February 23, 2013
Sporty's recently released their Complete Instrument Rating Course as an app for Apple's iPad and iPhone. The app takes DVDs full of content and makes it portable so you that spare time can turn into aviation training opportunities.
I recently had the opportunity to take the Sporty's Instrument Rating Course App for a test flight and am loving the experience. I am about half way through the content. I have a feeling I will go through the series once then return frequently to the content during my training and in preparing for a written exam. I have used Sporty's courses before both on DVD and via online courses. Both were good but posed challenges. DVDs meant I had to carry around a DVD in my computer or be near a DVD player, while the online courses required I have internet connectivity which prevented me from enjoying the content on long commercial flights. Although with online courses from Sporty's you can stream to an iPad, that did not help me much though since I don't currently pay for a data plan. One nice benefit of the app is the ability to download content for offline viewing which has allowed me to enjoy the content over lunch, at the gym and on my commute.
This app allows me to consume the information whenever I might have some downtime. The series is broken into seven categories then within each category are topics that typically range from 4 to 15 minutes in length. Perfect for watching a few when I have an hour or one or two while waiting for an oil change on my car. Another nice feature is that you don't need to worry about lugging around your iPad as a single purchase allows you to use the content on both iPad and iPhone. The course does allow users to earn the written test endorsement and receive FAA WINGS credit directly from within the app.
The content is a mix of new and old content. Much of the content has been recently updated and included both analog and digital cockpit discussions. For topics that may not have changed much there are some old clips that Sporty's may have been using for the better part of forty years including the controller to the right, who is sporting glasses that look to be 70s era glasses which goes along with the entire look. Despite some quirky old footage spattered about the content is great.
I will state I am a bit biased by their content since I learned to fly at a neighboring airport to Claremont County where Sporty's is based. So I love seeing clips of some of the airports I spent so much time at. Even without that connection I think this is a valuable tool in Instrument training. Sporty's VP John Zimmerman said "Any pilot who has earned his instrument rating will tell you it's nothing to take lightly. Our course goes beyond simple test prep to prepare pilots for real-world instrument flying conditions."
The app can be downloaded for free which includes some demo content, but a $199.99 subscription is required to access all the content.
June 15, 2011
Flying by visual flight references (VFR) into instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) often results in an accident and sadly these preventable accidents usually result in the loss of life. The 2010 Nall Report states that 62% of weather related accidents were fatal and that 86% of VFR into IMC accidents were fatal. As a Private Pilot with just a handful of simulated instrument hours more than required to earn my private pilots license, I spend most of my flight time trying to avoid clouds and poor weather conditions.
So when an opportunity to fly through the clouds on an instrument flight plan with an instrument rated pilot presents itself I jump on it. This past weekend my flight club, Leading Edge Flying Club, had planned a trip to Oshkosh. On the morning of the weather was not looking so promising with conditions below the personal minimums of even our instrument rated pilots. However, a few hours later the weather improved enough for us to fly on an instrument flight plan. As we lost a few hours we decided to go to Madison, WI instead of Oshkosh, WI.
On the outbound leg I flew in the back seat and enjoyed watching the pilot, Marc Epner and right seat pilot Al Carrino work the flight plan, radios and prepare for a flight into IMC. Less than a minute after starting our takeoff role we were in the clouds. I expected an uncomfortable feeling or some disorientation going into the clouds, but luckily it felt quite normal, in fact it was beautiful. Even more amazing was climbing through the first layer of clouds and popping on top of the foaming clouds.
I enjoyed watching the procedures for loading the approach into the Avidyne flight system and watching Marc fly the approach. A few miles out we sank below the clouds perfectly aligned for our landing at Madison.
On the return flight I switched with Al and took over the right seat and helped with the radios including copying down my first IFR flightplan read-back. I thought maybe sitting up front I might experience some disorientation but again felt quite alright in the clouds. Much of the time we were free of the clouds and I logged some time flying an Cirrus SR 22 for the first time. I loved the plane except for its extremely sensitive trim which I think might take a few hours to master.
I have been excited for a while about the endeavor of seeking the Instrument Rating, and this flight only stoked my interest. As a result I have registered for the Sporty's Online Instrument Rating Course and am working on a plan to earn the Instrument Rating. I look forward to sharing my progress.
May 31, 2010
The President of the United States returned to our shared hometown of Chicago for the Memorial Day Weekend. As a result a series of Very Important Person Temporary Flight Restrictions (VIP TFR) were put into effect for the airspace around the Chicago area. Historically, a visit from the President and the resulting restrictions were enough reason to keep me on the ground. I had heard of too many horror stories of pilots having their licenses suspended or revoked for infringing on the restricted airspace.
My home airport, Chicago Executive (KPWK), was outside the ten-mile no fly zone that surrounded the President's Chicago home. However, it was located within the 30 mile radius of the Temporary Flight Restriction. After being taunted by a weather forecast calling for a long weekend filled with clear and sunny days on the forecast I decided this would be a great opportunity to learn how to live with the TFRs and enjoy a new flying learning experience.
I scheduled the Windy City Flyers G1000 enabled Cessna and a flight instructor for Saturday afternoon. We spent some time on the ground before the flight talking about the TFR and the requirements for flying into and out of an area under a Temporary Flight Restriction. We were required to file an outbound flightplan and an inbound flightplan. Once submitted, we needed to obtain an use a discrete squawk code while in the restricted area. We also needed to be in two-way radio communications with ATC while flying in the area. Faster aircraft need to adhere to a 180 knots or less airspeed, something we were not concerned with in our Cessna. Be sure to look at the AOPA TFR Map before every flight or ask your pre-flight briefer about NOTAMs and TFRs.
After obtaining our squawk code from ground control we took off from Chicago Executive Airport. The tower directed us over to Chicago Approach shortly after liftoff with whom we keep two-way communication with until we had cleared the TFR airspace. Once a safe distance from the restricted airspace we closed our flightplan. I was surprised that several planes were flying so close to the border of the TFR. A slight miscalculation by those pilots would likely result in a minimum of a 30 - 90 day suspension of their license.
I spent the next hour under the hood in simulated instrument conditions working on basic flight maneuvers including straight & level flight, straight climbs and descents, standard rate turns and a combination of climbs, descents and turns.
On the way back to Chicago we opened our return flightplan, obtained a new discrete squawk code and talked with ATC all the way back to Chicago Executive. I stayed under the hood until we were on a mile and a half final for runway 16 where I completed the flight with a nice smooth landing. The 0.8 hours of simulated instrument time was my first in just under six years. I enjoyed both learning how to operate within a TFR and also logging some instrument time. I am looking forward to continuing to train for my instrument training as time allows.