AviatorCast Episode 6: The Big Checkride Lie | 6 Flight Simmer Errors, and How to Correct Them


Today’s Flight Plan

On this episode of AviatorCast we have some interesting topics lined out, as always. First, I want to talk about the “Big Checkride Lie”.

Are you getting your license too early? Are you really prepared to fly on your own? Now that you have your license, what can you do to ensure that you continue to grow?

Then we’ll talk about some common challenges facing simulator pilots. Simple bits of information. I call this the “6 Flight Simmer Errors, and How to Correct Them”. Really this topic holds a LOT of little bits and pieces, I’m sure over a hundred. It’ll be a whirlwind of information, but I do hope you enjoy it!

I’m quite excited about this episode today, as I believe it’ll help you become a better real aviator or virtual aviator.

Let’s get to it!

The Big Checkride Lie

If you’ve ever taken a real checkride for a pilot rating, you know that it is quite an event. All the hard work that you put into getting that rating culminates in one day where you have to prove your skills and knowledge as a pilot, and for that particular skill.

It’s nerve racking! Generally you won’t sleep the night before, you’ll over prepare, and you’ll be a nervous mess when the examiner comes to visit for the oral and practical exam.

If all goes well, you pass. Most pilots just squeak by, while others pass with ‘flying colors’, if you will.

Along the lines of preparing, taking and passing a checkride, the timing of doing so, and so on, I’d like to get a bit controversial in this segment. This is risky of course, but it’s simply my opinion. You can agree, or disagree, and take from it what you will.

However, I do believe I have some good points worth at least considering, so hear me out.

Here we go:

As a pilot goes through training, he or she gains a lot of valuable experience. Each lesson adds a new layer of wisdom, sharpens skill, and improves the student’s outlook on aviation.

Hopefully along the way there is an instructor present to guide that student to confidence, proficiency, great decision making skills, and so on. I do believe also that human factors is a large subject that should be taught.

This type of decision making is best taught by an instructor that understands scenario based training in addition to the pitfalls and dangers of flying. Someone with good experience, not just someone that got the minimum hours on their ratings.

During initial pilot training, or really any rating, ticket or endorsement for that matter, things will be missed. Even with 141 programs, it’s impossible to expect the student to learn every aspect of how to fly. It’s unreasonable to think that’s possible.

At some point, just as a mother bird would do, the student must be kicked out of the proverbial nest, with his rating in tow.

There is no instructor in aviation as qualified as experience.

That said, there is a misconception among students when they finally get that long, sought after rating.

The student feels they have arrived.

Although I’m all for celebrating this victory and accomplishment, it’s a dangerous notion to maintain for too long.

The student hasn’t truly arrived, but has rather, in a literal sense, been given permission by the FAA to fly ‘safely enough’ to not harm themselves or others.

‘Safely enough’ just doesn’t cut it for me. Does it you?

Granted, there is a difference between what the FAA requires, and what pilots expect of themselves. Meaning, there should be a higher standard than just the minimums for us pilots.

I’m not saying that the FAA is in any way doing a poor job. They simply have standards that are set, that we must achieve in order to become pilots. It’s nice that there’s some sort of bar to reach. Whether that bar is too low, is part of what I’m debating, I suppose.

Things are unlikely to change from this low bar, however. I really don’t envision or expect pilots to pour thousands of additional dollars into their licenses just to get more experience, although that would be nice.

The truth is, most pilots qualifying for a rating are grossly underprepared to actually use that rating, once qualified. Again, showing that they have not arrived.

So there are two paths here and/or two arguments. One is, get more experience and simply get the ticket later while under the watchful eye of a competent instructor, or second, get the ticket and gain the experience after the fact.

Both have their pros and cons. Both can be argued aggressively.

For now, let’s leave any notion behind that one is better than the other. Perhaps we’ll touch on this again later, perhaps not. It may be more powerful for you to draw the conclusions for yourself.

Regardless of what direction you decide to go, or have gone, I would mostly like to make 6 Points. Afterwards, let’s discuss each one of these points.

  1. You haven’t truly arrived when you get a license, ticket, or endorsement.
  2. You should be AWARE from the outset that you haven’t arrived, and be planning for the ‘next step’.
  3. You should be getting more experience. Simple as that.
  4. You should not only plan on gaining more experience, but also growing in your knowledge.
  5. You should continue with your instructor if he’s an experienced mentor, or find another mentor that can help you step up your game.
  6. You should commit yourself to remain humble and teachable throughout your entire career as a pilot, no matter how far you plan on going.

In the audio of this podcast, I’ll go through each one of these 6 points.

6 Flight Simmer Errors, and How to Correct Them

As flight simmers, you face one major underlying issue. That is that training for you is optional. There is no rating to get, not qualifications to meet. You can simply jump in any aircraft and go.

Of course, this isn’t such a huge issue for those that just want to treat flight simulation like a game. But that’s not who most flight simmers are.

Flight simmers want the ultimate realism, and so they’ll spend thousands of dollars on hardware and software to make their simulator more realistic.

Yet, for all of that realism that flight simmers work to achieve, there are a very select few that actually seek out and get proper training on how to fly.

This is an interesting departure from our last segment, where I suggested that even actual, rated pilots need to not be complacent, and must continue to learn.

Regardless of all the free information out there, flight simmers struggle greatly to even do some of the most basic tasks in a simulator.

But, you’re different, right? That’s why you’re here, listening to this podcast, and part of Angle of Attack. You DO realize that you need greater realism in your cockpit, and that realism doesn’t necessarily come from addons and software alone.

It can also come from committing oneself to greater emulation of a an actual pilot by approaching the simulator with a respect as if it was a real aircraft, and operating it as a real aircraft would be operated.

I’m guessing that’s why you’re here with AviatorCast and Angle of Attack.

So let me get into 6 common errors that flight simmers make, and how you can correct them. This is not meant to replace training, but rather just bring to light some of the larger and more apparent challenges in the simulation community.

These are the errors I cover in the audio.

  • Landing on Target, On Speed, and Smoothly
  • Takeoff Technique
  • Taxi Awareness and Centerline Pride
  • Communicating with ATC
  • Basic Navigation
  • General IFR Knowledge

“The Big Checkride Lie” Useful Links

“6 Flight Simmer Errors” Useful Links



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This is AviatorCast episode 6! Master switch on, crack the throttle, mixture full, prime the engine, turn that key, and let’s go!
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris Palmer:
Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. I get the warm fuzzies when I hear an airplane flying overhead. I dream of those beautiful few seconds in the flare and I love myself a good aviation movie like Top Gun or One Six Right. Like you, I live and breathe flight. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today.
AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility, and a commitment to excellence. Each episode of AviatorCast will have a real flight training and a flight simulation topic. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to aviatorcast.com.
So welcome to this episode of this AviatorCast. I’m really excited to have you here. I have a few announcements before we get started with this episode’s segments. By way of announcement, I want to give you guys a heads-up that on the next episode, I’m announcing a majorly awesome initiative that you will want to be a part of. You really won’t want to miss out this one. So I’m super, super excited about it. All I can tell you is you have the opportunity to make your training a lot more personal. That’s all I’m going to say for now, just that little teaser.
Additionally, on top of that, I’ll be presenting something else that you can take part in, something I think is really cool and you guys will enjoy. So again, thank you for being here at AviatorCast. I hope you guys enjoy this particular episode. On this episode of AviatorCast, we have some interesting topics lined out as always. First, I want to talk about the Big Checkride Lie. So what is the Big Checkride Lie? Are you getting your license too early? Are you really prepared to fly on your own? Now that you have your license, what can you to ensure that you can continue to grow as an aviator?
Then we’ll talk about some challenges facing simulator pilots. Simple bits of information here. I call this “the six flight simmer errors and how to correct them.” Really, this topic holds a lot of little bits and pieces of information. I’m sure over a hundred different little things I’m going to say and it’ll be quite a whirlwind of information but I hope that you enjoy it and gain something from it, so you virtual aviators will want to keep an eye out, or keep an ear listening for that segment later, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy the first segment as well. I’m quite excited about this episode today as I believe it will help you become a better real aviator or virtual aviator, so let’s get at it.
And now, the flight training segment….
Chris Palmer:
If you’ve ever taken a real checkride for a pilot rating, you know that it is quite an event. All the hardwork that you put into getting that rating culminates in one day where you have to prove your skills and knowledge as a pilot and for that particular skill. It’s completely nerve-wracking. Generally, you won’t sleep the night before, you’ll over-prepare, and you’ll be nervous, just completely nervous when the examiner comes to visit for the oral and practical exam. If all goes well, you pass. Most pilots just squeak by while others pass with flying colors if you will.
So along those lines of preparing, taking and passing a checkride, the timing of doing so and so on, I’d like to get a bit controversial in this segment. This is risky of course but it’s simply my opinion. You can agree or disagree and take from it what you will. However, I do believe I have some good points worth at least considering on this whole checkride thing, so hear me out here, so here we go.
As a pilot goes through training, here she gains a lot of valuable experience. Each lesson adds a new layer of wisdom, sharpen skill and improves the student’s outlook on aviation. Hopefully along the way, there is an instructor present to guide that student to confidence, proficiency, great decision-making skills and so on. I do believe also that human factors is a large subject that should be taught and in the last episode you saw that with “the five dangerous pilot attitudes.”
This type of decision-making is best taught by an instructor that understands scenario-based training in addition to the pitfalls and dangers of flying. Someone with good experience, not just someone that got the minimum hours on their ratings. Someone that’s seasoned. Someone that understands. Someone that’s been around the block a few times.
During initial pilot training or really any rating ticket or endorsement for that matter, things will be missed. Even with 141 Programs which is a government-mandated program that is very thorough, it’s impossible to expect the student to learn every aspect of how to fly. It’s unreasonable to think that that’s possible. There will be things that are missed.
At some point, just as a mother bird would do, the student must be kicked out of the proverbial nest with his or her rating in tow. There is no instructor in aviation as qualified as experience. That said, there is a misconception among students when they finally get that long sought-after rating. The student feels that they have arrived. Again, I’ll repeat that because this is a major point I want to make in this segment. The student feels that they have arrived.
Now, although I’m all for celebrating this victory and accomplishment, it’s dangerous to have this notion and to maintain it for too long. The student hasn’t truly arrived but has rather in a literal sense, been given permission by the FAA to fly “safely enough” to not harm themselves or others. Safely enough just doesn’t cut it for me and maybe ask yourself “Does it cut it for you?” Are you just looking to be safe enough as an aviator? My guess is that you want to be safer than what is required. You want to go beyond the minimums. You want to be exceptional aviator.
Now, granted there is a difference between what the FAA requires and what pilots expect of themselves, meaning there should be a higher standard than just the minimums for us pilots right and that’s what I just barely mentioned. I’m not saying that the FAA is in anyway doing a poor job. They simply have standards that are set that we must achieve in order to become pilots. It’s nice that there’s actually some sort of bar to reach. Whether that bar is too low I guess is what I’m, or rather part of what I’m debating here.
Now, I recognize that things are unlikely to change from this low bar of requiring low hours for pilots. I really don’t envision or expect the pilots to pour thousands of additional dollars into their licenses just to get more experience although that would be nice. I think, we could all spend more time on our ratings right and become more confident and proficient. The truth is, is this. Most pilots qualifying for a rating are grossly unprepared to actually use that rating once qualified, again showing that they have not arrived.
So there are two paths here and two arguments that can be made. One is, get more experience and simply get the ticket later while under the watchful eye of a confident instructor, and you’re paying more money for that rating and things like that and you’re not gaining the benefits of that rating quite yet, or second, get the ticket and gain the experience after the fact.
Now, both have their pros and cons and both can be argued aggressively. I know that I have experienced both in my pilot training. For now, let’s leave any notion behind that one is better than the other. That’s actually not what I’m trying to prove here. I’m not trying to prove that one is better than the other. Perhaps we’ll touch on that again later but I’m not too sure. I think it will be more powerful for you if you draw those conclusions yourself on which one is better than the other.
Regardless of what direction you decide is best, whether that’s getting a rating later or getting your ticket now and gaining experience, I would mostly like them to just make six points here, six major points with obviously some discussion on each one of them, then we can discuss those two in-depth. So here are the six points.
One, you haven’t truly arrived when you get a license ticket or endorsement. That’s number one. Number two, you should be aware from the outset that you have not arrived and be planning for the next step. That’s number two. Number three, you should be getting more experience. Simple as that. Number three. Number four, you should not only plan on gaining more experience but also growing in your knowledge. Number five, you should continue with your instructor if he’s an experienced mentor or find another mentor that can help you step up your game and we’ll talk a little bit more about that later. Six and final here, you should commit yourself to remain humble and teachable throughout your entire career as a pilot no matter how far you plan on going. So whether you’re going to be a private or you’re going all the way up to planning to fly your entire career doing multiengine international airline stuff, regardless, you should remain humble and teachable. We’ll talk more about that later.
I’m curious now to see where these thoughts lead me but I think this will be an interesting topic to investigate, so let’s break down each one of these and see kind of where they take us here. So number one, you haven’t arrived. So once you get a rating, especially that of becoming a private pilot, the feeling is indescribable. How have you not arrived? It just feels awesome. You’ve proven that you have the knowledge and skill to move forward and be a safe pilot.
Now, I don’t want to rain on your parade by… go out and celebrate. You should be celebrating this. This is a big accomplishment. Take out your parents or spouse or whoever that was that supported you in getting your license. Show them finally what you’ve learned. This is a time to celebrate. Definitely take the time to celebrate what you’ve accomplished. Now, when you’ve “come back down to earth” and “get your head out of the clouds,” it’s time to come back to a dose of reality. As I mentioned before, you have only proved to the FAA that you are safe enough at a minimum. I’m certainly not saying that you shouldn’t be qualified by the FAA. You’ve worked really hard for that rating. I’m simply saying there are so much more to learn. This is only permission to start your real education. That’s what you’ve received. Just a permission to start your real education.
Now, when I first got my private pilot license which I got around the minimum allowable hours for our Part 141 Program, I decided I’d take a nice long cross-country flight my brother. He was in the aviation at that time as well and kind of getting excited about it, but I was little ahead of him in my training. He actually went the helicopter route. Weirdo.
Anyway, this ended up being the most complicated cross-country flight I had ever done. This was just right after I got my license. I’d say it was three to four times more complex than anything I had done during my private pilot training and I had planned all night the night before to the wee hours of the morning. We were to fly out quite early, around 9 a.m., which with the amount of sleep I got was early, and then I have to be back for my fastfood job at that time, I was young, I was an 18-year-old kid, for a 12-hour shift, and that started at noon. So, we had to fit in this flight within that three hours. No big deal, it wasn’t too long of a flight but just a little complicated.
So on little sleep, my brother and I flew southbound from the airport, climbing through the valley so we could clear terrain once we turned over the mountains. We then proceeded eastbound, a lefthand turn to follow a canyon through some significant peaks. We then turned northbound and followed a near straight shot to the airport. Now, all of this was pretty complicated. This was a different route. I was used to, more or less, taking off and flying straight to my destination with a couple weaves here and there for terrain, but nothing like all these turning that I had planned and if you’ve ever done [inaudible-00:14:31] in flight plan, you know how complicated that can get.
So once we got out of this valley and once we got over the terrain, we then turned northbound and like I said, we followed that straight shot to the airport. It’s an absolute beautiful day, completely clear, winter time, the scenery was amazing and the performance of the aircraft was great because it was winter even though we were in Utah which has some high density altitude issues. We have plenty good density altitude in the winter during that time just because of the cold temperature, so no problem there. Just absolutely beautiful. The airplane was performing really well and the flight was going really well.
We ended up landing at the destination airport and snow is piled high in this side of the runway, and then we pulled into the FBO there and we got some fuel. It was just a quick stop. We departed and this time we had a much different leg back. We weren’t going to follow the same path. I had the plan to climb hard and fast, straight ahead to climb over the mountains that we have passed earlier and then approach the original departure airport from the north.
Essentially what we have done is one big box route. Of course, we arrived safely. If you’re on the edge of your seat, waiting to hear something scary or some rule I broke as a new private pilot, you won’t find it here. This trip was insignificant in so many ways and predictable. However, for a freshly-rated pilot, I faced a completely new and different situation that anything I had faced in training. This time, it was all mental. I was great at flying the aircraft at that time. I considered myself to be ahead of other students because my experience with simulators. I just feel like that really gave me a leg up. I also knew my stuff because I studied really hard to get where I was in my training. I just really gobbled up all the material I could find.
But this particular flight is different than anything I had experienced in my private pilot training. The plan was done completely by myself. I never had an instructor even check my plan which is something typical of flight training. I did this route in what was quite dangerous terrain for a newbie although I wasn’t doing anything scary or unsafe, and I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with mountainous terrain, that’s where I did my training. Also, I was doing this flight on a 172 with an old Johnson Bar if you know what that is for the flaps which was a fairly new airplane to me. It was a 1960s airplane but it was larger than what I had trained in which was a 152. The Johnson Bar is this flaps bar. It’s like a big handle in the middle, or rather in between the right passenger seat and pilot seat, or the copilot and pilot seat that you pull. So, me being in the pilot seat, I had pulled that thing with my right hand and it takes physical effort to actually actuate the flaps. It’s just kind of funny. It’s funny to have this big bar operating the flaps.
So overall, this whole process for me was new and it wasn’t up to anyone else but me to accomplish the tasks necessary and make the critical decisions for safe flight. That flight for that time and in hindsight was a bit out of my league as a new pilot. Was it enjoyable? You bet. I really loved that. As crazy how I remember the exact route we took and what it felt like, I’ll never forget that maiden cross-country with passengers. It was just really, really great and I really enjoyed it.
But my point here is such an insignificant flight was obviously significant in so many ways. Now, was I ready for this flight? Probably not. It was probably a little bit outside of my capabilities. Do I regret anything about it? No, I don’t. So you can conclude from this what you will. I’m just presenting this out in front of you. Did I get my license too early or should I just gain that experience? If I’m to lean one or the other, I would say this was a great experience and it helped me become a better pilot. But I can also see how this could be bad for some people.
So that’s the first topic. That was “you haven’t truly arrived” right? So, on the second topic, I mentioned before that this is awareness in next step. So we determined that regardless of whether you get your license right at minimum hours or you get it later after having gained more experience, you’ll still need to be seeking for what’s next. In aviation, there is always a next. A next waypoint, a next airport, next fuel check, next radio call. There’s also a next step in your progression as an aviator. This starts with a significant yet simple realization that you actually haven’t arrived and we’ve already talked about that. After the celebration had subsided and also the excitement of getting your license has gone away which, truthfully, the excitement may never go away, it’s important to realize that you have not arrived and I just want to keep saying that. There is still so much to learn.
So in your mind, as you finish up a license, I think it’s important to have a plan of action on how you’re going to improve. If you stay where you are in your wisdom, knowledge, progression and experience, chances are you’ll be a danger to yourself and to others. I believe that as aviators, we should be continually seeking for the next step in asking ourselves “Now what? Now what do I do? Now what do I work on? Now what do I study? Now how do I gain that next bit of experience?”
We shouldn’t settle for a license. We should be seeking to be proficient and confident with that license ticket or endorsement. We should be getting a different spin on things. We should be relearning how to land in a different way. We should be gaining that experience from other pilots with different perspectives. There’s a lot of different ways to view even what you think would be rigid topics out there.
For example, although this is scientifically proven, there is a differing view on how lift is created. So there’s the camp that teaches Bernoulli principle which is what I learned initially, and there is also a camp which teaches the push rule which is something that comes from the book or rather is demonstrated well in the book “Stick and Rudder.” Both just really good examples, both accurate but differing perspectives on what you think would be a fact, and something that doesn’t have a different perspective on it. That’s what you need to be working for. You need to be working for that next thing, that next progression, whatever that is. We have this fantastic opportunity to learn and grow as pilots. We should really be taking it. If we just throw all that away, it’s a real shame. That’s awareness in next steps.
Number three, gain experience. Part of your plan should include gaining experience. This may seem like a big ‘duh’ in your mind but experience truly is the best teacher. When I first when through my ratings, I thought that I knew it all. I thought that through my thorough preparation, I was truly ready to take on any task as a private pilot. Yes, I was well-prepared and well-trained. I even believed that it this point, looking back, and to the level I was supposed to be trained at that time, I had confidence. I don’t see confidence as a bad thing. I had confidence in the skills that I had learned even in my few hours and I felt like from what I did know, I could go out and do some things. I was also very conscious. I didn’t try to do too much.
However, as I look back at my journey to becoming an aviator and all the things that happened in between, I realized that experience truly is greatest teacher. In this sense, hours do matter, and it’s not just the hours that matter. It’s choosing to learn from those experiences. It’s having the attitude that says “Yes, I did have this experience. Yes, I’m going to learn from it.” As pilots, we face things that are often dangerous, things that we don’t want to have to face again. You saw that in one of the last episodes, I believe it was episode 5 where I shared my scariest moment as a pilot where I almost flew, not intentionally, my Bonanza at that time into some trees on takeoff and just a lot of differing… or rather a lot of things piled up, that were piled up against me, and there were some things that I could’ve known that I didn’t know, again going back to the knowledge thing, and I chose to learn from that experience, and I will be a better pilot in the future because of it.
Anyway, moving on from that. When an airline or another commercial operator requires their pilots to have a certain amount of hours, going back to the hours thing, to even apply to that airline, it is largely affected by the fact that experienced pilots are inherently better pilots. They’ll be required in some cases to reinforce these additional hours from whoever insures their company or depending on the operation, but even then, the entire idea is driven by the fact that hours and experience do matter, and I have a particular example about that here in a few minutes.
What do I think this means? What do I think all these hours stuff means and why insurance companies for aviation require more hours and why airlines require more hours? For me, it’s simple. Experience to me is go somewhere. Fly from where you are to a great destination, maybe even cross-country, across the country if that makes sense and grow through experience. Part of growing through experience is recognizing seemingly small yet significant steps you’ve taken and acknowledging that these steps were good for your experience. Not only the scary stuff but the stuff that happens in everyday flight.
For example “Wow that was the first time I’d ever done a crosswind landing with that high crosswind component” or “Geez, I’d never truly had to demonstrate density altitude like that but now I see what all the fuzz is about.” So just having these different experiences, different situations, different airports, different things that come up as you’re flying. Things that you cannot plan for. I’m not saying that you can’t plan for density altitude, you should always plan on that, but I’m just saying, these are things that happen while you’re out there actively flying, actively doing these things, actively building hours, actually going somewhere.
So the ratings you receive and endorsements you get are all based on many deliberate little experiences built up over a number of hours. It’s no accident that you get to a place where you’re able to pass the FAA’s requirements. It’s ironic that you got there by doing the one thing you must continually do, and that is gain experience. Moment by moment, flight by flight, hour by hour, gaining experience. So that was number three.
Let’s go to number four, keep studying or gaining knowledge. So I’ll be 100% honest. I used to not like books. In fact, I read only a few books in high school. The only books I ever read or remember reading were books I was genuinely interested in. A lot crazy concepts. I was only reading what I wanted to read. Well, the first aviation-related books I read was called “Spitfires, Thunderbolts and Warm Beer” about an American pilot that fought with the British as part of their Eagle squadron. I just have fun memories of that book. I was about 13 when I read it. I just still remember so many details about that book and the feeling in my hands. I had a cool tactile feel on the outside. Just really loved that book quite a bit.
So later, obviously when I was getting into ground school while I was in high school, I poured over aviation books constantly especially study material. It was easy and natural and fun. I’d say with honesty, I had read maybe five novels total at that point. I just wasn’t into books. Most of what I did read was aviation-related.
So nothing has changed in all these years. I’m still the same now that I’m an adult. I read only books that interest me, for aviation-related books. This is incredibly easy and natural to read and learn especially now. I love to buy Kindle Books and just have them on my iPad and just read them either on my iPad or if that syncs with my phone. There’s always something to learn. One of the greatest books I’ve ever read which actually isn’t on the Kindle. Maybe you can find on the Kindle but, this is the book “We” by Lindbergh. My mother actually got me an original copy from an antique shop so this is a special book. Really old. I think it was printed in the 20s, and I just really treasure that. It has a special spot in my shelf next to my logbook and next to the first headset I ever had and next to the picture of me at my first solo. I really treasured that book. It means a lot to me.
So you see, studying aviation and continuing to learn more about what makes us tick as pilots can inspire us to be better than we are currently, and not only inspires but enlightens. Even the technical language of some manuals can be interesting when learning a new aircraft or new skill and that’s sometimes hard to believe with how complicated some of these manuals can get. Now granted I think a lot of the actual training material out there is boring, mundane, and regurgitated but who am I to judge. Some of it is pretty boring.
Now all these said, I’m not a big reader. I was simply never into it. If I have my choice, I’m a visual and a hands-on learner which I think as pilots a lot of us are. I think that’s why we enjoy flight so much. That’s why, in a big way I feel that video training is so effective in aviation and why I chose to use it is part of the big medium that we use here at Angle of Attack to train pilots.
So whether it be books, videos or media somewhere in between like this podcast for example, continually learning because you are genuinely curious will go a long way to making you a more competent aviator. So don’t plan on stopping your studying habits. If anything, pick up your study at an even greater pace. Now that you get to focus and learn on exactly what you not and you’re not just focusing and trying to get a specific rating, you can now go out there and get many, many great books and watch many great videos on different topics that can help you quite a bit. In the show notes, I’m going to list some of my favorites and some that I think that you guys could pick up. I think you guys will enjoy those.
So that was number four. Number five, maintain a mentor. There are great instructors and then there are those instructors you’d rather forget about. Then there are the guys that you do some hangar flying with where you don’t actually go to fly but you just talk about flying, and some guys that blow you away with their aviation wisdom, and of course, there are those you only hope to avoid and never fly with. The point is, there are all sorts of pilots. They come in many different shapes and sizes. Now, I mention shapes and sizes because I’ve had some round instructors throw off my way and balance before. It’s hard to believe some of those guys can fits in airplanes.
So picking mentors and even the instructors you will fly with is one of the most undervalued decisions you will make in your aviation career, at least in the beginning when you’re ignorant and you don’t know better. Now I looked at with my first instructor, his name is Lindsey Winter. Not only was he incredibly safe and wise, but was also an AMP mechanic. He was running a full-time line of flight students, working several days in the aircraft shop there each week and somehow managed to have a family life apart from that. He had a cute little family.
This guy was just a machine and I really looked up to him. He had such a profound respect for aviation, aircraft, and their systems, piloting, and just the overall decisions that go into flying safely. Now, he wasn’t perfect by any means but he really shaped me well in those beginning stages. He thought me to think things through. He thought me to question and to do things safely. I just really appreciate all that he thought me in the thinking process and that decision-making process.
Then I flew with another gentleman who was quite a bit different than Lindsey. This guy trained me in an old 35 Bonanza, a 1956 version that my family was buying. He was kind enough to let me fly around with him to gain experience for insurance where he lived. He was just a really good guy. I kind of hang out where he lived and we’d go flying a lot. Some of the stuff this guy did had me screaming inside “No we can’t do that!” Things as simple as not laying out a complete flight plan with all the numbers. His attitude a lot of the time was “I don’t know, let’s jump in and go!” What an odd experience for a kid just out of his private pilot training.
Now, I made a mock of things with that Bonanza at first. Man, it’s just a completely different airplane than 152 or a 172 which was all I had experienced up until that point. Let’s just say I was quickly humbled into submission and ready to listen to this guy because I needed help, a lot of it. Eventually I was flying that aircraft as many would say “like a boss” largely because of the patience and insightful tips from Bill. At that time, I didn’t value just how awesome Bill was. Over time, I realized what a gem this guy was.
One of the experiences I had when I started to realize how Bill was, he did his checkride, his 135 checkride in a Beech 18 that his company ran. I was hanging out in the lobby of the FBO at the airport where they were doing this 135 checkride. After his checkride, he comes in with the FAA examiner and to my surprise, the FAA check airman blurts out and says “Wow, thank you for teaching me so much. I’ve never seen anything done like that. That was quite incredible how much precision that NDB approach had. I’ve never seen it flown like that. It may as well just been an ILS.” I’m thinking to myself “NDB approach, precision in a Beech 18?” Like my goodness, that thing was a monster that didn’t want to accept any precise commands. And all these was said from the all-knowing and feared FAA examiner who are viewed as the Greek gods of aviation. These guys know it all and seem to exhibit certain superpowers, but I guess they haven’t been to the School of Bill before.
So another example with this guy. He was teaching me how to take out the… how the Bonanza can be controlled on takeoff and he wanted to show me how it could get up on one wheel. He took the control and sure enough, he got it up on one wheel and that wasn’t the amazing part, I knew he could do that with what he’d shown me so far. The amazing part was I kind of just looked over and looked at how he was moving the controls. It was so fast, all these little corrections that my eyes were just going round and round. His hands in the yoke were just this complete blur and he’s just in complete harmony. He was just shimming that thing back and forth. All these little corrections but the airplane was just sitting up there on one wheel. This guy was really a magician. Maybe you’ve flown with someone like this before. He was just amazing.
The point to all these, find someone that just rocks. Talk with them, share with them, learn from them. If you happen to find someone that will fly with you and mentor you, accept this kindness and gobble it up while you can. Return this gesture in kind the absolute best you can. Much of the time, these types of people are just happy enough to go enough with you for no compensation of any kind assuming they aren’t your instructor. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy them lunch. That doesn’t mean you couldn’t actually hire someone like this as an instructor, it just means that a lot of the times, there are very gracious people out there, great mentors that will mentor you and help you out.
There is a lot of what is called tribal knowledge out there. Did I read in the book how to get a Bonanza or any aircraft up on one wheel? Especially Bonanza. You can read books all you want. You can get ratings and endorsements but you won’t truly be experienced until you fly with guys that you want to emulate, people that you want to fly like. These guys know stuff that is rarely thought in aviation training books and certainly not in many ground school manuals. Their knowledge in other words is information you simply can’t get anywhere else. Their experience and insight is second to none. The gist of all these? Simple. Go and find a mentor. This means stepping out of your comfort zone, talking to a lot of people at your local FBO, introducing yourself to other pilots, following up, showing general interest, and overall just going out of your way to show these mentors you’re willing to do what it takes. It’s not always easy but it can certainly be done. So that is find a mentor.
Number six and last is humble and teachable. The last thing I want to touch on here is one of the best traits, or some of the best traits I think an aviator can have and that is to remain humble and teachable. Isn’t that the sum of what I’ve been talking about this whole time? Humble enough to realize that you haven’t arrived, humble enough to know you need next steps, remaining teachable enough to gain more experience, being self-teachable to continue learning after the rating with different knowledge, and humble and teachable enough to learn a great deal from a qualified mentor. Isn’t that what we’ve been talking about? We live in a society where it is normal to get a college degree and stop learning afterwards, expecting your education to be over. We live in a society where there is so called job security in an ever-changing and constantly evolving economy.
With all that, the progress is still slow for many to get ahead. This is just closely related to the complacency that many people have. That’s not you. You’re not going to get complacent. You’re not going to stop learning. You’re not going to settle in where you are, right? I know you’re not complacent. The truth is as aviators, we cannot get complacent. We have to realize that just because we have a pilot’s license and some ratings and endorsements, it doesn’t mean we’re done by any means. We’ve come back full circle to the point that we truly haven’t arrived. If we want to continue to progress forward, we must maintain an attitude that allows us to be teachable. Additionally, we must be humble enough to recognize that we don’t know at all and we aren’t as hot stuff as we think.
The opposite of humility is pride. Pride to me says “I’m an awesome pilot. I can do that.” Something about that saying just kind of cuts off the learning process for me. It doesn’t make a lot of sense. So a humble pilot would look at that same scenario where the prideful pilot said “I’m an awesome pilot I can do that” and he would say “Yeah, you know, I’m an okay pilot. I still have a lot to learn. I know that doing that skill you’re talking about takes a lot of confidence or a particular kind of experience, but, I don’t know, I haven’t experienced it too much. I’ll review some of this stuff before. Maybe you and I can go up and practice and you can be my safety pilot,” rather than just “Yeah, let’s go!” A humble pilot actually goes through the process of saying “Yeah, I’m not hot stuff. I have stuff to learn. Maybe I’m not experienced enough for that thing.”
Now don’t get me confused here. I’m not saying that there isn’t a place for confidence. I want you to have confidence more than anything. I want you to know that you are the pilot and command of your aircraft and you’re capable of making the decisions necessary for safe flight. I just don’t want that confidence evolving into pride. Through my experience, I’m sure other seasoned aviators could attest to this, the more I learn about aviation, the less I feel I like know. There’s just so much more out there to learn. In other words, there is so much more experience and knowledge to be gained that I can’t hope to ever be done learning.
So that’s it. I hope you’ve gained something from this. In finishing this topic which I think I’ve covered really well, maybe too well, I like you to ask yourself a few questions. Are you remaining humble as a pilot or aviator? Are you being teachable? Has your study and learning continued beyond your getting your rating? Are you flying with a mentor? Are you taking the next step in gaining experience? I would truly love to hear your thoughts and see where you’re at. Head over to aviatorcast.com and comment on episode six. I’d love for you to be a part of that discussion. I’m sure you have a lot to share. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this because I hope I’m not completely off-based. I think there is a lot of you out there that share some of my sentiments.
On top of all that, I just want to say, awesome job. If you’re here and you’re listening to this, you are already exhibiting many of the traits we’ve talked about there, and for that, you should be commended and I believe you’ll be a safe aviator as a result of having the kind of attitude to be here and to be progressively learning and I definitely know that you’re remaining teachable. I know that you desire to be humble and I know that you will just continue to get better. So, I commend you for being a safe aviator than you were less than a half hour ago.
And now the flight simulation segment…
Chris Palmer:
As flight simmers, you face one major underlying issue. That is that training for you is optional. There is no rating to get, no qualifications to meet. You can simply jump in any aircraft and go. Of course, this isn’t such a huge issues for those that just want to treat flight simulation like a game, but I know that that’s not the most of you flight simmers out there. Flight simmers want the ultimate realism and so they will spend thousands of dollars on hardware and software to make their simulator more realistic.
Yet, for all of that realism that flight simmers work to achieve, there are a very few select few that actually seek out and get proper training on how to fly. This is an interesting departure from out last segment where I suggested that even actual rated pilots need to not be complacent and must continue to learn. Regardless of all the free information out there, flight simmers struggle greatly to even do some of the most basic tasks in a simulator. Even landing and takeoff is very difficult for a lot of flight simmer and they don’t know how to do it correctly without the help of autopilot or autoland, but I know you’re different, right? That’s why you’re here. You’re listening to this podcast and part of Angle of Attack.
You do realize that you need to achieve greater realism in your cockpit and that realism doesn’t necessarily come from add-ons and software alone but rather from training. It can also come from committing one’s self to greater emulation of what an actual pilot does in approaching a simulator with respect was if it was a real aircraft and operating it as a real aircraft would be operated. So I’m guessing that’s why you’re here with AviatorCast and Angle of Attack, because you do want to take it to the next level. You do know that there is true realism to be gained through using a simulator and through getting training on how to use that simulator just as pilots get real training for the aircraft that they fly.
So I want to get into six common errors that flight simmers make and how you can correct them. This is not meant to replace training by any means but rather just bring to life some of the larger and more apparent challenges in the simulation community. Six is a very low number. There are many more things that… many more challenges that are common for flight simmers, so this is just a sample of those.
So list them all first and then we’ll get into the first one. The first one is landing on target, on speed and smoothly. The second is takeoff technique. The third is taxi awareness and centerline pride. The fourth is communicating with air traffic control or ATC. The fifth is basic navigation and the sixth is general IFR knowledge. These are just a few topics. Like I said, there’s a lot more than just this. I have a lot listed here. I may not speak to you about every single topic I have bullet-pointed here but there’s just a lot we can learn from these specific really important aspects of learning to fly. Obviously landing and takeoff and taxing, those were all pretty important things. So I hope that through these segments or though these points, that you will learn a couple of things that you can take with you.
Alright, so first, landing on target, on speed and smoothly. Some of the problems that face people when landing is a non-stable approach and that usually means a bad landing. Also, flying with jets and never the basics. The approach is too fast, too slow or at a bad angle, giving too much focus on a smooth landing, inability to hit a target on the runway so landing at a specific spot in a runway, and crosswind landings. Those are all common difficulties that flight simmers have when they land. So let’s address each one of those specifically.
An unstable approach does mean that you will have a bad landing and really, the simple fix to that is just to stabilize early for success. There is no better way. The earlier you can get your approach stabilized and the longer you stay stable, the better. You always want to be in a stable situation. If you come in too high or too fast or too hot, whatever, you are setting yourself up to not have success.
One of the big ones for flight simmers is flying with jets and never the basics. This is really big. A lot of people fly these jets, these airliners in flight simulator and have never actually learned how to fly a basic general aviation aircraft. Now, jets and general aviation aircraft land completely differently but it’s good to know the difference between the two. Jets are, basically you drive them to the landing. It’s not like a general aviation aircraft where it’s a controlled stall most of the time. You’re trying to touch your wheels down at the lowest speed and just very, very different procedure because in a jet, you actually carry power a lot further through and just a different scenario altogether.
If you want to know how to land a jet, that’s kind of a completely different topic because it’s so specific and those aircrafts are going so fast when you’re landing them that it all happens. The whole transition happens in just a few seconds, so see episode three on how to properly land a jet and that will teach you how to do that. So that’s flying with jets and never the basics. It’s just to go out and fly with basic aircraft and practice landing.
Another problem is approach too fast, too slow, or at a bad angle. Obviously speed is a huge part of a great approach. You’ve got to be on speed, approaching at a normal angle. You should be approaching at about three degrees and if you know what a PAPI or a VASI is, that will give you an idea of what angle to approach at and as you get more experienced, you can fly using the site picture or fly using basically what the shape of the runway looks like. However, there are some drawbacks to that too because of runway sizes, you can get some visual illusions based on the size of the runway. Anyway, different topic altogether.
Now, if you do want that three-degree glide slope, I’ve talked about it before and I’ve talked about it in that jet landing podcast, how to land a jet. Basically, it’s your speed, this the vertical speed at which you want to descend at. So this will give you a target for a three-degree glide scope. So, your current speed, divided by two, times ten. So for a general aviation aircraft, say that you’re flying at 70 knots, you divide that by 2, that’s 35, you would add a zero to that essentially and you get 350. So you would want 350 feet per minute if you’re flying 70 knots to get a three-degree glide slope.
An example for a jet is say you’re flying 130 knots. Divide that by 2 which is 65 knots, and then you add a zero to that which is 650. So if you’re flying 130 knots in a jet, then 650 feet per minute will give you about a three-degree glide slope or descent rate. So, those are just some little anecdotes to help you approach better and I should’ve really done that with the first one in the unstable approach.
Giving too much focus on a smooth landing. This is a very common one. A smooth landing does not mean that you’re a great pilot. So, dispel that myth altogether right now. You will learn how to fly or how to land correctly if you get proper training. Really, the landing is always visual. You should never be looking at your vertical speed when you’re trying to land. You should be focusing on the target that you’re trying to land in addition to landing smoothly. Obviously, landing smoothly is great for passengers. They think it’s great when you set the wheels down and they don’t bang their heads on the seat in front of them, but it is not everything.
Also, landing on the runway in a correct spot so you can actually get the airplane stopped before you run off the end is also very important. So if you have to choose before between running off at the end of the runway and landing smoothly, I think every single passenger in the back is going to want you to set those wheels down in a correct spot rather than go of at the end of the runway obviously.
So that kind of dovetails into inability to hit the target. In order to hit a target in the runway, you really need to know your aircraft because if you’re in a jet aircraft, especially a heavy aircraft, you could be sitting very, very far ahead of where the wheels will actually touch down and that offers some visual illusions. Also, the height of the cockpit during the flare is part of that visual illusion. You also need to know with that, how to float or rather what that flare is like and what it’s like in that particular aircraft. Again, you don’t want to be shooting for a smooth landing all the time. Sometimes, you need to hit a target. You need to get the wheels down.
Another common thing that flight simmers have trouble with is crosswind landings. If you think of it about this way that every landing is a crosswind, then you’re going to do much better. It’s really uncommon to come straight into a runway and not have to touch the controls much in order to line up correctly. Just remember to use a good crab angle and transition to that proper alignment. You don’t want to be crabbing the entire time as you’re going to the runway. A crab is essentially where your aircraft is pointed at one direction, but, so say the nose is pointing at one direction, but the path of the aircraft is actually headed a different direction.
So say that the wind is coming from your left, you actually have to turn into the wind to the left a little bit in order to keep on the correct path to the runway. And so the runway is going to be out your window a little further to the right than centerline and you’re going to be tracking towards that but your aircraft won’t actually be headed right down the runway. You’ll be pointed a little bit. So, I crudely explained that. That’s the crabbing but you follow it all the way down, not all the way down, and then pretty much the last second, the last few feet depending on the aircraft, you use your rudder to align the aircraft to a centerline and then you want to touch your wheel or rather land with one wheel on the wind side.
In this particular case, we’ve talked about a wind from the left so when you went to align the aircraft for the runway, you use right rudder to align the aircraft with the runway, and then you would dip your wing to the left and touchdown with your left wheel first and then your right wheel. The reason we do that is so when you’re in that vulnerable position in a flare where you’re at a low speed, this ensures that a gust of wind can’t come up and pick up your wing and push you over. So you’re dipping your wing into the wind essentially just to keep some pressure down on the airplane and then landing with that wheel and then setting your wheels down safely on the ground all while maintaining centerline with your rudder.
Alright, so takeoff technique. Some of the misunderstandings of takeoff is takeoff power, not knowing the differences between jets and smaller aircraft on the technique, understanding the wind and how that affects takeoff. P-factor is another one. Centerline pride. Knowing what to do immediately after takeoff which is to fly your climb angle, your climb speed. Tracking centerline after takeoff and then potentially cruise climb soon thereafter.
So there’s a big misconception about takeoff power. Full power on takeoff is temporary. It’s only there for a minute or so generally while you’re actually taking off and that’s almost through all aircraft, at least the aircraft that most people will fly, I mean general aviation airlines. We use that takeoff power or that full power just temporarily. We don’t want to be running the engine that high and hot because it long-term degrades the engine.
Also, with power is setting prop correctly. So there’s a big misconception out there among flight simmers. They don’t know how to set their propeller, at least in a controllable switch propeller, correctly for takeoff. That’s something that we teach throughout our training.
Not knowing the difference between jets and smaller aircraft. Jet procedures are very strict and require decision speeds like V1 and V2 and will V1 rotate V2 generally. Very different. A jet rotates at a certain speed whereas a GA aircraft is pretty simple to take off. You just kind of let it fly in other words. You just ease it off the ground, whereas a jet, you take off at that speed. You can rotate when it says rotate and you get up. So there are differences. I think that’s one of the common threads here. Is that a lot flight simmers fly jets and that’s all they’ve ever flown and so they don’t know that there’s a lot of differences between jets and smaller aircraft, and they’re trying to do really complex procedures with the jets when they haven’t learned how to do the simple procedures with general aviation aircraft.
Also understanding the wind on takeoff. That’s a big one. You want to be turning your ailerons into the wind and after you take off, you also want to be tracking centerline rather than just allowing the wind to push you, so often as soon as a pilot takes off, he will turn into the win slightly in order to tract centerline down the middle of the runway, and that just ensures that say there’s an engine out or something like that, that they would be on target to land back on to the runway.
P-factor is another thing or a left turning tendency. This happens in smaller prop single-engine aircraft where, when you’re at high power like that at low speed, it really pulls your aircraft to the left and you have to counteract that with the right rudder, lots of right rudder and it can often feel pretty weird and it requires more effort than you would think, and that degrades as you get faster, you’ll get in the air and the aircraft will stabilize and you’ll feel that. It will stabilize at least as much as your speed increases and you won’t be pushing so much on that right rudder as you will in the initial phase of takeoff in a small aircraft.
Also, centerline pride, really simple here. Just keep the centerline as you’re taking off. It should be really simple. So you’ve taken off, now you shoot for your climb angle whether that’s VX which is best angle or VY which is best rate. And then, from there, once you’ve done that and you’ve done your departure correctly, then you can go to a cruise climb which is a great thing to do.
Then there’s the difference between a short field takeoff and a soft field takeoff which is a general aviation thing, but the differences between those two. So you need to know what they are and you need to make sure that you don’t confuse the two especially the intricacies of those procedures between the two. We teach all of this stuff. We teach this in Aviator90 which is our free course.
So, taxi awareness and centerline pride. I’m going to get through this a little more quicker than the last ones. Lack of airport of signage knowledge. So you should know what the airport signs are saying. I’ll provide a link for you to show you a good resource. It’s a PDF. It shows you what all the airport signs mean. Very in-depth. You need to know what the signs say so that you can actually navigate around the airport. Don’t use the taxiways as a racetrack. We’re not meant to go buzzing around the airfield as if it’s NASCAR. That’s not what we do.
You need to taxi under control. You’re not in a hurry. This isn’t the time to be in a hurry when you’re on the ground. The aircraft is meant to fly in the air, not drive around on the ground. So just think of it that way. You need to be much softer in the airplane when you’re on the ground and give it extra buffer. Don’t go drifting around the corner or anything.
So, keep your speed under control, 20 knots ground speed. You should be questioning anything above that and you definitely should not be doing 20 knots in the turns in any aircraft. That’s just crazy.
Alright, so that’s just kind of keeping things under control. Then there’s the inability to take direction. This goes very much to the lack of airport signage but also comes to situational awareness. If you get directions from ATC, take notes right away. Take notes on where and what path they told you to take. This is important, really important. You need to make sure that you know exactly what air traffic control asked you to do because they will give very specific instructions, and we’ll talk about why that’s important next in the next topic.
This is big. Just learn from practice and again, write it down, learn from practice and always watch for the signs. Literally, on the actual pavement and on the signs on the side of the taxiways and runways, always be looking for the signs and lights and all of the information out there in the taxi environment that tells where you are and where you’re going and what you’re doing and so on and so forth. The reason why taking notes and doing directions properly is so important is because of runway incursions. What we want to avoid above and beyond anything else when taxing at an airport is we want to avoid a runway incursion. A runway incursion is when an aircraft pulls on to an active runway or any runway without permission. This is a very, very bad situation because we expect that we are cleared for takeoff or cleared to land, that we are absolutely the only aircraft that is allowed to be on that runway environment and we should have confidence that that runway is ours for that amount of time until we vacate the runway.
What we want to avoid is we want to avoid doing that to anyone else. We don’t want to be a danger to them when they are in the most vulnerable part of their flight which is takeoff and landing. So the big thing here and the thing we’re trying to avoid with all these is runway incursions. If you get lost at an airport because you’re not used to taking directions yet, that’s fine. It’s okay. You can ask questions. You can get clarification. You’ll get used to it eventually. Always ask though. If you are in question, ask. If you are confused, you need to be clear on where you are so that you don’t pull on to an active runway.
There are several aviation accidents that have… very, very famous aviation accidents, one of them is Tenerife where two 747s head on, one taxing, one taking off, plowed into each other. When an aircraft is rotating like a 747, they don’t have options. They have the option to rotate. They are in a very vulnerable option. They have the option to rotate and take off basically. Then the guy that was taxing, the other 747 saw that they were coming or knew that they were coming and tried to pull off the runway, so not everyone died but almost everyone died. Just catastrophic. Two 747s. Almost everyone on board died because of a runway incursion. It wasn’t so much a runway incursion as it was a miscommunication between air traffic control.
That’s another thing you need to watch out for, is making sure that you are always clear on the communication and that’s our last point anyway, is when in doubt, communicate. Ask for help, towered or non-towered. If you’re in a non-towered airport, you ask the other pilots. You clarify with them. You get clear on where everyone’s at and what they are doing and make sure that you are not going to run into each other. Everyone is out there to be safe. That’s it for taxi awareness and centerline pride. Centerline pride, maybe putting that in the title gives too much emphasis on it, but just keep it. Keep centerline when you take off and taxi, you want to keep it when you take off in taxi. Just always be where you’re supposed to be.
Next is communicating with air traffic control. The big challenges here for flight simmers are mic fright. Just scared to speak up, scared to get on the radio, scared that they’ll sound stupid or unintelligent, same thing isn’t it? Stupid and unintelligent. But, they’re just scared of what other people think of them. This does go away as you actually practice it, as you key that mic and you say something. It’s just a matter of doing that and getting over it. Non-English speakers. This is a big one with flight simulation because there are a lot of non-English speakers. Aviation is a language in and of itself, so there is a lot of stuff that you need to learn to say and hear.
One big way you can do is just listen to liveatc.net. You can find an airport very near you that has radio calls that you can listen to and see how the pilots communicate and think about what they’re going through and what the instructions are, and if you have any questions about what’s been said, then you can go Google-search that or something, say what did that controller actually say? What does that mean? So, a lot to learn there.
English is the international language for aviation so you must learn at least basic aviation English if you are to get on the radios realistically and communicate. That’s another big one. Another big one with communication is lack or practice and with that it just takes time. You have to go out there and actually do it. Much like mic fright, to get over it, you just have to go out there and do it.
One way or rather a few ways to practice is to get on a network like VATSIM which is virtual air traffic simulation, a free live network where you actually talk to air traffic controllers and get instructions from them and everyone acts in a professional and realistic manner and that’s a great way for you to practice. Then there’s also very professional one which is a paid service called Pilot Edge and these guys do a fantastic job. It’s not worldwide like VATSIM is but it is guaranteed coverage in a specific area which is Southern California, and really great there. That’s professional top level stuff, so VATSIM is definitely a great place to start and is very professional in and of itself and then Pilot Edge is used by a lot of actual flight schools and people training to be pilots.
Kind of last one I want to recognize here is just a relationship with air traffic control. Both you and the air traffic controllers, you have the same goal and your goal is to have good aviation safety. You both want to be safe in what you’re doing and you need to be able to work with air traffic control as a result. Never be afraid to ask. Speak up. Collaborate with them. Communicate with them. That’s what it’s all about. We’re all there to be safer as a result. So that’s communication in a nutshell.
Basic navigation. Lots of challenges here with flight simmers. You can’t navigate just in a basic form. Obviously, different forms, different ways to navigate with GPS, VORs, NDBs, actually using a chart to do so, and also flight planning. That has a lot to do with navigation obviously. That’s why we flight plan. It’s to actually, or rather, that’s why we’re navigating somewhere is because we created a flight plan and we’re going somewhere. So those are just a few of the challenges.
Going back to the beginning, one of them is flight simmers commonly can’t use a GPS. Now, I recognize it’s hard to keep up with today’s GPS technology but it is very important. So you can go on Garmin and download some of their GPS trainers. They are available only for PC machines that I’ve seen and they’re really great, really great actual-looking trainers that you can use for any of the current Garmin products that will allow you to see how this GPS units actually work and you’ll get a lot of knowledge that way. I’m sure you can find a lot of material on YouTube about how to use specific GPS units. I know that throughout Aviator90 and Aviator Pro, we teach a lot about GPS units and there are specific very long, very detailed courses out there that you can buy that train actual pilots how to use these specific GPS units, so that’s another source where you can get them. That’s GPS stuff.
VORs are a mainstay in aviation and something that that’s been used for a very long time. It’s a simple way to navigate. It’s kind of a simple system. In that sense not as simple as GPS but it is a simple system in theory and it’s something that flight simmers struggle with. It’s something you can learn. We do teach that through our training as well. VORs. They are being phased out, at least in the United States and I do believe that one day GPS will kind of take over everything, but VORs are another great method and fairly accurate. If you want to learn more about that, I would just go search about it. I’ll put a link also in the show notes for it where you can go learn more about what a VOR is in theory, how you navigate to and from a VOR and how it’s used, and you’ll get a better idea of how that could help you when you’re flying that flight plan.
So then there are other methods like how to actually use an aviation map for your navigation, actually looking at the map and looking at where you’re going. That’s another way to kind of chart your course. That’s a really old school method. A great method, a fun one. You’d have to have some great simulation scenery in order to do so. Orbix stuff is really great especially the specific areas that they do, the regions as they call them. You could definitely pick up a map for that and be able to follow along with the actual scenery there. So that’s kind of it. That’s it for basic navigation, some of the problems and things that you can do help yourself out there.
General IFR knowledge. First thing, lot of flight sim pilots, they can’t do a basic instrument scan. This is the absolute most essential thing about flying on instruments, is what’s called the basic six scan or just a scan. We’re getting into glass units now too with G1000 and G3000 and all sorts of EFIS systems where it goes beyond the basic six scan but it’s the same theory anyway. Gaining a scan is focusing just on the instruments and coming back to the attitude indicators. The attitude indicator is usually the central focus of that and then you’re glancing to your other instruments to verify the position you’re in and what’s going on.
In certain phases of flight, you only have to pay attention to several of those instruments at a time, not all six. Just getting into a scan is super important. It does take several seconds in order to do that. You can distract yourself out of it, so you just need to make sure that you focus on your instruments and you’re knowing what’s going on there. I’ll make sure to link to an article that talks about scans and different types of scans.
Then there’s the A which is the alright scan for errors and that gives you verification between different sources just in case you think your instruments are lying to you, gives you the electrical, it’s just generally the turn and slip indicator. It gives you vacuum which is the attitude indicator and it gives you pedostatic which would be the vertical speed indicator. So it gives you one of all three of those systems just to make sure one of those systems hasn’t failed. That three are the A, you’re alright, it’s in that shape in the basic six. The A is a good way to verify that all of those systems are working properly if you think that your instruments are conflicting and giving you the wrong information but general that’s very rare and won’t happen. It’s a great thing to practice in a simulator though, is actually failing those instruments because that’s something that rarely happens in the real world.
Now, a scan for a glass cockpit is different. It’s almost like you have a full focus on the attitude indicator or that you can at least see what’s going on through your peripheral vision and then you can kind of look at the other things. I think glass systems are so much better, so much more easier to scan and especially with the big screens that they have now. You just really got a precise feel of the attitude of the aircraft.
Also next is a lack of information about the IFR system and how it works. Now, the IFR system, if followed correctly, will give you a safe path in the sky with enough terrain clearance improving communication range. That’s what the whole IFR system is set up to do, to get you from point A to point B, assuming that all those airports have good instrument approaches and good departures and arrivals, all within communication with air traffic control, all with clearance from terrain, and it’s made to allow you to fly basically on instruments. That’s what it is.
That’s the goal of the instrument system in a nutshell, is being able to do that. There are some different scenarios that obviously confuse people but it’s all about flying on instruments. That’s what all of these is about.
Another challenge is the inability to do an ILS, VOR, LPV or other types of approaches, all different types of approaches. Approaches are difficult to master but they are definitely important to practice. It’s all about slowing things down and methodically working through it and having a system in which you do these approaches and this is something that we harp on a lot in Aviator Pro. We teach a lot of different types of approaches into different areas of the world.
Another one is cannot perform a departure or arrival. These are different from approach procedures in that just the challenges are differently. Like with departures, you’re dealing very much with terrain and often sometimes you’re dealing with that with arrivals as well. But the challenges are different. They have similarities but it’s something that flight simmers struggle up. It’s being able to do departures and arrivals and also knowing how that can accept with the rest of the route. It can be a little bit confusing and takes some experience in order to find out how to do that.
Another one. This is a big one and the last point I want to make, is the flight simmer doesn’t understand weather. Obviously weather is a huge consideration when speaking of IFR. In a simulator, you won’t get wet obviously, you won’t get ice and you can fly straight into a thunderstorm without a problem, and so there is this sense of invulnerability where you can kind of just do what you want and so you don’t really need to worry about the weather. But bringing the weather realism into your simulator is going to really increase your experience and just make it really, really great. Using real world sources to get your information and treating that as if that’s the information and getting in your simulator and using your simulator in that sense where you are using a program like ActiveSky to draw in the current actual weather for that area and so you’re getting the exact numbers that the charts told you and you’re getting that the cloud bank in front of you and you’re getting that half-statute mile fog that’s reported at the airport, and then as soon as you break out of that at 400 feet, it’s clear skies. There’s just so many realistic things you can do with weather. It’s important to have a basic understanding of weather and the challenges facing pilots.
This is a real big overload of information here. That’s it for those six topics. Again, landing on target, on speed and smoothly, takeoff technique, taxi awareness and centerline pride, communicating with ATC, basic navigation, general aviation or rather general IFR knowledge. All of these we actually teach quite a bit in our Aviator90 and Aviator Pro Series. You can check those out by going to aviatorcast.com. We’ll have links there to those products, but you can also just gain a general curiosity. Go out and search these topics and learn more. We talked about that in the first segment. If you don’t know about them, learn more about them. There’s a lot of material out there. We have a lot to share through videos which are specifically based on simulators and the challenges facing simulator pilots, so that’s definitely a source where you can get that great information.
So I hope you guys got something out of that. I know that I rushed through it quite a bit and that each one of these subjects could be one full episode on its own and maybe we need to narrow it down a bit more and do that because even something like general IFR knowledge, we could definitely talk for a long time about but I do hope that you did get something out of this, even if it was that. It’s kind of overwhelming how much a simulator pilot needs to learn in order to become proficient. It at least gets you to a point where you’re saying “Yeah, like I actually do need to learn a lot and I need to get started and I need to work at this.”
In the next episode of AviatorCast, I plan on talking about creating a forever training plan as a virtual aviator and in that, I will lay out specifics on what you can do to make sure that you are setting yourself up for the future and that you are learning as you need to learn, to progressively get those bits of information and knowledge that will allow you to one day be a really, really great virtual pilot. That’s what we want. We just want little by little, bit by bit to get you exactly where you need, and then you will be all set up and in a more proficient and more confident place as a virtual pilot, doing things realistically just as real pilots do.
So that is it for the main body of the content, and then we’re going to wrap up the show here. A couple of credits to start with. The music for this episode was provided by Atrosolis. You can download this aviation-themed album for free by liking Atrosolis on Facebook.
Many thanks also go out to the Angle of Attack crew. I just love these guys. They do great work and they make episodes like this possible and I’m just really proud of your time and the hard work they’ve done over the years.
So, if you have questions, comments, or you would like direct contact with me, feel free to write me at me@aviatorcast.com and it will go straight to my inbox and there I will get your message. I really want suggestions on the show. That’s a great place to do it. I just love to hear from you and I’ll write you back personally.
Also, you can go to iTunes. If you enjoyed this episode and you go to iTunes, then you can leave a review for others and tell them that you love this podcast. It’s a really easy way to let others know that this is something worth listening to, so they’ll subscribe, so they’ll listen, so that I would appreciate that a lot if you go guys could do that if you’re subscribed to iTunes.
Also, you can subscribe and get these episodes by email if you like. You can do that over at aviatorcast.com, and you can also comment at aviatorcast.com on this specific episode, episode six and talk about anything that you learned during the show or some of the questions that I asked you throughout the show, and that would be great too.
Last but certainly not least. Check out some of our training products. We talked about Aviator Pro and Aviator90 quite a bit today and you can start with the basics with Aviator90. That’s 100% free. There’s no reason not to sign up if you’re just getting started or you’d like a refresher, and then you can learn instruments with AviatorPro, that’s a great one, over 100 episodes, and you can learn how to fly some of the world’s most popular jets virtually with our training products for the 737, 747, 777 and MD11. You can learn more about those products over at flyaoamedia.com.
Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. We are truly grateful to have you here, part of our community and so engaged in this wonderful passion for flying things.
Until next time, throttle on!


This entry has 6 replies

Good and helpful links Chris, Thanks!

Chris, this was a very good podcast and I thank you. I love your
approach to simulation and although I no longer fly in the RW, I do have
a very immersive sim pit and use it in the same fashion as you suggest
one aspires to.

Kudos for all your hard work.

It would be great if you supplied a ‘Donate’ button for those of us who would like
to tell you how much we appreciate what you do here, but don’t wish to
participate in your pro paid training units.


ps… Rather difficult to get a comment posted. Signing in takes me to other places, then logging out and trying again here says my email is in use.
Alas, I posted as Guest this time until I can figure this out.

Thanks for the tips on the comments, Joel. And thanks for your praise! That means a whole lot to me. I’m glad you’re enjoying the podcast and getting something positive out of it. I’m trying to keep it as realistic as possible. I don’t want to fall into a ‘simulation only’ show, as that’s not what I’m about. I know that it isn’t for EVERYONE. But I’m trying to stick to real training aspects.

Hey Chris, brilliant stuff again. I think of licenses and ratings as being the same as a black belt in the martial arts – a demonstration of competency and proficiency in the basics. The real learning and experience begins there.

Keep up the great work.

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