Luck and Skill but no Miracle

General aviation (small airplanes) made a splash in the news recently, especially in LA, with the emergency landing of a Cessna 172 on a street in Huntington Beach, CA. The news was accompanied with dashcam and security video, as well as cellphone pictures of an airplane stopped in the middle of a street surrounded by surprised drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. The web and news outlets filled with titles like “Student Pilot Makes Miraculous Emergency Landing”.

As an instructor, I find nothing “miraculous” about this. The pilot showed good skill, along with some luck. Continue reading

2017 Distinguished Flight Instructor Award

I’m proud to announce that I’ve been recognized as an AOPA Distinguished Flight Instructor for 2017, one of only 8 in the state of California. Distinguished Flight Instructor is a title given to high scoring flight instructors from the Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association (AOPA) 2017 Flight Training Experience Survey. AOPA’s Flight Training Experience Awards were created to highlight the best flight training the industry has to offer. “This year’s group of schools and CFIs were especially close as we analyzed the results of the 2017 Flight Training Experience Survey,” said Chris Moser, director of AOPA’s Flight Training Initiative. “It gives me great confidence to both hear about some incredible flight training providers and to see how much their customers truly value them.” The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is the world’s large aviation association.  Continue reading

Impossible Turn

Please do me (and yourself) a favor. If you’re not familiar with the “impossible turn”, read on, and get with a good instructor before your next flight (while I hope this article is useful, it’s no substitute for instruction). It’s imperative that you understand the dangers of the impossible turn. An experienced pilot died yesterday in a crash at my home airport (EMT). From initial reports, it appears he had an engine failure soon after takeoff and attempted the impossible turn from a low altitude. Continue reading

Santa Barbara (SBA)

Santa Barbara is one of my favorite nearby flight destinations. In an airplane like a 172, it’s about a 1 hour flight each way from EMT and you have the option of a 15 minute walk to a seaside restaurant once you arrive. Santa Barbara is a Class C airport – they have some airline service and a lot of private jet traffic, but don’t let that keep you from giving it a try. Continue reading

Alternator Failure

Just last Friday, I had another alternator failure. In terms of equipment failures, charging system failure is the one I’ve seen most often. I’ve had a dozen or more failures in 7000 hours of flying. Depending on the situation and airplane, this failure can be anywhere from a non-event up to a serious emergency. Let me describe my recent experience on a VFR instructional flight and discuss some other possible scenarios. Continue reading

Terrain and IFR

Sundays are normally my non-flying days. I’ll often be found on my bicycle on the roads around Altadena, Pasadena, and La Canada. This Sunday found me and cycling buddies climbing the Angeles Crest Highway (ACH) from La Canada to Clear Creek Junction. It was a cool, cloudy, and foggy morning. As we climbed through the clouds, visibility was very poor (sometime as low as 200 ft).

Poor visibility at Clear Creek (~3600 MSL)

Visibility at Clear Creek

Part way into our climb, a stream of fire and sheriff vehicles began passing us going uphill; we also heard a helicopter overhead above the clouds. Experience led us to expect another motorcycle crash on the road. Only when got to Clear Creek (3600′ MSL) did we hear they were looking for a downed airplane.  Details were non existent, but my first guess was VFR into IMC (pilots who aren’t trained to fly in the clouds ending up in the clouds with deadly results). Continue reading

Student Pilot Certificate

On April 1, 2016, the FAA implemented a new process for getting a student pilot certificate. Students apply through the FAA’s IACRA system; a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) can approve the application. I’ve only processed two so far (May 2016), but my students received their certificates in 9 and 10 days respectively from the day we finished the process.

Students must have both a medical and student certificate prior to solo. I recommend that students apply for the student pilot certificate as soon as they start their flight training. Continue reading

Flight Review (aka BFR)

Every pilot should be familiar with requirements for a Flight Review (often called the Biennial Flight Review or BFR); the requirements are in 14 CFR 61.56. Basically, a pilot needs a flight review every 24 calendar months – pass your checkride or have a flight review on 4/10/16 and you need a flight review by 4/30/18.

A flight review is performed by a Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) and can be done in any of the category/class/type of aircraft for which you are rated – if you are an airplane (SEL), helicopter, and glider pilot, you can do a flight review in any of them. The specific requirements are rather terse: Continue reading

My Favorite Online Aviation Tools and Apps – I still do most of my weather “quick looks” here. I keep booked marked links that will give me common lists of METARs and TAFs. I can get a quick Aviation Weather Overview Mapcheck of PIREPs, METARs, SIGMET/AIRMETs, and radar right off the front page (ensure you have the right things checkmarked) or I can bookmark a version that will show me my local area. With the movable maps, I have to be careful where my cursor or finger is to avoid unexpected scrolling or zooming, but I’ve learned to work around it. Continue reading