Archive for January, 2011

The Future of Helicopter Tours: 360 Degree Interactive Video

Friday, January 28th, 2011

We’ve all seen aerial footage shot from helicopters before, but you may not have seen this ultra-cool new 360 degree interactive video technology. This new video, put together by for Nimmo Bay Helicopter Fishing and Wildlife Adventures showcases the technology’s ability to allow the user to control the camera during previously recorded flights. During the flight, if you see something interesting, you can “turn” the camera and watch the object of interest go by. Seeing is believing, so check out the video!

According to the website, “Fly in a Helicopter over Nimmo Bay and a 150 mile track of the Beautiful British Columbia Coastal Mainland. …Look up, down, and completely behind you by clicking and dragging on the video once it is playing.”

Related links:

Check out the video in its native habitat at Nimmo Bay Helicopter Fishing and Wildlife Adventures‘ website.

Learn more about the project at

Explore the possibility of flying the helicopter yourself… helicopter training info.

Learning To Fly – Which Pilot License Is Right For You?

Monday, January 24th, 2011
By Russell Frame
Click to find flight schools - cockpit-view-over-klamath

Which pilot license will suit your mission best?

The dream of flight captures many but only a few have the will to push forward and begin their training to become licensed pilots.  Student pilots today have to make decisions about the initial pilot certificate they will pursue… Private Pilot, Recreational Pilot, or Sport Pilot.

So, with all of these options, how can a new student pilot make a decision about the initial pilot certificate they should pursue? The following series of questions should provide a starting point.

1. Do you have any current or past medical issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiac disease, etc that may keep you from passing an FAA medical exam?

2. Can you pass the FAA medical exam? Do you have limited budget and/or time to complete your initial pilot training?

3. Do you have good health, several hours per week for flight training, and cost is not a major obstacle?

To learn which license is right for you, read the full article Learning To Fly – Which Pilot License Is Right For You? at

This article was written by Russell Frame, owner of High Country AeroWorks, provider of aircraft rental and flight instruction in Coeur d’Alene Idaho

Growth in Air Travel Presents Exciting Employment Opportunities

Friday, January 21st, 2011
Aviation Jobs

Aviation jobs look strong in the long term

The volume of air travel in the UK fluctuates from year to year depending on economic factors and terrorist incidents etc but there is no denying that the long term trend is extremely resilient and tends to exceed 4.5 % p.a. We can see the effects almost daily with airports screaming for extra capacity and the airlines queuing up to order new aircraft from the major manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing.

The hunger for air travel partly reflects the reduction in prices caused by the budget operators like Ryanair and Easyjet but demographic factors are also playing a major contributory role. People are much more mobile these days and choosing to live and work in countries other than where they were born. This not only means that they use air travel more but friends and relatives who are visiting these exiles will usually have to fly to make their journey.

In an effort to keep the lid on long term growth in air passenger numbers, the government is endeavouring to get more people to travel by train which inevitably necessitates the development of high – speed rail.

Experience on the Continent confirms that, if rail travel can compete on price and travelling times, people will tend to use it instead of flying with all the extra hassle it entails. This is particularly true of short- haul routes. The 2 hour Cologne to Frankfurt train service is now so popular that the former air service has been dropped altogether. This obviously frees up capacity for air traffic to and from longer haul destinations where a rail competitor might be either inappropriate or simply impossible.

Despite new initiatives such as the promotion of high speed rail, it seems little can stop the air travel juggernaut rolling ever onward. This is an important consideration for young people looking for the security of employment in a long term growth industry. Nor are we just talking here about the thousands who work directly for airports and the airlines themselves. Youngsters might also consider less obvious opportunities linked directly with the growth in air travel. The Civil Aviation Authority is paid by the airlines to regulate the industry and employs several thousand in a wide variety of aviation jobs. Similarly, the long term growth of aircraft sales is very good news for engine manufacturers like Rolls Royce and other component makers like GKN who are well represented in the UK.

Civil Aviation Authority
Aviation Jobs

The Power of the Power Curve

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

Guest author Steve Pomroy offers insights into one of flight training’s most challenging topics, the power curve.

When learning basic (and advanced!) aircraft handling, it helps to know and understand how much of a power reserve you have, and what that means to you as a pilot. It’s also useful to understand how the power required by the aircraft varies with airspeed and load factor. Building this understanding is where the power curve comes in. Learning the nuances of the power curve helps us develop an understanding of aircraft behavior and control response while we’re still on the ground. This ultimately makes our in-flight training much more efficient and effective.

The power curve is actually two curves plotted on the same axis: the Power-Required curve, and the Power-Available curve. Both represent power (required or available) as functions of airspeed.

Power required is defined as the power we need to be providing (from the engine) in order for the aircraft to maintain a constant airspeed and constant altitude. The power required is a function of the drag being produced by the airframe and our true airspeed.

Power available is the maximum power that we can produce with the engine. Although engines are normally rated for a fixed maximum brake-horsepower, the power available curve doesn’t show us constant power available—there is significant variation with airspeed. This is because the curve accounts for the efficiency of our propeller—which changes with airspeed—and as such represents thrust horsepower, not brake horsepower.

The difference between our power-available and power-required is our excess power, power margin, or power reserve. It’s possible for this value to be negative at high speeds and/or altitudes, but it is normally positive—indicating that we have access to more power than we need to maintain a constant airspeed and altitude. Our power reserve is important, since it’s an indication of how well we can accelerate and/or climb…

Read the full Power of the Power Curve article >>

This article was written by Steve Pomroy, an Airline Transport Pilot, Class 1 Flight Instructor, aviation writer, and first-time contributor to Steve has been teaching since 1995 and spent 7 years as a pilot examiner for Transport Canada. He currently works for Allied Wings, where he teaches military pilot candidates on their Primary Flight Training course. You can follow him on Twitter @TheFlightWriter or find his blog at

K-State at Salina to open flight training campus in Wichita

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

By TIM UNRUH – Salina Journal. See original article

Kansas State University logo

K-State Aviation Program Expanding

WICHITA — Kansas State University at Salina plans to establish by this fall a campus in Wichita that will offer flight training, Dennis Kuhlman, dean of K-State at Salina said Thursday.

Kuhlman said the campus will be at the National Center for Aviation Training in Wichita, which is near Jabara Airport in north Wichita. The expansion, which will require Kansas Board of Regents approval, has been in the works for about a year, he said.

“It allows K-State at Salina to gain additional students in Wichita in the flight program, and offers an opportunity to Wichita State University students that they don’t currently have,” Kuhlman said.

K-State Salina hangar and fleet

K-State Salina hangar and fleet

The potential for the new campus is an additional 30 students, he said. The Salina campus typically has 200 to 250 students in the professional pilot program, said Kurt Barnhart, aviation department head.

Aviation engineering students at WSU will enjoy the opportunity to have flight training closer to their main campus.

“This just meets a need,” Kuhlman said. “We’re a land grant institution. Our responsibility is to try to provide education to the students of Kansas.”

Reporter Tim Unruh can be reached at 785-822-1419 or by e-mail at

Learn more about K-State’s Aviation programs

Compare flight schools in Kansas

Wisconsin College Adds Aviation Minor

Friday, January 14th, 2011
Pilatus PC-12

Photo courtesy of Brandon Farris, copyright 2011,

A small, liberal arts college in Wisconsin, Lakeland College, recently announced plans to launch a four-year undergraduate minor in aviation.

The program will begin in the fall semester and consists of 31 credit hours of work. The required course work includes ground school classroom instruction and flight instruction at Sheboygan County Memorial Airport or Austin Straubel International Airport.

Lakeland and Frontline Aviation, based in Green Bay, partnered to create the program, which is the first of its kind in Wisconsin. While the partnership does come at a down time, experts are predicting an upswing in aviation jobs for which graduates of such programs will be perfectly positioned. The program at Lakeland is designed to provide students with the education and flying skills required for those jobs. The program is also designed to allow area students to obtain their pilot ratings and a four-year degree without having to endure transferring from a smaller two-year school.

The commercial aviation sector has seen more than its share of job loss and pay cuts recently with pilots losing out in major airline mergers and flight schools closing because of rising insurance and training costs in the face of a reduction in applicants who can afford flight training. Fortunately, industry experts see light on the horizon. They are calling for a shortage of pilots in the next few years as the federally-mandated retirement catches up with many airline pilots.

Additionally, niche pilot careers like corporate charters or law enforcement aviation are starting to get more attention from schools. By combining a four-year degree in criminal justice and flight training, a student would be well positioned to pilot aircraft for a law enforcement agency like U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Unfortunately, cost is going to play a huge role in deciding the viability of the new program. Lakeland officials estimate that students will have to pay $27,000 for the program, which takes them up to their flight instructor certificate. Most of the program costs go to pay for aircraft rental which is about $125 per hour at Frontline Aviation.

The bottom line is that Lakeland students now have one of the most affordable flight training programs at their disposal. They will graduate with a four-year degree ready to move into a flight instructing or entry-level commercial flying job. Within a short amount of time they could be well on their way to an ATP rating and the right seat of a commercial airliner as hiring increases at the airlines.

For more information on flight training and choosing the right school, check out our Flight Training Resource Center or compare flight training in Wisconsin.

Source:Undergrads earn degrees and wings
This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at

Topgun Instructor Shares Adventures in Military Flight Training

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

By Dave “Bio” Baranek

Dave "Bio" Baranek and F-14 Tomcat

Dave "Bio" Baranek and F-14 Tomcat

Flying is an appealing blend of science and art, and simply training to fly requires equal amounts of intelligence and eye-hand coordination — it is satisfying on many levels. But military flight training includes several terrestrial events that in terms of sheer excitement rival actual flying. I’ll briefly describe two of them: the Helo Dunker and SERE school.
I suspect many have heard of the Dilbert Dunker, which was shown in the movie “An Officer and a Gentleman.” A rudimentary cockpit that rolled down a short track into a pool, the Dilbert Dunker has been used since WW2 to train the Navy’s aviators to egress from an aircraft in the water.

In the 1970s the Navy examined mishap and fatality rates and realized they were losing many personnel in helicopter mishaps over water. These were accidents that should have been survivable if the helo’s occupants — crew and passengers — had been trained to get out of the helicopter cabin before it sank. The Navy developed an effective response that involved a diabolical device, the Helo Dunker.

Dave "Bio"Baranek's book Topgun Days

Dave "Bio" Baranek's book Topgun Days

My exposure to the device came in my fourth week of basic aviation training at Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola, Florida, which was about two months after I graduated from college. Looking like a giant green barrel, the Helo Dunker tested up to eight students at a time. It was lowered into a large pool, then rotated when it was underwater. We had to wait until all movement stopped, then unstrap from our seats and find our way out. We did this four times to qualify, with a different exit window each run and the last two with blindfolds to simulate a nighttime crash.

My first three runs went smoothly, and my clothes were wet from the cool water as I strapped into a seat for the fourth run and lowered my blindfold, along with four other students. As the device descended into the pool I heard the splash and felt the water at my feet, rising. The device quickly submerged and water rose to my waist, then suddenly my neck. I tried to take that last full breath at the optimum instant, knowing that if I messed up I would have 30-40 seconds of thoughts and tasks before I could return to air. Once we were submerged, the device rotated randomly – this time it rotated through the inverted, stopping about 240 degrees from initial position.

On this last run all five of us had to exit from a single window. Divers watched to verify that we complied with instructions. Once all motion stopped, I placed both hands at my waist and released my seatbelt. The fact that we were inverted was incidental in this underwater escape scenario. Others in the drum had already unstrapped and started for the designated window exit. That was good, they were probably feeling the pressure in their lungs but I was still comfortable. I moved out of my seat and grabbed the seat in front of me as a guide to the… hey, tennis shoe in the face! It didn’t really hurt and I didn’t have the option to complain, so I stayed focused on the escape. I worked hand over hand as I followed a path to the designated exit, keeping track of those feet ahead with my hand, not my face. They seemed to be headed for the correct window. I grabbed the window frame, pulled free, and just floated for a moment to make sure I knew which way was up. Then I swam to the surface, felt real air on my face, and took off the blackout goggles. I was done!

Most of my fellow passengers were nearby. We exploded to the surface with the exhilaration of real crash survivors. One guy came up on the other side of the pool, and the observers told him the bad news, that he’d used the wrong exit window and had to go again to qualify. But overall it was another good day: no permanent damage and more stories to tell at the officers club.

Our instructors told us that the Navy had observed a marked reduction in fatalities after they began giving Helo Dunker training. So it wasn’t simply for their amusement.

The other training event I’ll mention came about one year later, just as I started the F-14 Tomcat training squadron. This was SERE School, named for the survival, evasion, resistance, and escape techniques we learned in case we fell into enemy hands. The Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy all conduct SERE programs to help prepare personnel who would be susceptible to capture by enemy forces during combat ops.

My weeklong SERE class began with two days – a Thursday and Friday – in a large Navy classroom at NAS North Island, across the bay from downtown San Diego. We were about 40 young men, mostly officers plus a few enlisted aircrew. (Women did not yet fly combat aircraft.) For two days we received lectures on SERE and prisoner of war (POW) concepts, and the specific training we would soon begin. Saturday was a day off, and Sunday morning we began the field portion of training.

Breakfast before class on Sunday was our last regular meal for more than four days. After lectures on how to catch fish and birds, how to purify water, and other information about survival in a seaside environment, we walked to a beautiful government-controlled beach and “got started.” We essentially hung out on the beach all day.

We captured a few small crabs and other creatures, a meager take. But late in the afternoon we managed to talk some fishermen just offshore into giving us some fish and lobsters, a real windfall. We then made an ugly but tasty seafood stew. We slept on the beach under survival blankets. It was July in San Diego, and SERE School was off to a good start. This was a picnic compared to the rest of the week.

Monday morning we boarded a bus for the two-hour drive to a Navy “camp” in the California desert near Warner Springs. This was high desert, so instead of bare sand dunes there was a lot of low-growing vegetation, cactus and prickly pears. It was hot in the daytime and cold at night. The first three days consisted of short classes in the morning, land navigation for the rest of the day, and then practical exercises such as building small shelters. When we had time to relax, we talked about food. I ate a lot of ants, which are not very filling, and various plants. I slept on the hard ground under a Mylar survival blanket.

Things changed after the Wednesday morning class. We had a short navigation exercise, only this time we had to avoid  “enemy soldiers” played by trained Navy personnel. Like most of my fellow SERE-schoolers I successfully avoided the “enemy” during the short navigation segment. This provided little comfort because soon a bell was rung and we all reported to the designated collection point. We had been told not to remain in hiding after the bell was rung. Those who did would be treated worse than what the curriculum called for when they were finally picked up.

I was piled into the back of a pickup truck and taken to an “enemy compound” where our class was collected. I spent most of the next hour on hot sand, in the “up” position of a push-up, with the rest of the class. When anyone tried to look around a guard with a bad accent yelled, “Keep your eyes on the ground, American pig!” We heard a lot of yelling and people being thrown around. We were separated into small groups and processed as “POWs.”

During the afternoon, over the long night, and into the next morning we received a small taste of mental and physical duress. We knew that we were U.S. Navy officers being dealt with by other U.S. Navy personnel, but still the exposure was effective. We were kept separately in rows of small boxes, not allowed to sleep, punished if we were caught communicating, sometimes blindfolded, subjected to interrogations, thrown around, slapped, and strapped to “the water board.”

We had heard about the water board in the run up to SERE school, and I thought that since I had grown up swimming I would be able to handle it. When it was my turn, I was strapped to a backboard. For a few minutes the guards poured water onto my nose and mouth while they interrogated me. I was able to breathe with a little sputtering. It was irritating but tolerable, and I did not answer their questions. My fellow “prisoners” stood in a tight circle around the interrogation, and soon the guards shifted their question to the other prisoners – while continuing to pour water on me.
“What are your priority targets?” they asked the group.

No one answered.

“What are your strike control frequencies?”

Someone said, “Go to hell.”

I was thinking, “This isn’t too bad.” But it turned out that most people could get through that stage of the water board. Then one guard said, “Take away his breath, comrade!”

With perfect timing, just as I exhaled and was expecting another breath, a guard held a cloth tightly over my mouth and nose and poured water on the cloth. That cut off my air and quickly went from irritating to very uncomfortable. Even though I was in training, being interrogated by Navy personnel, I gave the signal of capitulation that our class had arranged. My fellow prisoners said, “Okay, we’ll answer your questions,” and I was allowed to breathe again.

It is just possible that if we had not been in Warner Springs, California, I may have been more determined to resist, but I have always been glad I never had to find out.

The “POW camp experience” lasted less than 24 hours, and ended with a dramatic “rescue” as the American flag was raised over our compound. Though we were beginning our training on the mighty F-14 Tomcat, SERE school is what we talked about for the next few weeks. And I found out everyone gave in on the water board.

About the author: Dave “Bio” Baranek was a US Navy radar intercept officer (RIO) in the F-14 Tomcat fighter. He was also a Topgun instructor, and helped film the movie “Top Gun.” He has written a book about some of his flying adventures called TOPGUN DAYS, and his website is

Air Force Testing Next Gen UAVs

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

Next generation UAVs like Boeing's Phantom Ray, loosely based on the X-45 (pictured), will allow the military to use UAVs for even more missions.

Edwards Air Force Base will play host to several next generation UAVs over the next few weeks. These new drones are faster, fly higher, and employ stealth technologies.

One of the new aircraft, the Global Observer from AeroVironment Inc., has a wingspan similar to a Boeing 747 has already flown. It is able to fly for multiple days at altitudes of more than 65,000 feet. Operating at such altitudes, similar to those at which the venerable U2 spy plane operates, the Global Observer is out of the range of most antiaircraft missiles. It is capable of monitoring, in a single shot, an area of more than 275,000 square miles. When you consider that the entire country of Afghanistan only covers about 252,000 square miles, the Global Observer certainly lives up to its name allowing the Pentagon to constantly monitor entire war zones. At an estimated cost of $30 million dollars, it costs less and is more effective than spy satellites.

Northrop Grumman Corp., one of the big names in military aircraft, has brought their X-47B, which looks like their B-2 stealth bomber, to the table. Northrop Grumman’s next generation UAV has a large weapons bay that can carry laser-guided bombs and has aircraft carrier launch capabilities. Boeing, another big name manufacturer will also test their next generation UAV, the Phantom Ray which is designed to slip into enemy territory and destroy radar installations or other targets.

Current drones, like Predators or Reapers, have become very common in our current military engagements, but the new aircraft being tested at Edwards Air Force Base offer major technological improvements that will change the way the U.S. military uses UAVs. The most notable of those improvements are jet engines and stealth capabilities. Currently UAVs are not the fastest or stealthiest aircraft in the sky, so they don’t see much duty beyond surveillance support and aerial reconnaissance. With the newer more capable drones, like the X-47B and Phantom Ray, military personnel can deploy them for combat duties where stealth and speed are required to avoid detection, an area previously dominated by the current and next generation fighter jets, like the F-22 or F-35.

The largest part of what makes UAVs so attractive to the military are the reduced risk and cost of operating UAVs compared to other aircraft; however, the unique capabilities of drones like the new Global Observer don’t go unnoticed. While current UAVs can stay aloft for more than a day, next generation drones are edging toward staying up for more than a week, greatly improving the military’s reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities.

Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles, or UCAVs, are currently operated as remotely piloted aircraft that require a pilot to control the aircraft. Next generation UCAVs, like the X-47B, only require a pilot to design a detailed flight plan; the on-board computers guide it from takeoff to landing.

While these aircraft aren’t likely to see service in the next few years, they offer a glimpse of the innovations that are happening within the industry. As is often the case, similar technologies will eventually reach the civilian sector allowing UAVs to take over even more functions requiring more and more qualified, civilian UAV pilots.

For more information on unmanned aircraft systems training, check out our UAV/UAS Training Resource Center or find UAV/UAS training near you.

Source: New generation of unmanned spy planes is being tested
This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at

At the Edge of Safety

Monday, January 10th, 2011
Sunrise from the cockpit of an MD80

Climbing out of DFW - Sunrise at FL270

Do you remember the details of your last drive to work? If the weather was nice and the roads were in good condition, you probably don’t. How about the last time you topped an ice covered bridge in the winter with a stout wind blowing from one side to the other? I remember the last time that happened to me in great detail. Tightened grip on the wheel…concern and accuracy with the placement of my tires on the rough…enter the bridge slightly upwind if possible…mildly elevated heart rate. At my job as an MD80 First Officer, I rarely remember the specifics of a particular day or individual landing. I go to work, fly from here to there, layover and do it again the next day. My internal autopilot often engages and things just seem to happen automatically. Don’t get me wrong, I take every flight seriously and devote my professional existence to performing at my best, but as many times as I’ve landed this airplane, things begin to happen without consciously thinking of every move. However, every now and then I find myself in a situation that gets my heart beating and adrenaline flowing.

Climbing out of DFW this morning on our way to Minneapolis, I pulled up a current weather report so the Captain would have the most up-to-date weather information to pass along to the passengers when he made his next PA. I was surprised to see that the conditions at the airport were worse than forecast with strong crosswinds, visibility around 2 miles and light snow. When I signed in early this morning, I checked the weather along our route and at Minneapolis, our final destination. The visibility was hovering around 3 miles in light snow with crosswinds blowing steadily at 18 knots and forecasts predicted improved conditions with diminishing winds and improved visibility as the day went on.

I really wasn’t overly concerned about the weather reports. Snow and wind is part of the deal when flying up north this time of year and today’s weather was no exception. As we continued, I kept an eye on airport conditions, retrieving new reports about every 30 minutes, checking for special reports and hourly observations. As we began our descent from 35,000 feet, I checked the weather one last time and discovered that the visibility had dropped to ¾ of a mile in snow with wind blowing directly across the runway at 24 knots.

The Captain and I both began to wonder about crosswind limits and retrieved our operating manuals to verify the limitations in diminished conditions. These numbers are the sort of thing they ask us every year in training, but since we rarely operate near the limits, it’s always a good idea to check your memory against the books. The maximum demonstrated crosswind for the MD80 is 30 knots on a runway with good visibility and favorable braking action reports. Reduce the braking action report to fair, and the crosswind limit drops to 20 knots. Reduce the visibility below ¾ and the max crosswind limit drops further to 15 knots. The current visibility at the airport was ¾, which was just enough to avoid a crosswind reduction, but with snow and ice on the runway, we were concerned about braking action reports. We would have to wait until we got a hand-off to Minneapolis approach before we would be able to get an accurate braking action report, so we continued preparations for landing.

TWOLF TWO arrival to MSP

At the top of descent on the TWOLF TWO arrival to MSP

The Captain briefed an ILS to runway 12R and I tuned and identified the frequencies. We continued our descent as I completed the Descent Checklist and got started on the Before Landing Checklist. I flipped the switch on our number one radio to check on with approach and overheard a Delta jet inquire about the winds. The wind was still blowing directly across the runway with gusts to 24 knots, but the controller relayed a braking action report of “fair.” As I mentioned before, the crosswind would have to be lower than 20 knots before we could land with a fair report. I waited for a break in the radio congestion and informed the controller that we would be unable to land. “Say your intentions“ he said. I requested holding then explained that we needed a braking report of “good” before we could accept the approach. MSP approach informed us that the “fair” report was from a much smaller aircraft and that they would get reports from larger aircraft ahead of us on the arrival.

There were several Delta A320s on the arrival in front of us that seemed content with the winds and continued the approach. I was a little surprised that their limits would be different than ours, but I was also pleased that someone ahead of us could land and hopefully report better conditions on the runway. A report of braking action “good” was reported by the next aircraft and we accepted an approach clearance. There were now two Delta jets ahead of us on the approach and as we passed 3000 feet on the glide slope, the first relayed another report of “fair” but the aircraft in front of us landed and passed along another “good” report. We were legal to land.

The back and forth reports of the conditions on the runway concerned me greatly and present an opportunity to mention the different and sometimes contradictory terms legal and safe. There are a great many times in aviation that an action may be legal, but not safe. There are probably a number of examples of safe, but not legal, but none come to mind at the moment. Our manuals and the Federal Aviation Regulations determine the rules by which we operate our aircraft, but the legal minimums don’t always take all relevant factors into consideration and sometimes don’t provide enough of a margin for safety. For the MD80, the maximum crosswind limitation for a runway with braking action “good “ is 30 knots. The crosswind today was gusting to 24 on a snow covered runway with suspect braking reports. Legal? Yes. Safe? That’s up to the pilot. How long is the runway? What type aircraft made the report? How experienced was the pilot and do you trust his subjective opinion of the conditions? All these things come into play at this point of the process and they are all valid considerations. Legal is not always safe, and the decision isn’t always easy and is never made in a vacuum.

There are other considerations as well. The vast majority of the approaches we fly provide ample room for mistakes and malfunction, but while incredibly rare, system malfunctions do occur. An airplane is an incredibly complex machine and sometimes things go wrong within landing critical systems like brakes, anti-skid, spoilers and reversers…sometimes at the most inopportune moment. When operating into an airport near sea level with long runways on a day with favorable weather conditions, there’s automatic room for error and abnormality. Dallas, Ft. Worth International, for instance, is an airport where the runways, at only 600 ft. above sea level, are almost all longer than 13,000 feet in an area of the country that enjoys generally mild weather conditions. I realize you might take issue with that statement in August when it’s 113 degrees outside, but compare DFW to Minneapolis and the approach we flew today with an 8,000 ft. runway covered in ice and snow where the winds were blowing directly across the runway at 24 knots and what you have is an approach and landing at the maximum capability of the aircraft. On an approach like this one, very little can go wrong without dire consequences. The Captain and I determined that we were legal and decided it was safe to land, so we proceeded with the approach….carefully.

The Captain was at the controls and I assisted him as best I could with regular callouts regarding our speed, altitude and changes in the wind as we continued down the glide-slope. We completed our landing checklist and were stabilized on the approach well before the required 1000 feet. When I say stabilized, what I mean is that we were on speed, on glide-slope, engines stabilized and properly configured. Statistics show that the chances for a successful approach and landing are far greater when the aircraft is properly configured for landing and stabilized on the approach by 1000 ft.

The wind was gusty and we experienced plus and minus 10 knot fluctuations in airspeed most of the way down final, but the Captain put the aircraft right in the touch down zone, the auto brakes and auto spoilers deployed as planned and we stopped with plenty of runway to spare. As we slowed to taxi speed, the anti-skid began to release the brakes in an effort to maintain traction, but I would have to say that I agreed with the preceding jet’s assessment of the braking action and we passed along our own report to the tower.

You know that feeling you sometimes get after driving home from work when you can’t remember exactly how you got home? We didn’t feel that way after this landing. We cleared the runway and taxied to the gate with a sense of relief, and maybe a little pride, for a job well done. Hats off to the Captain for shooting the perfect approach in some pretty awful conditions. Go to work. Fly from here to there. Layover and do it again the next day. When we return in the morning, hopefully the line between safe and legal won’t be so thin.

This article was written by Brad Tate, an MD80 First Officer and general aviation pilot. You can find him on twitter @AAFO4Ever and follow along with his blog where you will find a collection of his thoughts and experiences as a pilot for a major U.S. airline. “I speak for myself, not my employer, who in no way endorses what I write. Thanks for reading along.”

Arizona Flight Training – Five Reasons to Train in Arizona

Saturday, January 8th, 2011
Cessna 172 over runway

Photo courtesy of Brandon Farris, copyright 2011,

Arizona’s diverse geography and exceptional weather do their parts to create a perfect location for flight training, but there is so much more.

Considering traveling to complete your flight training? Maybe you should head to Arizona. Perhaps your home isn’t located in a good area for flight training or the nearest flight school is 300 miles away, traveling to Arizona for flight training can save you time and money.

What makes Arizona so ideal for learning to fly? In the third of a series of articles, we cover flight training in Arizona. With almost 80 airports, including one of the busiest general aviation airports in the nation, Arizona is home to more flight schools than you can count. Arizona is home to a network of airports that create a perfect flight training environment. Additionally, the highly-varied geography in Arizona allows for some of the best training opportunities including desert operations and high-altitude airport operations.

If that’s not enough, Arizona’s proximity to Mexico and the Grand Canyon create some interesting extra-curricular flying destinations. You can learn to work international flights and have some nice down time by slipping down to one of Mexico’s resort towns. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a paying job to exercise your new commercial pilot certificate, there are hundreds of tourists lining up everyday for a scenic, aerial tour of the Grand Canyon.

Interested in learning more about flight training in Arizona? Read Flight Training in Arizona – Five Reasons to Train in the Grand Canyon State.

For more information on flight training and choosing the right school, check out our Flight Training Resource Center or find flight schools in Arizona.

This article was written by Matthew Everett, a private pilot, aviation writer, and frequent contributor to You can follow him on twitter @leaving_tf or find his blog at