We are all familiar with the term PIC—Pilot-in-Command. It is the legal term for the person aboard the aircraft who is ultimately responsible for its operation and safety of flight. It is important to note, however, that there is a difference between being in command and being in control.

Being in command means you “ought” to be responsible for the operation and safety of the flight. Being in control means you “are” acting responsibly for the operation and safety of the flight. It is this difference between what we ought to do and what we are actually doing that I want to draw to attention. 

While being in control is obviously a requirement for the entirety of the flight, I would like to focus on controlling the landing process. If you study landing incidents and accidents, you will discover that sometimes the PIC quits being in control and instead becomes a passenger just along for the ride. There seems to be a sense that what is going to happen is inevitable and nothing can be done to prevent or mitigate the outcome. In part, this may happen if the pilot “freezes” at the controls. This may happen for one of three reasons:

  1.  The pilot does not know what to do.
  2. The pilot is frightened and becomes immobile.
  3. The pilot is behind the airplane to such an extent that his control inputs are too late to be of use, or worse, aggravates the situation.

At the heart of the matter is the fact that a pilot may operate as the PIC but not have a PIC mentality. The pilot may not have developed the self-reliant mentality needed to truly take charge of every aspect of the flight. The “pilot-in-control” knows that it is important to make corrections when the need is small before the situation requires a large attitude or power changes. He does not try to “save” a bad landing. The “pilot-in-control” is not embarrassed to do a “go around” because he is in command and exercises his control to ensure a safe outcome, rather than press a bad situation.

Be more than the pilot-in-command. Be the pilot-in-control.

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The best advice I can give someone looking for a flight school is this: when you take a tour of the facility, ask to see their airplanes. If the airplane has garbage floating around, ripped seats, old tires, and needs paint, it shows you that this flight school is unconcerned with investing in their equipment. If that is the case, you need to ask yourself “how will they invest in my flight training?” At American Flyers, we take great pride in our equipment. Our National Director of Maintenance, Rick Farmer, spends a considerable amount of time ensuring that our equipment looks just as good today as it did the day it rolled off the assembly line.

Rick started with American Flyers in 2003 as an intern mechanic. While in the intern program, Rick completed his Private, Instrument and Single-Engine Commercial Certificate. After completing our intern program, Rick moved to our Santa Monica location where he took over the day-to-day operations of our FBO and simultaneously managed our West Coast maintenance operation. While Rick was based in California, it became obvious to the company that he had incredible potential. It was not long before Rick was asked to take over our entire maintenance operation. In 2009, Rick and his wife, Nancy, moved to Dallas.

As our National Director of Maintenance, Rick is responsible for hiring the right people, managing our equipment and maintenance standards, and training new mechanics. Because of his tireless work, American Flyers has an impeccable maintenance record. We cannot thank Rick enough for his efforts and incredible work ethic. Rick is capable of troubleshooting better than anyone else, has a great sense of humor and truly cares about people. Rick is also a member of American Flyers’ Advisory Board. Clearly, he is a real asset to the American Flyers family, as well as the aviation industry.

When Rick is not hard at work, you can find him, his wife and their two kids spending quality time together on their farm.

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Pilot’s Digest: Tell us a little about yourself?

Alyssa Silva: I’m 29 years old, and from Massachusetts. I’m currently a full-time student at the American Flyers in Scottsdale, AZ. Prior to flight training, I was an Inflight Team Leader (Flight Attendant Supervisor).

PD: How did you get into flying?

AS: Prior to transitioning to an Inflight Team Leader, I was an Inflight Crewmember (Flight Attendant). During pilot lavatory breaks, I would have the privilege of sitting in the cockpit. In addition, I had the opportunity to sit in the cockpit for takeoff/landing due to aircrafts needing to be ferried to a different destination. I was hooked.

During my time as an Inflight Team Leader, I worked directly with Chief and Assistant Chief Pilots. I had mentioned to an Assistant Chief that I was interested in becoming a pilot. He gifted me my very first Introductory Flight! Another Assistant Chief lent me a headset to get me started! They both encouraged and motivated me each day. The Assistant Chief Pilots and everyone at the airline I had the pleasure of working for have been so supportive and loving to this day. My airline family is the reason I am here today!

PD: What made you choose American Flyers?

AS: Everything! I love how they offer Part 141 and Part 61. This gives every student flexibility, especially if they need to finish up a rating.

American Flyers creates an individualized experience for each student. Each student is on a personalized plan based on their individual needs, wants and goals. All of my grounds and flights are one-on-one with an instructor. This learning environment has been ideal for my flight training.

I love how they are extremely organized. There is a shelf full of every student’s binder where you can see exactly where each student is in their program. I can go look at my binder anytime! If I have a different instructor, they are able to look at my binder and know exactly what they need to cover prior to our lesson.

PD: What is your most memorable moment at American Flyers?

AS: My most memorable moment at American Flyers was my very first solo in the pattern at SDL. It was an incredible feeling to know that I was able to fly an aircraft by myself. Everyone here at American Flyers made me feel so special that day. I got to “ring the bell” followed by my instructor carrying on the tradition of cutting the back of my shirt. (If you are not familiar with this before there were headsets, instructors used to tug on students’ shirts to tell them which way to turn and what to do. Cutting the back of the shirt symbolizes that you no longer need an instructor.) I left the shirt at American Flyers and all of my fellow students signed it with cute messages. The shirt is currently hanging in my bedroom!

PD: Looking back, what advice would you give someone interested in starting pilot training?

AS: Start studying as far in advance as you can so that you have a knowledge base prior to starting. Do not try to learn things in the air. Learn on the ground first, then practice in the air. Make sure you are not spending all of your time flying or studying, you need to have a combination of both to succeed. Give yourself study days/ days off so that you do not burn out. Request instructors you learn best from/ click with. Do not be afraid to ask any question(s) or speak up if something does not feel right or safe. Backseat as much as you can. Go in the flight simulator and practice.

Figure out your “whys”. Why you want to be a pilot? What motivates you? I have a motivation board, but do whatever tickles your fancy. Stay organized, meditate, workout, practice yoga, eat healthy, drink lots of water, make sure to get enough sleep, and have fun! Set yourself up for success. Show up.

PD: What’s next for you?

AS: Receive my Instrument, Commercial, CFI, and CFII Ratings, instruct, work at a regional airline and then head back to the airline I started with!

PD: If you could fly anywhere, go to any flying destination, where would it be?

AS: First, I would stop in Boston to see my family and friends from home. Second, I would head to my next bucket list destination: Greece!

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What is a Compressor Stall?


By Captain Dick Hyslop

Recently, there has been a great deal of news coverage surrounding the Delta Boeing-777 dumping fuel during an approach to LAX. While the headlines are all about the fuel dumping, let us take a look at what happened that led to the need for dumping that fuel.

The flight was a non-stop LAX to Shanghai which carried over 212,000 lbs. of fuel. Shortly after takeoff, the flight experienced something called a “compressor stall.”

The basic concept of how a jet engine works is fairly simple. As air enters the front of the engine, it gets compressed. Fuel and ignition are introduced which causes combustion, and then the gases are exhausted. The key to a smooth-running jet engine is getting the correct amount of compressed air to enter the combustion chamber where the fuel and ignition are introduced. If the pressure created by the ignition of the fuel and air exceeds the pressure in the compression chamber, some of the exhaust may actually be pushed forward and exit the front of the engine. This is a compressor stall. A loud bang, aircraft shudder, flames erupting out of the front and tailpipe of the engine, along with momentary engine indicator fluctuations are common. Closing of the throttle on the affected engine usually corrects the problem, depending upon the reason that the airflow was disrupted. Reducing power and leveling off (changing the AOA) will typically allow the engine to perform normally. Should the engine continue to stall, an engine shutdown is the next step that should be taken. Even though fire may be seen coming from the engine, it is unlikely that a Fire Warning will be indicated on the flight deck. Once all QRH (Quick Reference Handbook, similar to a POH) procedures are complete, the most sensible plan of action would be to return and have maintenance check out the engine.

While the decision to return is fairly straightforward, it does require the completion of several checklists and some critical decisions to be made:

  1. Can the aircraft maintain altitude and controllability on one engine, or an engine running at idle power?
  2. Is the aircraft over the Max Landing Weight?
  3. If over the MLW, is it acceptable to delay landing while dumping fuel?
  4. If the decision is to dump fuel, the aircraft will be vectored to an uninhabited area (over water) further away from the landing airport. Is that acceptable with a faulty engine?
  5. If being vectored to a dumping area is unacceptable, ATC will request all dumping to be completed above 6000 feet.
  6. If the decision is not to dump, the approach speed will be much higher, and the landing distance will be increased. Is the intended runway long enough?
  7. Will you require the AFRR (Airport Fire Rescue equipment) to be positioned on your arrival?
  8. An overweight landing inspection will be required by maintenance and, should the touchdown be hard, a much more in-depth maintenance inspection is required.

As far as the Delta Boeing-777 mentioned earlier, it took off with full wing tanks and approximately 85,000 lbs. of fuel in the center tank. (The crew reported 212,000 lbs. of fuel onboard when declaring the emergency.) Each wing tank holds 64,000 lbs. The fuel dump rate is approximately 5,000 lbs. per minute. At that rate, the entire center tank (the only tank that can be dumped) could be emptied in about 17 minutes.

At certified MTW (Maximum Takeoff Weight) of 660,000 lbs. (Boeing-777 is legal to land at MTW), the landing distance needed to stop is approximately 6000 feet. The length of the runway they landed on was 12,000 feet.

The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) has not published their findings as of the writing of this article. Several questions arise. Why didn’t the crew decide to dump at 8,000 feet when they declared the emergency? Why did they then decide to start dumping fuel on Final Approach at a much lower altitude?

Blue skies and soft landings.

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Bruce Lemoine
From: Colleyville, Texas
CFI at: Addison, TX – North (ADS)

I am currently working towards my commercial MEI certification while I am a CFI. My favorite part about teaching is seeing students learn new concepts and techniques that will make them safer pilots and, watching it all click when they finally get it. I’ve accomplished all my flight training at American Flyers and my goal is to one day fly with my father at American Airlines before he retires.

Santiago Conde
From: Dallas, TX
CFI at: Addison, TX – South (ADS)

One of the great things about being a CFI at American Flyers is being a part of the team. They are fun and supportive. Also, having an onsite maintenance team who takes great care of every plane makes me always feel safe in the air. My goal is to become a commercial airline pilot. It’s always exciting to help and see a student pass their first checkride.

Caroline Pruitt
From: United Kingdom
CFI at: Houston, TX (DHW)

I want to continue expanding my knowledge in aviation to eventually work for a major airline. I love helping our students go from no experience to achieving their goals. The organized curriculum American Flyers offers creates a clear path to success. I am currently working towards my Multi-Engine certification.

Kyle Helmke
From: Tucson, AZ
CFI at: Scottsdale, AZ (SDL)

I am currently working towards my MEI certification while teaching as a CFI. My goal is to be contracted by the Military as a pilot. I enjoy helping students overcome the various obstacles in their program. As a checkride instructor, I get to work with new instructors so they can better help their students to gain the skills for a successful career in aviation.

Amos Ankrah
From: Glouster, OH
CFI at: Pompano, FL (PMP)

My goal is to become a commercial airline pilot one day. I enjoy being a CFI for American Flyers and watching the new pilots progress throughout their courses. Starting from knowing nothing to being competent pilots is exciting and rewarding.

Dan Wallace
From: Kent, England
CFI at: Morristown, NJ (MMU)

Initially my goal in aviation was to work for a major airline, but I could also see myself working as a corporate pilot. I was inspired by pilots in my family to become a pilot, which is why I love inspiring students in their own careers. I like working at American Flyers because it has a sense of family and I get to work with other instructors who I was formerly a student with.

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A Pilot’s Guide to Destination Flying


By Steven J. Daun, National Chief Pilot

Just about every pilot can remember their first solo cross country flight. All of the hard work paid off and they were finally able (and allowed) to fly somewhere alone. From that time, for most pilots, planning cross country flights became rather straightforward. They selected a destination, plotted a course, and completed the rest of the steps that are part of the preflight planning. This process usually works in about 85% of the flying that you will do. However, the other 15% of the time, especially if you are not familiar with your destination, may be different. This article will focus on that other 15%.

How do you plan for a destination trip that is outside of your regular flight regime or experience level? The answer is: you start from the end. Let me explain.

Say you decide that you want to fly you and your family from Florida to a destination (foreign or domestic) that you have never been to before. The terrain is different; the weather is different; the surrounding airspace is different, the laws may be different if you are flying to a foreign country; in fact, just about every aspect of the destination is different than what you are used to “back home.”

First, determine and list all of the airports close to or near your intended destination. After researching these airports, you will begin to reduce the list based on complexity, safety, runway conditions, services, attractions, emergency services, fees, etc. There are several tools that you can use to help you accomplish this step. These include, but are not limited to:

  1. Chart supplement
  2. Terminal procedures publication
  4. Local county, city or country websites
  5. Airport websites
  6. Local chamber of commerce
  7. Social media pilot groups for the various airports 
  8. Other internet search results
  9. FAA or other local operator camera observations

The airport list that remains should reflect those airports that you would feel most comfortable flying in and out of based on your skill set and comfort level. What started as a quest for one airport may have turned into a multiple airport adventure.

Once you have selected your ideal airport(s), you will want to research their operations, critical times, traffic patterns, prevailing winds, primary runway, ground operations, obstacles, etc. Use a service such as Google Maps to get a feel for the surrounding area. You can also use Google Maps to pick out landmarks and alternate landing sites in case of an emergency.

The next thing that you should do is research the different types of weather that are common to the area during the time of your intended visit. This too may help in further reducing your list of proposed airports. Some airports and regions have unique tools. An example is the FAA live weather cameras at airports in Alaska. These have been operational for many years and the FAA just announced the first camera installations in Colorado.

You should now determine how much weight you will be carrying in your aircraft so that you can calculate how much fuel you will have available. This will ultimately help you determine the distance and endurance for each of your legs.

Assuming that you have identified your intended airport(s), you can now begin the flight planning exercise. Start with the time of day that you would prefer to arrive based on all of your research. (There is nothing worse than arriving at an airport only to find that there is no transportation available). As you work backward on your chart, you can determine your intended stops by using your endurance calculations from above and how much time you want or need to achieve on each leg, areas to avoid because of obstacles, airspace or other issues. This exercise will also give you an idea of what altitudes you to fly at on each leg. This “reverse” exercise will help you select the ideal stops during your flight. Continue this exercise until you reach your departure airport.

Now that you have a rough plan plotted out, you can begin your formal flight planning. As you can see, there is a lot more work based on your degree of comfort and experience at your destination. The more time you spend in the planning phase, the less likely you will have any surprises pop up during your flight. These types of trips also require a great deal of contingency planning. You cannot call up “Joe” the mechanic when you are 900 miles away from your base and ask him to pop over to look at something.

Flight planning in the digital age is quick and easy, but this could also lead to a false sense of security. Digital flight planning can be used as one tool in this process, but should certainly not be your sole source. Paper charts and in-depth research regarding your route and airports, as described earlier in this article, are essential. We see far too many pilots who are planning long trips and simply type the information into their tablets only to receive a flight plan created by their app. This is a similar exercise as to what many people do with their car GPS, causing you to proceed with blind faith in the technology.

One thing that you may want to consider is to engage your passenger(s) in the planning process. Let them see your reasoning and thoughts regarding routes and airports. If they know what your key landmarks are, they can help you identify those during the flight. You can brief them on which charts or resources you will need during the different phases of flight so they can assist you. Remember, you are flying and have things to do. On long trips, it is easy for passengers to get bored. Try to find ways to keep it exciting and fun for them.

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American Flyers Coronavirus Advisory


A message to our American Flyers family:

The health and safety of our customers and employees is our top priority.  We are closely monitoring the development of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), and are following guidelines from the government and relevant health authorities.

To help keep our customers and employees safe, we are practicing extra caution regarding the following sanitizing procedures:

common touchable surfaces such as countertops, doorknobs, computer screens, keyboards and other surfaces are being cleaned frequently

common touchable surfaces in our aircraft are being sanitized after each flight by our fueling and maintenance teams

we are encouraging all students to bring their own flight supplies, especially headsets, during this time—if a headset is needed, it will be sanitized before and after each use

we are encouraging frequent hand washing, both at American Flyers and outside of our facilities

We ask that any employees or students who feel ill stay home and contact their school manager to reschedule their training session. Outside of American Flyers, we continue to encourage the following CDC guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety.  Staying calm, practicing the recommended CDC hygiene guidelines and contacting us with any concerns or questions is the best way to combat uncertainty.

American Flyers is certain that we will all persevere during this health crisis, and the key to that is to support one another. We encourage you to reach out to us with any concerns or questions.  


American Flyers Board of Directors

Jill Cole

Andrew Henley

Steven Daun

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