Aviation Humor at Shorts Expense

Shorts, the box the airplane came in.

The biggest fear of every Shorts crew is crashing in a trailer park, as the wreckage would never be found.

The Shorts flies by vacuum (it’s so ugly that the air is repulsed and gets out of the way)

I gotta admit though… always thought the whole corrugated aluminum skin thing was kinda cool, almost retro like a trimotor.

Parental Responsibility Lap Children

I came across the following article where the NTSB and FAA are at odds over the regs which provide for children under 2 years old to fly on their parents lap. It was interesting to note the comments… pretty much the same old, same old, parents arguing that they didn’t want to pay, and business travelers saying good riddance. One comment sort of stood out though. A parent said, I am responsible for my child, she doesn’t run up and down the aisles, she doesn’t throw tantrums… she is just fine in my lap.

Likely said parent, and the parents so gung ho about lap children have never experienced moderate/severe turbulence, much less CAT (clear air turbulence). I dont care how responsible you are, or how strong you are… if you experience major turbulence, you will not be able to hold unto your child… or in the worst case scenario, in a crash, you wont be able to hold onto your child. Granted, CAT is rare, accidents are rare… and if it was just your child who might be seriously injured or killed, I could sort of see the responsibility aspect. On the other hand, if your child becomes a missile and kills someone else as well as dieing themselves… parental responsibility doesnt go very far.

It was also interesting to note the availability of child harnesses such that a under 2yr old can be secured to the parents safety belt. Which such most certainly reduces the issue of a child becoming a missile… I dont know how well such would work in severe turbulence if the child was on a tether, rather than being tightly secured to the parent.

Is this pilot training????

I was reading Bob Miller’s newsletter, and I about had a bird over inadequate training…. I am hoping this is an abnormality, but I fear it isnt. From Bob’s newsletter.

A CFI who recently graduated from a well-known four-year aviation college in the Northeast United States came into my office recently inquiring about a job as a flight instructor.

My first question, as in all such such interviews, was, “How much actual instrument time have you logged?”  Regrettably, the answer was predictable.

“Ah, I’d say less than one, maybe two hours,” replied the job candidate

The saddest part of this, is chances are this applicant was likely teaching others before applying to work for Bob. How on earth can anyone teach IFR, much less sign off on an 8710, without significant actual experience? Simulators are great, and todays are far beyond the Link Trainer of my bosses time and the ATC610 of my era, but they fall far short of the demands of real inflight calls and decision making. While I dont have my old log ready at hand, I do remember some actual IFR work, well before I even took my private checkride. If memory serves, I had over 5 hours actual at the time.

During my instrument training, actual played a big role too… we dealt with thunderstorms, approaches to minimums, icing, busy ATC, all in actual. I admit, it did add cost, and time, but it was well worth it. In less than an hour after passing my IFR checkride, I was in the soup for real on the way back home with confidence.

Granted, the airline focused procedural type training that apparently goes on in many 4 yr programs does make sense for what it does, even if shy on actual. It prepares the student for further training with an airline… provided, the airline actually does so. In reading the Colgan 3407 transcript, and finding out that with as many hours as the co-pilot had, that she had no icing experience was very concerning.

In many ways, the dues paying of old paid a multitude of benefits. Ie, a thousand hours single pilot IFR in a old freighter, flying all over the country in all seasons is a somewhat scary and very intense, albeit massive skill builder. The thing is, an aviation training program which only teaches to the minimum PTS levels and FAA requirements, no way no how preps students for such an activity, albeit the certificate does provide for such operations.

If we add in todays economic realities, and that airline traffic is likely to shrink to 1984 levels, the number of airline right seats are going to be hard to come by. Thus, far too many folks on that path will have to change gears…. Students are going to need real life, real challenge experience, if they are to prosper, much less survive outside the airline career world.

Secondly, with TAA such as the Cirrus, with its resounding call to be used in a multitude of arenas, not to provide ones students with other than simulated experiences is just going to push the accident rate higher and higher.

Otoh, there is no question, that an instrument rating makes for a safer VFR only pilot. The additional flight skills, as well as the decision making skills are of great value. I know back when the FAA drastically lowered the PIC time require for the instrument rating, one of the factors was to improve low time pilot safety. I think it was successful in that regard… The other factor, of course was how it impacted the safety of those who exercise the privileges of the certificate, which led towards a much needed, and greater focus on decision making, again, a successful endeavor. However, the shortened overall time period, often times precludes actual, much less seasonal variations, provided location allows for them, and that’s a real problem when it comes to the privileges granted by the certificate.

The solution… well there are some out there, but it requires the individual pilot to take responsibility.

  • For thunderstorm or icing experience… bite the bullet, and spend big $ for some time in an A/C certified for known icing, and with weather radar.
  • Inquire around, see if you can swing a deal on a repositioning flight, or dead heading with in the right seat, ideally with a gifted instructor serving as PIC in the left. Even if its not possible to log time, or manipulate the controls, the experienced gained of being in upfront in the soup, in the ice, and/or discussing radar returns is invaluable.
  • Bug your CFI, tell em you want actual, if the school doesnt want to train in actual, but has amazing instructors, and you want to stay with them, ask for a referral to an outfit that does for a few hours.
  • See about a major IFR x/c experience, such as offered by http://www.ifrwest.com Field Morey has been doing this for years.

As far as IFR competency and employment goes, I think what Austin Collin‘s has to say to potential new employees makes a ton of sense.

Every pilot must have a level of knowledge, skill and experience that would enable that pilot to cope — ALONE — safely and legally with any situation that is likely to occur while flying the line. Such situations include icing encounters, thunderstorms, approaches down to minimums at night in turbulent conditions, complex ATC clearances with last-minute changes, or various instrument and equipment failures. ….. If you are not already current and proficient on instruments in a complex, high-performance airplane, common sense dictates that you need to get current and proficient on instruments in a complex, high-performance airplane before you go out and apply for a job flying on instruments in a complex, high-performance airplane! A doctor would certainly not go out and apply for a job with a hospital or a medical clinic if he was not already a competent physician. Likewise, a pilot should not seek aviation employment unless he possesses at least the minimal level of basic and general knowledge and skill to perform those functions and exercise the privileges of his certificates and ratings.


Unless you plan to operate VFR only, or use your instrument certificate for enroute only, ie, from IAF to landing will be in solid VFR conditions, most training programs, if only to the PTS are pretty inadequate, and most certainly for employment without further training. To truly use your certificate, you need to demand more than the minimums prescribed by the FAA.

Aviation, the social leveling agent ?

Its funny looking back, how aviation tended to level out social demographics. The funniest I ever experienced was the dialog between a F100 A level exec and a auto mechanic. At the airport, both tended to wear biker attire, and flew similar airplanes, and often chat with one another. During the workweek, each had dramatically different roles…

One week, the F100 exec took his BMW in for some engine work. He never put 2+2 together that he knew the mechanic, nor did the mechanic the same. It was just business… Until the next weekend at the airport, when the mechanic was chatting about a car he worked on, and then a whole bunch of laughter ensured. The 2 guys did not recognize each other in their work attire, and just went about their business. At the airport, things added up, and they got a good chuckle out of the deal.

I remember the same as a young green behind the ears pilot flying parts here and there. I often would run into big wheels at any number of airport lounges during wait times, and we’d chat a bit. I had no idea who I would be talking to, short of the obviously attire they were wearing, or the jet they flew in on. Yet, the wisdom and the things I learnd from those fellows was always amazing, to say nothing of how much they would feel free to share with an interested youngster.

To some extent, this leveling thing seems to be somewhat history related. Years ago, I met a number Quiet Birdmen, and it blew my mind that these gurus of aviation held to such a level social playing field. It was the love of flying that brought folks together, whether it was a retired old guy in a 150, a airshow guy with a Stearman, or a 747 Captain, it made no difference, it was flying.

Today though, there does seem some disparity… and I’m not so sure why that is. Folks still love flying, but the starry eye teenager at the airport fence, or the grizzled old QB with a cigar perpetually flying the hanger have ceased to exist for the most part. I’m sure the sanitized sterile airport environment of today has some to do with it, but I’m leery to attribute causality. I’m thinking there has to be more… I think if it could be identified, and addressed, it might do more for aviation, that even the most expensive and dedicated marketing platform to generate interest.

What do you think?

On Checkride Signoffs

When I sign off on an 8710, I’m stating that the student has the required pilot skill, and the judgment necessary to safely exercise the privileges granted by the certificate/rating he is going to be tested for. The DPE, or FAA inspector, just serves as a small cross check to see if I’ve done my job correctly. Ie, they just do not have time to check over everything I’ve taught over the last few months or years… the required elements of the PTS (practical test standards) are not the end all, a pilot could pass said elements, and still be a danger to him/herself and others.

However… not all instructors see things this way. The text of 8710-11 only states: I have personally instructed the applicant, and consider this person ready to take the test.

Does this mean, every one of my students is an ace flyer; every private pilot could safely handle SLD icing, a broken throttle cable, a deer on the runway at Vr, a wheel bearing lockup, or being shot at etc… or every instrument student could safely fly an ILS approach to minimums, in TSRW, with an electrical failure, gear failure, a barfing passenger, and a loose dog in back… no. What it means is: the pilot applicant understands, the issuance of a certificate is a license to learn, and that while their initial skill levels are higher than the FAA minimums (I view the PTS as absolute  minimums), they will be lacking in judgment until they gain further experience, and they must replace personal judgment with other tools… ie PAVE ( personal pilot, aircract, environment, external factors ) is one of many etc.

For some… this means they end up being fair weather pilots, in well maintained aircraft, and rarely if ever venture much beyond 50 knots from home base, and never at night, and thats ok… they use judgment to limit what they encounter, and short of WINGS, BFR, or refresher training, higher skills dont get much of a workout. For others, it means going round the world once they have enough experience, and skill to do so, and their higher skill levels will be pushed as they train for such. The certificate/rating provides for a multitude of options, limited for the most part only by pilot judgment and skill.

And what about instructors who view their role as test prep only, and they just teach to the minimums? If their students are sharp, they will do fine. If their students are not so sharp… well, thats an issue. Either A, hopefully the DPE or FAA inspector will catch any problems, or B, the pilot will take it on his/her own to work on skill and judgment after they pass their checkride.

I do think there is a moral component in this… for some people, they just dont have, nor do they seem trainable in the judgment arena. It might be they need to be paired with another instructor, and sometimes, that has worked out well… things click, and while they may be a bit iffy for a bit, they end up doing just fine over time. For others, they just dont get it… and for such students, they need to be aware of this as soon as possible, so either A, they can wash out early, or B, take a good look at themselves, and see what they need to change before continuing.

Tail Stall Detection and Recovery

My FIRC this time around has a section on tail stalls, and being the information is somewhat rare, I thought it appropriate to cover here. Bare in mind, this is generic information for airplanes under 12,500 lbs, the actual flight manual or pilots operating handbook, if updated is always the best source.

Tailplane Stall Detection:

Tailplane stalls most often, but not always occur when flaps are being extended, or power is being added. One should also note, that if wings are picking up ice, the tail is likely to do so as well, in fact perhaps 2-3X as much as the wing… and sadly, its not visible to the pilot. In any case, if the potential exists for tail icing, one should be hand flying, rather than relying on the autopilot. Yoke forces are key.

Symptoms include

  • Lightening loads.
  • Difficulty trimming.
  • Pilot-induced (pitch) oscillations.
  • Buffets in yoke, not airframe. (The yoke pulls forward, sometimes smashing to the stop and can’t be pulled back; forces of more than 100 lbs. can occur.)
  • Very sudden pitch-down, which can be unrecoverable on approach.

Do note, that stall warning systems can also end up iced over, and as such may not function.

Tailplane Stall Recovery

  • If you just added flaps, and symptons of a tail stall occur, retract the flaps.
  • If the yoke slams forward, it may be necessary to apply significant force to pull it back. In either case, as contrasted with a wing stall, the recovery action is the reverse, ie pull back.

In General

  • pull back
  • reduce power
  • reduce flaps

Being tail stall recovery is the reverse of everything one is taught, its imperative to that one detects the yoke forces, rather than the airframe going mushy.

Additional Resources:

Actual Tail Stall Event

Useful videos and data from Nasa

AC No: 23.143-1 “Ice Contaminated Tailplane Stall”

Aircraft Accidents where tail stall occurred


10mar64 DC4 Slick Airways,.Boston-“Loss of balancing forces on stabalizer, due ice accretion,causing aircraft to pitch nose down too low to effect recovery…

15jan’77 Viscount,Skyline sweden,”ice on leading edge of Stabalizer causing flow seperation and Stabalizer…

06Apr58 Viscount,Capital airlines,Michigan,Undetected ice accretion on stabalizer,in conjunction with specific speed and configuration,caused loss of pitch control…

Airline regulation, the glory days… sort of

Its in the airlines best interest to make money…. and as long as the probability of an accident has not changed appreciably from quarter to quarter, they will continue to reduce costs. Note, the key word appreciably… a 0.1% reduction in safety every quarter does build over time, even if its not noticeable on a quarterly report, much less in practice.

In the 70’s, service was what sold, regulated ticket prices were multifold higher than what they are today. However, the process controls and such to improve safety were still in development. Instead, the airlines relied on highly skilled people in nearly all areas of their operation. And despite that, the accident rates were much higher than today. Case in point, the crew coordination on theEastern Air Lines 401 crash. A highly experienced crew, albeit new in type, focused all their attention on a landing gear annunciator, while their plane slowly descended into a swamp.

747 Piano Bar
747 Piano Bar


Today, with a high degree of automation, process controls in design, manufacturing, operations, and service insuring high reliability, the high levels of skill needed in years past, as long as nothing goes wrong, is not really needed, at least not all the time. There in lies the problem, as long as nothing goes wrong. And the problem is exacerbated, by the temptation for the airlines, the government, and the employees, to rely more and more on process, and less so on skill, in order to minimize labor costs, and thereby maximize the revenue stream.

Over the next few blog entries, I’m going to take a look at these different groups, and changes over the years which have created potentially more broken links which can lead to an accident, despite vast improvements in process control. These issues are prevalent, not only in the airline world, but also in general aviation. They are systemic problems, and sadly short of returning to the days of regulation, are unlikely to be solved. The feedback provided by the free market system, while it can work, has such huge time lags, far too many people would die, or be seriously injured, before the constraints of the free market system could kick in, if they would at all due to secondary consequences.

I want to buy my own plane

This is something students always bring up sooner or later. They hate the idea of renting without building any equity. Yet, as we all know, the fixed costs are often times the real killer when it comes to private aircraft ownership. Years back, when I was doing the mechanic thing, we had a Baron we used to do the annual on. It flew maybe 5-10 hours a year if that. The insurance, hanger, and maintnence costs must have eaten the owners alive.

The problem of course is that only a few people, other than actual owners truely know what the fixed costs, and total operating costs of an aircraft is. That is, until the advent of the sharing information on the internet. I found a really cool site PlaneQuest which allows you to select an aircraft, and view a composite of both fixed and operating costs. While the numbers seem biased a little bit low imho, they still serve as a reasonable ball park figure to help your students make the right choices.

My guess, is that the maintenance figures are based upon owners assisted annuals, and good old boy discounts. Insurance for anything other than a 150, 172 or warrior as usual borders on extortion, as do hanger costs, depending where one is located. Thus, depending upon ones insurance risk, and location, the total costs may be pretty decent. No matter what, it will help a student understand some of the costs involved.

Flight Instruction for Kids

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the title as an eye catcher. As most seasoned CFI’s will state, they take a dim view of offering flight instruction, until a student has the mental capability to understand the immense responsibility of being a pilot. By the same token, we also like to foster an interest in aviation amongst the young.

This year at Airventure, KidVenture will provide an oppurtunity for kids to log time under the guidance of a CFI using a ATD simulator from ASA . I emailed John Teipan earlier this week, as I had serious concerns about this activity. He allayed my fears, and as such, It looks like I will probably be one of the instructors at Kidventure. 

 From the EAA press release: Young visitors to the “My First Logbook” booth will receive an endorsement from an FAA certified flight instructor for the time logged on the training device. This will count towards their Private Pilot airplane certificate. The instruction provided will cover introduction to the “basic six” instruments, how a pilot reads these instruments, and flight with reference to those instruments only.

 For further information check out the full release at NAFI

Podcasting as a marketng and instructional tool

Podcasting is a tool a CFI can use to increase instructional efficiency, build business, and potentially provide an additional revenue stream.

First a definition. Podcasting , in its simplest terms is prerecorded and subscribable audio programs that can de downloaded from the internet and played on an Ipod, MP3 player, or even on ones pc through windows media player or numerous other programs. The subscription process is perhaps one of the big advantages that podcast provides, as contrasted with just a link to an audio file. The result for the user, is that new podcasts get loaded to their player device as they are published.

A great example of a CFI using a podcast is at The Finer Points . Jason Miller uses podcasting as a marketing, and an instructional tool. Per his web site, in less than 6 months, he has over 20,000 subscribers, and is expecting to reach 50,000 fans by the end of 2006. And unlike radio, and other media, podcasting is customer pull, as only people that want to hear your message will sign up for it. In addition, in perusing his forum, he has listeners all over the world.

As an instructional tool, one could augment a ground school course with a review of the prior lesson via podcasting. Repetition, one of the laws of learning is often difficult in ground school courses, due to time constraints, and the individual needs of ones students. With a podcast of the material covered, a student that is having difficulty trying to comprehend the material has yet another avenue for review, perhaps even while they are exercising, or driving to work. In addition, topics to be covered in a flight lesson or ground school could be introduced via podcast as well. Now, this does not replace the pre-lesson briefing, but by having a student listen to a podcast prior to a lesson, they may have time to formulate some questions during the pre-lesson briefing.

In addition, ones skills as an orator will no doubt improve as you create podcasts. Listening to yourself while editing a podcast can be an incredibly humbling experience, and as a result, one will make improvements to ones technique.

As a side benefit, podcasts can be a marketing tool. Adverstising in the traditional sense is a major pig in a poke, and it can become incredibly expensive. Podcasting is extremely low cost, other than some nominal fees for hosting, and the time commitment needed to create them. Pocasting also allows you to control the frequency of exposure. One is free to podcast as frequently, or infrequently as ones desire, which is impossible in traditional advertising. It also is highly focused, being that podcasts are customer pull, vs company pushed. Thus out of one’s subscriber base, excluding user error, and people who unsubscribe after a single podcast, all subscribers are interested in what you have to say. Talk about highly targted marketing! In addition, ones podcast focus can be on education, and the marketing benefits come along for a free ride.

Podcasting can also be used as an additional revenue stream, although monetization in this arena is still up in the air. One can charge others for short sections of commercial content, or one could even create a premium podcast offering focused on a specific niche for a fee.

resources for flight instructors