Wednesday, September 19, 2007

You can't get there from here...

Recently I was with a student on his first cross-county. This was a nice young man that had grown up on Flight Simulator™ or X-Plane™. After DA-20’s engine run-up was complete he started to load in his proposed route into the Garmin 430.

“Whoa”, I said, what gives?” “I want to put in my route”, he replied and continued to spin and punch in the dials. “You want to use the GPS routing function for this cross-country?” “Sure, I read where VOR’s and stuff were not as accurate as GPS so I’m using the GPS.”

He was nonplus when I asked him to stop, and went on to remind him that this lesson was on pilotage, dead reckoning, basic VOR navigation, and some basic attitude instrument time thrown in if we had time. We had discussed this in our ground school session; I had pointed out that a pilot must first learn the basics, and learn them well before we go on the more “exotic” methods of navigation.

My student folded his chart and stuck it in the side pocket; next he brought out the navigation log he had prepared in the ground session. “You mean I really have to use this?” he asked. And so the flight progressed.

The first rule of basic pilotage is learning to quickly identify the terrain and the man made objects on the ground then correlate them to what is on your chart. Go ahead and learn all of those “funny symbols” in the legend and AIM, as that knowledge will come in handy for as long as you fly.

The second rule is to understand you are in an ocean or “mass” of air and therefore like the currents in an ocean or river move a boat-you are moving in relation to the air mass. You will be blown off course if you do not take into account the movement of the air mass.

The third rule is that visibility and cloud cover is always changing-usually not for the better. Because we can be confused by what we see below or loose sight of an important checkpoint ahead it is important for pilots to maintain their skills in the basics of pilotage, dead reckoning and continue to use the tried and true navigation log.

For example, if you were diligent and noted that you passed over check point “X” at 1520 then computed ground speed and placed a revised ETA for the next checkpoint you are now steps ahead. Because if you can’t find checkpoint “Y” when you expect and/or the visibility ahead is closing down on you then you may refer to that pesky "nav" log. In black and white it shows that so many minutes ago you were over check point “X”. You can then make a 180 degree turn and correcting for the wind direction and velocity fly that course back to your last known check point. From there you may choose to land at the nearest airport and re-configure your course to your next destination.

Understanding basic pilotage, simple dead reckoning and keeping a record of your transit over the ground in the navigation log is vital to a safe cross-country flight. Even in the cockpit of that airliner streaking by overhead one of the cockpit crew is noting time of passage, etc. over a checkpoint on their dispatch release and log. And by the way, that old fashioned VOR system in North America is very good and the accuracy is constantly tested and assured. It has worked since the ‘40’s and I believe will do so for years to come.

In flying a competent pilot is one that is ahead of the airplane-far ahead. Dave Cowan, a good friend and veteran CFI says, …”It’s very simple, it’s all about what’s next and then what comes after that.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2007


Monday, September 17, 2007

Captain Mike's BFR Questions

Since I was on the subject earlier today. How about taking this short test and seeing how you fared. Go ahead and use your AIM to help you. I will post the answers next week.

Certification and Currency

1. If you hold both a glider and an airplane license, do you need a flight review for each? FAR 61.56

2. If you change your address, you are required to notify the FAA, in writing, within…? FAR 61.60

3. Are you required to log each flight? FAR 61.51

4. In order to carry passengers you must have how many takeoffs and landings within how many days? At night? How many to a full stop? FAR 61.57

Operating rules

1. Who is the final authority for the safe operation of the flight? FAR 91.3

2. Are you ever allowed to deviate from the FAR’s? FAR 91.3

3. You are flying above 12,500 feet but less than 14,000 feet. How long can you legally fly before you must use oxygen? FAR 91.211

4. You’ve had a beer at 2AM. You can legally fly no earlier than? FAR 91.211

5. What documents are required to be in the aircraft?

6. What is the minimum legal altitude for a loop? FAR 91.301

7. What is the “Minimum Safe Altitude”? FAR91.119


1. Can a pilot legally fly through a restricted area?

2. Can a pilot legally fly through a MOA Military Operations Area?

3. What is Class D airspace and what are the rules for operating in Class D airspace?

4. What is Class C airspace?

5. What are the rules and dimensions for operating in Class C airspace? Is special equipment required?

6. What are the minimum visibility requirements for operating in Class E airspace above 1200 AGL and below 10,000 MSL?

7. If you get a clearance to climb above 18,000 ft, what do you set in your altimeters kollsman window?


1. Explain the difference between variation and deviation.

2. What is the difference between course and heading?

3. Your altitude should clear all of the rocks between Bozeman and Helena, Mt., and there is no wind today. Your current sectional chart shows a true course of 338 degrees, the magnetic variation is 16 degrees east. Your magnetic course will be?


1. What is angle of attack?

2. Explain the handling and stall characteristic of an airplane loaded far aft of the Center of Gravity range?

3. How will it handle and stall if loaded forward of the C.G. range?

4. What happens to your stall speed in a turn? Why?

5. Explain maneuvering speed and why it is important.

6. What is the purpose of the rudder in a turn?

7. Why should a pilot constantly maintain the factory recommended approach speed to landing? Choose one.

a. It gives the pilot more time to concentrate.
b. A 15% increase in the landing speed equals a 15% increase in the landing distance.
c. A 10 % increase in the final approach speed over the recommended speed will cause a 20 % increase in the landing distance.
d. So that you will not wear out the brakes trying to stop.


1. When a fast moving cold front overtakes a warm front, the narrow band of weather formed out ahead of the cold front is called?

2. When flying from a high-pressure area to a low-pressure area, what is the effect on the altimeter?

3. When crossing the Cascade Mountains from west to east, on which side is the greatest amount of icing found? Why?

4. After entering cumulous clouds you decide to climb to get out of some light icing. Is this a good or a bad idea and why?

5. A Boeing 737 reports light to moderate turbulence and a trace of ice on climb out through 10,000 ft east bound from Seattle. You are 8 miles behind him; what can you expect for turbulence and icing in your Piper Commanche?

6. You are considering landing your Cessna 172 (A model) at a high mountain airport on a very hot day. Considering this, you wonder what your Pressure Altitude is at your present indicated altitude of 8500’. What is the easiest way to find this out?

7. You should avoid a thunderstorm by at least ___ miles? What if it is within five mile of or over the airport at the time of your take off or landing?

On second thought.

“There I was upside down, hanging by my chinstrap”...and so the story went about deeds of daring. If you are lucky enough to have been around a group of pilots from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s you might have heard some tall tales about flying. True, some of the tales strained the limits of truth, but many had good lessons woven into them.

In the first 5 years of my flying all of my flight instructors were service veterans. They had served this country in WWI, WWII, and Korea.

There was a wheat farmer named Lew; a short, cocky, profane, but very knowledgeable guy with a nose, my mother once said, belonged on a hawk. A WWI aviator he’d flown with Eddie Rickenbacker in the 94th Aero Squadron and had four kills to his credit; his eyes never stopped looking for some place to put the airplane down if the engine quit. “Always be lookin’ kid- and make every preflight the best-‘cause you never know when something will break.”The memory of those engines behind which he had flown in the first world war still haunted him.

Cliff flew B-17’s, survived every mission to gain a command and come home to teach others. Later he became the executive officer of the Washington Air Guard and ran a thriving aerial application business. He could tell you were having a bad day by the way you walked. He had a million dollar smile and would stand off and watch you, judging everything you did. Once he was satisfied he would make a comment here or show a procedure there and was always spot on. He was not afraid to give me a chance to prove myself working a Stearman over wheat and pea fields of Southeastern Washington state. Thanks, Cliff.

Bill, the best pilot I ever knew, had raced motorcycles before the war. He had little education-but raw skill- and talked his way into the right seat of a B-17. He got four missions out of the way when they took a direct hit over Austria; he spent the last two years in a Stalag. Now he’d instruct once in a while when the crop dusting was thin-if I could stand the cigar that seemed to be always clenched between his teeth. To this day, I don’t know how I was able to keep my stomach down training with him in that Luscombe 8E for my commercial maneuvers while the smoke from his El Roy Tan cigar in the cockpit brought the visibility down to less than three miles.

Dale was in the South Pacific moving from island to island fighting the enemy, heat, and the tropic illnesses that plagued him for years after. Yet, he was a gifted instructor and mechanic, you always got an in-depth discussion of what and why you were going to do-before you did it. He was patient but he would suffer no fools- you learned or else. Thank you.

Finally, there was Boyd, a former Marine that had been in the “Frozen Chosan” at the age of 19 and fought his way out. A taciturn man that never spoke before he had his morning coffee, he loved flying, was a patient teacher, and was trust worthy and a gentleman in all ways. He never went to the airlines as he’d dreamed for he had no degree nor was he a military pilot. He stayed doing what he did best-being a champion instructor and leader- training more than two thousand students, and later moving on to the FAA; then chief pilot of a regional airline. With everyone he demanded intelligent and safe flying. His students learned, followed his example, and all thought highly of him. “Semper Fi” Marine.

If there was a single thread from one to the other it was their common sense approach to flying. Even though each was skilled and in some way had helped write history, none of them would pass for the “Ace of the base”. If there was a type "A" personality in them the "A" part sat on the sidelines when they flew.

Three of this group made their living crop dusting in Oregon and Washington State; however, they looked at every facet of each job and took nothing by chance. Each man over his career acquired thousands of hours and lived to a ripe old age. Now, I ask you, could that be the key to safe flying, take nothing by chance?

Thanks for dropping by,


On the flight line.