Strike 1, Strike 2….

During the past month I’ve juggled schedules trying to get checked out at a new club so I can begin teaching an instrument student. It took time to get on the chief pilots schedule and then we couldn’t complete the checkout before vacation took me away for a week, and so it dragged on. I finally got to fly the remainder of the checkout and got the approval to teach there. Hooray! So we arrange for our first flight to do some basic attitude flying at night.

Strike 1

Pre-flight is done and I brief the pilot what we will accomplish during the flight and we set out to start up. Key is turned and the prop barley pulls through once and stops. Drats, I just flew it a few days before and it started fine, but now the battery is drained and we aren’t getting this thing started. However there’s another plane available so we decide to swap reservations and take that plane to salvage the night.

Strike 2

The pilot starts doing  the pre-flight on the new plane while I secure and lock up the first plane. First thing we notice is there’s not much fuel in the tanks. That’s odd as these are on a auto refuel account with the fuel truck to service them when they come back. So we pull the plane over to the fuel island and add some fuel. Then we notice that the back seat passenger doesn’t have jacks for the headset, it’s only a 2 place intercom.

We decide to press on and after the master is turned we see that the fuel gauges still read empty. This isn’t good as they have 17 gallons per side. I know what I would do but I was waiting to see what the pilot would do and he came to the same conclusion.

Decision time

Too many things are lining up against us. He decides to park the plane and go another day after the shop repairs what’s wrong. There’s some doubt as to why the plane didn’t have fuel and if that was connected with the inoperative fuel gauges. As I’ve learned over the years a seemingly small problem can either turn into a larger problem or indicate the existence of the larger problem already there.

So for the second time we park and secure a plane without going anywhere. We didn’t have to fly or be anywhere and while it’s disappointing to have missed such a clear, gorgeous night to fly, there will be other nights to fly and enjoy it.

While I  say can’t for sure if we avoided an accident by breaking the chain and not going, it’s best to recognize that at times there may be too many little issues that are tipping the scales to the other side of safety and we must be ready and willing to say we’re not going flying now.


One point I’m drilling into my student is the idea of no matter what happens during the flight, you MUST always fly the plane first and foremost.

Even if it appears that your going to have an off airport landing for any reason, you must fly the plane all the way down and remain in control. Your odds of surviving are much higher if you remain in control of the aircraft.

While we we out practicing some ground reference maneuvers near the airport, we were monitoring the tower frequency for traffic alerts as it’s a high traffic area, we heard that there was a disabled aircraft on the runway. Uh oh. It was a great teaching moment on many accounts. First it showed the importance of teaching the student the need to be familiar with nearby airports in case that happens during any solo activity, especially the initial solo. They must be prepared to divert and I wouldn’t be doing my role as CFI if I didn’t prepare them for the unexpected.

Distracted pilot

It also pointed out the dangers a distraction can cause. After we landed we heard the full story from another pilot who witnessed everything first hand. The pilot of a Diamond aircraft had left a briefcase containing something valuable at the tiedown spot and declared so to the tower and needed to return. He was so distraught at the thought of losing it that he came in fast and hit hard on the nose wheel and according to the pilot the nosewheel left the aircraft and became disabled on the runway.

We heard the airport truck going out to the aircraft with a tow bar to tow it off the runway and it was soon reopened after the inspection by the truck driving down the runway. No injuries were reported which is always a good thing.

What do we learn? It’s a simple lesson but we must always be in command of the aircraft and fly it all the way to the ground and including the taxi to parking. A distracted pilot has brought down many planes including in 1972 Eastern Airlines 401 into the swamp over a landing gear light. No one on board was actively flying the plane and the crew allowed the problem of one simple light to engross them all to the point that they slowly descended into the swap.

FLY the plane

There are many things that can a distraction to us, but we are first and foremost Pilots, so lets fly the plane first and solve the problems later. We may have more time than we think we have in order to troubleshoot a situation or get our head together so we can land safely. After all isn’t that our responsibility as PIC?

Final CFII Update

The day has finally arrived. After a week of sulking and some more practice the day has arrived to finish the CFII check ride after last weeks discontinuance.

I spent Monday evening playing the instructor to the other student in our CFII class as I taught the G1000 sim and the maneuvers that were left on my task list. That went well but I still needed work on getting the instructions out fast and cleanly as there is a lot to do.

I awoke at 5:30, yes that’s AM, so I could get in an hour of my own practice (before going to work) on the sim and got it set up and then flew the partial panel approach as I “taught” myself and walked through all the steps. I had also reread Rod Machado’s IFR handbook on holding entries the night before and it all finally clicked. I could always enter the hold but I had to work at the process. That morning in the sim was magical and it just made sense. I got it now, this is in the bag!

Ctrl-Alt-Delete time

We had some interesting technical challenges with the sim right as I was intercepting the final approach course, the engine failed! No the DPE  pulling any funny stuff either. So we had to shut it down, reboot, and it was still wonky, so another shutdown and reboot. Meanwhile I’m thinking it’s broke and I’ll end up with another discontinuance and be stuck paying a third time as well.

We persevered and got the sim booted up fine and then repositioned my to where I was before and the exam continued. Whew, okay I can focus and do this.

Flew the partial panel G1000 approach and teaching at the same time how to adjust to that, what scan changes I was doing and utilizing the power of the moving map and such.

Wrapping up

Then it was on to the hold and I explained the parameters of the hold instruction and the all important way to determine the correct entry. That all went perfectly thanks to the practice.

Last up was to teach the unusual attitude and correct recovery techniques for both climbing and descending situations. I’ve always done well at that so no surprises there and we talked about common errors too that students make.

Did I pass?

It was odd to not know, even though I thought I did as she went off to finish off the IACRA application and suddenly was on the phone with the FAA. Hmmm, I started getting nervous. She needed to input the type of sim or really the type flight training device it was, on the application, but I didn’t know if she was checking the “Issue” box or something less desirable.

After an hour it was resolved and I was relived to see she was checking the Issue a certificate box and printed out my new CFI certificate with the added Instrument Airplane privileges on it.

Then it was time to take the “I just passed my check ride” photo at the plane the we flew the initial part of  ride then. What a thrill.

Getting back to teaching

So my time as a student is over and I can go back to teaching. Not only my primary student but also now the instrument student that was my motivation for adding this so soon after gaining the initial CFI.

Just like passing the private check ride, us instructors are still learning as we start teaching as it really is an art form to do it right. Thankfully the DPE’s recognize that we might be a little rough around the edges but they see the potential in us as we must do with our students and work to bring out the shine in them.

CFII Update #2

The time has come to take the CFII check ride. More about that in a minute.

As you may know I did an accelerated course over 4 days to prepare for this. I had also studied for and taken the Instrument Instructor written exam the day before starting the class and scored a 94%.

I felt good about the class and we were using the G1000 FTD after class to become familiar with the button pushing or “knobology” as I call it. We logged almost 5 hours over the 4 days learning how to load flight plans and fly the plane while loading approaches and using the GFC700 autopilot.

The following weekend we actually flew the plane with the G1000 and the practice was time well spent as all that we learned in the “simulator” transferred to use in the plane. On Saturday and Sunday we got some actual IMC during our flight and we were filing IFR to be in the system as the weather was marginal VFR down low and IMC at 1500′.

Norcal gave us vectors to the IAF and we had plenty of time to get the GPS programmed and ready to fly the approach. All went well and I felt prepared to take the check ride.

However life tends to throw us a curve ball when we least expect it. The ground portion of the check ride went well and after some question and answering on IFR flying we were ready to go fly.


I pre-filed an IFR flight plan and we picked up our clearance at the runup area. After two quick handoffs we were told we were being vectored for a visual approach. We needed to do the ILS but ATC told us the ILS was not authorized. This never came up in my briefing an hour earlier.

And so began my falling behind the aircraft. The DPE settled on a VOR/DME approach to a nearby airport and I had very little time to reprogram the GPS to get that setup.

The lesson I learned was even with a DPE on board I was the PIC and I needed to act as such. I was letting the DPE help with the radio work to get what we needed from ATC but in so doing I gave up some control. I fell further behind the aircraft but managed to fly the approach to acceptable standards.

However we needed to fly an ILS and rather than go to another nearby airport to do so I allowed the flight to end as I wasn’t flying up to the standards I knew I was capable of achieving.

it was very disappointing to realize that I wasn’t going to pass that day but I also know that there are times we need to acknowledge our limitations and abide by them. I have been listening to Rod Machado’s audio books and one thing that stands out regarding pilots that have accidents is that while we may regard them as good pilots that they weren’t as good as they wanted to be on THAT day. So it was proved to me on my check ride day, I wasn’t the skilled pilot I knew I could be on that day.


To say it was humbling is an understatement. To be able to fly, teach, talk to the DPE and ATC was a little overwhelming to say the least. And for me that is the downside of the accelerated course. There was so little time to put the polish on these finer points. Our instructor is a very seasoned and great instructor, but we have only so much time to absorb the information and be ready to teach it.

I will finish up next week as I have just 2 approaches, a hold and unusual attitudes to do. As always on a check ride the pilot is the PIC and needs to act as such. Take control of it and don’t let the situation or the DPE et you into a corner that you don’t want to be in. ATC is a resource and needs to be managed as well. It’s a delicate dance at times but we must realize that ATC is safe and secure on the ground while we are in motion.

It’s okay to ask for a delay vector as needed to assure a safe outcome to our flight.

In the end I got a discontinuance and will finish up soon, stay tuned for the final update next week….

CFII Update

It’s the end of the 4th day of the CFII class. It’s been an intense four days of learning and homework. Each day consisted of detailed info regarding the reg’s, instruments, IFR rules both part 61 and 91. What a great review it’s been.

At the end of each day we had time in the Garmin G1000 Flight Training Device. It has a 50″ plasma screen up front with the Garmin G1000 setup for us to fly and an instructor station to monitor and create all kinds of failures for us.

It’s been a very realistic learning experience and much easier to learn with out the wasted time of startup, taxiing and holding at the run-up area. I highly recommend using the FTD to learn the G1000 or any other TAA avionics suite in an aircraft.

Today was filled with student presentations consistiting of holding patterns, static pitot system instruments and programming the G1000 for a GPS approach. It’s very nerve racking to present in front of the very experienced CFI teaching us, but it’s a neccesary evil. Thankfully he’s very patient and will quietly pick apart our presentations with all the things we got wrong or left out. It’s truly a humbling experience to watch his blank poker face knowing we are stating something wrong and waiting for the critique.

However it’s all good knowing he’s doing so to make us better instructors. At the end of the day we both feel better about our presentations and are more motivated to keep doing better.

I passed the CFII written last Friday with a 94% and all that’s left is some flying in the G1000 C172 with the GFC7000 autopilot this weekend. We will also fly the G1000 KAP 140 equipped plane on Sunday to round out our experience. The check ride is soon to follow.

I’m really looking forward to being done with this and being able to teach instrument students. It’s been an exciting few months becoming a CFI and finally a CFII and I’m totally enjoying this new role. I can honestly say I never understood IFR flying to the depths I do now that I am looking to teach it. If you ever want to up your game, get your CFI and learn it like you’ve never understood it before.

Stayed tuned for the updates on our weekend flying and the check ride.

Ron Klutts CFI

Switching roles

The time has come for me to become the student once again.

Starting Sept 17, 2011 I will be in a 4 day class to earn my Instrument Instructor certificate. It’s a lot of work to add the second “I” onto my already new plastic, but it will be well worth it. Not only will I be more marketable, but I’m looking forward to learning the G1000 in the IFR environment.

That will be the challenge for me so I can be proficient and knowledgeable to pass it on to the students I have waiting to earn their instrument ratings. With winter approaching this is an ideal time to start working on it as we generally have good flying and decent mild IFR weather to train in. The golden days are lots of mild puffy clouds with no convective activity in order to train in actual.

Step 1 though is to finish studying for the instrument written and score high on the practice exams. It’s all the arcane instruments like a RIC and such that I get wrong. I mean who has those anymore? The good news is that I have been scoring in the high 80’s but I know a certain someone that is expecting me to get a 98% so it’s back to the books.

I’ll report back soon on my progress, written exam score and ultimately the details of the check ride.

Get specific about runways

For most of us flying at smaller general aviation airports it may seem redundant to read back the runway we are cleared to take off and land at but when flying at a larger airports like a Class Charlie airport with multiple runways it becomes very important for safety reasons.

This was impressed upon me on a recent flight landing at nearby San Jose International airport. While my initial training years ago was at an airport with parallel runways, I had developed the habit of including the “Left” or “Right” with the runway number.

After 6 years of flying at an airport with a single runway, that habit has gone the way of an affordable new airplane.

Get Specific

It’s good to be exact with our radio calls as the tower was quite correct in asking me to read back the correct runway we were to use. Even though they were operating on the Left runway only, they wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to land on the closed Right runway.

I firmly believe that the quality of our radio calls does make an impression and I strive to make it a good one. At times though sloppy radio work makes the wrong impression and we may be on a short leash with ATC as a result of that.

While we were able to conduct the low passes for our landing training, I was embarrassed for having set the wrong example for the student who is learning by my example.

Another example of sloppy radio work is when pilots at non-towered airports call “Clear of the Active”

While it’s less of a problem with a single runway, I hear it all too often at a nearby airport with crossing runways. While it’s okay to use the runway that isn’t aligned with the wind for crosswind practice, all too often I hear pilots calling “clear of the active.” Now that’s a little vague, as I don’t know what you consider the active. So lets remember the proper radio calls including to specify the runway number and “Left”, “Right” or “Center” as appropriate.

Ron Klutts CFI

A little hot under the cowling!

There are a few words in aviation that will strike fear into ones heart. For a new instrument pilot it may be the dreaded call from ATC advising of a reroute, advise when ready to copy.

A little further up the scale might be hearing ATC to ask if your ready to copy a phone number is another.

At the top of the list however is one single word, FIRE!

In all my years of flying I have not had an engine fire. This all changed recently.

I have had my share of hair raising moments and one emergency, but fire was never involved.

I know we’ve all read the staring checklist that includes the section if an engine fire occurs to keep cranking until the engine starts and run it for a minute or so and then shutdown to inspect.

The other line that makes me chuckle is to “Have ground attendants obtain a fire extinguisher” I always wondered exactly how I would get a ground attendant to do that in the time constrained event of a fire and the fact we don’t have ground personnel around during GA activities.

What was that sound?

So on a recent lesson starting the Cessna 152 we went thru the starting checklist as usual, turned the key to start and after a few turns of the prop it didn’t  start. Hmm, okay, waited a second, turn it again and pumped the throttle once as we cranked and on the 2nd or 3rd revolution we heard a “POP”

I wonder what that was? This is when it got interesting. Thankfully another club instructor had just returned and was parking the plane immediately to our right. I heard a voice yell something and he’s pointing at my plane. Did he just yell FIRE? Yup, he did and he repeated it “FIRE!”  and added “Keep cranking!”

Getting ready to run

Granted, me and the student almost bailed on the plane and had the doors open, but the training kicked in and I reached over and turned the key and kept cranking until it started up. All the while the other CFI is looking all around the cowling and the front of the plane very intently.

After a minute I get the kill signal and shutdown to inspect and talk about it. He said a flame shot out of the bottom about a foot long and then when it started it got sucked back up, so we gather it was coming out of the carburetor and not the exhaust pipe.

Whew, averted something serious and we locked the plane up and went inside to report it to the chief pilot to get it looked at to make sure nothing was damaged that caused it and to inspect for any damage before returning it to service.

All is well

I got the call the next day that nothing was damaged and the consensus was we over primed it and fuel had run down back through the carburetor and when it did start or backfired, it ignited the fuel in the induction system and blew out the bottom as it’s an updraft carburetor.

My lesson learned is to listen for that “pop” during the start, it didn’t sound like an explosion and we never saw smoke or fire. So had we not had that second set of eyes on us the outcome may have been different. Knowing the normal sounds of startup is important as it is in the abnormal sounds that we need to really pay attention to.

Fly safe and keep learning!

Ron Klutts CFI

First Flight

I’ve started this blog to share stories of my Right Seat Flying as a new CFI. I hope it is useful to a wide range of pilots as I now learn from my students as I attempt to teach them about aviation and becoming a pilot themselves.

So let’s give it a shot of primer, Beacon on, clear PROP, Master ON, START!

I have a confession to make

Learning to fly is hard work. I know this now as a new CFI. It’s often said that if you want to learn something then try and teach it. Over a 4 week period I earned my CFI rating and it was hard work. The trick was taking what I knew how to do and try and teach it. Whether it was a ground lesson or in the air, trying to explain all the elements that encapsulate a maneuver was tough to grasp and explain concisely.

However I loved the challenge and took all the criticism my CFI offered as it was positive and made me better. It was humbling at times to realize how little I knew technically about a maneuver and needing to be corrected. But I took the criticism in stride and incorporated it into my teaching style.

My desire is to be a great CFI and not just a time builder. I have no intention of going to the airlines, so I’m not  a time building CFI. I’m doing this because I love to fly and I want to share the passion I have for aviation with others. I hope this is evident in the way I teach, but my students will be the judge of that.

First Student

I’m fortunate in that I have one student that has started on his journey to be a pilot as we had his first lesson on July 23, 2011. He is also coming with me to Oshkosh for the annual EAA Convention. His enthusiasm is contagious and is pushing me to be the best instructor I can be. I have an obligation to him and any that follow to rise to the challenge and provide great instruction.

Peter on the ground with the mighty Cessna 152.

I know I’m not going to the airlines and that’s ok, I gave up that dream a long time ago. I have a great day job that helps to pay the bills. I’m doing this for the sheer fun of it. At this point I have taught a grand total of 2.2 hours encompassing the first lesson of a new student and a demo flight for a potential 2nd student.

Here’s a pic I took of Peter in the air during his FIRST lesson. He said something profound but simple that will stick with me for a LONG time. He said, “I can’t believe I waited so LONG to learn to fly!”

Peter's first flight

Peter as a happy student

It has been his desire to learn for many years and his circumstances are such that now he has the right combination of time and money to peruse his dreams. He did a great job at his first lesson and I look forward to many more lessons to share what I know to make him a safe and competent pilot.

Lessons learned

I hope to share a few things that I continue to learn as a new CFI with all of you and we all can continue to learn together and make flying fun. I have to be honest and say I’m not sure what direction this blog will take so at the moment I’m just excited to  share our experiences and hope it proves insightful or educational. I never know what little tidbit that may be insignificant to us may be helpful to others.

So please provide any feedback or suggestions you may have.

Thanks for stopping by,

Ron Klutts CFI