Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Category: Training (Page 3 of 7)

A CFI Workshop

I attended a couple of meetings this week – one put on by the FAASTeam and one a local EAA Chapter pancake breakfast. Both included things I thought you might be interested in hearing.

FAASTeam, in case you haven’t seen the term before, is the FAA Safety Team. they have a website at faasafety.gov where they list scheduled seminars, host the AMT and Wings programs, host online courses and provide information for pilots, instructors and mechanics. It’s well worth the time to check it out.

CFI Workshop1926 tram workshop.

The FAASTeam hosted a CFI workshop, one of their quarterly series of workshop meetings that have been scheduled the two years. The local FSDO has two more modules scheduled and then the program will be terminated – a victim of budget cuts I imagine. This particular module topic was GPS and teaching in TAA. The briefings were informative, but the value of the meeting to me came with presentations by the three DPEs in attendance.

Each of the DPEs had a few minutes to talk about some of the things that they have seen administering evaluations in the local area. The question that kept coming into my mind was: Who is teaching these students?

On a PPL evaluation in a TAA the applicant did a good job until they were climbing out after take-off. At that point the applicant put his head inside the cockpit and started working on the electronics without looking back outside. The climb rate reduced and the plane accelerated – directly at a mountain. The DPE waited as long as he felt he safely could, then directed the applicant to look out the window, turn away from the high terrain – and fly back to the airport for a full-stop landing. I just read a couple of the AOPA CFI-to-CFI newsletters and one presentation slide came to mind: Cockpit Distractions can be deadly – fly the airplane, not the panel.

Another applicant failed the instrument check ride for failing to insure that the course/glideslope indicator was displaying the selected ILS navigation source  rather than displaying GPS information. And then failed the recheck for doing exactly the same thing. Why is this not something that you check on your approach briefing?

More than one instrument applicant failed for descending on the approach before passing the published descent point on a segment of the approach. In training the applicant had flown approaches over and over at the same airport and had been vectored to the final final approach course intercept inside the descent point every time. This would result in the need to descend as soon as the course was intercepted in order to arrive at the minimum altitude for the approach before reaching the missed approach point. This time traffic at the airport was light and the radar vectors resulted in an intercept about 8 miles from the airport. The applicant, void of situational awareness,  pulled the power off and started down as soon as he intercepted the final approach course – and aimed right at a small mountain between his position and the airport. This is rote learning at it’s most dangerous.

Another applicant flew the instrument approach in his high performance single at about 140 knots – with the landing gear up. When asked about the approach he stated that he had never landed out of an instrument approach – they had always done missed approaches to set up for the next approach.

Another never set up his instrument panel for the published missed approach – he had always received radar vectors after terminating the approach at the missed approach point.

While we’re on the subject of missed approaches, one of the DPEs said he could virtually assure a confused, inconsistent result when he would direct a missed approach at a point anywhere in the instrument approach procedure  other than at the missed approach point.

I’ve only included the check ride failure modes that really struck me. I really hope these were in the minority and that most applicants received comprehensive, professional instruction.

Maybe we should change the certificate name to Instructor of Flight rather than Flight Instructor. It seems we need some way to place more emphasis on the Instruction part of the certificate rather than the Flight part. CFI’s have to first be teachers – it just happens that the course that they are teaching is Flight. As instructors, CFIs  have to teach the students the basics of the particular course and then progress to the advanced segments – which is real-world flying at that certificate level. Of course, that means that the instructor has to have real-world experience.

Teaching maneuvers at the rote level so that on a good day the applicant can meet the minimum requirements for the rating is not doing students any favors and is certainly not preparing the student to fly in our current airspace system.

What do you think?

You Want to Learn to Fly, But… Part 2


The last post talked about how much it costs me to fly my own plane compared to what it cost me when I first bought it.  This time we’ll look at estimates for getting a pilot’s license through a flight school or buying an airplane and using it to get a license.

The Flight School Route

Flight Training Costs

I did some searching for flight training within 40 minutes of my house.  I looked at flight schools using Cessna 172 rentals (new, old, glass and round dial) and Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) . I used search methods that I thought a  prospective flight student might use. The lowest rental rate that I found was a Cessna 150 that had been converted to the tailwheel configuration – going for $99/hour wet (fuel included). That was considerably less than the available glass panel aircraft which were renting in the$120-$180/hr range and about the same price as a Zenith LSA being rented in a nearby town. The cost of the flight instructor varied with the rating sought rather than the aircraft type and was in the $50-$65/hr range.

The flight requirements (FAR 61-109) for a private pilot license specify a minimum of 40 hours total time and minimum amounts of instruction (20 hrs) and solo(10 hrs) flight time. The national average for students getting their Private Pilot’s License (PPL) seems to be more in the 60-80 hour range. The Sport Pilot certificate has fewer training hour requirements (FAR 61.313), specifying a total time of 20 flight hours with a minimum of 15 hours of instruction and 5 hours solo. Sport Pilot training can be accomplished in any aircraft, however the flight evaluation must be accomplished in a Light Sport Aircraft. For that reason, most students elect to receive all of their instruction in the LSA they will use for the check ride.

Adding things up for the PPL, 70 hours of flight time at $100/hr is  $7000. Of those 70 hours,  let’s assume 40 hours of instruction.  (Some schools state that no matter how long it takes you to get your certificate, you will only get the minimum 10 hours of solo time – apparently their insurance rates are better if the flights include an instructor. At $50/hour for the instructor the total becomes $9000. Add in study materials, test costs (computer and flight) and miscellaneous expenses and you can round it up to $10,000. That number compares to a local school’s ‘accelerated training’ program that they list as just under $12,000.

I have not seen any figures on the actual time that it is taking to receive a Sport Pilot License.  If you assume the same relative increase in training times as the PPL when compared to the minimums required by regulation you would expect to end up with 35 hours of flight time and 30 hours of instruction. The bottom line for a Sport Pilot License would then be  around $6000.

The 8 December 2010 AOPA Aviation eBrief newsletter included the results of their poll on the length of time their readers took to obtain their PPL.  The results shown here indicate that 40% of the respondents completed their training in the minimum required time, while 60% took longer.

AOPA Flight Training Time Survey

There is no indication how many people responded to the survey which appeared in their December 6th issue of the newsletter and ran for roughly three days. Nor was there an indication of when the respondents received their training. The flight environment was considerable simpler 20 years ago.

My impression has always been  that you could easily beat flight school costs by buying your own plane and then just ‘renting’ an instructor. So my next step was to see if that was really a viable alternative.

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You Want to Learn to Fly. But… Part 1

An informal survey by AOPA on their eBrief newsletter asked individuals why they had quit their flight training before getting their pilot’s licenses.AOPA Flight Training Survey Results. (click for larger view)The results of the survey, shown here, indicate that by a huge margin the biggest barrier to completion is the "Expense of renting and aircraft and receiving instruction."  At about the same time AOPA was contracting with a prominent opinion research firm (APCO Insight) to obtain similar information in a more formal manner.

The results of the formal survey were presented at the AOPA Flight Training Summit during AOPA’s annual meeting, held this year in Los Angeles. This is an excerpt from the information presented during the summit:

The research also made the important distinction that cost was not a statistically significant reason people drop out of training. While cost is a factor, Benson found that value, and a student’s perception of a school’s ability to be fair and honest, were more important. Student pilots are more concerned about getting good value with the money they spend than about the actual dollars and cents amount. They want to know that the flight school and instructors put the students’ interests first and look for ways to minimize cost and maximize the effectiveness of every dollar spent. Factors like flight simulators and well-maintained aircraft that are available to fit the student’s schedule affect this perception. quote source

The two survey results seem to be contradictory unless you assume that the majority of the people queried in the formal poll had the monetary ability to complete training and elected to discontinue the course and to use those funds in a different manner..

Scott Spangler wrote an article in early November about the state of the flight instructor/flight school industry and again in December about what might be done in light of the flight training survey results. As of this writing, his first article has 100 comments and the second has 50. Clearly this survey and its conclusions have hit a nerve.

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