Fly The Wing

September 2016


In the highly unlikely event of an in-flight engine loss, you’ll remain airborne for about 2x your altitude (in thousands).

Example: at 4,000’ AGL, you’ll have about 8-minutes; at 10,000 AGL, about 20-minutes. This rule-of-thumb works fairly well in most 4-seat single-engine airplanes, assuming you fly the correct Best Glide airspeed for your gross weight, and stay coordinated and ‘clean’ (gear and flaps up).

August 2016


After landing, you should stay on Tower frequency until they switch you to Ground.

At Gillespie, after landing on RWY-27R, they often instruct you to either "cross 27-Left and contact Ground" or  "hold short of 27-Left". In the case of the latter, you should stay on Tower frequency until they eventually cross you over 27-Left. Once crossed, then you switch to Ground.

It's a minor but essential point: cross the runway, then switch to Ground. And when you call Ground on the other side, tell them you're clear of 27-Left (the runway you just crossed), not 27-Right (the runway you earlier landed on). For more on all this, see the AIM: 4-3-20

July 2016


The accident rate of non-precision approaches is 5-times that of precision approaches, according to an Air Safety Foundation study.

The FAA recommended years ago that the “dive and drive” non-precision technique should be discontinued as they contribute to CFIT. Rather, they advocate a stabilized, continuous descent when flying non-precision approaches.

When selecting an approach to an airport in IMC, pick the one that gets you the lowest, while providing vertical navigation. Generally, that would be an LPV, ILS or LNAV/VNAV (assuming you have WAAS, I prefer the integrity/accuracy of LPV over ground-based ILS).

June 2016

Flaps down; Nose down.

As you bring the flaps down, you must lower the nose to maintain the same airspeed. The more the flaps come down, the more the nose must come down. It's simple aerodynamics, as the increased drag requires a pitch change to produce the same result.

But then, that's the whole point of flaps, right? They allow us to steepen the descent without picking up airspeed. The same is true if you slip the airplane. Anything other than coordinated flight is going to require you to lower the nose to produce the same airspeed. 

May 2016

Divert to Class-C

If you're flying cross-country and need to divert for some (non-emergency) reason --- weather, you're getting tired, you have some anomaly with the airplane --- select a Class Charlie airport, whenever possible.

Class C airports always have radar, ATC (approach / departure / tower), multiple IAP's and lots o' services --- emergency support, airplane maintenance, rental cars, hotels, restaurants, FBO's, etc.

As an example, if I were flying back from Northern California and needed to divert in Central California, I would choose FAT (Fresno) in the valley, or MRY (Monterey) on the coast, before FCH (Chandler) or SNS (Salinas).

April 2016


The controller is asking you to switch to another frequency (but continue to communicate with him; not another controller). There are no hard-and-fast rules (that would be too easy), but in general, in keeping with the 'read-back all clearances and instructions' paradigm, you would say: "7-Foxtrot-Lima; switching 121.7". Then, switch to that frequency and say, "7-Foxtrot-Lima up on 121.7" (note: no "with you").

You could just switch without saying anything, but unless the controller brought his crystal ball to work with him today, he can only guess whether you A.) heard him, B.) understood him, and, C.) have actually switched. So, just do it the way I've explained, and don't gum up the works by making the rest of us guess what you're doing.

March 2016


When you park an airplane at an FBO, whether for an hour or for multiple days, you shouldn't use the parking brake.

Rather, you should chock or tie-down the airplane. In the event the FBO needs to re-position the airplane, you will not want to have the parking brake applied.


Also consider your use of a parking brake when parking at non-ramp / transient locations. A stuck or broken cable or mechanism would then disable the aircraft and could leave you stranded at a remote airport. Use your best judgment.

February 2016

Fly Over the Towers

When flying over high-tension power lines, you should fly over the towers, not the wires themselves. There will be no wires higher than the tower (just make sure there are no towers higher than the one you're flying over). Don't rely on those yellow or orange balls they put on the wires themselves, as they may not be on the wire you're about to fly into.

January 2016


It's not required... so quit asking for it!

This is one of my (many) pet-peeves. When you're outside the lateral bounds or above the airport surface area (2,400' MSL at Gillespie), you don't need to request a frequency change.

AIM 4-3-2 (a) advises, "in the interest of reducing tower frequency congestion, pilots are reminded that it is not necessary to request permission to leave the tower frequency once outside of Class B, Class C or Class D surface areas". So there.

December 2015

Comply Upon Receipt

You should comply with a clearance or instruction from ATC upon receipt.

When they say "cleared for immediate takeoff", you should reach for the throttle and start moving the airplane toward the runway (then key the mic and read back the clearance).

When they say "turn base", you should begin to turn the airplane (then key the mic and read back the instruction). When they tell you to "go around", you should begin to go around... you get the idea. Aviate. Navigate. Communicate. Refer to AIM 4-4-10(a) for more.

November 2015


There was some confusion when the Localizer approach into Gillespie changed to a LOC/DME approach. Some instrument pilots believed they would now need DME on the their airplane to fly this approach, as radials from VOR’s (Julian and Poggi) were no longer being used.


Well, you are going to need something to measure distance so you'll know when you're at BARET, SAMOS & DEBEY, but that something can be a panel-mounted (not handheld) GPS (and no, it doesn't need to be WAAS, as there's no Vertical-descent guidance on this approach).


As always, the database must have been updated to include those waypoints on the approach (you can't enter them manually, as the GPS must know the location of the DME transmitter on the field to calculate distances). Click here for more info from AOPA on this matter.

October 2015

Don't Turn Back

In the rare event of an engine failure immediately after takeoff, you can't turn back to the runway while upwind.

It's doubtful you'll make it through the 220° turn required to align you with the runway from which you just departed unless you're at least 1,000' AGL, and in most single-engine airplanes you won't be that high until somewhere between crosswind and downwind.

Even in the case of a "straight-out departure", by the time you get to 1,000' AGL, you'll be too far from the runway to make it back anyway.

September 2015


Means the controller must pause for a few seconds, usually to attend to other duties of a higher priority.

You should not reply or confirm receipt of an instruction to ‘Stand By’; that would defeat the purpose! Just be silent and let ATC go about their business; they will either come back shortly with “aircraft calling...” or with your N-Number and begin dialogue with you.

You should re-establish contact if the delay is lengthy. See the Pilot/Controllers Glossary for more.

August 2015


Standard length for the white dashed center
lines on runways is 120'. There is generally an 80' gap between each stripe (making each stripe/gap segment 200' in length). Adjustments to the length of stripes and gaps, where necessary to accommodate runway length, are made near the runway midpoint.

July 2015

GPS self-corrects for wind

The GPS (or GPS-derived data in an iPad app) tells you the Desired Track (DTK) to a waypoint or destination. It also knows your airplane's current track (TRK). What it doesn't know (or care about) is your magnetic course or the wind.

This makes it really easy to navigate; once you're on the desired heading to go direct to your waypoint or destination (airport, VOR, landmark, etc.), simply make your Track = Desired Track, for the "shortest path between two points". Keep those two numbers locked to each other for the most direct automatic, wind-correction track.

June 2015


"Traffic in sight" or "Negative contact" are the only two acceptable phrases when responding to ATC traffic alerts.

Saying things like "We have him on T-CAS", "looking for traffic" or “we have him on the fish-finder” (c-o-r-n-y) is not acceptable phraseology. See the Pilot-Controllers Glossary for more (look under "Traffic Advisories").

The only other exception I can think of is when ATC issues a traffic alert and you're in a cloud on an IFR flight. In that case you should respond, "53-Gulf, in IMC" (since they have no idea when you are in or out of a cloud). And remember, if you lose visual contact with previously called traffic, you should report that to ATC if they are still considered a factor.

May 2015

Movement /

Non-Movement Areas

The terminology confuses some pilots. Just substitute the word 'controlled' for 'movement' for clarification.

The hangars and tie-down spots are all in non-movement (non-controlled) areas. You can walk, drive or taxi an airplane in that area without requiring clearance from ATC (some busier airports want you to call for taxi prior to leaving your tie-down spot).

April 2015

Yellow Taxi Line

The yellow taxi line running to the center of the runway is to help guide you from the runway after landing, onto the taxiway. You're not supposed to follow it from the taxiway onto the runway when taking off, but rather should always use all available runway whenever taking off (unless performing an intersection departure).

A classic example of this is 27-Right at Gillespie, with a displaced threshold (painted white; it's available for takeoff but not landing).

When you're cleared for takeoff, you should taxi onto the runway, turn right, and use the full runway for takeoff.

You would only use the yellow taxi line if you were landing on the reciprocal runway - 9-Left - and rolling out to the end of taxiway Delta.

March 2015


“For which runway?” In the last week I’ve heard pilots inbound to both Gillespie and Palm Springs ask the tower controller that very question after their initial call-up.


The answer to their question was on ATIS: "...landing and departing Runways 27-Left and 27-Right...", etc. ATC may not specify the runway until they have visual contact with you and clear you to land.


The whole point of ATIS is to broadcast information -- landing runways, closed runways/taxiways, split frequencies, etc. -- so ATC doesn't have to give this information to each individual pilot. Listen to ATIS. 

February 2015

You can't fill the seats and fly with full fuel.

This rule is generally true for all light airplanes. For certification purposes, manufacturers only need demonstrate the airplane will fly with 30-minutes of fuel on-board, when each seat is occupied by a 170-lb. person. (FAR 23.25)

If you or any of your passengers weigh more than 170-lbs., and you want to fly for more than 30-minutes, somethin's gotta give.

This is true in Cessna 172's, Bonanza's, King Air's, Citation Jets, etc. With full fuel, the payload of the 6-seat Piper Meridian is just 561-lbs.

January 2015


Typical aircraft batteries in single-engine airplanes require about 2.5-hrs. of cruise flight to properly 'top-off' to a full charge, according to Concorde Batteries.

An airplane used only for short-hop $100 burger runs or flight training may never reach full-charge status.

And it's worse in winter; a battery which could be recharged in an hour at 77°F while flying may require 5 hours for charging when the temperature is at 0°F, which it's likely to be at 10,000'.

December 2014

Know the Rules, Not the Rule Numbers

There is no requirement at any level of pilot training that you memorize rule numbers. You will not see rule numbers referenced on any written (knowledge) test, or asked by an examiner on a check ride.

If an examiner does ask, "What does 91.103 require us to do?", ask him to re-word his question without using a rule number. When I began flying in the mid-70's, Preflight Action (91.103) was 91.5. Do you think I re-memorized the new number for that rule every time they inserted a new rule and 91.5 got bumped later and later in the regs? (No.)

Just like the DMV expects you to know the rules of the road, but not memorize the vehicle code, so too does the FAA want you to know applicable rules, but it's not a memory test, folks!

November 2014


When tower/ATC gives an instruction to "extend downwind" or "make a right 360", it's for spacing/sequencing. You can minimize the amount of vectoring and how far your extended downwind takes you by simply SLOWING the airplane.

ATC is merely trying to increase distance between two airplanes, and in the time-space continuum, performing slow flight will accomplish this without traipsing all over the countryside.

Bonus tip: You can achieve a similar result when IFR and you're told to "expect a hold" for sequencing. Slowing the airplane will generally eliminate the need for a hold.

October 2014


Airplanes heading in roughly opposite directions to each other will be at the same position from each other.

In other words, if ATC tells another airplane to look for opposite direction traffic (you) at their "3 o'clock" or "off their right wing", then he will be at your 3 o'clock and off your right wing too.

September 2014

1-IN-60 RULE

When you are 60-miles from a VOR with 1° deflection, you are 1-mile off-course. If you can remember the ‘1-in-60 Rule’, you can calculate other off-course scenarios.

2° at 60-mi: 2-miles off course;

2° at 30-mi; 1-mile off course;

4° at 30-mi; 2-miles off course, etc.

August 2014

Double the Degrees

When trying to intercept a VOR radial, choose an intercept angle that's twice the number of degrees that you are from that radial.

Ex: You're on the JLI 190 radial, and you want to get to the 170 radial. Intercept at a 40° angle (030° heading to fly TO, or 130° heading to fly FROM the VOR).

Anything between 20-90° intercept is good; less than 20° will take forever to intercept; greater than 90° will have you going the wrong way to/from it.

VOR intercept angle is also predicated on your ground speed, and how close you are to the VOR.

July 2014


Bug the departure runway in your HI, then just taxi toward the tail (opposite end) of what you've bugged. This is particularly helpful at non-towered airports and will almost always take you to your departure runway.

Taking off on RWY-31? Bug that, then taxi to the tail - the far end - to get to the departure end of RWY-31.


This works because there are no taxiways that extend beyond runways at airports, so taxiing as far away from the runway heading you've bugged will virtually always take you to the far end of that runway.

June 2014


Your chance of having a mid-air collision while overtaking - or while being overtaken - is 5x greater than a head-on collision.


Look under and above your wings, and behind you while flying to or from airports, VOR's and congested waypoints.

May 2014


In the event of total engine failure, you'll be able to glide to anything that is within a circle extending from under the nose of your airplane.

The higher your altitude, the larger this arc, and your gliding distance, becomes. It's a visual thing, and works pretty well in most single-engine airplanes. See that big field that's just beyond the nose of the airplane? Odds are you won't be able to glide to it.

April 2014

Wait For The Click

When communicating on the radio, listen for the little ‘click’ at the end of the other party’s transmission that always occurs as they release the PTT button. Then, you can click your mic and transmit.

I often hear pilots talk over an ATC transmission because they wait for the end of a sentence or phrase from the controller and then key their mic, talking over the last portion of the controller’s transmission, rather than waiting to hear the click to verify that the controller (or even another pilot on 122.75 or CTAF) had indeed completed their transmission.

Interestingly I never hear controllers talking over pilots in this manner; they’re  trained to wait to hear the click before keying their mics

March 2014


While you were in the air for an hour in your little airplane, the earth below continued to rotate on its axis another 15º.

Even the most accurate HI in the world is going to be off by 4-5º every hour or so, unless you have a “slaved” HI/HSI, in which case, never mind. (This becomes even more critical the closer you get to the poles. The formula for hourly precession is 15 * (SIN(Latitude)), for all you nerds...)

February 2014


Begin to roll out of a turn at 1/2 your bank angle.

Ex: In a 30º banked turn, begin to roll-out 15º before you reach your desired heading.

January 2014


A quick ‘n’ dirty way to convert Celsius to Fahrenheit:

Multiply x 1.8, then add 32.


Ex: 20° C = (20 x 1.8) + 32, or 68°F

30°C = (30 x 1.8) + 32, or 86°F

As we were raised in a Fahrenheit world here in the U.S., you really only need to know how to interpret Celsius --- how to convert C to F; you generally don't need to know how to 'go the other way' in conversions.

December 2013


In the event of engine failure, crank in full nose-up trim all the way back to the stops.

This will give you best glide airspeed in almost every single-engine airplane. It’s not a coincidence; that’s the way the elevator trim is supposed to be rigged.

Note: check this first at altitude with idling engine to verify in your airplane!

November 2013


You can ‘ballpark’ the width of a runway by counting all the threshold stripes and multiplying by 12.

Ex: A runway has a total of 12 stripes; 12 X 12 = 144; round off to 150' width.

  1. 6 stripes = 75'

  2. 8 stripes = 100'

  3. 12 stripes = 150'

October 2013

Tailwind Landing

A tailwind of 10% of your final approach speed increases your landing distance by 20%.

A headwind of 10% decreases landing distance by 20%

Keep in mind, you would fly the same indicated speed for each, but your increased ground speed with a tailwind could be disconcerting if you've not previously landed with a tailwind. Also, 10% could be as little as 6-knots; land with a 10-12 knot tailwind and it will really get your attention!

September 2013

The +3 / -8 Rule

In the aviation world, Plus 3/Minus 8 refers to the first three minutes after take­off and the last eight minutes before landing.

According to flight crash investigators, close to 80% of all plane crashes occur during this time­frame (the events leading up to the recent Asiana plane crash happened during the last 8 minutes of descent).

In between those times, the chances of a plane crash occurring drop dramatically. Thus, if you want to up your chances of survival, you need to be extra vigilant and ready to take action during the first 3 minutes after take­off and the last 8 minutes before landing.

Click here for suggestions from The Survivor's Club on what to do and not do during Plus 3/Minus 8.

August 2013

Looking Outside the Airplane

For every 3-seconds you spend looking inside the airplane, you should spend 17-seconds looking outside the airplane while in visual flight conditions.

The Navy teaches this 3:17 time-slicing concept. Look outside; peek inside. Remember, you are responsible for terrain and collision avoidance whenever you are in VMC, even if on an IFR flight plan! .

July 2013


For errors less than 100’, use 1/2 bar width on the Attitude Indicator to correct. For deviations greater than 100’ use 1 bar width of elevator correction.

A good rule of thumb is to use a vertical speed rate that is double the error. Ex: for 100’ deviation, correct at a rate of 200 FPM on the VSI.

June 2013

V-speeds, under MAX GROSS WEIGHT

Vx, Vy and Vg (Best Glide) all decrease ~ 1/2 knot for each 100-lbs. under maximum gross weight.

For example, flying with one passenger and half fuel you might be 500-lbs under MGWT. Reduce those three V-speeds by about 3-knots to truly achieve Best Angle and Rate of Climb and Best Glide!

May 2013


The plastics used to create the windows in most airplanes already serves to minimize glare (unlike the safety glass used in automobiles). Using polarized sunglasses will further eliminate light reflection and sparkles, making it difficult to see nav lights or airplanes in the air.

Furthermore, polarized sunglasses will reduce or eliminate the visibility of instruments that incorporate anti-glare filters (including iPads!). Use them to look cool and avoid glare on the beach, water or snow, but not when flying an airplane. Learn more about what the FAA has to say about sunglasses from this safety brochure – click here to read the PDF.

April 2013

Rotation Speed

Rule of thumb in a single-engine airplane is to rotate at 1.15 x Vs. If stall speed is 50; you should rotate at about 58.

Recall that 'rotate' does not mean 'takeoff'; the FAA defines it as "the speed at which the pilot makes a control input, with the intention of lifting the airplane out of contact with the runway".(FAR 21.51(a))

You are merely applying back pressure on the elevator to get the wing to an angle of attack that will produce enough lift to slip the surly bonds of earth once lift is greater than weight.

March 2013

Turning With Traffic in Front of You

The rule of the thumb is that if the other airplane is similar to yours (single engine piston, etc.), when traffic is abeam your wing, you can turn without worry that you will ever 'catch up' to the other plane.

This is particularly helpful in the traffic pattern for maintaining a safe sequencing distance. Of course, just like in a car, look first before you begin any turn!

February 2013

Touching down left of centerline?

Probably not using enough right rudder in the flare. Remember, as you increase angle-of-attack in the flare, P-Factor kicks in --- the right (descending) blade produces more thrust than the left, creating a left yaw moment.

Trying to correct it with aileron? Well, that only makes things worse as adverse yaw greatly increases at high angles of attack. So, although you may land somewhat straight, insufficient right-rudder in the flare has allowed the airplane to drift left of centerline in the final moments.

January 2013

Turning While Taxiing

When taxiing a 3-wheel vehicle like an airplane, you should not begin any turn at a speed greater than that from which you would be able to come to a complete stop with only minimal braking.

Just like on a motorcycle, you want to brake only while going straight --- if you have to brake in the turn, you entered the turn too fast!

Tip: When you are cleared to land, you own the runway for your operation. Other than a LAHSO you have accepted, there is no requirement that you "turn off ASAP... or turn off at Bravo...". If you need to roll out all the way to the end of the runway, do it --- it's your runway! And there is always a taxiway turn-off at the end of the runway, right? It's the departure entry point for the reciprocal runway!

December 2012


The typical light airplane is designed to provide protection in crash landings that expose the occupants to nine times the acceleration of gravity (9 G) in a forward direction. Assuming a uniform 9 G deceleration, at 50 mph, the required stopping distance is 9.4 feet.

Conclusion: Get it on the ground, under control and land with the nose slightly up at the slowest possible speed. Even if the plane then decelerates to zero in about 10’, you’re likely to survive.

November 2012

Airplane Shadows

When you see the shadows of your airplane and another airplane on the ground, there is no chance of collision if they are in different places.

Only when the other plane's shadow is close to overlapping your own plane's shadow is there a threat of collision.   

October 2012

Weather in a Low

Look for the worst weather in the northeast corner of a Low.

That's where the cyclonic force of the Low takes the warmer air north to meet cold air from the polar region as it sags southward.

This is true in North America; not so much in Australia!   

September 2012


Last month I suggested you could stay in the air as long as possible (Maximum Endurance) by flying at approximately 1.3 x Vso.

To gain the most distance possible with fuel remaining requires a slightly faster True Airspeed. The rule of thumb for Maximum Range is to fly 1.5 x Vso.

Ex: If straight & level stall speed is 44-kts, maximum range speed is about 66-kts (at Max. Gross Wt.). When you see how slow this really is, most people (especially those flying rental aircraft) will choose to fly much faster and burn more fuel in exchange for reduced range.

August 2012


If you want to keep flying as long as you can (duration; not greatest distance), slow the plane to approximately 1.3 x Vs.

Ex: If straight & level stall speed is 44-kts, maximum endurance speed is about 57-kts (at Max. Gross Wt.). Handy to know if you happen to rent a plane "dry" (you pay for the fuel used)!  

July 2012

High to Low (or Hot to Cold); lookout below! 

When flying from an area of high(er) pressure to an area of low(er) pressure, your actual altitude will be lower than what is displayed on your altimeter (until, of course, you reset it to the new setting). This is also true when flying from an area of warm(er) air to an area of cold(er) air.

Try it for yourself: At altitude, set your altimeter to a somewhat lower barometric setting, and watch the hands on the altimeter begin to unwind!

June 2012


Double the number of degrees you are off course.

Ex: If you are 2 dots (4° )off course, correct by turning 8°. When back on course, correct the other way by half that angle (4°)  to stay on course with a correct wind correction angle.

This process is known as 'bracketing' and epitomizes the concept of small, minor corrections made early.

May 2012


This Rule of Thumb could be called a Rule of Finger. Find one of your fingers that corresponds to a rough nautical mile distance on a sectional chart.

In my case, the length of my index finger happens to be almost exactly 20nm on a Sectional (10nm on a Terminal Chart). When I need to do a 'quick guesstimate' of distance, no need to reach for my plotter/ruler --- 3 fingers is 60-miles; 2 fingers is 40 miles, etc

April 2012


Most single engine light airplanes will glide approximately 1-mile for each 1,000' of altitude above ground without power. This assumes you descend at Best Glide airspeed (L/D Max), which decreases from the POH maximum gross weight speed, proportionate to how much under MGWT you are. 

Keep in mind you will also enjoy a better glide ratio in straight flight, compared to turning flight, and while staying coordinated, rather than slipping or skidding!

March 2012


You can obtain a rough estimate of Va by multiplying the 'clean' (Vs1) stall speed by 1.7. Ex: Plane stalls at 54kts; use 92 as Va at that gross weight.

Va is the maximum speed where full abrupt movement of one primary control (aileron, rudder or elevator) can be used without overstressing the airframe. It varies in relation to max. gross weight.

February 2012

Emergency Landing At Night

If you're forced to make an emergency landing at night, sometimes the best option is on a big ol' 2-lane interstate highway.

In that case, land with the red lights (with flow of traffic), rather than the white lights (oncoming cars)!

January 2012


Rate of climb is reduced about 7% for each thousand feet of Density Altitude. (8% above 8,500’ DA).

Example: At 5,000’ Density Altitude (French Valley on a hot summer day); Rate of Climb will be at least 35% less than at Sea Level!

December 2011

Gust Factor on Landing

Rule of thumb is to add HALF the wind gust factor to your final approach IAS. If normal approach is 65kts, and wind is down the runway at 15G25, add half the gust factor of 10 --- or 5 knots --- resulting in an Indicated Airspeed of 70kts.

Also consider using partial flaps with a strong or gusting headwind component. Your lower groundspeed will shorten your ground roll, and full flaps with strong/gusty wind could result in weathervaning or directional control issues on rollout..

November 2011

Knowing Where Low Pressure Is

Stand with your back toward the wind. Extend your left arm out to your side and point. That's where the low pressure is (high pressure is to your right).

This works in the Northern Hemisphere and is known as Buys Ballot's Law. Click here to read more.

October 2011

Clearing a Mountain

As you approach a mountain, if you can see an ever-increasing number of objects (houses, roads, trees, etc.) on the far  (leeward) side of the mountain, you are higher than the mountain.

If you see fewer and fewer objects on the far side of the mountain as you approach it, you are lower than the mountain. This works particularly well at night, regarding the changing number of lights on the lee side of the mountain (there's either gonna be more of 'em or less of 'em!)

September 2011

VY With High Density Altitude

Vy decreases approximately 1 knot for each 1000' of Density Altitude.

Ex: Hemet on a 97° day, DA can easily approach 5,000'. Your 'book' Vy of 79 is really closer to 74KIAS. Remember, Vy decreases with altitude, as Vx increases with altitude --- until they converge at max. L/D (best glide speed) at the airplane's absolute ceiling!

August 2011

Standard Rate Bank Angle  

Take the first 2 digits of your IAS (in knots), and add 7. That's roughly the bank angle that will produce a standard rate turn.

Ex: IAS is 130 knots. Take the '13', add 7, resulting in 20. A 20° bank angle will produce a standard-rate two-minute turn. (Add 5 instead of 7 if IAS is in MPH).

July 2011



Multiply the horsepower by .06 (or 6%).

Ex: 100HP burns about 6-gph; 235HP about 14-gph; 300HP about 18-gph.

June 2011


Add the difference between VY and VX to VY..

Ex: VY is 79, VX is 63; a difference of 16- knots. Add 16 to VY (79); an efficient enroute climb speed would be 95-knots.

May 2011


Divide the angle the wind is off the nose into 4 quadrants; the crosswind component is that % (25-50-75-100), depending on angle off the nose.

Ex: 30° off the nose; x-wind component is 50% of wind velocity; 45° off nose; x-wind is 75% of wind.

April 2011


VS X 1.6

VS is the speed at the bottom of the green arc.

If you’re under Maximum Gross Weight, decrease Best Glide by that same percentage.

Ex: VS is 44-knots, and you’re 20% under MGWT. Best Glide is approximately 56-knots. (44 X 1.6 is 70. Reduce this by the same percentage you are under MGWT, 20%, to arrive at 56-knots).

March 2011


3 X Altitude to lose (in 1,000’s) = Miles out to begin descent

Groundspeed X 5 = FPM descent rate

Ex: You’re at 12,000’ and want to be at 2,000’ over the airport. 10(000)’ to lose X 3 = begin descent 30-miles out.

GS is 120 kts. X 5 = 600 FPM descent to get there!

February 2011


For every 1% airport grade it will affect the aircraft by 10% over what is stated in the POH for performance.

Ex: For a 3% uphill grade, add 30% to takeoff runway calculations.

January 2011


Add 20% to the POH stopping distance for every 5 mph of tailwind component.

Ex: Landing with a 7-knot tailwind component will increase required landing distance (and ground roll) calculations by about 30%.

Quick Quiz Answers

September 2016


A.) this approach is at a Class-C airport;

B.) the circling minimums have been calculated based on TAS at MDA MSL.

C.) this relates to Military aircraft and can be disregarded. 

Answer B is correct. Since 2012, the FAA has begun adjusting the size of the protected area for circling approaches, based on faster True Airspeeds at higher altitudes. See TERMS/LANDING MINIMA DATA in the Terminal Procedures Supplement. (click here)

August 2016

VFR approaches to land at night should be accomplished:

A.) at a higher airspeed.

B.) with a steeper descent.

C.) the same as during daytime. 

Answer C is correct. This is covered in the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook (page 10-7). I selected this question as an example of the FAA’s focus on real-world, scenario-based questions on knowledgAugust 2016

VFR approaches to land at night should be accomplished:

A.) at a higher airspeed.

B.) with a steeper descent.

C.) the same as during daytime. 

Answer C is correct. This is covered in the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook (page 10-7). I selected this question as an example of the FAA’s focus on real-world, scenario-based questions on knowledge tests. While they no longer release the question bank to the public, this question is one of several they offer as a sample of questions asked on the Private Pilot test in their testing materials.

July 2016


A.) Airspeed indicator;

B.) Magnetic compass;

C.) VSI;

D.) Altimeter (if off by more than 75’).

The VSI, answer C, is the only instrument listed that does not require and A&P to adjust. Perhaps because it’s not required for flight, the FAA doesn’t mind if pilots mess with it. For more, see page 2-3 in the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook.

June 2016

Can you (legally) fly the RNAV RWY-17 Approach at Gillespie with a Garmin 430/530 GPS database that hasn't been updated since June 2015?

A.) Yes

B.) No

A couple of months ago, the answer may have been 'Yes'; today it’s 'No'. As long as you verify that nothing on an approach chart has changed since the last time the GPS database was updated, you're good to go. You do this by verifying the waypoints in the approach and the Amendment date in the lower left corner of the plate.

The RNAV-17 at SEE hadn't been updated in 5-years, so a database from last year would still be acceptable, for that approach. But then the 4/28/16 chart updates changed the answer to this question! They made a change to the approach, albeit just the removal of the 'NA at Night' note. That's pertinent to the approach; hence the amendment. For more insight, see the Garmin AFMS for your airplane and figure 1-1-6 in AIM section 1-1-17.

May 2016

The angle of attack at which an airplane stalls varies based on:

A.) Weight;

B.) Bank angle;

C.) Temperature;

D.) Density altitude;

E.) Center of gravity.

None of the above. For a given configuration, the airplane always stalls at the same angle of attack, referenced to as the critical angle of attack (AOA). For more, see the excellent addendum to the 2015 edition of the FAA’s Instrument Flying Handbook: Angle of Attack Indicators (page 2). Click here to view a PDF of the addendum.

April 2016

You're landing on RWY-3 when you
see this marking ahead of you. It indicates:

A.) This is for taxiing aircraft to hold-short;

B.) You have 1,000' of runway remaining';

C.) An area where motor vehicles are not permitted;

D.) The LAHSO for RWY-12/30.

D.)  It’s the Land-And-Hold-Short line for RWY-12/30. If you were given... and accepted... a LAHSO when landing on RWY-3, this is the point by which you would need to whoa-up the airplane. Note that if you are not given a LAHSO clearance, you do not need clearance to cross this line when landing.

March 2016

Regarding the sectional chart depiction of these two airports, which of the following statements are true:

A.) You can buy fuel at UDD; 
B.) TRM has a runway > 8,000';
C.) There is a VOR at TRM;
D.) There is a rotating beacon at night at both airports;
E.) You can't tell for sure whether there is fuel available at TRM.

All five statements are true. See the FAA’s Aeronautical Chart User’s Guide or the legend panel of any Sectional Chart for more.

February 2016

A conga line of upper level lows rolled through SoCal the first couple weeks of the year. Sign(s) that a low pressure system is approaching could include:

A.) Widespread cloudiness and precipitation developing;

B.) Low stratus, fog, haze and smoke;

C.) Surface winds may shift from N or W to S or E;

D.) Steadily falling pressure over several days.

A, C & D are all clues that a low pressure system may be headed your way. Answer B is associated with High pressure systems. See the FAA’s Aviation Weather book for more. 

January 2016

If you bank your airplane more than 60-degrees, you'll need to:

A.) Use full power;

B.) Use a lot of top (high) rudder;

C.) Keep airspeed above Va (maneuvering speed);

D.) Provide parachutes to your passengers.

D.) FAR 91.307(c) is pretty clear that with few exceptions (on a check ride, training to be a CFI, etc.), exceeding 60° bank (and/or 30° pitch) requires all occupants to wear a parachute. Using full power (answer 'A') isn't really needed; after all, you could bank 60° in a glider, right? Answer 'B' --- top rudder --- is incorrect as you will need more bottom (low) rudder in any turn, particularly as you get past 30° or so of bank. And it would not be good to overstress the airplane by performing a 2-G maneuver, such as 60° of bank, while above Va (answer 'C').

December 2015

the words “RADAR REQUIRED” on an Instrument approach plate mean:

A.) You will not be able to navigate segments of the approach using a NAVAID;

B.) You must have Radar installed in your airplane;

C.) You must have either Radar or GPS in your airplane;

D.) You won't be able to fly this approach in IMC conditions without weather radar on-board.

A.) Segments of an approach (or route, if indicated on a chart) are not navigable because of either the absence or unusability of a NAVAID. The pilot can expect to be provided radar navigational guidance while transiting segments labeled with this term. See the Pilot/Controller’s Glossary for more.

November 2015


A.) Throttle;

B.) Aileron;

C.) Rudder;

D.) Elevator.

D. Elevator.  Horizontal component of lift is what turns the plane. Read more about this in my Loss of Control article (scroll to EXTRA CREDIT near the end): click here.  

October 2015

When ATC asks your airspeed, you should give them:

A.) IAS (indicated airspeed);

B.) CIAS (calibrated indicated airspeed);

C.) TAS (true airspeed);

D.) Ground speed (from your GPS).

A. Indicated airspeed. This is what controllers are expecting, unless you give them true airspeed, in which case you should append the word(s) “true” or “true airspeed”. For more, see the Pilot/Controller’s Glossary, and the AIM 4-4-12(b).

September 2015

Click image to enlarge...

  1. It's a Part 23 type certification thing.

  2. It's part of the "O" in ARROW.

  3. It's not an instrument or anything you'd need the POH to discover.

  4. It would not be visible in this photo, if not for the position of the pilot's yoke.

  5. Focus on switches and knobs; all except one of them have this. 

Give up? Click here to see the item circled, then read below:

Is it an Avionics Master... or a Flight Instructor ejection seat? FAR 23.1367(d) mandates: “Each switch must be labeled as to its operation.” Even though it would seem easy to type a label and slap it on the panel, that’s not a Preventive Maintenance task an aircraft owner is permitted to make, much less a pilot flying or renting this airplane. An A&P or IA must do this (presumably the person who installed the switch should have labeled it and recorded his actions in the aircraft maintenance records).

August 2015

You've been cleared for a 'long landing' on RWY-31L in your Legend Cub, which requires less than 300' of runway. The only taxiway open is the one at the very top (marked with an 'X'). At which of the following four spots on the runway would it be feasible to land:


A.)  A;

B.)  B;

C.)  C;

D.)  D;

E. ) All of the above;

F. ) None of the above.

I would choose ‘D’, although any answer A-E would be acceptable. Don’t let the displaced threshold on RWY-13R confuse you; that’s merely runway that’s not available for landing on 13-R, but it is very much available for landing on 31-L as it’s painted white (it would be yellow if it weren’t). This is a very real scenario as only the taxiways at the ends of a 10,000’ runway are currently open at KPSP, but you still have Cessna 172’s landing at in the first 1,000’ of RWY-31L, then taxiing for almost two miles just to get clear of the runway. See AIM 2-3-3-(h)(2) for more info.

July 2015

You're Instrument-rated, on an IFR cross country. Into which of these conditions would it be OK to fly a Cessna 172 or Piper Archer:


A.) an Icing PIREP for light rime ice along a portion of your route;

B.) a report of moderate ice at your planned flight altitude;

C.) a forecast for light icing in your area (but no reports of known ice);

D.) temperature at destination is 28°F with virga in the area.

I would say, ‘none of the above’. For years the FAA defined ice conditions as anytime the temp was below freezing with visible moisture, which would knock out answer ‘D’. They now say ‘each encounter with ice will be judged by whether a “reasonable and prudent” pilot would take the same actions or make the same decisions as the pilot in the icing situation’. Forecast or reported icing, the scenarios depicted in answers A, B and C, are conditions specifically prohibited in 91.527(b). For more, see FAR 91.527 and AIM 7-1-21 and 22, and always give yourself an ‘out’ in case of an encounter with ice.

June 2015

If an emergency situation requires a downwind landing, pilots should expect a faster:


A.) airspeed at touchdown, a longer ground roll, and better control throughout the landing roll;

B.) groundspeed at touchdown, a longer ground roll, and the likelihood of overshooting the desired touchdown point;

C.) groundspeed at touchdown, a shorter ground roll, and the likelihood of undershooting the desired touchdown point;

D.) none of the above.

B.) Faster groundspeed. Answer A is incorrect because the airspeed will be the same, and the control throughout the landing roll will be less due to the higher ground speed. Answer C is incorrect because the ground roll will be longer, and there will be a greater likelihood of overshooting the touchdown point.

May 2015

Which of the following must you report to the FAA:


A.) An arrest for a traffic accident;

B.) Drivers license revoked due to parking tickets;

C.) An arrest for a DUI;

D.) Conviction for a DUI:

E.) All of the above.

D.) Conviction for a DUI. The FAA generally only wants to know if you've been convicted (and/or had your drivers' license revoked) due to alcohol or drug influence or intoxication. Read their definition of "motor vehicle action", and how (written report to OKC) and when (within 60-days) you must notify them of a DUI conviction in FAR 61.15.  This is a good example of a FAR that you probably have not memorized, but should be readily able to lookup in your FAR/AIM book.

April 2015

You're flying straight and level in cruise flight, power steady at 2300-RPM and your IAS suddenly goes from 105 to 75-kts. Which scenario is most likely?:


A.) A 30-knot headwind just went to zero;

B.) You have carb ice;

C.) You just flew into a headwind 30-kts. greater than you previously had.

A.) You just experienced a “headwind-to-tailwind shear” of 30-kts. Remember, you are flying within an airmass. It is much like walking inside a moving train car. If a 30-knot headwind is blowing over the wings --- and creating ram pressure against your airspeed indicator’s pitot tube --- and then it suddenly goes away, that is 30-kts. less of ram pressure, and your ASI will reflect that change. If you answered C, you would be correct if the question referred to a GPS groundspeed change of -30 knots, but the ASI does not reflect groundspeed. And if you answered B), carb ice, you are probably focused on the article in this month’s newsletter dealing with carb ice, and I tricked you. Generally a decrease in RPM (fixed pitch) or manifold pressure (constant pitch) would be an indication of carb ice, not a change in IAS.

March 2015

Which of the following scenarios is least likely to result in a spin. Stalling while in:


A.) A skidding turn;

B.) A slipping turn;

C.) Straight & level flight.

B.) A slipping turn. You probably thought straight & level, right? While S/L is better than skidding, (skidding is most likely to produce a spin), the yaw and roll coupling needed to drive a spin not only is missing, but yaw and roll are as far from coupled as possible during a slip. For more, read Rich Stowell’s Stall/Spin Awareness (p. 335). Remember: “High” rudder (ball low) = GOOD; “Low” rudder (ball high) = BAD.

February 2015

This will tend to offset the left-turning tendencies that are present during takeoff in most single-engine light airplanes:


A.) A moderate right crosswind;

B.) A moderate left crosswind;

C.) Climbing at Vx rather than Vy airspeed;

D.) Using somewhat less than full power on takeoff.

A. A slight to moderate right crosswind tends to “dampen” the left-turning tendencies that are apparent during full-power, steep pitch takeoffs and climbs. Conversely, a left crosswind (B.) will tend to increase the effects of left-turning tendencies (“more right rudder!” TM ). Climbing at Vx (C.) is achieved with a steeper pitch angle (slower airspeed), resulting in more P-factor, and using less than full power on takeoff (D.) is just silly.

January 2015

During your pre-takeoff run-up, switching the key from BOTH to LEFT results in no drop in engine RPM. This indicates:


A.) Mag timing is set correctly and engine is running smoothly;

B.) The LEFT mag is grounded;

C.) The RIGHT mag is grounded;

D.) The RIGHT mag is not grounded.

D. The RIGHT mag is not grounded; you have a “Hot Mag” condition. Knowing which mag is grounded/not grounded is not the critical issue here; no RPM drop means one or the other is not grounded and the engine may kick if the prop is moved, even with the ignition OFF. You should hang a sign on the prop and the panel (“Caution: Hot Prop”) and notify an A&P ASAP.

December 2014

The FAA recommends you taxi at a speed:


A.) Less than 15-knots;

B.) Less than 1,000 RPM of engine power;

C.) At the pace of a person walking briskly beside the airplane;

D.) Slow enough so when the throttle is closed the airplane can be stopped promptly.

D. In the Airplane Flying Handbook, (page 2-9) the FAA offers some good taxi tips including this one and “the ability to stop or turn where and when desired, without undue reliance on the brakes”.

November 2014

You're straight and level at 70-kts, WHICH ALSO HAPPENS TO BE BEST GLIDE (L/D) IN YOUR AIRPLANE. NOW, To slow the airplane TO 55-KTS. and CONTINUE STRAIGHT & level will require:


A.) More power;

B.) Less power;

C.) The same amount of power;

D.) You can't fly an airplane slower than Best Glide speed without stalling.

A; more power. The crucial information in the question is that L/D, the speed at which total drag is at a minimum, is the speed you are currently flying. Any slower than L/D, induced drag increases exponentially, requiring more power to fly slower. Welcome to the ‘Region of Reversed Command’, aka, the back side of the power curve. This explanation makes answers B & C incorrect, and if L/D = Stall Speed in your airplane (answer D), you’ve got problems. Click here to read more.

October 2014

The red nav light on the left wing of your Cessna 172 is not working. LOCAL Sunset is 6:33 pm. What is the latest you can legally fly?


A.) 6:33 pm;

B.) 7:33 pm; an hour after local Sunset;

C.) 6:58 pm; the end of civil twilight;

D.) You can't fly an airplane with an inop position light at all.

A; 6:33pm (sunset). 14 CFR 91.209(a) mandates that no person operate an aircraft from sunset to sunrise unless it has lighted position lights. Answer ‘B’ pertains to the time when you must be current (3 landings to a full-stop in the past 90-days to carry passengers at night); answer ‘C’ pertains to the period when you can log flight time as ‘night’, and answer ‘D’ is simply wrong; you don’t need position lights for day operations. Click here to review night flying procedures.

September 2014



A.) Pilot reports of St. Elmo’s Fire;

B.) Thunder and lightning during daylight hours;

C.) Reports of possible human trafficking;

D.) Reports from rural North Carolina airstrips of possible moonshine transport.

C; controllers are to ensure that the supervisor/controller−in−charge (CIC) is notified of reports of possible human

trafficking. These may be referred to as “Blue Lightning” events. This was in section 2-1-30 of the ATC policies I wrote about in a blog article last month. You can learn more from our friendly Customs & Border folks by clicking here.

August 2014

Without looking it up, which of these is the Localizer frequency for the ILS 24-R approach at LAX?


A.) 108.5;

B.) 108.6;

C.) 120.5;

D.) 121.9.

C & D are each Comm, not Nav, frequencies so you can immediately discard them. Localizers always end in an odd number, so A, 108.5, is the only viable answer. The part about LAX and the ILS 24-R approach really doesn't relate; answer A would be correct if you plugged in the name of any airport/Localizer-ILS.

July 2014

You're on the ground at Brackett (POC); field elevation is 1,000' MSL and it's 55° F. According to ATIS, altimeter setting is 29.92. What is pressure altitude on the ramp:


A.) 0' MSL;

B.) 1,000' AGL;

C.) 1,000' MSL;

D.) 2,000' MSL

This is very much a trick question, and one I actually got on an Instrument Written test. Recall that standard air pressure at sea level is 29.92" and 59° F. You can use an E6B to calculate pressure altitude, or just set the altimeter to 29.92". In this case, the altimeter should read very close to field elevation (answer 'C'). Confusion may arise because ATC has already 'corrected' the altimeter setting to what it would be at sea level --- that's why in this scenario your altimeter reads 1,000' instead of 0' when set to 29.92".

For extra credit, what is Density Altitude in this scenario? 1,000'; same as pressure altitude and field elevation. One of those rare circumstances where you are at Sea Level pressure and Temperature (59° at SL; 55° at 1,000' MSL).

June 2014

In a METAR or on ATIS, "4-miles visibility" means:


A.) An average of 4-miles visibility surrounding the airport;

B.) A maximum of 4-miles visibility in any direction around the airport;

C.) A minimum of 4-miles visibility for at least half of the 360° circle around the airport;

D.) Below VFR minimums; you can't fly in this.

C. A minimum of 4-miles visibility for at least half of the 360° circle around the airport. Keep in mind, this could be non-contiguous, and it could be 2-miles to the NW and SW and 1-mile visibility due West, but if 4-miles visibility prevails for a combined 50% of the 360-degree circle around the observation location, this would be reported as “4-miles visibility”. If you answered D, back to the books! This image offers an extreme example; June gloom to the west, but better visibility to the east of SEE:

May 2014

You're going to fly locally for about an hour from Gillespie in a Cessna 172RG. Which of the following conditions should inhibit you from making an otherwise timely and typical VFR departure?


A.) After turning Avionics on, you note Transponder is dead;

B.) Left fuel gauge is inoperative, although visual inspection confirms full fuel in both tanks;

C.) Bottom half of the compass correction card is missing;

D.) Mesh tie-down net in baggage compartment is not in the airplane.

All of the above. You need a Transponder to fly within the Mode C veil. If it is inoperative, you must request an ATC deviation (91.215(d)(3)). A fuel gauge indicating the quantity of fuel in each tank is a VFR/day requirement (91.205(b)(9)). A (complete) compass card is one of the required placards that makes the airplane airworthy (23.1547). And unless you’ve flown a C172RG, you might not know that the mesh tie-down net in the baggage compartment is actually required equipment; refer to the Weight & Balance section (equipment list) in the POH.

April 2014

The current METAR at SEE shows the wind to be 280@14. Landing on 27-Right you can expect:


A.) A slight left crosswind component;

B.) A slight right crosswind component;

C.) No crosswind component;

D.) A tailwind.

A.) Due to Variation, this is a slight left crosswind. Runway 27R is 269.9º Magnetic. METAR winds are True north; so a wind of 280º True is 267.8º Magnetic north (Variation at SEE is 12.2º east). If the METAR shows 280º, you could expect the ATIS to report “Wind 270” (“only the man in the tower is untrue”).

March 2014



A.) Maximum speed at which full flaps may be extended;

B.) Maximum speed at which any flaps may be extended;

C.) Maneuvering airspeed;

D.) Stall speed with full flaps.

A.) Maximum speed at which full flaps may be extended. Keep in mind, this may also be the speed at which any flaps may be extended, but in most modern airplanes you can deploy some flap without exceeding the limitations that exist at Vfe. In the ASI pictured above, (from a Cessna 182T), 10º flaps may be deployed below 140-kts.; 20º below 120-kts., and full flaps at 100-KIAS, as indicated by the white arc that ends at 100-kts. For more, see 14 CFR 23.1511 and 23.345.

February 2014


A.) Special Military Activity Routes;

B.) Warning Area;

C.) Differentiates floor of Class E airspace;

D.) Alert Area - Student Training..

A.) IFR Military routes and operation areas. DOD conducts periodic operations involving Unmanned Aircraft Systems; sometimes accompanied by military or other aircraft. Contact FAA on designated frequencies along the routes for status. You’re going to start seeing more and more of these areas as drones become a way of life.

January 2014

You're flying cross-country due east (090 heading) at 135-knots IAS. Vne (red line) is 160-kts. Based on Winds Aloft, what's the highest  altitude at which you would fly:


A.) 5,500': 270° @ 20-knots;

B.) 7,500': 270° @ 40-knots;

C.) 9,500': 270° @ 60-knots.

A.) It's the fastest you can go without exceeding VNE (135 + 20-kt. tailwind);

B.) It's between A & C, so I'll just play it safe;

C.) 195-knot groundspeed --- get out the camera!

I would choose 'C'; climb to 9,500' and pick up the most favorable tailwind. This was somewhat of a trick question; designed to see if you understand the difference between how fast the airplane is flying within the airmass (135-knots) vs. how fast it's moving over the ground (195-knots), which has nothing to do with Vne (that was just tossed in to throw you off!) 


Think of the airmass in which you're flying as a moving train car. If the train is moving at 100-mph, and you're walking inside the train car (same direction) at 10-mph, you're moving 110-mph over the ground, but you're still only walking 10-mph, right?

Here's a screenshot of my GPS in the Cub, flying through the Banning Pass straight & level with a 45-mph tailwind. Vne in the Cub is 126; my IAS was 85-mph, but I was moving over the ground at 130-mph! Ponder that, and be sure you grasp this most basic navigation concept.

December 2013



A. engine start; 

B. taxiing;      

C. takeoff;

D. entering controlled airspace. 

B - prior to taxiing. You may be accustomed to switching your transponder to standby (STBY) mode while taxiing, but with the changes to the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) in 2012, the FAA now recommends you activate your transponder prior to moving at an airport. Refer to AIM section 4-1-20, paragraph 3.

November 2013

Why does RWY 27R at Gillespie have threshold stripes, but 27L does not?


A. 27R is the longer of the two runways; 

B. 27R is lighted; 27L is not;      

C. 27R has an instrument approach; 27L does not;

D. 27R has a displaced threshold; 27L does not; 

E. They simply ran out of white paint by the time they got around to painting to 27L.

A, B, C and D are all correct statements; however, only answer C is the reason there are no threshold stripes on runway 27L. Threshold markings are actually part of an instrument approach; they are one (of many) of the things the pilot must be able to see in order to descend below the approach’s MDA or DA.

October 2013

The markings displayed above depict:


  1. A.Taxiway hold-short bar;

  2. B.Vehicle crossing area;  

  3. C.ILS critical area;

  4. D.Taxiway ending marker. 

C. ILS critical area. You may be directed to ”hold-short of the ILS critical area” when there is an inbound aircraft on the ILS inside the outer marker. Positioning your aircraft on the wrong side of these hold bars could result in you interfering or disrupting the glideslope signal for that aircraft. I once heard a pilot told to hold short of the ILS critical area at Fresno argue with the controller that he was leaving VFR; he wasn’t an IFR flight. The instruction is for the benefit of the guy coming in IFR; not for you, you chucklehead!

September 2013

Taking this medication requires a 60-hour (2- 1/2 day) wait before you can act as PIC:


A. NyQuil;

B. Zyrtec;  

C. Claritin;

D. Viagra;

E. All of the above.

A. NyQuil. Apparently, somebody crashed a plane after taking NyQuil; several months ago the FAA released an advisory that grounded pilots for 60-hours after taking it. (DayQuil requires a 12-hour wait). Zyrtec, while now over the counter, requires a 48-hour wait, and you may not take it more than twice per week. Claritin is permitted for use without restriction. Viagra requires a 6-hour wait (it might be uncomfortable to fasten the seatbelt while taking it?).

August 2013

Select military operations areas (MOAs) include training known as ____, which involves military aircraft conducting exercises at night without their exterior lighting illuminated


A. "Dark Eagle";

B. "Black Jack";  

C. "Night Sight";

D. "Lights Out".

D. "Lights-Out" training is conducted in select MOAs across the United States. (Yeah, I didn't know that one either). This training allows military aircraft to conduct exercises at night, without their exterior lighting illuminated.

Obviously, this can pose a safety hazard to any aircraft flying through the MOA, given that it is virtually impossible to "see and avoid" a dark aircraft at night. To see if a MOA near you is authorized to conduct Lights-Out training, click here to check a list of approved MOAs. None in CA, but many in AZ & NV. If you plan to fly near a Lights-Out authorized MOA at night, ask Flight Service for Lights-Out NOTAMs during preflight and request updated information when en route. For more information, read the Lights-Out: A New Collision Avoidance Challenge Safety Advisor, available through AOPA’s Air Safety Foundation (click here).

July 2013

Your cross-country trip from Gillespie to Holtville (L04) is a True Course of 090° (078° Magnetic). With a NE crosswind, your Magnetic Heading is calculated to be 066. You forgot to plan the return trip back to Gillespie, but if you fly this heading, you'll be close enough to see the airport from Alpine:

A.    258°, the reciprocal of your Magnetic Course;

B.     246°, the reciprocal of your Magnetic Heading;

C.     270°;

  1. D.    I have no idea / none of the above / my head    exploded just reading the question.

C.  270°. It’s merely coincidental that that is the 180° reciprocal of your original 090° True Course. Here’s how that happens: your wind correction angle (WCA) outbound was 12º (Left) the same as your Variation. Remember, you subtract a Left crosswind, and add a Right crosswind correction angle. So, your return trip (270° True Course) is 258°after subtracting East Variation, and 270° after adding back in the 12° of Right crosswind correction. This all assumes the same wind direction/velocity at the return altitude as the outbound altitude, and doesn’t even mention Deviation; it’s unlikely your compass has the same error on West headings as it does on East headings. Answer A would be correct if there were no crosswind component in either direction. If you actually flew the 258° heading out of Holtville (answer A), you would end up  somewhere over Tijuana. If you flew the 246° heading (answer B), you’d be somewhere south of Rosarito beach. Plan all legs of your cross-country trips; not just the outbound leg!

June 2013

Just East of Otay Lake is a Restricted Airport ( Nichols Field), now labeled OBJECTIONABLE on the VFR Sectional Chart. What does that mean?

A.  Fodor's has reviewed the on-field cafe and determined the food to be objectionable;

B. It's a private airstrip, and the owners decided to rename it 'Objectionable', a reference to their middle child;

  1. C.The FAA is not happy about something here.

  1. C.The FAA is not happy. They say:

  2. "OBJECTIONABLE" indicates an airspace determination per FAA Joint Order 7400.2J Section 4, Airport Charting and Publication of Airport Data, issued 9 FEB 2012. When you see this indication on a chart be sure to refer to the applicable Airport/Facility Directory for more information. FAA Regional Airports Offices are responsible for airspace determinations. Address any challenges to objectionable airspace determinations to your regional airports office.

Now doesn’t that make it clearer? For more, click here.

May 2013

The POH for your Piper Warrior says Vy (Best Rate of Climb) is 79-knots. It’s a hot summer afternoon and you’ve just taken off from a high density altitude airport (DA: 6,000’). To achieve the best-rate-of-climb and get up to cruise altitude in the least amount of time, you should pitch for what climb airspeed:

A.  79-kts, but use the GPS Groundspeed; not the Airspeed Indicator.

B.  Somewhere between Vx and Vy.

C.  Faster than 79-kts as the high DA is going to reduce performance.

D.  It’s a trick question; Vy is Vy – always pitch for 79 KIAS.

B.  Somewhere between Vx and Vy. Remember as you ascend, Vy gets lower… and Vx (best-angle-of-climb) gets higher, until they both meet at the airplane’s Absolute Ceiling. In this example; a carbureted, normally aspirated (non-turbo) engine I would lean the mixture to compensate for less-dense air at 6,000’ and pitch for somewhere around 70-kts (Vx is 63-kts; service ceiling is ~14,000’, so at 70, you’re roughly in the middle of 63 and 79). For an additional tip, keep this in mind when climbing in general.  If you want to stay at Vy, you’ll have to keep slowing the plane slightly (raising the nose) as you climb through 5,000’, 7,000’, 9,000’, etc. from the “sea level” Vy you see in the POH. Also consider the ‘book’ Vy & Vx are based at MGWT; as gross weight falls below maximum, both speeds are lower.

April 2013

Checking your VOR on the KSEE ramp with the VOT, you note a 4° right needle deflection with the OBS on the 000° radial. What would you expect the OBS indications to be when you dial in the 180 radial?

  1. A. 4° needle left and a TO indication; 

  2. B. 4° needle right and a TO indication;

  3. C. 4° needle right and a FROM indication;

  4. D. There's a VOT at Gillespie?

A.  4° needle left and a TO indication. Remember the mnemonic about a Cessna 182 related to VOT checks? It should show 180/TO (182), and by default that leaves 360/FROM. Remember, a VOT is only broadcasting a single radial --- the 360 (000) radial which, unless noted in the A/FD, you should be able to monitor anywhere in airport environment (some VOTs are usable in the air; check your local listings). So... if your airplane “thinks” it is 4° West of the 360 radial, then you are still West of that radial, even when you rotate the OBS to the reciprocal of 180; it’s just that “West” is now to the right, so the needle will swing left. Have I totally confused you yet? This is one of those things that makes more sense in an airplane. Tune to 110.0 on the ground next time and give it a try!

March 2013

The minima table for Gillespie's RNAV RWY 17 approach is displayed above. The MDA for the Circle to Land is:

  1. A.1440’ MSL;

  2. B.1052’ MSL;

  3. C.1580’ MSL.


C. 1580‘MSL. While the approach plate indicates 1440’ MSL (Answer A), it is of course superseded by NOTAM, which in this case has been effective for a while now, raising the MDA to 1580’ MSL.

Answer B is the MDA in feet AGL, but of course it too is obsolete due to the FDC NOTAM.

February 2013

You have a Garmin 430/530 GPS installed in your airplane, but the database is expired. You can file and fly IFR under which of the following scenarios:

A. You should file as a /A (slant Alpha) and can not fly IFR with an expired database;

B. You should file /G (slant Golf) and can fly IFR enroute (if you verify route waypoints), and the approach has not been amended since the database expired;

C. You can not fly VFR or IFR using the GPS if the database is expired;


B. If you verify the waypoints on the route first (presumably with a current IFR enroute chart), you may still file as /G and use the GPS for enroute navigation. You need to verify that the procedure has not been amended since the database expired to be able to use it for the approach. 'A' is not correct; you have a GPS (which is the /G designator); your database is just expired. 'C' is incorrect as there is no requirement that a database be current for VFR flight (although it is certainly a good idea to always fly with current information!)  See  AIM TBL 1-1-6 (read footnotes 2 & 3!) for more.

From the Garmin 430 Pilot's Guide:

Can I file slant Golf ('/G') using my GPS?

Yes, the pilot may file a flight plan as /G if the GNS 430 is a certified A1 or A2 installation. If flying enroute, the pilot may file /G with an expired database only after having verified all route waypoints. Non-precision approaches may not be flown with an expired database. See an approved Airplane Flight Manual Supplement for more information.

January 2013

You're 1,000 miles from home on a cross-country trip when you realize your wallet was stolen. Your pilot certificate was in it, so now what is the best option?

A- as long as you're still current, you don't need the physical license to act as PIC;

B- fly home commercial then apply for a duplicate certificate;

C- as long as you have a photo-copy or digital image of the certificate in your phone, you're legal to fly;

D- request temporary authority to exercise certificate privileges of a valid airman certificate from the FAA.

D is the option I would select. A & C are simply not correct; you must have your pilot certificate (some call it a license) physically with you (doesn't have to be on you; but must be in the airplane). I have not read anywhere where you can have a digital version of it available, although if the FAA ever moves to the 21st Century, that's not a bad idea (hey, they're still asking ADF questions on written tests!). You could certainly choose option B; fly home commercial, wait for the mailman to deliver a duplicate certificate in a couple weeks, then go back to pick up the airplane, etc.

There are also other options; if you're traveling with another pilot, they could function as PIC for the flight, or you could hire a commercial pilot to fly the plane home, etc. But many people do not know about option D - if you call the FAA in Oklahoma City - (405) 954-7674  - or visit on the web -   they can immediately fax you (maybe email, too?) a temporary certificate which will get you on your way home (good for 60-days; you may only make this request once every 6-months). Then when you're home, you can apply for an actual duplicate certificate ($2) and wait for the USPS to deliver it to your mailbox. Tip: Cut/paste this information, or at the very least the phone number and website link in your SmartPhone so you have it in case this exact thing happens to you!

December 2012


A- assure you that you get priority landing clearance;

B- result in them giving you vectors directly to the runway;

C- is the same as declaring an emergency;

D- does not have any effect on sequencing you to land.

D - Essentially no effect. Minimum fuel advisory merely tells ATC that you can not accept any undue delay, whatever that is. If you truly are running low on fuel, first --- why? (Land short of your destination and refuel!). But if it’s an emergency, you should declare an emergency and report fuel remaining in minutes (remember, you’re on tape). That’s the only way you can be assured of receiving expedited clearance to land.

November 2012

As airspeed decreases in level flight below that speed for maximum lift/drag (best glide), total drag of an airplane:

A- decreases because of lower parasite drag;

B- increases because of increased induced drag;

C- increases because of increased parasite drag;

D- decreases because of lower induced and parasite drag..

B - If all other factors remain constant, induced drag varies inversely with the square root of the airspeed. For example, if airspeed is reduced by half, induced drag increases by a factor of four. Parasite decreases with a decrease in airspeed (answer A), but the exponential increase in induced drag causes total drag to increase. Parasite drag increases with an increase in airspeed; it does not increase with a decrease in airspeed (answer C).

October 2012

ThIS wind barb depicted on a Surface Analysis Chart indicates:

A- The wind is from the NE at 20-knots;

B- The wind is from the SW at 20-knots;

C- The wind is from the NE at 10-knots;

D- The wind is from 220-degrees Magnetic at 20-knots.

B - The wind is from the SW at 20-knots. Think of the circle as the station/location, and the wind is like an arrow with the fletching (feathers) of the arrow all pointing at the station. D would be correct if winds were indicated in Magnetic north on charts; but they’re True North. Each full barb indicates 10-knots of airspeed (half-barbs are 5-knots).

September 2012

When ATC asks you to "IDENT", you should:

A) Press the transponder IDENT button, but say nothing (they'll be able to see you on the radar screen);

B) Press IDENT and say "Cessna 53-Golf; IDENT";

C) Press IDENT and quickly click the mic button twice, to confirm you heard them;

D) Press IDENT and just say "Roger".

B) Press IDENT and say your callsign and “IDENT”. Couple reasons: first the AIM (4-2-3-c) advises: You should acknowledge all callups or clearances unless the controller advises otherwise. Other people on the frequency (including the controller) are waiting for you to confirm/reply, so you’re just bottle-necking communication if you say nothing. And somewhat less likely (but it does happen); another airplane may mistakenly think the IDENT request is for them. They IDENT (instead of or in addition to you), but you don’t confirm; maybe they do or they don’t --- well, it’s just a mess. Reply to all ATC callups or clearances.

August 2012

You're working on your Instrument Rating and about to pre-flight the plane when your instructor mentions the VSI quit working on the last flight. Can you still fly the plane for this lesson?

A) Yes, but you'll have to remain in VMC at all times;

B) As long as the instructor can maintain visual contact, you can fly the plane under the hood;

C) No; you can't fly in simulated or real IMC without a VSI;

D) Yes; cover it with a yellow post-it note and go shoot some approaches!

D) VSI is not required instrument for VFR, IFR, training, etc. Placard it so you don’t inadvertently look at an inaccurate instrument and go flying!

July 2012


A) remain the same, but the radius of turn will decrease.

B) decrease, and the rate of turn will decrease.

C) remain the same, but the radius of turn will increase.

D) decrease, and the radius of turn will decrease.

A) At a given angle of bank, a lower airspeed will make the radius of the turn smaller and the airplane will be turning at a faster rate. This compensates for the reduced centrifugal force, allowing the load factor to remain the same. See FAA-H-8083-25 for more.

June 2012


  1. A) Never.

  2. B) Only in an emergency.

  3. C) If precautions are taken to avoid injury or damage to persons or property on the surface.

  4. D) If prior permission is received from the Federal Aviation Administration.

C) If precautions are taken. 91.15 only requires that a PIC not allow an object be dropped if it creates a hazard to persons or property.

May 2012


  1. You just knew the answer was going to be NO didn’t you??? Two reasons: 91.146 mandates that passenger-carrying flights for the benefit of a charitable, nonprofit or community event be during day VFR conditions, and that a private pilot acting as pilot in command has at least 500 hours of flight time. When in doubt, look it up in the FARs!

April 2012


  1. A) A life preserver or flotation device for each occupant;

  2. B) A life raft of rated capacity and buoyancy to accommodate the occupants of the airplane;

  3. C) At least one pyrotechnic signaling device for each life raft;

  4. D) All of the above

  5. E) None of the above

  6. Correct answer: E) None of the above. According to 91.509, item A is only required when flying more than 50-miles from shore. Items B and C are only required when flying more than 100-miles (or 30-minutes flying time) from shore. Catalina Island is just 28-miles from Long Beach Airport. Use your own discretion and judgement when flying long distances over open water..

March 2012


  1. A) decrease the angle of descent without increasing the airspeed.

  2. B) permit a touchdown at a higher indicated airspeed.

  3. C) increase the angle of descent without increasing the airspeed.

  1. C) - Flaps change the chord of the wing, producing an increase in lift for the first notch or two. Generally the last notch creates lots of drag, enabling you to land slower (eating up less runway), while also decreasing the speed at which the wing stalls (relative to not using flaps).

February 2012


A) Between sunset & sunrise

B) Between 1-hour after sunset &1-hour before sunrise

C) Between end of civil “twilight” and beginning of civil daylight.

  1. D)Between sunrise & sunset

A) - If your aircraft is equipped with position and anti-collision lights, they must be on before sunset & sunrise. (There are exceptions in the case they are distracting, or you are in an area on the tarmac that is well-lit, etc.). B) is the period of time in which you need to be current (3 take-offs and full-stop landings in the last 90-days), and C) is the period during which you log night flying time. And D); well, that is daytime!

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Quick Quiz Questions & Answers!


This is a compilation of Quick Quiz and Rule Of Thumb items as featured in my monthly Fly The Wing Newsletter.