Automation in Aviation

Posted by Eric Epplett on Mon, Dec 12, 2016 @ 04:18 PM

Dakota Neff

Aviation Flight Science

Management & Operations

Automation in Aviation

Human error in aviation cockpits has been a cause for major aviation accidents worldwide. Many methods and strategies are currently in place to target human error however, there are still many solutions to be found. Major aircraft manufacturers are re-designing cockpits for pilots to eliminate specific factors that may distract the pilot. Airlines, corporate companies, and military personnel are currently implementing new training procedures, checklists, and simulator emergencies that will train them to deal with unexpected situations. These processes have established positive feedback with pilots and operators however, these factors are not entirely eliminated.

The aviation industry is currently dealing with an issue regarding pilot input leading to catastrophic accidents. As accidents continue to occur, solutions to this matter are needed. As the aviation industry continues to soar, the demand for new pilots is growing. Therefore, new training programs are needed to teach rookie pilots human error mistakes can result in danger to the passengers they are carrying. These programs will allow for a safer mode of transportation for future travelers. Aviation safety is key for this industry and a solution to this issue needs to be reached.

Solutions to this issue and how to address it are being addressed on a consistent basis to eliminate this issue. Aviation requires many jobs working together to complete a task. For pilots, this interaction between each other is known as crew resource management (CRM). Crew resource management was first introduced when an accident occurred in 1978 when an airline passenger jet crashed after the crew had lost situational awareness of the emergency. This would later shift the focus to psychological concern in the cockpit. Admitting to an error when flying is crucial as it is the first step to a proactive approach to the incident. A perfect flight is not likely however, but striving for the best flight will allow for smaller errors and manageable. These errors are successfully managed by CRM training, which is well thought-out and strategically set in place for the operation. As of 2004, the Federal Aviation Administration has placed outlines of CRM training for commercial airlines to use in their standard operating procedures. Presently, CRM involves person-machine interface, appropriate information, leadership, team formation, problem solving, and decision making in the cockpit. CRM training requires communication skills which will allow pilots to understand the effectiveness of this method.

Not one solution can be the ultimate change to this issue. However, it is the constant adaption to new and improved technology that will ultimately determine how to combat the increased automation issues. At Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, we gain first hand experience of just how advanced aircraft have become. However, it is how we adapt and perform with autopilot that determines how we will perform in a commercial aspect.

Topics: Aviation, aviation training, WMU

Why I Chose to Double-Major

Posted by Shelbi Tierney on Thu, Apr 28, 2016 @ 01:34 PM

Dakota Neff
Aviation Flight Science/Aviation Management and Operations

Aviation is one the highest regarded industries known worldwide. It requires extensive training, knowledgeable background, and a passion for the skies. Aviation is a diverse field connecting unique individuals from all over the world. Many people divide aviation into three categories; pilots, mechanics, and administrators. However, aviation includes many jobs that go unnoticed.

At Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation, students are encouraged to expand their knowledge everyday. We are consistently pushed in the classroom, in the air, and socially as well to engage in anything we can to enhance our experience at WMU. The College of Aviation has three degrees including Aviation Flight Science, Aviation Maintenance and Technology, and Aviation Management and Operations. On my first tour, I was persuaded by an ambassador that double majoring in flight science and management and operations was a wise idea because it makes yourself more marketable to future employers. After careful consideration, I declared my double major in both of those fields. My first month at WMU, I was fortunate enough to interact with many new students who were also double majoring with these degrees. We discussed how fortunate we are to be able to graduate with two degrees from one of the most prestigious flight schools in the country.

There are many benefits to double majoring. Many students choose to do this for medical purposes or to simply have the knowledge of how to operate and manage the aircraft. To fly at WMU and also commercially, it is required that pilots hold a first class or second class medical certificate. This is a way for the FAA to measure the pilot’s medical status and if they are able to operate an aircraft safely without causing harm to themselves or others. Many aviation professionals are aware that you are never guaranteed a medical certificate. It is a sad truth for many however, this is where double majoring comes in to use. If a pilot is unable to obtain a certificate, they have the management and operations degree to fall back on. This degree allows you to have a job that isn’t flying, maintaining, or controlling the aircraft. This includes jobs such as human resources, dispatch, or sales. However, I chose this path because it will give me an understanding of how to operate the airplane and also the business behind what makes the airplane fly.

This particular double major consists of an additional 40 credits with an estimated 15 extra classes. Many students choose this path because it goes hand in hand with the each other. However, the work load is well worth the end result. Double majoring is also a great way to make connections and begin a networking process. At the College of Aviation, there are many great ways to begin this. With both degrees, it allows for students to communicate with administrative workers as well as the flight department. This can impact your career substantially because you get the best of both worlds. Aviation is a field where you never know who you’ll meet or see at the airport.

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Topics: Aviation, aviation management, aviation training, flying, freshman, flight science, double-major

Perception is the Product

Posted by Shelbi Tierney on Mon, Feb 29, 2016 @ 01:14 PM

Miguel Del Rosario
Aviation Maintenance Technology

Before I share my ideas as to the importance of being detail oriented in daily tasks, I’d like to quote one of my favorite books that explains why perception is the product in any organization.

“Why is it that Casio can sell a calculator more cheaply that Kellogg’s can sell a box of corn flakes? Why can FedEx absolutely, positively deliver your package overnight but airlines have trouble keeping track of your bags? What does your company do better than anyone else? What unique value do you provide to your customers? How will you increase that value next year? As customers’ demands for the highest quality products, best services, and lowest prices increase daily, the rules for market leadership are changing”.  -The Discipline of Market Leaders, Michael Treacy

In my case, as an aviation ambassador from the prestigious institution of higher education, Western Michigan University, I certainly take pride in my duties by representing my university.  Exemplifying every quality and opportunity that has been offered to me is something that I value as a college student.

 About two years ago when I got hired as an aviation ambassador, our team leader always promoted the attention to detail and understanding that “Perception is the Product."  Looking back, I didn’t quite get the meaning of it entirely at the time, but fast forwarding a couple years later, it all started coming together. I started getting to know more and more people around the college and began understanding what the competition was doing in comparison to WMU College of Aviation.  In an effort to keep the highest standards of the job that we perform within the recruitment and outreach office, we ride with our creed where perception is the product, in order to keep excelling within the collegiate aviation community.  

Topics: Aviation, Flight Schools, aviation training, WMU, perception is the product, detail oriented

Organization is Key

Posted by Tom Thinnes on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @ 01:20 PM

Chris Desmond
Aviation Flight Science 

A Bachelors Degree in Aviation is a degree like no other, for many reasons beyond the obvious fact that we can attain the coolest jobs out there, by working in aviation. However like many things, being a pilot, aircraft mechanic, or airline dispatcher requires a lot of skill sets that many people don’t have a firm grasp on. Strong organizational skills, attention to detail, and the ability to work under pressure are just a few of the many skill sets possessed by aviation professionals across the world. However, this article is only going to focus on the first one, organization, a skill that is paramount to high school seniors, and college freshman getting used to their first semester totally on their own.

At this point in the year, many high school seniors are going through the process of applying for colleges, visiting colleges, and staying up late on Friday nights studying, just to get up early Saturday morning to take an ACT or SAT. For most seniors, this is the best year of high school. However, they can almost always look back after graduation and notice a few things that they could have done better, and organizing their time better usually falls towards the top of that list. Organization comes in many forms, whether it be planning out your schedule to have time for studying or work, or making sure that all of your class work and notes are not scattered all over your room, being organized will help you immensely in the long run. Your teachers will drill that concept into your mind your entire year, and yes it will get repetitive, but yes it is also some of the best advice you will receive from your four years in high school. This is especially true once you hit your first year getting acclimated for college.

As a freshman you are essentially thrown into a whole new environment, where, if you are from home or out of state you may not know nobody and are expected to juggle everything at once while trying to stay calm. Which is essentially not possible, between long classes, labs, the homework associated with those classes, and the exams. Throw on top of that, any job you may have, flight training if you are a flight science major, which also involves studying for the written tests, and finally trying to some how manage to have a social life. The saying is true, “Your options are good grades, a social life, and sleep, choose two.” Which leads me to the next topic.

Why is it important to be organized in the cockpit? Well that actually has an easier answer than one may think, being the pilot carries a lot of responsibility to ensure the safety of the crew and passengers, as well as those on the ground. Organization in the cockpit depends on many things, including phase of flight, crew, and workload. When in the situation of a two-person crew, organization would include designating each person’s responsibilities prior to any workload being established, and once there is a workload making sure that you have a positive exchange of duties. Single pilot operations differ than a crew type scenario, the main reason, being that as the single pilot all the responsibilities of a crew. Staying organized is imperative to making a safe flight, especially when it comes to the critical phases of flight it is important to make sure that there isn’t any unnecessary distractions that could be prevented.

All in all, organization is key, no matter what you are doing, whether it be flying or enjoying the rest of your time, the more organized you are the less stressed you will be. Here at Western, especially in the flight department you are taught that safety is key, and organization is safety.

 

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Topics: Aviation, aviation training, flying, Western Michigan University, freshman

Transitioning to the Cirrus SR-20

Posted by Shelbi Tierney on Mon, Sep 21, 2015 @ 11:47 AM

Transitioning to the SR-20
Cole Dillon
Aviation Flight Science 

As many people know, aviation has the ability to captivate minds every second of every day. The lucky ones get to experience this process for themselves. The luckiest of them all go through it at a young age. I was fortunate enough to be a part of this small percentage of that population. I was just in the fourth grade when I knew what I wanted to do with the rest of my life after taking a trip on an airliner to a spring break destination of Orlando, Florida. After purchasing a flight simulator and flying it almost every day, I decided that I could no longer wait to begin flight training in a real airplane. After two and a half years of training I was granted my private pilot certificate.

You may be thinking “What does this mean when you came to WMU?” Western offers a transition course for any incoming private pilot. The ten-lesson course is designed to acclimate the pilot to our Cirrus SR-20 aircraft and the procedures that the College of Aviation at WMU follows. It trains the pilot in the simulator and the aircraft to prove that he/she will be able to demonstrate that they are capable to fly the airplane and have the knowledge to Western standards. The knowledge is not just composed of knowledge about the Cirrus itself or WMU procedures, but it is knowledge that any and every private pilot should know.

When I talk about transition, I mean TRANSITION! Everything I had known about flying an airplane had been taught to me in a 1967 Cessna 172 or a 1956 Cessna 172 (the first year they were made). I never had any experience with technically advanced aircraft so the glass panel was intimidating at first and the plane flew faster than my initial trainer. I had also always been used to the Part 61 training atmosphere, however I ended up appreciating the structure of the Part 141 training system that WMU offers. Although much was different, it was definitely love at first flight. The plane itself was low wing, faster, and more technically advanced. I really felt like I was flying a jet. WMU operations really make me feel like I’m working for an airline. This is the type of hands-on training that will best prepare any student for a future job as a pilot in the aviation field.

My advice to anyone who is expecting to be enrolled into the transition course would be to 1.) not let the knowledge you learned in your private pilot training disappear. It will all come back as you have to take (essentially) another written exam and checkride. 2.) Complete it in the summer if you can. The airport is much less busy and you are almost guaranteed an instructor and an airplane. 3.) Complete it as fast as you can. While you are already a private pilot, you are taking in a lot of new information about a new aircraft and operating procedures. If you spread all this information out, you are not as likely to retain it. With only ten lessons, you want to keep all that information up there for as long as possible. Plus, the sooner you finish, the sooner you can start your instrument training and the quicker everything will be!

Happy flying!

Topics: pilot license, Avidyne R9, Aviation, Aviation Opportunities, Cirrus Aircraft, aviation training, pilot school, check ride, WMU, transition course

Aviation Outlook Day

Posted by Shelbi Tierney on Mon, Apr 06, 2015 @ 08:29 AM

Aviation Outlook Day
Rob Kirchmer
Aviation Flight Science

Aviation is all about getting your training done so you can jump into the right seat of a jet as soon as possible. However, a major key is networking. The more people you know the better your chances of earning a spot as a first officer somewhere. This is where Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation comes into play. While the College is a premier flight school, the people that the school is in contact with are just as good. Today, for example, the College invited all the major US regional carriers to come meet with students and instructors. As well, there were corporate flight departments in attendance and cargo carriers to participate in a school wide networking even called Aviation Outlook Day.  Envoy, Republic, Expressjet, Endeavour, and Steelcase were just a couple of companies that were in attendance, and they all brought recruiters. One of my good friends that’s a CFI was offered an interview by Republic on the spot, which took place in the back of the ERJ-175 they flew to Battle Creek. Needless to say, it’s not a bad place to come hang out. Our dean has a line he always says to prospective students and that is, “You come to school to get job.” College should be the most fun you have in your life but at the same time it’s a place to meet future employers who could give you a start on your career. The College of Aviation will do everything it can to help you get in contact with employers and Aviation Outlook Day is just one of the opportunities you’ll be able to experience as a student at WMU. As well as Outlook day there are many other opportunities the college puts on for you to meet professionals in the aviation industry. About a month ago Republic Airways made a visit to Henry Hall, which is the Aviation dorm on main campus, to give a presentation to students on their company. Even though many of us are still hundreds of hours away from landing a flying job for an airline, being around people who will someday hire you can’t hurt. Today I was talking to a pilot from Republic and he gave me his personal info and said if I’m ever in Cincinnati to give him a call and he’ll take me in through their training facilities and let me fly their simulators. That’s pretty cool, there are always possibilities when talking to people, you just have to make contact with them. So when your admitted to WMU or if your already here, make sure to take advantage of the career fairs and event s that the college hosts to get you exposure. You never know, you might just end up with a job at the end of the day.  

Topics: Aviation, jobs, aviation training, pilot, WMU, aviation outlook day

Why (I Think) You Should be Staying for the Summer Semesters if You are Flight Training at Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation

Posted by Shelbi Tierney on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 @ 11:18 AM

Why (I Think) You Should be Staying for the Summer Semesters if You are Flight Training at Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation

By: Jason Blair
NAFI Master Flight Instructor and FAA Designated Pilot Examiner

 

Flying in the summer months at Battle Creek, Michigan is, on average, almost 40% more likely to result in experiencing weather conditions that allow flight training to be successfully completed.

Flying when the weather is better allows more flight training to be completed. This is a simple statement, but many don’t really look into the details of what it means. While I spent some time working on an article comparing weather at sites across the country in relation to flyable weather conditions for flight training, I drilled down the numbers in much greater detail for Battle Creek because it is home, it is information that directly affects students and instructors I personally know, and the data that I found was strongly trended.

MonthlyTrendMETARKBTL

Click on the image to see a bigger detailed view of this chart.

This chart shows the trends of ups and downs that are experienced when broken down by average METAR reports at Battle Creek, Michigan between 2010 and 2015. The trends are pretty obvious.

Winter months in Battle Creek have significantly worse weather than summer months. While this is something we all knew anecdotally, now we have the math to prove it.

Many WMU students spend Winter and Spring semesters training, then take off the Summer semester. If training efficiency is important, this is probably most important semester of a school year that should be focused on to complete the most training in the shortest periods of time with the least amount of weather delays.

If you don’t think it is important, think about it in a broader career perspective. Sure, students have 4 years to complete their training if they plan on completing a degree, but getting through flight training early in those 4 years can have a significant positive effect on an overall flying aviation career. A student that gets through their private, instrument, commercial (single- and multi-engine) and their CFI early has an opportunity to instruct as they finish their last year or two of coursework. This transition is important if a pilot is focused on getting enough flight time to meet ATP minimums (even restricted ATP requirements).

Follow me through this. A pilot that gets their training done by, for example, the end of their Junior year has an opportunity to accumulate instructional flight hours during their Senior year, helping them get valuable flight time (and let’s be honest, getting paid to do it is not a bad thing either) that will be applicable to hiring minimums later. Any delay in getting these hours pushes a hiring date with an airline (or any other commercial pilot job that requires an ATP) further into the future. Every month, year, or decade of delay means lower career earnings potential.

If the monthly trend graph above didn’t help you see it, how about this one that shows the data on an averaged monthly basis for these years:

MonthlyAveragesMETARKBTL

Again, this shows the high points of good weather as during summer months.

If I were looking to training in Battle Creek, or I had a son or daughter doing so, I would look to try to find a way to make sure my education at WMU became a year round effort, not just Winter and Spring semesters when the weather is sure to force delays in training. My money would be on making sure I was doing some flight training through the Summer semesters.

PercentagesMonthlyMETARKBTL

It’s a bit dorky to drill down this math, but it is highly illustrative of our local weather conditions and how they can affect out training environment.

Want to know more about the math behind it? Well here it is (in case you want more detail). To get this data, I pulled every METAR report from January 1, 2010 through December 31, 2014 and compared them. The percentages given in this data are equated to “Ok for Pattern” and “Ok for Good VFR” labels. “Ok for Pattern” means a METAR reported ceilings better than 2000′ AGL, visibility better than 3 miles, and less than 15 knots winds. “Ok for Good VFR” means a METAR reported ceilings better than 3000′ AGL, visibility better than 5 miles, and less than 15 knots winds. These two broad characterizations are basic considerations of whether a pilot trying to fly (or train) could either fly traffic pattern or go out to a practice area to do most training maneuvers prescribed in practical test standards. I didn’t bother trying to analyze if instrument training could be completed because so much of the time in the winter when there are clouds, icing is present, and we can’t fly anyway.

The data reports in percentages indicate the percentage of reports in each month or the averaged month that meet the established criterion.

PercentagesAverageMETARKBTL

When considering these data points on a monthly trend or as an average for each month over the years, the trends follow a pattern that matches our anecdotal experience.

The key is now that we have the data, trying to use it to change how we view the pursuit of training in our environment.

I doubt that WMU’s College of Aviation will discourage students from staying around for summer weather training. In fact, I would bet it would be welcomed.

To view more of Jason Blair's blogs, please visit http://www.jasonblair.net/.

Topics: pilot license, Aviation, aviation training, pilot training, Flight Instructor, flying

Check Ride Time

Posted by Shelbi Tierney on Mon, Feb 16, 2015 @ 04:52 PM

Check Ride Time
Aaron Mohnke
Aviation Flight Science

The biggest part of your pilot training will always be using the knowledge you have learned to pass the practical test or check ride. You must complete a check ride for each rating that you receive. Each checkride consists of a ground/oral discussion and a flight portion. No matter what anyone tells you, you will be nervous. There is just no getting around it. The nerves are good; it means you are taking the test seriously. To help cope with your nerves, I want to give you some tips that seem to help relax me a bit before each check ride I take. Along with the tips I’ll share a few of my own stories and experiences with you.


The first tip is to get some good sleep. You will want to be up all night looking over the last minute parts of planning and questions but don't sweat it. Getting a good nights sleep is far more important so you can actually focus during the test. Before my first check ride, I stayed up until three in the morning trying to review last minute things. It definitely was not worth it in the end. I was very tired in the morning and it was harder to focus during the test. Eat breakfast before is tip number two. Going into the ride on an empty stomach will only make you feel worse. You might even get sick on the flight, which would not be good. When I did upset recovery and spin training, I was told to eat a banana before each flight. Bananas help prevent upset stomachs. So this would be a good thing to eat before a checkride just in case. Tip number 3 would be to create conversation with the examiner. They are just people too and are not out to get you. Getting to know the examiner will make them more comfortable around you. If they are more comfortable, it won’t seem like they are trying to just grill you with questions. They want to see you pass just as bad as you want to pass. The most recent checkride that I took was probably the easiest one I have had so far. It wasn’t easy because the information and maneuvers were easy; it was because I felt very comfortable with the examiner. It felt just like casual conversation during the oral exam and the flight felt as if I was flying around a friend. Only at the end of the test did I actually realize I was providing and demonstrating all my knowledge to him. And lastly, don't open doors that don't need to be opened. The examiner won't try to trick you so go with the answer that pops up first. The more you beat around answers, the bigger hole you can dig yourself into and will lead the examiner into asking tougher questions.  I did this once a while ago. Instead of giving just the one sentence answer, I tried to sound smarter by making it wordy. By trying to sound smarter, I ended up rambling and saying something incorrect.  The examiner caught it and then he dug deeper into that particular subject. Believe me, this is not something that you want to happen.

These are just a few things that I like to do and think about when I'm taking my check rides. Hopefully you can use these tips for your next practical test and can learn from some of my experiences and apply them to your test. After it is over, you will always think that it wasn't that bad. It won’t be that bad because you will have all the knowledge for it. And remember, your flight instructor won't send you on the checkride unless they know that you can pass it. So if you are about to take one, you are ready!

 

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Topics: Aviation, aviation training, pilot school, pilot training, check ride

Check Ride Time

Posted by Shelbi Tierney on Mon, Feb 16, 2015 @ 04:42 PM

Check Ride Time
Aaron Mohnke
Aviation Flight Science

The biggest part of your pilot training will always be using the knowledge you have learned to pass the practical test or check ride. You must complete a check ride for each rating that you receive. Each check ride consists of a ground/oral discussion and a flight portion. No matter what anyone tells you, you will be nervous. There is just no getting around it. The nerves are good; it means you are taking the test seriously. To help cope with your nerves, I want to give you some tips that seem to help relax me a bit before each checkride I take. Along with the tips I’ll share a few of my own stories and experiences with you.


The first tip is to get some good sleep. You will want to be up all night looking over the last minute parts of planning and questions but don't sweat it. Getting a good nights sleep is far more important so you can actually focus during the test. Before my first check ride, I stayed up until three in the morning trying to review last minute things. It definitely was not worth it in the end. I was very tired in the morning and it was harder to focus during the test. Eat breakfast before is tip number two. Going into the ride on an empty stomach will only make you feel worse. You might even get sick on the flight, which would not be good. When I did upset recovery and spin training, I was told to eat a banana before each flight. Bananas help prevent upset stomachs. So this would be a good thing to eat before a checkride just in case. Tip number 3 would be to create conversation with the examiner. They are just people too and are not out to get you. Getting to know the examiner will make them more comfortable around you. If they are more comfortable, it won’t seem like they are trying to just grill you with questions. They want to see you pass just as bad as you want to pass. The most recent checkride that I took was probably the easiest one I have had so far. It wasn’t easy because the information and maneuvers were easy; it was because I felt very comfortable with the examiner. It felt just like casual conversation during the oral exam and the flight felt as if I was flying around a friend. Only at the end of the test did I actually realize I was providing and demonstrating all my knowledge to him. And lastly, don't open doors that don't need to be opened. The examiner won't try to trick you so go with the answer that pops up first. The more you beat around answers, the bigger hole you can dig yourself into and will lead the examiner into asking tougher questions.  I did this once a while ago. Instead of giving just the one sentence answer, I tried to sound smarter by making it wordy. By trying to sound smarter, I ended up rambling and saying something incorrect.  The examiner caught it and then he dug deeper into that particular subject. Believe me, this is not something that you want to happen.

These are just a few things that I like to do and think about when I'm taking my check rides. Hopefully you can use these tips for your next practical test and can learn from some of my experiences and apply them to your test. After it is over, you will always think that it wasn't that bad. It won’t be that bad because you will have all the knowledge for it. And remember, your flight instructor won't send you on the check ride unless they know that you can pass it. So if you are about to take one, you are ready!

Topics: pilot license, Aviation, Cirrus Aircraft, aviation training, pilot training, check ride

Wings, Waves, and Western

Posted by Eric Epplett on Mon, Dec 29, 2014 @ 10:41 AM

                                                    Josh Seaplane

Wings, Waves, and Western
Josh Blain
Aviation Flight Science 

I had my landing spot in sight and started to go through the aircraft’s checklist. I was 1,000 feet above where I wanted to land and flying the traffic pattern spot on. I turned base, checked my airspeed, and it was good. I turned final, added full flaps with another glance at the airspeed indicator. Coming over the trees I went power idle and started my flare. I knew I made contact when I heard SPLASH! Normally airplanes are in emergency situations when they land on water, such as the Miracle on the Hudson, US Airways flight 1549. This was no ordinary airplane; this was Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation seaplane, a beautiful Piper Super Cub on amphibious floats. The airplane was originally a conventional tail dragger, like most of the Piper Cubs flying today, until a project was undertaken by Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation maintenance faculty to install floats. When I was a prospective student, I toured the College of Aviation and fell in love with the seaplane and knew I wanted to fly it.  

I started my flight training at Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation in the fall of 2010 flying the Cirrus SR-20 working on my private pilot’s license. I had flown occasionally in high school but not with the intention to receive a license. I loved flying the Cirrus SR-20 especially with the Avidyne R9 Avionics.  The Cirrus SR-20 and Avidyne R9 can do just about anything an airliner can. Later, in my instrument rating course, I would learn its full potential; I really felt like I was the captain on a jetliner. Once I completed my commercial single engine license it was finally time to start my seaplane training and I still remember getting into the seaplane for the first time. It was a tight squeeze compared to the Cirrus SR-20 that I had been accustomed to. It was also the first airplane I’ve flown to have tandem seating. The cockpit was also very different. I’d flown airplanes with steam gauges before, notably WMU’s Piper PA-44 Seminole and PA-28 Arrow for my commercial multi and single engine licenses, but the seaplane had the most minimalist cockpit I’ve seen.  It did have a GPS and transponder but it didn’t even have an attitude indicator. I asked my instructor about the lack of an attitude indicator to which he responded: “who needs an attitude indicator when you have the horizon” and pointed to the windscreen that offered great visibility.

I completed my preflight inspection, which was just like any other preflight inspection I’ve done, except now I had to pump the excess water out of the floats. I started the engine and taxied to the runway, added full power and off we went. The airplane lifted off the runway with little hesitation. I had become familiar with the practice areas over the two years I had been a flight student but I was always at higher altitudes. Since the lesson only entailed take off and landings on water, there was no need to climb above one thousand feet above the ground, and now I could see the farm fields and country roads with better detail.

Within a few minutes, we had arrived at one of the lakes in the local area. I noticed the lake had a few waves but for the most part was pretty flat. I surveyed the area, runways usually don’t have boats or jet skiers but the lake can be a different story! On a related note, during one of my flights there was a jet skier who wanted to race us as we took off. There weren’t any to contend with that day so I had the lake all to myself. I flew my pattern, usually there are not any houses or trees right next to an airport’s runway but on lakes the shoreline is prime real estate. It was a very cool feeling to be just feet over someone’s house right before we touched down. I saw many cool things during my few hours in the seaplane.

After about three weeks of training I successfully passed my seaplane check ride. The seaplane course at Western Michigan University was definitely something I will remember for the rest of my life. 

Topics: pilot license, Aviation, Aviation Opportunities, Flight Schools, aviation training, pilot, pilot school, pilot training

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