For over 20 years, Richard Collins has been a contributor to Sporty’s Pilot Shop’s video training programs. Here, we present some of his most popular videos, with tips on everything from night flying to better preflights.

To purchase any of these individual videos, or the full set of Air Facts videos, visit Sporty’s Pilot Shop.


  1. charlie white says:

    I am a VFR pilot, but whenever I’ve flown into/out of a controlled environment I have been treated very well. Since I am not super-used to listening to them I sometimes have to ask them to talk slower so I can comprehend what they want me to do — I’m not pre-programmed as to exactly what they will throw at me. Their “landmarks” may not be something that is readly apparent either, especially when out of my usual haunts. Thanks Guys & Gals!

  2. Louis Sell says:

    I am a IFR pilot, and I agree with Mr. White, the air traffic control people talk way too fast for a private pilot not in his home envrioment.
    They are programmed to talk to air carriers. We have no solution except to learn how to listen and understand what they are saying. One help is to study your route in advance so you can be ready for the revisions.
    A hint; always file a flight plan and talk to these people, they are really there to help you. I ALWAYS filed IFR even if the weather was VFR. When you do this you get used to the system and are increasing your safety and that of others. Before you think it, no I am not a controller or airline pilot. I did spend 49 years in aerospace and have flown the U.S. and Canada on business.

  3. Bob Morgan says:

    Dick Collins are like a lot of us, a has been…….find a new writer.

    • Mike says:

      To call Dick Collins a “has been” shows what an idiot you are!
      Dick Collins is one of the most respected real-world aviation writers around.

    • steve says:

      Dicks Collins a has been ! Oh my, my obviously ignorant friend this is not pro sports. May I introduce You to Bob Hoover ( YouTube him ) Mr Hoover who is a LOT older than Mr Collins , Mr Hoover could take You up in You own personal ( any make & model You own ) , spank You in every way, every maneuver, even beyond POH to Vns Max and ‘safely’ make You puke and cry to be on the ground.

    • Jim Lunn says:

      A “has been” is exactly who I want to hear from. Someone who “has been there” and “has done that”. The physics of flight, as well as the aircraft we fly, have not changed much in the last few decades, only our electronic crutches. I may not go to Dick to learn the latest GPS techniques, but as far as how the AC operates, and the environment it operates in, he will remain a great, and highly valued source of experienced wisdom. Do the words old and bold ring a bell? Well he has made it old, so I will listen to how he did it.

    • Anthony A says:

      Dick is still pumping out excellent articles. Find a new attitude.

    • Anonymous says:

      I kindly disagree with you. I read most of his books especially on IFR flying.
      The nuggets that I acquired has saved my butt during single pilot IFR flights and otherwise.
      If we do not value professionals and learn from their vast experiences we might just as well stop flying and stop talking about aviation safety and flying for personal enjoyment.

  4. John Townsley says:

    Agree with Charlie White that it helps to “go slow to go fast”. I can catch and comprehend relatively simple instructions that include perhaps up to 2 or 3 distinct items w/ a low probabilty of error. As the number of items in a stacato radio burst increase my ability to retain the information in temporary memory goes down… Sort of a FIFO problem (First in, first out… of memory, that is). We have a tower controler at my home airport who likes to get the entire ATIS done in 5 seconds or less. This means I have to listen to it about four times before I can reliably have all of the information… especially when I’m listening on my number 2 radio and there’s other traffic on my number 1. A bit slower, and no problem. Clarity is not talking as fast as the lips will flap!

    • Dan says:

      Ha! I think that same controller works at my home airport. Every once in awhile I will fire away at him like the legalese guy at the end of a commercial (2,000 words per minute or something) just to race him. It’s ridiculous and unnecessary, actually.

    • Walt Alexander says:

      Mr. Townsley,

      The ATIS should be spoken at the rate of 100-120 words per minute. If you feel that the message is too fast for comprehension, I would suggest that you contact the Air Traffic Manager of that facility and voice your concern, as with any issue involving a controller. Rate of speech is very important and safety could be compromised due to misunderstanding or non-compliance. Have a great day and safe flying

      W. Alexander
      MCN Air Traffic Manager

  5. Ed Curran says:

    The man who wrote “Dick Collins are like a lot of us a has been… Find a new writer” should
    Go back to school. Dick Collins IS like a lot of us etc.,etc. When he knows as much about flying
    As Collins he can have an opinion worth listening to.

  6. Jim Densmore says:

    Bob, of course you have a right to that opinion. Elsewhere in this virtual rag I think Mr. Collins calls himself an old coot. If it really bothers you, you do not have to visit this website at all. Since you gave yours I’ll chime in too: today, Dick’s writing, regardless of the writing quality ( which I always find easily readable – what more do you need?) is backed, i wager, by more flying experience in general aviation aircraft than you me and five other normal guys put together. I find benefit in Dick’s experience every time I read one of his articles. If he’s repetitive, that’s ok – I forget more and more these days! If he’s having an off day, that’s ok too, you can still see that wealth of experience shining through. And I might remind you, like good players of the game of Go, Dick’s experience is multigenerational – Mr. Leighton Collins was no slouch writer/aviator either. His Dad’s contributions heighten Dick’s value to our community even more.

    –signed, Jim, former Air Facts Magazine (the only magazine issued with the correct size to fit properly in the mailbox) subscriber, unabashed Dick Collins fan, and firm believer that respect is vital to our cultural excellence.

  7. Daniel says:

    It’s good to know that US natives have problems understanding ATC… I’m French, quite fluent in English, but training IFR around Miami was not easy at all !!!
    My tip is to talk to them very slowly, most of the time, they answer the same way. It works.

    • Michael says:


      I appreciate the challenge. I fly frequently in France, where, even though the agreed international language of aviation communication is English, proud French controllers and commercial pilots on IFR flight plans often converse in French, leaving non-French speakers in the dark about their location, intentions, etc. I can understand that we all need to understand the local language to be safe a the local aerodrome when the airfield language is French, but at international airports and enroute IFR, use of the agreed common language is not just polite, but essential.

    • Dave says:

      I do the exact same thing. I’m not exactly sure how this speed talk became traditional. I fly out of KFWS outside of Ft Worth, Tx. We have a couple young controllers that somehow feel that they need to play this game even when there are a minimum number of airplanes operating, not to mention our share of PPL students.

      It’s almost as if we all have to somehow buy into this in order to be accepted into the pilot community as worthy enough. I politely ask them to slow it down and if that’s a problem for them, we will be having a meeting with the FBO Director.

  8. George Ronan says:

    Richard Collins I knew your father in the late 1970s gave him several bi-annuals in a piper araphoe (not sure of spelling) he was a real gentlemen and I believe an article on him would be of interest to your readers George Ronan

  9. Ed Brown says:

    Mike, If you think Richard Collins is in your words a “Has Been”.Then you my friend must be a Hasn’t Been AND Never will be…Just sayin

  10. Ed Brown says:

    Excuse me Mike. My reply is directed at Bob Morgan… My Bad

  11. This dialogue has been very confidence-inspiring. As a high-hour student pilot (still) I have sometimes been intimidated by not being able to get all the info on the first transmission from ATC. Thanks for all the candor and honesty about the same difficulty. The ‘fast talk’ and ‘lingo’ get to be a bit much sometimes.

  12. Dean Shaw says:

    When I was a student pilot I purchased a scanner, i.e., from Radio Shack, and programmed in my local frequencies. I listened then and now to learn the cadence, order and terminology used by the locals and big boys(and girls). It’s amazing how quick you begin to pick it up. an aviation buff it’s just fun to listen in.

  13. Larryo says:

    Night IFR can be as safe as you want. It a numbers game, just like day time is and one needs to realize that.
    Dick mentioned descent rates, and sometimes 1000 fpm is totally appropriate for night ops, depends on the plane and pilot. I’d strongly argue that a steeper approach, up to 6d is safer than a shallow approach, and, will require a greater rate of descent.

    Also, there are times when must leave minimums prior to being on final, or they could easily be outside the vis minimums for the approach, especially with higher minimums. And totally appropriate to descent on a downwind or base leg. However, one must be aware of obstructions.

    Night also has other advantages, usually less convective activity, less traffic.

    While I prefer early morning flying, I also enjoy a good night IFR trip.

  14. MitchB says:

    Here’s a question for the gallery:

    When cleared “maintain altitude until established…” what constitutes “established”? Exactly on course? Within a few radials / degrees of final course? CDI movement/centering..?
    It’s important to know in a congested enviroment…

  15. Cary Alburn says:

    I taught and was taught that “established” is when the localizer needle is nearly centered, the airplane is aligned with the localizer, and I’m ready to fly the darned thing. If I’m still working at getting things centered and aligned, I’m not ready to fly the localizer, and I’m not ready to descend.

    As for whether Dick is a has-been, nah. He’s not a god, but he’s provided a lot of pilots with a lot of good stuff over the years, in a very readable, easy to understand way. I remember thinking he was crazy the way he had equipped his “Silver Crown Skyhawk”, probably the most overly-instrumented 172 on the planet at the time. Then he had that Cherokee 6-300, which I thought was super ugly–until I had a chance to fly one and found out how useful an airplane it was. While I was flying a TR182, he was in his T210, and by the time I was flying/owning (a small partnership piece of it) one of those, he was in the P210. And all the while, he was writing in ways that I understood and could apply to my flying. He’s OK, regardless of the views of the Bob Morgans of the world.

    As for getting controllers to slow down, the easiest is to ask them to do so, punctuating it by making your request in a slower way: “Ah, Cessna xxxxx is cleared to Omaha–say again everything after Omaha–I can’t write as fast as you talk.” The information they give you is in the same format each time, but sometimes it is a chore to keep up with Machine-gun Mike. Same is true in reverse–pilots shouldn’t speak so fast that they can’t be understood, either.

  16. Don Purney says:

    I am a retired Chicago Center controller and I heard somewhere that the human mind can retain only three pieces of information at a time. I tried to limit myself to three items and at a rate of speech that meant I would not have to repeat myself. Some guys think that they have to talk fast but when they have to repeat themselves what have they accomplished?

    A Falcon pilot got a reroute from a Chicago Center controller talking like an auctioneer; ” N1234 re-cleared to XXX via this that and another thing, climb and maintain YYY…” A pause then the pilot said “OK, Now that I have my pencil I’m ready to copy”. Another pause and the controller then said “I guess I deserved that.” I knew both the pilot and the controller and heard the story twice.

    • SaferAviator says:

      You are correct about three pieces of info being about the max for most people to retain at one time. It helps to break things into sensible sections. A phone number is a good example: XXX-YYZZ. Thanks for your technique when issuing instructions.

      For all those in the cockpit, I have a printed sticker on my kneeboard with blanks labelled for each piece of ATIS information. I write on it in pencil and erase before I get new ATIS.

  17. Louis Sell says:

    Many thanks for your help on lots of occasions. Some centers are busier than others–Chicago, Ft. Worth, L.A., Boston, Etc. They talk faster than we would like, but–you gonna play with the big iron you gotta learn the rules. If you study your route, file in the system all the time and anticipate what routing you may be given there will be less problems. People need to remember, controllers are your friends, treat them as such. You guys earn twice what your paid. A suggestion to the sky beaters–wear a knee board and write down everything. When you do that you will only have to ask clarification on some things. I do agree with Don that we sometimes have trouble absorbing all that is shot at us but until we have many more controllers we will just have to try and request a repeat during our read back.

  18. Steve says:

    Boy, this thread has gone a long distance, but sends a message. As a pro pilot, I also occasionally find a controller that goes too fast…. and they can just say it again. Usually one can anticipate what they are going to say, but sometimes not, and a rapid unexpected clearance is hard to pick up.

  19. Niroop says:

    Greetings from India! (my field:VEJS). I’m a reasonably experienced pilot ( checked out on 11 types including exemption on the Jet Provost) and have been reading Flying all along. Always found Mr Collins extremely insightful and he writes like ” the guy next door”. However, I wonder whether we need so much acrimony….let’s fly instead! Blue skies, my friends.

  20. Daniel Dreher says:

    I’ve been flying since 1984. I’ve read everything Dick Collins has published multiple times as recurrent training. Now I supplement his books with his videos. He is not a “has been”. He is a treasure and General Aviation is fortunate to have such a professional. Just my humble opinion.

  21. Louis Sell says:

    Put me on the side of Dick Collins “LIKE”. Yes sometimes Dick’s articles can be a difficult read, but he is trying to inform and educate rather than just entertain. If you want just entertainment read “Flyings” recent test flight of the Gulfstream 650. If you want education read Dick’s articles about weather and IFR flying. The biggest problem out there is many are “scan” readers rather than studying and absorbing the article content.

    • I have read many things about proper preflight but not one article about a proper post flight. Example: How much oil was consumed. Did you hear any strange noises like a “bump” that needs to be checked. Are all the surfaces still in good order. No wrinkles in the fuselage. Was it a hard landing? Did the airspeed and rate of climb perform in flight? Check the pitot and stall warning tube and flipper. Note; With the master switch “on”, move the stall warning flipper and listen to the audio.

  22. Cary Alburn says:

    I need to amend my post of October. “Established” according to the Instrument Procedures Handbook happens when the needle is still 2/3 scale deflection. I suggest, however, that if that’s the only criteria a pilot is using, that’s insufficient. I would still add that the airplane needs to be aligned with the localizer and the pilot is otherwise ready to fly the approach.


  23. Bart McPherson says:

    On my last IFR flight in a 172 I was flying in heavy cloud with a bumpy situation. When I got close to my destination I had been listening on the radio and knew an ILS approach was planned for runway 22 so I had the approach plate out. When I got just a few miles the female controller changed me to a vor approach on a different runway. No way I could get out the approach plate and study it since the 172 was bumping along with a vengeance. I should have told the little darling that I wanted to stay with the ILS but my thinking was not the swiftest and I accepted and continued. Fortunately, as I was about to report my predicament I popped out of the clouds and saw my airport right in front of me about 5 miles away. I thought, great! I thought the thing was 10 miles away (I had a DME). The runway alignment was just right and so I entered final and just as I got over the end of the runway the controller yelled for me to pull up as I was landing on the wrong airport!
    My actual airport was about 5 miles on ahead.
    There was never a doubt in my mind that this heifer was laughing aloud at my goof.
    Single pilots with no auto pilot should think long and hard about flying serious IFR with no autopilot.

  24. Ronnie Kelly says:

    I enjoyed reading all the comments here. Thanks to all for the interesting and informative inputs. Flying has always been a very deep-rooted passion with me and every hour spent in an airplane was like nothing else on earth. From years ago I have always enjoyed reading articles from Mr. Collins and feel that he is a very insightful pilot with very impressive credentials. Also, if you haven’t read the article about Mr. Collins and his wife’s first and last flight together, it’s a very touching story. Best wishes to all for many safe and joyous flights ahead! ~ Ron

  25. Dave says:

    Every time I sit down with another pilot regardless of how young or old they are, it is an opportunity for me to learn something.

    I will never claim to be a good pilot.
    But, I will continually strive to be one!

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