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CFI Brief: Runway Safety Areas (RSA)

This video is an update to the FAA’s Runway Safety Area Improvement Program and Runway Incursion Mitigation Program. The majority of the discussion in the video is in reference to commercial-use airports, typically those Class B and C airports in which commercial air traffic operates. However, I believe anyone can benefit from the information presented here. It’s good to have an understanding and knowledge of what the FAA is doing on a daily basis to keep air travel safe for all. One day you may just find yourself operating in these types of environments as a corporate or commercial airline pilot!

RSA Video

May 18, 2016 | Running time 7:49 The video outlines the FAA’s efforts to improve runway safety at the nation’s airports through the runway safety area and the runway incursion mitigation programs.


ASA will be closed on May 30 in observance of Memorial Day. The Learn to Fly Blog’s regular Monday post will appear on Tuesday.

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Procedures and Airport Operations: Visual Glideslope Indicators

It’s been a while since we’ve talked about procedures and airport operations, so today we’ll introduce three visual approach slope indicator (VASI) systems. Visual glideslope indicators provide the pilot with glidepath information that can be used for day or night approaches. By maintaining the proper glidepath as provided by the system, a pilot should have adequate obstacle clearance and should touch down within a specified portion of the runway. Today’s post comes from the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.

VASI installations are the most common visual glidepath systems in use. The VASI provides obstruction clearance within 10° of the runway extended runway centerline, and to four nautical miles (NM) from the runway threshold.

The VASI consists of light units arranged in bars. There are 2-bar and 3-bar VASIs. The 2-bar VASI has near and far light bars and the 3-bar VASI has near, middle, and far light bars. Two-bar VASI installations provide one visual glidepath which is normally set at 3°. The 3-bar system provides two glidepaths, the lower glidepath normally set at 3° and the upper glidepath ¼ degree above the lower glidepath.

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Two-bar VASI system.

The basic principle of the VASI is that of color differentiation between red and white. Each light unit projects a beam of light, a white segment in the upper part of the beam and a red segment in the lower part of the beam. The lights are arranged so the pilot sees the combination of lights (shown in the figure below) to indicate below, on, or above the glidepath.

A precision approach path indicator (PAPI) uses lights similar to the VASI system except they are installed in a single row, normally on the left side of the runway.

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Precision approach path indicator.


A tri-color VASI system consists of a single light unit projecting a three-color visual approach path. Below the glidepath is indicated by red, on the glidepath is indicated by green, and above the glidepath is indicated by amber. When descending below the glidepath, there is a small area of dark amber. Pilots should not mistake this area for an “above the glidepath” indication. NOTE: The FAA is moving away from this system and it will be discontinued soon.

13-9_phak

Tri-color visual approach slope indicator.


As always, we’ll have more on Thursday from our CFI. If you’d like to receive new posts from the Learn to Fly Blog via email, use the form at the top of the sidebar to sign up. And follow ASA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see what we’re working on.

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CFI Brief: In with the NEW and out with the OLD…

Yes, Yes, Yes, exciting times and change are right around the corner in Airman Testing! I am sure that by now many of you are well aware that the implementation of the Airman Certification Standards (ACS) for both Private and Instrument Pilot Airplane will be happening in just a few weeks. I know, this may be a devastating time for some of you to see the tried and true Practical Test Standards (PTS) go away but the reality is it was time to evolve. So in respect to anyone who may be having an emotionally hard time with this change, let’s together take a few moments of silence to pay homage to the PTS…

Now walking up to the mound for relief...

Hello ACS!

Ok good, now that we have that out of the way let’s get down to business. Because in reality, the PTS is included within the ACS so it isn’t going away – it’s evolving into a more complete document. As we cruise into June and near the FAA implementation date of the ACS and June test roll I want to help clarify a few things in relation to the knowledge tests themselves.

First and foremost the implementation of the ACS is not going to completely change the FAA Knowledge exams into something unrecognizable. As a knowledge test applicant, there are two major things you can expect to see taking effect this June.

 

  1. The Private computer testing supplement (CT-8080-2G) will go into effect. This means some revised figures along with equally revised questions. This won’t impact your studies, as the figures reflect the same basic contents as the previous edition it’s replacing – however, it would be helpful for you to be familiar with the current figures ahead of taking your test.

    Click to load the new supplement.

    Click to load the new supplement.

  1. Additional scenario-based questions. This is not something new; the FAA has been adding and evolving questions to be more relevant and meaningful to flight operations for the last two years. Over the last several years the FAA for lack of a better term has been cleaning up the test question databases by removing out-dated questions and replacing them with scenario-based questions and questions more appropriate to today’s flying environment. These types of changes to the knowledge tests take effect throughout the year in February, June, and October. So as I said earlier this is nothing new, it is something that ASA actually expects and prepares for beforehand.

Now you may be asking yourself what exactly is a scenario based question? It is a question asked in context of a typical flight operation, requires a higher level of understanding or application, and may cross-over to include multiple subjects. I will give you an example:

⇒ Non scenario-based question: What minimum pilot certification is required for operation within Class B airspace?

⇒ Scenario-based question: You are taking a flight between KSEA and KPDX airports. What minimum pilot certification must the pilot hold to make this flight as PIC?

The first question is considered “rote” or something that your brain has memorized and is able to quickly recall. The second question is considered scenario-based because it is testing the same knowledge in the context of a proposed flight operation. The answer to both questions is exactly the same, but to determine the answer to the scenario-based question you need to have a knowledge and understanding of multiple subject areas (i.e. Navigation, Airspace, Sectionals and Regulations). There is still a need for “rote” learning – some things you just need to know without hesitation or fanfare. But the addition of scenario-based questions will help facilitate your learning – it’s much easier to learn or memorize something when it’s in context and you understand “why” along with the “what.”

There is no need to be overly alarmed with what is taking place, ASA has got you covered. Our Prepware Software and Test Prep books are continuously updated to reflect changes to the knowledge tests and will continue to be the industry’s go to choice for FAA Knowledge Test Prep.

If you have any questions lets us know on the Learn to Fly Blog by posting a comment.

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Flight Instruments: The Turn and Slip Indicator

Today we’re focusing on your airplane’s turn and slip indicator. This instrument shows the rotation around the yaw axis (via the ball) and around the roll axis (the miniature airplane or needle), and can be used to establish and maintain a standard-rate turn (3° per second, or a complete circle in two minutes). Today’s post comes from the twelfth edition of Bob Gardner‘s The Complete Private Pilot.

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Turn and slip indicator.

Unlike the turn needle, the turn coordinator is designed so that it reflects roll rate as well as turn rate. Neither instrument indicates bank angle. Bank angle, turn rate, and airspeed are interrelated, as shown in the figure below. For a given bank angle, the rate of turn increases as the airspeed decreases. Consider a light trainer and a jet, both banked 20°: the trainer would complete a 360° turn in a much shorter time than the jet and with a much smaller radius. If both airplanes maintained a 3° per second turn rate, they would both complete the circle at the same time—but the jet would be at an extreme bank angle. The bank angle for a 3° per second turn is approximately 15 percent of the true airspeed, so the trainer at 80 knots would bank 12°, while the jet at 400 knots would have to bank 60°.

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Rate and radius of turn vs. speed.

The ball indicates the quality of the turn, with respect to rudder-aileron coordination. The force that causes an airplane to turn is the horizontal component of lift, which is opposed by centrifugal force. If the rate of turn is too great for the angle of bank, centrifugal force is greater than the horizontal component of lift, and the ball rolls toward the outside of the turn. This is termed a “skidding” turn, and either a steeper bank angle (increasing horizontal component) or less rudder pressure on the inside of the turn (reduced centrifugal force) will return the ball to the center. The reverse situation has the ball falling to the inside of the turn in a “slip,” caused by too little centrifugal force and too much horizontal component.

Less bank angle or more inside rudder will return the ball to the center when slipping. A rule of thumb is to “step on the ball”—apply pressure to the rudder pedal on the side of the instrument that the ball is on.

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Interpreting the ball instrument.

The table below illustrates how various elements of a turn are affected if either bank angle or airspeed is kept constant. For example, with a constant bank angle, an increase in airspeed will decrease the rate of turn while increasing the turn radius; the load factor would not be affected.

table3-1

Glass cockpit displays do not have the familiar ball, but combine it with the triangular turn index at the top of the heading indicator in the form of a line parallel to the base of the triangle; if the line slides away from the triangle, indicating lack of coordination, just “step on it” with rudder pressure to move it to its proper location.

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CFI Brief: Torque

Today’s discussion is on torque. An airplane of standard configuration has an insistent tendency to turn to the left. This tendency is called torque, and is a combination of four forces: reactive force, spiraling slipstream, gyroscopic precession, and P-factor.

Reactive force is based on Newton’s Law of action and reaction. A propeller rotating in a clockwise direction (as seen from the rear) produces a force which tends to roll the airplane in a counterclockwise direction. See Figure 1.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The spiraling slipstream is the reaction of the air to a rotating propeller. (The propeller forces the air to spiral in a clockwise direction around the fuselage.) This spiraling slipstream strikes the airplane’s vertical stabilizer on the left side. This pushes the tail of the airplane to the right and the nose of the airplane to the left. See Figure 2. Weight-shift control and powered parachutes do not have this effect.

Figure 2

Figure 2

Gyroscopic precession is the result of a deflective force applied to a rotating body (such as a propeller). The resultant action occurs 90° later in the direction of rotation. See Figure 3.

Figure 3

Figure 3

Asymmetric propeller loading, called P-factor, is caused by the downward moving blade on the right side of the propeller having a higher angle of attack, a greater action and reaction, and therefore a higher thrust than the upward moving opposite blade. This results in a tendency for the aircraft to yaw to the left around the vertical axis. Additional left-turning tendency from torque will be greatest when the aircraft is operating at low airspeed with a high power setting.

Now lets see if we can answer a few sample FAA knowledge test questions. Answers can be found in the comments section.

1. The left turning tendency of an airplane caused by P-factor is the result of the
A—clockwise rotation of the engine and the propeller turning the airplane counter-clockwise.
B—propeller blade descending on the right, producing more thrust than the ascending blade on the left.
C—gyroscopic forces applied to the rotating propeller blades acting 90° in advance of the point the force was applied.

2. In what flight condition is torque effect the greatest in a single-engine airplane?
A—Low airspeed, high power, high angle of attack.
B—Low airspeed, low power, low angle of attack.
C—High airspeed, high power, high angle of attack.

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Aircraft Systems: Landing Gear

Back to basics this week on the Learn to Fly Blog. Today, we’re talking about landing gear. This post is excerpted from the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge.

The landing gear forms the principal support of an aircraft on the surface. The most common type of landing gear consists of wheels, but aircraft can also be equipped with floats for water operations or skis for landing on snow.

The landing gear on small aircraft consists of three wheels: two main wheels (one located on each side of the fuselage) and a third wheel positioned either at the front or rear of the airplane. Landing gear employing a rear-mounted wheel is called conventional landing gear. Airplanes with conventional landing gear are often referred to as tailwheel airplanes. When the third wheel is located on the nose, it is called a nosewheel, and the design is referred to as a tricycle gear. A steerable nosewheel or tailwheel permits the airplane to be controlled throughout all operations while on the ground.

Tricycle Landing Gear Airplanes
A tricycle gear airplane has three advantages:

  1. It allows more forceful application of the brakes during landings at high speeds without causing the aircraft to nose over.
  2. It permits better forward visibility for the pilot during takeoff, landing, and taxiing.
  3. It tends to prevent ground looping (swerving) by providing more directional stability during ground operation since the aircraft’s center of gravity (CG) is forward of the main wheels. The forward CG keeps the airplane moving forward in a straight line rather than ground looping.

Nosewheels are either steerable or castering. Steerable nosewheels are linked to the rudders by cables or rods, while castering nosewheels are free to swivel. In both cases, the aircraft is steered using the rudder pedals. Aircraft with a castering nosewheel may require the pilot to combine the use of the rudder pedals with independent use of the brakes.

Tailwheel Landing Gear Airplanes
Tailwheel landing gear aircraft have two main wheels attached to the airframe ahead of its CG that support most of the weight of the structure. A tailwheel at the very back of the fuselage provides a third point of support. This arrangement allows adequate ground clearance for a larger propeller and is more desirable for operations on unimproved fields.

Tailwheel landing gear.

Tailwheel landing gear.

With the CG located behind the main gear, directional control of this type aircraft becomes more difficult while on the ground. This is the main disadvantage of the tailwheel landing gear. For example, if the pilot allows the aircraft to swerve while rolling on the ground at a low speed, he or she may not have sufficient rudder control and the CG will attempt to get ahead of the main gear which may cause the airplane to ground loop.

Lack of good forward visibility when the tailwheel is on or near the ground is a second disadvantage of tailwheel landing gear aircraft. These inherent problems mean specific training is required in tailwheel aircraft.

Fixed and Retractable Landing Gear
Landing gear can also be classified as either fixed or retractable. A fixed gear always remains extended and has the advantage of simplicity combined with low maintenance. A retractable gear is designed to streamline the airplane by allowing the landing gear to be stowed inside the structure during cruising flight.

A fixed gear airplane.

A fixed gear airplane.

A retractable gear airplane.

A retractable gear airplane.

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CFI Brief: NextGEN Modernization

On Tuesday the FAA published a new video to FAA TV, NextGEN: See, Navigate, Communicate. If you are not familiar with NextGEN, it is simply the modernization of the National Airspace System (NAS). The short 6 minute video discusses the current challenges to the NAS and how NextGEN is overcoming these challenges with a total revamping of the system. Check out the video, what are your thoughts about NextGEN?

NextGen is the modernizing of the National Airspace System. We are creating a system that will change how we see, navigate, and communicate with aircraft and manage our skies. Find out why these changes are critical in enabling us to accomplish our mission.

NextGen is the modernizing of the National Airspace System. We are creating a system that will change how we see, navigate, and communicate with aircraft and manage our skies. Find out why these changes are critical in enabling us to accomplish our mission.

 

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Communication Procedures: Communication at Airports with Operating Towers

We’ve talked a lot about communications so far on the Learn to Fly Blog. Today we’ll get into communications at towered airports. This post comes from the latest edition (twelfth!) of Bob Gardner’s essential flying textbook The Complete Private Pilot.

Airspace around an airport with an operating control tower is Class D airspace (unless it is within Class B airspace); it will usually extend vertically to 2,500 feet above airport elevation and horizontally a nominal 4.4 nautical miles (the boundaries may vary, but will be charted). If you need to enter Class D airspace, you must first communicate with the tower. If you are departing, you must first receive taxi instructions (not a “taxi clearance”) from the ground controller, who directs all activity on the ramps and taxiways. With few exceptions, ground control operates on 121.6, 121.7, 121.8, or 121.9 MHz. Controllers will frequently shorten this by eliminating the 121: “Contact ground point seven leaving the runway.”

The ground controller will authorize you to taxi to the runway in use, but you must stop before crossing any taxiways or runways (active or not) and receive permission to cross. Think of it as a stoplight at every intersection that glows red until the controller turns it to green. The figure below illustrates a situation where a pilot taxiing from the ramp to the runup area for runway 9 would receive authorization for the whole route, but would be told to hold short of runway 27. With permission to cross, he or she would proceed to the unmarked intersection with the closed runway, stop, call for permission, and the procedure would be repeated at the hold lines for runways 36R and 36L. It is the controller’s responsibility to issue precise instructions, but if you are getting close to any kind of intersection without having heard from the tower, stop and ask.

Taxiing to the active runway.

Taxiing to the active runway.

Note: Ground controllers do not use the word “cleared,” because it might be misconstrued as a takeoff clearance…they say “taxi to” or “taxi across.” If you are directed to “hold short” of a runway you must read that instruction back to the controller verbatim…nothing else will suffice. To avoid a runway incursion, always stop and ask for clarification of any instruction you do not understand. “What do you want me to do?” works just fine.

If you are at an unfamiliar airport, do not hesitate to ask for “progressive taxi instructions” and the controller will guide you to your destination on the field. “Student pilot” is a useful phrase to include in your transmissions.

When you are ready for takeoff, contact the tower controller for takeoff clearance. The tower (or “local”) controller is responsible for all aircraft in Class D airspace and on the active runway—don’t taxi onto the runway without a clearance. You must maintain communication with the tower controllers while you are in their airspace (Class D), but remember that separation from other airplanes is your responsibility; don’t expect the controller to keep you from swapping paint. When you have departed Class D airspace you are on your own (or you may request radar services). You do not have to ask the tower for permission to change frequencies after you have crossed the Class D airspace boundary.

On arrival, before you enter Class D airspace you should listen to the ATIS (if there is one) and advise the tower controller on initial contact that you have the ATIS information. Where there is no ATIS, listen on the tower frequency and note the instructions given to other pilots. Once you are sure of the runway in use, wind, and altimeter setting, you can say: “Miami Tower, Baron 2345X ten miles west with the numbers.” After landing, do not change to ground control until advised to do so by the tower. Some tower-controlled airports have UNICOM, but because you will get all of your weather information and clearances from the tower, your use of UNICOM at that tower-controlled airport will be limited to such things as calling for fuel, ordering rental cars, etc. Note: Towers report wind direction relative to magnetic north. In fact, any wind direction you receive by radio is referenced to magnetic north; winds in written form, such as forecasts, are referenced to true north.

If you have any questions about how your flight was handled by the tower, call as soon as practicable and talk to a quality assurance person before the tapes are erased—don’t expect an answer if you wait more than 15 days.

If an airport does not have an ATIS and does not use the primary control tower frequency as the CTAF, its data block will include “VFR Advisory—125.0”; if, of course, 125.0 is the frequency to use.

We’ll be back on Thursday with more from our CFI. If you’d like to receive new posts by email, subscribe using the form at the top of the sidebar to the right!

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CFI Brief: Pilot’s Role in Collision Avoidance

With all the talk this week on instrument flying and scanning techniques I wanted to take this opportunity to remind you to get your head out of the cockpit. See and Avoid! Did you know that the See and Avoid concept is an actual regulation outlined in CFR 91.113? Don’t believe me check it out. The reg basically states that when weather conditions permit, regardless of IFR or VFR, it is each pilot’s responsibility to see and avoid other aircraft.

This is the perfect time to review a pilot’s role in collision avoidance. On Tuesday, the FAA released an update to Advisory Circular 90-48. I encourage you to spend some time reviewing it. AC 90-48D provides a wealth of information alerting pilots to the hazards of midair collisions and potential midair collisions. Topics covered include: human casual factors, improvements in pilot education, operating practices, procedures, and improved scanning techniques to reduce midair conflicts.

The FAA reports that over a five year span from 2009 – 2013 49 midair collisions and 461 near midair collision occurred within the United States. Statistical analysis has always pointed toward the fact that the majority of all midair collisions occur in good weather (VFR) during daylight hours. Reading through this AC will help provide you with the knowledge and information so as not to become a statistic. Click the image below to view the full NTSB report on this August 8th, 2009 midair collision between a Piper and Eurocopter.

Midair Collision over the Hudson River, New York.

Midair Collision over the Hudson River, New York.

One piece of information that I find particularly insightful from the AC is the table below, which shows the average person’s reaction time to traffic movement.

Table 1 Reaction Time

12.5 seconds may seem like a very quick reaction time but in reality it’s an eternity when aircraft are closing in on one another at a combined 300 knots. This is why it is so important to use proper visual scanning techniques and identify a potential traffic conflict as early as possible.

AC-90-48D PDF

AC

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IFR: Attitude Flying and Applied Instrument Flying

This week we’re back on the topic of IFR flight. If you’ve missed our previous posts touching on IFR, check out these posts:

We’ve also written extensively on the flight instruments themselves too, all of which you can find here. Today’s post comes from The Pilot’s Manual: Instrument Flying (Volume 3).

The first step in becoming an instrument pilot is to become competent at attitude flying on the full panel containing the six basic flight instruments. The term attitude flying means using a combination of engine power and airplane attitude to achieve the required performance in terms of flight path and airspeed.

Attitude flying on instruments is an extension of visual flying, with your attention gradually shifting from external visual cues to the instrument indications in the cockpit, until you are able to fly accurately on instruments alone.

Partial panel attitude instrument flying, also known as limited panel, will be introduced fairly early in your training. For this exercise, the main control instrument, the attitude indicator, is assumed to have malfunctioned and is not available for use. The heading indicator, often powered from the same source as the AI, may also be unavailable.

Partial panel training will probably be practiced concurrently with full panel training, so that the exercise does not assume an importance out of proportion to its difficulty. You will perform the same basic flight maneuvers, but on a reduced number of instruments. The partial panel exercise will increase your instrument flying competence, as well as your confidence.

An excessively high or low nose attitude, or an extreme bank angle, is known as an unusual attitude. Unusual attitudes should never occur inadvertently but can result from distractions or a visual illusion. Practice in recovering from them, however, will increase both your confidence and your overall proficiency. This exercise will be practiced on both a full panel and a partial panel.

After you have achieved a satisfactory standard in attitude flying, on both a full panel and a partial panel, your instrument flying skills will be applied to en route flights using navigation aids (NAVAIDs) and radar.

The full panel (left) and the partial panel (right).

The full panel (left) and the partial panel (right) in a glass cockpit.

Procedural instrument flying (which means getting from one place to another) is based mainly on knowing where the airplane is in relation to a particular ground transmitter (known as orientation), and then accurately tracking to or from the ground station. Tracking is simply attitude flying, plus a wind correction angle to allow for drift.

Typical NAVAIDs used are the ADF, VOR, DME and ILS, as well as ground-based radar. In many ways, en route navigation is easier using the navigation instruments than it is by visual means. It is also more precise.

Having navigated the airplane on instruments to a destination, you must consider your approach. If instrument conditions exist, an instrument approach must be made. If you encounter visual conditions, you may continue with the instrument approach or, with ATC authorization, shorten the flight path by flying a visual approach or a contact approach. This allows you to proceed visually to a sighted runway.

En route tracking on instruments.

En route tracking on instruments.

Only published instrument approach procedures may be followed, with charts commonly used in the United States available from the FAA or Jeppesen. An instrument approach usually involves positioning the airplane over (or near) a ground station or a radio fix, and then using precise attitude flying to descend along the published flight path at a suitable airspeed.

Left: plan and profile views of a precision instrument approach (NACO chart). Right: plan and profile views of a nonprecision approach (Jeppesen chart).

Left: plan and profile views of a precision instrument approach (NACO chart). Right: plan and profile views of a nonprecision approach (Jeppesen chart).

If visual conditions are encountered on the instrument approach at or before a predetermined minimum altitude is reached, then the airplane may be maneuvered for a landing. If visual conditions are not met at or before this minimum altitude, perform a missed approach. The options are to climb away and position yourself for another approach, or to divert elsewhere.

It is important psychologically to feel confident about your instrument flying ability in an actual airplane, so in-flight training is important. There will be more noise, more distractions, more duties and differing body sensations in the airplane. G-forces resulting from maneuvering will be experienced, as will turbulence, and these may serve to upset the inner senses. Despite the differences, however, the ground trainer can be used very successfully to prepare you for the real thing. Practice in it often to improve your instrument skills. Time in the real airplane can then be used more efficiently.

Editor’s note: We will continue to expand on these principles in Thursday’s post and in later ground school posts. If you’re starting to think about getting your instrument rating, or are already flying with one, check out ASA’s selection of books on airmanship. For private pilots I would recommend IFR for VFR Pilots by Richard Taylor, Instrument Flying Refresher by Richard Collins and Patrick Bradley, and A Pilot’s Accident Review by John Lowery. Instrument rated pilots should check out Flying IFR and ATC & Weather: Mastering the Systems by Richard Collins, and Severe Weather Flying by Dennis Newton. We’ll see you Thursday.

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