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?

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….

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