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Five Mile Final | A Flight Instructor's Sandbox

Airplane Flying Handbook


The purpose flight training is to acquire and refine basic airmanship skills.

Airmanship includes:

Primary and intermediate flight training teaches basic airmanship skills and creates a good foundation for student pilots.

An airplane operates in a three-dimensional environment. Because of this, learning to fly requires a substantial depth of knowledge. It also requires motor skills that are more sensitive than the skills required to drive a car. Coordination and timing are essential. Flying an airplane also requires the ability to sense varying pressures from the control surfaces, and to sense and react to variations in airspeed.

Pilots also must be able to:

The purpose of primary and intermediate flight training is not to learn how to fly a particular make and model airplane. Appropriately trained pilots have the knowledge, experience, skills, and safe habits that are transferable to any flight-training type of airplane. They also can transition to more complex and higher performance airplanes with ease.

Good airmanship skills include sound knowledge of the principles of flight and the ability to operate an airplane with competence and precision.


Role of the FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is empowered by Congress to promote aviation safety by prescribing safety standards for civil aviation.

Standards are established through the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) — formerly referred to as Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR).

Title 14 of the CFR (14 CFR) is titled Aeronautics and Space with Chapter 1 dedicated to the FAA. Subchapters are broken down by category with numbered parts detailing specific information:

Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations: Aeronautics and Space
Chapter 1: Federal Aviation Administration, Department of Transportation

Subchapter A Definitions and General Requirements
Part 1 Definitions and Abbreviations
Subchapter B Procedural Rules
Part 17 General Rulemaking Procedures
Part 17 Procedures for Protests and Contract Disputes
Subchapter C Aircraft
Part 21 Certification Procedures for Products and Articles
Part 23-31 Airworthiness Standards for Various Categories of Aircraft
Part 39 Airworthiness Directives
Part 43 Maintenance, Preventive Maintenance, Rebuilding and Alteration
Part 45 Identification and Registration Marking
Subchapter D Airmen
Part 61 Certification: Pilots, Flight Instructors and Ground Instructors
Part 67 Medical Standards and Certification
Subchapter E Airspace
Part 71 Designation of Class A,B,C,D and E Airspace Areas; Air Traffic Service Routes; and Reporting Points
Part 73 Special Use Airspace
Part 73 Special Use Airspace
Subchapter F Air Traffic and General Operating Rules
Part 91 General Operating and Flight Rules
Part 97 Standard Instrument Procedures
Part 103 Ultralight Vehicles
Subchapter G
Part 110 - 139 General and Operating Requirements
Subchapter H Schools and Other Certificated Agencies
Part 141 Pilot Schools
Part 142 Training Centers
Subchapter I Airports
Part 150 - 169  
Subchapter J Navigational Facilities
Part 170 - 171  
Subchapter K Administrative Regulations
Part 183 - 193  

14 CFR part 61 pertains to the certification of pilots, flight instructors, and ground instructors. It prescribes the eligibility, aeronautical knowledge, flight proficiency training, and testing requirements for each type of pilot certificate issued.

14 CFR part 67 prescribes the medical standards and certification procedures for issuing medical certificates for airmen and for remaining eligible for a medical certificate.

14 CFR part 91 contains general operating and flight rules. The section is broad in scope and provides general guidance in the areas of general flight rules, visual flight rules (VFR), instrument flight rules (IFR), and aircraft maintenance.


Flight Standards Service

Within the FAA, the Flight Standards Service (AFS) sets the aviation standards for airmen and aircraft operations.

The local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) ("Fiz-Doh") is where the AFS interacts with the aviation community and the general public. Approximately ninety (90) FSDOs are located across the U.S., each office having jurisdiction over a specific geographic area.

The individual FSDOs are responsible for certification and surveillance of air carriers, air operators, flight schools/training centers, pilots, flight instructors, mechanics and other certificate holders. They participate in accident investigations and can levy "enforcement actions" (penalties) or require pilot retraining.


Role of the Pilot Examiner

Pilot and flight instructor certificates are issued by the FAA upon satisfactory completion of required knowledge and practical tests.

A Designated Pilot Examiner (DPE) is a private citizen who is designated as a representative of the FAA Administrator to perform specific pilot certification tasks on behalf of the FAA.

The majority of FAA practical tests at the recreational, private, and commercial pilot level are administered by FAA DPEs.

A DPE is expected to administer practical tests with the same degree of professionalism, using the same methods, procedures, and standards as an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI). However, a DPE cannot initiate enforcement action, investigate accidents, or perform surveillance activities on behalf of the FAA.


Role of the Flight Instructor

The Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) is the cornerstone of aviation safety. The FAA's training concept places the full responsibility for student training on the flight instructor.

The instructor accepts complete responsibility for training student pilots in all required knowledge areas and skills. This includes airmanship, judgment, decision-making, hazard identification, risk analysis, and good operating practices.

CFI's are required to meet extensive flying experience requirements. They also must pass rigid knowledge and practical tests. And they have demonstrated the ability to apply recommended teaching techniques.

Each CFI's certificate must be renewed every 24 months. This is accomplisehd by showing continued success in training pilots. It also can be done by completing a flight instructor's refresher course or a practical test.

A good flight instructor meticulously observes the safety practices taught to his/her students. Additionally, a good flight instructor carefully observes all regulations and recognized safety practices during all flight operations.

A good flight instructor will communicate to his/her students that evaluation through practical tests is a mere sampling of pilot ability. The flight instructor's role is to train the "total" pilot, and not merely to prepare each student to pass the practical test.


Sources of Flight Training

Flight training can be obtained from:

FAA-approved pilot schools (Part 141) must meet stringent requirements for personnel, equipment, maintenance, and facilities. They also must operate in accordance with an established curriculum that includes a Training Course Outline (TCO) approved by the FAA.

FAA-approved pilot school certificates must be renewed every two (2) years. Renewal is contingent upon proof of continued high quality instruction and a minimum level of instructional activity.

FAA-approved training centers (part 142) specialize in the use of flight simulators and flight training devices. Like certificated pilot schools, they operate in a structured environment with approved courses and curricula.

Many non-certificated flying schools (Part 61) offer excellent training and meet or exceed the standards required of FAA-approved pilot schools. Flight instructors employed by non-certificated flying schools, as well as independent flight instructors, must meet the same basic requirements for certification and renewal as those flight instructors employed by FAA-certificated pilot schools.

Practical Test Standards (PTS) and Airman Certification Standards (ACS)

Practical tests for FAA pilot certificates and associated ratings are administered by FAA inspectors and DPEs in accordance with FAA-developed Practical Test Standards (PTS) and Airman Certification Standards (ACS).

The PTS/ACS contains the standards to which maneuvers/procedures on FAA practical tests must be performed. It is not intended to be used as a training syllabus.

Flight instructors and pilot applicants should always remember that safe, competent piloting requires a commitment to learning, planning, and risk management that goes beyond rote performance of maneuvers. Descriptions of tasks and information on how to perform maneuvers and procedures are contained in reference and teaching documents.


Safety of Flight Practices

Collision Avoidance

All pilots must be alert to the potential for midair collision.

The concept of "See and Avoid" is set out in 14 CFR part 91. This concept requires that vigilance shall be maintained at all times by each person operating an aircraft.

Most midair collision accidents and reported near midair collision incidents occur in good weather and during daylight hours. Most of these accident/incidents occur within five miles of an airport and/or near navigation aids.

Pilots should remain constantly alert to all traffic movement within their field of vision, as well as periodically scanning the entire visual field outside of their aircraft to ensure detection of conflicting traffic. Aircraft — particularly those with high performance capabilities — tend to have high closure rates, which limits the time available for detection, decision, and evasive action.

The human eyes tend to focus somewhere, even in a featureless sky. In order to be most effective, the pilot should shift glances and refocus at intervals. Eyes may require several seconds to refocus when switching views between items on the instrument panel and distant objects.

An effective scanning technique is accomplished with a series of short, regularly-spaced eye movements that bring successive areas of the sky into the central visual field. Each movement should not exceed ten (10) degrees, and each area should be observed for at least one second to enable detection.

Each time a scan is stopped and the eyes are refocused, the peripheral vision takes on more importance because it is through this element that movement is detected.

If another aircraft appears to have no relative motion, it is likely to be on a collision course with you. If the other aircraft shows no lateral or vertical motion, but is increasing in size, take immediate evasive action.

There are many different types of clearing procedures. Most are centered around the use of clearing turns, which assure that that the next maneuver is not going to proceed into another airplane's flightpath. A common clearing procedures requiring two 90° turns in opposite directions before executing any training maneuver.

Most midair collision accidents occur in good weather.
Pilots must be aware of potential blind spots and attempt to clear the entire area that they are maneuvering in.

Runway Incursion Avoidance

A runway incursion is any occurrence at an airport involving an aircraft, vehicle, person, or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard or results in a loss of separation with an aircraft taking off, landing, or intending to land.

Contributors to runway incursions include:

Taxi operations require constant vigilance by the entire flight crew. Both the student pilot and the flight instructor need to be continually aware of the movement and location of other aircraft and ground vehicles on the airport movement area.

Safe aircraft operations can be accomplished and incidents eliminated if the pilot is properly trained early on and throughout their flying career on standard taxi operating procedures and practices.

The flight instructor should instill in the student an awareness of the potential for runway incursion, and s/he should emphasize runway incursion avoidance procedures.

Stall Awareness

All student pilots must receive and log flight training in stalls and stall recoveries prior to their first solo flight.

Student pilots are required to receive and log flight training in stalls and stall recoveries prior to solo flight.

During this training, the flight instructor should emphasize that the direct cause of every stall is an excessive angle of attack (AOA).

The flight instructor must emphasize that low speed is not necessary to produce a stall. The wing can be brought to an excessive AOA at any speed.

The key to stall awareness is the pilot's ability to visualize the wing's AOA in any particular circumstance, and thereby be able to estimate his or her margin of safety above stall. This learned skill must be acquired early in flight training.

Use of Checklists

Checklists have been the foundation of pilot standardization and flight safety for many years.

Checklists have been the foundation of pilot standardization and flight safety for many years.The checklist is a memory aid and helps to ensure that critical items necessary for the safe operation of aircraft are not overlooked or forgotten.

The checklist does not need to be consulted at all times, during all tasks. Proper actions can be accomplished, and then the checklist used to quickly ensure all necessary tasks or actions have been completed.

The flight instructor must promote a positive attitude toward the use of checklists, and the student pilot must realize its importance.

Positive Transfer of Controls

During flight training, there must always be a clear understanding between the student and flight instructor of who has control of the aircraft. Changing the pilot in control requires a positive transfer of controls.

When a flight instructor wishes the student to take control of the aircraft, he or she should say to the student, "You have the flight controls."

The student should acknowledge immediately by saying, "I have the flight controls."

The flight instructor should then confirm by again saying, "You have the flight controls."

The procedure should include a a visual check to ensure that the other person actually has the flight controls.

Numerous accidents have occurred due to a lack of communication or misunderstanding as to who actually had control of the aircraft, particularly between students and flight instructors. There should never be any doubt as to who is flying the airplane at any one time.


Commercial Pilot & Flight Instructor Test Questions

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Robert Wederquist   CP-ASEL - AGI - IGI
Commercial Pilot • Instrument Pilot
Advanced Ground Instructor • Instrument Ground Instructor