Author Archives: kingschools

What flying and gaming have in common—and what they don’t

what-makes-video-games-enjoyableIf you are mentoring potential pilots, or considering doing so, you might want to think about the concept of making aviation “sticky”. The gaming industry has figured out how to keep people engaged for long periods of time, getting personal satisfaction and fun from games.

As a pilot you know that flying is deeply rewarding and just plain fun.  I believe the reason that we enjoy flying so much is that we are hardwired to enjoy any activity that makes us become more adept at using our capabilities.  And flying uses nearly every aptitude we have—physical coordination, 3-dimensional problem solving, emotional control—you name it.

While flying develops skills that allow us to do very special things that can only be done with a combination of an aircraft and a pilot, you might be surprised to learn flying has a few things in common with computer gaming.  Gamers seek engagement, goals, and “significance” in computer gaming.  If you mentor folks interested in flying, you may want to think about the powerful draw of computer gaming and how flying appeals to the same needs.

The U.S. has 170 million gamers, many of whom spend from 20-40 hours a week playing games.  What’s going on here?  How can these folks get so deeply involved?  As it turns out, the fun from both gaming and flying revolves around three important concepts:  failure, flow, and fiero.

Failure is an important part of keeping you in the game.  One of the things that makes gaming so capturing is that it keeps you in the game by providing very difficult, but eventually achievable, goals.  It is like going to a carnival and trying to throw a basketball through a hoop.  The trick is that in the carnival the hoop is just enough smaller than normal that the basketball bounces out nearly every time.  If on the first try you could get the ball in the hoop, the game would be over.  You’d go on to another game.

As a mentor you will want to explain that a very important part of learning to fly is coming to terms with the concept of failure and the satisfaction of overcoming it.  Many people quit flying soon after starting because they feel like failures. Often, this is because the bar is set too high. Games can be tweaked so that you get just the right amount of failure mixed with success to keep games engaging. This is something we need to consider when teaching folks to fly. Every lesson needs successes to match failures. Focusing a flight lesson solely on difficult and failure-prone tasks can lead to feelings of frustration and a loss of confidence that the tasks will ever be mastered.  I think it is important to explain that, yes, flying is difficult, but that is one of the reasons it is so much fun.  It makes you grow in your capabilities.

Flow describes the deep engagement that gaming can provide.  Gamers lose all track of time, and awareness of anything else.  This state of absolute absorption and concentration tends to distract you from all the problems of the rest of your life as you “flow” with the game.

Well, pilots universally report that when they’re flying is the one time all of the other problems in life go away.  In order to fly well, flying requires the same total concentration that leads to flow.

Finally, fiero is the satisfying, exhilarating feeling we get after we triumph over a major challenge.  Everyone who has soloed has experienced fiero. You have it when you simply can’t help but pump your fist in the air and let out a big Woohoo!

If as mentors we understand what keeps folks “in the game”, and how flying satisfies those needs, we have tools and a vocabulary that can help us attract people to aviation and keep them flying.

While flying and gaming might appeal to similar needs, there is a huge difference.  Gaming is an escape from the reality of life, but flying is a real and genuine part of life with real world benefits, not just to pilots but to others as well.  You can’t find a better passion for someone to have.

Mentoring in Aviation

You likely remember someone in your life whose time and dedication to mentoring made the difference in helping you reach a goal. For a learning pilot, the value of a good advisor is enormous. Martha and I have benefited from the attention of mentors through the years, and have also received immeasurable rewards through mentoring many wonderful pilots.

Mentoring is at the heart and soul of King Schools. More than just delivering material, we are invested in your success and we put in enormous time and effort building courses that are clear, simple and even fun to take. You can be confident that King material will put that next rating or certificate easily within your grasp. You can do it!

mike-and-karen-new-eclipseRecently, our friends Mike and Karen purchased their first jet, an Eclipse. Moving from a high-performance single to a jet is a big step, but is within the grasp of pilots with moderate experience and an Instrument Rating. Mike started from zero time and, with the help of King courses, had become an instrument-rated pilot in short order. But when we met, Karen had not yet started to fly. She wanted to learn to fly, but did not believe she could do it. Well, with lots of encouragement, King courses, and Martha’s mentoring, Karen has gone all the way from Private Pilot to Jet Pilot in just 3 short years. What an accomplishment—congratulations, Karen!

We would love to see you challenge yourself with a new certificate or rating. You can visit our website (www.kingschools.com), but if you need personal help, we also have dedicated Pilot Advisors standing by to mentor you about your piloting goals and discuss how King Schools can help you take that next step. Give them a call at (800) 854-1001.

On Airman Certification Standards

You can help the future of aviation by providing your comments regarding FAA testing.

For years pilots have complained about the FAA knowledge test questions.  While there are so many important things to ask pilots about, many test questions have made trivial distinctions.  Worse yet, some test questions, by requiring interpolations on takeoff performance charts, have implied that takeoff distances can be relied on to the foot.  Pilots relying on that level of precision from their airplane might be in for a very scary surprise or worse.

Wouldn’t it be nice if FAA test questions would always test pilots on the knowledge and insight needed to manage the risks of a flight, to get a safer outcome for themselves and their passengers, rather than trying to trick them with trivia?

Not only have pilots been given trivial questions when they take a test,  there have been no standards for the knowledge test that would give pilots practical guidance on what they should study.

Plus, the Practical Test Standards have given pilots no guidance on what will be expected from them regarding how to conduct practical risk management.

Responding to these needs, concerned pilots within the FAA (yes, there a quite a few of them) successfully lobbied to create what is known as an Aviation Rulemaking Committee (ARC).  The FAA solicited highly qualified instructors, examiners, and course designers to participate in the ARC.  (Among the participants were John McWhinney and me from King Schools.)

After many long and thoughtful discussions this very engaged and committed group proposed improving the Practical Test Standards by including standards for the knowledge test and for risk management.

The FAA then sought another equally stellar group of industry leaders to guide the implementation of the program the ARC recommended.  This group is called the Airman Testing Standards and Training Working Group (ATST WG).  (Once again John McWhinney and I from King Schools participated.)  After great effort this group has developed Airman Certification Standards for the Private Pilot and Instrument Rating, with more to come for other certificates.

There have been a few responses to the request for comments regarding the proposed Airman Certification Standards that have slammed the initiative as a ill-advised attempt to do something about the aviation accident rate.  These respondents are truly concerned that this initiative will send the aviation community down the wrong path.  The concern is that a focus on risk management is misguided.

Based on these comments, it is apparent the members of aviation training community who have labored for many months on this vital proposal have not adequately communicated that risk management is much more than just knowledge.  It is a process that we hope that pilots will put into practice.  Plus, it is far more than just “risk assessment” as some have implied.

It may be that some folks don’t fully understand that risk management has three basic elements:  risk identification, assessment, and mitigation.

Identification is an important step in the process because many pilots are unaware that they have exposed themselves to risk.  It is not uncommon that the pilot who comes to grief is, for just a few moments, about the most surprised person in the world–they simply didn’t see it coming.

Other pilots, such as those who continue VFR in worsening weather conditions, know they are taking a risk, but completely underestimate their probability of coming to grief because of it.  They just have not learned to assess the risks they are taking.

Some pilots who fully understand risk identification and assessment fail to come up with a good plan to mitigate the risk.

All of these risk management elements are things that pilots simply aren’t going to get good at unless they have had some instruction and practice.

Finally, commenters refer to a study that says the vast majority of aviation accidents are caused by a failure of skill.  That’s like saying that accidents are caused by the ground, because almost all accidents involve hitting the ground.  Likewise, almost all accidents involve a failure in skill, because pilots who fail to adequately manage risk put themselves in a situation requiring skill they simply do not have, and could probably never acquire even with constant training focused solely on skill.

All of this points out the communication job the aviation community has ahead of us to make this very important initiative successful.

Here’s where you come in. These documents have been posted on the FAA website and we are seeking your input on these efforts in behalf of the future of aviation.

You can review the documents at:

http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=FAA-2013-0316-0001

Download and read the 5 files, and then click on the “Comment Now” button on the same web page.

Please help us make these Airmen Certification Standards documents better by giving us your advice and insight.  You’ll want to do it very soon; comments must be in by July 8.

John King

Gain The Knowledge to be PIC—And Ace Your Test

You deserve the best preparation possible for your flying journey. Our goal is that you will both ace your test and acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to become a competent PIC (Pilot In Command). That’s why we agonize over every word and teaching technique in our video lessons. We want to ensure that we deliver the knowledge you need, together with easy ways to remember and apply it.

Of course, you want to show the depth of your knowledge by acing your test, and to do that, there is no better way than to practice with the FAA -style questions that follow each KING video lesson and to utilize the comprehensive question review section of your Knowledge Test Course . You need to practice answering questions similar to what you will see on your test, and get used to the way they are asked—some can be pretty tricky!  [Try this Cessna Sport/Private Pilot course demo, by King Schools]

There has been a long-running debate at the FAA regarding the need for secrecy of the official test question databases. The current policy is that the question databases are secret. This reflects the FAA’s concern that if test applicants had access to the question database, they may just memorize the questions and answers without acquiring the necessary knowledge to be a safe and competent pilot.

Since we have been providing knowledge prep for so many years, we have saved databases from when the FAA had them publicly available. Most of the FAA test questions never change because information on aerodynamics, weather and many procedures are constant. What does change are things like regulations and flight operations issues, so we review each of those changes by the FAA immediately after they occur and create new, additional questions (and video updates) for you to study. The result is one of the most complete testing databases available anywhere. Each question also has full and thoughtful explanations of the correct—and incorrect—answer choices.

Regardless of the changes in FAA policy regarding the secrecy of test questions, we will continue to keep our focus on ensuring that you receive the knowledge you need in simple, clear and fun ways, to be a great PIC—and to ace your test!

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Enjoy Flying for a Lifetime!

Flying is deeply rewarding and fun. One pilot we know says that she finds flying fun because, “it makes me feel competent”. But if you do not stay proficient, that feeling of fun and competence can turn into one of anxiety and frustration. So the first advice we give new pilots is to keep flying.

Plus, flying is more rewarding when you continue learning. We would suggest that you establish a program of expanding your horizons so that you will feel comfortable using an airplane to go to new and exciting places. You should periodically fly with an instructor to more interesting airports and conditions. If you learned to fly at a busy urban airport, you may want an instructor to introduce you to an interesting remote airport, maybe one in the mountains, or near a ski area. If you learned at a less busy airport, you may want to get experience flying into busier airspace and airports.

It is pretty much standard advice, but it really makes sense if you intend to use an airplane for transportation, to continue on and get your instrument rating. In our view you can’t start too soon. Having that skill expands your utility greatly and makes the airplane a much more reliable tool for transportation. Frankly, being limited to VFR-only flying far too often puts you in the dilemma of having to choose between being stranded somewhere or pushing your luck. And having an instrument rating gives you a lot more options when you are surprised by worsening weather. Finally, we think you’ll find that the instrument training makes you a better and more precise pilot even when you aren’t flying on instruments.

If you keep learning in your flying, we think you’ll find that flying remains a fun and engaging activity that you’ll enjoy for a lifetime.

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Getting the Most from Your New iPad in the Cockpit

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.

The Redbird Cygnus Products connect your flight simulator and your iPad

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.

Why Our New Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC) is Different

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.

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The Threat to Our Airport

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.”

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.

“it…should not be the role of the airport user to intercept and have an altercation with people…”

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.

The Most Important Thing We Can Teach

John and Martha King

(We originally wrote this article for the
National Association of Flight Instructors)

As instructors we all want the best for our customers.  We teach them the FAA-required skills and knowledge, and even go beyond those standards.  We warn them about the hazards associated with weather, navigation, performance, aircraft loading, and every other hazard we can think of.  They then are required to pass a knowledge test.  Finally they undergo an evaluation of their ability to put this all together when they take their practical test.

“Nearly everyone…in general aviation knows someone personally who was killed in an airplane accident.”

In spite of our earnest concern on their behalf, the results aren’t all that good.  General aviation fatality rates are an unacceptable 8 times that of cars on a per mile basis.  Nearly everyone who is engaged in general aviation knows someone personally who was killed in an airplane accident.  These people as a rule are not incompetent, nor do they court risk.  In fact, general aviation self-selects capable, achieving people who are leaders in their communities.  In most cases these people and their passengers came to grief because they inadvertently exposed themselves to risk that they didn’t fully understand.


Example with names and places changed
James Jackson was in the ill-fated plane with his wife, MaryAnne, and their two children, David and Alison, flying to a family reunion at Columbia, CA. Witness Brian Daugherty told the Press-Journal that he watched the plane take off and saw the pilot appear to attempt to clear a line of fog. “He was heading toward the coast and tried to climb,” Daugherty said. “From the time he took off he was going too steep, too slow.” All four occupants perished in the crash.

Dealing with Nebulous Risks

We’ve done our best, so why aren’t we getting better results?  Well, first of all flight is a hazardous activity.  Airplanes have to get to a lethal speed just to get airborne.  Additionally, the risks associated with flying are not as intuitive as the risks we normally face.  In fact, they are sneaky and insidious.  Professional risk managers tell us that when the risks are nebulous and hard to quantify, people tend to underestimate them.  In aviation, the probabilities and consequences of things going wrong are particularly hard to judge.  As a result pilots underestimate the risks and overestimate their ability to deal with them.

Since the beginning of aviation the way we have taught risk management is by telling stories, passing along rules, and making up sayings—things like…

  • “The only time you can have too much fuel is when you are on fire.”
  • “The two most useless things in aviation are the runway behind you and the altitude above you.”
  • “You’re a lot better off being on the ground wishing you were in the air, than being in the air wishing you were on the ground.”

These are great sayings, but they are not enough.

“In aviation, the probabilities and consequences of things going wrong are particularly hard to judge.”

In fact, the way most pilots become “experienced” in aviation is they get their certificate and then go out and try stuff. They expose themselves to risk, and then evaluate the result.  If they don’t scare themselves, they place it in the “acceptable” category.  In fact, they may have just been lucky.  But the more times they get away with it, the more acceptable the risk becomes.

On the other hand, if they scare themselves they add what they did to the list of things they won’t do again.  If they don’t run out of luck, they become an “experienced” pilot.  The problem with experience is that she is a hard teacher.  She gives the test first, and the lesson comes afterward.  Many pilots, and their passengers, never survive to get the lesson.

A Systematic Approach to Risk Management

But even a long list of unacceptable risks doesn’t prepare pilots for risks they’ve never taken or thought of before.  What’s needed is a systematic approach to risk management.  We already employ a systematic approach to conducting a preflight inspection of an airplane.  Just as generations of pilots have been taught since the days of the barnstormers, we very systematically walk around the airplane examining it in great detail—even carefully raising the ailerons to inspect the hinges.  But no such procedure is used to consider in advance the pilot’s risk management of the flight.

“…only a very small percentage of accidents are caused by mechanical failure.”

The problem is that only a very small percentage of accidents are caused by a mechanical failure.  But a very large percentage of accidents are caused by a failure in risk management on the part of the pilot.  The result is that during pre-flight pilots pay very careful attention to things that don’t cause accidents, but spend very little time contemplating the things that do cause accidents.

The reason that pilots spend little time thinking about risk management is we don’t yet have a procedure in place to teach pilots how to do it.  As instructors we have earnestly attempted to tell pilots about all the hazards they might face.  But we will never be able to think of them all and they wouldn’t be able to remember them.

What pilots need is a tool that they can routinely use to anticipate the risks so that they can be managed.  Any systematic, practical procedure to anticipate risks will work, but I suggest the pilots use the PAVE memory aid to “pave” their way to a safe flight.

The letters stand for

  • Pilot
  • Aircraft
  • enVironment
  • External pressures

A Case Study

Let’s take a look at how PAVE might have worked to help James Jackson analyze the risks associated with his flight:

Pilot

  • Not instrument rated

 Aircraft

  • Normal piston-engine climb capability

 enVironment

  • Fog bank to the west
  • Wind from the west

 External Pressures

  • Commitment to attend a family reunion

 

As a flight instructor you would probably observe that pilots often overestimate their angle of climb capability. The probability that a pilot would inadvertently wind up in the clouds or stalling the airplane while attempting to out-climb the clouds is high.  You would also observe that if a pilot finds themself in this situation, the most important consideration is aircraft control.

You would also note that there was a cross runway and that taking off with a crosswind component might be preferable to attempting to climb over a fog bank.

You might also observe that fog banks often clear up as the day progresses and you might advise delaying the departure to allow the weather to improve.

Risk Management from the First Lesson

So those would probably be your thoughts as a flight instructor.  How do you get the new pilot you are training to have the same thoughts?

The answer is that you employ a risk management analysis from the very first lesson.  You would teach your learning pilot to identify and manage the risks associated with every flight, and relate their plan to you.  From that point on you would no more find it acceptable for them to skip this preflight action than you would for them to go flying without a preflight inspection of the airplane.

With practice, your learning pilot would gain the skill of analyzing the risks and coming up with a mitigation plan for them.

Right now, we are expecting new pilots to learn this on their own after they leave flight training.  It clearly is not working.  As flight instructors we can and must do better for them.


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Teaching Aviation Citizenship

John and Martha King

(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.

“Pilots who finally do themselves in often have had a long history of not following the rules, and of self-centered and cavalier behavior.”

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.

“Unless you take special effort to think about how you are affecting others, it won’t come to mind.”

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.”

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…is not an excuse to make a straight-in approach to a crowded pattern.”

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.

“…anyone waiting for an IFR clearance should pull out of the way, if possible, to allow other aircraft access to the runway…”

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.

“After having flown internationally, I have come to greatly appreciate our ATC system.”

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 often fail to think about the flight from the passengers’ view point instead of our own.”

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.


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