Thursday, May 31, 2007

Hey guys- headset question

Listener Email from Zach from Calif:

Hey Uncontrolled Airspace Gang!

My name is Zach Leach, and I'm a 10 hour student pilot out of Santa Monica, Calif. (KSMO) and I'm in the market for headsets, and I have to admit there's a lot out there.

Basically every time I go for a lesson, I get one that's really soft, or the squelch is all messed up, or they're falling apart– and hey I'm going to need some eventually. So I was wondering what kind of headsets you guys use, and what you think are some of the best and what I can get for a reasonable amount of money.

By the way, Jack– I'm also a Mac Genius here at the Apple Store in Los Angeles (The Grove) and I'm sorry to hear about your hard drive! Remember, save often, and always back up– but you knew that.

It's so good to hear you're a Mac User! What kind of Mac do you have by the way? Oh and if you have any questions about your Mac or whatever I'd be more then glad to help– you guys always keep me motivated to go fly!

Keep up the awesome work!

Zach Leach

SoCal controllers

Listener Email:

From: Ron from ??? (Calif?)
Subject: SoCal controllers
Date: May 24, 2007 11:12:21 AM EDT

Hi guys,

I just read an article about new procedures being implemented in Southern California (SoCal). It detail in many pages how the controllers will not be allowed to say ANYTHING non official, like wishing us good day, have a good flight. Also if pilots fail to readback something it's the controllers fault and they need to get retrained. They start with a 100 points and deductions are made for these wrong transmissions. They can easily lose there certification and then be fired. This is horrible as I think it's unfair for the controllers, and as they are a great asset to us pilots and I like to show my appreciation to them on air. No long conversations, just a quick thanks. We need to get the word out and put a stop to this.

Remember those nice exchanges in the movie 16R? Well those will no longer be valid phraseology and they can be fired for saying welcome home. I'll find the article and get it to you if you don't know about it. It's in Pacific Aero? A west coast mag I think.


FOLLOWUP from Ron:

I forgot to add that what is happening in Socal is just the start. No word yet as to when this will be in effect Nationwide. It seems it will effect everyone.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Cartoons from Phantasy Airline Association...

Yes, kiddies, there's a new cartoon on TV that ranks right along other fantasies as the White House's make-believe WMD in Iraq and the User Fee for Salvation Saga from the FAA...

Scary stories, for sure...just total fiction...and this isn't just my observation...

There's this from NBAA:

Bolen Asks CNN Network to Pull Deceptive Ad by Airline Lobby
NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen last week sent a letter to CNN Airport Network requesting that a TV advertisement sponsored by the Air Transport Association (the airlines' lobbying group) be removed from the network's programming lineup because the ad contains misleading and false information about the general aviation community. NBAA's letter, based on research about CNN's advertising policies, notes that CNN has a policy against accepting misleading and false ads. The letter also provides facts to refute the false and misleading claims made in the ad. To review Bolen's letter, visit:

And there's even more in a report from the Alliance for Aviation in America...

If you feel moved that this sorta fantasy junk is beneath the importance of the debate, let the Air Transport Association know that what works to sell cereal to curtain climbers doesn't sell with you...

What children they must be...

Friday, May 25, 2007

More rules for planes, small boats

From a story in the Portland Maine Press Herald:

Small aircraft and pleasure boats arriving in Maine and other states from outside the country would be subject to increased scrutiny under regulations being drafted by the Department of Homeland Security.

Secretary Michael Chertoff said the goal is to tighten security for smaller planes and boats and make the process more comparable to the higher security and screening given to airline passengers and cargo containers arriving by ship.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Aviation career for an 'old' guy?

Email from Scott from Tennessee

Subject: Aviation career for an 'old' guy?
Date: May 22, 2007 12:40:50 PM EDT


I've come across your podcast in the last month or so thanks to an iTunes search and have become quite a fan. I enjoy the insights that your collective time and breadth of experience bring to the podcast.

To get to the point as quickly as I can, I have been an aviation buff for as long as I can remember. My dad was a controller at Nashville (KBNA) from when I was only months old until I was out of college. He also had a private ticket that he would use occasionally and I got several rides in the right seat of a rented 172 as I grew up. During his FAA days, I got to tag along to airshows where he did ATC work. Talking to pilots every day, he got to know some. This bore fruit as the two of us getting late-night rides on Lears carrying canceled checks, big turboprops hauling other freight, occasionally a ride in a biz-jet and even a jaunt on a helicopter around town once. I say all this to say that a love of all things airborne is deeply ingrained in me. It's a big part of who I am.

One thing I am not, unfortunately, is a pilot. It seems that the time and money never quite came together nor did I take a shot at Air Force ROTC while I was in college in the early 90's. Now that I'm (allegedly) grown up at 36 years of age with a wife, 3 kids, a beagle and a mortgage, I've gotten bitten rather severely by the flying bug. I would love to find a way to make money in some facet of the aviation biz and make a fairly radical career change after nearly 13 years of electrical engineering work. From where I sit, however, I don't think this is possible without an enormous hit to the standard of living that my family has come to enjoy.

Here is where I wish to tap the numerous years of aviation experience that you all pool together and share with the world every week. Can you impart some wisdom on my thoughts of a major career transition? I know that ab initio schools are out there that will groom you for at least a shot at a right seat in a regional airline, but I know that aviation is much more than airline jobs. That "low time, no experience, bottom rung of the ladder, dues paying" hydra rears its head again. Yes, I could do it. Were I not a family man I just might. As things are as I see them today, I think I'm too old to make the jump from engineering to aviation as a lateral move without a major impact on my family. I've nearly resigned myself to the fact that I should just get to work on a private ticket (hopefully right after my wife's master's degree is paid for), build some time, add a rating or two eventually and enjoy life from the GA side of the airport. You all have been in the game longer than me - perhaps there's something I've overlooked. Please either point me in a direction I haven't gone or confirm my suspicions, if you wouldn't mind.

I'm eager to hear from you. Thanks for the opportunity to stop by the virtual hangar, listen, learn and even ask a question or two. Keep up the great work.

Kind regards,
Lebanon, TN
M54 - Lebanon Municipal
Also, N4JN - if any of you all are into ham radio :-)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

NBAA Volunteers to build Av-themed playground in ATL

Yepper, yet another opportunity for GA people to spread the word...

NBAA2007 to Include Construction of Aviation-Themed Playground
NBAA is looking for volunteers among Members who are planning to attend the Association's 60th Annual Meeting & Convention (NBAA2007) to help with an exciting community project. NBAA has partnered with Home Depot and non-profit organization KaBOOM! to construct an aviation-themed playground near Atlanta's Fulton County Airport (FTY). Atlanta will serve as the host city for NBAA2007 from September 25 to 27. Construction is scheduled for Sunday, September 23, two days before the opening of the Convention. KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit group, will design and oversee the project using their "community-build model" to bring business and community interests together. Approximately 400 NBAA volunteers are expected on construction day, but more volunteers are needed. To learn more, visit:

Monday, May 21, 2007

Quote of the day

From a posting to the Beech Owners List:

"From a practical standpoint, the FAA often acts like a wounded animal: We really don't know what they're going to do next."

80 years

Eighty years ago today, Charles A. Lindbergh landed his Ryan NYP "Spirit of St. Louis" in a field outside Paris, France. So was laid down a template for what we know today as the "media frenzy." Except his lasted throughout his life.

Irrespective of his politics and the controversy that soon followed him, you have to give him credit for carrying a large pair of cojones: flying a fabric-covered airplane powered by a single piston engine of relatively unproven technology for more than 33 hours -- alone and without an autopilot, or even a radio -- across nothing but water.

Given the relatively insignificant support he had, especially when matched against not only other, contemporary efforts but also to more modern record attempts (Voyager and Space Ship One come to mind), very little we can do today compares.

Friday, May 18, 2007

It's all in the shutter speed.

How Mainstream Media covers aviation crashes

Thursday, May 17, 2007

This is NOT good



My apologies for the e-mail exchanges we have been having this week,
but I did want to thank you for your tremendous response to yesterday's
message asking for immediate action in contacting your senator to fight
user fees. Let me assure you that your phone calls were very important
in disrupting the airlines' attempt to have user fees pass unopposed
by the Senate Commerce Committee. This committee is the first of nearly
a dozen political bodies that will weigh in on the FAA financing issue.

We lost a close vote by a margin of 12 to 11 on the Nelson/Sununu
amendment that would have struck the $25 air traffic modernization
"surcharge" from the Senate FAA funding bill. By early evening last
night, the after-hours Senate office voicemails were filled to capacity
by many of the more than 135,000 AOPA members who heeded our call to
action. Late yesterday afternoon, I was actually waiting to see a senator
in his office and watching and listening while his administrative staff
was answering your calls.

Eleven members of the Commerce Committee deserve special recognition from
pilots for their tremendous work in supporting the fight against user fees.
First of all, Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and John Sununu (R-N.H.) did
excellent work in stepping forward to sponsor the amendment. Sens. Byron
Dorgan (D-N.D.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Kay Bailey
Hutchison (R-Texas), Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine), Gordon Smith (R-Ore.),
John Ensign (R-Nev.), Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), and David Vitter (R-La.)
all supported the amendment.

On the other side, there were 12 senators who supported user fees:
Sens. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Trent Lott (R-Miss.), Ted Stevens
(R-Alaska), Daniel K. Inouye (D-Hawaii), John F. Kerry (D-Mass.),
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Frank R. Lautenberg
(D-N.J.), Claire C. McCaskill (D-Mo.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.),
John McCain (R-Ariz.), and John Thune (R-S.D.).

Frankly, even this defeat sent a very strong message that AOPA members
do not support user fees for any segment of aviation! This is important
because we are still in the early stages. This bill will also need action
by the Senate Finance Committee before it reaches a vote by the full Senate.
Your hard work has been an impressive opening round, and we still have yet
to see any action in the House of Representatives.

By midday Thursday, May 17, you can access our full Web story
( ).
More importantly, for those of you who made contacts of any kind, this
Web story will contain audio clips if your senator spoke on behalf of or
in opposition to the amendment.

This will not be the only time we call on you this year, but you have proven
that our highly targeted method of AOPA member contact is effective.

Thanks so much,

Phil Boyer
AOPA President

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Email: Phillip from Texas


I love the podcast, and being a recent subscriber I'm listening to all
of the back-episodes and just heard you all discussing Bob Hoover. I
just finished reading his autobiography "Forever Flying", and I loved
every word, I highly recommend it. His energy management routine is
actually on YouTube... check it out:

Also, you had read some feedback that you received in I think #14
criticizing you guys for being cynical and hard on the government
entities. I say KEEP IT UP!! You guys are industry professionals with
some great knowledge about the regulatory and inner workings of the
industry, and that is one of the reasons that I like listening to your
"brand" of hangar-flying. You can't get this kind of information from
some of the other hangar-flying podcasts, like Pilotcast, which I also
really enjoy listening to for their "brand" of hangar flying and guest

I subscribe and listen to several aviation-themed podcasts, (UCAP,
Pilotcast, The Finer Points, EAA Avcast, Airspeed - great interview
Dave!, Student Pilot Will) and I really appreciate their differences.
If they were all the same, I wouldn't need to listen to all of them.
Keep doing what you're doing, I think it's excellent, and I hope to run
into you guys up at Oshkosh. You guys should try to get together with
all of the other aviation podcasters up there for a big roundtable



Email: Richard from Calif

Jack, Dave, and Jeb,

You have a great podcast and I want to express my thanks to all of you for participating in it. I travel frequently on business and your podcast is a life saver on those long airline flights. In podcast 24 you started to discuss whether a new low time pilot should purchase an airplane with or without retractable gear. This conversation was sidetracked by Fun 'N Sun, but I hope you will come back to discussing the merits of various aircraft. I am a low time pilot who got my private certificate relatively late in life. Like many, I am time challenged and have come to the conclusion that the only way I will be able to fly more than 15 hours a year is if I purchase an airplane and use it to commute for my shorter business trips. I have concluded that a partnership or flying club would not work for me. I am looking to all of you for airplane advice and the answers to a few questions.

Here is my background:

I have 72 hours. I learned to fly a Beech Skipper (BE77) and have most of my hours in that make/model. The rest of my time is in a 1964, a 1970 and 1999 Cessna 172. Maybe is is because I learned on the Skipper, but for a number of reasons I won't go into here, I liked the Skipper much better than any of the Cessnas. After eliminating a number of aircraft for reasons of range, performance, price, etc, I have decided to search for an IFR equipped 1970 or later Cherokee or a Beech Sundowner.

Here is some specific information around your discussion on whether a first airplane should have retractable gear. I came across a Mooney M20C that I liked. I called AOPA insurance to see if I could even get insurance on this aircraft. Here is the result: They would insure me for 40K hull and 1M liability for $2050/year under the condition that I receive 15 hours of dual instruction in this airplane after which I perform 10 hours of solo prior to carrying any passengers. By comparison, I could insure a Beech Skipper for the same amount for $680/year and fly it immediately.

It would be helpful to me and probably many other listeners if you could answer these questions

Jeb: In looking at Sundowners, I have been told that Beech is not very good at supporting some of its older models. Has this been an issue for you with your Bonanza and if so has it been a major one? Is this a problem with any other manufacturers?

All: In looking at Pipers and Beech Musketeers one question is evident to me. Why would a manufacturer come up with what seems to be an otherwise excellent design, only to destroy it by designing only one door? I live in Souther California and 2 doors or an opening canopy is a very good thing in the summer.

All: Am I overlooking something or is there some advice you have for me and your other listeners in searching for a first aircraft?

Thanks and keep up the good work. It is much appreciated


Email: "Captain" Matt from Missippi

Hey guys, love the podcast

My name is Matthew Nichols, 20 years old and my home field is KUOX. I start the Flight Operations program at Delta State University (KRNV) this fall.

I was lucky enough to have a family member who was a pilot, so I have around aviation my whole life and have had some interesting experiences. My grandfather bought a 172 the year I was born and took me and my two younger brothers flying in it when we were very little, and out of the three I was the only one who enjoyed it and ever since then have been the only other member of my family to be interested in aviation.

Also, over the course of the last 5 years, my grandfather has been working on his own private grass strip. He bought some land down the road from his house and shop and using basically just two small dump trucks, a bulldozer and a front end loader we tranformed this patch of woods into an nice little airstrip. Currently there are threee aircraft there, his 172, a J-3 Cub, and an ultralight (I can't remeber the make or model).

My grandfather also was friends with a man who picked up crashed airplanes for an insurance company and I was able to go with him and his crew many times to help recover these planes and was able to see the importance of remembering your training first hand, since most of these accidents amounted to pilot error. You would also have people who would think you were crazy for being so obsessed with flying and going to pick up crashed planes, but I never let it bother me.

The last notable thing I can say Ive done is back when my family when to Orlando on vacation, I went to Warbird Adventures and got to fly around in a T-6 for nearly an hour. That was an incredible experience and I reccommend it to anyone.

Well guys, keep up the good work. Fly safe.

-Matt "Captain" Nichols

Email followup: Ted from LA

Thanks for reading my message on your podcast. I actually didn't expect for it to be read on the air, but that's fine. I just feel noise is an important issue in GA and I was hoping that you would consider it as a subject to be addressed in the future. Perhaps the next time you talk to Cirrus representatives, for instance. I also think it plays a key part in keeping potential pilots out of our sport.

If I had known you were going to read it on the air I would have added the following:

  • Your discussions regarding purchasing a GA airplane are excellent. It really put things into perspective.
  • The Sun 'n Fun broadcasts were great.
  • I really enjoyed the episode about Amy Laboda's zero 'g' ride.
  • The LSA discussions are great. I'd like to see more on this. Maybe a discussion with one of the more popular manufacturers.

    Thanks again for the great work.


    P.S. - Dave Higdon mentioned he flew in a composite redesign of a Piper Commanche but didn't give any details. It would be nice to hear more about this. How does it compare for weight, payload and perfomance?
  • Monday, May 14, 2007

    This week in stupid pilot tricks

    FAA: Pilot in crash was flying low over lake

    PHOENIX – The pilot of a small plane that crashed into a lake northwest of Phoenix was talking on a cellphone to a friend on a boat while flying only 10 feet above the water, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman. The pilot asked the friend in the boat to shine a flashlight so he could identify the correct boat Friday night, then crashed into the lake.

    From wire reports

    Source: Dallas Morning News

    Educational Opportunity thanks to GAMA & ICAS...

    Offered as encouragement and an opportunity for the aviation-career minded among us.


    WASHINGTON, DC, May 14, 2007 - The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the International Council of Air Shows Foundation (ICASF) have announced the establishment of the ICAS Foundation GAMA Scholarship. This annual scholarship will award $2,000 in funds to a college student seeking an aviation-related degree such as aircraft maintenance, aeronautical engineering, aviation business, or professional pilot.

    “We are thrilled to be teaming with the ICAS Foundation to provide this substantial scholarship to future leaders in our industry,” said Pete Bunce, GAMA’s President and CEO. “Both of our organizations feel it is imperative to work together to help provide a qualified and stable workforce for our industry.”

    ”Both GAMA and the ICAS Foundation have a shared mission to help people to pursue their dream in aviation,” said Dale Drumright, ICAS Foundation Chairman. “We are very excited to collaborate with such a forward thinking organization like GAMA to start our first educational scholarship.”

    Detailed information on the ICAS Foundation GAMA Scholarship is available on the aviation scholarship page of the ICASF website:

    About The ICAS Foundation
    The ICAS Foundation is a tax exempt organization dedicated to preserving and promoting the history, and recognizing the advances of, the air show industry. Its mission is to provide the necessary resources to leave a lasting legacy of our industry for others to follow and perpetuate.

    GAMA is an international trade association headquartered in Washington, DC representing over 50 of the world's leading manufacturers of general aviation aircraft, engines, avionics and related equipment. GAMA's members also operate fleets of aircraft, fixed based operations, and pilot training and maintenance training facilities. For additional information, visit GAMA’s website at

    Saturday, May 12, 2007

    The importance of doing a preflight...

    Concrete block near-miss

    May 11 2007

    By Paul James Chief Reporter, The Journal

    A sports club boss last night said it was a miracle no-one had been hurt after a concrete block fell from an aeroplane on to a city tennis court.

    The one-foot square slab, used to tie down light aircraft at Newcastle Airport, fell from the sky and landed on a grass court at the Northumberland Club in Jesmond.

    Horrified members of the club on North Jesmond Avenue, surrounded by houses and just yards from the busy Osborne Road, called police after the scare just before 9.30am on Wednesday.

    They said the unused court where the concrete block landed was 10 yards away from the club's indoor courts. Airport staff later said the block had fallen from a light aircraft that took off at 9.20am.

    It is thought the four-seater Piper Cherokee took off without removing the weight.


    Thursday, May 10, 2007


    From EAA's Hotline:

    Event to also mark Bonanza's 60th anniversary
    Owners and operators of aircraft manufactured by the Beech Aircraft Corporation and its descendants, including the recently created Hawker Beechcraft Corporation, have two major milestones to celebrate this summer at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, July 23-29. Special activities, flights, and exhibits at "The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration" will mark the 75th anniversary of Beechcraft and the 60th anniversary of the Beechcraft Bonanza.


    First Flight for a Lady Older than Flight Itself..

    Yeah, you read that right.

    Rose Marie Schiltz turns 104 on May 20th. On May 9, the fine folks at Cirrus Design helped fulfill a birthday wish Rose Marie had harbored for 30 years, taking her for her first airplane flight -- and seating her in the best seat...the one on the left.

    Cool for the folks at Cirrus.

    An article and photos is available at:

    Red Tail Event June 6

    In honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, this event sponsored by the Red Tail Project, might be something you want to consider.

    In St. Paul, Minn., at the Minnesota History Center, June 6, 6 p.m. to 9. In addition to meeting some of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen and a dinner, the event includes a private screening of a new PBS documentary, "Red Tail Reborn." For those who don't know, the Red Tail reference stems from the bright scarlet paint the Tuskegee Airmen had painted on the vertical stab and rudder of their P-51 Mustangs.

    The Red Tail Project is involved in restoring a very rare P-51C of the type the Tuskegee Airmen flew from bases in North Africa and Italy.

    Check out the details at And if you can't make the dinner, hope you can find another way to support the restoration project.

    Red Tail Event June 6

    In honor of the Tuskegee Airmen, this event sponsored by the Red Tail Project, might be something you want to consider.

    In St. Paul, Minn., at the Minnesota History Center, June 6, 6 p.m. to 9. In addition to meeting some of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen and a dinner, the event includes a private screening of a new PBS documentary, "Red Tail Reborn." For those who don't know, the Red Tail reference stems from the bright scarlet paint the Tuskegee Airmen had painted on the vertical stab and rudder of their P-51 Munstangs.

    The Red Tail Project is involved in restoring a very rare P-51C of the type the Tuskegee Airmen flew from bases in North Africa and Italy.

    Check out the details at And if you can't make the dinner, hope you can find another way to support the restoration project.

    Tim from Dusseldorf

    Full text of email from Tim.

    Hi guys,

    Sorry that I´m a little late calling in as a UCAP-listener from outside the Continental US but I´ve been quite busy moving those last few days. Nevertheless, I just listened to your recent episode and wanted to do my part just like those guys from "down under"....

    OK, my name´s Timm, I am 30 years old, I´m from Germany and I´ve been a Private Pilot for about 4 years now. Since I am now living in Dusseldorf, Germany, I´m probably going to call EDDL (Dusseldorf International Airport) my new "home airport" soon but until now I´ve done most of my flying out of Marl-Loemuehle [maal - low´mul´a] (EDLM -- which is a rather small airport which has been struggling with some closure issues for many many years since it´s been owned by the county. Fortunately 6 months ago, it was bought by a consortium of several pilots and companies using EDLM and not only are they going to keep the lights on, they want to expand the runway ... :). My FBO ( in Marl offers 1 C152, 1 C172, 2 Archers, 1 Robin R2160D and 1 Partenavia Twin. For one hour of flying the C172 you have to pay $200+ (USD). As you can see, GA is pretty expensive in Germany: AVGAS is about $10 per gallon, you have to pay landing fees ranging from $5 to $60+ at every airfield and handling fees at most "bigger" airports. Sadly, GA is considered by many people a hobby of rich people who have nothing better to do than fly their noisy airplanes over land of guys who bought that land for a special discount because of the nearby airport :(. Well, don´t want to go to much into detail. If you´d like to hear more, I´d be happy to give you some answers ... BTW: I do much of my flying in the US, I hold an independent US PPL and a "converted" PPL and I am in the process of getting my ME ticket this year. Most of the time I fly out of KCRQ near San Diego. So I am familiar with both the US and the German / European system.

    Thank you guys very much for my regular hour of hangar flying, even in the middle of my move ... Keep up the good work.

    Best wishes from Germany,
    Timm ..., MD

    Greg from KGAI on: The Frugal Student Pilot

    Here's the full text of an email we got a while back from listener Greg from KGAI with some suggestions about managing the cost of flight training.

    [Skip down for his "6 Tips for Prospective Student Pilots"]

    I sympathized with Dave's comments in episode 19 about the cost of learning to fly, and have listened with interest to the followup comments from other listeners. I'd like to tell you how I ended up saving a bunch of money learning to fly, have one commentary to make, and a few more tips for Dave and anyone who's concerned about the cost of learning to fly. It's long, so use as you see fit.

    Background: I first signed up for an intro flight back in 2001 when I was living and working in the Boston area. I went out to the FBO at Bedford, took my intro flight, and then listened to the sales pitch from the instructor and the other FBO employees. It was the same as I heard from other FBOs in the years since -- I needed $4-6,000 (for the first 40 hours), and the FBO wanted me to pay it up front in chunks of $1,000 or more. My rent at the time was $900 per month and my car was worth about $1,500, and I just couldn't stomach writing a check that was more than a month's rent before even starting. I heard the refrain from other FBOs I visited over the next couple years -- I should have the money all ready to go before I start, and I needed to immediately write a check of $1,000 or more. Plus $300 for ground school. And I needed to buy a headset (from them) and an expensive bunch of books (from them). I just couldn't afford it the way it was presented to me, and I remember the feeling of dejection as I drove from the airport to work.

    I didn't lose the bug, though, and in late 2005, after I had moved to the DC area, I got a list of local flight instructors from the NAFI website, and started contacting them to ask about less expensive ways to fly. Two replied. One spent an hour talking on the phone with me one evening, and told me about self-studying for the written exam (saving about $350 off the cost of ground school), and recommended Gleim or King Schools. The other invited me to meet him for lunch that Saturday at the airport cafe. I met him, we talked, and he took me around the ramp (behing the chain link fence -- sacred ground!!) and told me a bit about some of the planes. After a bit he invited me to come to a flying club meeting the following Tuesday. I went, joined the club, started attending club functions, and generally started meeting people and making friends.

    Here's what I learned: the FBO was renting 172s at $115 per Hobbes hour, and their instructors were $30-60 per hour. If you figure the national average of 70 hours fo flying time and a $45/hour instructor for 40 hours, that's ($115 x 70) + ($45 x 40) = $9,850.

    The club I joined cost $45 per month and a non-refundable $500 to join. They rented 172s for $68 per tach hour, if I recall correctly, which translates roughly into ($68 x .75 =) $51 per Hobbes hour. The difference in plane cost alone could save me (($115 - $51) x 70) = $4,480 over 70 hours of flying. In actuality, it took me 63.6 hours including my checkride, so I saved about $4,070, or a bit less as the hourly cost has creeped up to $72 per tach hour with fuel prices increasing.

    Then, once I was in the club, I met people who were CFIs but who were not doing it to make a living or trying to build time. One was a former Navy/NASA CFII who had been flying for fifty years and was retired. Another CFI was a guy my age who had a full-time job in the construction industry but who just loved to fly. A third CFI worked in government, was just a nice guy, and wanted to help out a struggling student pilot. I completed my checkride last week with 41.2 hours of dual instruction. Other than the occasional lunch or beer after a club meeting, my instructors have not accepted payment for a single hour of instruction. That's a savings of ($45 x 41.2) another $1,854.

    In all, this approach theoretically ended up saving me nearly $6,000 over the cost of training through the FBO. I only say "theoretically" because I'm a bit of a gadget freak and just had to buy a handheld GPS ($190 for a nice, used Lowrance 500 off EBay), a good ANR headset ($280 refurbished from the factory), and other stuff that I could have done without but just couldn't control myself. More importantly for my budget, though, I paid for the club plane only as I used it, so the $500 up front to join the club was the biggest check I had to pay all at once. After that it was a couple hundred dollars here and there, and much more palatable to my wallet, budget, and wife.

    Commentary: FBOs are their own worst enemy when they push prospective pilots to plunk down thousands of dollars before their first lesson. I wonder how many potential pilots like Dave (and me in 2001) just walk away when confronted with a big bill like that. If I recall correctly from his autobiography, Bob Hoover learned to fly by working for a week to earn enough for 15 minutes of flight training each weekend. If they really want to reel in students, what the FBOs should be saying is, "Come on out Thursday afternoon, bring $160 and we'll get you your first hour of instruction and go from there." Then, "Give us a call when you're ready for the next lesson." It'll take longer for the student to get his ticket, and probably more hours, but since when is "more hours" a bad thing for an FBO? As to whether it's better or worse for the pilot, well, if it worked for Bob Hoover....

    Tips for Prospective Student Pilots:

    1. Get a list of instructors from the NAFI website and contact them directly. Tell them you want to learn to fly, you can't plunk down thousands at the FBO, and ask for advice. Other than the pilots and instructors I met who were associated with clubs at my airport, I have also met one instructor at a little airport nearby who charges $75 per hour for instruction in his plane, and $50 per hour for the plane once his students solo. Those people are out there, but they're not at the FBO counter.

    2. Spend some time at the airport and meet people. Three times when traveling in the last year I've stopped by small airports in other cities and struck up conversations with pilots. Twice, the pilots were heading out for a joy ride and, once they found out I was a student and just fascinated with flying, they invited me along. On one flight I got some stick time in a '46 Aeronca Champ! Look for open hangar doors and stick your head in to shake hands and admire the planes. One beautiful spring day I took my lunch, left the office, and ate on the hood of my Jeep at the airport while reading "Stick & Rudder." A passing pilot said, "Good book," and we struck up a conversation. It turned out the pilot was a CFI, and before long I was offered a couple hours of free instruction.

    3. Find out what clubs there are, and look for clubs that meet frequently. In my opinion, clubs generally don't advertise all that well, so you'll have to dig and ask around. My club meets once a week, which is unusual, but the benefit to a student of spending that much time around people talking about airplanes and flying is invaluable. The rental cost will save you thousands over the cost of renting from the FBO. And, if you're lucky, you'll meet club members who are instructors and willing to instruct in club planes for less than the FBO charges or, if you're lucky like me, for nothing. Even the non-CFIs can have a lot to offer. One pilot in my club who's training to be a CFI spent four hours one night grilling me in preparation for the oral portion of my checkride. It was good practice for both of us and we concluded with a mutual list of 20 things to look up.

    4. Look for CFIs who are retired from some other career. These guys have a huge amount of experience, generally a lot of time, and quite often they're just happy to be out and flying. They also have great stories, though I don't believe half of them.

    5. Don't pay retail for anything. All sorts of PPL training materials show up on EBay (my stuff is all going up soon so I can turn around and buy used instrument training materials). The six-disc DVD set from Sportys costs $199 retail, I got it for about $75 off EBay. Craigslist is another possibility -- a guy in my club got a Garmin 296 for $550 off Craigslist. Books are available used from retailers like and Barnes & Noble. The Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge retails for $35, but is showing up used on for $3.69 as I write. Even better, if you get in a club, there will be people who have the books just sitting around gathering dust, or the club may even have some materials you can borrow.

    6. Self-Educate. Other than books, there are free podcasts, forums, and websites. There's the FAA website, which was mentioned by someone else, but there's also online forums like where CFIs are circling, waiting to answer questions and give advice. The University of North Dakota has free flight training video podcasts that can be downloaded -- they're excellent. Jason Miller's instructional podcasts (and now videos) from are also excellent. I recently told my instructor that he should get his CFII so I could continue instrument training with him and he replied, "What, so you can teach yourself that too?" Everything you teach yourself from the available materials is stuff you won't have to pay an instructor to give you ground training on.

    Oops. I didn't mean to write so much, but given a pulpit I can get carried away. Anyway, there's my two cents worth. Bottom line -- avoid FBOs, find a club, self-educate, and don't pay retail.

    Greg ... , brand spanking new PP-ASEL

    Wednesday, May 09, 2007

    International Young Eagles Day coming...

    Mark your calendars, spruce up the bird and get involved. June 8 is International Young Eagles Day, and to mark the 15th Anniversary of this great Experimental Aircraft Association program, the association wants to fly 10,000 youngsters that day. So far, the program has introduced more than 1.3 million youth to the joys and wonders of general-aviation flight.

    Learn how you can participate at and help make history -- while helping inspire young people to get involved in aviation. More pilots is something general aviation needs!

    Friday, May 04, 2007

    A-10 Low Pass

    Thursday, May 03, 2007

    Anybody got a volleyball?

    Via EAA's eHotline...

    Voted Greatest Aviation Movie of All Time
    The votes are in! Thousands of aviation enthusiasts have made their choices in EAA's "Greatest Aviation Movie of All Time" poll, and the winning film combines adventure, romance and lots of high-performance flying.

    The champion is "Top Gun," the 1986 blockbuster that starred Tom Cruise (an EAA member), Kelly McGillis, Tom Skerritt, Val Kilmer, Anthony Edwards and several other stars in a drama based at the U.S. Navy's "Top Gun" fighter training school. The movie, which was the biggest grossing film in the U.S. that year, will be shown during EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2007 at the event's Fly-In Theater, presented by Ford Motor Company and Eclipse Aviation."

    And lest we forget...


    Pioneering Astronaut Wally Schirra Passes...

    Mourning the passing of a true Hero and Gentleman -- Wally Schirra

    Mark Wednesday, May 2, 2007 as the sad day when a true American Pioneer and Hero passed on; that's the day Walter M. "Wally" Schirra, Jr. died.

    For those of us old enough to remember the breathless days of the 1960s, when through the inspiration of President John F. Kennedy, the United States embarked on a daring, dangerous quest to put a man on the Moon and return him safely to Earth.

    Wally in 1962 became the third American to circle the Earth, piloting his Mercury through six orbits during a flight that lasted more than nine hours. And it was not to be his last trip into space, a fate that befell other Mercury 7 astronauts. In the second phase of the race to the "moonandback", the Gemini Program, Wally commanded Gemini 6 on a lengthy flight in
    December 1965 that resulted in the groundbreaking first rendezvous between two space vehicles in-flight. And three years later, Wally commanded Apollo 7 which in October 1968 advanced the Apollo Program toward its ultimate achievement in July 1969 -- the Earth-uniting landing of Apollo 11 on the Moon.

    Among the many distinct pleasures of my life was the opportunity to meet, break bread with and share a drink with Wally when he attended a Bombardier Air Safety Standdown in Wichita several years ago. The photo I shot of Wally, with Gene Cernan and Bob Hoover, among others, is one of my prized shots. And when I told him how much my mother was a fan of his, he smilingly offered to send along his best to her. She thought he was great when he did a television commercial for a cold remedy he took during the illness-plagued Apollo 7 mission.

    Wally's passing leaves only John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, and Scott Carpenter, as survivors of the original Mercury 7.

    Wally was a decorated combat veteran, a retired Navy Captain, a Naval Academy grad, a tremendous pilot, pioneering astronaut, but most of all, a true human being. We shall not see his kind pass this way, again. Our condolences to his family and friends, including another hero astronaut it's been my pleasure to get to know, Capt. Gene Cernan.

    Read more here:

    Wednesday, May 02, 2007

    NBAA pulls out of NEW...

    "NBAA to Relocate 2008 Annual Meeting & Convention
    April 26, 2007
    NBAA today announced that it has made the difficult decision to move its 2008 Annual Meeting & Convention from New Orleans to Orlando. "We have been looking forward to hosting our Convention in New Orleans in 2008, consistent with our desire to assist the city in recovering from Hurricane Katrina," said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. "Reluctantly, we have made the difficult decision that we will not be able to host the Annual Meeting & Convention in New Orleans, but will have to move it to Orlando," he said. The new dates will be Monday, October 6 through Wednesday, October 8, 2008."

    A frustrated NEW could not be reached for comment...

    In all seriousness, my understanding is that NEW hasn't come close to being repaired. There's only one FBO (Millionair) and the ATCT is not operating.

    NEW Notams:

    !NEW 03/008 NEW 18R/36L N 500 CLSD
    !NEW 09/002 NEW EFAS OUTLET 122.0 OTS
    !NEW 01/004 NEW 18L/36R CLSD
    !NEW 01/002 NEW TWR CLSD

    VOR RWY 18R, AMDT 4A...

    RNAV (GPS) RWY 18R, ORIG...
    LPV DA 413/HAT 405 ALL CATS.

    S-36L: MDA 520/HAT 512 ALL CATS. VIS CAT C 1 1/2, CAT D 1 3/4.
    CIRCLING: CATS A/B/C MDA 560/HAA 552, CAT D 700/HAA 692. VIS
    CAT D 2 1/4.

    VOR RWY 18R, AMDT 4A...
    S-18R: MDA 500/HAT 492 ALL CATS. VIS CATS A/B 1, CAT C 1 1/4,
    CAT D 1 1/2.
    CIRCLING: CATS A/B/C MDA 560/HAA 552, CAT D 700/HAA 692. VIS
    CAT D 2 1/4.

    Apparently, an ASOS is up and running, finally, but the ILS may be gone for good...


    Senate user fee bill takes shape

    Via ATA's SmartBrief:

    "Senators' ATC funding bill has key differences from FAA proposal
    Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Trent Lott, R-Miss., plan to introduce a bill this week that would change the funding of the air traffic control system. The FAA would be authorized to "impose a surcharge of $25 [per IFR flight] for air traffic control costs," according to the April 27 staff draft. Exemptions to this surcharge would be given to traditional propeller planes, the vast majority of which are single-engine, and some of the larger turbine-powered propeller planes. Additionally, The Hill newspaper reports the bill would phase out a fuel tax paid by airlines, increase a fuel tax from 21 to 49 cents per gallon for smaller turbine-engine planes, and not include any tax or fee changes to planes that run on piston-fired propeller engines. Unlike a bill backed by the FAA, this proposal would not replace a ticket tax paid by passengers on commercial airlines with the new user fees and taxes. The Hill (5/2), National Journal (subscription required)/Congress Daily (5/2)"

    Tuesday, May 01, 2007

    Caution: Crop Dusters

    AirVenture NOTAM

    The NOTAM is out! The NOTAM is out! I'm somebody...

    (with apologies to Steve Martin...)

    2007 AirVenture NOTAM [PDF].