothing else makes sense
Face 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.
Second only to landings, problems at the beginning of the flight offer a multitude of challenges
Even though a takeoff requires only 2% or 3% of a typical flight’s duration, the maneuver produces more than one-fourth of our light-plane accidents. A significant portion of these departure mishaps occur on the ground during the takeoff run—most often the result of a pilot’s loss of directional control.
Since air carriers fly night and day all over the world, they know how to prepare efficiently
A friend of mine recently asked me if I actually did a weight-and-balance calculation before every flight. When I answered yes, he seemed somewhat taken aback. “Really?!” he quizzed, somewhat perplexed.
With a simple flick of a switch or a pull of a handle, pilots become empowered to instantly change the shape (and in some cases, the size) of the wings. Imagine! Altering the aerodynamics of the wing and the flight characteristics of an airplane, all while in flight. By not understanding flaps thoroughly, pilots lose the ability to take full advantage of their capabilities, and under some circumstances, it can compromise safety.
Flying into and out of these airfields demands much more than just knowing the procedures
Operating at uncontrolled or non-towered airports is something we all do and probably do often enough that we get so used to what happens at our “home ’drome.” We figure that operating procedures around these airports shouldn’t be as strict as controlled airports. After all, who’s watching us and what are the chances that there will be another airplane in the pattern, especially in such a remote area?
There are some things you should absolutely positively know about any airplane you’re flying before you even start the engine
Safety 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.”
It’s easy for all of us to turn our back on the basics, but the few simple skills required for precision flying have a huge payoff
Feel your butt. Center the ball. Control torque, precession and P-factor. Check the nose attitude. Watch the runway numbers for movement. Get it down in the first 800 feet. Nail that airspeed. Stop holding outside aileron in the turns. Kill the drift. Put it on the mains and hold the nose off. Understand what the rudder is actually doing. Be smooth. Be precise. Be proud.”
Learning the basic maneuvers is more important than you think
You 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.
Landmark changes from the FAA have just made Flying cheaper and easier
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).
Fall always seems like the perfect time to head for the hills. But for the unprepared pilot, there are some lessons to learn.
On a warm, summer afternoon, a commercial-rated pilot and his three passengers climbed into a Cherokee for a pleasure flight over the picturesque landscape of northern Arizona. After he topped the tanks, the out-of-state pilot’s preflight was limited to the traditional walk-around inspection.
Flying into backcountry strips makes you a better pilot and can be a welcome relief to your flying routine
Have 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.
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.
The 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.