First Week of Instructing

Hi everyone,

Today the weather has kept me grounded so I’m taking the chance for a blog update about how my first week as a flight instructor has been going. 

I’ve been kept very busy this week. I was checked out in the Cessna 152 and 172 on Monday and was then assigned 4 students of my own. I’m teaching them how to fly by instruments which is going pretty well. Two of them are brand new to the concept, so by teaching them from the start of instrument phase I have been drilling into them how to do things correctly. Hopefully doing that will give them a solid foundation to work with moving forward.

For their training I’ve been doing a mixture of simulator flying and actual flying. I was a bit nervous on my first flight as the instructor. After we took off though that went away and the flight went well. I’m really loving instructing though. It’s very rewarding to be in the sim or airplane seeing how the student progresses in understanding through the session. My students all work very hard too so that is great to see. After I am done teaching them they will have another instructor teach them how to fly instrument approaches and a few other things, so hopefully what I’m doing with them will hold them in good stead.

I don’t have much to report on from my instructional flights, but I did do something funny to my students. On a couple of the flights I needed to introduce unusual attitudes to them, so I also used the chance to demonstrate spatial disorientation where you dont know which way the plane is oriented. They had their Foggles on and I asked them to close their eyes, put their hands in their laps, and give me the controls. I put the plane into a standard rate turn and maintained it for about a minute. I also made minor power adjustments before finishing with a quick whip of the controls to bring the plane back to straight and level flight. Then I asked them how the plane felt oriented and they all thought it was heavily banked to one side. I told them to open their eyes to look at he instruments and the surprise on their face at being straight and level was hilarious. I gave them some serious spatial disorientation and used it to show them why you need to trust the instruments instead of your body when flying IFR. 

I won’t just be working with these four guys though, sometimes I’ll be assigned to fly with a student to fly cross countries or something, but flying with other students are one off occurrences to fill my schedule. Speaking of schedules, I’m kept pretty busy. I work six days a week with an optional second day off if I don’t want to fly, and they are 12 hour days where I’ve either been flying or in a simulator. Everyone is very busy here and the average flight time is 100hours a month, so getting flight time isn’t a problem if the weather allows it. I actually had to cancel a flight yesterday because if I flew it I would have flown more than 8 hours flight instructing in one day which is against regulations. I love flying though so I’ll be flying as much as I can πŸ™‚

To sum up its been a very good first week and I’m getting in a good rythym for instructing the lessons. The people I work with here are great as well and it makes for a really nice work environment. I can tell I’ll be enjoying my time here. It doesn’t even feel like work πŸ™‚

– Requiem (Total hours = 252.0)

Standardisation Week

Hi everyone,

This week I started working at my new job, but I didn’t do any instructing. This week was my “standardisation” at the flight school where I will be instructing. This process is basically about getting up to speed with company procedures and rules as well as becoming familiar with the local area and the planes to be flown. It’s important to be familiar with all this so all students receive the same type of instruction regardless of the instructor who gives it. I passed everything for standardisation so that was good, plus I also received my first paycheck as a pilot! πŸ™‚

Over this week the mornings consisted of a lecture covering various topics followed by a quiz, then in the afternoon we would try to either hop on an “observation” flight or we would be on a “checkout” flight. For observation flights you sit in the back seat of the airplane to watch the instructor and student up front go about and do their thing. These flights were very interesting because of seeing the student-instructor interaction from a third person perspective. I was on two observation flights, the first was in a multi-engine plane so by this point in the program the student is more experienced flying wise so the flight itself was straightforward. I was shown the various reporting points of the area as well. These reporting points are landmarks on the ground where ATC will ask me to fly over and call in on the radio to say I’m there to help them locate the plane and sequence it in for landing.

The second observation flight in the single engine where the student was learning instruments was also pretty normal, but there was a couple of moments which stood out. By this point in the program the students learning instrument are already private pilots so they should know how to land, but on this student’s first landing attempt after going visual on an instrument approach well above minimums he remained excessively high and needed to go around. On the second approach he was better, but he started his flare about 10ft off the ground and ended up coming down pretty hard and swerved left and right on the runway (which was a bit narrow at 60 feet wide). Sitting in the back without access to the controls when that was happening was a bit uncomfortable because I could see the bad landing coming really early, but the instructor sorted it out so the student could do the touch and go to become airborne again. After that we flew back home and the instructor added some commentary to his landing and it was much better. After we got out I said to him that the second landing was much better than the other one and he explained about how the narrowness of the runway made him uncomfortable. I just smiled and replied “Well, you were able to land right on the centerline for this runway…so if you’re aiming for centerline the narrowness of a runway doesn’t matter” πŸ™‚

As I mentioned, I also flew a couple of “checkout” flights. These flights are where I go up with an instructor and perform various maneuvers so that the school can be sure I know how to fly the plane and instruct the maneuvers in them. My first checkout flight was in a Cessna 172, of which I had a grand total of 8 hours flight time (all cross country a few months ago), so I hadn’t really flown it maneuvers wise. My checkout instructor was very happy with how I flew the maneuvers, instrument approaches, and with my landings. This meant I passed the flight and I can teach students in the C172, which is usually used to teach students how to fly by instruments. I think my flying in it was better than I expected it to be because I made a serious effort to remember the sight picture out the front. All my single engine training was in a low wing Piper Archer where I sit low to the ground, and the Cessna 172 is a high wing airplane where you sit up higher off the ground. It’s like comparing a racing car seat position to a monster truck in terms of height. So coming from sitting down low I wanted to be cautious of flaring in the Cessna at the wrong height based off what I was used to seeing when sitting lower in the Archer. The second checkout flight was in a Cessna 152, which is a little two seater training plane which is underpowered at 110HP compared to the Cessna 172. I had never flown it before, but I found it very responsive and a lot of fun to fly. After the flight the instructor said I flew it very well which was good to hear, so I can instruct in that one too now. Although I have my multi-engine instructor rating I don’t have a checkout flight in a mult-engine plane for a while, so it will be a couple of months probably until I begin instructing in that one.

I start at my new location next week, but because it’s a different location I will need to do a couple of observation flights to get familiar with that area as well as flying the C172 and C152 checkout flights again. I’m not complaining about getting to fly the C172 and C152 again because I don’t have much experience flying them. It was easier than I thought it would be to adjust to flying them, but we’ll see on the next flights if those were flukes or not πŸ˜‰ Once those flights are done I will be assigned students and can officially begin flight instructing! πŸ˜€

From what I’ve heard from other flight instructors I will more than likely have some stories of my own to share moving forward, so I plan on continuing this blog to write about those as they come up.

– Requiem (Total time = 239.0)

CFI Instrument Checkride (the last one)

Hi everyone,

Today is officially the last day in my flight training program because I passed the CFI instrument checkride! Who would have thought that someone whose flight experience was almost entirely due to flight simulators, would be able to cut the mustard and transition into the real thing without major hiccups? I know of at least one person! πŸ˜‰

The oral went well which was a good start before heading out to the plane. After the engine started I received the fake ATC clearance, input the departure, then picked up the real ATC clearance to taxi and got on our way. I explained what I was doing as we climbed out and what to see on the instruments when joining the departure using the VOR which was good. After a bit of that he had me turn away and explain unusual attitudes with a demo. I did that fine, but the examiner called the demo “a little wimpy” and quickly showed a steeper version. After that we headed off to an airport nearby for the first approach (VOR/DME) but this required a hold based on our direction of flight. So I explained holds (EFC time, etc) and how we would go about determining what kind of entry we would use to enter this hold. In this case it was a teardrop entry, so I emerged the hold and flew one lap in it. There was a strong tailwind so I had to talk about adjusting my leg timing. Normally it is one minute legs (or specific distance) but the tailwind meant I had to make one leg a shorter time than the other to compensate. We were then cleared for the approach so descended down to the altitude for the final approach fix and held it until I passed it. Once we passed it I began descending to the minimum altitude and got ready to do the circling approach. Closer to the runway he had me take the Foggles off and I circled to land for a touch and go.

After the touch and go we did the missed approach so I explained how that was going to happen then did it no problem before he had me start setting up for an RNAV (GPS) approach. Along the way he simulated a flight display failure so I talked about how I would declare an emergency and request vectors to the final approach fix because I wouldn’t want to fly the entire approach with a partial panel relying on the backup analog instruments. Because I lost that display I had to demonstrate timed turns using the compass. These timed turns were right on the money, and the approach was great. I stayed very close to the course throughout and hit my altitudes as appropriate. We ended up doing the missed approach, but he told me we would be doing it early on to see if I would do the missed approach at the proper point, which I did once we reached the runway. This is the whole: cram the throttle, pitch for a climb, clean up any flaps, cool the plane with a bit more airspeed, call ATC to say we are missed, then hit that suspend button ( remember that expensive button I’ve talked about that causes checkride failures? I did πŸ™‚ )From that missed approach we turned off towards the home airport to finish up with the ILS back home which was a good note to finish on. After landing we got out of the plane and the DPE slapped me on the back, said I did a great job and met me inside to do the paperwork to give me my new CFI certificate.

It’s surreal to think that I’ve gone through all of this and achieved something I never thought would have been possible. All my life I’ve dreamed about being a pilot and thanks to some very special people they helped make this a reality. Of course I have my loving wife, her family, and my family back home who have been very supportive of this change and my efforts to study hard and do well. Also, I can never say enough good things about my mentor (and best friend) during this because he has always been there to give advice/support and talk with me about how everything was going. He has simply opened up a whole new world to me and always entertains my questioning about what he does when flying the big jets (big to me that is). I’ve even been able to answer some questions of his! Something that wouldn’t have been possible at the beginning of this year. This experience really has been a complete life changing experience for my wife and I…About a year ago I was expecting to move back home and rejoin the Air Force, yet I’m here now as a flight instructor with my ratings about to start teaching students of my own and begin a new career.

This has been an incredible journey for me where I’ve learned and applied a lot of information during my training. It hasn’t even felt like work though because I’ve loved every minute of it, even the checkrides! Throughout training the checkrides are a very big deal because they are a measurement of your progression as a pilot at that point, and I’m proud of having gone through all 8 of them without failing any. I’ve put in a lot of effort and tried to be a good pilot to show those who put me through this that I was worthy of both their friendship and generosity, so knowing that I’ve made them and my family proud by being the best I could be means everything. With the amount of faith shown towards me there is no way I could let them or myself down. Every time I walk out to a plane and get in it is humbling because I recognize how lucky I am to do this. It was a special moment for me when I finished up my last flight of the program today. It makes me so grateful for being given the chance to be a pilot, and I know that one day I’ll be able to pay it forward and help someone else just as I have been.

I’m probably rambling on a bit here, so I’ll explain what happens next for me. I have an interview at a flight school on Friday 4 Sep for me to start “Standardisation” (basically learning company/airplane procedures for training) on Monday 7th Sep, before having my own students the week after that. I’ve even been getting early practice in as I’ve been helping out some of the students here with problems they’re having for a while now πŸ™‚ This means I’m now starting on the next stage, training my own students to build the 1500 hours I need for me to start flying the larger jets with passengers! πŸ˜€

– Requiem CFI, MEI, CFII (Total hours = 234.9)

CFI Instrument Prep #3 (final)

Hi everyone,

I had my last prep flight and my last checkride is tomorrow. The flight went good. I taught holds, steep turns, timed turns, and the approaches I needed to fly pretty well. The only thing my instructor suggested is that I slow the rate of information I’m putting out there a bit. My tendency was to explain everything that what was expected to happen before I did something, then explained what I was doing while I was flying it. This ended with providing too much for a student to take in at once. I was basically rushing the information a bit, so it would be better if I just slowed down the pace of how I was explaining things.

I’m looking forward to the checkride tomorrow and I’ll be extremely  happy to pass this like all the others because then I am officially finished with the program. I know the information, can teach it, and I can fly accurately using the instruments, so as long as I can show that tomorrow I’ll be fine.

I’ll post tomorrow about how I did obviously, so fingers crossed it will be good news πŸ˜€

– Requiem

CFI Instrument Prep #2

Hi everyone,

I flew my second last flight today and it was another prep flight for my CFI instrument checkride on Wednesday. It was pretty much the same thing as last flight. We flew out and I practiced a VOR/DME circling approach, ILS, and a partial panel GPS approach. Those were all very good because I maintained the step-down altitudes required on the VOR/DME and GPS approaches, but then on the ILS I set it up perfectly. After I intercepted the glideslope I set the power and trimmed the airplane out and it basically flew hands off for the approach. I didn’t need to touch the controls after that and the plane came down on glideslope and on course, so that was pretty cool. The calm winds in the morning definitely helped out there. Then I did a touch and go landing which was super soft…we barely heard the squeak of the tires over our headsets πŸ™‚

I did practice a couple of extra things today though. During the other portion of the flight I flew a couple of steep turns while wearing the Foggles which were pretty good, and dare I say it, almost easier than flying while looking outside. Once on the ground I practiced a couple of DME arcs and sorted out my brain fart with those. Later in the afternoon I met up with my old instructor and he went over some ground school with me related to instruments which I really appreciated since my new instructor hasn’t been the best at covering things as thoroughly as I was used to. He helped refresh my memory on a lot of things which I needed. I was going over a lot of things by myself, but there are lots of little details and fun facts that slipped from the front of my mind he helped bring out. I also got an idea about the checkride from him as well so I’m going to practice the flow of that for my last flight tomorrow morning.

So yeah, my last flight tomorrow morning before my checkride Wednesday and that will be the end of my program πŸ™‚ My interview is on Friday, followed by standardisation (learning to fly for this other company) on Monday, so it won’t be long until I’m working πŸ™‚

– Requiem

CFI Instrument Prep #1

Hi everyone,

I’m onto training for my final checkride which is the CFII. Once I pass this it will allow me to teach students how to fly around using only their instruments. I’ve been doing self review these last couple of days after my last two checkrides I took on Tuesday, so that has been plenty of reading and a couple of simulator sessions to try and shake the rust off. I did pretty well for my instrument rating, so it’s just taking some practice and revision to make the information fresher for me.

Today I flew the first preparation flight which was a good start. Since it is an instructor checkride I have to spend the time talking through things to explain them as I fly. Flying with the instruments while wearing the Foggles is fine, but explaining everything while doing it definitely made it more challenging. After taking off we flew off to the east and my instructor wanted me to fly am imaginary DME arc off a VOR but after I made the first 90 degree turn it just didn’t work for some reason. My instructor and I weren’t really sure why, so I just elected to do one in the sim at another time with a published DME arc to save time. Then we flew off to an airport nearby and flew three approaches; a VOR/DME, ILS, and a GPS approach with the main display simulated as being broken.

Because of where I was in relation to the VOR/DME approach, I had to fly a “procedure turn” which allows me to reverse direction and fly at a specific altitude to a waypoint called the final approach fix (FAF). Once I passed the FAF I descended to minimum altitude, or “minimums”, and maintained my course following the VOR inbound to the runway. To save time I didn’t land and instead did the “missed approach” so I flew off and setup to practice the ILS approach. Flying the ILS approach was passable, but I had trouble with the power setting and trim with the turbulent air so that made descending at a constant rate difficult. Then towards the end of the approach I ended up being skewed off center to the left a bit. Out of the the three approaches this was the worst one.

The last approach was the GPS approach, and for this my instructor covered up the digital flight display which meant I would no longer be following a glideslope but would be flying towards the airport using backup analog instruments, stepping down from one specific altitude to another as I flew closer to the runway. This approach was really good. I stayed on course and maintained altitudes correctly. I didn’t go missed on this one but did a touch and go, so I landed on the runway, then powered up and took off again. Then it was time to go back so we flew back and landed at the home airport.

I have two more prep flights for this checkride then I’m finished training. Although I have a guaranteed job when I’m finished I looked at other options and I have an interview (involves me teaching a lesson and going for a flight with their chief pilot) with a different flight school after I’m done. My chances of working there are pretty good and I would prefer to be there so hopefully it works out. It’s pretty exciting to so close to being done…soon I’ll be teaching people how to fly! πŸ˜€

– Requiem

Challenge Round – Two checkrides in one day

Hi everyone,

Well, today was a big day. I had two checkrides scheduled back to back and I needed to pass the first one (SE Commercial add on) in order to have a shot at the second one (SE CFI add on). I’m extremely happy to say that I passed both of them and am one checkride away from completing the program and starting to work with my own students πŸ™‚

As usual it started out with the oral which was pretty short. I’ve already earned a commercial certificate (license) so all I had to do was answer some questions about the systems of the plane, its limitations, weight & balance, and a few other bits and pieces. Then we went out to the plane and got started with a normal takeoff from the home airport before flying north and going over the maneuvers. First was the chandelle, which is a 180 degree turn where you basically trade off your current airspeed for altitude, finish the turn near stall speed, then accelerate back to cruise speed without losing altitude. Then I did the lazy eight which is a couple of 180 degree turns where you start and finish at the same altitude and airspeed, so it’s another exercise for energy management because you don’t touch the power during it. Those were within standards but the examiner said they were a bit robotic and not smooth, so he quickly demonstrated one for me to show how I can get it to be smoother. We climbed up a bit more in altitude and he had me do the steep spiral over a pool complex. I started out doing it at best glide speed and around 30 degrees angle of bank, adjusting the angle of bank so I could keep circling the complex evenly, but he emphasised that it’s a steep spiral so the bank was increased closer to about 50 degrees bank (maximum is 60) which made him much happier. After completing the steep sprials he then killed my engine and had me go through a simulated emergency landing, so I went through the process of picking a place to land before recovering at about 1000ft and getting ready to complete some eights on pylons. The eights on pylons is basically flying a figure eight around two reference points on the ground. swapping between the two. I was probably three quarters of the way through the first one and he stopped me since I handled it fine and explained everything I was doing such as pivotal altitude and its adjustments correctly.

Then it was on to the landing side of things at a nearby airport, so I tuned in to the radio and got ourselves set up to land there. I was #2 behind another aircraft and the examiner just wanted a normal landing to a full stop, which I did as it was pretty straightforward. We taxied back and he wanted a short field takeoff followed by the short field landing. Those were both good, but he was especially happy with my short field landing. He wanted me stopped the smaller markers at 1500ft, but if I did the full braking I would have been stopped by about 600ft or so maximum, and he said it was very good I didn’t fly the whole final at the slow speed on final because he has had students start flying at the minimum speed on a 2 mile final before. I didn’t slow down until landing was pretty much assured. After that landing we taxied back again and he had me a soft field takeoff followed by the maneuver I’d been concerned about because of how my last couple of flights had gone…the power off 180 degree accuracy landing.

The soft field takeoff was really good since I had the stall horn blaring as I lifted off, and stayed in ground effect (low to the ground so the plane accelerates easier) to go faster and climb out back into the traffic pattern. I thought the examiner was going to cut my engine and I had to ask him if he was going to. He just said to cut it when I felt comfortable, so I just said “Ok I’ll just cut it now.” I was at about the end of the runway when I did that, so with no power the plane turns into a glider and I have to manage the airplane’s airspeed and altitude to land precisely on the 1000ft markers. I don’t like doing the strict base leg then turn onto final method, I prefer to make it a circle instead of squaring them off when practicing in the last couple of flights. I think that stems from my simulator flying as when I do the circling base-final I find it easier to adjust the flight path when coming in to the runway. It feels more natural for me to do it that way and it worked. I was coming in right on the money and I popped the last notch of flaps before landing on the 1000ft markers. The examiner asked me what I thought about it, and I explained that I landed a bit flat because I used the last notch of flaps In ground effect that extended my glide further than I wanted. The examiner said that was right and I was looking perfect until I extended that extra bit of flaps. Still, actually hitting my point given how I flew those power off approaches over last couple of days felt great πŸ˜€

The examiner then said that the hard part is all over with so we went back to the home airport where I finished up the checkride with a soft field landing that was pretty good. I missed the taxiway he wanted but that was because I was holding up the nosewheel as long as possible… “popping a wheelie” so to speak. I shut down the plane and I wasn’t sure if I passed as he didn’t tell me if I did or not, but since he asked if we’d be flying this one again because he wanted to leave the headsets in the plane that was as good as hearing I passed πŸ™‚

It was lunchtime so I grabbed some food and came back to get started with the oral for the SE CFI (instructor) addon. Like the commercial addon I just passed it was relatively short because I already have a flight instructor certificate. I did some talking about other things like runway incursions, logbooks, certificates, and endorsements for students which he was very happy and said he could tell I knew my stuff. He was posing various scenarios that he had encountered as an examiner where instructors had screwed up before when he has turned up to checkrides, and I worked through those with him to show I caught on to what was wrong and how the instructor should have properly done things. With the oral out of the way we went out to the plane and took off again.

The maneuvers for the SE CFI addon are for the most part all the same as the commercial ones I did, but with me talking through them instead (which I did during the commercial checkride anyway so it was the same flight essentially). Some of the extra maneuvers I did were a steep turn, power off stall, secondary stall, and an accelerated stall but the highlight of this checkride was the power off approach I made. At about 2500ft the examiner killed the engine and asked me what I’m going to do. I explained that since we are relatively high I have some time on my side so I set up best glide speed and my descent rate was about 700ft per minute, giving us about three minutes until we hit the ground somewhere. I knew that geographically we were probably north-west of an airport I know (that short narrow one) so I looked outside and found it, pointed the plane at it and went through the troubleshoot checklist for the engine failure. The checklist didn’t “fix” the simulated engine failure so I planned to land at the airport instead of a field somewhere.

Originally, the runway I took off from was RWY 15, so I assumed this uncontrolled airport is going to have roughly the same wind direction since it is close by. Because of that assumption I set up on a right base, announced it over the radio, and began approaching the airport to land on RWY 17. After that I tuned in to the automatic weather there to see what the winds were doing. Well, it turns out the wind was blowing from a heading of 050, so that means I was technically lined up for the wrong runway end and would be landing with a slight tailwind instead of a headwind. The examiner then asked if I’m thinking about going for the other runway, but I said I wouldn’t make it anyway so I’m committing to the tailwind landing. I had plenty of excess altitude while I was on base leg, so I extended the first notch of flaps and as I came in on final I performed “S-Turns” to bleed off the extra altitude without getting too much closer to the runway. This means instead of flying straight to the runway I flew a snaking flight path towards the it. I was in a much better position now, so I extended the next notch of flaps and performed a slight slip over the power lines at that end of the runway to bleed off that little bit of excess altitude, leveled off, put in the last notch of flaps, slowed down, and landed right on the runway numbers. The examiner said that was an excellent approach because I managed the energy of the plane really well by getting those S-turns and slip done perfectly to come in right on target. It’s hard to describe how happy I was at nailing that landing…considering the circumstance it really couldn’t have been any better and it left me almost in a state of disbelief at doing it πŸ˜€ I mean, I had only done one tailwind landing before months ago and never with a power off approach. After that it was a short field takeoff, flew back home for a normal landing and a quick debrief on the flights.

I’m pretty tired after today but I really enjoyed both of these checkrides as I always have with this examiner. Although I had to show the knowledge and skill required of the training standards the examiner said that since he has done the majority of my checkrides he knows what I’m capable of, so he also wanted to use the opportunity to give me some extra insights to help make me a better instructor. The examiner finished by saying he enjoyed the checkrides, that I really did a great job today, and he thanked me for making his job easier and not keeping him until 5 or 6 o’clock at night as happens elsewhere. I said that my job is to make my instructor look good and to make his job easier, but I gave a lot of credit to my previous instructor for how I fly now because he helped set up a very solid foundation for me to build on.

I only have about five hours of flight time left in the program and one checkride remaining…the CFII which is the addon that lets me teach students how to fly using instruments. I should find out when that will be precisely in a day or two. If I can get through this final checkride without problems then I will have completed the program and attained all of my certificates and ratings without having “busted” (failed) a checkride πŸ˜€

– Requiem (Total hours = 229.1)

I started this blog to originally follow my flight training from zero flight time to become a flight instructor, but now that I am a CFI I will also use it to share stories of my flight instruction experiences.