What is a Flight Review?

In order to continue flying a pilot must stay current. This means keeping up with the medical requirements and doing some takeoffs and landings so that passengers may be carried. But the biggest part of staying current is the Biennial Flight Review.

This review must be conducted every two years. Specifically, it runs by calendar months, so if you had a flight review on July 15th, 2018, then it will expire on July 31st, 2020.

The review requires a minimum of 1 hour of flight training and one hour of ground instruction. Continue reading “What is a Flight Review?”

Steep Turns

One of my favorite maneuvers when conducting a flight review is the steep turn. This innocuous looking maneuver provides a window into a pilot’s stick and rudder skill that allows me to quickly find areas of deficiency where the pilot being reviewed might need more work.

Please remember that the flight review is not a test and my goal is not to fail anybody. Rather, I want to find areas where the pilot is out of practice and try to give them a boost!

The steep turn requires a combination of just about all of the basic flying skills in one maneuver. It requires a pilot to: Continue reading “Steep Turns”

Non-Directional Beacons and Automatic Direction Finders

The Automatic Direction Finder is an instrument built shortly after the discovery of fire.

It is out of usage now and Non-Directional Beacon (NDB) stations are simply turned off if they break down.

However, despite its slow disappearance, you may very well find one in a plane you fly, and it doesn’t hurt to know how to use it.

The ADF at its core is very simple. It’s just an arrow that points to the NDB station.

Some ADF’s have a moveable compass card in them that can be set when using the ADF. However, many do not contain a gyro and the card will not turn when the plane turns. Rather, you set it while straight and level and use it to navigate. Once you turn you will need to set it again.

There are also ADFs with a slaved compass that rotates to show your current heading. These are more convenient, but either way, it is still a simple instrument.

How to use the ADF

To use it locate an NDB station on your chart with the symbol below.

See the Rainbow NDB station in the center of the image below. The magenta information box to the left contains the name of the station, its frequency (363), its ID (RNB) and the morse code to identify it.

To fly to an NDB station simply tune its frequency and turn so the arrow is pointed up. Don’t forget to listen to the station ID just like you would for a VOR.

It isn’t too much more complicated than that. If you want to approach the station on a specific heading then it helps to visualize your current situation before acting.

For example, say you want to approach Rainbow from directly South of the station. The needle is currently pointing to a heading of 330. This means that you are South East of the station. I like to look at the needle and then point out the window in the direction of the station. It helps me to get more situational awareness and determine which way to go. If you want to approach heading 360 then you will need to go to the left and watch the needle until it is pointing directly North.

Try this out next time you have access to an ADF, because it may be your last chance!

Bonus Feature

The ADF has one more important but little-known feature. It happens to fall on the same range of frequencies as AM radio so if there are any good stations in your area you can listen to them. Just tune to the station and press the ADF button on your audio panel. Instead of hearing morse code, you will hear AM radio. As you listen, the needle will point to the radio stations antenna as well!

Macho

A Beechcraft Baron pilot was flying home after a week of watching airshows at a popular fly-in. After watching so many loops and barrel rolls he was certain he could easily do the same. He executed the maneuver correctly, accelerating and then entering a climb before rolling. But as he was upside down, pulling his way through the roll, his aircraft began developing too much airspeed and his attempts to get through the roll caused a complete structural failure leading to a wing separating from the aircraft, killing him and his passengers.

Macho means that you believe you can do anything. This hazardous attitude is marked by the need to prove that you are the best. It can lead to deadly and highly avoidable choices.

Signs of a Macho attitude

It’s not too hard to spot a macho attitude, especially in others! If you find yourself thinking some of the thoughts below (in bold) then you are experiencing a macho attitude to some degree.

  • “Come on! I can do this.” Wrong! You do not know all of the factors involved. You should get formal training from someone who knows.
  • “I am a better pilot than others. I’ll show them!” Wrong! Flying is not a competition and safety is the skill that really makes a good pilot.
  • “I will prove that I am the best.” No, you are not the best. In fact, your macho attitude makes you one of the worst kind of pilots. Shake off this attitude or never fly again!

Don’t be foolish

If you are the type of person that needs to compete and prove yourself be very careful about aviation. You really need to control your attitude and avoid getting into any kind of competition and never try to show off your aviation skills. Trying to show that you are the best pilot is a recipe for embarrassment or death.

The FAA response to the macho attitude is “Taking chances is foolish”. Do you persist and think that the chances are improved because you are so great of a pilot? I’m going to stop you right there. You are wrong about your skills and your macho attitude is a serious hazard to yourself, others, and the safety record of aviation. Please stay away from planes if you can’t get over yourself. I have seen too many pilots put their passengers lives in serious risk because of their macho attitude (which probably stems from insecurity)! GET HELP!

Are you a pilot?

I saw this question on Facebook recently:

Do you call yourself a pilot after you have your PPL? I don’t do it but tried once recently during an interview as a kids aviation interest group instructor and she asked which airline I’m in. I said I’m not an airline pilot in which she replied, “Then you’re not a pilot!” Share your opinion.

Continue reading “Are you a pilot?”

Finding Other Planes

Visually scanning for traffic is an important skill, and it is often overlooked in training.

To find other planes in the sky get used to a simple search pattern called a scan.

The core of the scan is looking in small 10 degree segments within your view. Choose a small area of the sky and focus your eyes there. How small of an area? Imagine a 172 about a mile away. You need to focus within 3 or so wingspans of the plane. By focusing your eyes in such a small area , your brain can look to infinity and pick out planes at much farther distances than normal.

You can try this on the ground. Find a place where you have a decent view towards the horizon. Almost anywhere will work if you aren’t facing tall trees or buildings. Take a lot of time and focus your eyes into the distance in a very small area. It helps if you look towards airports or cities. If you do this long enough, when a plane comes by you will see it where you otherwise might never have picked it out of the background.

Expanding the Search

It doesn’t really help if you are only looking for traffic in one part of the sky. So we need to scan in a pattern.

There are two basic patterns to use and it is up to your preference to decide which one you like.

  • Start looking to your left and scan each 10 degree section for 3 seconds or so before moving on to the next until you have scanned all the way left to right.
  • Start scanning in the center of your vision and then work your way out to both sides until you have scanned the whole area.

The important thing is to be looking for traffic. This will already put you ahead of many pilots who are not scanning!

Blind Spots

Flying high-wing aircraft? How do you see other planes while turning? You can’t! This means that you MUST lift the wing before beginning a turn. So when you are about to turn left, bank to the right about 15 degrees and look to the left. Then begin your turn to the left.

Look at your cockpit structure. If pieces of the frame are blocking your vision then lean around them to look outside.

You should normally be scanning an area of about 60 degrees in front of you. Be aware, however, that a plane can approach at a very shallow angle right next to you. Be sure to look to the sides occasionally and make sure another aircraft isn’t getting too close.

Eye Fatigue

Looking for other traffic can be tiring. You can reduce fatigue by maintaining an outside scan more than an inside scan because switching between looking near and far is one of the more fatiguing things to do to your eyes.

It is recommended that you spend one quarter or less of your time looking inside the cockpit.

Once you find traffic you need to react appropriately to avoid a collision.