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Precise Aircraft Handling

Precise aircraft handling isn’t realized until you begin or have completed instrument training. One of the best tips I learned was to figure out specific power settings for the following 6 phases of flight: Climb, Cruise, Cruise Descent, Approach, Approach Descent and Non-Precision Descent. By going out into the practice area and starting with a level cruise profile, document what the attitude indicator is showing in degrees above or below the horizon (draw a picture if necessary) and how many FPM are you climbing or descending. Also note the exact power setting (MP & RPM) and airspeed that is needed to maintain each flight profile. So when you are planning on an ILS approach, you will slow from Cruise or Cruise Descent to Approach or Approach Descent by using power settings for the most part rather than push/pull on the yoke and throttle. With a bit of practice, you will become more precise in your altitude and airspeed control and handle the plane much more smoothly.

Submitted by Brett Bell (abell@prizeflight.com) August 1, 2006

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Engine Failures

Engine failures can be very overwhelming for a student. Trying to teach all of the elements involved with an engine failure to a new student or a student transitioning into a new aircraft can be too much at once. First teach best glide operations. After the student understands best glide, give different scenarios of how to judge proper glide performance from various altitudes and positions around an emergency landing site. After the student is correlating the aircraft’s glide in various situations, then add in the checklists. This will also give the student an understanding of when checklists are appropriate and achievable.

Submitted by Laura George (laura.george@mesa-air.com) March 19, 2005

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Landing Straight

There are many factors that may hinder a student from landing straight, but if a student is having difficulty aligning the aircraft with the centerline during landing, they may not have the correct picture of the “straight ahead reference line.” Many students incorrectly think that straight ahead is a line from their eyes through the tip of the spinner. To help, have your student stand behind the airplane and pick a point on the horizon that is in line with the longitudinal axis of the airplane. Then have the student sit in their seat (with their seat height adjusted appropriately) and note where that point on the horizon is in relationship to the dash/glareshield. The student should then be able to align the runway centerline with that point and land straight.

Submitted by ERAU Flight Standards Dept. (crowlr@erau.edu) February 23, 2005

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Teaching Lazy Eights

Don’t focus on the specific requirements of the maneuver when first teaching lazy eights. Instead, first teach students the individual components that make up a lazy eight. For example, have the student perform a constant altitude 180-degree turn while constantly changing bank. The student will be amazed at how slowly they must change bank to avoid over banking at the 90 degree point. It’s also important to teach these types of maneuvers with ALL of the instruments covered. Focus on symmetry and coordination. The details will then come easily.

Submitted by Jim Pitman November 20, 2004

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Don’t Panic During Simulated Engine Failures

When teaching a simulated engine failure for the first time, I take the flight controls and fail the engine. I then trim the airplane for best glide and start the timer. We then time how long it takes to go from cruise altitude to 1000 feet AGL. It is a great way to demonstrate to the student that there is no need to panic and rush through things. It generally takes anywhere from 4 to 6 minutes to descend to 1000 feet AGL. This is a great way to reinforce that there is no need to panic.

Submitted by Tom Griggs (tgriggs@iflywestwind.com) November 16, 2004

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Master the Basics First

Too often flight instructors start performing pattern work and PTS maneuvers prematurely. Student pilots must learn to control the airplane with precision BEFORE learning specific maneuvers, including the traffic pattern. The first several hours of flight training should be dedicated to mastering the aircraft. Go out to a quiet corner of the practice area and teach the student straight and level flight, trimming techniques, airspeed control, climbs, descents, constant altitude turns, climbing turns, and descending turns, all before having them fly the traffic pattern. We can’t be teaching altitude control on downwind, descending turns on base, or airspeed control on final. Those skills must be mastered before doing any pattern work. Doing so will greatly improve the efficiency and enjoyment of the student’s training.

Submitted by Jim Pitman October 13, 2004

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Go Easy on the Gee Whiz

We need to avoid teaching too much “Gee Whiz” information. This includes asking questions about details of the reference and variable signals of a VOR, or knowing the exact PSI of the nitrogen charge in the unfeathering accumulator. Aviation is full of Gee Whiz. It’s true that memorizing some Gee Whiz information is good to help exercise our mental muscles, but when is a pilot really going to need this information? Using the example of VOR signals, I think it’s more important to focus on specifics like minimum reception altitudes or how to tell if you are not receiving a reliable signal. That’s useful information. The opposite of Gee Whiz is practical knowledge. The way to tell the difference is to put it in the context of a realistic scenario. If you can create a realistic scenario that involves the information, then it is practical knowledge. If you can’t, then it’s Gee Whiz. I think it is important that we differentiate the two and let our students know when we are teaching them Gee Whiz information.

Submitted by Jim Pitman October 13, 2004

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Teaching Situational Awareness to Instrument Students

I’ve found that most flight instructors start teaching intercepting, tracking, holding, and instrument approaches by jumping right in the simulator or aircraft and talking the student through the full procedure without any outside visual reference. This is less effective, and it tends to create pilots that are just go through the motions rather than visualizing what they are actually doing in space. Remember that we must teach using the building block method of instruction. We must walk before we run. Here are two simple suggestions to help improve your student’s situational awareness:

  1. Leave the hood at home. Early in the student instrument training they should learn to fly the aircraft by reference only to the instruments. This is commonly referred to as basic attitude instrument flying (BAI). After they have mastered these skills, leave the hood at home while introducing intercepting, tracking, holding, and instrument approaches. Show them how what they see outside correlates to what they see on the instruments. When you first teach them this way, it is much easier for them to visualize it when they are in the clouds.
  2. Introduce non-precision approaches without altitude changes. Teach students that non-precision approaches are simply pre-plotted flight plans. This is literally true with regard to GPS approaches. When first introducing non-precision approaches (with the hood off of course), have your student fly the full procedure at the same altitude. This is usually easy to coordinate with ATC because you stay up out of everyone’s way. It also makes it easy to practice the full missed approach procedure. After the student masters the basic skills of dividing their attention and following the instrument procedure, then you can add in the altitude changes.

Submitted by Jim Pitman October 13, 2004

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