I just read an interesting post over on Sporty’s blog called Getting to know your airplane. It’s not a huge post, but it did remind me of my flight training. The post contains a few suggestions for ways you can get to know your aircraft. If you have a few minutes it is definitely worth checking out. I would recommend the following:
Memorize emergency procedure and critical phase of flight checklists
The post mentions learning certain checklists so you can do them from memory. I agree. I am all for checklists and do lists, but an engine fire is not the time to be flipping through the POH looking for the procedure. Next time you’re just sitting around playing Facebook games, consider dragging out that old POH you’ve got floating around and start memorizing checklists. Once you’ve got the emergencies down, I recommend adding any checklists that you’re supposed to do in critical phases of flight, like final approach or after takeoff. These are usually pretty busy times in the cockpit and, to make matters worse, they usually come in the areas of highest traffic concentrations when you need to be looking outside not fumbling with checklists. This is where mnemonics come in.
If you don’t already know them, add the following to your mental flight bag:
- ARROW – Airworthiness certificate, Registration, Radio License, Operators Manual (the one issued with the aircraft), and Weight and balance
- AVIATES – Airworthiness Directives, VOR inspection (every 30 days for IFR), Inspections (annual/100hr), Altimeter, Transponder, ELT, Static system
- MPG – Mixture, Propeller, Gear
Just a quick note: a lot of the items in AVIATES are 12/24 month checks only required for IFR, but it’s something to consider even if it is CAVU (clearance and visibility unlimited). If you’d like a list of a bunch of these, check out Dantless Soft’s list of Useful Aviation Mnemonics.
Find Other Pilots/Owners and Meetup Regularly
A lot of people will tell you to find a good CFI or mechanic, but I think it is just as important to find a group of pilots/owners who also fly the same aircraft or type of aircraft as you. Beyond the social aspect of hanging out with other pilots, you can learn a lot from other people. Whether it is something you’d never do (like buzzing something) or something unexpected (like a knob falling off the transponder in flight, which has happened to me twice). You can learn a lot from other people’s stories. Just don’t take everything as gospel; it is hangar flying after all. A place I would start is EAA’s listing of local chapters or just hang around the airport and see who shows up.
Study Your Aircraft Type’s History
I think studying the development of an aircraft throughout history is a really great way to understand why things work a certain way. For example, a 172P only had 1 fuel sump per wing when it rolled out of the factory. Coupled with fuel bladders, which can wrinkle, it is possible to carry a lot of water instead of fuel and not know it. This is why the new 172s have 13 fuel sumps. Incidentally this is also why I own a GATS Jar; the little cup just wasn’t cutting it.
Anyway, I’m sure there are a lot of other things you can do, but I will leave those for another day. Until then, fly safe.