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.
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.
Here are a dozen effective suggestions for safer summertime flying
Most new-production and many high-performance aircraft have fuel-injected engines. There are some advantages of fuel injection over carburetion, but one drawback is that injected engines can be difficult to start when hot. Fuel vaporizing in fuel pumps and lines needs to be purged before the engine can fire. Here’s where a good read through the Pilot Operating Handbook (POH) is worthwhile—it should contain a hot-start procedure that takes into account the airplane’s design and make of its fuel-injection system. What is good hot-starting practice in some types can be downright damaging in others.
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.
It can be vexing to any pilot, but is there a right and wrong way to take on the wind?
There are several ways to start an argument. They range from the old favorites, politics and religion, to the blonde/redhead/brunette thing. Or you can simply state that there’s only one right way to land an airplane in a crosswind and that’s the way you do it. Stand back, folks, brutal words to follow.
As the warm weather arrives, your airplane’s performance can really suffer
It can prevent you from taking off from the same runway you did the day before. It will sap power from your engine. It can eliminate any chance of a climb rate on departure. It can drastically increase your takeoff and landing rolls. What aviation phenomenon has this much power over your flying? Density altitude. And if you fly without paying it due attention, you may find yourself staring down the end of a runway without hope of stopping or taking off. Even if you do make it in the air, high-density altitudes can cause you to quickly meet up with terrain that has a gradient superior to your ascent.
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.
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?
Piloting your own airplane is a special opportunity you should truly take advantage of
The idea probably started thousands of years ago, if not tens of thousands, when our ancestors first looked up to watch the birds. What would it be like to fly? It was only in the last 100 years that man actually conquered powered flight, and consequently, only a tiny fraction of the world’s population has had the opportunity—and what an opportunity!—to fly an airplane.
Phase II brings this remarkable high-tech situational awareness a step closer to the Lower 48 states
General aviation in Alaska is different. Changeable weather and difficult terrain create an environment where you’d expect most flying to be done on instruments, but an antiquated route structure and limited navaids make this impossible in many places. Yet many towns and villages depend on aircraft to a degree that’s almost unknown in the rest of the country.
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.
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.
A pilot relates the dos and don’ts he learned from cold-weather flying
Canada’s Maritime Provinces are among the country’s most beautiful regions, with rolling tundras, pristine lakes and dramatic coastlines. Unfortunately, the area also is possessed of some of the country’s most dynamic weather. While the far west may have the more vicious winter temperatures, often subceeding minus-40 degrees C, the northeast is infamous for its radically changeable winter atmospherics.
Most aviation insiders feel that the University of North Dakota (UND)/Aerospace is to aviation what Harvard is to law and business, partly because of its technologically advanced complex for collegiate aviation. And just like Harvard Law School, UND/Aerospace, which offers seven aviation majors, is a big part of a quite highly respected, four-year liberal arts university.
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).