Technique

Foggy runway

IFR departures: the forgotten procedure

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Instrument pilots obsess about approaches: if you can keep those needles crossed all the way down to 200 ft, you must be a good pilot. While shooting an ILS to minimums is an important skill, this all presupposes you managed to depart safely. Unfortunately, NTSB reports prove that’s a big assumption – each year, a few pilots tragically learn that IFR departures aren’t as simple as they seem.

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doctor AF feature

Are doctors bad pilots?

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As the adage goes, the superior pilot will avoid demonstration of superior skills through superior judgment. The pilot who is extremely nervous before every flight may have a genuine concern for their ability, but a pilot without any self-questions or ongoing self-assessment may be supremely confident, yet much more dangerous. The best pilot is somewhere in between.

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7 ways to scare yourself in an airplane

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Most pilots aren’t dare devils, but sometimes the only way to learn an important lesson is to scare yourself just a little. That doesn’t mean we should seek out frightening experiences, only that we should try to learn from them when we inevitably stumble into one. Here are seven common ways to scare yourself in an airplane, and I’m sad to say I’ve experienced all of them (but only once!).

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AF landing feature RV

All runways are the same (sort of)

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The biggest problem I used to have as a pilot was landing at different airports. I used to say, “I hate this airport; the runways are different…” Strange but I never have problems parking my car in a different lot, with spaces that face a different direction than my normal office lot. I still have to put the car in the middle and pointed straight!

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AF checklist feature

Where is your checklist? Make your own

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Despite the obvious benefits of using checklists, many pilots fail to recognize the real cognitive value of checklists lies in the process of creating them. One of my favorite activities when purchasing or transitioning to a different light aircraft is creating my set of checklists for it. Having completed six now, I have a pretty good idea of the process.

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Managing risk in flying: cognitive traps!

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The most critical skill in aviation safety is making good decisions, both before flight when time is plentiful and in flight when circumstances change and we may be rushed. The ability to generate and decide between diverse options (often with incomplete information and in the crunch) is essential to mitigate risk and achieve a safe outcome.

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af landing feature

Some thoughts on landings

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I was TERRIBLE at landings. Not just bad–TERRIBLE. I either stalled the plane at three to five feet (or more) above the runway or drove right into it. My airspeed control was marginal. My sight picture was non-existent. Here’s how I got better.

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AF moon feature

Night flying: out of our element

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As much as we romanticize night flight, it’s not something most pilots do very often. It’s foreign territory, and the poor accident records backs this up. So what can we do to fly safer at night? Let’s consider terrain, spatial disorientation, weather, fuel and fatigue.

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Knowing your true airspeed for fuel management

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I have a healthy fear of running out of fuel and I do everything I can to be sure there is fuel left in the tank when I land. One of the best improvements I made had nothing to do with the airplane at all, but instead was a cheat sheet for quickly finding True Airspeed to trim the airplane and to determine engine fuel flow.

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Why you must fly a taildragger

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Experienced tailwheel instructor Anandeep Pannu says, “We need something to keep us honest–and I think a tailwheel trainer fits that bill.” He offers a number of reasons why tailwheel airplanes make better pilots, and offers some detailed tips for being a better stick and rudder pilot.

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Aerial encounters

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The sight picture of the approach end of the runway was perfect. The speed was perfect. It was a great day right up to the point where the innocence of the moment was lost. There was a flash of something, followed by quite a bit of noise, followed by the feeling that our Cub was injured and being jerked around.

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