Buy Learn Fly

Some new or aspiring pilots know what they want: Big tires, a tailwheel and being “off airport” just as much as “on airport.”  If you land on the water, or are a helicopter, you’ll get used to the tower saying “land at your own risk.”  This is music to the ears of those who chose a slightly unconventional learning path.

What do you seek? (In your aviation dreams?)

The cookie cutter flight school program? Or do you value critical skills early on that are often not taught until you fly your first seaplane or gravel bar landing tundra tired Super Cub?

It wasn’t too long ago that we all learned to fly a tail dragger in a field somewhere near a bigger airport.  Most also turned out to be really good pilots for the simple reason that they had to use their feet (i.e. rudder) and an intuitive connection and approach to much of their flying.  Just ask Sully.

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Landing the Cessna Skywagon and Related Mythology.

185-landing
Yes, it can be this easy.

Let’s admit that all taildraggers are different.  Some way way different.  Some are easy and some are mean.  I have not landed a Douglas DC-3, but I bet it is easier than a Super Cub on a cross-windy day.

Regarding the cult of the Skywagon and related 185 / 180 obsessors, I can offer this from 47 years of breathing, 25 of which I’ve spent teaching flying things:  The Cessna 180 / 185 Skywagon is an easy thing to land, to land well, with grace and aplomb, when you master key principles:

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Aircraft Valuation Part 1

One of the challenges of representing buyers, whether it is a Super Cub, King Air or Phenom is knowing where to start the opening shot: The offer.

How do you proffer a number to an aircraft seller that shows the seller multiple  things?  For example, your contact and methods demonstrate:

  • Your math accounts for outliers such as super low or high airframe total time, damage history, missing logs or a run out engine.  (And when these are great.)
  • An offer that is serious (i.e. committed / real buyer) and likely to close.
  • A number that is fair and close to what other transactions are valued at for the same make, model and age aircraft.  (And how to find hidden gems here.)
  • Adequate respect and mindfulness on how you handle the seller’s conditions or needs. (A smooth sale has as much to do with emotional self awareness, as it does the spreadsheet of how you structured the offer.)

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CIGAR TIPS

cub(aka CCIGGARR TIPPS)

The beauty of mnemonic devices is that they allow the tail wheel, seaplane or helicopter pilot do a checklist without the use of both hands.  While there are checklist purists out there who may disagree with my methods, let me offer this:  If you fly many different aircraft, whose checklists can be absent, inappropriate, out of date, etc. it is best to develop your own.  A good way to build that base, for everything from a J-3 Cub up to t Beech 18, is to use, what I’ll term, “the classics.”  CIGAR TIPS and GUMPS (more on GUMPS in another post.)

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Pattern Work

US Navy F-18 Landing Typical Profile

I’m near certain that umpteen zillion posts have written about this subject.  Nevertheless, here I go with my addition to the pile.

How do you teach students to land safely, who didn’t know how to fly a mere 10 hours ago?

The answer, to me, is 100% about feel, energy management (à la glider teaching), looking, sensing and adjusting as necessary.  A trap that I, and many of my colleagues, have fallen into is thinking that landing is something a student will embrace if they are given firm numbers, power settings, checkpoints etc.  Any type of recipe that emphasizes standardization exclusively does two big disservices to the student:

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Airbus and the C Series

“So … our cousins in Montreal have a little problem.”

Conceiving, designing, prototyping and launching a great airplane isn’t enough.  You need buckets of money.  Container ships of it.  Some connections with the mob, won’t hurt either.  Better yet, if you are in a big hurry, a rich and connected European aunt or uncle.  Perhaps the best, simplest overview of how it all went down can be found here.

That way, when Boeing comes after you, you can run to the only other safe harbor in town – Airbus.  A good lesson for early entrepreneurs here (not that Bombardier has the “hey… Armand.. make me a snowmobile, esti!” feel to it anymore) is that being heavily diluted and living to talk about it is better than being cut off from the US market and certain death.

If I was an aviation tarot card reader I would say something smart like, “There was no other way for this to work.  It was written!”

For us scrappy people of the start up world, this is a great story if only for how it ended.  While Bombardier to some may no longer be the epitome of agility, brilliance or innovation, it is nice to see a relative “little person” find safe harbor from the sledgehammer of abuse, myopic policy, and too many litigious hit men in the boardroom.

Boeing v. Trudeau

Boeing Super F-18.

I’m not a terribly patriotic Canadian, but I think this is an interesting story worth following.

Hegemony, aerospace, and the military industry industrial complex make for great reading when trying to understand the 51st State “nort of de border” as we say in Maine.  Richard Aboulafia writes extensively about the link between US prime contractors and the Canadian companies that play second fiddle as subcontractors for US aerospace manufacturing.

It is really hard to fight when we are so intertwined.  Bonne chance Justin.  Donald, more reading recommended.

How To Buy An Airplane Like a Pro

My old flame – 07P in Greenville, ME.

One of the pleasures of being a flight instructor, consultant and occasional contract pilot is that I get to spend a lot of time around pilots keen to buy a taildragger, turboprop and occasionally a jet.  Even existing aircraft owners express a desire to upgrade, re-evaluate, or simply sell their existing aircraft for something else.

Yet, in the general aviation world, there’s a frequent recurrence of casualness around aircraft acquisition that can lead to wasted time, effort, and money etc. never mind the frayed emotions and harumphing.  In the turbine world, it leads to lawsuits and varsity level harumphing.

Three questions to help think about avoiding such pain:

  1. How do I make an offer on an airplane that I can’t even see in person?
  2. What is a reasonable sequence of events from first contact to closing?
  3. How do I make an offer that is fair, but not insult the Seller if the asking price appears way over market?

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What Should You Charge as a CFI?

More money is safer.

As a new, old, or “returning” (in my case) CFI, a nagging question might be:  “WTF should I charge?”  And stumped you should be, since general aviation can be an opaque place that doesn’t love you back as much as you love it.  So you ask yourself, “How can I do this for a living?”  The answer is you can, but it takes a few key ingredients, rumination and simple action.

What a flight instructor is paid has a huge range and your question might be, where do you belong?  And how can you belong, appear, smell or act in such a way that you can ask for sustainable income?

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Astronaut vs. Bus Driver (Part 2)

Image credit to therogueaviator.com

For those of us that extract money from airplanes and aerospace related things, the evolution of the pilot archetype fascinates me.

Jeff Friedrich outlines the current trend of the marginalization of skilled labor in one of the best articles on the subject.  Labor, regulation, technology and business models conspire to forsake a key ingredient – people.

While many debate that automation will do us in anyway, why not have some competent people around just in case?

If Elon Musk has anything to say about it (prediction), it might not be a bad idea to keep them even better trained and fed too.  The car you can park.  For critical aircraft failures, why not have a pilot with a compass and watch? And throw in some half decent training and compensation for good measure.