Author Archives: Mike

Podcast for Private Checkride

Highly recommend a podcast by Max Trscott for those getting ready for a check ride.  The podcast is Aviation New Talk and was dated 1 November 2017 titled Private Pilot Checkride Prep.  Good gouge from DPE Jason Blair. 


More check ride guidance

Here are some check ride problems that I’ve encountered recently.  The private pilot Airmen Certification Standards (FAA-S-ACS-6A w/chg 1 dated June 2017) states in skill element PA.II.D.S9 that the applicant “Use an airport diagram or taxi chart during taxi”. This is pretty clear; you must have a diagram out if one is available for your airport!  Also note the Knowledge task of PA.II.D.K6a.  “briefing the location of Hot Spots”.  Knowledge elements are tested in the knowledge test but you should note the hot spots if they apply to your airfield.  Not clear as to where to find these tasks?  Look at Appendix A (page A-6 on the current ACS):

Currently the Knowledge Test uses the old “Learning Codes” but will soon be upgraded to reference the ACS task elements.  This coding applies to all elements whether Knowledge, Risk, or Skill.  Appendix A also provides guidance to examiners (e.g. the DPE).  Note page A-8 states:

Again, this is pretty clear guidance and you and your CFI should review the ACS to ensure all areas are covered.  Another item to note in Appendix A (pages A-9 and 10) is unsatisfactory performance.  The last item on this list “Failure to exercise risk management”.  As previously discussed each Area of Operation in the ACS has three elements and one of these is Risk. Don’t forget to review the Risk elements of each task! I’ve referenced the Private Pilot ACS but this post applies to the other ACS (instrument and commercial) as well.  Here’s to a great check ride!

YouTube channel

Quick update.  I’ve created a YouTube channel.  My intent is to primarily post tailwheel flying videos that will be helpful to folks that wish to learn how to fly a tailwheel airplane.  I most certainly will post other aviation related videos that I produce.  I hope to have one before too long on landing at WV77.  Please subscribe to my channel (note the link) and stand by for videos!

New Addition to On Course Avn

I’ve been in the market for a tail dragger to add to On Course Aviation for a while.  The goal is to offer tail wheel training required for a licensed pilot to receive the tail wheel endorsement and also to offer IMG_0668sight seeing rides at WV77.  While I love a tandem such as a J3 Cub, I like to instruct in a side by side airplane.  I think I do a better job instructing when I can see what the student is doing and the student can see what I’m doing!  At first I was thinking of something like a Luscombe, Aeronca Chief, or a Cessna 140 but I came around the C-170 because it offers a little more horsepower and space.  Plus I’m a Cessna guy.  I didn’t really want the 180 hp Lycoming conversion.  The extra horsepower would be nice but it is also more gallons per hour and more weight.  Plus I first soloed in a 1950 C-150 with a Continental engine and I think they just sound better than a Lycoming and I think the little six cylinder on the C-170 is cool.  There were several C-170 authorized modifications (Supplemental Type Certificates) that I did want.  One was Cessna 180 landing gear, which is a little more stout and raises the nose somewhat, and a Scott tail wheel.  The Scott tail wheel is better than the original.  So N2266D is the now a member of On Course Aviation!

More Rusty Pilots

I’m presenting an AOPA Rusty Pilot Seminar at Weyers Cave, Virginia (KSHD) on 4 March 2017 starting at 9:00am.  I have another in Buffalo, NY on 18 March also at 9am.  These seminars have been a lot of fun and folks really seem to enjoy the presentation and the chance to gather with a bunch of “Rusty Pilots” who would like to get back into flying.  To register or find a location follow this link or go to AOPA > You can fly (located at the top of the web page) > Rusty Pilots.   The presentation provides a review of regulations and procedures and I’d like to think it would be a good review for anyone.  I also provide all the attendees with an endorsement for the ground portion of a §61.56 flight review.  So come on out!  And if you can’t make one of mine there are others at locations all around the country.  And did I mention that the seminar is free to AOPA members?

More on Rusty Pilot seminars

The Monadnock Aviation seminar at Keene, NH seemed to go very well.  A total of 34 Rusty Pilots showed up and I hope they will now come back into the flying arena.  Special thanks to Beth for hosting the Monadnock event.  I have two seminars coming up.  The first is hosted by Airborn Flight Services at Farmingdale, NY on 18 February and he second is at Weyers Cave, VA (Shenandoah Valley Regional Airport) on 4 March.  Please come out and join your fellow pilots.

AOPA Rusty Pilot seminars

I recently became a presenter for the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Rusty Pilot Seminars.  These seminars provide training that meets the requirements for the ground portion of a §61.56 flight review and are intended to get pilots that have been out of flying for a while back into flying.  Many factors cause pilots to lapse in their flying; time, family requirements, and money are just a few.  Some have been away from flying for a few years while others many have been away for many.  I’m a member of a rather large flying club in Virginia.  In the last few years we have had several folks join the club who have been out of flying for quite a while.  One received his Private Rating in 1980 but family requirements soon caused flying to fall off the priority list.  I provided instruction to get him back into flying – many things had changed (GPS, Airspace, headsets!) but many things are the same (they are still airplanes after all).  He is now actively flying and having a blast.  These “Rusty Pilots” spoke of how they needed a “nudge” to get back into flying.  Where to start?  Who to talk to?  This is goal of AOPA’s Rusty Pilot program, to help get folks back into flying.  So, if you happen be a Rusty Pilot (or know of one) go to the AOPA web site to look for a presentation in your area.  My first presentation will be at Monadnock Aviation in Keene, NH (EEN) on the 21st of January, 2017.  Hope to see you there!

Finding Instrument Approach non-standard alternate minimums in ForeFlight.

It is authorized, legal, and just fine to use ForeFight for a pilot evaluation but you must know how to find the information you need for the flight.  An area that causes difficultly on Instrument check rides is finding non-standard Alternate minimums (also non-standard Take Off minimums).  These are noted on an approach plate with a “negative” T or A in the remarks section.  Note the “T” an “A” just below the WAAS section for the RNAV approach in Suffolk.approach-plate

To find this information (in this case non-standard Alternate Minimums) first go to the airports section and click on the tab for Procedures.


Next go to the Arrival section and select Alternate minimums.


This will take you to the non-standard Alternate minimums that would be in the front section of the hard copy Terminal Procedures (Approach Plate) publication.  These are all available online but I find that pilots are very familiar with getting the airport approach but are at a loss to find the non-standard alternate minimums.  BTW, non-standard take off minimums are in the departure section of the Procedures tab.  While this is a very simple task it is easily overlooked.



What color is 100LL and why do we use it?  100LL contains tetraethyl lead while you use unleaded fuel in your car.  Why? Lead prevents detonation and an applicant for a pilots certificate (license) should  have some knowledge of what detonation is and why we are concerned about it.  100LL is blue and Jet Fuel (commonly Jet A) is the color of straw.  I’m surprised that many folks  think the “Jet Fuel” is some super high octane fuel.  Jet fuel is basically kerosene and can be used in diesel engines.  If you put jet fuel in your piston engine airplane the engine will not run for long and this contamination has caused many serious accidents.  So your fuel is blue to help you determine if it has been contaminated, especially by jet fuel.  And the subject of fuel leads to engines.  You are not required to know how to build a piston engine for a private pilot check ride but you should have an idea of how it works, what makes it run, and what makes it not run.

Can you fly the airplane if something is not working?

Most applicants are familiar with the items listed in §91.205 (remember “TOMATOFLAMES” anybody?).  As pilots we are taught early on that the equipment listed in §91.205 must be operational.  But what happens if something not listed in §91.205 is inoperative?  A dated but still valid guiding document for this dilemma is AC 91.67.  This AC discusses the use of a Minimum Equipment List (MEL).  A MEL solves this problem by providing guidance as to what must be done (or what you can do) if some component not listed in §91.205 is inoperative.  But what to do if your airplane doesn’t have a MEL?  Check out chapter 2 of AC 91.67.  Chapter 2 provides a step by step guideline for what the pilot must do to ensure the airplane is both safe and legal to fly.  The first step is to check the equipment list or “kinds of equipment” list.  Here are some examples of a “kinds of equipment” list:

C172M kinds of operations

The example above is from a C172M POH and is not very specific. Note that there is no addtional “equipment list” for this model.

C172N kinds of operations

This is from a C172N POH and not much better, also no equipment list.  And below we have a newer model, a C172S.  The C172 lists “kinds of operation” and then goes further with a equipment list.  This helps because the equipment list will state whether or not you can fly with a component inoperative.  Remember, an equipment list IS NOT an MEL.  They sound similar but in this usage they are two completely different animals.

C172S kinds of operations

Next, go to step 2 and check the type certificate requirements.  Search for “type certificate data sheet” (TCDS) for your aircraft.  Again you may find that not much information is provided for the older airplanes such as the C172M and C172N.  The newer aircraft may have more information.   The next step is to search for Airworthiness Directives (AD) that might have required the installation of the component that is inoperative.  Finally, if you haven’t found the item in one of the previous steps then go back to §91.205 to see what applies for your flight.    Night time flight?  Then you need the equipment listed in §91.205 (b) and (c).  The AC also says to check other pertinent regulations such as §91.207, §91.215. If after going through the regulations you find that your inopertive component is not listed then you may be able to deactivate/remove it, placard it, and continue to fly.  I say “may” because you might need an A&P to do the work.  As the pilot in command (and a pilot applying for a rating) you should be familiar with the procedures for determining the airworthiness of your airplane both with, and without, a minimum equipment list.


Risk Management and the Aircrew Certification Standards

The change from Practical Test Standards (PTS) to the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) is happening this June.  The first ratings to change over to the new ACS are the Private – Airplane and Instrument – Airplane.  Guidance is posted on the web site and I’m not going to go into the codes or format but I do want to bring up a few points.   The ACS does not change the standards for the evaluation but each Area of Operation task now has three specific sections; Knowledge, Risk Management, and Skills.  The PTS has always had a “skills” section but the knowledge and Risk Management area were perhaps somewhat vague to many applicants and CFIs.  Knowledge pertains to the knowledge requirements of §61 for your respective rating (e.g. §61.105 for the Private Pilot) and these areas are examined both on the knowledge test (“written test”) and on the oral portion of the practical test (your “check ride”).  The future “written” tests will link a code specifically to a subtask on the knowledge section making it much clearer as to which areas were missed on the written (and making it easier for the examiner to recheck these areas!).

The ACS has brought new and needed attention to Risk Management.  The risk management section of the ACS contains much information that was in the “special emphasis” section of the PTS.  The special emphasis area on page 7 of the Private Pilot PTS (FAA-S-8081-14B) was sometimes overlooked by both CFIs and students.  Also overlooked was the Single Pilot Resource Management (SRM) section of the old PTS especially as it pertains to Aeronautical Decision Making (ADM).  ADM includes tools such as the PAVE model, the 3Ps – Perceive, Process, Perform, and DECIDE.  I’M SAFE is another risk management tool. Now risk management is right out front and center on each task in the ACS. The FAA has many great handbooks that are available free on the web site.  These handbooks serve as the references for just about everything contained in the ACS (or old PTS for that matter).  One handbook that may have been overlooked in your training is the Risk Management Handbook (FAA-H-8083-2 with change 1).  This handbook is a primary resource for the new ACS risk management section.

Problems on the Private Practical

My schedule has been affecting my posts but I’m going to attempt some short blogs about problems I see in Practical tests.  This one is about airspace for the private airplane practical test (and commercial for that matter).  Area of Operations 1, Task E requires the applicant to know the VFR weather minimums for “all classes of airspace”.  This leads to item 2 of this task which requires knowledge of the rules for each class of airspace.  One area that is a problem is where Class E starts and/or where Class G airspace ends as you climb or descend.  Look at this sectional from my flying area.  Note the point I’ve labeled “A”.  A typical scenario question might

Class G airspace

be “you’ve departed on your flight today and you are level at 1000′ AGL in this area.  What are the visibility and cloud separation requirements?”  This requires that you know this is Class G airspace up to 1,200′ AGL.  The answer I get too often is that Class G in this area extends to 10,000′ MSL!  I don’t understand the 10K because all airspace above 14,500 MSL is Class E but in this case it starts at 1,200′ AGL.  I think the 10,000 MSL answer stems from the change is visibility above 10,000′ MSL (§91.155).   Note the airspace below is Class G above 1,200′ AGL and

class G above 1200

up to by not including 14,500′ MSL.  There isn’t much of this Class G above 1,200′ AGL east of the Mississippi (not sure if there is ANY east of the Mississippi these days).  Ok, back to the first photo – note area B.  This is where Class E extends down to 700′ AGL or Class G extends up to 700′ AGL and is generally around an airport or areas with lots of traffic/airports.  For some reason many seem to get this one right but don’t know where Class E starts outside the 700′ magenta shaded area.   For your practical test you should know all the visibilities and cloud clearances in Class G and Class E.  Don’t forget the other airspace either!  More on that in another blog.  In the meantime I found a good source online at the Bold Method web site.


Cessna 195

During a recent work trip out west I decided to accompany my friend Jeff to Chino Airport (KCNO) to pick up a part for his “new” airplane. Jeff had just purchased a 1953 Cessna 195 which is currently in Oklahoma getting the Jacobs Radial Engine overhauled. The Cessna 195 is considered a “classic” airplane and not an Antique.  Antique airplanes were manufactured   prior to August 31, 1945 while Classics where built from September 1, 1945 to December 31, 1955 (which by the way makes me a “Classic”).  Jeff and I were staying near Burbank and drove out to Chino expecting a short meeting with Jeff Pearson of Heritage Aero.  Jeff Pearson is considered a Cessna 195 expert and we found him deep into an annual on a beautiful polished aluminum C-195 with yellow accents.  The other Jeff, the one I was traveling with, needed to get a replacement airspeed indicator for his “new” C-195.  We found Mr. Pearson to be an affable guy and we were enjoying our visit when a couple showed up and suggested we all go to lunch.  Now Jeff and I had planned and expected to just get the airspeed indicator and then head over to one of the great museums on Chino.  But they all insisted that we go to lunch with them and then out of the blue Mr. Pearson said that if we stuck around he would take us up in his C-195.  Needless to say we were all in now.  During lunch we discovered that Paul and Pam Tackabury were no neophyte aviators.  Paul has a long and rich history as an Air Force aviator and his beautiful wife was there for the whole wonderful ride.  They were great hosts and against our objections paid for our lunch!  After lunch the Tackaburys invited us to their hangar which is filled with beautiful aircraft that are meticulously maintained.   The visit to the the Tackabury’s hangar alone was worth the trip.  But even better things were to come.

Paul and Pam's hangar on KCNO.  This photo doesn't begin to do it justice

Paul and Pam’s hangar on KCNO. This photo doesn’t begin to do it justice

True to his word Jeff Pearson got us moving towards his hangar.  We pulled out his Cessna 195 and fueled up.  Jeff Pearson was in the left seat and Jeff (the new C-195 guy) was in the right and I was just happy to be riding in such a great airplane.  Jeff fired up the Jacobs radial; what a great sound!

Jeff Pearson's C-193

Jeff Pearson’s C-193

Jeff took off and demo’d a couple of landings and then ask my friend Jeff if he would like the left seat!  This was totally unexpected but it didn’t take Jeff a second to say “absolutely”!  So new guy C-195 owner Jeff got to do about 4 landings and then Mr. Pearson asked me if I’d like a turn!?!  Of course I was all in!  I hadn’t flown a taildragger in 30 years and I warned Jeff but despite a few bounces it turned out well.  What a great airplane.  I knew of the C-195 and of course I’ve seen a few over the years but I had never thought of actually owning but but now……  Anyway hat’s off to Jeff P. and the Tackabury’s.  What great folks and if they are any indication of the kind of airplane people at Chino then what a great airport!

My turn up front!

My turn up front!