Does the COVID-19 crisis have you down? Yes, unprecedented recommendations and orders have made it challenging to get that aviation fix, but blue skies are ahead and there are activities to participate in right now so that you’re ready to hit the ground running. These challenging times also foster creativity so perhaps our readers will share some additional innovative thoughts. After all, we are a tight-knit community who crave pilot interaction so here are 10 aviation activities you can participate in right now to help keep you connected.
1) Enroll in a new course (free Airspace program from Sporty’s) – Show your COVID-19 resiliency by broadening your horizons and enrolling in a new course. There’s always content worthy of review and always something new to learn. Sporty’s online course portal and Pilot Training app offer 25 course options for everything from weather, to proficiency flying, to avionics, to learning to fly seaplanes, helicopters or even Intro to Aerobatics with Patty Wagstaff.
2) Complete your written exam preparation – If your CFI has been reminding you to complete the written, or if procrastination has gotten the better of you, there’s no better time than now to hunker down and hit the books. While many FAA written testing centers are closed for the time being, you can still press on to complete your studies and earn that written exam endorsement and be ready to test when the facility opens.
If you’re without a CFI to help guide you, Sporty’s offers ample resources to support your learning effort. Sporty’s Learn to Fly Course delivers training and endorsement pathways for Private, Sport or Recreational Pilot. Sporty’s Instrument Rating Course is available for anyone seeking an instrument rating. And Sporty’s brand-new Commercial Test Preparation Course is an option for all of the professional pilot candidates. Complete the requisite training requirements and assessments in the course and the endorsement will be delivered electronically.
3) Video chat your instructor – even if you’re confined to your home or not permitted at the airport, that doesn’t mean your flight instructor has fallen off the planet. Video engagement platforms are plentiful and many services are offering free video conferencing or chat. While distance-learning options and self-study can bring you a long way, your flight instructor is there to supplement, clarify and give perspective and meaning to learning concepts. A good CFI may also help you correlate knowledge elements to enrich your learning experience.
While being respectful of your CFI’s time and other activities, don’t hesitate to reach out via Facetime, Skype, Zoom, WebEx, etc. to get some one-on-one ground training while observing your appropriate social distance.
4) Read a good book – curl up with a good cup of coffee or glass of wine, and a stack of good books that will melt the time away. If you’re like me, reading lists tend to grow and grow while time becomes more scarce. The coming weeks could be a little different. Where to start? Sporty’s John Zimmerman compiled 18 top picks originally intended for holiday break, but just as applicable now.
5) Simulator or chair fly – 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.
Many instructors 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.
6) Watch a webinar – Learning doesn’t have to stop just because you don’t 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, webinars and other learning opportunities to help you grow as an aviator. The same enriching activities may also be available in the form of recorded or archived webinars.
Did you miss Sporty’s recent presentation, Quiz Hour: 20 questions to test your aviation knowledge? Or Flight Review: tips for getting current? How about Flying with the iPad as your digital co-pilot? They’re all available on Sporty’s webinar YouTube channel. Or visit www.sportys.com/webinars for an upcoming live presentation.
7) Listen to live ATC – ask pilots about stressful tasks in the cockpit and, short of emergencies, talking on the radio is right up there for many. Let’s face it, we all want to sound like the seasoned wide-body Captain landing at JFK and if we get it wrong, it’s out there for the world to hear (or so it seems). There are a variety of exercises to help, but a rather entertaining activity that also allows you to get comfortably lost in flight, is listening to the LiveATC website or app.
LiveATC delivers instant access to frequencies from all over the world. You can browse by region, airport popularity and more.
8) Write an article – no matter if you’re just getting started or have thousands of hours of aviation experience, there’s always an interesting story to tell and a lesson from which others will benefit. Writing helps us organize our thoughts and think with clarity. Writing helps us connect with readers in a unique manner and glean new insights into our experiences.
By virtue of owning the story, you are the expert. It can be instructional, reflective or just a lesson learned or challenge conquered. Do you know we take reader submissions at Sporty’s StudentPilotNews.com and AirFactsJournal.com? Share your story with us at LearntoFly@sportys.com.
We take pictures too! Submit your favorite aviation pic for a feature in an upcoming “Friday Photo.”
9) Tame the EFB – Aim to master your Electronic Flight Bag (EFB) or try a new charting and flight planning app. If you are currently using ForeFlight, Garmin Pilot, WingX or FltPlan Go, your time at home is a good time to try out some of the new or seldom used features. Many of these apps offer a free trial and this might be a good time to download an app you aren’t currently using to give it a test flight.
But charting apps are just scratching the surface. Explore the Top 10 Aviation Apps (you haven’t heard of) from Sporty’s iPadPilotNews.com or if you’re an Apple Watch user, investigate the Top Aviation Apps for Apple Watch. And if you’re not already registered, sign-up for the free newsletter while you’re there to stay up-to-date with new developments.
10) Keep up the hangar talk – misery loves company. We referenced some popular video chat platforms earlier and there’s no reason you can’t use those same outlets for your usual hangar talk installment. Be the catalyst for engaging your pilot friends in aviation talk by organizing weekly chats. It’s good for the soul.