In many parts of the country, winter is the time when pilots herd their light GA airplanes into the hangar for hibernation. While cobwebs can form around our slumbering mechanical friends during these cold and dark months, that’s no excuse for allowing such things to obscure the aviation knowledge and skill we pilots will need when spring arrives. On the contrary, winter is a great time to clear any cobwebs that may have formed in what a friend wryly calls the “headset separator” space between your ears.
In the Nov/Dec 2017 “Sim City” issue of FAA Safety Briefing, we explored ways pilots can use simulation technology to sharpen and maintain flying skills when the constraints of weather, life obligations, or budget put the brakes on actual aviation activity. I’ll use this space to raise awareness of some of the cost-free “back to basics” resources you can use to keep your brain awake while your airplane huddles in the hangar.
A Go-to FAA Source
Unless you are training for a certificate or rating, you might not be drawn to a web page called “Airman Testing” — but I would encourage you to check it out. If it’s been awhile since you last took a test, flight review, or instrument proficiency check, reviewing the standards for the certificates and ratings you hold is a solid back to basics exercise.
Those who earned certificates or ratings before June 2016 probably haven’t seen the new Airman Certification Standards (ACS), the single-source set of knowledge and skill standards that have begun to replace the Practical Test Standards (PTS) format. Because it integrates knowledge and risk management elements with the familiar PTS skill requirements for each Area of Operation and task, the appropriate ACS offers a great place to jumpstart your aeronautical remembrance of things past (apologies to Marcel Proust).
The Airman Testing page also provides a “Reference Handbooks” hyperlink to a wide range of guidance documents: Advisory Circulars, Airworthiness Directives, Regulations, Forms, Policy Statements, FAA Orders and Notices, and FAA H-series Handbooks. Bear in mind that several of the H-series handbooks (e.g., Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, Airplane Flying Handbook) have been recently updated and, in some cases, substantially revised in accordance with recommendations from industry experts.
Aviation Community Resources
One of my personal goals for this winter is to remove any rust from my knowledge of instrument procedures. I’ve been perusing the FAA’s Instrument Flying Handbook and Instrument Procedures Handbook, but I have also bookmarked the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s IFR Procedures page (bit.ly/2hxvFbk) for a systematic winter review.
If IFR isn’t your interest or need, click your way to the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s Training & Safety/ Safety Spotlights page (see URL below) and peruse the menu of cost-free aviation safety education material. As the page introduction notes, ASI Safety Spotlights “include courses, accident case studies, real pilot stories, quizzes, videos, and publications relevant to each topic.” Available topics range from Aerodynamics and Aeromedical to Thunderstorm Avoidance and much more.
The Experimental Aviation Association’s (EAA) Advocacy and Safety page also offers a range of material you can use in your winter back to basics brain work. Of particular interest is information about the Type Club Coalition (TCC), which includes contact information for TCC member organizations. Whether you own or rent your aircraft, you can benefit from the extensive information type clubs have developed on specific makes and models. Chances are good that in addition to refreshing facts you already acquired, you’ll have a number of “I never knew that!” discoveries.
Make the most of the winter down time, and you’ll be all set for the springtime flying season to start. (FAA Safety Briefing – JanFeb2018)