Saturday, November 21, 2009


About a week ago I accumulated 1,000 hours of total flight time. A pretty big accomplishment I believe. It seemed so foreign to think of a pilot with this many hours not more than a year ago, but here I am. I didn't think I'd be where I am now. Training through ATP, it seemed like the majority's goal was to get to a regional airline as fast as you could, and I followed that sentiment naturally. Fortunately, realizing that this couldn't happen with the current hiring status of the airlines when I left ATP, I had received my CFI certificates, and I wasn't going to give up.

Fast forward to about 200 hours of dual instruction given (i.e. hours accumulated as a flight instructor), my mentality was misinformed. After barely a few hours of being instructor I realized I didn't know a fraction about flying as I should have. Then only after about 200 hours of flight instruction, I realized how much knowledge I had gained; a huge amount compared to the 200 hours I had spend gaining my commercial certificate beforehand. The saying rings true, "the best way to learn is to teach".

There's never a flight-hour that I regret being a flight instructor. I've come to realize that those who skip flight instructing miss out on a huge learning opportunity when it comes to the skill and knowledge of flying. I believe the hours spent as an instructor has shaped me to be a pilot that I could never be without it (i.e. a first officer of a regional airline starting at 300 hours). This has made me very fortunate to have had the opportunity to realize that flight instruction is one the best ways to improve as a pilot, wherever the profession direction may be.

I respect all the pilots who have dared into the career of flight instruction. It's a career that cannot be performed without challenging yourself to be a better pilot than what you think you can be and being able to see the extent of improvement that you need as a pilot that's always learning.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

So called "approach"

I made one of my worst approaches today as an instructor. The last part of our flight lesson I had my student do some "hood" work (he/she wears a hood where he/she can only see the instruments, i.e. simulating flight in instrument conditions, i.e. flying in the clouds.) Current winds as per the ATIS (automated terminal information service)=weather, were 210@18 knots. We have a main runway (29) and a smaller runway (25) at the airport. I enjoy using 25 because it's rarely used, and since the winds were mostly favoring this runway, I requested it from the tower. However, the tower instructed if I wanted to use that runway, that I would need to maintain 3,000 feet above the airport and enter left base for runway 25. He would instruct when to descend.

This seemed a bit odd for me since being that high above the airport would be difficult to enter a left base for runway 25 and land. I complied, and when we were about above the left downwind for runway 29, a Skywest Brasilia was departing the airport left downwind. Tower gave no indication the aircraft was there, so I took over the plane and descended a bit to be sure the Brasilia wouldn't be a factor. That scared my student a bit since he didn't realize I had taken the controls (my fault).

We were then above the airport at about 3,000 feet without indication from the tower when would descend. Finally, the tower instructed that we could descend at our discretion and make left base to runway 25, cleared to land. OK, we have to get down fast.

My student was still under the hood at this point, so I told him he could take it off and I took the controls and began a descending a left turn to land. When we made our 180-degree turn, I realized we were far too high to make the runway. At that point, tower had advised if we thought we could make the runway. I told him we probably could and I began a forward slip. When we got closer, I realized we probably wouldn't be able to make it and at that point an aircraft entering the right downwind for the main runway hadn't called in and became close to our position. Tower advised them of our position and afterwards I advised tower that we wouldn't be able to make the runway, some close calls.

At that point, tower made us to maintain runway heading and enter left downwind for the main runway (29), after a couple of aircraft passed by us. After we were in the left downwind, the tower then advised us to make a right 360-degree turn. "When were we going to land," I thought. Finally, we were cleared to land and we landed with a bit of a crosswind landing correction.

What an approach. I suppose it was both the mine and controller's fault that we made such an abnormal approach; it wasn't pretty however.

Friday, March 27, 2009


Flight instructing has its dull moments. Not that flying is dull, but doing the same things with students that you've done dozens of times, becomes mundane. It seems like certain portions of flight instruction builds up at the same time; for example, time before solo. In other words, all your students are preparing for their solo at the same time. So each flight becomes similar to the previous; landings.

As an instructor, you become an expert on landings. You see every little mistake and correction that occurs during a landing. You want to intrude, but you also want your student to see for themselves. So you sit there and see if they react appropriately. But they rarely do, so you interrupt and coach them down to the ground, and afterwards you feel like they landed themselves only by 50%. So off the ground you go again. "Maybe they'll do it this time". But it doesn't it happen.

So what makes being an instructor so enjoyable?

When your student lands the airplane almost exactly how you want to tell them. In other words, you stay quite and they're maneuvering the plane exactly how you would say they need to without actually saying it. Then all of a sudden, you're on the ground. They did it! Without your help (physical control) nor verbal coaching, they landed the plane.

It's an accomplishment that's indescribable. "I just somehow taught someone how to bring something that's thousands of feet in the air onto the ground at a specific point." How?

It's definitely something you acquire as an instructor. Basically you see all that goes wrong with landings (or anything else), and try to teach what not to do. But I suppose as you gain hours as an instructor, you also gain experience and knowledge to use towards instructing other pilots. One couldn't trade anything for the amount of experience and knowledge you get from instructing. It should be a mandatory requirement for any professional pilot. I tell people all the time that usually instructing happens before airlines or cargo pilots, yet it seems backwards to them. Wouldn't an instructor be someone who did these things BEFORE they became an instructor? One would think...

Monday, February 23, 2009

Long time coming

Well, after not being able to complete my CFII due to the unfortunate events that took place during my training at ATP, I had finally committed to going for that final checkride, and fortunately for me, I passed. I am now, finally, a Certified Flight Instructor with an Instrument Add-on. And for those who don't know, the instrument add-on allows me to instruct students training for their instrument rating.

I was very pleased with the checkride. I scheduled the checkride the same day as my brother's Private Pilot's checkride so we could fly together to the airport where the examiner was. Maybe not the best idea after all was said and done. It was by far one of the longer days of my life. Not only had I been preparing myself for my CFII checkride, but also making sure my brother was to succeed as my first student to take his/her checkride.

I went first once we arrived, and we ran into some small glitches, but we got underway with the oral portion of the test. Having been an instructor for over a year, helped incrementally with my confidence to "act" as an instructor on a checkride. I also took the majority of my time getting to know every GPS regulation and operation with the particular GPS in our Cessna, the KLN 94. I've previously only used the Garmin 430 in our Piper Seminoles, and upon switching to the KLN 94, I thought it wouldn't be that much of a difference to have to really pay attention. I was wrong. There are many differences in the two units, and I'd have to say that the Garmin is far more user intuitive than the KLN. However, I did very well on the portion of the oral where the examiner had me talk about the GPS, and I'm glad I took the time to go over it. The rest of the oral portion basically tested my general knowledge of IFR flying, but with a teaching prospective, which went well. The oral lasted a little over 2 hours, and finally the examiner said to pack my things up and preflight the plane.

I wasn't too worried about the flight portion of the checkride, but I knew it wasn't going to be easy either. As always, I forgot some items during the flight that I beat myself up later for forgetting. Like forgetting to check the RAIM availability before the flight, which I practiced a hundred times. Our first approach was the ILS back to the airport we departed from, which I flew pretty strongly. I also wasn't pleased, however, with my partial panel, VOR approach afterwards. Partial panel is where the examiner, or instructor, covers up the attitude and heading indicators. One must rely on the turn coordinator and compass for bank, and altimeter and vertical speed indicator for pitch. Keeping straight and level, and standard rate turns wasn't difficult, but shooting the approach was. I used timed turns on every turn in the approach, however when trying to keep my CDI needle centered throughout the approach, all I did was turn a bit for correction. This was incorrect. The examiner later showed me how this technique is by far less accurate than using timed turns. Apart from that, my approach was mediocre. We then went out and the examiner had me teach timed turns with the examiner flying the aircraft, which I did and ended up saving myself from the approach previous. I then instructed the examiner on a GPS approach back the our departure airport where we did a full stop and taxied back.

Ask anyone, and they'll say that one never flies their best on a checkride; I am not an exception. Not only do you feel bad about how poorly you flew, but the examiner does a pretty good job critiquing your flying to the point where they seem disappointed in you. It doesn't ever feel good. So when the examiner said I passed, it wasn't the most excited I could have been, but mostly due to the fact that I had my brother doing his checkride next. This was going to prove whether or not I can succeed as an instructor.

I was able to sit in on my brother's oral portion of the test, and was very proud of his knowledge. A few things the examiner told me I needed to emphasize, but overall, he performed very well on the oral. It was definitely a good prospective to sit in on a checkride of one of my students for the first time. Afterwards, I went to grab lunch while they prepared for their flight. Once I got back, they had just began to taxi out to the runway. I ate, tried to sleep, but failed, and soon enough I heard a plane's engine and looked out the window of the FBO were we were, and saw the plane taxi back. It seemed a bit early for them to return, and thus worried me that he had failed. I stared out the window to find any cue that would tell me whether or not it was a pass or fail. My brother walked to the other side of the plane, which was odd, stood by the nose while the examiner walked away from the plane. I thought, what is happening? I see the examiner then take out a camera and take a picture. He passed.

At that moment, all the preparation of both checkrides, the fear of not being a successful instructor, was suddenly taken off my shoulders and it was a big sigh of relief and celebration.

We began our flight back home, flew into some light precipitation, and finally returned from a 11 hour day. It was worth it.