Our pilot training articles are designed to help you improve your flying proficiency. Bone up on beneficial skills as well as the biggest mistakes to avoid as a pilot. Fly right with articles on topics such as dealing with ice and the most dangerous things you can do as a pilot.
XM Weather provides real-time information in the cockpit for pilots who are serious about their weather decisions
Ask most pilots what subject in aviation they wish they knew more about, and a majority will answer, “weather.” Indeed, while forecasters do occasionally still get it wrong, and even the best meteorologists acknowledge that we still have much to learn, the science of weather prognostication improves each year.
When 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.
In the air or on the ground, it could save your life
I 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.
We’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?
What’s up with the light-sport ticket, and what/where/when can I fly with it?
Behold the rapidly beating heart of light-sport aviation: A YouTube video chronicles a pilot’s dead-stick takeoff. Not landing…takeoff. He points his engine-off LSA down a 35-degree mountain slope, rolls into a hang glider–style launch and lands—still dead stick—on a sandbar 1,500 feet below and two miles away.
As 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.
Flying an airplane is an unmatched experience, and you can do some amazing things once you earn your certificate
Ah, if only you knew how to fly! You could escape the shackles of your humdrum life and soar above its stresses. You could wake up in Nebraska, eat a cheeseburger for lunch in Colorado and settle in for the night on a crystal lake in Idaho. You could fly biplanes or jets or spiffy little yellow Cubs with smiling bears painted on their tails. But how much will it cost, how long will it take and how safe is it? What can you do with a pilot’s license?
Realistic flight-planning requires far more than simply measuring the distance, figuring the book speed and fuel burn and then launching
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.
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.
It had been a long day. It was January 2003, and I’d departed Reykjavik, Iceland, in a 58 Baron; destination Iqaluit, Nunavit, Canada, with stops in Greenland, where it was clear and cold—in this case, minus-20 degrees C. I’d landed on the gravel runway at Kulusuk in the dark of noon, refueled as quickly as possible to avoid having the engines cool down, and leaped back off across the ice cap for the old U.S. air base at Sondre Strom Fjord, well above the Arctic Circle. The weather remained perfect as I spanned the cap at 14,000 feet in smooth, frigid air.
A 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!
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.
In our final installment, we conclude with “Alberto Santos-Dumont” through “Zulu time”
We’ve finally reached the end, my friends. In “Wingipedia, Part I” [March 2008], we covered “acrobatics through “induced drag.” And in “Part II” [May 2008], we took care of “Jenny” through “roll.” It has been fun, but our aviation version of Wikipedia has reached the end of its line. Wikipedia, which asserts that its name is “a portmanteau of the words wiki (a type of collaborative website) and encyclopedia,” is an online encyclopedia that’s written and edited by its visitors, i.e., people like you and me.
The technology looks promising, but there are still unanswered questions about its implementation
When 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.
While the right instructor can inspire and motivate, the wrong one can destroy the desire to fly
The 26-hour student pilot sees the numbers approaching. Though he’s had problems with landings, he’s determined to get it right this time. He eases back for the flare, watching the far end of the runway. He balloons too much. Suddenly, the instructor catches a word in his throat and lurches forward. He grabs the yoke, makes the landing and yells, “What were you thinking? I’ve shown you a million times!” Embarrassed and frustrated, the student quits. He never flies again.
Are you a pilot who turns down the radio’s volume and does a straight-in at an uncontrolled airport when there are four other aircraft neatly spaced in the traffic pattern? Do you think your lungs are so good that you can cruise at 15,500 feet MSL without supplemental oxygen? Are you convinced that you’re experienced enough to avoid using checklists? If so, you may be displaying some of the characteristics that aviation psychology researchers suggest can increase the chances of an accident.
Survival experts show pilots what to do when the propeller stops spinning
Few topics in aviation are as popular as that of survival after a forced landing. Since the tragic September 2007 disappearance of adventurer Steve Fossett, the topic has been the subject of countless hangar flying sessions and pilot’s lounge discussions.