A few days ago, the national media covered an incident by Harrison Ford, when he landed on a taxiway at a commercial airport.
Immediately, the pundits and “experts” expressed all kinds of negative opinions about Han Solo’s abilities as a pilot, whether he should be flying alone at his “advanced age”, and other utterly stupid comments.
It is unfortunate that some people feel they have the right to express an opinion even if, by doing so, they are displaying their complete ignorance of the subject. I’m not talking about Trump here.
Landing is a very complex endeavor, and requires a lot of concentration and focus. Landing on the wrong surface is not new. Indiana Jones was not the first, and will not be the last, to land where he was not intending to land.
Years ago, an airliner made a beautiful smooth landing at Council Bluffs municipal airport (KCBF). The problem was, he was supposed to have landed in Omaha. The pilot had to apply very heavy braking to avoid going off the runway, but he made it. The problem was, the airliner would not have been able to take-off empty, not to mention full of passengers and fuel. The runway was not long enough. The airline had to send a crew to remove all the seats and some of the interior fixtures in order to reduce the weight to a value that allowed for a safe take-off from KCBF.
A few years, later, it happened again. Different airline, hopefully different pilot.
More recently, an airliner landed at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota, when the intended destination was Rapid City Regional (KRAP).
My point is, landing at the wrong surface is not uncommon.
Many years ago, when I was a fairly new pilot, my good friend Alphonse V. needed to go from KDUG, where he was the airport manager, to P33 (Cochise County), and back. Being pilots and enjoying great Arizona weather, we decided to fly. On the return trip I was flying.
When I was a student pilot, our chief flight instructor was always adamant about procedures. We were only allowed to fly into an airport following the proper approach procedures: descent, 45° entry to downwind, downwind, base, final.
So, that glorious day, trying to exercise the little “rebel” in me, as soon as I had runway 18 in sight, in no-wind conditions, I decided to start my descent and do a “straight-in” approach. My friend Alphonse is a very good pilot, and is also very respectful of the “pilot-in-command” when he’s the passenger. He silently observed what I was doing. As soon as I was at pattern altitude I announced my intentions on the KDUG frequency: “BDI traffic, Cessna 12345, five miles out, straight-in runway 18”.
A few minutes later, being in awe of myself at the beautiful, stabilized approach I was flying, I pressed the mic button again and said: “BDI traffic, Cessna 12345, short final, straight-in, runway 18”.
Alphonse, in a very calm, business-like tone of voice, asked: “Why are you landing at Tribal Air?”.
I applied full power, retracted flaps, climbed to pattern altitude, flew 9 more miles to the south, entered the pattern properly and landed at KDUG. A personal rule of mine is never to do straight-in approaches.
Thanks, Alphonse. Your short question taught me a very big lesson.
Everybody who knows about these things keeps telling me that I have to keep updating this blog and the website but, as you all probably understand, the holidays got in the way.
Well, now the holidays are over and tomorrow we resume normal operations.
I usually don’t make any new year resolutions because I never stick to them, and this time it’s no exception.
I’m very happy that I still haven’t smoked (since march 2002), and that I still am able to pass my FAA medical every two years. I’m not happy that I haven’t been able to fly lately.
This is all I’ve got for the beginning of the year.
Will post something more relevant to aviation and flying soon, I promise…
That is the question I get a lot, when people ask me what I do for a living, especially after they find out that I don’t make any money doing this.
So, why do I own a flight school?
Well, as with any of my answers, it’s never short.
Some years ago, a former friend explained to me the meaning of “yarn” in this context. And he was right. Most of my answers become very long “yarns”. I promise I don’t do it on purpose. Some have said that I do it to discourage people from asking questions, but that is not the case.
After I learned to fly, I looked frantically for a place where I could rent a decent plane to fly an hour or two every once in a while. The college where I got my private pilot’s certificate only allowed their planes to be flown by their students and instructors, and I was no longer a student the moment I passed my checkride. I had graduated.
I drove as far as two hours to find airplanes that were probably fine, but the college had spoiled me in many different ways that I was barely beginning to understand.
Their airplanes were meticulously maintained under the strict supervision of Richard McGee, the director of maintenance.
The school was meticulously run under the very strict guidance of the Chief Flight Instructor, Mr. Chuck Perry.
As a result, all airplanes performed very similarly, and all pilots flew very similarly.
After many trips in all directions, I found a very nice FBO at the Las Cruces, New Mexico airport. Adventure Aviation (it no longer exists) had several airplanes, all very nice and perfectly maintained. It was a three hour drive either way, to go fly an airplane for an hour or two, but it was worth it.
In time, I became friends with the owner and the general manager. Somehow, over lunch or dinner at the Crosswinds Grill (their own little bistro, part of the FBO), the conversation one day veered towards me taking one of their airplanes back home, put it in a hangar and offer it for rent to local pilots. The allure for me was to have an airplane available for me to use, and at a discounted rate!
And that is how I made inroads into the business side of aviation. I posted flyers at the three local airports in the area and, sure enough, my phone started ringing.
Most of the time, the checkout of a new renter pilot would be done by one of the instructors from the college, but occasionally, none would be available and I had to do the checkout.
Before you go crazy, it is perfectly ok for a pilot to do the checkout of a fellow pilot, as long as we are fairly familiar with the airplane. Since I was already taking the necessary classes for CFI, I was not completely clueless about the process. Actually, as anybody who knows me will confirm, I’m pretty anal about the whole checkout thing (a future article tentatively titled “Perplexed” will clarify this further).
During the many times I had the privilege to fly with other pilots during the checkout process, I was able to witness many different styles and levels of expertise (or not). Some were very precise, and some were very sloppy. And most were somewhere in between.
Initially, I had to fight with all my might the urge to “teach” some of these pilots the “correct” way to fly (as I had been trained), but one day I had an epiphany: It is my responsibility to make sure that whoever rents and flies the airplane is safe and legal. It is not my job to teach them how to fly.
After I came to that conclusion, I accepted the fact that, as is the case when we take the road, there are excellent drivers and deplorable drivers, either on the roads or in the air.
One day, the airport manager where I rented the hangar, told me that he was a pilot and wanted to get checked out in our Cessna 172. I had written and printed checklists in the same style as the ones I used at the college.
As I was watching this gentleman go through the checklist and going from pre-flight to starting engine and climb, I came to realize that he flew just like me. He was following the same procedures as everybody at the college. Obviously, I asked if he had gone to the college for his training. No, but his instructor had also been an instructor at the college.
The seed was planted that day. I told myself that someday I would somewhat propagate our way of flying.
It starts with knowledge. The college taught on ground school much more than the bare minimum needed to get 71% on the FAA knowledge test. We consistently scored in the high 90s.
Next, checklist use is mandatory. Following procedures methodically makes smooth flying possible, and minimizes the possibility of errors and omissions.
Judgement and courtesy were also fomented and embedded in our way of flying. Situational awareness starts at the ramp, where we should be considerate and move away from other airplanes after engine start. There’s nothing more annoying than a guy starting his very noisy engine next to where I’m doing my pre-flight inspection, and stay there forever while doing god knows what.
This is what I want to achieve. I want to be proud of the people that learned to fly in our school. I want them to go out there and distinguish themselves as good pilots.
I want people to ask in admiration “where did you learn to fly?”: Nebraska Flight Center.
First impressions: The simulator sits in a room by itself, the room has a door that can be closed so that no outside sounds could be a distraction. The training flights in the simulator can be fully recorded so that they can be analyzed by the instructor and student after each period. Though the simulator has no door itself, I found this to be a non-issue flying the RedBird.
Flight deck impressions: The Redbird is configured as a Cessna 172 (fuel Injected), one of the more common training aircraft. It is equipped with a full set of G1000 avionics! All instrumentation and flight controls, engine controls and gear and flaps handles are where you’d expect them in the actual airplane. The exception are the back-up instruments, placed in such a way that the simulator can be reconfigured to another airplane rather simply and quickly. The landing gear handle is present for the same reason.
Flying impressions: The visuals are far better than I have experienced in my professional pilot career, flying simulators for the B727, B777, B757 and B767. The focus and contrast of the outside are far better! The RedBird simulator has almost a 180° picture, where the Cessna strut can be seen and utilized for bank attitude; likewise the engine cowling can be seen in all maneuvers, just like in the airplane, important for Visual Flight practice.
How does it fly? I found that the controls are very much like the controls on the airplane, not more nor less sensitive. Exception are the rudder pedals/brakes on the ground, but on the ground only. In flight they correspond to power application just as in the airplane; right rudder is definitely needed for power on, left for reduction in power. The electric trim is a bit sensitive, but rarely found on Cessna 172s, so who could say?
It is very impressive that turbulence, rain, snow, IMC, traffic and such can be introduced just like in the simulators the airline companies employ in their training. The motion in your RedBird simulator is no less capable than simulators costing millions and millions of dollars. This simulator lends itself to Private Pilot training due to the visuals presented. It is also an incredible tool for teaching the Garmin G1000 avionics suite, now almost the industry standard.
For the Instrument Rating training, I can think of no better tool for basic attitude instrument flight, basic navigation, holding patterns and approaches. Couple that with the higher learning periods where IMC, turbulence, wind, crosswind, rain and snow are introduced just as in the real world and you in fact have the perfect training tool in your office.
If I were an instructor with either Private Pilot or Instrument Rating students, not only would I recommend your facility, I would run them down there as fast as I could!
CFII ASEL, AMEL, Instrument Airplane, Rotorcraft-Helicopter, Glider
ATP ASMEL, CE-500, B757, B767 and B777
The FAA has made it easy to add a Drone License (officially a “Small Un-manned Aerial System“, or sUAS, Certificate) if you hold a sport, recreational, private, commercial pilot, or ATP certificate.
You must be current, meaning that you must have had a flight review less than 24 months ago.
Lots of people have asked about this process and, although I really tried to provide good information and guidance, I knew I was not completely accurate because I hadn’t gone through the “ropes”.
Because of this, I decided to complete the process in order to be able to explain it more accurately.
And now I have an sUAS Pilot Certificate!
If you don’t have an FAA account on https://www.faasafety.gov/ you’ll need to create one.
Then, you’ll need to complete the course (Click on the blue box labeled “Hot Topics” Part 107…), and take the exam at the end.
Then, after you’ve saved a PDF of your completion certificate, you’ll need to go to IACRA
https://iacra.faa.gov/IACRA/ and create an account there.
After you’ve completed the IACRA process, it will give you an application ID number and an FTN number.
With those numbers you can then get a CFI who has been registered on IACRA as such, to verify all your documents and sign you off on the IACRA system, and in a couple of hours your temporary certificate will be available on the IACRA website for downloading and printing.
Our chief instructor, Bob Meder, got it done for me this evening.
And I now have an sUAS Pilot Certificate!