The art of instrument approaches – 7 tips for proficient flying

Instrument training is demanding, but at its most basic the goal is quite simple: keep the wings level and the needles crossed. Do that a few times with an examiner and you can pass the checkride. But if your goal is to really use your instrument rating (and do it safely), there's a lot more to consider.

FAA Foreign Object Debris Program

The presence of FOD is a continuing concern at our nation’s airports. FOD creates safety hazards and can ultimately impact safe operations by damaging aircraft. Airports, Airlines, and the General Aviation community have taken the necessary steps to minimize FOD by engaging in successful FOD management programs.
Preflight with CFI

Are Your Preflight Inspections Becoming Routine?

Maintenance-related problems are one of the most deadly causes of accidents in general aviation. Contributing to this is a pilot’s failure to identify maintenance discrepancies because of a lack of knowledge and improper techniques used during the preflight of the aircraft.

Protecting the Pitot-Static System … by making Safety a Habit

On takeoff, the pilot also neglected to observe the airspeed indicator as the airplane accelerated and rotated. Only then did he discover his error. Looking out the left window, the pilot saw the white pitot tube cover still in place underneath the white Cessna wing.
Going down

“Energy Management”—Cliché or Exactitude?

“Energy management” is not a precise term. It is used in different ways to express different things, so it almost always requires clarification. Often, a speaker will say “energy management” and expect the listener to understand without any further explanation. Aviation safety is too important to tolerate vague phrases like “energy management” that facilitate misunderstandings.

Loss of control: turning over a new leaf

Loss of control (LOC) is a stealthy, deadly predator. In WWII, my dad flew 44 missions as a navigator in the 8th Air Force. After the war he became a physician and a private pilot. His comment is etched in my memory: "Flying can go all to hell in an instant." In this article, using data generated by a flight simulator, we describe a possible aerodynamic solution for LOC.
Cherokee takeoff

To flap… or not to flap?

Let’s do a shallow dive into what’s required to execute a successful “high performance” takeoff. We’ll explore issues and confusion surrounding aircraft performance speeds (“V-speeds”) and flap use during takeoffs. We’ll discuss why it’s important to know exactly what’s required for your plane, and why you should always read the fine print.
Wind on water

Ya gotta be able to see the air

During my early flight training, not only did I not have a complete understanding of density altitude (see my previous story), I also missed the part about always being aware of the wind and being mindful of its effects on your airplane. It was a few years before I realized something was missing in my wind knowledge—and that realization occurred at an embarrassing moment.
Boeing wing

Fly-by-wire for beginners

What makes a fly-by-wire airplane fly-by-wire? The term is broadly used nowadays, but not often explained. Since we have many GA colleagues here, and fly-by-wire is a concept more common to the military and airline world, it might be interesting to share some pilot perspective about its way of working and our way of flying it. Since I spent the last couple months transitioning between the only two Boeing fly-by-wire models, I thought it would be worth sharing it with you.
Plane in field

Engine failure: how to predict it and how to react

A friend of mine flying an RV-6 had an engine failure on takeoff. He was 15 seconds into the flight, airborne with no going back. He put down in a corn field. He and his passenger walked away mostly unhurt. The aircraft not so much. There are lots of articles out there about flying the aircraft in this scenario but very few about what caused the abrupt power failure.
Cessna 172

Safe landings are no accident

“No two landings are alike!” They keep saying that, and after thousands of landings I am reluctantly beginning to agree. Many factors are editorialized in that saying. There is the power, configuration, attitude, and then there is the biggest bugaboo: weather, as in wind and its fickle direction. Ah, I exclaim, how about in calm winds, what then?
Takeoff from runway

Are “impossible turns” worth all the attention?

A major purpose of gathering accident statistics is to assess where safety resources should be allocated. In other words, are pilots being trained on the right things? Are safety messages targeting the right things? Are researchers’ efforts addressing problems with the most likely payback? And, as the title states, are “impossible turns” worth the effort that is being expended upon their study?
172 landing approach

On landing well: 9 steps for success

Because most of what I do is helping Civil Air Patrol pilots transition to our high wing Cessna airplanes, I tend to fly with a lot of different folks but in just a few airplane types. This has allowed me to observe aviators using a wide variety of techniques to fly “nearly the same” airplane, including in the traffic pattern. And because some folks I have recently flown with have struggled with landings I will share what I have done to help them overcome their landing issues.

Time management, buffaloes, and airplanes

We all seem to have challenges in managing all we want or need to get done in life, and as pilots we have many things to manage in order to be safe and have a good flight. Time management guru Peter Drucker said there are three rules for effective time management. They work well for pilots. These are also concepts I teach to my high school aviation students.
Flight simulator

Building a frugal flight simulator

Covid shut down Young Eagles and $100 hamburgers, and my flying skills were going to pot. "Use it or lose it" is true where adherence to procedures and reactions to emergencies are concerned. Would a flight simulator help? What would one cost?

Podcast: aviation safety and airmanship

Recent episodes of the Pilot's Discretion podcast from Sporty's cover some important topics in aviation. Richard McSpadden, the Executive Director of AOPA's Air Safety Institute, shares his perspective on the GA safety record, including VFR-into-IMC accidents, the role autopilots can play, and why good pilots make bad decisions. In episode 23, flight instructor and airshow performer Spencer Suderman explains what airmanship means to him and offers some suggestions for improving your stick and rudder skills.

Podcast: Max Trescott on technology, pilot training, and Cirrus

As one of the premier Cirrus flight instructors in the country, Max Trescott has strong opinions about pilots and technology, including: "the debate about the parachute is over" and "the autopilot is the glass cockpit." In this episode of Sporty's Pilot's Discretion podcast, Max makes the case that technology has changed and pilots need to change too.
Len Morgan by airplane

Tips from the Ancient Pelicans

“Good judgment comes from experience,” said the early aviators, “and experience comes from poor judgment.” Fifty years later, I still hear the voices of those Ancient Pelicans who had learned in taildraggers or biplanes—many of whom had flown in the big war. Though they are long retired, their hard-won wisdom still instructs us today, such as these nuggets.
ForeFlight filing

Filing, dialing, and smiling—and a touch of humility

Why don’t more pilots file a VFR flight plan on CAVU days when IFR pilots do? I wonder if some of us, myself included, are perhaps haunted by the notion of, “if we forget to close it we’ve got some tall ‘splainin’ to do." Never mind the cost of that practice SAR exercise. I’m not exactly sure, but it’s the only reasonable explanation I can come up with.

Objective area analysis for GA pilots

During my Air Force career, I flew to remote airstrips in places like Ethiopia and New Guinea, and busy airports like Bogota, Colombia, where nobody I knew had been. My crew and I had to study these places on our own to ensure that we could safely accomplish our mission. In military jargon, we called this preparation “objective area analysis” and used a mnemonic, called OUTCAST, to guide our preparation.