Home Authors Posts by John Zimmerman
Pilots spend a lot of time worrying about the weather, and for good reason--it's a factor in many general aviation accidents. But while nasty things like thunderstorms and in-flight icing get a lot of attention, more flights are affected by wind than any other weather phenomena. It deserves serious attention.
Aviation is filled with "experts." These self-appointed sages never miss a chance to share their tips for safer flying, usually from the lofty perch of a rocking chair at the FBO. But not every cliche can be discarded. Most of them exist because there's a kernel of truth.
Do you fly the airplane, or is your checklist really the PIC? It may sound funny, but an awful lot of pilots are slaves to their checklists, blindly following them as if it’s a set of assembly instructions for a piece of furniture. You can and should do better.
As student pilots and newly-minted private pilots, we spend most of our time in the traffic pattern or the practice area. It's all about the process, not enjoying the ride or the destination. But once you earn your license, it's critical to throw off those shackles, get out and travel!
At the end of the day, is there a single skill that is most important? One that would, if mastered, have the greatest impact on your ability to fly safely? I think there are actually two, one mental and one physical.
Many new pilots regard Air Traffic Controllers with a mix of respect and fear. So it's only natural that we trust them and want to follow their instructions no matter what. But as Ben Franklin famously said, "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority."
We all want to be safe pilots--that's emphasized from day one of flight training, and for good reason. But after we've completed our first solo and gained some confidence, it's time to raise the standard beyond just safe flying. What your passengers will judge you on is how smooth you are.
Most of us will jump at any chance for some left seat time and another entry in the logbook. For better or for worse (mostly for worse I think), we judge pilot ability on total time. But not all your aviation experience shows up in the logbook, and not all your learning takes place in the left seat.
TAFs are a valuable pre-flight planning tool, and they are created by experts who carefully consider a variety of different models and weather reports. But don’t be seduced by the precision of these forecasts. As you conduct your pre-flight weather briefing, consider the TAF a single data point, and nothing more.
One of the best ways to become a better pilot is easy, free and doesn’t require a flight instructor. Sound too good to be true? Hardly. In fact, you may already do it, at least in some form.