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.
Returning to the cockpit can be exhilarating and difficult, but worth every frustrating minute
The first thing I did was introduce myself to her. I did it quietly as I touched her spinner and as my flight instructor ambled off to untie the right wing. The last thing I needed was my instructor thinking I was crazy for talking to a machine. This was, after all, a machine—a complex assembly of aluminum, cables, spars and wires. There could be no life in this 2,000-pound craft of the air, but I knew better.
For instrument flight, the glass panels that are increasingly common in today’s general aviation fleet may be a huge improvement over old-fashioned round “steam gauges”—but if the weather closes in, you’re still depending on instruments to provide an artificial substitute for a view of the terrain and runway environment. The primary flight display (PFD) in a typical glass panel combines the functions of yesterday’s attitude indicator, airspeed indicator, altimeter and course/deviation indicator on a single screen.
You can be proud of the hard work you’ve put into reaching pilot status—especially if you’ve gone the extra mile to become instrument rated. Our aviation culture admires and encourages people to keep busy and work hard. We have checklists for checking everything—often more than once. We’re told to tune and identify VORs along our route of flight, even if we’re navigating with GPS, just because we might need them. We’re often reluctant to use the autopilot for fear that we’ll lose our flying skills. The work ethic is alive and well in general aviation.
A great idea that allows ATC to fit more airplanes into smaller, radar-less airspace
The problem was simple: too many airplanes and too little sky. This flies in the face of traditional wisdom that suggests it’s a very big sky. While that’s unquestionably true above places such as Chad, Antarctica and the Gobi Desert, there are other places where there’s an uncomfortable amount of aluminum vying for roughly the same airspace.
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).
Smooth handling: some advice on how to make every landing a squeaker
On any given flight, the landing is the maneuver that concerns pilots the most. It concerns the pilot because, when it comes to aircraft handling, the takeoff is pretty simple, and once in the air, controlling the aircraft is far less complicated than driving a car in traffic. Nevertheless, at the end of every flight is the dreaded landing. Every professional pilot has found his or her techniques for a smooth landing. A perfect landing every time under all ground and wind conditions isn’t easily obtainable or necessary for a safe flight.
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.
A 14-year-old boy, trained in Compton, solos both a helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft!
If anyone thinks that they can’t do what they put their mind to, they should meet Jonathan Strickland. Like any typical teenager, his vocabulary gravitates toward words such as “yeah” and “cool.” But what sets him apart from the rest is quite extraordinary. Jonathan can’t drive a car yet, but he can fly both an airplane and a helicopter!
Let’s play the Practical Test Standards Game again
There’s a wonderful line in a Toby Keith song that laments, “I’m not as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.” It’s a bar room tale complaining about the aging process and the awful fact that it can’t be stopped. Luckily, that’s not necessarily true of pilots. Flying isn’t about party stamina but about skill, and that doesn’t have to slide downhill just because time is passing—assuming, of course, a pilot wants to halt that erosion.
Andover Flight Academy’s stick and rudder training brings out the bush pilot in everyone
It’s still an airplane,” insisted Damian DelGaizo, as I hesitantly leveled out over a grass strip much shorter than I was used to. “Don’t overthink it.” In the flare, I tried my best to pretend that the Top Cub’s main wheels weren’t actually there, per Damian’s coaching, but it’s not that easy to ignore 31-inch tundra tires. Easing the stick back, I focused on the tailwheel instead. After a dance between altitude, airspeed and imagination, we touched down on all three wheels. But before I could even exhale—“Rudder, rudder, rudder!” exclaimed my instructor. “Stay alive on the rudder.” Although we were earthbound, the landing was far from over. Small jabs—playful yet authoritative—on the rudder pedals kept our yellow beauty pointed in the same direction we were moving. Slowing down, small inputs became large ones, and we rolled to a stop on the bumpy grass.
All of us should be able to handle one self-promise per month
The 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.
After having successfully completed several solo flights in the Cirrus SR22, I entered the next phase of my private pilot training: cross-country navigation. My concerns as a student pilot in a glass-panel cockpit were twofold: would the state-of-the-art avionics be overwhelming; and if not, would I become so dependent on them that I wouldn’t be able to navigate with an “old school” sectional chart?