The Private Pilot Blueprint
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About the Author and About This Book
A Personal Note From Jason
What is a private pilot certificate?
How do I find a flight school?
What makes a great flight instructor?
How much can I expect to pay?
How can I save money on my flight training?
What is a Medical?
Should I Fly Part 61 or Part 141?
Now you’re flying
Getting past flight training pitfalls
Common student pilot errors
How can I become a safer pilot?
Keeping your flight training on track
Making sure your aircraft is airworthy
What every pilot should own
What to expect on your first solo flight
Perfecting your flight maneuvers
Improving on your steep turns
Perfect Crosswind landings
Flying under the hood
How to Pass Your Private Pilot Checkride
Get What You Need Ready
Enjoy the Ride
About the Author and About This Book This book was written as a resource for you the pilot. To help with your success and great future as a pilot. The author Jason Schappert was named AOPA’s top collegiate flight instructor in 2008 and has been hosting aviation seminars and classes since 2007. With over 2,000 hours of instruction time Jason is dedicated to helping you excel in your flight training in the air and on the ground. His website m0a.com (pronounced M-zero-A) has been helping pilots for years through his interactive video and audio lessons, along with informative articles.
A Personal Note From Jason Dear Pilot, You’re off to a great start already! This book will launch you on your journey to becoming a private pilot. Be sure to visit the website for more helpful hints and don’t hesitate to contact me and ask a question. Remember a good pilot really is always learning! Best wishes in your flight training,
What is a private pilot certificate? A private pilot is someone who holds an aviation license that is limited to flying solely for pleasure trips or simply to just enjoy the sky above our heads. They cannot fly for compensation or hire.
A private pilot certificate is as close as anyone could get with their passion for flying. It is ideal for people who want to learn some flying perhaps as a stepping stone to commercial aviation. Since it has a little more possibilities than light sport aviation but lesser responsibility than commercial aircraft, a private pilot license could be a good start for those that want to learn to fly.
In order to become a private pilot, you would need to earn a private pilot certificate. This certificate is awarded to anyone who has completed a training course under a certified flight instructor or a reputable flight school. Now, earning your own private pilot certificate follows a specific process. This e-book will outline the necessary steps as well as the things that you can expect from taking your private pilot training including the lessons to be learned all the way to your private pilot checkride
Getting started How do I find a flight school? When you want to learn something, the first thing that you have to do is to find an instructor that will provide you with the necessary training that will lead you to acquiring that skill you wanted to learn. Thus, in order to start flying as private pilot, you would need to find a certified flight instructor (CFI) that can help you find your way into getting that private pilot certificate and the license to fly.
How does one choose a flight school? The process of selection is not that simple. Aside from the fact that you will be investing a lot of money into the education, you also have to find someone whom you can trust and get along with. The flight instructor does more than just teach how to fly. He or she is a mentor and someone who is responsible for keeping you safe and molding you into a great pilot.
Since there are a lot of certified flight instructors, you would need to spend some time looking and asking around before you make a decision. Remember, a CFI is an investment you’ll be making. Just like any investment, you need to exercise meticulousness and scrutiny in selecting your certified flight instructor. Need help finding an instructor in your area? Visit FindACFI.com
What makes a great flight instructor? This is a question that’s worth a million dollars, or in this case, thousands of dollars. What features exactly does a certified flight instructor need to have in order to qualify as your teacher and guide throughout your private pilot education. The rules are not exactly cut and dry, but there are specific qualities that you can look out in your quest to find the right flight instructor.
First, you have to check for the certified flight instructor’s qualifications. This goes beyond just making sure this person is a certified instructor. Ask questions like: How many students do you have? What do your students typically receive on the written exam? How many hours do your students have on solo (an average), Have any of your students “busted” a checkride? Also if you’re interested in receiving your instrument rating one day can this instructor teach that as well? Their number of hours is also indicative of the level of skill of a certified flight instructor. The more flights he has flown with a student, the more experience and expertise he has with teaching.
Mode of Instruction
Second, are you comfortable with the instructor’s technique? Do you think you can learn faster with the techniques that the instructor employes for his teaching? Teaching technique is actually the most overlooked aspect of choosing an instructor. There are
two types of instruction that you may find when looking at a list of CFI’s. For example, some instructors opt to teach in a classroom type of environment before taking students up into the air. In other words, they teach the theory first before they get the pilot to fly. On the other hand, some CFI’s simply bring students up in the air right at the beginning and teach them how to fly by having them fly. These instructors employ a more handson oriented approach in teaching with the assumption that it will help the student learn to become a pilot quickly.
Last but not the least, is the CFI’s reputation. Find out what other students who have learned from him or her are saying. One of the things that you should watch out for is how they handle their students. An overly lenient instructor can cause bad habits to surface, but an extremely strict teacher may not be the ideal mentor for some student pilots. Also, you have to check out how safe the CFI is to fly with. For the whole duration of your instruction, the CFI will be responsible for keeping the flight safe for you and for him so you need to be ascertained of his attitude towards safety.
How much can I expect to pay? There’s no getting around the fact that learning how to fly will be fairly expensive. To be honest, you have to be ready with upwards of 4000 to 7000 dollars if you are going to serious pursue an education in private aviation. These will cover not only the lessons but also the expenses related to every instructional flight that you make with your instructor like aviation fuel, flight gear and books. This would also include the rent that you would have to pay in order to use the aircraft. For example, a Cessna 150 could cost you about 100 dollars an hour wet (with fuel) with an instructor. There are many
other types of trainer aircraft as well, each of them having different costs for rent and other related expenses.
How can I save money on my flight training? Since it can be expensive, it is only natural that most aspiring pilots get turned off from even trying to pursue their private pilot certificate. That is understandable, since 4000-7000 dollars can be a hefty sum for most people. It is recommended that you only pursue a private pilot certificate if it doesn’t destroy your finances.
On the other hand, it is also possible that you can save money on expenses related to your flight training. One way to do that is attain a certain frequency in flying. For example, It is much easier for a student to learn if he or she is flying 2-3 times per week. This is because flying two to three times a week will enable the student to learn more and practice more as compared to those that fly only once a week. You would also be able to meet your hour requirements quickly as well.
I personally tell all my students to fly at least 2 times per week. This helps us stay “fresh” and we’re not stuck re-teaching material from the last lesson.
Also, how much money you save on your flight training will depend on what kind of airplane you fly. You might be delighted to find out that the Cessna 150 two-seater trainer is ideal for your budget because, one, it charges so little per hour in rent and also it is the most basic of all private aircraft. In fact, more and more flight schools and instructors across the country are getting back to basics and using the “original trainers” a Cessna 150 so that makes the private pilot certificate a bit more attainable for more people.
Another factor that can affect your expenses as a student pilot is your study habits. Going to flight school is just like going to any other school. You have to study on your own and learn some things on your own, since the instructor is just human and would definitely be unable to spoon feed you everything about the course that you have undertaken. If you spend time studying, you will have a much more solid grasp of the subject matter at hand thus greatly speeding your progress as a student pilot. Instructors will feel more comfortable signing you off for solo flights if your command of the subject matter is deemed enough to advance you to the next level in your study.
Studying after classes is also ideal if you have started flying and you have noticed some deficiencies in your capabilities. This is what they call “chair flying,” or basically simulating a flight while sitting at your desk or table. You simply imagine that you are flying and you run over mentally the things that you will be doing. While sitting at your desk or relaxing in your chair think about how you would enter, maneuver, and recover from slow flight or a stall. Think about where things are located in the cockpit and how you would use them. This way, you get a chance to run over a process correctly or make mistakes without them being costly.
Most student pilots actually make the mistake of not asking questions when they need to, thinking that it gives the wrong image about them or they simply are too lazy to do so. The truth is, asking your instructor questions (relevant to the subject matter at hand of course) will help save you money as you will learn more in a shorter span of time as compared to just keeping the questions to yourself. Not asking questions will ensure that you take quite a long time to learn since you’d have to encounter something in order to acquire that knowledge. This would mean a few flying hours wasted when such a question could be answered in the classroom.
Taking some down time to have a debriefing with your instructor can also help you spot the areas that you are lacking in so you can make the efforts to improve and advance in your study. If your instructor normally does not do that, make sure that you approach him and ask for a thorough debrief so he can tell you what went well and what needs improvement during the flight as well as hint at what to expect on the next lesson.
What is a Medical? As an aspiring private pilot, one of the tests that you would have to pass before you start flying as a student pilot is a medical. Like its name suggests, it is a comprehensive medical exam. The exam will be a complete physical assessment to determine your fitness or your capabilities to safely become a private pilot. Take note that there will be three classes of medical: there’s first, second and third class, third being the lowest.
The medical will be conducted by an authorized physician. This physician will check your blood pressure, check eyesight, and do a color-blind test. At the end of the medical, you will be issued a certificate which basically acts as your student pilot certification. With your medical, you will then be able to start flying solo after your instructor deems you ready.
Should I Fly Part 61 or Part 141? What? I’ve never heard of this part 61 or 141 stuff? Before you start flying, you should take some time first to learn about Part 61 and Part 141. This will govern the lessons that you will be taking. Basically, you will select what part of FAR/AIM (the requlations) will you be instructed under. Each part has its own corresponding advantages and disadvantages, as well as their own instruction techniques to be employed by the CFI’s.
What better way to understand each Part then to look at each of them and pick out the differences?
Out of the two of them, Part 61 can be considered as the most flexible of the two. The progress of the student is not hindered by set rules and milestones. Instead it is entirely up to the instructor to gauge how far the student has come by his aptitude, attitude and his displayed prowess in aviation. The CFI calls the shots in this part; he decides if the student is ready enough to proceed to the next level. It is worth noting though that, in Part 61, the CFI still requires a student to master or perform satisfactorily his maneuvers before he can be put up for his solo or checkride.
Another distinctive feature of Part 61 is its emphasis on self-study rather than a classroom environment. CFI’s operating under Part 61 will teach the student a few things related to theory, but in essence, the instruction is mostly hands-on. It is up to the students to acquire the supplementary information for his theoretical foundation. While Part 61 includes written exams as mandated by the FAA together with the checkride to be issued the private pilot certificate, students studying under Part 61 still have the advantage of proceeding according to their efforts and skill.
Last but not the least, Part 61 costs significantly less than Part 141 due to the fact that its expenses are related mostly to flying costs i.e. plane rental, fuel, and maintenance. Supplementary materials for study are not mandatory for a certified flight instructor teaching Part 61 curricula.
On the other hand, Part 141 is based on a very rigid structure of teaching. In fact, it is taught more by a university or college rather than an individual certified flight instructor running his own school. There is no room for flexibility in Part 141; all trainee pilots are required to submit to a predetermined standard regardless of their level of aptitude and comprehension of the lessons.
As a result, everything is run by predetermined criteria and these criteria govern whether or not the student can progress further in his studies. As opposed to the more hands-on approach of CFI’s in Part 61, instructors in Part 141 give theoretical discussions about aviation in a classroom setting. Credits are determined and issued through passing written exams. In the final leg of the course, there is also a separate classroom test aside from the FAA-mandated exams and pre-solo tests as well as the pilot checkride.
Because of this Part 141 costs higher to undertake as compared to Part 61 because of the related fees and study materials that are issued to the student. Along with typically more flying time.
Which One Should You Choose? The answer to that question would depend on your needs and your capabilities. Since Part 141 obviously involves a lot of money on your part, you shouldn’t go for it unless you have enough stashed to fund your education until the end. However, in exchange,
you get to access theory that is provided to you by the institution where you study. This is where it differs greatly with Part 61, where you have to take care of your own research to supplement your hands-on training.
On the other hand, if you are the sort that learns more on hands-on training rather than cumbersome classes on theory, you would do well to avail of training under Part 61 rather than Part 141. Part 61 caters more to your skills and it is also less expensive.
Now you’re flying Getting past flight training pitfalls Now you’re flying! Great! Congratulations on taking that first step in your path towards a private pilot certificate. Enjoy the time that you’re up with your instructor and make sure to make the most out of the lessons. This is the only time that you can fly without fear and with only minimal responsibility as you will be sharing the load with your instructor. Fly as much as you can and learn as much you can under the instruction of your CFI.
During the first days of flight training, you will undoubtedly fall for one or two training pitfalls. Don’t worry about them as they are normal, and as long as you arm yourself with the necessary information you will be able to avoid these pitfalls for the duration of your flight training. Now, what exactly are the things that you would need to know about? What are the common errors that a student pilot usually commits?
Common student pilot errors To guide you along the right path towards your private pilot certificate, you should learn about and avoid these common errors that you might make as a student pilot:
Failure to use the checklist
It is true that some pilots actually forego using the checklist as they accumulate more experience in their aviation career. Student pilots as well are prone to that
thinking that their instructor will form negative opinions about their aptitude if they refer constantly to a checklist.
That, actually is a dangerous and very erroneous mindset to get yourself into. The checklist is a very useful tool. You can think of it as an open book from which you can derive your answers for the exam. The flight itself is the exam, and if you’re in doubt, you have the checklist to refer to. This is a very safe way to go, and it doesn’t exactly mean anything less about your comprehension and memory if you have the checklist ready for use every time.
Forgetting clearing turns
Student pilots are almost always too eager. That comes from the fact that they are so passionate about flying that they are always enthusiastic about every lesson. That would include being over-excited to begin a maneuvering lesson. That is not the right way to do things, however. Maneuvers consume space, and thus to ensure that you can safely execute a maneuver, a student pilot has to always discipline himself to remember that he needs to make clearing turns before he can begin performing a maneuver. Clearing turns are a way to ensure that the entire airspace around you is free of any oncoming traffic that you might collide with while performing a maneuver.
Overconfidence and caving in to pressure
All pilots go through a phase where they become too overconfident about their own skills that they fail to assess a situation properly before making a decision.
For example, if they see a cloud cover coming, they decide to charge headlong into it plunging himself into an instrument (IFR) situation. There are varying reasons for this aside from overconfidence. Second is that they are undergoing great pressure to meet time. Pilots, however, should learn to sacrifice deadlines or such if it means endangering the lives including their own. If there is a airport available for diversion, go for it instead of going straight for a potentially dangerous scenario.
These are the most common mistakes that any student pilot can commit during his starting days. Circumstances and results could vary, but closely summarized overconfidence, over-eagerness, and neglect to use the checklist are the root mistakes that any student pilot can fall for during his early days in aviation.
As a pilot, you should be able to get around these pitfalls with practice and education. Being able to avoid these mistakes can help you become a safer pilot, which will be very important to your career in the long term.
How can I become a safer pilot? Aviation is a passion that the pilots deal emotionally with. Being a pilot is a source of pride for one, being able to fly the skies and see sights not all people can see. That’s for the romantic side of aviation, however.
On the other hand, becoming a pilot deals with a lot of responsibility. At some points in your career, you may experience flying other people with you. Thus, you are responsible
for their lives in addition to your own. You can see then that being a pilot requires you to be safe and not reckless; you cannot afford to be unsafe on your watch.
Thus in order to become the best pilot you can be, you would have to be the safest that there is. Now, how exactly does a pilot cultivate the value of safety?
Always Keep Current
One of the ways to become a safer pilot is to have better command of your raw skill in flying. Everyone improves through time and experience. From your days as a student pilot, accumulate as much flying time as you can so that you get to master a lot of techniques and procedures related to flying. This way, you can take off smoothly and land softly without a problem. You need to practice frequently so that your skills are constantly sharpened and avoid becoming rough around the edges. For example, how would you be able to execute a successful crosswind landing if you haven’t had enough experience with crosswind landings? What if you had passengers on board?
Remember, don’t attempt to do anything you haven’t practiced for a long time. It is best to get yourself a refresher course with an instructor in order to evaluate your skills as well so you can get yourself on track with your flying.
Make the Most Out of Your Instruction
Your instructor is there to help you out with your budding aviation skills. While every instructor is not perfect, nevertheless, they all have something to share to you. These
would include the proper way of doing things from engine run up, takeoff, and proper landing technique, along with some procedures to address in-flight emergencies. It takes a lot of experience and working knowledge to become a certified flight instructor, so make the most out of what they can share to you during your teacher-student relationship.
Don’t Let Your Nerves Get to You
If you do encounter an emergency, remember to always keep your wits about you. Keep cool, and always fly in an orderly and safe fashion. If a situation arises where you are to choose between diverting and missing a deadline or going straight ahead to a potentially dangerous situation, always keep calm. The pressure could be great on your shoulders, but it would do you no good if you keep all jittery in the cockpit. Keep your cool, so you can assess the situation with a level mind and execute the necessary procedure smoothly. In other words think!
Remember Not to Get Overconfident
As a pilot, it is dangerous to develop the mindset that you can plow through anything the skies can give you because you have had years of experience in the craft. This mindset is flawed, because even the most experienced pilots can make mistakes. Take the Tenerife incident for example. The pilot of the KLM flight was the poster boy of the airline, yet he made fatal mistakes that resulted to his death and many others.
Remember that the sky is as treacherous as the sea. You can never guess what’s coming. Even the weather report can be proved wrong in just a matter of minutes. If you
see something coming, assess accurately if you can manage the situation. If not, you’d have to divert. Your rating will not save your life when things start hitting the fan while you’re flying. Always exercise prudence and never give in to the calling of your ego.
Stick to the Rules
Last but not the least, don’t be an airborne cowboy. It would do you no good to be a loose cannon in the air. The rules are in place for a reason, and that prime reason is safety. Stick to the rules, understand and take them to heart, and you can be one of the safest pilots on earth. Remember, you don’t choose the rules you have to follow, you need to abide by all of them.
Keeping your flight training on track One thing about flight training is that it doesn’t take a long time to be complete. Infact usually before you know it, it’s over and you’re a private pilot! As a flight student, you need to complete your training hours which runs at least 40 hours. (that’s the FAA minimum, national average is 50-60+ hours) This means that your flight training will be over in a few months or so.
As a student pilot, you would need indicators to know that your flight training is on track. It certainly is not enough to just train and train under your instructor: you would need to determine if the training is moving in the right direction. This means that you have to know if it is moving favorably for you. Are you learning enough? Does your instructor think you’re ready for your first solo anytime soon? Knowing if your flight training is on track will allow you to adjust your efforts accordingly.
Now how do you know if your flight training is on track? Here are some of the main indicators that can give you signals as to how well your flight training is progressing:
Transfer of Responsibility
When your instruction or training begins, the flight instructor handles most of the responsibility in the flight. You’re there to just learn and not worry about anything. You fly the plane when he tells you to, you give it to him when the more difficult situations arise so you don’t have to bear any of the responsibility. This is a way to gradually orient you to what each flight is and what responsibilities there are to worry about.
This is similar to a father teaching a son to do household work. He gives him some tasks, but he always limit it to the easy ones so the boy can finish what he is doing. However, as time progresses, the father will start giving the child tasks that are more difficult compared to the one he is used to do. This way, the child slowly learns to do more difficult tasks and learns to assume responsibility for himself.
The same is true for flight training. The early hands-on lessons are designed to be fun and enjoyable, so that the student will want to go back and continue to be interested in flight lessons. As the training progresses, however, the flight instructor will slowly give some responsibilities over to the student as a way to prepare him for the later phases of the training. It could start from handling communications responsibilities, then handling take-off, and others. It would depend from instructor to instructor.
The transfer of responsibility is a good sign that your flight training is going along the right track. Like the father and son example above, it means that the flight instructor thinks the flight trainee is ready to assume a little more responsibility than he is used to.
The student doesn't have to wait for the CFI to delegate responsibilities to him. Sometimes a little initiative could help in steering the flight training to the right direction. Volunteer to do some tasks every once in a while, but only when you have accumulated enough knowledge in theory. There is a thin line between being reckless or arrogant and simply desiring to learn. The latter will impress instructors with your initiative, but the second will certainly turn them off and think you’re too dangerous to be left alone on the controls.
Your Instructor Starts Challenging You
The more you progress into your flight training,the more chances that you find yourself being grilled with questions by your flight instructor. Most of the times, these questions will test you as to how you will react to certain situations and compel you to outline what you will do as a response. The instructor may ask you to demonstrate your battle plan as well to see if you have it all down and understood.
However, you may also find the instructor NOT asking you those questions at all but would rather ask you mundane questions. These questions would include “How’s the studying for the written test going?” … “Did you finish that Pre-Solo Exam” … “Almost done with that book I asked you to read?” …
Some students actually take this as a very ordinary inquiry to what you are doing after the flying lessons, but can actually be bait for the instructors to see if you are studying or preparing yourself. In other words, he may be trying to see if you are taking the initiative to learn more than what he is giving you. You can treat as his way of saying “Hey! Just do this then you can progress!” You have to show to him that you are employing ways to progress and not just relying on what he is feeding you alone.
Last but not the least is the feeling you get after touching down. Do you feel satisfied? Do you feel like you’ve accomplished something? If not, then it is high time for you to start thinking about how you can achieve a feeling that you have learned or accomplished something new for that flight. Reflect on what you have done for the post flight, and take notes down on which points obviously need improvement and which ones should be strengthened.
Making sure your aircraft is airworthy Aside from piloting an aircraft, pilots also have the responsibility of determining whether or not the aircraft that they will be taking up to air will be airworthy. This is actually a favorite trick question by certified flight instructors. To avoid being surprised be prepared as to how you will answer that query when your flight instructor asks, “is the airplane we’re flying in today airworthy?” Don’t just simply say “Yes, it is!” because the aircraft looks airworthy. The fact is, it is; it has been through maintenance and continually taken care of, but you have to know what it is that makes an aircraft qualify for airworthiness.
You have to take on the mindset of an examiner here. This is a knowledge that is very critical to your career as a pilot. You just don’t jump into an airplane; you have to make sure it is airworthy and safe. This knowledge will also come in handy when you decide to buy your own airplane in the future.
You’ll learn very quick that aviation is all about acronyms. It’s an easy way to help of remember things. In this situation we have two acronyms that we have to put in mind: ARROW and AVIATES.
ARROW is an acronym that has been derived to help people remember the requirements to determine if an aircraft has the necessary documentation to make it safe for flying. Simply put, ARROW stands for the following items:
Airworthiness certificate Registration Radio certificate (for international flights only) Operators manual (this is different from the pilot’s operating handbook) Weight and balance
On the other hand, AVIATES stands for the criteria for determining whether or not the aircraft has been inspected and found up-to-date. AVIATES stands for the following items:
Airworthiness directives VOR check (to be done every 30 days) Inspections 100-hour (for aircraft for hire) and Annual (a universal requirement) Altimeter inspections (Every 24 Calendar Months) Transponder inspections (Every 24 Calendar months) ELT tests (Every 12 Calendar months) Static System Tests (every 24 calendar months)
Use these requirements to check for the airworthiness of every aircraft that you are going to fly. Don’t just assume that it is; practice memorizing and mastering this inspection process by making it a habit to see into the airworthiness qualifications of the airplane. With constant practice, you would have taken the process to heart and be able to answer accurately every time your flight instructor brings up the bait.
What every pilot should own As a pilot, it is a must that you have all the necessary items in your flight bag every time you fly. You must develop the attitude that there are things that should never leave your flight bag or should be present in the cockpit in all the times that you are sitting at the pilot’s seat. Now, here are the things that you should always have with you when you fly:
FAR/AIM is essential for every pilot. This neat little book keep us appraised about the rules that we have to follow while we’re flying How can you know these rules without having a copy of it with you? You may have memorized some, but to be safe, have a copy along with you so you have somewhere to refer to. You can compare its importance to the checklist: it’s better to have one and not need to look at it than the other way around. And yes, you have to make sure that your copy of the FAR/AIM book is up to date as well.
POH (Pilot’s Operating Handbook)
Each aircraft has a different way of handling. They also require different settings for each different situation. To know about this, you need to keep that aircrafts pilot’s
operating handbook nearby. This book is the manual from which you can read about the manner of operating the aircraft.
Up-to-Date Maps and Charts
Everything about aviation changes at a rapid pace, thus you need to make sure that everything you have are kept up to date. These would include charts such as sectionals. Before you fly make sure that you have most updated charts available. Some examiners would really fail students in their checkrides because of failing to procure the most upto-date charts for their final tests.
An E6B (Flight Computer)
Every pilot should have an E6B inside the cockpit especially when they are going on a cross country flight, with or without their instructors. These tools allow one to make corrections just in case they make a slight error in their course or headings. E6B’s are also useful when the need to divert to an airfield when foul weather arises.
While this may be more for instrument students, private pilots can still make use of INOP covers especially if they just had a vacuum system failure where the heading and attitude indicators are incorrect and sporadic. INOP covers prevent distractions to your instrument scans by hiding these instruments.
Good headsets are a must for your aviation career. Having quality headsets can help make communication between you, the tower or other aircraft in the air crystal clear. Shop around for the headset that you think is best for you, and always keep it in the your flight bag.
Handheld Radio and GPS
These tools are handy for emergencies, most specifically the times that a pilot experiences electrical failure to the aircraft. Having a handheld radio sure beats resorting to light signals because it sends the right message immediately to the controller. A handheld GPS can also help in determining location and altitude in the event that you experience an emergency.
Flying Solo What to expect on your first solo flight The first solo flight is one of the milestones that a student pilot will encounter in the course of his private pilot training. Simply put, the solo flight is the first ever flight done by the student under his own supervision. There would be no flight instructor in the right seat; it is simply the student alone who is in charge of the aircraft.
When can a student expect to go solo for the first time? The circumstances vary. Technically, an instructor will endorse the student for a first solo after the trainee shows that he or she has earned enough mastery in the basics of flying. The actual timing would vary from instructor to instructor, since some instructors judge students differently. As a pilot trainee, you should half expect the instructor to just tell that it’s time for you to take on your first solo flight.
A student pilot’s first solo is usually done in the early morning since at this time the weather is usually calmer and there are fewer pilots flying. This is to ensure that the level of difficulty for your first solo will not go out of hand. It also starts routinely, with the instructor telling the trainee to demonstrate a few landings and takeoffs. When the instructor is satisfied, he’d ask you to stop and then he’ll get off the airplane. At this point, the aircraft is yours!
Now it’s time to bust the myth: there’s nothing fancy about your first solo flight. You typically are instructed to demonstrate at least three take-offs and landing.
Before you know it, your first solo flight is over. You exit the airplane as a student pilot. Greeted by your instructor who’s ready to cut your shirt.
What’s with the shirt cutting? Typically your instructor will cut your shirt tail after your solo. How did this aviation tradition come about? Well back in the old days flight training was conducted in tandem seating aircraft. (seating front to back) The flight instructor would sit in the rear seat and since radio intercoms weren’t around just yet the instructor would pull on the right or left side of a students shirt tail to tell them when to turn and help direct them back to the airport. Hence, cutting your shirt tail shows that you no longer need any direction.
Perfecting your flight maneuvers As useful as they are, maneuvers are also difficult to learn especially for students. It is only normal to get frustrated finding that you may not get a specific maneuver done correctly the first time you are taught it. You’ll always find that you may make some sort of error at the early days of learning the maneuver. Don’t worry, that is very normal. However, it is also imperative that you learn to execute maneuvers correctly as soon as possible.
Here are five tips for improving your flight maneuvers quickly:
Familiarize Yourself With the Procedure
Though at first glance a maneuver looks like a single move, it is actually a routine. As a routine, it is made up of procedures that the pilot follows closely in order to execute the maneuver. Thus, the first step to improving your flight maneuvers is to understand the step that precedes it. Take some time to sit down with your instructor, and have him discuss with you the necessary procedure for executing the maneuver. Discussions can also help you establish your own, customized procedure for the maneuver.
Prepare a Pre-maneuver Checklist
Each maneuver requires preparation before you can execute it. Thus, you have to make and take to heart a pre-maneuver checklist that you will follow before and after the execution of the maneuver. A pre-maneuver checklist consists of specific settings within the aircraft itself; this information can be found in the POH that comes with your aircraft. An example of this is doing the PARC checklist: Premaneuver checklist (fuel selector valve both, lights on, mixture rich, primer locked) Area to land (choose an emergency area to land in the event of a mishap) Radio call (Make a radio call to announce your position in the practice area) Clearing turns (perform your clearing turns)
Understand the Purpose of the Maneuver
In martial arts, every technique and form that is taught to every student has a purpose. They may look like pre-determined set of movements but each movement has an application in combat. Thus, understanding the reason for such a movement will certainly help a student execute the move correctly.
The same is true for flight maneuvers; in order to perfect them, you would need to take to heart the purpose of such a maneuver. For example, pilots don’t practice stalls to introduce one during flight. Instead, the practice is designed to rehearse recovery from a stall.
Be Able to Recite Your Maneuver Procedures
The mark of mastery is when you can both execute the maneuver and describe them verbally. You need to be able to memorize the procedure enough to discuss it in front of your instructor and fellow students. You should be able to explain each maneuver to your instructor. Gain a mastery of what to do and when. This is something you can practice driving, while at work, or instead of singing in the shower!
Grab a Copy of Your Practical Test Standards
In aviation, each level of training has a set of standards that govern their instruction. When up in the air, the pilot is bound to these standards for both safety and practical purposes. For example, private pilot slow flight standards are plus or minus 100 feet plus or minus 10 degrees of heading and plus 10 knots of airspeed. It is your responsibility as the pilot to know these standards so if you don’t have a copy of your PTS grab one now.
Improving on your steep turns Steep turns can be a nightmare for most student pilots. When not properly practiced, a pilot can end up in the wrong heading than intended. That is entirely normal for a student pilot, and they have their flight instructors to guide them through the process. Of course, as we mentioned earlier, it is not enough to just take the instructor’s word for it. You need to find ways that you can improve your steep turns and building up on the knowledge that your CFI has provided you.
One thing to remember when trying to improve your steep turns is that these turns are entirely visual. You have to be able to acquire the ability to judge your angles via VFR. Relying too much on instruments can be a bad habit to get into, while performing VFR maneuvers. It is actually easier to build up on your visual skills for our steep turns if you just know how to do it.
When practicing visual flight rules, we always find that there is a straight horizontal line right in front of this. This is the horizon, and this is the main point of reference pilots have for their banks and turns aside from the instruments. If you know how to take advantage of the horizon, you won’t have to rely on your attitude indicator unless the need really arises. The more things you can do visually, the better.
Here is a tip that you can make use of when performing steep turns visually. While flying straight ahead, note the horizon in the distance. This is a 90-degree horizontal line. Imagine it as the bottom of a protractor. When looking at a protractor, you can see the markings for 30 degrees, 90 degrees, 45 degrees, so on and so forth. Steep turns are always at an angle. When determining your turn visually, keep your eye on the horizon and pick out the angle that you want to take for your turn. With that line, you simply maneuver the plane towards that angle using the centerline of your cockpit as a reference. You simply align the line of the horizon to that angle and you’re done. So, if you’re taking a 45-degree bank for a 360-degree turn, simply gauge out 45 degrees and bank the aircraft until the visible line of the horizon takes a 45 degree tilt with respect to the centerline of your cockpit.
Last but not the least, when you roll out level, make sure to give the nose a slight downward attitude to prevent climbing up.
Perfect Crosswind landings Another example of a maneuver that a pilot, whether private or commercial, needs to master is the crosswind landing. It is necessary because airports all across the world have runways that are positioned perpendicular to the direction the wind is playing thus forcing a pilot to make a difference approach.
Crosswind landings, though, are difficult to master and can be dangerous if you have some passengers aboard. Ask any CFI, or any flight student, which maneuvers or techniques that they find difficult. There would be many different answers but if you run a tally, you’ll find that the crosswind landing has the highest percentage among all the other replies to the survey.
As difficult as it is, it is also a useful skill to have when you are flying on your own. How can one master a perfect crosswind landing? Here is a procedure that you might find useful:
Ascertain the Direction of the Wind
The most important part of performing a crosswind landing is to determine the direction of the wind. Without knowing the direction of the wind, you will not be able to perform the landing because you don’t know where it’s coming from and how it can affect your landing approach. There are a variety of ways of ascertaining the direction of the wind and that would include calling in for information from the tower or listening to the
automated weather. The wind is sure to affect your heading a little bit as it blows from the side.
Take your time with the approach. You would not be able to get a most accurate feel for the wind direction without having to try several different approaches first. Once you get the hang of it, you’re ready for the next step of the procedure.
When you’ve got the wind figured out, the next thing you need to do is prepare your crab approach for the final. To perform a crab, you would need an angle. This angle will be determined by wind direction and speed, which is why again you need to get a very good feel for the wind direction. Hold your crab angle as you descend to about 50 to 100 feet above ground level, and start the sideslip.
Most pilots think that to complete a crosswind landing, they need to maintain the crab approach until touch down. This is wrong because the objective is to to touch the upwind wheel first, and that can only be done with a sideslip. This is achieved by dipping (turning) your wing into the wind and using opposite rudder to help maintain centerline. By doing this, the main upwind wheel will touchdown first. The others will then follow as a result of airspeed loss. All you need to do afterwards is just to apply proper crosswind correction for taxiing.
Stalls What are stalls? These are simply stalls that are induced by pilots in order to practice recoveries. Power on stalls are used for simulating stalls that arise out of any situation, for example a stall caused exceeding the critical angle of attack after rotation.
For student pilots, it is a must to learn how to practice stalls because it gives them an idea about what the real deal brings to them. The goal is to get them used to the scenario, thus preventing them from having panic attacks and be able to react accordingly to the situation. This will teach them to recover quickly and safely from the stall.
Everything always begins with the premaneuver checklist. After that is completed we can continue to our maneuver. In this situation we’ll simulate a power one (departure) stall. The first thing do is to slow down the plane, since planes are not that fast when on the ground. The goal is to reach rotation speed. When that happens, you apply power and back pressure on the yoke just like takeoff. What results then is a significant and rapid drop in airspeed due to the extreme nose-up attitude. Under these conditions, you can stall at any moment.
This is the most important part of the test: the recovery. The first thing that happens when you are stalling is that you start losing control of the plane. It will break either to the left or right. Since we already have full power, the best thing is to get the airspeed stable and get enough separation from the ground. There is enough separation in this exercise, but theoretically, there isn’t. What you need to do is get enough airspeed to prevent the aircraft from slamming down to the runway.
To correct breaks or horizontal directional changes, use a little rudder. At the same time, lower down the nose down attitude so the climb becomes shallow rather than steeply inclined so that you can slowly recover airspeed AND cruise away from the ground. If you get it right, you can see your airspeed start to recover and your altitude stabilize. Flying under the hood All pilots are trained to fly visually. Most of the times VFR is the chosen method of flying. However, even private pilot applicants are required to have a minimum of 3 hours “under the hood” before they can take their checkride.
Let’s look at a few instrument scanning techniques that can make your time under the hood easier and more enjoyable as a student.
The Wagon Wheel Technique
One of the most common techniques in reading the instrument panel is the wagon wheel technique. This involves looking at the instruments using a pattern that imitates the wheel of a wagon. Instead of using a clockwise pattern to read the instruments, you can simply refer to each of the instrument as a reference point in the wheel. Since we are dealing with a circular pattern here, we need a central point to orient himself. Pilots need to keep a horizon in their eyes and, without a horizon to anchor himself, what results will be disorientation or vertigo.
In the wagon wheel technique, Think of you attitude indicator as the central hub and you other instruments as the spokes. Each spoke leaves the hub to its destination and comes back to the hub. This is exactly what your eyes should be doing. Using the attitude indicator (your “artificial horizon”) and cross checking by looking at your altimeter, then back to you AI, double check your heading then back to your AI, so on and so forth.
The T-Scan Method
The T-scan method, like its name suggests, use a T-shaped pattern with the middle of the topmost portion of the T acting as your reference point. In this manner, it is the airspeed indicator that functions as your artificial horizon in this method. Now, starting with your airspeed indicator, you scan horizontally across checking your attitude indicator and altimeter. Then from your attitude indicator you scan downwards checking your heading indicator. With all of that information digested, you can use your turn coordinator and vertical speed indicator as supporting instruments.
While they may look simple, both the T-scan and the Wagon Wheel methods of scanning the instrument panel can still take some time to master. You should master these as early as you can in your private pilot education, and to do that you would need to take a lot of practice. The best time to do that is when you are sitting inside your cockpit in preparation for take off. It is much safer to rehearse than when you’re up in the air.
The Checkride How to Pass Your Private Pilot Checkride After months of training and instruction from your certified flight instruction, everything now boils down to the ultimate test. That test is the private pilot checkride, which is the only thing that stands between you and that much coveted private pilot certificate.
Most students ask, are there ways that they can make their private pilot checkride easier? Good news for those that are wondering about that. There are ways that you can make your private pilot checkride easier, so you can make your private pilot checkride more attainable and not make your months of effort worth it.
Get What You Need Ready Nothing benefits a pilot more than readiness. When your day of reckoning approaches, make sure that you have prepared everything so that all you need to worry about on that day is the test itself. There can be surprises that you didn’t anticipate but that is normal with checkrides. What you do need to prepare though, are the tools that you would need on the day itself.
First, you would have to prepare detailed flight plans before the flight. Take the time to wake up earlier so you can consult with your instructor and check weather conditions. Waking up early would also give you time to go over the answers to questions that are most likely to come up, as well as run over the maneuvers that you might be asked to perform. Punctuality is also the mark of professionalism, a trait that should ideally be in every pilot.
Enjoy the Ride Last but not the least, learn to enjoy the ride. That’s the best way to keep the nerves from overcoming you. Have some semblance of confidence in yourself. After all, you have trained for at least 40 hours for this day alone. Keep thinking that you can do it, and it will manifest in the way you handle the aircraft during the checkride. Confidence (though not too much of it) will be one of the things that an examiner will watch out for. You have everything you need with you, and you have acquired the necessary skills in the past few months. All you need to do is just show your examiner that you have what it takes to become a private pilot.
Congratulations on making it this far! With this certificate, now you have the license that you need to fly whenever you need. Keep in mind, though, that the journey does not end with the private pilot certificate. There’s still much in store for you after the pilot checkride.
Always remember, a good pilot, is always learning.
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