Return to Whittsflying
Certain Students Start Wrong; Instruction the way it should be; Finding an Instructor; ...Comments from Others on the Internet; ...Selecting an Instructor; ...Teaching Program; Now what?; Beginning lessons (first 10); Instructional Sequence; It's about time; The ATC System; ...Pilot Arrival Operations; ... Pilot Departure Operations; Class D Airport Patterns and Procedures; ...Class D Airport Departures;...Class D Airport Arrivals; ...Two Mile Reports; ...Getting the Best from Radar Communications; Why We Squawk; ...Radar Separation; ...Data Block; ATC Radar Acknowledgement; Class C and B Radar Call-up Procedures; ...Operational Procedures; ...Procedures for Arrival in Class B Airspace; ...VFR Radar Flight Following; ...The Handoff;...VFR Radar Advisories; Flight Service Station Procedures; ....Flight Service Station Communications; Flight Watch; The Demise of Pilotage; Controlling the Un-Controlled Airport;
Students Start Wrong
In my careers as a school teacher and flight instructor I have discerned some student classifications that appear universal. There are students who make things happen; there are students who watch things happen; and, there are students who wonder what happened.
Flying is not a good place for the last category student. To the extent that a student is not self-prepared or tutored into a lesson or maneuver it will be a constant state of wonderment. It is a fortunate student who has sufficient awareness to recognize his state of wonderment as a requirement for a series of questions. The wondering student needs to study learn and question his way out of that wondering state. This can best be done by having comprehensive study materials and a question/answer forum such as recreation.aviation.student on the internet. Just studying for the test is NOT the way to go.
In some flight situation there is value in watching, but only if you are knowing what to watch. In making turns, you are watching the horizon and the nose relationship. In fact, most maneuvers require that you watch what is happening to the nose in relation to the horizon. The sooner these relationships are imprinted in your visual perception the better. Keeping it there is the next step of the watching process. The ingrained desire to see below the nose must be overcome if the watching student expects to benefit when he moves into the makes things happen phase.
The best phase of learning and instruction in flying is the process of making things happen. This making includes mistakes. The opportunity to make your own mistakes is of major importance. The opportunity to do something correctly is nice but the making of a mistake is a learning experience of unequaled value. Recognition of a mistake is part of the learning experience. A spiral descent is an example as is a wing drop during a stall. The process of making things happen either correctly or incorrectly is not totally up to the student. The instructor creates situations as learning experiences. Distractions for example. The instructor who allows a student to perpetuate an unsafe procedure is incompetent at least in that area.
There are teachers (instructors) who from even limited experience seem to be all-knowing about all things. There is considerably more to instructing than just being able to fly the plane through a particular maneuver. The watching student will partially benefit but the instructions must include where to look and for what. If this where to look and for what was not included in the pre-lesson overview then it occurs in the cockpit. The cockpit is a relatively poor place to provide instruction. The poorest examples of such instruction I have noted over the years is when the instructor accepts and perpetuates a students perception of safety when it is less than the optimum. An example is when a recent private pilot flew me four miles from takeoff before reaching 1000 AGL. She wanted to see where she was going. All turns were at 15 degree banks or less so she could see under the wing better. (C-150) We only made one flight. She went with an instructor who accepted her way of doing things. Not the first time for me nor the last.
Poor instruction is perpetuated but so is good instruction. The normal tendency is for the instructor to teach the way he was taught. I once knew a flight instructor who perpetuated three generations of flight instructors whose students consistently failed to flare to keep the nose wheel from making initial contact. Numerous collapsed nose struts and propeller strikes were the result of this one old-timer. The students loved these instructors because they could always see the runway on landing. The maintenance shops always recommended these instructors. The more the teacher (instructor) knows the less certain he is that there is only one correct (profitable) solution for any performance.
Advice can be right, wrong, conditional, dangerous, incomplete, misleading, universal, or limited in scope and application. Giving dangerous advice, even with a disclaimer is quite hazardous when the recipient has no way to discriminate or associate the advice in a meaningful context. Giving wrong advice can lead to fatal results when associated with flying. If in the giving of advice, you must include a disclaimer of any sort, it is better to refrain or at least to pose it as a question.
As a teacher, I was not given to meaningless praise or reward. As a flight instructor, I judge the lesson by knowledge applied, improvement observed, and satisfaction achieved. The achievement of normal expectations is viewed as acceptable but not deserving of profuse adulation. Only when my retarded students did beyond the usual were they praised. Praise, thus achieved value by not being a throw-away for everyone. My gifted students were always faced with ever higher expectations. My standards were once compared with an ever extending extension ladder. One of my many weaknesses as a flight instructor is an unwillingness to accept from a pilot or a student less than their highest level of performance. Close is accepted only when accompanied by significant improvement. It is a poor student that does not exceed his teacher.
Once read, that every advance by mankind has been achieved by laziness. I hate to see students preflighting inefficiently. I believe that flying correctly is the easiest way to fly. Every maneuver can be either easy or hard depending on how lazy the pilot has been in knowing how to make it easy. I cringe when a pilot works too hard at flying. Flying is easy only when it is efficient and I dont mean using an autopilot.
If you are a student who has a death-grip on the yoke, you are working too hard. You will fly better by learning to trim and let go. Most any airplane can be flown quite well without touching the yoke. Use the rudder. A well trimmed plane can be made to climb or descend slightly, just by nodding the head. try it. I used to call trim the power steering of flight. I was corrected in r.a.s. into calling it cruise control. Knowing what to do and when to do it allows the lightness on the controls that makes flying easy.
Even talking on the radio can be made easy. To talk effectively, you must know where you are or will be when you plan to talk. You will give your altitude as an additional warning to other aircraft. You will rehearse to eliminate unnecessary verbiage and eliminate pauses and punctuation. All the rest is canned, in the same informational sequence for every ATC situation. Additional information by the pilot beyond the minimum shows the extent to which the assertive pilot is in command. You must know enough to protect yourself from ATC mistakes.
Do you think that many people of this type of ability stick out the 'failing to achieve' that must come to them with flight training? That makes me wonder about your '250 feet per mile, ROC' student. First, I am worried that this girl could ever have been certified (to fly, that is!). Secondly, I wonder if there is not a method that you have found in your years teaching, to show people who think they are doing OK, that there is a better or safer way? Did this person present a rational argument for what she was doing? I assume if "seeing where she was going" was it, that SHOULDN'T be too difficult to talk her out of, on the ground, even!?!? Or would she just not accept information from you? that WOULD be a problem, for all pilots, not only you as the instructor.
Pupils dont fail, instructors do.
As for poor instruction being perpetuated, I have seen the same thing happen.....to the point where I lost a friend, and he took a student with him while trying to perform an aerobatic show for his visiting parents. My question though, relates to the story of yours, and to the second "type 3" student I mentioned earlier. She was on her first solo cross-country, she got 'kinda' lost and upon her return to the field, (a 2000' strip) made a particularly bad landing and porpoised the nose-wheel into a "STAR". She quit flying that day. Do people not lose confidence, maybe to the point of quitting, when they continually screw something up? When people become more experienced, theirs skills more finely tuned....do they not understand from the A&P's bills, if nothing else that they are messing up? or is this a type 3 that wouldn't realize?
Another instructor problem.
You also mention the exchange of advice/ information, particularly in a forum such as rec. aviation. student. I have made several posts in the group (not many as my time is very limited) in response to questions/ comments posed by others. On one occasion, it turned out that I had given information that had actually been superceeded. Now, I always give the best advice I can, if that is what is asked for. I say that it is 'advice' or 'my opinion' as in the recent debate I had with several people from the group on the subject of prop-stopped forced landings to the ground. I still believe that this practice holds far too much "unnecessary risk" and would never teach that to a student pilot. That is not to say that, with the circumstances the other person gave, I would not try it, but I have never felt the need or had the will to try it, as yet. If I give 'information' as was the case I mentioned earlier, then I say that's what it is and include no disclaimer. My question here would be, is it not better that I posted a response to be corrected by somebody with more recent information, than to ignore the subject? If I had not posted, *I* would not know any better,
Would not a personal response rather than a posting avoid the problem?
I am not a student pilot, but will always be a student. I learned something, too! That brings me quite neatly to the one thing you said that I must disagree with. "It is a poor student that does not exceed his teacher." I have an 'old' friend who is the most experienced all-round pilot I have ever met (or even heard about), and I used to enjoy sitting around 'hangar flying' during my CFI prep. One of the things we agreed on was that the day you fly and do not learn something about flying, you should quit. In short, the same applies, the day I learn nothing will be the day I die. That is why I have to say, Gene, I think more appropriately, I believe it would be a poor instructor that allows his student to surpass, or exceed him.
The comment is a tongue-in-cheek statement with enough truth in it to defend. The highest level of learning is to benefit from the mistakes of those who have gone before. The increased safety of flying is a statement to the fact that todays studdents and pilots are better.
I agree whole-heartedly with your views on praise and over-praising. The extending ladder is a nice way to look at it! Unfortunately, I think that one of my own major faults is laziness. I agree that doing things 'right' is the easiest way, but I personally, find myself doing only what needs to be done to achieve a particular standard as opposed to doing everything to my best ability, all the time. This particularly aggravates me about myself, yet I still do not change, I think out of laziness????
Old age is still another excuse for laziness.
To add to your last paragraph about 'Ease of doing right', for example, talking on the radio. Obviously one must know what to say and when to say it, this we can teach. What we cannot teach, unfortunately, is the confidence one gains from 'getting it right'. In my experience, this confidence has helped me improve in other areas even more than continual input from another would have. What does this mean????? ;0)
the way it should be
The truism that the way you first learn something stays with you for life applies doubly to flying. The student who is taught procedures in flying that were acceptable or even standard forty years ago may be dangerously unsafe today. The God-like ability of the instructor to perform flying miracles of precision and performance gives a halo to even antiquated instruction. You will remember forever the way you were first taught. The way you hold the yoke, move the trim, hold the throttle, tune the frequencies, or use a checklist from the beginning will influence the way you fly for ever. I my opinion, the most difficult teaching/learning process is to change a flying process learned early on. In a stress situation the pilot will invariably revert back to the first learned procedure. The radio techniques of forty years ago are the equivalent of Elizabethan English in today's airspace. "Roger" and "wilco" still live. The visual perception of what makes a good landing approach will always be the one you first learned. The student, with his flying career ahead, can only proceed oblivious to any deficiency of procedure and the hazards created thereby. There is enough poor instruction around to make learning to fly still potentially dangerous.
Flight instruction should be a planned sequence of behavior forming and modification. You are learning to survive in an extremely complex environment. Your ability to perform must be increasingly precise. Failure to perform can and will result in serious consequences. Much of what you are expected to do is completely contrary to all your most basic instincts. Behind every major flight performance there is a multiplicity of small movements and skills required to make a safe result possible. Students learn their attitudes toward flying from the instructor. Attitudes affect behaviors. The teaching of a safe flying attitude is even more important than a high skill level. As an instructor I will try to always give the "why" of what we do. If I forget, ask. The reason behind doing a particular act makes the act more meaningful, more likely to be remembered, and more acceptable to the student.
If the student has not prepared for the lesson, then the lesson should be canceled, changed to a review, or otherwise adapted for best utilization of resources. On occasion, cancellation is the best way to get the student to pay attention to the requirements of learning to fly. The student should be told the sequence of maneuvers the instructor plans to follow. New skill elements will be introduced early in the lesson. Review and skill maintenance will be covered as time allows. Any discussion, along with diagrams and walk through, should cover the procedure, control movements, power settings, common errors, and performance standards.
The individual lesson is homemade and hand made to fit the student. The success and failures of the prior lessons are blended into the plans and expectations for today. I will preview on every succeeding flight some of the basics of airspeed, turns, and changes of configuration. The transition, entry, and recovery from every maneuver requires constant review just to maintain the present skill levels and to continue improvement. A given student has different needs than any other. The instructor must have a repertoire of instructional devices capable of meeting a variety of student requirements. The basic 30 degree banked level turn is comprised of a multiplicity of subtle yoke pressures and rudder applications. Very often the pressures must be anticipated in one direction but not the other. for this reason it is instructionally desirable to practice as much to the left as to the right in every maneuver.
Prior to every flight I will spend at least 30 minutes discussing the skill building blocks upon which the coming maneuvers will be based. I will walk through, diagram, and 'handee' so that the student understands both the maneuvers and the performance parameters. I will depart up wind if possible to make the flight less costly. I use the climb out to teach skills such as Dutch rolls. I plan the entire lesson so that when completed we will be in position to contact our home base. If opportunities allow I would suggest that every instructor have a diagram of the airport and its taxiways on the asphalt of size sufficient to allow a walk-through of procedures.
We make a sequential listing of the expected frequencies we will need for the radio. We will occasionally review the universal frequencies that we should know. The most common are: 122.95, 122.0, 122.1, 122.2, 122.9, 122.75, and 121.5. If you cant say what the frequencies are used for or how, you should do some studying. According to experience I will help the student to mentally, orally, or write the expected communications to accompany the frequencies. Additionally, we plan the taxi route to the departure runway and the way we will depart. Our return is planned the same way with a pre-decided call-up checkpoint and a requested landing entry. As much as possible a different departure and arrival will be used on every flight.
The instructor should have given the student some idea as to what to expect on the next flight. This information is basic to any student preparation required. My students are expected to follow up with a phone call the night before a flight so that in addition to discussion of the planned flight alternatives caused by weather or time can be covered. As a student, you can reduce the stress of a lesson by being prepared. Your instructor will set your standards of expectations and preparation. The biggest problems will be scheduling and student preparation. Most of the expense of learning to fly is due to a poor scheduling program. Scheduling more frequent lessons is always better for the learning/teaching process.
The night before we both will check with the FSS for the forecast that applies to our expected flight time. An hour before leaving home we will make another weather check with the FSS and perhaps even make a phone call to our expected destination if no weather is available. I help in arrival planning to know the runway in use and wind conditions. You will save far more than the cost of the phone call by being able to make an efficient arrival.
I like to begin every lesson by getting the student to ask me any questions. Some students are better at this than are others. The question and the way it is asked is revealing about the depth of student awareness. The final flight preparation should be a check with the student to see if there are any unanswered questions. Every instructor who enjoys flying will respond to the student who is inquisitive and makes the extra effort and time to learn more. A good student helps the instructor do a good job. Students, don't wait until you get into the airplane to ask the "What if...," questions.
I tend to be, too, intense in my instruction. I want my students to succeed, save money, and learn quickly. I love flying and teaching it and have difficulty accepting that others may have other conflicting interests like jobs, vacations, and family. I am constantly narrowing the student's perceptual field to flying or a single aspect of it. Students, on the other hand, fail to see that flying is not just the 'fun' of being in the air. Flying is the homework, preparation, and required knowledge to make the 'fun' safe. The best flight instruction takes place on the ground, it is on the ground that you are exposed to the habit of preparation that makes flying safe. Learn the habit of "What if..." before you ever get into the plane. Murphy's Law exists in flying as in everything else.
The teaching process requires that the performance objective proposed to the student be explained, diagrammed, and demonstrated. Demonstrate those objectives that are difficult to explain. I will create situations that are likely to be a part of the students later experience such as all the things that can go wrong during landings. In all maneuvers I will try to give the student the cues to use. Not all are visual. Sound is a very important first cue to changes in airspeed. The element of success in any flight lesson is the best motivation. Find some success to tie up the flight package. Don't relate problems of the lesson as a 'blame'. We learn as much from our mistakes as from our successes.
While there may be more than one way to teach a flight skill, some ways may be quicker, more efficient, better, cheaper, or safer. Behind the way I do or teach a given skill is what I have learned from resolving my mistakes with numerous students, pilots and instructors. Since the ultimate goal extends beyond a trainer, the student should be taught from the beginning, as though he was in a higher performance aircraft. The instructor who initially takes the easy way to teach is performing a disservice to the student and thus to aviation. I have detected in checkrides such instructional faults as allowing a tight grip on the yoke, not using trim, always making partial flap landings, not verbalizing clearing, and not permitting the student to do the radio communications. I try to concentrate on procedures that are safe to use in the worst of likely circumstances.
If, for some reason, a particular maneuver is not performed by a student to acceptable levels the instructor should choose the most efficient and economic method of correction. Instructional skill is demonstrated where the instructor is able to detect, analyze cause, and provide corrective feedback to the student immediately. Some correction of errors should wait until landing. Perhaps a demonstration by the instructor is required. (My past students have indicated that I may not demonstrate often enough.) Have the student repeat the exercise while the instructor talks through the procedure. Have the student talk through a dry run before doing it again. Every student and maneuver will require a slightly different instructional touch. Rules and requirements will not make you a knowledgeable, safe pilot--instruction will.
If the flying process is tending to overload the student it is best to remove the pressure. The instructor may assume radio and traffic watch or even talk the student through a procedure. Make sure that the student is reducing the work load by correct use of trim for airspeed. Have him talk through each maneuver as an aid to the anticipation required for smoothness. Be aware than much of 'getting behind' in flying has to do with airspeed control. Trim!!
An intensive flight instructional period should not exceed 45 minutes of new material. Any instruction of new material beyond this time will result in deteriorating performance and frustration. However, it is important that a student's endurance be extended. It is little clues that warn the instructor of student fatigue. Failure to clear, pull carburetor heat, or trim correctly are common signs. As an instructor, I point out to the student my detection of fatigue and continue the lesson only to review material while returning to base. Physical fatigue is not as significant as is fatigue brought on by emotional pressures inside the student.
During the post flight debriefing it is beneficial if the student is able to make a self analysis of how he performed. It is important that the student recognize good, fair, satisfactory, and poor performances. This means that the student must know what the tolerances of acceptability are. It is even more important that the causes be determined. If, for whatever reason, his solo performance is outside these limits he must so advise his instructor and plan for a corrective lesson. Every student flight should have its parameters designed to meet requirements for the flight examination. To fly otherwise is a waste of time and money.
A note about the relative importance of what you learn. There are certain basics that can never be replaced by technology. The stall warner, engine gauges, the feel, sounds, and sensations related to flying can never be replaced by computers and other devices. You can be fooled by false indicators stress reactions, and illusions. The basic skills, kept proficient, will not fail you when most needed, technology, can and will fail often at the most inopportune moment. The first priority is always aircraft control.
An instructor should be looking ahead for the student. Certain skills require seasoning before proficiency can be acquired. When doing airwork I try to make the flights up-wind so that the return to the home field will be both closer and quicker. I recommend introducing radio procedures from the beginning. This is especially true for those communications that are essentially the same for every flight. There is no reason a student should not be rehearsed and allowed to make those communications for both departure and anticipated arrival. Personally I teach inter-airport communications, orientation, as part of the landing instruction.
While it may take longer for a student to solo through the process of utilizing multiple airports, once soloed, they are better able to use this prior experience to make inter-airport solo flights. Additionally, these flights provide a much larger target area made up familiar checkpoints and radio procedures for cross country flights and weather/terrain conditions.
Interestingly, there is some advantage for a student to learn to fly in aircraft which are subject to a variety of maintenance problems. I have been flying with a student who has been subjected to an endless variety of problems. Water in the intercom today, a bald tire, a low battery, a failed generator, and being unable to transmit on the radio. Each of these events has been a learning experience that is not likely to be experienced when flying newer aircraft. It is far better that these situations occur under experienced supervision. That most of these situations were discovered prior to takeoff is indicative of the importance of a careful preflight. Those that loccured in the air provided an instructional demonstration of procedures not otherwise easily created.
Flight in the vicinity of clouds, marginal conditions and turbulence is something to be looked for, not avoided. These kinds of experiences are best provided as practical instructional opportunities that are best not faced by a solo student or low time pilot. Flight in weather should be introduced in small increments but it should be introduced and perhaps supplemented with additional experiences. I have flown with any number of pilots who have had to experience weather, SVFR, and unfamiliar radio instructions when solo long after getting their licenses. This is one of the reasons I advocate beginning your flight training in the fall. Most pilots will have their licenses by spring. The full summer of nice flying weather is followed by weather which has been a part of their training. I believe that the reason so many pilots quit shortly after getting their licenses is because of their being uncomfortable with making weather flight decisions.
There will be occasions when weather or aircraft conditions make a lesson impractical. Extensive turbulence and radio problems are typical examples. The ethical instructor will be willing to cut the flight off and call it a day. The student with money should not be treated or taught any differently than the one who is without.
One of my phrases from teaching school is, "Pupils dont fail; only teachers do." I have found that the instructors choice of when and how to introduce and practice a given skill is very much the determining factor in student success. The progression to solo is as varied as there are students. Skill, and judgment are the general factors but just as important is exposure to a wide variety of situations. Reserve intellectual and emotional capacity can only be developed with controlled experiences. Safe flying and safe correction of errors is more to be sought than perfection. Competence and assurance that you have enough capacity left over to handle the unexpected is better than bravado.
Almost anyone can learn to fly safely. Flying well is reserved for the few. Those who cannot exercise sufficient judgment to fly safely should flat out be told to quit to save their lives. I have done so twice and only saved one life. Today I saw an instructor take off with a student in an aircraft that had a three inch bald spot with a fringe of nylon cord on the outer edges. This flight was made with full awareness of the potential hazard and in full view of competent witnesses. Instructors teach judgement as much by example as anything else. Exposure to situations that require judgmental decisions is part of any good instructional program.
For any flying situation there are many poor ways to perform, a number of good ways, a few better ways but only one best way. Unfortunately the nature of flight instruction is that the best way is usually an opinion left to the instructor. A given instructorors best way is usually the way he was taught. In a unique reversal of form the FAA has reneged on any accountability for determining just what constitutes good instruction.
As a free lance instructor I see specific advantages to being exposed to multiple instructors that will partially counter the intrinsic benefits of a single instructor. Students want and need explanations that come from different directions with a difference in emphasis. Some times a single instructor can offer this but it is more likely from multiple instructors.
CFI motivation is an important consideration. Money is usually the common motivator but not in flight instruction. There are too many available instructors for the supply of students. A career instructor should (must) have supplementary income in order to afford the career. As an industry, aviaton does not have an affordable instructional program for the non-commercial level pilot. The general aviation pilot is usually being taught by a relatively low time instructor who is trying to fly his way out of instructing. To me, there seem to be fewer and fewer high time, old, and experienced instructors who have the most to teach.
by others from the internet:
1. In my own education I have found that the part-time CFI, the one who teaches because he loves aviation and wants to share it, has been the best, while the CFIs looking to "move up" the career ladder have been the worst.
2. I always do my BFR/Wings with a different instructor for diversity reasons, and I can tell you I've flown with some very good Part 141 insturctors (most who were younger than I was) and some real stinko part timers as well.
3. For me, personally, I was looking for someone who would be flexible in how he or she taught, able to work with some of the training I lready had, and CFIs with other jobs who were inflexible, inexperienced, or simply trying to fly as much as possible on someone else's dime. As well as the reverse.
4. Of course, all his education training is required is to memorize a few simple rote (and dated) theories for the FOI exam.
5. I prefer instructors with a wider range of experience than common plus instruction hours.
6. I would ask around before selecting my instructor. The aviation community is usually small enough that any 'bad instructors' are identified quickly.
7. I have found that IMHO, the best instructors are those guys that fly or have flown either corporate or industrial aid. They usually have the widest experience of flying into bad strips, in bad weather and
sometimes in broken aircraft. Provided that they can make
the transition from do-er to teacher, they have a lot to teach.
8. I don't believe you're doing yourself a favor by "sticking it out" with an instructor you don't like.
9. I think this points up a problem in general aviation training. What other industry uses the most in-experienced to teach the novice?
10. Sometimes this means letting one learn a lesson (as opposed to (teaching it") the hard way, and knowing when acquiring a skill just requires experience
11.IMO, the first thing you should remember, is that the instructor is there for your benefit, A certain amount of discomfort is expected in the process of learning anything new, especially things that carry a lot of responsibility
12. But if your discomfort is such that you cannot say 'I learned something' or 'I enjoyed that lesson' _after_ the lesson is done, you need to adjust something - either the pace, or (sometimes) you just need an instructor you are more comfortable with. Talk with him or her. Develop some trust and communication.
13. In short, learning to fly is, at times, uncomfortable. The end result, however, is very rewarding! And usually once you've accomplished each lesson, you can look back on it and see what you learned, and how much fun it really was.
14. A good and compatible instructor is a key ingredient - and even though one instructor may not be compatible, doesn't mean they're a bad instructor, and certainly has no reflection on you!
Why do you teach?
How busy are you now?
What is your success rate?
I want to see your syllabus.
How many lessons are needed in how much time?
Do you use lesson plans?
How flexible are your lessons?
How available are you?
What about ground school?
When should I take the written test?
How do you conduct a typical lesson?
How do you teach radio work?
How often should I fly?
What about cancelling?
Will I take phase checks?
What about my taking gliding or spin lessons?
What makes you distinct from other instructors?
How many hours can I expect to take?
How do you charge? Interpersonal:
What¹s the most important thing you teach in flying?
A few weeks ago I was asked for suggestions as to how should a student continue after getting her license. The specific request was for ideas for becoming an excellent pilot. I responded with about twenty suggestions. The Email or posting, I forget which, disappeared into cyberspace. The following is an attempt at reconstruction. It does not have the spontaneity and flow of the original as with most reproductions of anything.
Except for the fortunate few, we should find ways to make our flying more economic. I belong to a club. I have always belonged to clubs. The $8000+ fixed annual cost for an airplane can be shared. An owner friend of mine spent over $24,000 on his single-engine plane in 1995. My $35 monthly dues is multiplied by twenty every month to cover the fixed costs of one aircraft. The club is a non-profit corporation that carries better coverage for its aircraft and members than do most FBOs. As a club member I am an aircraft owner. I have many of the benefits of ownership while greatly limiting my costs.
When flying you should work on making what you do both economic and efficient. Safety need not be sacrificed. Begin with the preflight. Make your preflight one that limits the amount of wasted motion, duplication of effort, and back-tracking. Pour sump drain fuel back into the tanks. Plan your start, radio work, taxiing, and runup so that you minimize time on the ground. Little things like using the finger to set the space of throttle movement for runup will save seconds on every flight. Memorize sounds.
You should be working your checklists so that there is a sequence, a pattern that fits the way you do things. Now, try to make it smoother, more logical, and shorter. Use your fingers one at a time to sequence things to do or touch. Make the process as simple as you can and one you cant drop under the seat. Make a flip lapboard to keep aircraft data, flight plan sequence, position report sequence and other items of occasional use. A long narrow one is less likely to interfere with the yoke.
Know your aircraft handbook and aircraft systems. Every re-reading of the POH will improve both your knowledge and understanding. Little things like tire pressure, minimum oil, useful load, and airspeeds always need to be reviewed and refreshed in our minds. Washing an airplane is a very educational experience. Do it. Ask a mechanic to let you participate in an annual inspection. Ask questions.
Plan each flight so that a minimum time is spent on the ground. Plan your departure, route, and arrival for the greatest efficiency. Often a 270 overhead departure gets you to altitude and on course best. Plan your high or low flight options to take the best advantage of aircraft performance, wind, and your own preferences. Contrary to a popular opinion, my wifes, all winds need not be headwinds.
Give every takeoff a distinctive character by selecting one parameter such as airspeed or heading and work on reducing the margins. Short, soft, x-wind, downwind of course but consider experimenting with full flap takeoff with recovery to normal, on a very long runway determine what it takes if you lose an engine at 200 feet.
Landings offer an unlimited variety of possibilities. Slips from abeam the numbers are fun. Simulated engine failure at 400 on final in full flap configuration. Go-arounds at every lower altitudes and lower airspeeds. Excellence is best demonstrated in low speed flying. Work on your ability to trim for hands-off operations whenever and wherever possible.
Put aside a certain part of your flying funds for special purposes like aerobatics and gliding. You dont know what you can do with an airplane until you have actually done it. Skills learned while gliding will make you a more efficient pilot, a safer pilot, and a better pilot. Begin working on your IFR rating. Do a lot of reading first. Catch some training rides in the back seat.
You will need to improve your radio work. You might write out ahead of time all that you expect to say between two airports. Include what you expect to hear from ATC. Go over it until you have eliminated all unnecessary words but have retained the meaning. Take a copy with you and read it in sequence over the flight. Tape record the flight. You will never be good enough on the radio. Challenge your flights for opportunities to use the radio. Make PIREPS to Flight Watch and the FSSs. Monitor Center frequencies to become familiar with how the Big Boys talk. Pay particular attention to the way they say numbers, headings, and altitudes. When you feel ready, join the fun. Now reverse the process and make a flight with minimum radio operations. Excellence can be demonstrated both ways.
Begin working on precision flying. Develop performance and cruise tables for your aircraft. How much fuel, how far, how fast. As a student you have worked toward the 5/5/50 club for airspeed, heading, and altitude. As a pilot work on your 2/2/20 membership. If you have occasion to fly the same route often, work on ways to make the flight more efficient. How many motions are required to level off from climb? How long does it take to acquire hands-off level flight? Do it again and again to acquire greater efficiency of motion and conservation of time. Do the same for slow flight. Work on your arrival descents. Turn your altitude into airspeed.
I am not a great believer in touch-and-gos. I believe there is more a more practical and efficient use of flight time in going from place to place. Departures and arrivals at unfamiliar airports require that you admit ignorance. This too, is a skill. Know as much as you can but be aggressive in admitting unfamiliarity. You should make a point to make as many flights as possible beyond 50 NM to build up cross-country time. Fly different directions from your home field and use as much pilotage as possible. Work out ground speeds and then contact a radar facility for a ground speed check. Make a flight using everything you have available in the aircraft. Make the same flight again with single com radio and transponder. On a selected flight to be repeated keep track of how often you look down into the cockpit. On subsequent flight make a point to reduce your head-down condition to zero. When you fly with others make a game out of who can pick up traffic conflicts first.
Make some minimum altitude flights. What is the lowest safe and legal altitude you can use to fly from A to B? You want to study any area you may expect to fly at night in the day. Learn where the radio towers are, the power lines, and the last resort airport. Get competent in flying SVFR. Find if there is a facility with DF (direction finding) ability in your area. Practice a DF steer. Its old fashioned but it is a procedure you might need someday. Find a military base that offers no-gyro approaches. Try to do at least one a year. VFR if you must, under the hood if you can.
Make at least 25% of your flights at night. Be very careful to get good VFR at night. Safety will be greatest if there is at least a quarter moon. Fly familiar routes where you have good knowledge of terrain. Dont fly single-engine night over mountains and water for fun. Alternate the use of landing light on landings. You want to be competent without the light. Taxiing at night on an uncontrolled airport is a whole different world.
Fly with as many different instructors as opportunities allow. Take your flight reviews in different areas and even different airports. If you travel commercially to distant cities, make a point of taking an instructor on an area flight to as many airports as money allows. This is the kind of flight many instructors seldom get to do. Interestingly, you never seem to forget an airport. Visit towers at every opportunity. The people are first class. Same can be said about FSS and radar facilities. I have never had a bad experience while visiting an FAA facility. When you know their side of the picture it makes you more understanding as to why you should do certain things.
Do at least two hours of reading for every hour of flying. Historical flights are interesting to study. Subscribe to Flight Training Magazine, FAA General Aviation News, Callback, and at least one magazine. Get in a newsletter if funds allow. Arrange to share resouces with other pilots. Join AOPA and any organization that if in your interest area. Get on the FAA Advisory Circular mailing list. When you visit airports and FAA facilities collect all the reading material you can. Work backwards from the latest material to the oldest. You will never catch up with the Wright Brothers telegram.
Lessons (first 10)
Are these lessons and sequence for every student and instructor? No. Can the material be adapted into any program? Yes. Every instructor is expected to have a syllabus giving his plan for student instruction. For many years the FAA had published a small spiral notebook sized syllabus with some 30 lessons. I learned to fly and teach using the sequence from that syllabus. With experience (mistakes) I learned that some flexibility was required since one size did not fit all at least up to solo. All ground and flight work is taped for student playback at a later time. A first visit to the tower is made with the expectation that the student will make one visit for every three hours of flight time. Bring coffee.
Every lesson begins with a complete on the ground review of what we will do and why. All departure and arrival checkpoints and radio work is reviewed since I try never to leave or arrive in the same way or direction twice during the presolo phase. A familiarization flight to cover the main nearby airports visual points, and departure/arrival points are used if the student is unfamiliar with the area. The preflight and airport procedures are limited if this flight is deemed necessary.
After the first three lessons the student is expected to do the preflight and to have a checklist developing through two revisions and three more to go. The first three flight lessons will cover the four basics of climb, level, descent, turns and all slow flights and stalls. These will be done separately, in transition, at varying speeds, in different configuration, and in combination. You name it, we do it. The use of trim is integral to establishing hands-off flight as much as possible. We begin doing the Dutch roll on the second lesson during climb-out. I am not teaching how to fly a basic trainer, I am teaching how to fly any airplane. All banks are of 30 degrees except for all the steep turn lessons. Turns are 90 degrees or greater. At the end of the third lesson we go low and fly a river at 700" AGL for a mile or so. If any break in training occurs a required review should take place of these basics.
Lesson four introduces emergency procedures, spirals, turns about a point, rectangles, S-turns, and river flying preferably in calm wind conditions but always in both left and right directions. Lesson five, ideally, is the same lesson using different references in the strongest wind available. In doing the previous lessons we have been building the basics for the maneuvers required in landing.
Lesson six is the putting together of the basics into a pattern at altitude initially. We walk and talk the airport pattern on the ground. We review the radio work required to arrive and depart a nearby airport hopefully with parallel runways.* At altitude somewhere between the two airports we fly through a simulation of two left and two right patterns using the destination airport runways for headings. Every simulated landing consists of a beginning from level cruise, a prelanding, an abeam the numbers power reduction, trimming to a hands-off approach airspeed that is held constant as the remainder of the pattern is flown. The addition of flaps, retrim, turn base, more flaps, turn final, full flaps, and retrim follow in due course. On final I will select an altitude for go-around or flare/go-around. The airspeed determines how the go-around is done by going to 20 degrees flaps immediately or flaps are milked off until climb speed is attained. Aircraft is retrimmed for Vy climb hands-off.
Once again we review the radio procedure for arrival and the student does the radio work until turning on to downwind. From this point on the instructor uses the radio until a departure is requested. The student is expected to verbalize the required thinking and procedures as they occur in the pattern. Every pattern ends with a go-around four left patterns and four right patterns with each four at successively lower altitudes down to the runway. Leaving for home the radio is given to the student.
The seventh lesson goes to another controlled airport where the go-around is used only if necessary. Ground preliminaries cover departure, arrival, and taxiing. Solutions thought through for being high or low on base and final. The arrival landing consists of a full-stop and taxiback. The student needs to know how to get familiar with ground procedures as well as pattern procedures. The situation is adjusted to expose the student to as many variables as traffic and wind conditions allow. All pattern work is done with the instructor on the radio.
Lesson eight is to an uncontrolled airport with all the departure and arrival procedures both as to flying and communications fully covered before entering the plane. As before the student uses the radio until the pattern work begins after making a full stop. The 360 and simultaneous communications is done by the student prior to the uncontrolled departure. The instructor handles the radio during the remainder of the pattern work until departure for home. Basic VOR navigation might be introduced if facilities are available.
Lesson nine is a visit to a Class C airport and may include visiting an FSS and TRACON. ATC visits can be arranged during low volume periods and good weather. More time is required for this lesson because of the visits but some landings should be made. Again the radio work is shared between student and the instructor. By the end of this lesson the student should be proficient in radio work, the short approach, slowflight in the pattern, adjustment for being high or low, and up to 12 knot 90 degree cross-winds.
Lesson ten is a required pre-solo flight which, by pre-arrangement will be an ATC exercise with the controller directing the aircraft through about 45 minutes of flight. The intent is to expose the student anything that could happen at the airport through ATC directon. Typically this would include, changing runways, doing 360s, 270s, and 180s, variations of the landing options as directed, light signals, simulated radio problems, and some creative selections. The student is told that he will not be allowed to make a mistake. The same assurance is not offered to ATC or the instructor. From this flight the student is expected to be responsible for the radio.
Solo usually takes place within the next three lessons when the student demonstrates ability to fly, communicate, and have enough reserve awareness to carry on a side conversation. Total time to solo is never an issue with the instructor. Youre ready when we both agree youre ready.
*Why parallel runways? Because you dont want to go home all wound up.
The more frequent the flight lessons in coordination with the ground study, the better. Once a week lessons allow far too much time to forget and regress. Twice a week is a minimum in the beginning and should increase to three about the time of solo. After solo twice a week will work until the proficiency
My instruction is done with the assistance of a tape recorder. All the ground work relating to preflight, checklists, radio procedures and practice, and the flight maneuvers of the lesson are reviewed and discussed using the tape recorder. The actual flight and the post flight time is, likewise, recorded. a students use of the tape in playing back the lessons can greatly reduce the actual cost of learning to fly. I have had students fail to make use of the tapes. It shows. phase before the flight test.
By the second flight the student should have previewed the aircraft manual. The manual checklist material must be completely incorporated into that of the student. The next flight's preflight will use the scratch checklist with the instructor reading the items while the student does the checking. The student will make another revision from this tape and use it on the next preflight under the instructor's supervision. On all future flights the student will have the plane pre-flighted and ready at the appointed time. Fuel, oil, and weather status are confirmed to the instructor as well.
The first three flight lessons are designed to acquire competence in the four basic maneuvers, climbs, level, descent, power changes, trim, flaps, stall recognition, and associated turns. I make it a point to combine the basics with radio procedures, area familiarization, knowledge of aerodynamics, emergency procedures, and safety. The next two or three lessons uses ground reference flying to develop those skills required to fly airport patterns according to wind conditions.
With these lessons as the basis we now apply them to takeoff and landings. These are initially practiced as a unified series of maneuvers, including downwind, base, final, go-around, climb, and crosswind. Patterns are practiced with power, airspeeds, trim, and flaps to both the left and right. This is done initially at altitude to remove the inhibitions caused by ground proximity. Then it is practiced at a neighboring tower airport with the go-around occurring progressively closer to the ground.
The next four or five flights are planned as landing practice at nearby airports in different directions from the home field. These flights include the procedures of departure, arrival, radio, checkpoint selection, as well as the actual takeoff/landing procedure. During the actual closed pattern the instructor takes all responsibility for communications and traffic watch. This reduction of burden is important to the success of the student.
The landing lessons are then concentrated at the home field. The landing lesson just prior to solo consists of an airport exercise utilizing all runways and common pattern maneuvers. Normally two or perhaps three supervised solo flight follow at the home field. The instructor next flies with the student to and from one of the local fields that have been used previously for landing instruction. On return, the student is allowed to immediately duplicate the flight. This is repeated three or four times to all the local fields with the variety of radio procedures required. The student now has a circular region of 40-50 mile radius in which he would be knowledgeable of the area, airports and appropriate procedures.
About this time there will be a change in the instructional approach. Initially, the instructor will become more strident and demanding in all parameters. Airspeed is now expected to be within 2 knots, altitude within 25 feet, headings within 5 degrees, power settings right on, trim for hands off, ball centered and banks at 30 degrees. Aircraft control, situational awareness and assertive communications are now the goal of every lesson.
Suddenly, there is silence. The instructor just sits there and watches or at most, only points. The student is expected to note and correct mistakes without intervention by the instructor. It is best when the student talks to himself so that the recorder notes what is transpiring. If deemed necessary, I will take over control, and speak briefly to make a point before again relinquishing control again.
The next two or three flights, other than local student solo
training flights, cover proficiency in different types of landings.
The first cross country training flight is an instructor/student
prepared, planned, and flow flight. Everything works perfectly.
The next flight is prepared, planned, and flown by the student
with the instructor.
Creative instruction presents realistic problems where they naturally occur and otherwise. Subsequent to these training flights the student prepared, plans and flies a minimum of ten hours of cross country with one extended flight. About this time the studying required to take the written examination should be completed and the test taken and passed. There are advantages to making the written test and the flight test close together.
When the cross country requirements have been flown, the proficiency phase begins. All flight maneuvers are reviewed and practiced in dual and solo flights to meet the Practical Test Standard requirements. Preparation is for the oral part of the PTS. This includes knowledge of weather, sectional, aircraft, manual, computer, FARs, navigation, radio, and airspace. The skillful pilot is smooth. Aircraft control is done in anticipation and not reaction. You should know ahead of time what to expect of the airplane, the atmosphere, and yourself.
One aspect of preparation that I very much recommend is having the student take a phase check from another local instructor. This check should include parts of the oral as well as the flying. This is the student's first experience with another pilot in the cockpit and will be stressful but not nearly as muck as the flight test.
If the instruction has been as it should be, the actual flight test is anti-climatic. Everything on the test is published as to what is expected in performance parameters. You are expected to have and use a checklist for almost everything you do. The oral part can be more or less difficult, depending on your background and preparation. Any test is easy when you know the answers. Dont try to fake your way through a response. Offer to find the answer by indicating what source you would use to get it.
The next major step in aviation measurement came from the Greeks about 2500 years ago. The Greeks sought rules for the way number-ideas seemed to work. They applied a reasoning process to build on known facts to reach a conclusion. They knew it as deduction. Some flyers call it, albeit incorrectly, the origin of the term Dead Reckoning. Actually it is a deductive system of navigation. The first ship's time was kept with sand glass and the speed was determined by counting oar strokes during a sand glass sequence. Distance over water could be deduced by the number of strokes in a given time period.
A sailing ship's speed over a nautical a mile was, historically, measured by means of a knotted (knots) rope tied to a log. A sand filled timing glass would be used to measure the time from leaving the log dead (much as a dead man might appear) in the water (dead reckoning) and the number of evenly spaced knots passed along the rope. All of this would be recorded in the logbook.
I contend that dead reckoning is a not a corruption of deduced reckoning, The term derived from the navigational practice of starting from a point (Buoy) that was dead in the water. From this point the direction and time would be used to deduce location along the route as it crossed longitudinal lines.
Since the chronometer was yet to be invented, sailors had
no way to determine longitude except by this dead reckoning.
Within crude limits, speed and compass indications could be used
to determine estimated distance and estimated longitude. Magellan
in 1519 had access to charts, globe, theodolites, quadrants,
compasses, magnetic needles, hour glasses, and timepieces. He
was unable to determine exact longitude. By the 18th Century
a chronometer (first weighed over 36 pounds) was used to get
longitude. A chronometer differs from a clock or watch because
it has a temperature adjustment for greater accuracy. Captain
Cook in 1768 had three such clocks for his voyage. In 1779 he
sailed with 4 chronometers and a nautical almanac which enabled
him to determine longitude. The very first effort to make a calculator
was financed by the British to make the making of the nautical
almanac easier. The original design was completed in 1991 and
found to work accurately. Interesting to speculate where the
world would be had it been completed in the 1700s.
The ATC System:
The FAA-ATC radio system has several types of facilities that require subtle differences in use of the radio. Radio procedures are different for tower controlled airports than for other ATC facilities. There are even selective differences between similar airports due to historic preferences or operational requirements. The better you understand why they do what they do the better you will understand the importance of correct radio procedures.
The tower controller is known as local control. He is responsible for the active runways, inbound and outbound traffic inside the airport airspace. Ground control is responsible for all airport movement area traffic. This includes cars, trucks, and airplanes on taxiways, some ramps, and inactive runways. Ground coordinates the crossing of active runways with the local controller. The flight data position does such things as getting IFR clearances, making the ATIS, and coordination with approach control. At some airports in very light traffic conditions one person may work all positions.
A supervisor is in watchful command of the total shift operation. He has great flexibility in rotating the positions to maintain efficiency. Each controller goes though initial training in Oklahoma City. He then works in the facility at each position until certified in that position. The local controller (tower) is playing three- dimensional chess with aircraft of different categories and types. These planes are arriving from different direction, at different speeds, with varying levels of pilot competence. The ATC mandate is to provide safe, orderly, and expeditious movement of traffic. Pilot competence is vital if ATC is to do its job well. The first clue the controller has of pilot competence is the way the radio is used by the pilot. The best way to learn how the system works is to make a practice of visiting towers at every opportunity. When you know what the controllers are doing and why, you can use both the radio and the flight path to make things work better.
If you are a passive pilot who lets ATC make all your arrival decisions you can just follow orders. This works best if you are quite familiar with the airport and its procedures. At unfamiliar fields you need to work out an arrival with ATC. The easiest, but less efficient way, is to request to overfly the field and let them work you into the pattern. Passive radio operations usually require multiple transmissions involving questions and answers. One incompetent pilot with poor radios can tie up the system.
Every light aircraft pilot should be wearing a headset. He should know that microphones are noise-canceling. The closer to the mouth the mike the less extraneous noise will intrude. As a pilot you will speak at a measured pace without punctuation. Make no pauses for periods, commas, or thinking. As a student you always let ATC know that you are a student as part of your full aircraft identification so that they can keep an eye on you. ATC communications are practically the same in similar situations. With experience you can recognize the canned aspects and include them in your call-up. The more assertive pilot will take charge of the situation as suggested below. Do all your planning and thinking before you key the mike.
The call-up to a tower controlled airport should be preceded by several planning steps. You should get the ATIS well away from the airport. This means you will know the direction of the preferred runway. You will know if a substantial crosswind is involved. You will listen and orient other traffic with reference to your arrival. You will plan your arrival so as to make your initial call-up at a selected reference point and altitude. Reference points are best when they are specific identifiable spot locations. Altitudes below 3000 feet AGL are safest when not at even thousands or five hundreds.
As a student you would be well advised to write your expected arrival out without any shortcuts. Have it so you can read it off. After doing this a few times the writing will no longer be required. Where multiple runways exist some variations are to be expected. With the planning taken care of, you take a deep breath and practice getting everything out in one smoothly paced flow. While you are practicing you will be listening to the radio for ATC references to both inbound and outbound traffic. Ready begin:
"Podunk tower (Cessna 1234X)(reference point)(at altitude)(with ATIS)(arrival path)(will report) (looking for traffic)".
You win if the tower says, "34X approved as requested."
Properly presented and arranged radio work by the pilot helps the controller sort out the factors of aircraft type, position altitude, intentions, and expected report. Making it easy for ATC lets them make it easy for you.
The tower airport departure is a multi step procedure. First you get the ATIS and talk to clearance delivery if radar is involved. This will involve a transponder squawk, departure route, approach frequency and a read back. Plan your call-up to ground just as you would to tower. If you are uncertain or become uncertain dont hesitate to advise ATC and get assistance as you taxi. ATC can see the airport much better from the tower than you can from the ground. On completion of your runup you will contact the local control (tower).
You have looked in the direction you expect to depart before
getting into the aircraft. On getting the ATIS you have planned
your runway request for the most efficient departure. If you
do not get the most efficient departure runway then you must
plan your flight departure to establish the easiest interception
of the planned route. All too few pilots request the 270 departure
that crosses them over the airport on a course that corresponds
to the line drawn on the sectional. Why begin a flight two miles
off course if you dont need to? To help ATC you have named
a specific destination rather than a general direction or departure.
This provides safer traffic avoidance. A good departure call
"Podunk tower Cessna 1234X student pilot ready (runway number)(right 270 on course Xandu) (have any reported traffic)"
ATC is required to point out any known traffic that may affect your arrival or departure. You acknowledge that you are looking and when seen you are expected to report traffic in sight. Any time you report having reported traffic you make a friend of ATC since you then assume traffic avoidance responsibility. If after thirty seconds or so you have no visual contact be sure to advise ATC.
D Airport Patterns and Procedures
Except for traffic conditions where ATC (Air Traffic Control) has override powers, airport pattern directions, and altitudes are decided by local jurisdictions. Some Class D airports have 'bright' radar displays and
ability to assign transponder codes.
From a single runway there are nine standard departures that may be requested if there are no special considerations. If departures can be made from both ends then we have a total of eighteen. If left traffic is standard there are two of these eighteen that need not be requested. They are the two left standard (45 degree) departures, one from each end.
If no request is made you are expected to make a left standard
departure. The tower may ask for confirmation of a standard departure
just to make sure.
From any runway you can request a..
...on course (destination) may be appended to any of these. You can optionally just say request left/right turn on course (destination) The advantage of naming a destination is that other aircraft are given a more specific idea of the flight line you will be flying. A low visibility or weather related departure would be to request a climb in the pattern.
Typical call would be..."Podunk tower Cessna 1234X ready 32 request right 270 on course Lost Hills" No punctuation should be used in talking or writing airplane.
To a single runway there are seven standard arrivals. There are two non-standard arrivals that are relatively hazardous. If no special considerations interfere any of the seven may be requested. If the pattern direction is known a 45 degree entry into the pattern need not be requested. However, the tower must be advised that you will report right or left downwind. As a standard procedure, except for the downwind entries, all other arrivals require a two-mile report unless otherwise advised. The purpose of the report is to allow the tower time to locate you and plan a safe sequence for your arrival.
right standard (45)
left standard (45)
direct entry to left downwind (not recommended)
direct entry to right downwind (not recommended)
All of these can be modified by pilot request or ATC suggestion. A modified entry may be at other than a precise number of degrees relative to the runway. I recently heard an aircraft over the airport request and be approved for an overhead arrival. Ask and you may receive.
A typical call might be..."Podunk tower Cessna 1234X the dump at 2100 with Alpha request right base 32 will report two-mile base" Again, no punctuation should be used when writing or talking airplane.
The standard 45 entry has some dimensions that can be used to standardize a landing approach. The ideal towered runway is about 5000', close to a mile. Entering on a 45 and aiming at the runway threshold and turning downwind at mid field would place the aircraft a half-mile from the runway and a half-mile from abeam the numbers. Flying from the numbers to the 'key position would be another half-mile. Base would be a half-mile as would the final. This gives the aircraft a two-mile landing procedure with the first half-mile for pre-landing procedures, the downwind extension for slowing, trimming and configuring the aircraft, the base leg for descent and setting the length of the final approach.
The two-mile reports for the straight in and base arrivals
can be segmented much as the standard arrival and used to organize
your landing procedures.
The two mile report should be 'measured' from the runway threshold. the 'measuring can be done for the straight-in by using a known site directly in line with the runway or by using a call that says abeam (beside) a known site. The last recourse is to visualize the runway flipped toward you two times. If you use GPS, you should know the point on the airport used as its position and adjust your GPS reading accordingly. The downwind l4l5 degree entries do
not have two-mile reports. They do require downwind reports.
The two-mile base reports can be done much the same as the straight in except for the use of the runway flips. Your entry line should be aimed at a point anywhere from a quarter to a half-mile before the threshold.
There is an instance where the 45 entry and two-mile reports can and do present pilots with illusions that can affect their airport arrivals and landings. A pilot using the 45 entry at a runway of 3000' or less should plan to turn downwind abeam the departure end. Flying to midfield before turning will reduce all the flight segments to 1/4 mile. The best way to see this effect is to compare the pattern of a 5" drawing and a 3 inch drawing of a 45 entry. The best advice I have for flying a pattern at a small or unfamiliar small airport is to keep the downwind twice as far as you think you should and you will be about right.
Where parallel runways exist, any requested departure may be restricted by ATC until they authorize a turn for reasons of conflicting traffic. At any airport, a particular departure may by limited because of terrain, noise abatements, or local considerations where turns are only allowed after reaching a particular point or altitude. Every airport will usually have a place where the preferred or prohibited flight procedures are explained and/or illustrated.
Intersecting runways make possible restricted clearances to land. The restriction most often requires the pilot to land and hold short of the intersecting runway. A pilot should not accept such a clearance unless able to comply.
the Best from Radar Communications
There are some radio procedures that are relatively infrequently used by new pilots. In this tome I will attempt to
clarify why some of the distinctions exist and what to say, when. The proper radar frequency is often not available
to the VFR pilot. If you know a facility exists, such as Center, the local frequency can be obtained by contacting a
local tower or an FSS. Every sectional chart has a Facilities Frequency section behind the chart legend. The initial
radio call for such a frequency should end in the word "request" as "Napa Tower Cessna 1234X request" (All radio communications will be written without punctuation, just as they should be spoken.)
The initial callup to every radar facility is the same. It makes no difference if you are dealing with a Class B or C, an approach /departure, traffic control (TRACON), or a center.
Name of facility, full aircraft identification + "Student
"Travis Approach Cessna 6185K student pilot over"
The reasons for this brevity is because the radar controller
has a multiplicity of tasks. In addition to your frequency he
may have a military one. He has a phone line for contact with
controllers of adjacent areas. He often records data and writes
notes. In low traffic periods one controller may have two areas
and two frequencies. Under certain
workload/weather conditions VFR advisories may not be possible. When this condition exists you will be so advised.
A visit to a radar facility will help you be more understanding as to why the controller does not answer immediately.
A more distant initial callup procedure allows the controller to select when to contact you as his workload permits.
Wait at least 30 seconds before calling again. The more efficiently you communicate the more likely it is that you
will be accommodated since good communications reduce the workload.
During WWII the British developed a top secret 10" x 10" x 10" radar transceiver. It would respond to a radar interrogating signal by responding with a coded transmission. A code would allow the land based radar station to distinguish British from German aircraft on their radar screen. The radio also contained an internal thermite bomb which, when triggered by an inertial switch (crash), would destroy the interior of the set. This was supposed to prevent German discovery of the codes. (A reverse ELT?) The British code named the system Parrot. The United States Army Air Forces version of the system was called IFF, for Identification Friend or Foe.
As with many WWII developments, the IFF system was designed to prevent a clever German ruse. The Germans were following the night bombers back to England. German aircraft would join in the stream of returning British bombers. They would wait until the bombers were most vulnerable, just prior to landing, and then shoot them down. Parrot allowed detection of these German aircraft since their (primary) return would not have a distinctive code.
To control the operation of the airborne coded set to the best advantage, the ground based radar station would radio instructions regarding the operation of "Parrot". The aircraft would be directed to "squawk your parrot", meaning to turn on the set for identification; or to "strangle (not kill) your parrot" as a directive for turning the set off. The power of the transponder signal would often hide other targets.
The only vestige of this that remains today, other than the entire ATC system itself, is the term "Squawk", as an ATC directive for operation or code for the transponder. Old time ATC controllers may still have you "strangle" your parrot (x-ponder)
Today the transponder usually has a four position switchoff, stby (standby), on (mode A), and alt (altitude Mode C), a test button, and ident (identification) button, a response light, and four selector switches with numbers from 0 to 7. Certain aircraft letters and numbers cannot be reproduced but frequently the discrete code can be seen to represent a specific aircraft due to their similarity.
ATC has a system by which the code used on the transponder shows a specific type of operation. Operations such as VFR without advisory, VFR with advisory, IFR, specific airport operation, TCA, ARSA, Local IFR, Tower enroute IFR, X-country IFR, emergency, hijack, and radio failure all have differing first two digit codes which tell ATC controllers your situation.
There are 4096 possible code selections on a transponder from 0000 to 7777. This is a Base 8 number system which is used by computers as a short method of storing Base 2. Base 2 is the number system of computers.
The four places of the transponder from right to left are 1's, 8's, 64's, and 512"s. We know it is a base 8 because the highest digit is 7. The eight possible digits are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7. Counting in Base 8 proceeds as follows:
Place Values 512 64 8 l are Base 10 equivalent
0 0 0 0 = 0
Set as 0 0 0 1 = 1 (1 one)
Counting transponder to code numbers
. 0 0 0 7 = 7 (7 ones)
0 0 1 0 = 8 (1 eight, no ones)
0 0 1 1 = 9 (1 eight and one one)
0 0 7 7 = 63 (7 eights, 7 ones)
0 1 0 0 = 64 (1 sixty-four, no eights, no ones)
0 1 0 1 = 65 (1 sixty-four, no eights, one one)
0 7 7 7 = 7 sixty-fours, 7 eights, and 7 ones)
448 + 56 + 7 =511
7 7 7 7 = 4095
4095 added to 0000 makes the possible 4096 transponder codes. More than you ever wanted to know?
Emergency 7 7 0 0 = 4032 in base 10
Nordo 7 6 0 0 = 3968
Hijack 7 5 0 0 = 3904
VFR 1 2 0 0 = 640
Terminal Area (TRACON)
Basic separation within 40 miles of single antenna is three miles in airport/terminal airspace. IFR/VFR separation is 1.5> miles in Class B. Beyond 40 miles of antenna it is 5 miles.
Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC)
5 miles is the minimum for IFR. Several antenna returns are displayed as one.
The pilot should know that under VFR conditions once you have told ATC that you have visual contact with traffic you may not receive any further radar advisories on that traffic. They may not advise you again of altitude or direction. It is up to you to evade any possible wake turbulence. ATC will let you fly right under a DC-10' wake turbulence and not issue a warning. You must be aware of this lack of protection and be assertive enough to make a 360 or whatever it takes for avoidance.
Contact and identity established by 1-mile or runway is 'contact". Radar return at specific reported position is 'contact'. Radar vectors may be used to identify and establish 'contact'. Transponder codes are used. Mode C gives altitude which must be validated by each successive controller. This is why when you make contact after a radar hand-off you should always include your altitude. If you don't, the controller is required to confirm your altitude.
The computerized radar is capable of showing the aircraft route, a conflict with another aircraft, range and bearing from any fix, and a minimum safe altitude warning.
All transponders operate on 1090 MHz. For Mode A the transponder gives back only the four digit code. For Mode C includes the altitude. This is done 600 times a second but only 20-30 responses occur during the radar beam passage. If two radar interrogations occur nearly simultaneously the transponder response may become garbled at the radar site. This often leads ATC to claim that your transponder isn't working properly. Your recycling the transponder is a way of changing the response sequence. If one radar location has had no difficulty with your transponder refer the problem site to them. Often different locations are using widely age different systems. Ask that the radar tapes be saved so that the FAA may make an analysis of the problem.
All codes are discreet and assigned by ATC to give other controllers information regarding your type of flight and destination. Operations such as VFR without advisory, VFR with advisory, IFR, destination, specific airport operation, TCA, ARSA, Local IFR, Tower enroute IFR, X-country IFR, emergency, hijack, and radio failure all have differing first two digit codes which tell ATC controllers about your flight and destination. An improved Mode S system is under development which will allow selective interrogation.
An airplane may be without an altitude encoder and operate only on MODE A or ON. Under Mode A, ATC will expect you to maintain either an assigned or agreed upon altitude and to report changes. Flight with Mode A is somewhat restricted. If you know that your transponder does not have Mode C capability, be sure to advise ATC. Know the following restrictions.
Aircraft above 10,000 feet are required to have an operative transponder with Mode C. Aircraft in Class C airspace or above the outer perimeter of the Class C airspace up to 10,000' are required to have a transponder Mode C. Any flight above the Sacramento Class C comes under this last requirement. Any aircraft in a Class B or operating within 30 nautical miles of the Class B primary airport is required to have an encoding transponder. Exceptions are made for aircraft without electrical systems and high mountain flights within 2500' of the surface. The transponder and encoder system must be inspected every 24 months. It is illegal not to use your transponder, while flying, to its highest capacity.
An aircraft without an operating transponder shows, if at all, as a primary target. All transponder targets are called secondary. Under MODE C, or ALT, your aircraft will have an encoder which tells ATC your altitude. ATC will always need to know if your altitude encoder is operating correctly. This altitude encoder is cross-checked by ATC with your altimeter setting via radio. They will remind you of the current altimeter setting and perhaps ask you to switch to MODE A if your encoder is off by more than 300'. An error of 300' makes the transponder unsafe to use for traffic avoidance purposes.
If you should experience a transponder failure, be cautious about accepting flight into a radar environment where radar is the prime system. Once you land at a Class C airport without a transponder you may be unable to get out. Trick: Try to get piggy-backed on to another aricraft as a flight of two. Nice if you can get out in the direction you want to go. Radar can track a primary signal with little difficulty today. They can even attach a data block. Planed flights into Class C or even B require one hour notice.
Any MODE C traffic that has not been cross-checked will be given to you as UNCONFIRMED altitude. For this reason you should always include your altitude in the information to ATC. Advise if you are level, climbing, descending and final altitude. When you have not been assigned an altitude be sure to advise ATC when you plan to make changes of an established altitude.
On the ground the transponder should be set to standby. This stops the squawk but allows the transponder to stay warm and ready for operation when needed. The start takeoff, emergency, and post-landing checklist should have transponder as a checklist item. Whenever changing codes on the transponder recommendation is that 'standby' be selected during the change since it prevents inadvertent discrete codes being sent to ATC. The transponder should be turned on as you taxi onto the runway for takeoff. Use of MODE C is now required in many cases as noted in a prior paragraph.
Make NO response if told to standby. When the controller is able you will be told to go ahead. However, you may
be occasionally 'forgotten.
"Cessna 85K go ahead with your request"
When the controller acknowledges your existence give the particulars
of your flight and aircraft. Occasionally, a
transponder squawk will be immediately assigned only to be modified to indicate additional information later on.
Full call sign; type of aircraft; Present position; present altitude and enroute altitude; destination; and request
"Cessna 6185K is a 150, off Concord for Half Moon
Bay out of 2000 for 2800 via Golden Gate Bridge requesting flight advisories"
The controller will ask for anything you leave out. The type
information is added to the radar data block by the ATC
specialist. The present altitude information is used to check the accuracy of your transponder encoder. Once you are
established at an altitude do NOT leave that altitude without first advising ATC. As a VFR pilot you are allowed to
select your own altitude as long as it follows the hemispheric rule for your direction. To change you must first advise
ATC. Alternatively, ATC may assign you an altitude, in which case you must request approval of any change. Your
transponder code assignment will indicate IFR/VFR and destination.
The importance of correct, concise, and accurate communications
when dealing with a radar facility is essential. You
are required to fly assigned headings and altitudes. If you wish to change heading or altitude advise ATC. If there is a
traffic conflict ATC may provide an alternative. Always write down squawk and frequencies. Always repeat back
squawk, frequencies, heading, and directions as much as practical. If you need something repeated, say so. If you
cannot visually locate conflicting traffic, do not hesitate to indicate that you will accept (want) a vector for traffic
When given a handoff to another sector you just have to tell
the sontroller your altitude. Every radar controller is
required to check your transponder-readout accuracy at least once so get it over with right away.
"Sacramento Approach Cessna 6185K level at 6,500"
ATC will assign a squawk and confirm your Mode C operation
"85K squawk 5234 say altitude ident"
Do not believe that being on radar relieves you from see
and avoid responsibility. As a VFR flight you are relatively
low on the ATC totem pole. When ATC radar advises you of nearby traffic you should acknowledge the point out
"85K have traffic"
Do this only if you are sure of the traffic direction, distance
and aircraft type. If you are uncertain or have failed to see
any aircraft of the type indicated you say,
"85K negative traffic"
If after thirty seconds to a minute you still have not identified
the traffic and you feel that a hazard may be involved,
you should request vectors for avoidance by saying,
"85K will accept vectors"
The controller may indicate that traffic is no longer a factor
or may give your a vector by saying,
"85k turn to 030"
Your response will be the direction of the turn and the heading given so as to establish the certainty of your instructions.
"85k left/right to 030"
When you are clear of the traffic ATC will instruct you to resume your own navigation.
If your transponder is not making a reply or is giving the
wrong code ATC will request that you recycle. This means to
turn it off then on and roll through the numbers again. This often is sufficient to fix the problem. If some aspect of
transponder operation is unsatisfactory ATC can usually work with a primary signal. Under the escape clause "unless
otherwise authorized or directed by ATC" you can be given a waiver. The willingness to ask for help when you need
it from ATC is more important than whether your transponder is working. Not only can ATC give you vectors they
can give you no gyro aid that will get you out of IFR conditions into VFR.
At some point on a flight either you or ATC may wish to end
radar service. You merely ask for a frequency change.
"85K have Concord in sight frequency change"
"85K frequency change approved squawk VFR"
C and B Radar Call-up Procedures
Basic callup (Using Oakland as example)
In most situations the frequency and controller for approach or departure will be the same. The call up to approach or departure depends on whether you are coming or going. Your first call is brief; who you are talking to and who you are. If you received your transponder code while on the ground, your call-up gives only who you are talking to, your identification and altitude as level, climbing or descending.
Class C Airspace
The Class C airspace system has a ten mile inner circle in which a call up is required to an ATC approach facility just as though it were Class D tower airspace. Communications is a FAR requirement as is transponder operation in Mode C. The outer 20 mile circle has a permissive call up. Class C airspaces are charted with altitudes in magenta outlines. Some lower altitudes allow initial call-up to be directly to the Class C tower.
Get the ATIS
Use the correct frequency
Practice for smoothness/accuracy/completeness
Check for frequency congestion
Full aircraft identification + student pilot
Initial Class C airspace call up:DON'T ENTER THE Class C airspace UNTIL ACKNOWLEDGED. (No clearance required.)
"Podunk approach Cessna 1234X student pilot over"
ATC: 34X Podunk Approach, go ahead
Position and altitude
Request and expected reporting point
"34X (position-altitude) with (ATIS) and full intentions with any special request."
ATC: Will give sqawk code and additional instructions or vectors until saying, "34X contact tower 118.3"
"34X to 118.3" (Always say back things radar says
Class C Tower call-up after handoff
"Podunk tower Cessna 1234X Mormon Temple at 2000 descending"
Initial Class C Tower call-up without using Approach
"Podunk Tower Cessna 1234X student pilot (position) at (altitude) request left base entry for the right will report 2 mile base"
Class C departure may be done either through clearance delivery
or ground as directed by ATIS.
"Podunk Clearance Cessna 1234X enrouce Wherever with (ATIS)"
"34X taxi to 27 right on departure maintain runway heading to 1500 right turn to 030 at or below below 2000 Departure frequency will be 127.0"
Your readback need not be verbatim but it must contain all the essential numbers and restrictions.
Class B Airspace
Be sure that you initiate Class B airspace communications early enough to avoid entering before getting a clearance to enter. Know your positions and altitudes in relation with the Class B airspace so that no entry will occur prior to entry. If the controller fails to give a clearance to enter, be sure to ask for it and get it, before intruding into the Class B airspace. With the latest Class B and Class C airspace requirements, it is not unusual to have a considerable delay before establishing contact. Controllers are often on the phone or processing data that prevents immediate response. In the LAX area it may take five or more minutes before a busy controller can get to a new arrival. General Aviation IFR/VFR flights can expect few, if any, direct or shortest route flights in Class B airspace.
for arrival to Class B airspace
Monitor frequency to determine use. Be sure to remain clear of Class B airspace both horizontally and vertically.
"Bay Approach Cessna 1234X over" If no response, wait 30 seconds and call up again. The controllers are often on the phone or processing data that prevents immediate response. When their work load permits they will say...
ATC: "Cessna 1234X Bay Approach go ahead"
34X: "Cessna 34X Birones Reservoir at 3000 1200 VFR Concord to Half Moon Bay request flight into the Class B at 3500 enroute"
ATC: "34X Standby for squawk"
Standby means not to make any response
.ATC: "34X Squawk 0734 and ident"
Turn X-ponder to STANDBY, reset code,
set to ALT, push the IDENT
34X: 34X squawking 0734
ATC: "34X Radar contact" acknowledge with
34X. Cessna 12l34X is cleared into San Francisco Class
ATC: "34X traffic 11 o'clock 1 mile" Navy A7 at 2000 climbing" (Must have been 1990 or before)
34X: "34X negative traffic will accept vectors"
ATC: "34X turn right 340"
34X: "34X right to 340 have traffic"
ATC: "34X with reference to traffic proceed own navigation via G.G. Bridge and shoreline"
34X: "34X own navigation via bridge and shorline"
Do not enter Class B airspace until you receive a specific clearance to do so. Always write down squawk and frequencies. Always repeat back squawk, frequencies, headings, and directions as much as practical. All assigned altitudes and headings be maintained since traffic clearances are determined thereby.
Radar Flight Following
ATC radar facilities primarily provide IFR to IFR separation. Secondarily, they will give VFR traffic advisories, navigational assistance, weather information, vectoring, ground speed and safety precautions as work load permits. The VFR pilot is responsible for traffic avoidance but ATC will "take over" if a collision risk exists. VFR flight following is not a substitute for a clearance into Class B or C airspace. When radar coverage does not reach, flight following ceases. There are no VFR separation standards and altitude bust may result only in ATC giving you the current altimeter setting as a gentle reminder. With sufficient altitude you can get flight following anywhere in the U.S. Even at relatively low altitudes you can get it in the non-Sierra part of California.
Getting a local ATC radar frequency is not always easy for the VFR pilot. It may be listed in a blue box for Class B airspace and a magenta box for a Class C. You may need to request it from a nearby tower or FSS. The FSS frequency may not be the correct one for your sector of radar coverage but it will get you into the system. You could get old IFR charts and plates as a source for radar frequencies. The way you make contact with a radar facility makes an impression that is likely to affect the service you receive. It shouldn't but it does. The initial contact, unlike that to a tower or an FSS, should give only the name of the facility, your full call sign, and possibly "over". You will understand the "why of this better if you visit a radar facility. Until then just do it.
"Bay Approach Cessan 1234X over"
When the controller returns your call-up, you give again your full identification, type of aircraft, /(slash code) position (departure point), altitude (final altitude), your destination. To do this well you should practice before initial call-up. Giving the destination lets the controller select a code that lets other controllers up the route know where you are going. The better your flight following radio procedures, the better you will be preparing for your IFR rating and the better overall radar service you will receive.
Under VFR flight following you must be assertive and in charge of your flight. Do not rely on the controller to tell you to climb, descend or heading change. You just state that you are doing so, and do it. If it makes a problem for him he will so advise by making a "suggestion". If you get confused or into trouble, admit your difficulty and state your willingness to accept help. 20% of ATC controllers are pilots many at commercial level or better.
ATC radar is used by the controllers to expedite the movement
of traffic. The system is designed and operates for the convenience
of ATC despite denials. The individual pilot becomes insignificant
and can only be assured of the benefits of radar by being both
proficient in communication and aware of the limits of radar.
Radar contact occurs when ATC has identified you on the PPI display
scope. Radar contact in no way relieves you of your responsibility
to see and be seen and to avoid flight into terrain. While you
are expected to comply with any assigned headings and altitudes,
you are also obligated to question any such assignments that
you deem hazardous. Once you acknowledge you have visual contact
with another aircraft you are taking responsibility for collision
ATC can cancel VFR advisories/following at any time. Should this occur because of lost radar contact, you should ask for the next available frequency that can resume these services along your route. Most often altitude will be the limiting factor as when flying the Sierras or other remote areas. You can monitor the radio frequency you just left or expect and get some idea as to the altitudes and conditions experienced by other aircraft. Center frequencies are not usually available to the VFR pilot but can be obtained from IFR charts for VFR use.
The altitude limits of radar means that just when you need it most, it will not be available. Much the same limits exist for radio communications. If you are in conditions that put you both below ATC radar and communications, it is time to get on the ground. Many FSS or Flight Watch frequencies can be used through remote outlets where other ATC frequencies are not available. It never hurts to have another radio frequency option along your route.
ProcedureInitial call-up to get into the system before
you have a transponder code (squawk) is always:
Blank Approach Cessna 6185K over
If no answer...
Check your radio switches and frequency
Wait 30 seconds and try again
When ATC radar responds they need certain information for
Aircraft type and identification
Present position and destination
Present altitude and final altitude
The ATIS letter if you are inbound for landing
There is a 'canned' procedure for saying this:
Cessna 6185K is a Cessna 150 Walnut Creek landing Oakland out of one-thousand six hundred climbing two thousand five hundred with Alpha
ATC will assign a transponder code and possibly directions
1. Write down the assigned code
2. Say back the code as...
"85K understand squawk 5234 ident
3. Place selector on standby
4. Set in assigned code
5. Place selector on altitude
6. If ATC does not advise in radar contact, say
"85K squawking 5234"
Occasionally, you may immediately be given a squawk or just to remain clear and standby. Be sure you understand the significance of what ATC says. Normally, you will be assigned a squawk and may or may not be told to IDENT. Do not IDENT unless told to. The IDENT button causes a flashing IDENT to appear on the controllers scope adjacent to your data block. The discrete transponder code does more than just identify the aircraft. It often is used as a destination indicator so that other sector controllers know where you are going.
If the controller says "Radar Contact" acknowledge with your last three call letters. If for some reason no secondary target (transponder) is seen, you may be requested to recycle. This means to reset the numbers perhaps providing better electronic contact.
All instructions, traffic point-outs must be repeated back
to the controller in acknowledgment with aircraft identification.
Any changes of altitude or direction must be communicated to ATC before being made. Such changes may be countermanded or authorized by the controller.
When you leave a radar service area the controller will so advise you and ask you to squawk VFR (1200) and approve a frequency change. You must never leave contact with ATC approach/departure without such an approval. If you need to change frequency to contact Flight Watch or an FSS just request a 30 second frequency change. You will be told to report when back on frequency.
The area around a radar facility or antenna is divided into both horizontal and vertical sectors. This means that as you proceed you will be changed from one controller to the next. This is called a handoff The controller will, prior to informing you of the hand off, tell the next controller via phone/computer that you are coming and the particulars about your aircraft and operation. Then he will advise you of who to contact and on what frequency.
Once the controller has completed your data block this information can be passed via computer from sector to sector or between facilities. For this reason the 'handoff' requires a minimum of communications. As you transition from Travis airspace to Sacramento Class C airspace, the controller will say...
ATC: "85K contact Sacramento Approach on 118.8"
You then change frequency to 118.8 and say..."Sacramento Approach Cessna 85K level at five thousand five-hundred"
Say this every 30 seconds or so until acknowledged.
Write down the new ATC name and frequency
Repeat back the essentials for confirmation
Set new frequency and establish contact (If you can get appropriate ATIS first).
Check for congestion before using radio
You say.. "85K to Sacramento Approach on 118.8"
You must request any changes of altitude or course while in Class B airspace. You must advise on any changes in altitude or course in Class C airspace or other radar areas when in contact. At any time ATC may assign an altitude and heading for safety purposes. If no such assignment is made you are free to make changes as long as you keep them advised of your intentions.
The radar controller as part of FAA Order 7110.65, Air Traffic Control paragraph 2-16b is required to coordinate with other ATC facilities such as a tower of your passage through their areas. You are not expected to obtain your own authorization since it would detract from your ability to maintain radio contact with your primary facility. However, if you have a specific need to contact a facility such as flight watch, FSS, or tower it is appropriate to request a 30 second frequency change for such contact. You must report back on frequency when through.
A radar traffic advisory usually gives a 'clock' direction off your nose, a distance and an altitude. Expect the 'clock' to be wrong by an hour or so. You are unlikely to see any small aircraft beyond 5 milesand in haze the distance may be less than a mile. You immediately advise, "85K looking, 85K have traffic, 85K negative traffic" as appropriate. If you can't find the traffic and feel it constitutes a hazard wait 30 seconds and say, "85K negative traffic, will accept vectors." You do this because ATC may wait too long to give you warning or to turn you. Most often they come back with, "85K traffic no longer a factor". You readback everything a radar controller tells you to do. This procedure is to prevent misunderstandings.
The radar handoff requires that you read back the instructions given and the frequency. If you have been listening to what other aircraft have been told you should be expecting the change. The controller has already told the next controller/facility, electronically, that you are coming. They are expecting you. Don't be in too much of a hurry. When a break in the frequency occurs the handoff call requires you merely to state, who you are talking to, your identification, and altitude.
There is a procedure for changing from one code to another
designed to prevent the inadvertent selection of a restricted
code as for Air Force One.
2. Select new code
Have a pencil ready in your hand you can keep it there while holding the yoke (lefties) or while holding the throttle (righties) You should begin your flying while holding a pencil or pen so that it becomes a natural process.
ATC does not provide VFR flights with terrain separation. Terrain avoidance is a pilot responsibility per FAR 91.119. VFR pilots should never expect ATC to provide any warnings about terrain. Night VFR, off-airways, or marginal VFR conditions under FAR 91.103 require special planning.
ATC radar does not show terrain. Blocks of airspace have Minimum Vectoring Altitudes (MVA) that can be displayed. These are IFR altitudes that allow 2000' in mountains and otherwise 1000' terrain clearance. VFR flight below these altitudes is relatively common but radar has no specific knowledge of terrain below the MVA. If you have Mode-C on your transponder radar may have Minimum Safe-altitude Warning (MSAW) or Low-altitude Alert System (LAAS) but this is often MVA and no lower.
Since VFR difficulties can develop into emergencies, a VFR pilot must know how to get ATC radar assistance and its limitations. ATC cannot tell the pilot what to do; the pilot must make all decisions. ATC can advise or suggest only. A pilot can request MSAW or LAAS but beyond that radar is limited by the system display to providing MVA as the 'safe' altitude. An individual controller may have sufficient knowledge to vector you to successively lower MVA sectors and it doesn't hurt to ask.
Radar advisories can be terminated to VFR flights just on the say-so of the ATC specialist. There are some automatic terminations that apply to IFR flights but they can be applied to VFR situations. It is very possible that a VFR flight may just be dropped from the system without the pilot ever being told. You should have some general idea of the region and altitudes for a given radar facility. If you have not been in communications for a while, just ask for a radio check. You may have flown off the scope without being noticed. Never leave a radar communication frequency without advising ATC.
Service Station Procedures
The FSS may have up to 12 radios operating from one switch panel. It is necessary for the pilot to know the differing
dedicated frequencies and how to obtain them. The emergency 121.5 and FSS universal 122.2 frequencies do not
usually appear on charts or other sources. You, the pilot, are expected to know that these are common to flight
service stations. If a frequency for an FSS is followed by an R, it means that the FSS can only receive. 122.1 is
the common receive only frequency in which you must receive a FSS response over a VOR frequency. If a frequency
is followed by a T, it means that the FSS can only transmit on that frequency. Since some of the frequencies may be far beyond the line of sight requirement it is important to be careful in making your frequency selection.
Failure to mention the frequency you are listening on may
require an additional callup. You always save time in
communications by doing it right the first time. Your initial communication should include the words, ....listening on
(Frequency). You can improve your FSS communications comfort level by making PIREPS when making local flights. The FSS can offer complete weather service, frequencies, airport information, navigational assistance and emergency assistance. Except for the callup, other communications can be conversational.
Do not try to stretch radio range. Use nearest available frequency.
Know how to select the appropriate FSS
frequency, how to use it correctly and when to use it. Some FSS operation are only part-time. The FAA is in the
process of making most FSS operations via remote facilities. Reference the AIM Chapter 4-92, 5-81, 70-50/58
Service Station Communications
Listen for frequency congestion and check frequency. The initial FSS contact is always the same. Since the operator
may be on any one of a number of radios at a different frequency you must wait before trying again. The callup to an
FSS uses the format, name of FSS radio, aircraft identification, listening on (frequency).
"Oakland Radio Cessna 1234X listening 122.5"
FSS: "Cessna 1234X Oakland Radio go ahead"
Opening a flight plan after initial contact from above:
"Cessna 34X VFR Concord to Reno via Blue Canyon open flight plan off at one-two" (twelve minutes after hour)
FSS: "34X your flight plan is opened Oakland altimeter 3002"
"Oakland Radio Cessna 1234X listening 122.5"
"Cessna calllng say again numbers and request"
"Cessna 34X position report VFR Concord to Reno Sacramento at four-five estimate Blue Canyon zero-eight Reno"
"34X roger your position report Sacramento altimeter 2992
The sequence of the position report requires: Your identification;
the fact that you are making a position report on a
VFR/IFR flight between two distant points; that you are at a present position; the time you expect to reach your next major checkpoint; and the name only of the next checkpoint.
"Oakland Radio Cessna 1234X listening 122.5 Request "
"Cessna 34X VFR CCR-RNO request current weather and PIREPS for Sierras with winds at 9 and 12"
FSS will give as much data as is available. You may feel it desirable to give a PIREP of your current location and weather/winds/turbulence etc. You will be requested to include aircraft type and flight route. Consider getting nearby airport weather by listening on an AWOS frequency.
A PIREP becomes an official weather report. You are expected and required to give a PIREP when encountering any unforecast weather or hazard. The major items of a PIREP are cloud bases and tops, layers, flight visibility, visibility restrictions, precipitation, wind, temperatures aloft, icing and turbulence. You can give a PIREP to any ATC facility. As soon as you call it a PIREP it is required that the information be forwarded to other aircraft.
To Amend a flight plan
"Oakland Radio Cessna 1234X listening 122.5"
"Cessna 34X VFR CCR-RNO wish to extend my ETA by three-zero minutes due to unexpected head winds"
Note: If on any flight plan you are going to be over 30 minutes late, be sure to contact the nearest FSS and
give an extension to be forwarded to your destination. Being overdue by more than 30 minutes initiates
To close flight plan
"Oakland Radio Cessna 1234X listening 122.5"
"Cessna 34X Close VFR flight CCR-RNO 15 west RNO have airport in sight"
FSS closes flight plan
Situation # 6
Remote Communications Outlet (RCO)
RCO is a two way remote radio facility which is connected to a distant FSS via a land line. The discrete frequency is on top of the blue box with the letters RCO inside. Location shown in small blue outline boxes on sectional near
Sitting very near the FSS radio specialists is the Flight Watch radio specialist. His duties extend from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. local times. This is a nationwide weather information service operating on 122.0. use 135.7 if unable to make contact. The first Flight Watch station was activated at Oakland about twenty years ago. Since this is the only frequency he may have up to eight remote locations. Oakland has one at Reno, Red Bluff, Oakland, Big Sur, Sacramento, Fresno, and Ferndale near Eureka. There are three HiWAS frequencies for the airlines. Any aircraft over 5000' should be able to contact flight watch.
The essential is that the pilot give the name of the nearest VOR. Response may not be immediate because the specialist may be 'working' another aircraft hundreds of miles away from your location. This is an excellent frequency to monitor when flying cross country but contact should be related to weather. You may be able to give another pilot valuable information about your route as well getting real time information for your destination.
"Oakland Flight Watch Cessna 1234X (NEAREST VOR) over"
Always include in initial call up your location related to the nearest V0R. This allows the operator to select the best remote transceiver for your location. This is a weather service and, except in emergencies, should be limited to weather. Requests and information such as PIREPs have a regular format but conversational exchanges are acceptable.
EFAWS: "Cessna 1234X Oakland Flight Watch go ahead."
34X: "Cessna 34X VFR CCR-RNO have hit stronger than forecast head winds near Blue Canyon. Estimate winds to be 340 at 18-kts at 9500. Light turbulence high cirrus 40 mile visibility. Do you have additional information also current surface winds at Reno?
Demise of Pilotage
The demise of Pilotage due to GPS poisoning is to be expected. Much the same problem began to kill pilots and destroy airplanes in WWII when pilots began to rely on electronic aids. A B-29 in my Group on Tinian took off to local slow-time an engine with a partial crew. After months of reliance on an APQ-13 radar set with 100 mile range and an APN-4 LORAN with 2400 mile range, an ADF with range limited only by reception distance, and an early form of an inertial position indicator, the crew was being positionally challenged. No one had paid attention to their dead reckoning position. A series of unknown events made their electronic navigational aids either unreliable or unusable. Radio calls for help could not help for the crew knew not where they were and searchers knew not where to look. The plane and its partial crew were lost.
Near my home fields VOR is a four thousand foot mountain that stands alone. Reception of the VOR from the east-south-east gives a very strong and reliable signal. Use it from that direction below four-thousand and you will fly into Mt. Diablo. It had this name long before the VOR was placed. The mountain eats an airplane/people sandwich caught tracking the VOR from the ESE every few years. The VOR makes navigation both easy and deceptively dangerous. We are now entering the GPS age with all its advantages and inherent dangers.
In the next ten years we will soon have a cadre of flight instructors who have learned to use and will teach GPS navigation. Pilotage and DR will be introduced and perhaps even tested but there will be changes in emphasis. We will see the diversion exercise performed via GPS and again as an exercise in pilotage.
Those of you who have had an chance to experience the Flight-Trac flight analysis on your computer can visualize exactly how flight tests passage of the future may well be decided after a review of the GPS plotted flight by the FAA in Oklahoma City. It is an amazing but not nexpensive system. Where I fly the use of the GPS recording tracker is predicated on purchase of a $100 software kit for your computer. My initial impression is that it would make a three axis autopilot go neurotic. Your entire flight is reflown on your computer screen with all instruments showing all your groundspeeds, altitudes, courses, and times on one half of the screen and the route flown plotted on a half screen sectional. I imagine an aerobatic flight would be something to see.
So, will GPS save more aircraft and passengers than it will expose to accidents? I see pilots crowding the fuel margins of their aircraft. The accuracy of fuel consumption, capacity and fuel remaining in present aircraft is far too unreliable to be used with GPS unless it has electronic accuracy with digital readout. With GPS there will be more and more assumptions that programmed flights can be made with out-of-date charts. Anticipate that charts may become annual rather than semi-annual. An all terrain and airspace data base will be an FAR requirement. Otherwise, we will have an increase of controlled flight into terrain and airspace violations. The present most critical factor of VFR GPS is that they do not have the receiver autonomous integrity monitoring program or RAIM. This program in the IFR GPS will flag the GPS operation if the signals fall below a pre-selected standard. A pilot using a GPS without RAIM has no way of knowing the reliability of the GPS information. The present duality of installed navigational aids allows a position to be checked by other means for the next ten years. What then? The rebirth of pilotage?
the Uncontrolled Airport
Regulatory provisions relating to traffic patterns are found in Parts 91, 93 and 97 of the FARs. ACs 90-42 and 90-66A are advisory for safety and efficiency. See-and-avoid requirement fully applies. All available information from AFD (Airport/Facilities Directory) AIM and NOTAMs is required by FAR. Use of Visual indicators (segmented circle, wind sock) must be used.
The straight-in approach to an uncontrolled airport is not, of itself, inherently dangerous. Straight in approaches, while not prohibited, must not be disruptive to normal pattern operations. Possible straight in approaches (as with instrument approaches) greatly increase see-and-be seen requirements. The straight-in eliminates the need to overfly and make a 45 entry. AC 90-66A advocates the 45 entry but indicates that the straight-in, IFR or VFR, should not require maneuvers that disrupt other traffic. FAR ,91.127(b) Says that all turns shall be to the left unless otherwise depicted. A straight-in requires no turns. NTSB Administrative Law Judges have found the straight in a violation of FAR 91.113. Many uncontrolled airports may offer unicom service on the CTAF frequency given on the sectional. This means that there may be someone on the field to respond to a radio call during normal working hours.
The callup is:
"Name of field unicom, aircraft identification, location, altitude, request traffic advisories( or other request)and name of the field."
If there is a unicom response it may be limited to suggesting a runway and traffic direction. (The Good Samaritan situation has created liability they may not wish to assume with additional advice) If there is not unicom response all further transmissions should be addressed to "traffic".
Non-radio-equipped aircraft are expected to determine pattern in use. Since one in five General Aviation aircraft do not have radios. Radio use is not required but good sense dictates monitoring and use. One of the problem at uncontrolled airports is radio complacency. You begin to believe that if no one is on the radio that no one is there. Don't you believe it.
Some of the CTAF frequencies are quite congested on weekends. It is important that the NAME of the place/airport be the first and last word of any CTAF communication. This alerts pilots in your area and allows others to discount your presence. This change is of relatively recent origin, about 10 years. You will still hear many pilots failing to use this procedure because they were not initially taught that way. Relearning is, perhaps, the most difficult aspect of flying. Relearning is also one of the most resisted phases of instruction. However, what was good enough forty years ago or even five years ago is not good enough today.
Always include the runway number you plan to use. This provides an additional alert if someone missed the place/airport name as well as possible winds/ runways at nearby airports. Do not totally rely on such runway calls for what you should use. Since the use of the CTAF frequency nor the 45 degree entry is not REQUIRED you must use see-and-be-seen vigilance in all directions. If you have reason to believe density altitude over 1000' above AGL exists it would be helpful to include your computation in your communications with other aircraft.
Uncontrolled Airport Arrival
45 degree arrivals only
15 mile callup:
1. Podunk unicom Cessna 1234X KEY Intersection at 2000 request traffic advisories Podunk (if no answer...
Podunk traffic Cessna 1234X KEY Intersection at 2000 planing to overfly at 2000 prior to landing Podunk
2. Podunk traffic Cessna 1234X over the field at planning landing (runway) right/left traffic Podunk
DON'T MISREAD WIND SOCK, TETRAHEDRON, OR SEGMENTED CIRCLE!!!!
Depart over the field on a reciprocal 45 degree to the 45 degree entry. Lose half of altitude to pattern altitude. Execute a left/right course reversal while descending to pattern altitude on 45 degree entry. You should be at pattern altitude before reaching the pattern. This greatly improves your see/be seen opportunities. Arriving slightly high is better with high-wing and slightly low with low-wing aircraft for better visibility. Watch the ground for shadows.
Look for additional ways to determine runway in use, such
as arriving or departing aircraft, smoke/dust/waves. Nearby airports
are good indicators. Try to plan the most efficient arrival conducive
to safety. Avoid the pattern altitude until you are in it. DON'T
FLY INTO THE PATTERN ALTITUDE IN THE BLIND!
Podunk traffic Cessna 34X on 45 for (runway number) Podunk
Podunk traffic Cessna 34X right/left downwind for (runway number) Podunk
Podunk traffic Cessna 34X right/left base for (runway number) Podunk
Podunk traffic Cessna 34X final for (runway number) Podunk
1. Fly the plane
2. Maintain proper altitudes and headings
3. Keep eyes outside cockpit and watch for traffic
122.7; 122.8, 123.0; etc
122.9 Traffic only advisories at airports without frequency on sectional
123.6 Uncontrolled field with FSS for arrival and departure only
--Not calling up soon enough to get advisory
--Not observing traffic pattern/windsock direction
--Turning downwind too close to runway
--Becoming distracted and not attending to airspeed and pattern orientation
-- Trying to hit the end of the runway
--Delaying addition of power if low
--Delaying go-around if a poor approach/flare
--Not clearing runway immediately
1. Full 360 degree clearing turn on ground prior departure
2. Advise traffic of departure and direction
The addition of the name of the airport at the end of each radio call is by an AD (Advisory Circular) June of 1985. When an omission occurs you can be certain that the pilot has avoided additional training since 1985.
Non-unicom Uncontrolled Airports:
All callups are made to the airport "Location name, traffic, aircraft identification, position, altitude, intentions and location name" on 122.9. Any responses to your "blind" communications would be from other aircraft.
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