What’s In Your Flight Bag

What's in Your Bag

By Kasey King

Aviators: So people know that I am a pilot.

Stratux: Home-made unit to supply foreflight with in flight traffic and weather.

Combos: Snacks, because one should never fly hungry.

iPad: Supplied with foreflight for all current charts.

Highlighter Tape: For paper sectional/low enroute to highlight my route of flight. It saves time when trying to locate your specific victor airways.

GoPilot: For when you have to go…Better safe than sorry.

Mousse or hair gel: Because a headset can wreak havoc on your hair

Read More

Getting Your Plane Out of Winter Storage

Winter Plane Storage


Now that the winter season is starting to fade in most parts of the country, pilots everywhere are looking forward to the flying season ahead. If your aircraft has spent the last few months collecting dust, there are few things that need to be checked before you take off for that $100 hamburger.

First of all, make sure that the battery is in good condition and fully charged. The first start after a period of inactivity will put a heavy demand upon the battery, plus it is also beneficial to have enough battery power to help with some additional engine cranking if needed. The best way to ensure a good battery charge is to remove the battery from the aircraft and use a slow “trickle” charger rather than a rapid charger. This presents less risk of damage and more chance of recovering a discharged battery. Rapid charging of a battery can sometimes cause damage by delaminating the cell plates.

Next check the fuel for water. Leaky fuel caps and condensation can cause water to form in the bottom of the tanks or become suspended in the fuel. Water contamination is easiest to find if the aircraft has sat still without any movement, as agitation will encourage the mixing of water and fuel at the boundary where the two meet. It is usually best to check the fuel before moving the aircraft, and then again after moving to allow any trapped water to flow down to the sump points. Be sure to allow at least 30 minutes after moving the aircraft to allow the water time to settle.

Next thing to consider is the condition of the brakes. It is possible they could seize up if the aircraft has been left unused for a period of time, so care should be taken to make sure the brake calipers are free to “float” around the disc with no hydraulic fluid leaks on the ground. Look for signs of a sticky tarlike substance at the pistons behind the brake pads, as this could be an indication of seeping brake piston o-rings where hydraulic fluid has mixed with dirt and debris.

During your walk-around, remove all the control locks, pitot and static blanks, and any engine blanks that you may have applied to exhausts or inlets. Once removed, perform a thorough check for any “stowaways” that you might have; birds, animals and insects all find dormant aircraft a good place to make their home, so have a good look in the engine bay, in accessible areas of the airframe and pitot and static vents. Some insects use these vents as homes and use the pipe-runs as small breeding areas. What you found as a blockage at the vent opening may only be an indication that there is a further obstruction of insect larvae further down the line that could cause instrument failure.

We next need to turn our attention to the engine. If the engine has been stored for several months, it should have been inhibited with a storage oil and desiccant plugs putin place of one set of spark plugs to keep moisture out of the combustion chamber. With these desiccant plugs removed, the engine can be turned over without engine compression offering any resistance. The engine will turn over quite rapidly and allow the oil pump to rotate quickly enough to supply some oil to the oil passages. This will limit the time that the engine will run without full lubrication after engine start. Now replace the spark plugs and start the engine for a brief ground run to warm the oil. This will make the oil more fluid and allow it to drain properly so that it can be changed and replaced with fresh oil.

Once the engine is prepared for the season, you should consider the other areas of the aircraft that might need lubrication. Light aircraft joints, such as flap and control surface operating linkages, and other general purpose applications are normally lubricated by AeroShell Grease 6. Wheel bearings are commonly packed with AeroShell Grease 5. Often these grease application points go for long periods without adequate grease reapplication. If the old grease appears dark and hard in nature, it should be replaced.

Taking time to prepare your aircraft after storage is an important step that will help you to maximize safety and minimize costly repairs later. As an owner/operator, you can perform the preventative maintenance outlined in part 43 appendix A, but it is your responsibility to determine if you are capable of performing the work safely and in accordance with regulations. When in doubt, consult a licensed A&P mechanic.

Read More

Student Interview with John Payne


Pilot’s Digest: How long have you wanted to be a pilot, and why?
John Payne: I’ve always been involved in sports and activities; I played football, basketball and ran track in middle school. High school was when things started to change, and I really had to start thinking about what it was I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Sophomore year, my high school got a Junior ROTC program, so I decided to join that. It helped shape me and build me to get more serious about things and be more responsible. At the end of my high school career, I become the commanding officer of the program – which was huge! It gave me a lot of good opportunities to meet people, and focus on what I want to do with the rest of my life. I discovered that I wanted to be a pilot.

PD: So, your dreams of becoming a pilot started around your junior year of high school?
John: Now that is a very good question.

PD: Thank you. Maybe I should do this professionally.
John: My aspirations of becoming a pilot are not as old as most people’s. I haven’t always been interested in flying or planes. Because of my mom – she used to work for American Airlines and TWA – the aviation industry has always been a part of me. A couple of years ago, I got into a program called Ace Academy, which is run by the Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals. It’s a five-day course that just exposes you to the entire aviation industry. It was in Dallas, TX, so they took us around the airport, showed us the air traffic control tower, let us get into the flight sims. On top of the Civil Air Patrol, where I had my first orientation flight, I would say that’s where I really got serious about wanting to become a pilot. I enjoyed [that first flight] and they said I was pretty good at [flying], so I decided to run with it. My family had always wanted me to become a lawyer or something like that, but after being exposed to [aviation], I figured, you know, flying is something that is really fun. It’s very complex – it’s not something that is easy to do, and it’s not for everybody. Whenever I do fly, I just get this happy feeling that I never get anywhere else. When it comes to flying, I’m just super into it, and all about it… it’s just very fun, and I enjoy it.

PD: What made you choose American Flyers for your flight training?
John: I did a couple of flights, and researched different places that I could get my license before I go off to college. The summer before my senior year, I took this solo flight academy. It was two weeks long, you got about ten hours in the airplane, and by the end of it you’re supposed to be able to solo. During that entire process, we got information about where to go for flight training, different colleges, what are the costs and everything associated with it. My mom and I did some research and we found American Flyers. They just did a great job advertising their business, all of the reviews for American Flyers were amazing. I did a quick tour of the Addison school, and I felt like it was the place for me. It was just perfect. It gave me exactly what I needed in a great amount of time with a good cost.

PD: How much classroom time and study time outside American Flyers did you have to spend prior to passing your flight test?
John: I would say that the classroom time with American Flyers was definitely crucial. I took their weekend ground course to pass the written; I would say that was the best thing I could’ve ever taken in my life to get the written test done. And then I took all of my notes from the written test course, all the notes from my individual ground classes with my instructor, and all of my experiences in the airplane, and would spend time every single night that I had training – which was about a month and a half, on and off – reviewing my notes. I spent more time when I was preparing for my check ride, basically every day, just reviewing my notes. American Flyers certainly prepared me for that flight test, however the time I spent outside of American Flyers definitely paid off. My last flight with American Flyers was almost perfect, and the oral exam went smooth. There were very few flaws in the oral – I think I might have missed one question – and everything in the flight was to standards. It just worked out perfectly.

PD: Now that you’ve got your Private Pilot Certificate, what’s next? Where do you go from here?
John: Getting the private pilot certificate was probably one of my greatest accomplishments. I was trying to get my license before going off to school, and getting my private pilot’s license at American Flyers would be tremendously cheaper than getting it in college. Now, I’m just going through the ratings [in college], I’m doing instrument training now, then I’ll do commercial, my flight instructor [certificate and ratings], build my hours and go to the airlines.

PD: You mentioned your mom was involved with the airlines at American and TWA; are there any other pilots in your family?
John: No sir. That’s what’s kinda special about the entire thing: there are no pilots in my family.

PD: Well, not true; now there’s one.
John: Well, yes sir. There’s me. And I plan on making everybody proud. Everybody was super excited to find out that I got my private because it’s just nothing that’s ever been a part of our family. Nobody’s ever done it, so it was just that much more special to me.

PD: Well good for you, and congratulations! Now, for some happy–fun pilot questions, what is your favorite airplane?
John: Favorite airplane… that’s a good question.

PD: Thank you. Again, maybe I should do this professionally.
John: It’s certainly one that I won’t be able to fly, unfortunately, but I would say the SR–71 Blackbird. It just interests me completely. The history behind it, it was the highest flying and fastest moving for its time. It was just incredible, the things you could do in that aircraft. And I wish I could fly it but, of course, it’s been retired. It will always hold a very special place in my heart.

PD: What is your favorite airplane-themed movie?
John: Of course, it has to be Top Gun. Every aviation person alive has Top Gun in their hearts! It’s just one of the greatest movies, it has camaraderie, challenges that people have to face, romance… It just had everything in it. I don’t think I’ve met a single person who doesn’t like that movie. I grew up on that movie, I loved it the first time I saw it, and the 52 times I saw it afterwards.

PD: Dream question: you have a bunch of time off, money is not an object, and you get to fly anywhere. Where does your dream trip take you?
John: There are quite a few places that I would definitely love to fly. I would love to fly the Bermuda Triangle, just to meet Amelia Earhart. I would also like to fly in a mountainous area, maybe the Appalachian Mountains, maybe the Himalayas, if possible, just so I can see the elevation and differentiation of the landscape.

PD: Last question: what have you learned from American Flyers that is crucial in choosing the right flight school?
John: American Flyers taught me that if you want to become a pilot, and if you want to be successful, you can’t choose a flight school just based on cost or the ease of their program. American Flyers was not entirely easy, but it was very beneficial in the way that it challenged me. They taught me some things that I’ve carried over from my flight training to my life, and it’s very important to find a place that suits you. It’s not always all about cost, it’s about what will make you more successful. American Flyers did that, so I feel like I’ll be probably be successful wherever I go. I would recommend American Flyers to anyone. The program is amazing. As quick as you want to go, the program is very flexible, and that’s very important for a lot of people.

Read More