July 25, 2014

Pilotage in a Digital Age

pilotage-scavenger-hunt.jpgWhen was the last time you were lost in a General Aviation aircraft? The thought of it is quite frightening. However, not too long ago it was not that uncommon to be "lost" or as I would prefer to say temporarily in an unidentified location. When I started flight training for my Private Pilot Certificate in 2004 I spent many flights trying to navigate from point A to point B with little else than a beat-up sectional. Often, I would be overly confident that I was right on target only to realize checkpoints were no longer matching up. I would then need to start to analyze my surroundings and try and reconfirm my location so I could adapt my route and get back on course. It was almost always fun.

With the advancement in technology it is harder and harder to get lost in a GA Aircraft. Many airplanes have the benefit of some advance moving map not to mention that many pilots are carrying an additional moving map on their iPad both of which can pinpoint your location to within a few feet.

It has probably been four or five years since I have flown a flight using Pilotage, the last reference to me flying by way of pilotage on this blog was back in 2006! Effectively, Pilotage is the use of fixed visual reference on the ground by means of sight to guide oneself to a destination. I was due up for a biennial flight review and my CFI, Al Waterloo, suggested we spend the first half of the flight on a pilotage scavenger hunt. Using Foreflight he selected a few random points on a sectional for me to fly to. The first was to find my way to a set of towers in Southern Wisconsin, then change course and find a small private grass strip airport after which we would continue on with the BFR flight. I have not owned a sectional in many years, kind of a sorry statement, so I had him send me the coordinates of the two locations which I loaded into my iPad before turning it to airplane mode.

sunset-on-the-wing.jpgIn the Archer we agreed we would keep Multifunction Flight Display (MFD) on the engine page so as not to have the benefit of the moving map. After take-off, I leveled off at 1,500 and I put the airplane on course to the first checkpoint along our route. The first checkpoint was easy to find but it arrived off the side of our airplane indicating that the wind was stronger than I had anticipated and I need to course correct to keep on track. As we moved north from Chicago towards the Wisconsin border I lost the benefit of the detailed Terminal Area Chart and there were fewer and fewer obvious landmarks. It was fun once again spending time looking out the window looking for things that might be depicted on the chart then trying to orient myself. You forget how roads, lakes and towns can look so similar. Sure enough though about 25 minutes later and countless power lines, train tracks, towns and airports used as references we flew right over the first landmark the stacks near Sullivan, WI. There was a gorgeous sunset taking place outside as we departed the first checkpoint.

From there I turned us south and followed a road, then train tracks and finally power lines which led me to the general area of the next spot on the scavenger hunt, Hacklander (PVT) just west of Janesville, that like the first landmark was identified without any challenges. As we were approaching Hacklander we started to take on some rain and see some disconcerting changes in colors in the clouds so we decided to sneak a peek at the MFD to check on the weather, but then again turned it back to the engine page so I could navigate to Kenosha International Airport via pilotage. Enroute to Kenosha we enjoyed watching a distant thunderstorm light up the early evening sky.

Growing up I always loved looking at maps and that has not changed. During my training I loved the night before a cross-country sitting at a table with sectionals spread-out and drawing my routes and noting landmarks for checkpoints. I realized on this flight how in this digital age we lose out on honing that skill and the fun that comes with it.

I encourage you to create your own pilotage scavenger hunts and test your pilotage skills. I am sure you will enjoy it, I know I did.


Posted at 7:30 AM | Post Category: Biennial Flight Review | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

April 29, 2010

Making the Most of Your Biennial Flight Review

I recently successfully completed my third biennial flight review since learning to fly. Although, the process is becoming customary to me this most recent experience was unlike my previous two flight review experiences. The flight review is not a pass / fail test. Instead it is an assessment of a pilot's knowledge and skill that if the Certified Flight Instructor deems are sufficient you will receive a logbook endorsement allowing you to continue to fully utilize the privilege's of your license for another twenty-four months. If the CFI recognizes some serious deficiencies they will not sign-off on the review, which means the pilot must work on those deficiencies then retake the review. If the pilot has not past the twenty-four month mark since their last review they may continue to fly, after that there are some restrictions put in place until they complete the review satisfactorily.

The first two times I was too engrossed with proving my knowledge and worthiness of being a pilot to recognize this opportunity for what it is, a learning experience. Many pilots have heard the saying that the Pilot's License is "Your ticket to learn", the flight review is a perfect opportunity to continue that learning process. To prepare for this review I made notes of things I have struggled to understand and questions that have come up in flight experiences that I had not yet sought a satisfactory answer for. During both the one hour of ground and one hour of flight instruction there were items that were not as clear to me as they once were and we talked through those. I also made sure to bring up the questions and topics for which I wanted a refresher on and as a result I feel I got more out of this review than any previous review.

Don't be worried about knowing every answer to every question. Use this truly as a learning experience and you will do fine. Remember that you are paying for the instructor's time so take advantage of the opportunity to learn through this process.


Posted at 6:09 AM | Post Category: Biennial Flight Review | Comments (0) | Save & Share This Story

April 20, 2008

Completing Another Biennial Flight Review

BFR Flash CardsOn Saturday the rain cleared and the clouds rose high enough to allow me to go flying. I was flying with a CFI performing my Biennial Flight Review. When you earn a private pilots license there is no expiration on it. Though to fly as pilot in command you need to periodically prove you still know what you are doing. There are several ways to satisfy the FAA including earning a new certificate, participating in the FAA Wings - Pilot Proficiency Program or completing a Biennial Flight Review.

Since I needed to perform a check out ride anyways to rent aircraft from Windy City Flyers I decided to make it a BFR as well to fulfill that requirement in advance of my deadline later this year. We flew up to Lake in the Hills where we performed a wide variety of takeoff and landings including: short field, soft field and a simulated engine out emergency landing.

After that I performed many of the maneuvers on the private pilot check ride like an simulated off field emergency landing and stalls. The flight went smoothly. We also did a review of aviation knowledge. To prepare for that portion of the BFR I used Biennial Flight Review Flash Cards by James Spudich. They were very thorough and great for refreshing my knowledge.

At the end of the day I had passed my second BFR.

March 30, 2008

Preparing for A Biennial Flight Review

I had my first back to back weekends of flying after completing a flight yesterday. I am working with a CFI to prepare for a Biennial Flight Review either next weekend or the weekend after that. I wanted to take two flights to prepare for the review. In the first flight last week we worked on landings and crosswind landings.

On Saturday, I was blessed with a beautiful day to fly. The goal of the flight was to work on maneuvers we did not practice on the first flight last week. Those maneuvers included power-on and -off stalls, 45 degree turns, and emergency procedures. I performed all the maneuvers well except the 45 degree turns to the left which were a little sloppy but improved the more of them I performed. Both emergency landing maneuvers went well with my CFI and I both being confident I could have safely landed on some poor farmer's field had it been necessary.

Either next weekend or the weekend after that I will go in for the BFR which will consist of at least one hour of ground verbal review followed by at least an hour of flight review in which I need to perform all maneuvers to test standards. I last successfully performed a BFR in September of 2006. I am looking forward to getting this one behind me.

September 4, 2006

Biennial Flight Review Passed

It has been two years and a month since I earned my private pilot's license. As part of the Federal Aviation Administration's regulations, pilots are required to pass a Biennial Flight Review if they wish to serve as pilot in command of an aircraft.

I had scheduled my BFR a month earlier but during pre-flight, noticed the airworthiness certificate was missing from the plane. I thought it was the Certified Flight Instructor's way of testing to see if I did a thorough pre-flight inspection. It turned out it was lost and the plane had to be grounded until it was found. It was not found until days later, unfortunately. Happily, this time out to the airport all the paperwork was in order.

For a few days leading up to the BFR I reviewed my Sporty's Private Pilot DVDs and the Federal Aviation Regulations/Aeronautical Information Manual (FAR/AIM) book that contains all the regulations that pertain to flying as a private pilot.

During the Biennial Flight Review the Certified Flight Instructor does a one hour long verbal flight review that covers regulations and concepts related to flying (e.g., Weights and balances, weather, etc.). My CFI and I spent about an hour and fifteen minutes and for the most part I was able to answer all but a few obscure questions. After the verbal part we went out for the one hour flight review. We departed Sturgeon Bay's Cherryland Airport for one of my favorite airports, Ephraim Airport. I showed my experience with pilotage, flying from one point to another using maps and ground references, to get us to Ephraim. Once there we took advantage of the beautiful turf strip there. I performed short field and soft field take-offs and landings on the turf. I truly love the nostalgic barnstorming feeling of landing on turf runways. After performing some nice crosswind landings we departed and headed back to Sturgeon Bay where we performed a wide variety of maneuvers demonstrated in most Private Pilot Check Rides or insurance check-outs: Turns around a point, stalls, 45&Deg; bank turns, etc.

When we got back to Sturgeon Bay I new there would be one more part of the test, a landing with a failed engine. Sure enough as I entered the pattern to land at Cherryland Airport my CFI announced my engine had failed and pulled the power out to simulate an engine failure. I cut the pattern short to ensure we would make the runway and brought the airplane down gently. Upon completing the landing I was informed I had passed my Biennial Flight Review.