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.

Airborne

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.

Humbled

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