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.
Dan Williams has always been interested in aviation. “I had my first flight lesson at 18, but I had no money to finance further lessons in college,” he recalls. Though he maintained his interest in aviation, it wasn’t until the end of his first marriage that Dan could get back to flying, only now he was also interested in a project working with kids. So when he met Stephen Walker, owner and director of Avionics West, Inc., at Santa Maria Airport in California, the two bonded over their love of aviation and their mutual desire to get kids similarly interested and involved with flight.
What’s this new technology we’re hearing so much about?
Aircraft owners usually cast a wary eye when the FAA introduces a new technology. With each announcement, owners are concerned about paying a price to retain their rights to use the country’s airspace, and there’s usually a mass grumbling that begins with “What’s in it for me?”
Another high school adds a real airplane to its curriculum!
It was late in the afternoon by the time the big truck pulled up outside of John Burroughs High School in Burbank, Calif. The kids had been waiting for hours and they crowded around to see if there was any truth to the news that had flashed throughout the school.
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.
Helping you become a superb and comfortable IFR pilot
For safety’s sake, it’s imperative that people who fly light planes for business or vacation travel hold and use an instrument rating. When flying on a hectic business schedule, for example, it’s likely that occasional work obligations may press a strictly VFR pilot into marginal conditions that could more easily and safely be handled by a competent instrument-rated pilot.
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.
More and more information outlets are available for pilots
Weather happens, and the vast majority of us mere mortals will probably never understand it. WX (as it’s rarely abbreviated) is almost universally regarded as the subject pilots understand least and fear most. For most aviators, it’s flying’s great question mark. Some people may have a perfect understanding of Bernoulli’s principle, but still consider weather a mystery.
Light sport aircraft are producing sport pilots in a remarkably short time
A little more than a year ago, the FAA passed legislation creating a new category of airplane, light sport aircraft (LSA), and a new rating, the sport pilot license. The idea was to make flying more accessible (driver’s licenses became the new medicals), easier to complete (minimum flight hours were reduced from 40 for a private pilot to 20 for a sport pilot) and less expensive (LSA are significantly cheaper to own and operate). Despite all the kudos from aviation groups, no one really knew just how successful the new aircraft and license would ultimately be.
It’s more than learning to take off and land on water. It’s a brand-new flying experience.
For many pilots, attaining a seaplane rating is near the top of their must-do list. Runways are rendered obsolete when you’ve got a seaplane; just head for the nearest lake or river. Fortunately there are an abundance of schools worldwide that offer courses in water flying, but few are quite as unique as Italy’s Aero Club Como.“Pilots come from all over the world to learn here,” says the club’s president, Cesare Baj. Lake Como is among the most beautiful places on earth, and seaplanes have been operating there continuously since 1913.
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.
Lessons learned from an Alaskan bush pilot can be just as valuable to pilots in the lower 48
It’s Gary Chamberlain’s second cup of coffee and it’s still dark outside. For months now the sun has been rising later and later each day, only to scribe a low arc across the horizon before disappearing again just a few hours later. As the winter solstice nears in December, even the twilight hours are gone. Still, there’s flying to be done, and Chamberlain has learned the lessons that decades of living in Alaska have taught him. Despite the constant risks of whiteouts, high winds, frigid temperatures and limiting visibilities, he’s developed a set of rules that allow him to crisscross Alaska and the Yukon Territory year-round in his Cessna 185.
A young girl from Arkansas celebrates in a special way
The sun was not up yet, but Kristin and her father were. She was already busy preflighting the family’s Cessna 152 for a flight from their home in Sea Ridge, Ark., all the way across the state to Jonesboro, Ark. A dozen hours, two oral exams and two check rides later, Kristin would be back home with two new ratings in her hand—a private-pilot license and an instrument-pilot rating she earned that day. Not a bad present on your 17th birthday.
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.
Every day—yes, even Christmas—between 50 and 150 kids show up at Tomorrow’s Aeronautical Museum (TAM), an incredibly unique nonprofit flight school in Compton, Calif. First they must finish their homework (there are even tutors there to help), and then they can take advantage of a variety of opportunities to earn money. The jobs might include graffiti mitigation, picking up trash from a local community park or even washing the occasional Cessna on the school’s flight line. But the money they earn is not available to the kids as hard cash. Instead they receive credit for flight lessons at the TAM flight school. The result is that an amazing number of kids from a tough inner-city Los Angeles neighborhood are learning to fly.
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.
Sometime back in the dark ages, I was getting ready to take my instrument instructor check ride, and the examiner, who was an actual FAA type from the FAA headquarters, asked me if I had done a weight-and-balance for the flight. Two thoughts flashed through my mind, the first being the obvious question: What has a weight-and-balance calculation got to do with an instrument check ride? The second was a little panicky thinking while I tried to remember how to do the calculations.