Tag: FAA



Article appeared in Flying Magazine November 2017 by Martha King

John and Martha were at Heartland Aviation in Alliance Nebraska for the total eclipse last August.

This normally non-towered airport was probably the busiest it had ever been. The airport needed to land an airplane about every minute and a half to accommodate the arrivals in the time available between sunrise and 10:30 am, when everyone wanted to be on the ground. The trick was getting everyone off the runway and into parking to clear the way for those behind.

The big show was supposed to be at 11:50 am, but John and I had a great time watching all the airplanes long before then. Every kind of airplane you could imagine was joining the party, from homebuilts to jets. And a great party it would be.

Nature would be providing us a rare show—a total solar eclipse. Over any given spot on earth a total solar eclipse occurs about once every 375 years. If either John or I is ever to see another one, there will likely be an airplane involved—like there was this time.

We had read estimates that said as many as 7.4 million people would be competing with each other on the roads to get to the path of totality. We understood there would be traffic jams everywhere. No problem, we said. That’s where general aviation shines—we will fly.

Our plan was to wait and see what the weather looked like the day before the eclipse and then fly to wherever looked most likely to guarantee clear skies. And if the weather turned unexpectedly cloudy on eclipse day, we could fly to somewhere else.

This sounded great in theory, but when we started investigating good locations for eclipse viewing we discovered that some airports had been taking aircraft parking reservations for the eclipse for years—and all expected to have to turn away airplanes. It became obvious that we needed to pick a destination airport and settle in.

The hard part was what airport to choose. A generally good weather forecast for this time of the year would be key. Plus, we wouldn’t want to be caught in traffic jams on the ground on the big day. So we would need to pick an airport away from any major metropolitan areas. There were a lot places in the great American West that would fit the bill.

Gaylene and Jeff Jensen of Heartland Aviation took the time to meet with John and Martha during the eclipse and what most likely will be the busiest time in the history of the planet for the airport at Alliance.

We chose Alliance, Nebraska (AIA)—and we hit the jackpot. The sole FBO, Heartland Aviation, is a wonderful mom-and-pop operation. (As you can imagine, John and I are impressed by mom-and-pop operations.) Gaylene and Jeff Jensen have owned and operated Heartland Aviation for over 27 years, but their connection goes even further back; Jeff had been working there since he was in high school. Their enthusiasm for aviation, and people who fly, brims over in every conversation.

When we made our aircraft parking reservation with Heartland some months before the solar eclipse, Gaylene told us that they already had over 200 single-engine piston aircraft and twenty-five twins and jets scheduled to fly in that morning. Like every other airport in the path of the eclipse, they also fully expected to have to turn away airplanes.

Their biggest problem, though, was not going to be room to park airplanes. It would be getting the arriving aircraft parked in the time available on eclipse morning. Denver Center had told Jeff and Gaylene that careful planning would be required to get airplanes clear of the runways and to parking fast enough to keep the traffic flow up. That’s when they realized the need to land an airplane about every minute and a half. And that didn’t allow for any instrument approaches, or wake turbulence separation.

The lineup at the Alliance Airport was truly extraordinary. Most likely the busiest day the airport will ever have.

When we heard that, we realized we wanted to get there ahead of the crowd. We didn’t want to join the conga-line of airplanes into that airport on the same day as the event. Now we had a real problem. If we were going to come early, we needed a place to stay. As we got into it we realized that with our original plan to fly in and out on the same day we had wasted precious time while everyone else was arranging accommodations.

This is where an FBO in a small community is so valuable. Gaylene had a friend who knew a woman who had just put her house up for rent that weekend. I jumped at the deal, and arranged for us to arrive on Saturday at noon instead of Monday morning.

One of the things that John and I have savored the most about general aviation is the way that small airports introduce you and communities you would never have known otherwise to each other. In Alliance everyone we met welcomed us with great warmth, and with curiosity about where we were from and how we flew our own plane to get there.

Our early arrival gave us the opportunity to settle in and revel in the grand party the city was throwing for its visitors. We enjoyed lots of free musical entertainment, snacked from food trucks, attended a Native American powwow, and thoroughly enjoyed a portable planetarium show designed to explain the eclipse to grade-schoolers.

Lynn Placek, the airport manager of Alliance Airport worked with the Nebraska Department of Aeronautics and the FAA to get the temporary “tower” in Beatrice and Alliance. Placek explains “So we had five people here that manned the tower. They stayed in a camper and were out in the airfield communicating. They were great help!” The Alliance Airport staff helped set up the tower in the back of the Alliance City truck pictured above. That was some incredible ingenuity by everyone cooperating together.

On the day of the event we headed out to the airport early to watch something very special—FAA controllers, operating from a temporary control tower perched atop a city dump truck, skillfully keeping airplanes separated. The controllers had arrived on very short notice when the number of airplanes expected escalated. It is a life-saving service that the U.S. Air Traffic Control System provides to general aviation when they see the need.

Heartland Aviation hosted a fine eclipse party with food, music and a view that was out of this world.

Meanwhile, beginning at 5:00 am Jeff and Gaylene’s crew of 30-plus volunteers guided aircraft to parking, fueled them, and moved pilots and their passengers to the ramp in trams. Plus, Jeff and Gaylene threw a party worthy of the event, including custom-designed eclipse T-shirts and eclipse glasses. For breakfast they served biscuits and gravy or breakfast burritos, and for lunch burgers, hot dogs or chicken breasts—all at unbelievably reasonable prices

The airport was open only to people who had arrived in an airplane, and as the day progressed, the mood reflected the comradery of 400 or so fellow aviators talking with each other about where they came from and how they had fallen in love with flying. We realized we were sharing an event that each of us would remember for the rest of our lives.

The eclipse, of course, did not disappoint. We were powerfully moved by the phenomena that have mesmerized humankind since the beginning of time—a darkening sky and sudden chill accompanied by sunset colors circling the horizon, a corona ring around the sun, and stars appearing during the day.

But what was truly special to those of us who flew in to Alliance was general aviation at its very best. It was a wonderful day brought to us by a couple who had worked for months to make it happen. Gaylene and Jeff created an opportunity for hundreds of aviation enthusiasts to share a very special event in what for all of us was the most fun way imaginable.


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:


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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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:


  • Not instrument rated


  • Normal piston-engine climb capability


  • 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.

Related Links

King Schools Releases Crew Resource Management Course

Main Menu from the King Schools Crew Resource Management Course

Lakeland, FL, March 30, 2012 — Today, at SUN ‘n FUN, John and Martha King of King Schools announced that they have released a new online Crew Resource Management Course. This course is appropriate for all pilots flying as part of a two-pilot crew and satisfies the newly published FAR 135.330, that requires CRM training for all part 135 operators.

“Flightcrews can be safer and more efficient when they are trained to work together well,” said John King.  “Many general aviation and military pilots have not had this important training, and without the training they can often work at cross purposes as a two-pilot crew,” King continued. “The net result can be an actual deterioration in situational awareness and in risk management,” Martha King commented.

“Even crews that have established SOPs and that have flown together for some time, are sure to find a few gems in this course,” continued John. “We started with the idea of what it takes to become a great crew and filled this course with practical ideas that can be put to immediate use for increasing risk management and reducing workload,’’ concluded Martha.

The King Schools CRM course has been designed to run on the iPad and on all Windows and Mac Web browsers and sells for $199.


Transition To the Cessna Skycatcher or Just Learn All About Flying This Remarkable New Airplane

About King Schools

For over 36 years, students and pilots at all levels have enjoyed King Schools´ clear, simple and fun courses. In fact, nearly 1 out of every 2 pilots flying in the U.S. today has learned with King. The company is also a leader in on-line pilot certification and avionics training for pilots of high-performance and turbine aircraft. To find out more, please visit www.kingschools.com. or call 1-800-854-1001 (worldwide +1-858-541-2200).

Press Contact

Barry Knuttila, Sr. Vice President of Marketing and Technology, King Schools
direct phone: (858) 576-6265
e-mail: bknuttila@kingschools.com

King Schools To Release Online FIRC For Flight Instructor Renewals

Main menu of King Schools Flight Instructor Refresher Course

Lakeland, FL, March 30, 2012 — Today, at SUN ‘n FUN, John and Martha King of King Schools announced that they will release an online Flight Instructor Refresher Course (FIRC) by the end of April. The course follows the latest guidance from the FAA recently released as revision “G” of FAA Advisory Circular 61-83, which specifies more up-to-date topics for flight instructors and puts emphasis on effectively teaching risk management. The King Schools FIRC includes the option to have King Schools handle all of the instructor’s certificate renewal paperwork, making it unnecessary for a Flight Instructor to visit their local FSDO in order to renew their certificate.

“Solving the two major problems in general aviation, the student dropout rate and the fatality rate, requires a fundamental change in the way we teach,” said John King. “And this program is designed to give renewing flight instructors fresh insights into ways they can help their customers to both become good risk managers and long term members of the pilot community,” King continued.

“The new guidance from the FAA has allowed us to move away from having to cover the same topics that flight instructors learned as private pilots, and to delve into areas that will be interesting, relevant and sometimes provocative for flight instructors,” Martha King commented. “This new approach will be truly refreshing for flight instructors,” continued Martha. “The goal is that by giving flight instructors more insight into topics such as identifying and changing at-risk behaviors, and conducting an effective flight review, they will have more tools available to produce pilots truly ready to be pilot-in-command,’’ added John.

“FIRC options for flight instructors have not changed much in recent years,” continued John. “Renewing flight instructors now have the opportunity to try something new, and we hope they will find our alternative to be engaging, educational and fun,” concluded John.

The King Schools FIRC program has been designed to run on the iPad and on all Windows and Mac Web browsers. It will sell for $99 without CFI renewal processing or $124.95 with processing included.


Transition To the Cessna Skycatcher or Just Learn All About Flying This Remarkable New Airplane

About King Schools

For over 36 years, students and pilots at all levels have enjoyed King Schools´ clear, simple and fun courses. In fact, nearly 1 out of every 2 pilots flying in the U.S. today has learned with King. The company is also a leader in on-line pilot certification and avionics training for pilots of high-performance and turbine aircraft. To find out more, please visit www.kingschools.com. or call 1-800-854-1001 (worldwide +1-858-541-2200).

Press Contact

Barry Knuttila, Sr. Vice President of Marketing and Technology, King Schools
direct phone: (858) 576-6265
e-mail: bknuttila@kingschools.com

Vaughn College Students Are Participating In The Redbird Skyport Flight Training Laboratory

You already know this—when a person learns to fly, it changes who they are and how they feel about themselves forever.

That’s why we were so pleased recently to stop by the Redbird Skyport in San Marcos, TX to congratulate the students from Vaughn College of Aeronautics and Technology in Flushing, NY on passing their ground school and starting their flight training.

Vaughn College Students Are Participating In The Redbird Skyport Flight Training LaboratoryThese students are engaged in an accelerated training program for their Private Pilot certificates at the Skyport flight training laboratory. Vaughn College and the Redbird Skyport are working together to determine the most effective way to use simulators in Private Pilot certification. The goal is to turn out a pilot who is not only physically proficient, but is a good risk manager and truly ready to be pilot in command.

The accelerated program at the Skyport flight training laboratory uses the latest computer-based software from Cessna, developed by King Schools. Instructors will introduce flight maneuvers in a full-motion simulator, and then have the students practice what they have learned in the actual airplane. The folks at Skyport aren’t worried about how much or little credit the FAA will give for the simulator time – they’re just interested in whatever provides the most thorough, cost-effective training. (Very few pilots finish their Private Pilot training in the FAA minimum time, anyway. The average flight time is about 73 hours.)

Skyport will also be testing the Redbird Parrot program (interactive ATC) on the Vaughn students, as well as their GIFT program (Guided Independent Flight Instruction, which provides video instruction from us in the simulator before and after they practice maneuvers), to see what changes should be made to these programs in order to provide the maximum help to a student.

And they’ll also be testing the results from a fun, competitive cross-wind simulator

Experimentation over a period of time, with these Vaughn students and others who will follow in their footsteps, will establish the best ratio and sequence of simulator time to airplane flight time. That’s why Redbird calls the Skyport a flight training laboratory. And the good news is that Skyport will publish its results and conclusions, so every flight school in the country can benefit from what they learn.

You might be asking, are these Vaughn College students hand-picked and special? They’re special only in the sense that everyone in love with aviation is special – they are excited, enthusiastic, and motivated.

So congratulations to these ground-breaking, soon-to-be-pilot, students from Vaughn!

Related Links

No guns, no cuffs this time at SBA

Pictured are Left to right: Karen Ramsdell, Airport Director, Martha King, Jim Armstrong, City Administrator, John King, Camino Sanchez Chief of Police, Helene Schneider, Mayor.

As you may know, the last time Martha and I were at Santa Barbara airport, we were met by the police, held at gunpoint, and placed in two separate police cars with our hands cuffed behind our backs. This time we were met instead by Craig Fuller, President of AOPA, and invited to the Mayor’s office.

There we visited with the Mayor, the City Administrator, the Chief of Police, the Deputy Chief, and the Airport Director. We presented them with a planning guide and law enforcement officer checklist for the interception of an aircraft on an airport. The main idea behind the guide and the checklist is to allow the airplane to go to an FBO rather than sending it to a remote part of the airport. When we were sent to the remote area it tipped us off that something was up. When we spotted all four police cars lined up in wait for us, we knew something interesting was about to happen. Any real culprit in that situation would have simply put the throttle in and taken off. So the technique they used wouldn’t have captured the bad guys.

The use of a remote location came to mind for them because they, like all the rest of us, had seen on TV hijackings handled exactly that way. The technique works for a hijacking because the pilots are in cahoots with the police against the bad guys in back. But when the suspects are the pilots, the technique gives them a tip-off and an opportunity for escape.

Pilots who are instead allowed to go to an FBO won’t be tipped off. When they get into a parking spot, just like all the rest of us, they will get out, and most likely chock or tie down the airplane and lock the doors. They will have immobilized the airplane in anticipation of transferring to ground transportation. This is the time for the police to deal with them. They are on foot and usually inside a fenced area. There is little opportunity for escape and little need for the police to draw weapons.

The result is a procedure that does not tip off the suspects, minimizes the opportunity for escape, and is less risky for everybody. This doesn’t come to mind for law enforcement officers, because in most cases they just don’t know about airplanes. They don’t know such key things as the pilot will very predictably go to an FBO after landing and then immobilize the airplane, and that if you want to keep a piston airplane from going anywhere all you have to do is pull in front of it, because it can’t back up.

The planning guide deals with the need for law enforcement agencies to, in advance, recruit folks with aviation knowledge to assist them. In our case the subject airplane was actually a Cessna 150. We were flying a Cessna 172. The police wouldn’t know the difference, but nearly every pilot would. The police had thought they had covered this detail when they asked the tower, “Is this a Cessna?” The tower replied that it was. The problem with that exchange is that Cessna has built over half of all the single-engine airplanes in the world. The police hadn’t narrowed it down much, because they just didn’t know the right questions to ask.

This is where you come in. Print out the card with a color printer, have it laminated and take it to the law enforcement agencies that have jurisdiction over your airport. This card has practical recommendations developed by people who know both law enforcement and aviation, including police chiefs and past and current members of the board of the Airborne Law Enforcement Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

The other aspect to our interception is that it was the result of a multi-agency governmental mix-up that resulted in the Santa Barbara Police Department being falsely notified that our airplane was stolen.

The FAA is, for unimaginable reasons, re-issuing to different aircraft the registration numbers of aircraft that have been stolen. Then the FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) is listing the registration numbers as belonging to a stolen aircraft even though they are now attached to a completely different aircraft. Finally, the El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) is sending alerts out to police departments like the Santa Barbara Police Department when they spot an aircraft on the list in the IFR system headed their way. EPIC does this without even bothering to check the status of the registration number in the FAA’s registry. This takes about 30 seconds on the first page of the FAA’s website.

So AOPA, NBAA, and other organizations as well as our local congressman, Brian Bilbray, are working to resolve those issues. Let’s hope they are successful.

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