If you have a new iPad, and are a pilot, one thing is almost certain—you’re going to start using your iPad in the cockpit. The challenge is to make sure your iPad is indeed a help, not a distraction.
The first step is to decide which aviation apps you like, and install them on your iPad. We have made PDFs of our checklists and put them on our iPads. Plus, we use a moving map displayed as either a sectional chart or IFR chart, another app that displays approach charts and SIDs and STARS, plus another app that stores and displays our flight plan information and weather.
There are so many wonderful apps available, you can hardly go wrong. The important thing is that you figure out how you will use them in the airplane, and practice using them before you take your iPad into the air. A handy way to practice is to use one of any number of simulators like Microsoft Flight Simulator, X-Plane, or any of the Redbird simulators featured in our catalog.
Then, use another product in our catalog, Cygnus by Redbird Flight Simulations, which sends your simulated position to your iPad or iPhone. Every app will then display your simulated position. You can fly simulated trips and practice using your iPad just as you would use it in the airplane.
You’ll not only want to practice working with the apps themselves, but you’ll also want to get familiar with moving between them. We have found the new 4-finger swipes a particularly efficient way to move between apps.
We have entered a fabulous new age of capability that we couldn’t have imagined just a few years ago. We just need to make sure we are familiar enough with these wonderful apps so that the result is a net increase in safety, rather than a dangerous distraction.
Flying self-selects fabulous people. But the sad fact is that many of these very special people and their passengers come to grief because they inadvertently assume risks that they don’t fully understand.
This is why we have come to so be deeply saddened by the lost opportunity represented by Flight Instructor Refresher Courses that cover all over again the same things instructors all learned back when they were Private Pilots. Covering things like thrust, drag, lift, and weight has little or no effect on an instructor’s ability to teach pilots things that will determine whether pilots and their passengers live or die.
We decided our FIRC should cover things like “Identifying and Changing At-Risk Behaviors.” Flight instructors often see scary behavior, but without being specifically prepared, they don’t know what to say that could help that person better understand and manage the risks of flying.
Another subject we decided to cover is “Conducting a Meaningful Flight Review.” The flight review is a very special opportunity for flight instructors to provide meaningful assistance. The FAA provides very little guidance on flight reviews, and in order to leave their customers with life-saving insights, the flight instructor needs preparation to make the most of it.
Most important, it is our suggestion in the FIRC that flight instructors teach their customers to employ a risk management analysis as a preflight action from the very first lesson. Pilots should find it no more acceptable to skip this preflight action than to go flying without a preflight inspection of the airplane. With practice, learning pilots will gain the skill of analyzing risks and coming up with a mitigation plan for them. Right now, new pilots learn this on their own, after they leave flight training … which isn’t working out well. It is our hope that with preparation from our FIRC, flight instructors will be able to do much better for their customers.
We hope that as a minimum taking this FIRC will make flight instructors thoughtful. The best case is that they will become strong advocates of risk management to everyone in aviation.
Our local airport (MYF) is under threat—not by the neighbors, not by criminals, but by the very operators of our airport. They are well intentioned. We have had “incidents”. These incidents aren’t security hazards; they are taxiway and runway incursions. Not one has resulted in a risk of collision with an aircraft. These “incidents” get reported, analyzed and scrutinized. The FAA can always threaten our airport funding if this is not fixed. As a result, the operators are rushing to create a solution that could greatly impair our access and change a key component of our lives.
There has been no collaboration. There have not been meetings, there has not been a request to explore alternate solutions, instead there is an edict. We will have an access card system.
The problem is that most of the “incidents” have been caused by people who would have access under a card system. What the card system does is provide the opportunity to require mandatory training for card-holders and it provides the opportunity to threaten taking away the card. What the card system also does is make it much more burdensome for us—and particularly our passengers—to have access to our aircraft.
The reason the lack of collaboration is so problematic, is that there was no opportunity to explore other, equally effective, less burdensome solutions. For instance, if the goal is to have airport users block entrance to others until the gate closes, the set-up for it should make it practical. At MYF, once you go far enough from the gate to get it to close that there is room for another car behind you, there is no practical way to block non-compliant entrance without the risk of a physical altercation. We have had people drive around us and through the gate while we were waiting for the gate to close. In order to make prevention of tailgating practical and safe, gates and corridors should be designed to allow only one vehicle to pass at a time—even when the leading vehicle has pulled forward to allow the gate to close. This would allow the design of the system to provide the enforcement rather than transferring the burden and risk of enforcement to the user.
The delay for gate closure should be minimized. It is not practical to expect users to accept inordinate delays while waiting for the gate to close. Unnecessarily long waits tempt even the most conscientious users. Let’s get a practical gate system that not just saints would comply with. And the extended delay increases the risk of an altercation with an annoyed driver behind you.
The signs should request that airport users monitor for non-compliant entrance and report it rather than accosting the non-compliant entrant. The signs should give us a local number to call to report incidents—after all we all have cell phones. But let’s be practical, it would be of no use for us to call the national 800 number for that kind of incident.
Additionally, it is not and should not be the role of the airport user to intercept and have an altercation with people who do not follow the rules. Our role should be to report the behavior and it should be made practical for us to do it.
We all want a safe, yet accessible airport. Implementing a gate card system without implementing training, and improving the gate operation and signage, won’t work. If we do these things first, we won’t need the gate card system. If we all cooperate we can have reasonable airport security and reasonable access at the same time.
(We originally wrote this article for the
National Association of Flight Instructors)
As instructors we have many responsibilities—creating pilots who are great risk managers and truly prepared to be pilot-in-command would be high on the list. It would seem that teaching good aviation citizenship would come way down this list. But in my view, teaching aviation citizenship should also be near the top.
Helping pilots move from aviation klutzhood to citizenship is a very simple way to help them greatly reduce the stress and increase the enjoyment of flying, and at the same time, markedly reduce their risk of having an accident.
Not being a good aviation citizen clearly has its risks. Pilots who finally do themselves in often have had a long history of not following the rules, and of self-centered and cavalier behavior. The folks who run aviation insurance companies will tell you that there is one very identifiable group of pilots with a significantly higher than average accident rate. It is those pilots who don’t pay their premiums on time and argue heatedly about training and currency requirements.
As instructors we need teach pilots to manage what they care about. It is what pilots care about that causes or prevents accidents. Pilots who care about saving money on fuel will press on to an airport with cheaper fuel even at the risk of running out of fuel on the way. It is my contention that the habit of thoughtful aviation citizenship and what pilots care about can be trained, and that it will carry over into all of the pilot’s flying.
Now the truth is, being a good aviation citizen isn’t all that easy. When you are in an aircraft you are busy. Your attention is focused on what you are doing. Unless you take special effort to think about how you are affecting others, it won’t come to mind.
Historically, thoughtful citizenship has not normally been included in the flight instruction program. In fact, occasionally pilots have been trained to do something that has an unnecessarily negative impact on others. For example, instead of being trained to fly quietly on approach, pilots are often told to increase propeller RPM early on a constant-speed prop to be ready for a go-around.
I had never thought much about how my flying was affecting folks on the ground until I attended a series of neighborhood meetings about a proposed runway extension at our local airport. Some of the meetings had over a thousand attendees—and most had showed up to let everyone know how much the noise from airplanes bothered them. The number and intensity of these folks was a great surprise to me. For the first time I realized that if we wanted to keep our airport, we were going to have to be more considerate of our neighbors.
There are a few little things we can teach pilots to do that will make a big difference. For instance, climbing at best angle-of-climb speed right after takeoff not only multiplies their alternatives in the event of an engine failure, but it reduces their noise impact to the neighborhood geometrically as they gain altitude.
Since much of the noise made by airplanes is caused by the speed of the propeller blade tips, teaching them to keep prop RPM low anytime they are over a populated area will make a huge difference. Most manufacturers approve RPMs as low as 1800. Many pilots with constant-speed props are afraid of operating their engines at that low an RPM, because they were erroneously taught never to operate over-square (with manifold pressure in inches greater than RPM in hundreds). So consequently, they needlessly fly over neighborhoods with their props screaming away.
You can also reduce neighborhood noise by teaching pilots to keep their pattern tight and delay their descent in the pattern until they are on a normal descent path to the runway. Unless taught otherwise, lots of pilots tend to start their descent abeam the landing point regardless of how extended the traffic pattern has become, and wind up flying an extended pattern at low altitude over neighborhood homes.
The alternative is to teach pilots that when the pattern becomes extended they should to hold their altitude, slow down, keep the airplane to follow in sight, and turn base when they pass abeam you on final. This keeps their noise footprint closer to the airport and has the safety advantage of making it easier for everybody to keep pattern traffic in sight.
The traffic pattern is one place where exercising courtesy and civility is especially critical to safety. Regardless of how big or fast an airplane they are flying, at an uncontrolled airport it is the pilot’s responsibility to monitor the frequency. It is disrespectful, dangerous, and contrary to the Aeronautical Information Manual for pilots to assume that they are exempt from the obligation to monitor the frequency and say, “All traffic please advise”. The likely result is everybody talking at once. This is a real setup for a midair collision.
Flying something big or fast, even when on an IFR flight plan, is not an excuse to make a straight-in approach to a crowded pattern. I make it a policy to always fly the pattern, even in a jet, unless I am certain that I won’t interfere with pattern traffic, and weather conditions would make circling risky. We should teach all our customers to do the same thing.
Aviation citizenship is important on the ground too.
Even the smallest plane can blow things around a hangar or fill it with dust, just by turning the wrong direction. You can teach pilots to avoid this by something as simple as taxiing past an open hangar before they start a turn.
The other day we were sitting at an airport restaurant wondering when the guy sitting on the ramp with his engine blaring away was ever going to move away from us. Part of the problem was that the pilot was running his engine much harder than he needed to. He just hadn’t been taught to reduce RPM to idle after startup. We should teach pilots to whenever possible copy ATIS and get their clearance before they start up and then move the airplane away from the restaurant area, or any other populated area, right after start up.
The other day a couple of professional pilots in a Citation pulled up to the hold line and blocked everyone else from taking off. As it worked out the airspace in the direction they wanted go was saturated, but the airspace in other directions would allow immediate take-offs. No one could move, however, because they had blocked the path to the runway. When tower asked if they could move out of the way, they said they didn’t have room to move, and added that turbine aircraft were always entitled to taxi directly to the hold line.
We should teach pilots that anyone waiting for an IFR clearance should pull out of the way, if possible, to allow other aircraft access to the runway—even if they are otherwise ready to go. Many times a faster aircraft or one going another direction can go out ahead of them. It will cost them virtually nothing in the way of time and it will save others a lot.
We should teach pilots to think kindly towards ATC. We pilots can often be an anti-authority crowd. I remember in my early days of flying, I’d be taking off VFR and the controller would say, “Say your destination”. This would annoy me because I thought of controllers as being part of the federal government. My reaction was, “What business is it of the government where I am going?” The fact was, the controller just wanted to know which direction I was flying so he could help get me on my way.
I also used to have a chip on my shoulder about ATC when I didn’t get an altitude or route as quickly as I thought I should have. After we got a traffic awareness system that let us see the airplanes around us, I realized that the controllers were giving us the clearances we wanted just as soon as it was possible. Now I realize that they are working every day trying to solve a giant puzzle in the sky to get everybody on their way efficiently.
After having flown internationally, I have come to greatly appreciate our ATC system. I now realize that we have a magnificent system that accommodates general aviation better than anyplace else in the world. I see the relationship with Air Traffic Control as a beautiful dance in which each partner plays a cooperative role. In those cases in which a controller makes a mistake or is impatient, I remind myself that through the years I have caused controllers much more trouble than they have ever caused me.
We should teach our pilots that it they ever do feel that they have a grievance with a controller, the thing to do is call a supervisor on the phone after they land. The radio is never the place to air grievances.
We should also teach pilots to appreciate FBOs. Flying a general aviation aircraft internationally has led me to appreciate FBOs. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t have them in the way we do, and when there are FBOs, they are much, much more expensive than ours.
In most parts of the world fuel is supplied by a roving tank truck that serves the airliners first and general aviation only when there is spare time available. It is not uncommon to wait hours for fuel. By the same token, since there is no FBO, there is no place to park your airplane or rent a car. When you arrive at an FBO in the U.S. people usually come to greet you to ask what services you’d like. In other parts of the world, when they run up to you as you arrive, they say, “You can’t park here.” You have to beg permission to park on someone’s property and figure a way to schlep your luggage through the security gate.
We should also teach pilots to appreciate business jets. It is very difficult even in the U.S. for an FBO to make it based solely on business from piston-powered aircraft. Yet FBOs often accommodate us in pistons with the same service they give jets—even though jets take on 10 to 20 times the fuel. We should teach pilots to develop the habit of buying at least some fuel every time they use an FBO and of saying to FBOs, “Thanks for being here, and thanks for the service you provide.” Our aviation life wouldn’t be the same without them.
We should also teach pilots to understand their enormous responsibility to passengers. Passengers trustingly put their lives completely in our hands. They have a right to expect us to identify and manage the risks of every flight. We often fail to think about the flight from the passengers’ view point instead of our own. I can’t tell you how many folks have been lost to the aviation community because a new pilot wanted to show them stalls. Clearly the pilot was thinking of their own needs—not their passengers. We lose a lot of potential members of our community because of thoughtless actions.
Realizing that I have been and still am an aviation klutz from time to time has helped me in my efforts to be more tolerant of other pilots who, while wrapped up in what they are trying to do, have joined the aviation klutz club and inconvenienced me. One of the things we all need to remember is we need other pilots to help keep the critical mass necessary to sustain our industry. We should welcome and include others into our aviation community and treat them with civility and respect.
As new pilots come into the industry they will make the same kind of annoying and frustrating mistakes that we made when we started flying. We need to be tolerant of these mistakes, including those of the rusty old hands who still make an occasional faux pas.
I know that I have been least considerate of others when I have been in a hurry. Being in a hurry in an airplane is not a good thing. These days when I find myself being in a hurry, I remind myself that the airplane is fast—so I don’t have to be. We need to teach pilots to slow down and enjoy what they are doing. They will become safer pilots, have more fun, and be much more considerate towards others.
We need to teach pilots that to be thoughtful aviation citizens, they don’t necessarily have to put others ahead of themselves. They just need to think about the effect they have on others. It will cost pilots very little, if anything, to minimize that effect. The little effort it does take will pay rich dividends to them directly from safer, less stressful flights, and to the aviation community from greater support for airports and more pilots who stay with flying.
Sharing the joy of flying with another in the cockpit makes flying infinitely more rewarding. And it should be a lot safer too, right? Well, that depends. Most of us who learned to fly in general aviation have no training in sharing the cockpit, and sometimes the interaction is contrary to safety.
Martha and I have been flying together for over 43 years now, and I have to admit we haven’t always gotten along all that well together in an airplane. Getting along in an airplane requires mutual respect and a strong desire to share flying, but we’ve come to understand that these alone are not enough. We have discovered some tools that make it easier for flying partners to work well together in an airplane.
Now when Martha and I are flying together, the person monitoring uses the word ‘Captain’ when addressing the flying pilot. When our passengers hear this, they think we’re joking. But we find that the pilot flying accepts input far better when addressed as ‘Captain’. Plus the person not flying frames their comments more thoughtfully and respectfully.
Also important is agreeing in advance on what help each pilot should expect from the other. Once Martha, as the non-flying pilot, switched the frequencies on the navigation radio I was using to shoot an ILS. I didn’t notice the flags and thought the centered needles meant I was doing a fantastic job.
Whether you are flying an aircraft for which two pilots are required, or sharing your flying with a passenger, the second person in the cockpit can relieve the workload, improve situational awareness, trap errors and make flying more fun.
But if you don’t know the principles of crew resource management, you can work at cross purposes with each other. If you fly with someone in the cockpit frequently, look for the upcoming release of our new course on Crew Resource Management. It is designed for pilots in a two-pilot crew, but I think you will find that it will make sharing the cockpit with any frequent companion at lot safer, and a lot more fun—trust me, we know.