For those of us not flying in sunny, warm climates all year round, the winter flying season may involve anything but…“flying”. Cold, colorless days seem to drag on with no end in sight. Instead of accepting defeat or allowing weeks to pass without opening the hangar door, let’s get creative. There’s plenty to do NOW to beat the winter flying blues.
1) Home simulator flying – Before you check out over not having a home “simulator,” let me first say your device doesn’t have to be elaborate, expensive, sophisticated, etc. because even the simplest of devices can be productive. But a plan for the use of simulation is a must. A simple list of tasks, maneuvers, or even complete lessons from your current syllabus will create a valuable to-do list when those no-fly days linger for weeks. Develop a menu of training tasks with your instructor to create powerful learning experiences. The right amount of structure and oversight will ensure you don’t develop bad habits.
2) Video training – The availability of quality video-based training can put you on the flight deck to examine maneuvers, practice landings and even rehearse emergency or abnormal procedures. Yes, it’s not quite the same as the real thing, but again, we’re talking about the next best option when you’re not able to make the flight. A comprehensive video-based course will keep you focused on the task at hand and working toward that written test and practical exam. You’ll be that much more prepared for the next flight scheduled.
3) Chair flying – Many of the instructors I respect most and owe such gratitude toward for helping me through to my goal of becoming a pilot would preach the value of “chair flying.” It’s just as the name would suggest, you quite literally sit in a chair and visual the space in front of you as the flight deck. You may even consider a flight deck poster to enhance the experience. From there, you can move through engine start, taxi, before takeoff checks and beyond to reinforce your flows and confidence.
Also in the “chair flying” environment, you have the opportunity to rehearse abnormal procedures. Read the wonderfully insightful section of your POH that includes an expanded discussion of abnormal and emergency procedures. On your next chair flying session, review the table of contents for the emergency section and select an event you haven’t practiced. Follow the checklist for that item and understand the “why” behind it. This exercise will not only prepare you for real-time abnormals, but will ensure a better understanding of your aircraft’s systems.
4) Seminars/webinars/periodicals – Learning doesn’t have to stop just because you may not have access to an airplane. If you don’t have an account at FAASafety.gov, sign-up now – it’s free. Here you’ll learn about many free, in-person seminars and other learning opportunities to help you grow as an aviator. The same enriching activites may also be available in the form of online webinars or through the various aviation publications. Most major aviation publications offer online newletters or electronic additions in addition to a print publication. And there are a number of online journals worth investigating. You may even find some ways to participate in a meaningful aviation discussion.
5) Finally, fly. Yes, there could be flying opportunities that, while outside of your qualifications, may be enlightening, educational and fun with an instructor. There’s nothing better for proficiency than to fly more and visit new places. Take the opportunity to perhaps log some actual instrument or venture out for some crosswind landings.
And since those flyable days are fewer and farther between, consider some added flexibility for you flying schedule. When the sun is shining, make it a point to get to the airport and connect with your instructor for some of that elusive stick time.