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.

Flying on the ground – 7 tips on staying current

What can I do, a measly college student, who can only fly every so often? How can I stay current and make sure that the next time I sit behind the yoke again, be it tomorrow or a year from now, I can be assured I’ll know what to do?

10 tips for prospective businessmen (or businesswomen) pilots

If you are serious about moving you and your loved ones around by air, here are 10 things I have learned that I never read anywhere else. It is more rewarding and more fun than I ever imagined. It’s a lot of other things, too, nearly all of them good.

Real world missed approaches – 6 tips for staying safe

The missed approach is really a maximum performance maneuver. The key is to make your decisions long before you ever start the approach, so a missed approach is an automatic reaction. MDA is no time to be making decisions; it's a time for executing what you've already planned.

All runways are the same (sort of)

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!

Airspeed vs. angle of attack – what pilots don’t understand

Most pilots don’t really understand the relationship between airspeed and angle of attack. If they did, we would not have the loss of control accidents that we do. We fly strictly by numbers because we were taught that way. Very few flight instructors have any experience or knowledge in this area.

Where is your checklist? Make your own

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.

Managing risk in flying: cognitive traps!

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.

Some thoughts on landings

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.

Night flying: out of our element

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.
Fuel gauges low

Knowing your true airspeed for fuel management

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.

11 keys to safer instrument flights

Let’s look at some of the things we can do to minimize the chances of hurt while instrument flying. All along the way, remember that an important part of the operation is to continually ask yourself what comes next and what comes after that, and on and on.

Why you must fly a taildragger

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.

Aerial encounters

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.

LP approaches – coming soon to a GPS near you

Remember LP approaches? Last year we shed some light on these obscure but increasingly common instrument approaches, which are part LPV and part LNAV. At the time, this was mostly an academic conversation--nobody could actually fly an LP approach. But that’s about to change.
ADS-B system diagram

ADS-B 101: what it is and why you should care

In an industry famous for its ridiculous acronyms, ADS-B stands out for being uniquely confusing. Everybody uses the term, but few really know what it means. So what is ADS-B? Why should you care about it? Can you just ignore it? No.
Fuel gauges getting low

8 SOPs for instrument flying

Do you fly with SOPs? Standard operating procedures (SOPs) are commonly used in the corporate and airline flying world, as a way of formalizing the do's and don'ts of a flight department, but they can be very useful for private pilots, too. Here are eight SOPs I follow when I fly IFR.

Threat and Error Management: a primer

Brent Owens, a new Air Facts writer, offers an introduction to Threat and Error Management--"defensive driving for pilots." He says it's not just for airline pilots, and that through anticipation, recognition and recovery, pilots can improve safety. Read on to learn what it's all about.

What’s an LP approach?

You’re a current instrument pilot and you even have one of those fancy WAAS GPSs in your panel. After some practice, you’ve just about figured out this whole LNAV vs. LPV approach deal. But what’s this new LP approach that’s showing up on some approach plates? Have the rules changed?
airliner go-around

Go-arounds: what’s the big deal?

The go-around. Also known as the missed approach. I’ve never understood the panic that the go around instills in non-pilots. I ride in the back of airliners to and from work every week and go-arounds sometimes happen. The gasps, white-knuckles, and wide-eyed gazes directed at the flight attendant(s), during this maneuver seem unwarranted, but it happens every time.