Saturday, November 28, 2015

How to Become an Airline Pilot

My new article on Campus Films Studios is up.  If you are curious about what it takes to finally fly a jet, this article is for you.  Click HERE to be directed to the article.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Prep for your Checkride the Right Way!

Getting ready for a checkride can feel pretty overwhelming- especially once you finally purchase all the study books that your instructor recommends.  How are you going to have time to read all of that in the few short weeks before your checkride?  Are you even ready for your checkride?  What if you can't study it all and then don't pass?  I know those are all thoughts I had in the past before a checkride.  However, prepping for a checkride doesn't need to be stressful, it can be exciting, as long as you follow a few easy steps.  

Create a Study Schedule
I didn't learn this trick until I was prepping for my instrument checkride, but once I did it made my checkrides look like a piece of cake instead of the most intense few hours I would have to endure.  Before I began my final studying, I pulled out my PTS (Practical Test Standards book) and created a list of all the items I needed to study before my checkride.  You can purchase the PTS from your local FBO, online, or you can download it for free from the FAAs website.  Remember, if it is not in the PTS, you can't be tested on it.  It is no surprise what you will be tested on- it is all outlined in detail in the PTS.  Here is the list I made when I created my schedule for the Commercial Checkride:  (yes, I still had a copy of it after all these years... haha).

Commercial PTS Requirements 

  • Certificates and Documents
  • Airworthiness Requirements
  • Weather Information
  • Cross Country Flight Planning
  • National Airspace System
  • Performance and Limitations
  • Operation of Systems
  • Aeromedical Factors
  • Preflight Inspection
  • Cockpit Management
  • Engine Starting
  • Taxiing
  • Before Takeoff Check
  • Radio Communications and Light Signals
  • Traffic Patters
  • Airport Runway/Taxiway Signs/Markings/Lighting
  • Normal Takeoff and Climb
  • Crosswind Takeoff and Climb
  • Normal Approach and Landing
  • Crosswind Approach and Landing
  • Soft Field Takeoff and Climb
  • Soft Field Approach and Landing
  • Short Field Takeoff and Climb
  • Short Field Landing
  • Power-Off 180 Approach and Landing
  • Go-Around
  • Steep Turns
  • Steep Spiral
  • Chandelle
  • Lazy 8
  • Eights On Pylons
  • Pilotage/Dead Reckoning
  • Navigation systems and Radar Services
  • Diversion
  • Lost Procedures
  • Slow Flight
  • Power-Off Stall
  • Power-On Stall
  • Spin Awareness
  • Simulated Emergency Approach and Landing
  • System and Equipment Malfunction
    • Partial or complete power loss
    • Engine roughness
    • Loss of oil pressure
    • Fuel starvation
    • Electrical Malfunction
    • Vacuum/pressure, and associated flight instruments malfunction
    • Pitot/Static
    • Landing gear of flap malfunction
    • Inoperative trim
    • Inadvertent door or window opening
    • Structural icing
    • Smoke/fire/engine compartment fire
  • Emergency Equipment and Survival Gear
  • High altitude operations
  • Pressurization
  • After Landing Parking and Securing
After I typed up every single subject, I printed off the list and wrote the dates I would study each item to the left of the subject area.  I typically liked to give myself Saturdays and Sundays off, so I figured out how many days I had to study and then with some simple math decided how many subjects I would need to study each day to be ready a few days before my checkride.

For example, if I had 10 days to study, I would need to study 5 to 6 subject areas each day.  Most days my schedule required 1-2 hours of studying, give or take.  That may seem like a lot, but studying for just a few hours a hour a day is so much better than cramming for 20 hours the days before the checkride!  Trust me.

Stick to your Study Schedule
Once you have created your study schedule, you need to commit to sticking with it, like your life depends on it!  Look at your free time each day and decide exactly when you will study.  For me, I liked to get up a few hours earlier than normal and study in the quiet hours of the morning.  I was able to study without distraction, and then I didn't have to worry about it for the rest of the day.  Talk about peace of mind.  Find out what works best for you and stick with it, no matter what!  

Last Word of Advice
Do not wait until the last minute and then stay up for days straight trying to prep for your checkride.  Of course you may be able to pass your ride, but how much of that information will you retain after you complete it?  Isn't the whole point of a checkride to make sure you are a safe pilot?  Don't you want to be the best at what you do?  Absolutely!  You are tested on those specific areas because you need to know that stuff to stay alive and be a flying pilot for the rest of your life.  So don't procrastinate, and begin studying for your checkride early so you have time to understand and apply the information.  

If you follow these few easy steps, a checkride will no longer be a stressful event, it will be an exciting event, something you will go into knowing full well you have the knowledge and skill to pass.  I still get nervous before checkrides, but not because I think I won't pass; it's just the typical nerves I feel before I force myself outside of my comfort zone and do something for the first time.  Prepping for a checkride and then passing it is a lot of work, and not something many people do, so make sure you do it the right way.  Have fun studying!    

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Good with the Bad

I know I have talked about aviation as such an amazing career (because it is ) but I would be lying if I said it was 'flowers and bunnies' all of the time, 24/7.  Sometimes being an airline pilot and having somebody else telling me what to do can be a challenge.

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you know I got awarded with a lot of Juneau flying this month.  Of course I didn't bid for it, but I also didn't bid avoid it either; which every pilot above me must have done since I got 7 Juneau trips (out of my 9 total trips).  For the most part, the Juneau trips are actually amazing, as far as trips go.  Three of them are one flight to Juneau in the evening, enjoy a 10 hour layover at the hotel, and then fly back to Seattle in the morning and get paid 8:24 hours to do it.  That's as good as it gets in my book!  I also have two Juneau trips that have one Portland turn after returning to Seattle and two that have TWO portland turns after returning to Seattle (which is A LOT of work in a jet in my opinion).  But as a whole, these Juneau trips are pretty good... when the weather is decent there.
I took this pic in September when my husband and I visited Juneau.
It was the most gorgeous weather that day.
This past Friday night I met with the captain before the flight, we looked at the weather, knew it was decent enough to get in that night, and decided to accept the flight to Juneau.  We did, however, notice that the weather for the next morning didn't look good enough for us to get out of the airport.  We brought this to the attention of the company but they said to try it anyways, even though if we got stuck there we wouldn't be able to complete our two Portland turns the next day.

The flight up there was uneventful.  Juneau is a tricky airport to fly into, but the captain and I had studied the briefing guide and then discussed our plan of action together.  The weather held up and we were able to see the airport and all the required lighting just past the Final Approach Fix (FAF).  When it does work out, Juneau is actually quite fun to fly into; it's just all the 'what-ifs' that make regional airline pilots nervous to fly there.  We made it in just fine and were on our way to the hotel.

The wind blew so fiercely that night it woke me up many times.  Each time I would grab my phone and check the METAR and TAF hoping the wind was forecast to die down before we were scheduled to leave, but to no avail.  When I finally got up at 5am it was still gusty and windy outside.  I hoped the company would allow us to stay at the hotel until the winds died down, but they wanted us at the airport.  I guess I should admire their hope, but at the time I found it frustrating.  The TAF didn't show winds dying down for hours!  Now, I know weather forecasts aren't all that accurate, but from what I have seen, Juneau's are usually pretty close.

We met in the hotel lobby at 6am and took a cab to the airport.  The flight was already showing delayed by 30 minutes when we arrived, and we didn't even have a flight release from the company yet (because we couldn't legally takeoff with those winds).  After 30 minutes the captain called the company who then delayed our flight for another 30 minutes, and then another 30 minutes, and then an hour, and another hour, etc.  This went on for nearly 8 hours.  I didn't really mind the first few hours, though.  I made some friends with some of the passengers; which, by the way, Juneau passengers are awesome- they had the mentality of 'we'll get there eventually so it's no big deal.'  They were all so nice and friendly.  I also had some time to get some personal things done and some reading in.  It was all quite relaxing and enjoyable... until it started creeping up on 5 hours and then 6 hours.

Here's our little jet waiting for us to take her flying
Thankfully the company was able to rebook all our passengers so they weren't waiting there with us, but I so desperately wanted to just go back to the hotel and wait there.  It would have been so much more comfortable.  But the company would not release us and wanted us to wait patiently at the airport.  Finally, after 7 hours of waiting (that felt like a lifetime and half), the winds decreased to 10 knots, the maximum tailwind component for us.  As a crew, we got on that plane and completed our responsibilities as quickly as we could before those winds could change their minds.  We had the door closed and were off the ground in the next 30 minutes.  We were exhausted from sitting all day- for some reason it is more tiring to sit all day than to work all day- but we knew we could all safely make it back to Seattle.

Because the double Portland turns (which were originally on the trip) were removed from our schedule, we ended up getting done only 30 minutes later than scheduled, which was pretty great.  So though I did get a bit grumpy having to sit in an airport all day, all in all, it really did turn out pretty well.  Was sitting in a freezing cold airport with only gross airport food all day my favorite thing to do?  Absolutely NOT!  But was getting done only 30 minutes late pretty amazing?  Yes!  So you have to realize that there is some good and bad with everything.  I have had some amazing trips up to Juneau, this one just didn't turn out that way.

I'd still say that being a pilot for the airlines is still a great career choice, just realize that not every trip will go as planned, and sometimes you will have a lot of 'airport appreciation time.'  It's part of the job.  On the other hand, you will have trips that go just as planned,  you will fly with some amazing crews, and you will be able to travel to amazing destinations and get paid to do it!  It doesn't get better than that.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Hmmm...Where Am I?

As I have mentioned earlier, I loved my flight training days.  They were filled with challenges, successes, and many adventures.  Today I thought I’d keep the post light and tell you about my first solo cross country.

Before I begin, though, you must know that I am not the most observant person you will ever meet.  Whenever flight attendants ask me if I just saw that passenger’s hair color or her amazing purse, the answer is probably no.  I tend not to notice those sorts of things.  Maybe I am too busy being productive to notice?  Either way, I am not very observant.

My first solo cross country flight was from Provo, UT (KPVU) to Delta, Utah (KDTA).  I had flown there once with my instructor before he sent me on my own.  The flight was barely over 50 miles, so not far at all, and it is nearly impossible to get lost, might I add.  I had stewed over my flight plan and the weather for hours and was finally ready to depart. 

I had my timer, my charts, my E6B incase I needed it, and every applicable airport tabbed in my A/FD.  I was ready!  About halfway down I got a little confused with which “canyon” I was referring to on my flight plan.  On the map it seemed so simple, but when it came down to it, I wasn’t sure if it was the canyon closer to me or the one further south. 

As I didn’t want to fly the wrong direction or burn unnecessary fuel, I panicked for a second, and then went back to the basics.  I remembered my instructor telling me that if I ever got lost, even if just for a moment, to follow the 5 C’s.  I’m sure you’ve heard of them before, but incase you haven’t, here they are:

CLIMB: climb to a higher altitude so you can see more of the area and get a better perspective- it’s also wise to circle while you climb so you can stay over the same area.

CONSERVE: conserve on fuel- higher altitudes require less fuel, and if you’re circling while you try to figure out where you are, you need to conserve as much fuel as you can.

COMMUNICATE: if you still can’t figure out where you are, try communicating with the nearest airport (as you should have some idea of where you are), FSS, or on 121.5 if you are really lost.

CONFESS: once you communicate, confess that you are lost and need help (I always thought this was a funny step… as a women I would have no problem admitting I was lost, but apparently that is harder for a man to do… LOL).

COMPLY: do what they tell you to.  If you were able to get ahold of an ATC facility, they can give you a squawk code to find you on radar and then let you know where you are and where you need to go.

I climbed a few thousand feet while circling the field I was over.  As I climbed I leaned the mixture out to burn less fuel and then I looked more closely at my sectional chart.  Within minutes I was able to see exactly where I needed to go.  Easy peazy!  Again, I found out my instructor actually was right.  I really do have to find him somebody and say ‘thank you.’

Of course I never told my instructor about this story of mine- in fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever told this story.  It’s a bit embarrassing to admit I got lost flying only 52 miles away and that I’m not a very observant person.  If I were, I don’t think I would have gotten ‘temporarily disoriented’ regarding my location on that flight.  But there it is!  Out in the open.  So if you do get lost, even if just for a moment, remember the 5 C’s. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Hurtful or Helpful?

I have incredibly fond memories of my flight training days.  I had some pretty amazing and intelligent flight instructors who taught me well but also allowed me to enjoy my training.  They were tough on me at times, but it was for my own good.

I was 18 when I started my training, so consequently I felt like I knew everything.  My first instructor was the meanest, toughest person I had met, I was sure of it.  He drove me crazy at times, but even though I was a know-it-all, I still remember trying to see him as a nice person.  When he was teaching me how to land he would always say the same thing on base "Look at the runway and ask yourself, where am I going to land?  If I keep this power setting and configuration, where will I land on that runway?"  He would say it every single time and sometimes multiple times on the same base leg.  It drove me crazy!

I took this pic in Alaska- there were so
many float planes in the traffic pattern.
After a bit of time, I was ready for my first solo.  I wasn't nervous beforehand because I was young and invincible.  I knew I could do this because I was the bomb... I obviously still had my teenager mentality.  I hopped in that little 2-seater Katana and was on my way.  However, once I got in the air I realized that I didn't have anybody to help me anymore.  If I screwed something up, I was going to have to fix it.  If I bounced or flew a terrible approach, my instructor wasn't there to coach me through it.  By the time I made it to the downwind leg I was nervous!  Could I really do this?  What if I hit the prop or something equally terrible, would that be the end of my aviation career?

And then on downwind my instructor's words, the exact words that drove me absolutely crazy, began filling my mind.  "What should you be doing?  What checklist should you be running?  What airspeed and power setting should you have?"  It was amazing!  He wasn't trying to be mean or especially hard on me, he was trying to set me up for success.  He wasn't saying the same things all the time to annoy me.  He wasn't trying to be rude or treat my unfairly just because he could.  He was teaching me that way so that when I flew without him, I could live to tell.  He was hard on me to make me a better pilot.

On base I found myself asking "If I keep this configuration, where am I going to land?"  It was the coolest feeling ever- to know that he had taught me well enough that he didn't have to be there with me.  I successfully flew 3 full traffic patterns with 3 beautiful landings that day.  Up to that point, it was the greatest feeling I had ever felt.

My instructor and I got along quite well after that.  Sometimes he was a bit hard on me, but I knew it was for my benefit.  I knew he wanted me to succeed, and for him I will always be grateful.  I haven't seen my first flight instructor in years, but maybe someday I will finally be able tell him thank you.  To this day I still hear his words in my head when I am on base or on a really long final- "If I keep this configuration, where am I going to land?"  If your instructor is being hard on you, instead of being angry about it, realize the he is probably doing it for your own good.  Of course there are some instructors who really are terrible, in which case you should find a new one, but those ones are few and far between.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Truth About Sim Training

Maybe I've been procrastinating this post... okay, I have definitely been putting this off.  Not just for days or weeks, but for months.  I just wasn't sure how to write it.  Be honest about how it really is for me, or only tell the good stuff so I can seem macho like I'm sure all of the guys are?  Being one of the few females in aviation, sometimes it is hard to let my guard down and admit something is tough for me.  I don't want to seem like a wimpy girl trying to fit in in a man's world.  But when it comes down to it, I want to be me.  I want to be honest.  So here it is- I detest simulator training!  I said it... it feels weird to finally admit that.  And a little scary, but that's the truth.

I love the ground portion of training.  All the book work, the studying, learning all that cool stuff about the systems, acing the test at the end.  Love love love!  The simulator, on the other hand, not so much.  In fact, I dread it.  I've never enjoyed the sim.  I always get so nervous and worked up and screw up on things I wouldn't normally screw up on.  They never fly like the actual plane, and the motion thing always throws me off- I get spatial disorientation, which is never a good thing when flying and in a stressful environment.

I started my simulator training on May 8th and finished on May 31st (though it felt like I was there for my entire life).  I was hoping to get simulator training in Salt Lake, since I have family close, and it's an easy commute home to then Palm Springs, but I was awarded training in Atlanta.  Yep, humid, super far away from home, HotLanta.

The first few days of training were super fun, actually.  We had 4 days to learn and master all of the checklists and flows.  That I can do!  If at the end of each lesson we had extra time, we would practice an approach or something equally fun.  I had an awesome sim (technically it was FTD... but it was in the sim, so call it what you want) instructor who made the experience very rewarding.  On day 5 we had our Procedures Validation and I think I did the entire thing in less than 30 minutes.  You essentially go out to a cold dark plane, get it started, get all the paperwork done, do all the checklists, taxi out to the runway, get cleared for takeoff, abort the takeoff, and then do all the checklists back to the gate and shut 'er down.  I was nervous, but I passed no problem.

I had 3 days off after that, which wasn't enough time to go home to Palm Springs.  A few of the others stayed in Atlanta on these days off, so we de-stressed by exploring a bit and going downtown.  We went to the aquarium and found a delicious BBQ to eat at.  It was the best way to spend some time off without my hubs.

After the 3 days, sim started again.  This was the beginning of the real meaty stuff- approaches, balked landings, emergencies, crosswind takeoffs and landings, etc.  I did well during this section, but I did have a pretty discouraging day on day 2.  I got cleared for a back course approach and instead of hitting B/C on the FCP (flight control panel... the buttons that tell the autopilot what to do), I hit APPR (approach) mode instead.  When the needle became 'alive' the airplane began a turn in the wrong direction because I had put it in the wrong mode.  On no!  I realized it pretty quickly, but the needle went full scale, and now I was high, not quite on course yet, and getting behind; in a new airplane, these were not mistakes I could afford to make.  I asked my captain to request vectors from ATC so I could try the approach again.

I was so embarrassed!  The sim instructor then made me fly the entire missed approach, which took forever, before I could try the approach again.  I finally got vectored back around and mastered it the second time, but I had wasted a lot of time on this one approach; so much time that I wasn't able to complete all the maneuvers that day.  Maybe I just need to be less hard on myself, but it sucks messing up on something when I actually do know what I'm doing.

Thankfully the next day went well, but I was so freaked out from my costly mistake on day 2 that I was super nervous going into sim this day.  I'll be honest, making mistakes is not my favorite thing to do.  I know failure is all part of the experience, but it sucks!  ;)

I had another chunk of 3 days off after that but decided to stay and get some serious studying in instead of trying to commute to and from home.  I think I am somewhat of an extrovert.  I need people around me to stay sane.  Some time alone is nice, but only for so long.  The quiet drives me crazy!  Those 3 days felt like forever.   :)

The next 3 days of sim training were the most intense days of my life.  I'd heard stories of this sim instructor, but stories didn't compare to what I was about to experience.  He was a nice guy, and I'm sure he treated people kindly, but not in the sim!  It was awful.  Even when I did something right, I felt as though I had screwed up royally.  Day 3 was the MV (the maneuvers validation), and I was super nervous.  I knew I could do the maneuvers if I could get him out of my head, so that is what I did.  Of course he sat there the entire time, but I blocked him out.  I couldn't let an ounce of negativity into that sim session.  I had to pass- because I knew I could.  And I did (because I'm a bad A**... haha).  But sim that day was not enjoyable at all.

After those 3 days were over, I had a block of 4 days off, and I was going home.  I needed some time to destress and forget sim training for a few days.  I got done with the sim at 6pm and was on a flight to SLC at 8pm.  Flying standby can be so crazy sometimes.  The flight showed oversold, but when I finally got a seat and boarded, the plane was half empty.  I lucked out- there were a ton of misconnects!  My husband was in Salt Lake for those few days so we met up there and spent some time together.  It was just what I needed.  Thank goodness for an amazing, supportive spouse!  Seriously, be careful who you marry in this industry- make sure you choose someone that will lift you up when you need it most.

It was hard for me to go back out to Atlanta after those amazing days off, but I had to finish what I started.  I had 3 sim sessions left.  Two LOFT (Line Oriented Flight Training) sessions, and the LOE (Line Oriented Evaluation).  The LOFTS are simulated line flying; one leg out and one leg back.  You treat it is as if it is a real flight with passengers; no major emergencies occur, unless they are self inflicted.  I had a super nice sim instructor for all of this, which was great.  But by this point I was stressed out, missing home, and just ready to be out of the sim.

I passed my LOE with no problems.  The LOE is the checkride for the type rating, so it is a big deal.  It is very similar to the LOFT scenarios- a pretend real life scenario.  I can't tell you the relief I felt when I had finally passed.  I wanted to laugh and cry all at the same time.  I felt like I could leave prison... I know that sounds dramatic... but I really felt picked on having to go through sim training for an entire month so far away from home.  It is the worst thing ever for me.  Even though I always do well, even though I have never failed, and even though I do have some good times, I dread it like you would not believe.  I am a basket case during sim training.

So there you have it- the hardest thing I have ever shared to the public- my weakness, my secret of dreading simulators, the fact that something is difficult for me.  I just had to get it out there.  Maybe there is just one other person who has felt this way?  Or maybe I am just a wimpy girl next to all these macho aviators.  Haha.  Either way, I am me, and I like me the way I am- wimpiness and all.  Thankfully flying airplanes is so fun that the excitement of flying the real jet gets me through the stressful sim training.

So know that if something is hard for you or stresses you out, you are probably not the only one.  Keep pushing forward, even if it is hard, because the reward at the end is worth it.

Monday, May 11, 2015

My One Claim to Fame...

While I was up in training in SLC, the stars aligned and I was able to do a promotional video for Utah Valley University and SkyWest at the SkyWest hangar.  It was a great time, and I hope this video helps others who are thinking about becoming a pilot to just go for it.  I knew becoming a pilot would cost a lot, but I decided I would rather pay off some student loans and have the career that I wanted, as opposed to living my entire life doing something I didn't really enjoy.     

If you have questions about becoming a pilot, feel free to email me at  

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ground School... Check!

I cannot believe how fast the last 3 weeks went by- seriously.  I feel like I just started ground school, and now it's already over.  Because I was busy studying and have neglected you all a bit, I thought I'd share my past 3 adventurous weeks with you.

I flew up to SLC a few days before class to enjoy some stress free family time before class began.  Though I definitely felt a bit guilty about not studying during that time, I enjoyed the weekend.

Ground class started Tuesday, April 14th, promptly at 8am.  We were given an exam with all the emergency memory items and limitations.  I had studied this quite a bit beforehand so it was no big deal- just a lot of writing.  I felt like I was back in college with my hand cramping up.  :)

After we all took the test there were some introductions and then we waisted no time.  We dove right into the warning systems and then learned a bit about the FMS.  I used the FMS a bit in college, so learning it here wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.  The basics came back to me, so that was nice.

The rest of the week (3 days) was a blur, learning Electrical, Fire and Overheat, Fuel, Powerplant, Autopilot, APU, Pneumatics, Environmental Control System (ECS), Weight and Balance, and more FMS.  On top of the 8 hours of class each day, there was also homework assignments each night, and for the lucky few, some time for personal study.

If there is one thing you learn from this post, it is the importance of letting your brain and your body rest!  I forced myself to stop studying at least 1 hour before I planned to go to bed.  As much as I wanted to study, and as much as I felt behind, it didn't matter.  In the long run, I knew I would  perform better with less study and more rest- and when I say rest, I mean 7-8 hours each night.  Trust me on this one, you need your sleep while in ground school.  If you decide to study for just 1 more hour, you brain will have a hard time shutting down and you won't sleep at all.

How do I know all this?  Because I've done it before.  My first day of systems when I was initially hired was intense.  We learned the electrical system, and it was a lot of information- more than my General Aviation brain could handle.  I got home from class and studied until late into the night.  I decided to study until 11pm, fall asleep immediately, and then wake up with just enough time to get ready in the morning.  Problem was, when I tried to fall asleep, all I could think about was the electrical system.  Hours went by and I still could not sleep.  I ended up getting 2, maybe 3 hours of sleep that night, which made learning anything the next day nearly impossible.  Studying is important in ground school, but sleep is more important!  Okay, off my soapbox...

That first week I felt a bit behind, so I was excited for the weekend.  Friday after class I went to dinner with the other two girls in my class (I know- isn't that so awesome that there were 3 of us?!  I didn't feel so alone this time), and then dove right into studying, starting with the systems we learned the first day, and so on.  My husband was flying in that night, so I decided to study late.  For some reason, my best studying is done after 7pm.  Because I knew I didn't have to wake up early the next day, I studied until 11pm when my husband got there.  Because things were coming together and finally making sense, I had a blast studying that night.  #IknowI'mANerd #IDon'tCare

Saturday I took the entire day to let my brain relax.  I hung out with The Hubs all day and it was so nice!  I know some of the people in class thought I was crazy for taking an entire day off, but I needed it.  Sunday was another relaxing day.  No studying until late that evening, and then I only studied for about 4-5 hours.  My husband was such a good sport, he found things to do during that time and let me study.  He would have flown home earlier in the day, but the flight he planned on taking was oversold, so he was stuck heading back home much later than planned.

Week 2 was yet another busy week, though the more difficult systems were out of the way... whew!  We continued on with Performance, Landing Data, Hydraulics, Flight Controls, Gear and Brakes, Comms, Flight Instruments, Cold Weather Ops, Ice and Rain, Navigation/Radar, MEL/CDL/NEF, and more FMS.  I felt more than caught up before class began on Monday, but as the week went on, I began, again, to feel behind.  There just wasn't enough time to do all the homework, and study everything I wanted to after class each day.  But, I wasn't stressed.  I knew I'd have time over the weekend to get caught up again.

My husband flew up again that weekend to hang out with me.  We hung out all Saturday and Sunday morning, and then he flew back home to give me the rest of the afternoon on Sunday to study.  It was more than enough time.  I reviewed all the systems we had learned week 2 and then began studying for the test with different gouges I had received.

Week 3 wasn't bad at all.  I'm sure most of us could have taken the test on Monday and passed, but we were forced to wait until Thursday.  Instead we learned about the ACARS, did an actual walk-around, more Weight & Balance and Performance practice, TSA/Security training, HAZMAT training, Emergency Equipment, and Door training.  In regards to the door training- I do hope that people who agree to help in an emergency realize how heavy those doors actually are.  It's definitely do-able to open the doors and throw them outside the aircraft, but it does take some strength.

Every waking minute the last week was spent reviewing.  I stuck to my bedtime, and didn't allow myself to study past an hour before my planned bedtime.  I woke each morning feeling great, well rested, and ready to learn and study more.

The day before the test (Wednesday), I studied for a few hours right after class and then took the evening to relax and watch a few of my favorite TV shows.  What a treat.  I went to bed early, around 9pm, and then woke up at 5:30am to refresh and review and then was off to class.  We took the test first thing.  I felt like I was just getting hunkered down when one of the first officers in class (who I think is the smartest yet coolest yet humble pilot I've ever met), stood up.  I figured he was just getting up to ask our teach a question, but then he handed over his stuff and I realized he was done.  Whoa!  I was only on question 20 and he was done?!

If this happens during your test, don't let it get the best of you.  Take your time and don't rush!  Read over every question carefully.  It took me just over an hour to take the test.  Here's my strategy: I would read the question, answer it in my mind, and then find the answer.  I drew a lot of diagrams on my scratch paper- in fact, after I handed in my scratch paper the teacher complimented me on how thorough it was.  LOL.  Needless to say, I passed with a 98%; passing was 80%.  There were others in class who spent way more time studying, sacrificing rest time and sleep time to do so, but I scored higher than them!

Taking care of yourself while you are in ground school is a must.  Don't sacrifice sleep for study.  Study hard, but take time to relax and enjoy it.  And once you have learned all that you can, take your time on the test (unless, of course, you are that awesome pilot from my ground class who took the test in under 20 minutes and got a 99%).  Ground school is tough, but if you are smart about it, you can enjoy your time there and pass your final test with no problems.

I'm off to Atlanta on Thursday to start my sim training.  I'll make sure to fill you in on all that once I am done at the end of the month.  Until then, fly safe!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

No Pilot is Perfect

I can't tell you how many times I've heard another pilot say to a good landing, "Well, that wasn't my best landing."  I think specific types of people become pilots.  They are thinkers, they are smart, they have a hard time sitting still in a cubicle or at a desk, they are competitive, and they are also perfectionists.  How do I know this?  I am a recovering perfectionist pilot myself, and I saw it in my students time and time again.  But nobody is perfect, that's impossible.  So for all those perfectionist pilots out there, this post is for you.

Yes, I think it is good to be a little hard on ourselves, because that is how we improve; however, if we are too hard, negative learning occurs.  What do I mean by that?  I was a stage check instructor for a few years during my flight instructor days.  I knew when students came to me, they were a bit nervous as this was a test they had to pass before they could move onto the next phase of training or their checkride.  Because of that, I always gave them a little bit of slack, just as an examiner would do for a student on a checkride.

There is one student in particular I remember having to fail because he was one of the first I failed... and it ate at me because I knew he could have passed.  The ground portion went well, but when we got into the air things started going downhill.  He messed up on a simple maneuver and couldn't move on mentally.  I told him it was fine and that he could make a few mistakes, as long as he stayed safe and performed the rest of the maneuvers well, he would pass just fine.  However, he kept beating himself up about that one little mistake.

Because his mind was still on the last maneuver, he screwed up on the next one, and the next one, and before we were even halfway through the maneuvers, he was mentally gone from the test.  He'd already told himself he couldn't do it, that he had failed, that he had met with me before he was ready.  I wanted to pass him so badly, but I hadn't seen satisfactory performance and didn't feel safe letting him move onto the next phase of training without flying with him again.

I could tell when we got back on the ground that his spirits were dashed.  But I knew he was better than that.  I knew he could do it, he just didn't know that yet.  He didn't understand why he had performed so badly.  We sat and chatted for a bit and I explained to him what had happened- he was way too hard on himself and needed to just move on from his one mistake and let it stay at that... just one little mistake.   I reminded him that he was a good pilot, and that he needed to start telling himself that.  I knew once he was able to gain his confidence back he would be able to pass the checkride with no problems.

And guess what?  I was right.  He met with his instructor before meeting with me again, and when we did fly together again, he passed with flying colors.  He just needed to know that he was being too hard on himself- he hadn't realized it before our flight together.  He needed to know that it was okay to make a little mistake as long as he moved on and performed the other maneuvers well.

I'll be the first to admit, I was super hard on myself when I began my flight training.  If I lost more than 100' during a maneuver, I would beat myself up about it.  If I had a hard landing, I would insist on doing it again and again and again until I had a softer one.  I was this way during most of my flight training... until I realized that I needed to simmer down, and stop being so hard on myself.  I don't think I could have ever passed my CFI (Certified Flight Instructor) checkride without letting myself make mistakes and being okay with it.  No pilot is perfect, and especially no CFI is perfect.

The good news about all this?  Not even the PTS requires us to fly perfectly, as that's impossible.  The PTS has all the checkride standards set, but in the introduction, it says a student would have to consistently exceed tolerances to fail.  Does that mean you can mess one thing up?  Yes.  Two things?  Probably.  As long as you aren't consistently exceeding the tolerances, you'll be just fine.  The important thing is the examiner wants to see you fly safely and mostly within the standards.  If you mess up once, realize you have made the mistake and move on.  If you don't do it again, you are free and clear.  If you dwell on it and make the same mistake over an over again, then it's game over.

Nobody is perfect.

Friday, March 13, 2015

The All-Mighty Checkride

What is a checkride anyways?  I remember asking this question when I first starting training, so here is your answer: It is the final test you take, including ground and flight, to get your license or rating. In this post, to keep it simple, I'll talk only about the private pilot checkride, but keep in mind that all checkrides follow the same basic principles.  If you are ready, checkrides don't have to be nerve-racking or stressful.  If you are prepared, they will be no big deal.

In my last blog post, I talked about the different phases of Private Pilot training that help to prepare you for the checkride.  Click HERE to go to that post.  Once your have completed all that training you should be ready for the checkride.  Before I ever sent my students on to their checkrides, I did a mock checkride with them; I asked them questions similar to what an examiner would ask, and treated the flight like I was an examiner, not a flight instructor.  This gave me and my student a good gauge as to whether or not they were actually ready.

Before you go to your checkride, here are a few things to keep in mind.  Most examiners want cash, so make sure you hit up an ATM before you meet with the examiner.  Bring everything you can think of that you have used in your training with you.  Some things may include: Foggles, Headset, Weather Charts, Flight Planning Tools, Logbook, FAR/AIM (and know how to reference it)... I am sure there are a few things I am forgetting, but if you are in doubt, bring it.  Other things you also need to bring are your completed IACRA form, your driver's license or govt. issued ID, current pilot's license, and your medical (your medical pairs as your license when you are a student pilot).

I didn't know an answer to a question on a checkride so the examiner said I could use the FAR/AIM to look it up; problem was, I didn't even know how to reference this book.  It probably took me 20 minutes of pure stress to find the answer.  Not fun!  After the checkride I went through and tabbed some of the important stuff so I could find the answers, if I needed, for my next checkride.  It might be a good idea for you to do the same.  There is a list of pertinent FARS for each phase of training in the front of your book that you could use as a starting point when tabbing your FARs.   

Though this isn't required, I would recommend that you dress nice for a checkride.  No jeans with holes or sandals or baseball caps.  The nicer you dress, the better you feel about yourself, and the better you will most likely perform on your checkride.  You are taking a test to become a professional pilot, so dress like one.  I always wore nice black dress pants and a white button up shirt for checkrides.

Plan to show up for your checkride at least 30 minutes in advance so you have time to de-stress and make sure you have everything in order.  You could also do a quick preflight of the airplane to make sure there isn't anything major missing or damaged before you go out there with examiner.

The checkride consists of 2 segments: ground and flight.  The ground portion must be passed before the flight portion can begin.  The shortest ground portion I ever had was 1.5 hours, and the longest was 4 hours (that examiner was particularly chatty).  Most examiners try to keep it around 2 hours.  The examiner can ask anything from the PTS during this ground portion, so it is important to thoroughly study all the material outlined there (including all the information in the Introduction).  Click HERE to go to the FAAs website where all the PTSs can be found.

Most checkrides require that a flight plan be completed beforehand- the examiner will give you a cross country flight to plan, which will include the amount of bags and passengers you will take on this pretend flight.  Bring everything you used to plan the flight to the checkride in case he asks you to show how you got a specific number, such as distance from point A to B.  This is not required, but a good idea in my opinion-- also bring all the weather charts you used in your flight planning.  These charts include (from the PTS):
  1. METAR, TAF, and FA.
  2. surface analysis chart.
  3. radar summary chart.
  4. winds and temperature aloft chart.
  5. significant weather prognostic charts.
  6. convective outlook chart.
  7. AWOS, ASOS, and ATIS reports.
  8. SIGMET s and AIRMET s.
  9. PIREPs.
  10. windshear reports.
  11. icing and freezing level information. 
Why is it good to bring all of these?  Because you can look them all over and make sure you know how to read them all.  If you have your own weather charts, the examiner might just use those for the testing, which is great since you have those charts studied to a "T".  I always had my students do that and none struggled with the weather portion on a checkride.

The flight planning is usually a big portion of the checkride, as the examiner can tie so many things into the fight plan, such as, "If you get lost, what are you going to do?" or "If you have an engine failure at point X, what will you do and where will you land?" or "What airspace are you in at point X at the altitude you have planned to be at?"  or "How can I find out more information about this airport?"  I think you get the point.  The examiner can check a lot of boxes off during your flight planning portion by asking you scenario based questions.

Make sure you are familiar with all the ground items outlined in the PTS.  It is not a secret what you will be asked.  So study!

Once you have passed the ground portion you will move onto the flight portion, the fun part.  Most examiners will look through the maintenance logs with you and make sure all the required inspections have been completed.  If everything is correct in the maintenance logs, your flight portion will begin.  The examiner may walk with you during the walk around and ask questions about the aircraft, such as fuel, antennas, weight limitations, engine operation, etc.  Know your stuff!  I once had an examiner ask me what color the fuel would be if you mixed two different types of avgas.  I had no idea!  He told me to write it down and look it up later... the answer is clear (much different from the brownish color I had imagined).

After that comes the flight portion.  If you had to plan a flight for your checkride, you will probably fly the first portion of your cross county on departure.  The examiner wants to make sure that you can actually fly the route you planned and that your times match up.  Once you pass that portion, you will move onto the maneuvers, in whichever order the examiner decides.  The flight portion is usually 1.5 hours long.  Make sure you relax.  If you make a mistake (like lose 200' altitude), correct it immediately and don't beat yourself up about it.  The examiner cannot fail you for 1 or even 2 mistakes... you have to consistently exceed tolerances to fail a checkride.  So correct the error, speak positively to yourself, and nail the next maneuver.  Don't dwell on your mistakes or it could most definitely be the downfall of your checkride.

Once you have passed all the required maneuvers and have landed the airplane beautifully, continue to stay in 'testing mode.'  The checkride is not over until you have safely parked the plane and chocked it or placed the tie-downs on it.  Once that's all over, and the examiner has told you good job, you are done!  And you will feel the most relief and success you have ever felt.  Each checkride is a huge accomplishment- seriously.  It takes a lot of time and effort to pass a checkride, so make sure you celebrate afterwards!

If you have any questions about the checkride that weren't answered in this post, feel free to email me at  I look forward to hearing from you.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Private Pilot Training, What is it?

I know a lot of people that follow this blog are not pilots yet, but want to be, so I thought I'd break down what the initial training will be like.  Keep in mind that every instructor can be a little different, but this was how I organized my lessons and taught my students.

Private Pilot training is designed to teach you the basics.  In my opinion, this is the most important part of training, because with out solid basics, the rest of your flying days will lack; because of this, you must find a good primary flight instructor.  This phase of training will be the foundation for the rest of your career.

I usually divided the private pilot training into 3 phases:
1: Preparing for Solo Flights
2: Preparing for Solo Cross Countries
3. Preparing for the Checkride

So what exactly is Phase 1?  As far the flight portion goes, it is mostly maneuvers.  You'll start off with the basics- straight and level flight, turns, climb/descends, and them move on to actual maneuvers.  They are not difficult, but it will take some practice to get them right.  In fact, if there was never any wind, you would probably master them after a couple of flights.  But, sadly, we have wind, which makes learning these a bit more challenging.  This phase of training is a good motivator because if you are flying 3 times a week (which is what I highly recommend... more if you have the time), you will see big improvements in your flying ability each time.  

During this phase you will also be practicing takeoffs and landings.  I usually had my students takeoff the plane on the very first flight (keeping my hands and feel close to the controls, of course).  Landing is a bit more difficult and takes some time to practice.  Every 2 or 3 flight lessons we would spend an entire day just in the traffic pattern, taking off and landing.  It is good to do 8-10 in a row because you can focus on your errors and correct them on the next takeoff or landing.  More than 10, I found, in a row becomes overwhelming and negative learning starts to occur.

During this phase, you will also be studying on the ground to learn the things you need to know to keep you safe when you solo.  Some of the things you will study are aircraft systems, airspace, airport markings and signs, and regulations.

When you complete this phase you are ready to solo.  Soloing is the most exhilarating and nerve-racking thing you will do.  But, it will also be the best confidence builder.  Remember, your instructor will not let you solo until they know you can do it safely... it is their license on the line, not yours.  So if they say you are ready, you are most likely ready.   I always took a picture with my student after they got done soloing so they could remember their accomplishment.  

Phase 2 is great because you'll be able to actually go places.  You'll learn how to plan a cross country flight and then you'll do it, during the daytime and nighttime.  On my first night cross country with my instructor, we saw some military aircraft practicing little bomb drops from their aircraft.  How cool!  I will definitely never forget that.  You'll do a few cross countries with your instructor, and then you will do a few solo.  I remember feeling so free during my first solo cross county- no instructor to tell me what to do.  :)  You will love this phase of training!

During Phase 2 you will also start (if you haven't already) flying a little bit with 'foggles' on.  What are foggles, you ask?  They are like glasses that aren't clear- essentially when you wear them you can't see outside the cockpit.  They simulate you flying in clouds.  No, you will not actually fly through the clouds, but if you inadvertently get into a cloud on your cross country, you'll be able to get out of it without putting the airplane in a spin.

Once you master your cross country flying, it's just a matter of reviewing for the checkride, which is Phase 3.  What you will be asked on the checkride is not a secret.  There is a book published by the FAA, Practical Test Standards, which details the checkride.  The examiner cannot ask you something if it isn't in this little book.  It's still a lot to know, but at least it gives you an idea of what you need to study and know for the checkride.  

I usually did a 'mock checkride' with my students before I ever sent them to the actual checkride.  The checkride explanation is a bit long, but don't worry- I'll do a blog post for that in the near future.  

I know this seems like there isn't much to it, but this is at least 30 flight lessons and around 16 ground lessons.  Depending on how often you fly and study, getting your license can take anywhere from 2 months to 10 months.  As a reference, the students that met with me 3 times per week and studied on their own for at least 3 hours a week, ended up taking about 4 months.  If you aren't super dedicated, it can take a while; but if you are, the time will fly by and you'll be holding your certificate in just a matter of months.   

If you have any other questions about Private Pilot training that wasn't answered in this post, feel free to email me at  I started this blog so I could continue helping students, even though I'm not currently flight instructing, so don't hesitate to ask.