Category Archives: Developing Business

Pinch Hitting

Melissa and I pose for the camera after our flight.

Last Saturday I had the privilege of doing the first part of a “Pinch Hitter’s Course” with a friend of mine’s wife.  This type of instruction is for those who are not pilots but who fly frequently with family or friends who are pilots.  They may not want to take lessons or earn their license, but they would like to learn to satisfy their own curiosity and do what needs to be done “in a pinch”.  In many ways knowledge is power, or in this case knowledge is peace.  Understanding the basics of the plane’s operation and systems gives a good bit of peace to these frequent fliers.

Melissa, my friend’s wife, has been flying with her husband but always experienced a good bit of anxiety.  It’s not his flying, I’ve flown with him and he’s a very good pilot.  He’s proficient, safe, and methodical.   But as I talked with them both, it seemed that what she really needed was an instructor to talk her through the basics and give her the information and experience of seeing for herself what flying was all about.

I spent some time in the cockpit with her going over the basics of the instruments and the radios.  We took off and the first thing I demonstrated was stability.  A trimmed-out airplane is remarkably stable and when I removed my hands from the controls she seemed concerned for just a moment.  Then I saw it register with her that the plane was doing just fine, flying along quite nicely.  I then demonstrated how even if I push on the yoke, the plane will try to return to level flight (dynamic stability).   And it did.

At that point I showed her straight and level flying and basic turns.  That was the last time I flew the plane!   She flew it for the remainder of the flight until we came back into the pattern for landing.  It was exciting to see her go from being reluctant to touch the controls to holding straight and level and making turns to headings on her own!

The next day her husband sent me an email which said:

“We’ve created a monster.  Melissa is actually excited to go up again and start phase 2 of her pinch hitter course.  You are a great teacher and have the right level of patience to feed information at an appropriate rate. She’s definitely  going up again (her words).”

That’s what it’s all about  –sharing the gift of flight!  I can’t wait to fly with Melissa again and see her grow more and more comfortable with flying.   It is great to see how this ‘flying family’ can really share the joy of flying together.



MyFlightCoach Podcast | Episode 2

This week’s podcast features a encouragement to fly in 2011! If you’ve been out of flying, get back in! If you need to knock out a Flight Review and gain your currency back, then make that your goal. If you are looking at simply getting started, then there’s no better time than the present!

I recount a recent Discovery Flight with an old friend (I’ve known her since she was in 5th grade –makes me the old one) and I review some of the aviation headlines of 2010 and talk about the FlightPrep lawsuit fiasco adn why we need to think about takeoff techniques.

Listen Online:

Direct Download

Resources from this week’s show:

Lisa’s Discovery Flight Video (may have to maunally select HD)


National Association of Flight Instructors

Jill Tallman’s Best and Worst of 2010

John & Martha King’s reflections on their detainment

Nate Duehr’s Article on the FlightPrep Fiasco

Key’s to Better Takeoffs

What is Flight Coaching?

by Chris Findley, CFI

A few months ago I began working on an idea of integrating webinar-styled teaching and ground school for pilots.   For those of you who have been gracious enough to follow me on Twitter or who read this blog I wanted to explain a little about the vision of   The idea had its genesis in receiving professional coaching myself.  I have been very blessed by the work of Kent Julian, a life &  career coach, nationally-known speaker & author, and all around great guy.  My work with him has brought more clarity to my life and career goals than anything I have done before now.   While working through his process I became intrigued with his method, and the method of “coaching” that has been in use in many training and counseling scenarios.   I began to wonder if there might be a way to integrate this type of training to aviation.  So I began working on

I use the term “Flight Coaching” very deliberately because that is part of my philosophy of training– I want to do more than “teach” or “instruct”.  I want to “coach”.   My goal is to be an encourager, partner, facilitator and trainer…all the things that make up a great coach.  I aim to do this whether I’m doing a webinar or am sitting in the cockpit with a student.  It is vital to me to add value to your flight training that will make you a more knowledgeable, competent, and safe pilot.

The idea is simple: to provide intensive ground-school training to anyone, anywhere.  I want to be a resource that can be utilized by anyone with a PC and a phone line and a willingness to learn.  Students and pilots that would otherwise be trying to absorb material in a self-study situation now have an instructor on the phone with them to answer questions, explain concepts and clarify teaching.  This is the next step beyond simple book work or watching a video.  Those things are great, but how much better to have an instructor on the line with you?

Currently I have set it up to work with Yugma conferencing software.  This is a free download, and allows me and the client to see the same screens on our computers as I present material.  I also provide an outline of each course and books for the student are shipped directly to them and included with the cost of the sessions.

This is not meant to circumvent the CFI working with the student, but to enhance the student’s absorption of the material.  Just as a CFI might ask a student to watch a video or suggest a conference to a student, I’d love to be a resource that partners with the CFI/Student to help them progress to the next level of their training.

Currently I offer 3 different coaching options (but also offer hourly options as well):

Flight101 is geared toward the pilot just getting into training and covers the basics of regulations, requirements, flight instruments and controls.  I also seek to answer common questions about cost, process, and even anxiety.  Flight101 forms the basis of their knowledge and can be a great jump-start to their training.  They can climb in the cockpit of their first lesson thoroughly versed in the fundamentals- they’ll know what the altimeter is and does.  They’ll know an aileron from a flap and what they do, etc.  If they do not currently have an instructor I offer to do the legwork in helping them find a professional school or instructor that will meet their needs.

Pass that Written is designed to help the student master the material for the Private Pilot Written Exam.  I work through the Gleim/ASA software (included in the cost of the sessions) with the student.  They email me their practice results and I develop a plan of instruction based on their test results.  Again my purpose is to clarify and explain the material in such a way that facilities a faster mastery of the material so they can move forward in their training.

Return to Flight is for those who have been out of flying for a while and are looking for a refresher course.  After an initial (and free) short session where I assess the pilot’s background, experience and length of time out of aviation, I develop a personalized plan.  This plan will cover material that will help them with any changes in procedures or regulations that may have occurred since they last flew.  I also cover the basics to insure they are well prepared to begin flying again.

Other courses are in the works.  You can read more detail about these at course section of

My charges for the course are at my normal freelance rate of $50/hour plus expenses and shipping for materials.  This is roughly in line with the going rate in most places for flight instruction, which is usually between $40 and $60/hour.

If you are interested in or know someone who is, please contact me at to learn more. You can also visit for more information.

Finding the Right Flight Instructor

by Chris Findley, CFI

**Listen to this article as a podcast:  MyFlightCoach #1.3 >>>

So you’re interested in taking flying lessons, now what?  In my last podcast at, I talked about the resources at your local airport and how most people’s first stop will be the Fixed Base Operator (FBO).  The FBO is often the hub of activity of the smaller General Aviation airport.  The FBO often houses a flight department, fuel and supply sales, and perhaps a flight school.  For most people this is their first, most obvious stop at the local airport because it often the most visible.  Hopefully the FBO gives you some information about flight training or introduces you to a CFI (Certificated Flight Instructor).  The question is now that you’ve done this, what do you look for in CFI and or Flight School?

Too often new pilot trainees simply go with the first instructor they come across.  Very little attention is paid to the fact that you are entering into  special relationship with this person.  You will be investing a lot of time and money with your CFI, usually between $40 and $60.  You will also be entrusting your safety to them and that of your future passengers.  You will pick up habits, for good or for ill, from your instructor.  So it is important, even crucial, to make this decision carefully.  Here are a few suggestions for finding the right CFI for you.

Will they be a good mentor? The best CFIs I know understand their role as teacher, mentor, and coach.  They do more than show principles, they serve as a guide and encourager.  So look for someone you have some sense of camaraderie.   I know some instructors will wince as I say that, but it’s true.  You don’t want to be cooped up in the cockpit with someone whose guts you can’t stand.  You won’t be able to learn or progress very efficiently if you’re preoccupied with the student-instructor relationship. So try to sit down with your potential CFI over a cup of coffee and just chat about the training process and his or her methods and practices.  Remember, you’re looking for a mentor.

Do they operate professionally? Not long ago I was trying to find a CFI at a different airport than I normally use.  I didn’t really have any contacts there, so I called up the FBO and asked for a flight instructor.  There wasn’t one around (we often aren’t unless we have a student) but the gentleman gave me a couple of phone numbers.  I called them both.   Neither one returned my call.  After 2 days, I called a second time. I left voicemail.  I waited 2 more days.  Nada.  I gave up and drove an extra :15mins each way to another airport and worked with a CFI who knew how to return phone calls.

Flight Instructors have a dubious reputation when it comes to professionalism.  Many are great and understand their responsibility and operate professionally.  I know others who regularly miss appointments, are unprepared, and/or fly in poor conditions.  I know one whose practice was to spin the airplane with students on the 2nd lesson!  Intentionally scaring the snot out of a new student certainly fails the professionalism test!  So look for professionalism which starts with reasonable communication (I try to return every inquiry within 2 hours), appearance, organization, and safety.

Can they articulate a plan for your training? Every CFI should be able to give you a two-minute overview of the training process.  This shows organization and forethought.  An organized and clear plan will: 1.) insure that you cover all the necessary training requirements thoroughly and in a timely manner and 2.) save you time and money in the long run. I have a spreadsheet that I use that where I can track my student’s progress through the various phases of training.  I can also share this with the student to show him/her exactly where they are at any given point.  The training plan doesn’t have to be terribly formal, but there needs to be a plan.

Three things to look for in your Flight Instructor:  one who can be a good mentor, one who is professional and one who has an organized plan.  Whether you will be flying at a large flight school or your small, local FBO, choosing a CFI is a very important part of getting your flight training off to a great start.  Don’t be too shy to ask questions or to spend a little time making a wise decision.  You’ll be glad you did.  It will make for a more fun and effective flight training experience.

Catching the LSA Fever

by Chris Findley, CFI

I had the privilege recently of spending some time with Paul Volle of Atlanta Sport Flight and taking an orientation flight in the Czech Sport Cruiser.  The Sport Cruiser has been recently selected for exclusive distribution by Piper and renamed the “PiperSport”.  The Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) category has become quite the topic of conversation these days, with many believing that LSAs are the last great hope of general aviation.  I’m usually suspicious of such sweeping praise, but LSA flying has a lot going for it.

First,  it is cheaper to operate on almost every level –purchase price of new airplanes, fuel burn (doesn’t 4 gal/hr sound nice?), insurance, and maintenance.   Secondly, with the limitations of LSA flight (VFR, day only) and the low hour requirements for licensing (20 hours), this puts flying within reach of many more potential pilots.  Training cost for an LSA Pilot Certificate is in the $4,000 range vs.  $8000 or more for a typical Private Pilot.    Third, it’s the planes.  There are some sharp aircraft being produced.  They sell themselves.  But more than that, I think LSAs like the CubCrafter SportCubS2 and the Sport Cruiser (PiperSport) bring back the emotional and adventurous feel of flying.   I believe this appeal is crucial (whether LSA or not)  for flight enthusiasts to share.  Very few of us fly because it makes economic sense to fly.  We fly because we love it.  But I digress…

Paul Volle greeted me right on time at the Fulton County Airport (KFTY) in Atlanta.  We spent a good bit of time just talking about flying and about his background as the founder of the school.  Paul is a former Naval Aviator and instructor pilot with over 150 carrier landings.  His day-job keeps him in the air as an airline pilot for a major carrier.  But talk with him five minutes and you’ll find a passion for flying, particularly for developing new students,  great flight instructors and a truly classy flight school.  All indications are that he’s off to a great start.   ASF’s SportCruiser is kept busy and so are Paul and his three three instructors.   At the Atlanta Sport Flight website you can get an explanation of the Dynon  EFIS, get a virtual tour of the practice area, download the POH for the plane, and watch a cockpit video of a typical traffic pattern.  It’s clearly designed with the customer in mind.  In conversation and operation, Paul Volle is aiming to run this school professionally.  Now off to the plane!

The Flight

The winds were light and variable and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky as Paul and I walked across the ramp to the plane.  One thing that struck me was that the plane does look small, but in a sporty way.   It’s like the way a sports car looks small– you notice, but you’re certainly not repelled.   On the contrary, you’re attracted to it.  You want to drive it, or in this case, fly it.

Preflight on the SportCruiser is similar to preflight on any light plane.  Control surfaces are standard.   Only the rudder is operated by cable, the other surfaces are manipulated by actuator rods from the control stick in the cockpit.  The seats are reclined with four-point harness restraints instead of the typical lap belt.  The large bubble canopy offers a great view.  After preflighting and climbing in, we began the start procedures.

The Rotax engine fires right up.  Unlike the typical Lycoming engine the Rotax just “turns on”.  There’s not a real cranking phase.  In the SportCruiser, turn the key, and the engine fires up immediately.  One thing you’ll notice (especially when reading the POH) is that the RPMs with a Rotax engine are much higher.  After starting, idle is set at 1400RPM.  Depending on your prop pitch, you’re looking at a whopping 5500RPM or more on take-off.

Taxi out and runup was uneventful.  After being cleared to depart, I took the runway and advanced the throttle.  Paul cautioned me, “You’ll be at Vr before you know it”   We were, and here I must brag because  I made what has to be THE ugliest takeoff in aviation history.  As we moved past 35 KIAS, I began a gentle rotation.  Nothing.  At 40KIAS, I applied more back pressure.  Not much pitch change.  As we approached 45, I gave a bit more pressure and UP we go (FAST), I nose over, too much, pull back to correct, oops too much.  I was all over the sky.  I finally established the climb attitude and airspeed and and sheepishly turned toward the practice area.

After making clearing turns in the practice area, I tried some steep turns, slips, stalls, and straight and level cruise.   As the hour wore on, I began to get used to the controls.  The way the seats recline, the view over the nose is a bit different.  I found myself wanting to sit higher in the seat.   The plane is nimble, if not a bit sensitive for those used to bumping along in Cessnas and standard Pipers.  That “wounded duck” takeoff was evidence of that.  In flight, my most noticeable mistake was not holding altitude.  This was probably due to the view difference over the nose, but also my lack of experience with scanning a glass panel.

Upon returning to the airport area, we were cleared for a right downwind entry for Runway26.  Our first pattern ended with a go around to avoid a G-IV (I think it was) that seemed to like hanging out on the departure end of the runway.  My second trip around the pattern was more stable than the first.  Airspeed and altitude were on target.  Power goes to idle on downwind abeam the numbers and you basically glide it in.  Stall speed is really low (Vs0 is 32) and with the memory of my lame takeoff, I was anxious about how my landing would go.  But roundout and flare were fine, albeit with a little lateral overcontrolling.  Touchdown was uneventful and my bruised ego was repaired slightly.  This was a touch and go, and takeoff this time was better as well.  This is probably not a testimony to my flying, but to the “learn-ability” of the plane.  You’ll pick up the control characteristics pretty quickly.

Last trip around the pattern to a full stop went well.  Touchdown was not as smooth (ie little bounce) but not horrible.

Paul resisted the urge to laugh during the flight and for that I am grateful!  He was an encouraging instructor and noted that my flying was typical of pilots transitioning to the LSA from other aircraft.   We taxied to the ramp and raised the canopy.  It was a great flight.

If you’re toying around with the idea of flying an LSA and live within reach of Atlanta,  I’d highly recommend Atlanta Sport Flight.  Overall, I think the enthusiasm about LSAs is good for the industry.    There are a lot of questions that remain, especially long-term questions that only will reveal themselves over time.  But it is clear that LSA’s have the potential to fill a niche and ignite some renewed excitement around flight training.  It has for me…I’m looking forward to my next Sport Cruiser flight.

Reducing the Cost of Flight Training

by Chris Findley, CFI

Everyone is looking to reduce cost these days –businesses asd well as individuals.  My family certainly wants to save money and we reguarly look for deals to make the most of every dollar.  Pilots in any phase of flight training are also looking to stretch their training dollar.   I took some additional training last year in a Cessna Cardinal (177RG) and felt my wallet lighten each time the hobbs meter ticked off another tenth of an hour.  As an instructor, I believe we must be conscious of giving our students the most value for the dollar by approaching each lesson with a purpose and a plan.  As a student (and all of us ultimately are) here a few ways to help stretch the training dollar.   I’d welcome your comments and ideas to add to the list!

1.)  Conserve. You are the best advocate for your money.  Conserve it by using what you need, not what you want.  That is, you may want to fly the G1000 DA-40, but you can get more hours for less mulah with the 1977 172.  As long as it will allow you to finish your training safely and make you a competant pilot, then conserve your money.  You can transition to the G1000 later and beleive me, when you do, you’ll really appreciate it!  Also, if you are a new student pilot, you don’t need every book on the subject, the latest computers, ANR headsets, flight bags, sectional subscriptions of the entire U.S. etc.  Ask your instructor to give you a list of the basics you need.  As you fly, you’ll learn more about what you want and what is comfortable for you.

2.)  Plan. Make sure you and your instructor have a plan.  Have a syllabus and work it.  Moreover, make sure your instructor communicates it to you.   I’ve found that my students really appreciate an email a day or so before the lesson that outlines the upcoming flight.  This gives them time to prepare mentally, do some reading, and think through what they will do.  Sometimes I give them chapters in the Airplane Flying Handbook to read and/or a video I want them to watch.  If you’re not following a plan then the efficiency of the training decreases, which means the cost will increase.

3.)  Study. This is a common issue among many students.  I’ve had students reach a learning plateau because they simply neglected their studies.  Sometimes a student can be developing wonderfully –they have a “feel”, their coordination and operation is solid, but the progression through flight training simply “stalls” because the knowledge base is not there.  Sometimes people just enjoy flying so much that they just want to fly.   Failing to study will increase the amount of  explanation time needed in ground sessions.  But it will also increase the time spent with the prop spinning while receiving an explanation for things that you could have learned much cheaper with a cup of coffee at your kitchen counter.

4.)  Rehearse. Visualize your upcoming lesson, walk through it, speak aloud what you’re going to do and when.  For instance while rehearsing for stall practice you might say, “I will maintain back pressure while the airspeed bleeds off.  I will have to increase back pressure as the plane slows.   As it slows below 50 knots, the stall warning horn will sound.  I will check to insure I’m coordinated, and that I’m maintaining my heading.  As I run out of elevator, I should feel a loss of control effectiveness, followed by the first buffet of the stall as I near 42 knots…..etc.”  You get the idea.   But do that for your next lessons, anticipating the things your instructor will do based on your plan (see #1.).

5.) Practice. This is akin to #3, but I’m talking about using tools to help you practice. You might pull a cockpit photo off the internet (even better, snap a picture of your plane’s cockpit) and blow it up large enough to fill your computer screen.  Then make a copy of your checklists and procedures just as you have them (same format) in the plane.  Practice walking through your procedures with the picture as a reference.  You’ll learn the layout and understand the flow–without the hobbs meter chipping along.  I also think this is where a Flight Simulator on your PC can really help.  Make some practice flights on the sim, but you’re not focusing as much on flying the sim as much as practicing your procedures.   I did this for refreshing my mind with the procedures for the Cardinal.  I paid $10 bucks for an old version of MS Flight Sim and used the 172RG selection.  The difference did not matter for my purposes.  I was practicing the mental rhythm of the checklist –gear operation, manifold pressure changes, RPM, cowl flaps.  This helped tremendously.  Because the procedures were in my head for my lessons, I could concentrate on the maneuvers.   It’s also a good idea to stop by the airport and just see if they will let you go sit in the plane and work the checklists there on the ramp.  Practice like you play (fly)!

Conserve, plan, study, rehearse, practice.  These are five ways you can stretch your training dollar.  There are many more.  I’d love you to share ways you’ve found to make the most of your money in flight training.   Comment below!

Can General Aviation “Tip” Again? (Pt II)

Developing a “Sticky” Message

by Chris Findley, CFI

While waiting for my kids at their bus stop, a light-plane flew over.  From where I sat in our van, it looked like a Cessna 172.  I found myself wishing it was me zooming overhead.  I looked around at the other parents waiting in the parking lot and I wondered what their impressions and thoughts were of the Cessna –assuming they even paid attention to it.

Malcolm Gladwell’s bestseller, The Tipping Point, begins with the observation that most trends and epidemics are not caused by a large number of people.  Rather, they are often the result of a few influential and motivated people.  Some of these people are able to have a large influence because of their connections to others or by their ability to influence those around them.  But contrary to conventional wisdom, most trends start with a few.  He aptly calls this the “Law of the Few”

Gladwell’s second major point in The Tipping Point is “The Stickiness Factor”.   He says, “The specific quality that a message needs to be successful is the quality of ‘stickiness’.  Is the message memorable?  Is it so memorable, in fact, that it can create change, that it can spur someone to action?”1

Where’s the Beef?

I believe one of the most difficult things to overcome in General Aviation (GA) is the lack of self-reflection on what GA’s message actually is.  I’m not speaking of a particular business’s message.  They will determine that based on their own services and market.  Rather, I’m asking what is the message that we, as an industry, wish to promote?   When someone, waiting for their kids hears a small plane fly over, what do we want them to think?

Other industries have asked these questions.  Remember the “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner!” campaign?  It was launched in 1992 by the Cattleman’s Beef Board.  They recognized a problem–the negative image and growing public concern over the consumption of red meat.  They developed a plan and a message and as an industry, sought to change public perception.  Was it successful?  The “It’s what’s for dinner campaign” is one of the most recognizable taglines in history and is recognized by 88% of Americans.2

Therefore, I believe one of the first things we must do if we want to positively move public opinion to a more favorable position on GA, we have to think critically about what we want people to take away from their contact with General Aviation.

Considering the Message

The AOPA’s “General Aviation Serves America” campaign is a great campaign aimed at raising awareness of the ways General Aviation is an integral part of American communities.  The campaign, which makes use of the Law of the Few by involving well-known actors Harrison Ford and Morgan Freeman and others, is primarily aimed at raising awareness of how regulatory changes and legislation will negatively affect GA.

While this message is needed, I think there are a couple of ways to improve it.  First, I think it is a “circle the wagons” message that is more effective with the flying public than the non-flying public.  The people most likely to have this message “stick” with them are pilots and those in the aviation community who are already concerned about increased regulation and user fees.

Secondly, it seems limited in scope.  These ads don’t seem to make anyone want to do anything.  These ads don’t invite one to participate in General Aviation.  I think that message is crucial to the re-awakening many of us long for.

I am a proud AOPA member and I think they do a phenomenal job of advocating for General Aviation.  My task here is not to be nit-picky or critical, but to think of how to craft a GA message that is truly for the masses, that is both broad and “sticky” without being defensive.  I believe this can come in two distinct ways: telling a practical story and engaging in invitation more than information.

Tell a Practical and Real Story

Within the last couple of months we’ve seen the best and the worst in GA.  The tragic suicide flight of Joe Stack into the IRS office building in Austin, TX certainly brought general aviation to the forefront of the public.  Public concern began to swell again about the light-plane fleet and public safety.  The negative comments directed at lightplanes are as silly as criticizing Ryder panel-vans since that is what Timothy McVeigh used to blow up the Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  But nonetheless, the image of GA is further marred.

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