The mFC Podcast |Episode 12 | Stalls and Circuit Breakers

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On today’s show I talk about an impromptu meeting with Jason Schappert of while my family was on vacation in Florida.  I also talk a bit about my friend Mark Jones, who just completed his final flight as a test pilot and C-17 driver.

The bulk of the show is dedicated to a discussion on stalls –why we practice them and how to develop your confidence when practicing them.  Stall training is invaluable, but sometimes produce some anxiety with students.  There’s nothing to fear!  Stalls have nothing to do with the engine (unlike a when a car “stalls”) but they have everything to do with wind and wing.  Our main reason for practicing them is to avoid them!  So I talk about the why and how of stall training.

Finally, I discuss a question asked of me by a student abour circuit breakers and when to reset them.  I’ve had to deal with this a few times and, while it’s not necessarily a major issue, we want respond appropriately to avoid making a minor problem, a major one.

Thanks to everyone who continues to listen!  Please pass the word!

Resources from Today’s Show:

My Blog on Meeting with Jason Schappert

Mark Jones’  Final Flight

Napping Controller Leads to New Procedures

Garmin 650/750

Stalls From the Cockpit with Schappert (below)


The PreFlight

Teaching students about making a thorough preflight check is easy early in training.  On the whole, new students are very conscientious and methodical, sometimes overly so.  As they become more confident and capable, things –including the preflight– begin to roll a bit more smoothly.

It is the student later in training, and after receiving their certificate that sometimes is tempted to cut corners.  The preflight begins to be done as if it were a race and the attention to detail begins to wane.  For probably most of these pilots their oversight will have no noticable consequence.  But here’s the question:  Why rush it?  Is it really worth the risk?

I teach a preflight that is based on the old 70’s era Cessna manuals that was systematic and methodical.  You start at the baggage door on the left side and work your way around the aircraft the same way, every time.  There’s something to be said for routine, especially when conducting a preflight check.

Even (or especially) if the plane is regularly flown, take time to check it over.  You don’t know what happened on its last flight.  Did they, as I discovered on one plane I used to fly, drag the tail down the runway while in the flare?  Did that damage anything?  Did they lock the brakes and damage the tires?  Did they fuel it properly or fail to report something faulty?

It’s your posterior (and that of your family, students etc.)  you are putting in the plane.  Check it.


Jason Schappert and Chris Findley at KISM

My family and I are on vacation this week in Orlando, seeing EPCOT, The Magic Kingdom and all things Disney.  Of course I knew that this would bring me close to my friend and fellow-instructor/entrepreneur Jason Schappert of  With a little coordination of our schedules we, along with our wives, met for dinner.  Jason and Ashley flew over from Ocala and Sheryl and I picked them up at KISM (Kissimmee, FL) and we were off to have some local BBQ.

I share this with you because it excites me to see Jason’s passion and enthusiasm for flying.  Here’s a guy who is an instructor because he loves instructing.  He’s not a time-builder, he’s a pilot-builder.  This attitude makes all the difference.  He has some fantastic resources including books on passing the Private Pilot and Instrument Pilot checkrides, a new book on popular aviation acronyms, and his online groundschool to name a few.

I admire Jason not only because of his teaching, but of his vision for making flight training materials accessible to pilots from where ever they are.  He also has a keen marketing mind and wants to truly develop a business that is successful on all fronts, but specifically in terms of pilots trained by his work.

As we shared books we were reading and marketing ideas back and forth, I really had the sense of being with someone who understands what people like Gary Vaynerchuk, Tony Hsieh, Seth Godin, and Guy Kawasaki are saying and is able to translate that to the flight instruction world.  That’s exciting to see.

There are some things in the works, some collaboration, he and I will be doing in the future and I’m pumped up about it.  I won’t share any specifics, let’s just say that it’s going to be an accessible and really neat resource for pilots to both learn new concepts and refresh their memory on others.

All too soon our evening was winding down.  Our wives were chatting away, enjoying some tea courtesy of Signature Flight Support (Jason DID buy 8 gallons of Avgas, so what the heck right?! 🙂 )  He and I were making plans and dreaming up new ways of encouraging pilots and laughing about some of the experiences we’ve had as instructors.

My mind was racing with new ideas and thankfulness for finally meeting Schap in person (we’ve done business and written for each other’s resources for months knowing each other only via Skype/Email).  As Sheryl and I said bye to Jason and Ashley one word came to mind…

Synergy…pure synergy.

In any case, check out Jason’s work and tell him Chris sent ya.

Learning Theory for Student Pilots

Every CFI candidate spends a considerable amount of time not only learning to fly from the right seat, but also learning about learning.  We learn about disuse and interference.  We learn how frequency and muscle memory play into flight instruction.  But after our initial CFI Checkride it is often difficult to keep what we learned about teaching in the forefront of our minds.  We often begin to focus more on flying and rely on repetition to do the teaching.

My wife, a counselor, just returned from a recent conference where the topic of learning was central.  A very pragmatic and easy to understand model was presented.  As she described it, I became excited because I realized it described the flight training process perfectly!  The beauty of this model is that it can give Flight Instructors, as well as their students, some hooks on which to hang their experiences.  If can provide insight into the challenges and even the frustrations of flight training.  This could be one way of helping students make sense of where they are in the process and showing them the next logical step they will experience.

The model is simple, containing only four steps:

STEP 1: Unconscious Incompetence: The first step of this process is not knowing what you don’t know.  This is the discovery flight stage.  You are excited to be flying but you really don’t know much about what’s going on, what you will feel, what the instruments are or what the controls do.  The key to this stage is that you don’t really even know what questions to ask.  It is very important that the instructor understand this phase and that his or her role is to anticipate the topics that need to be addressed and the questions that need to be answered.  The more the instructor can do this, the more comfortably the student will be in establishing themselves in the training process.

STEP 2: Conscious Incompetence: The second phase of learning is the sense of being overwhelmed.  Suddenly the student is keenly aware of their lack of knowledge, experience and skill.  This usually comes in the early, pre-solo lessons.  Every part of their flying takes very conscious and concerted effort.  Maintaining a coordinated turn, holding straight and level flight, pitching for a constant airspeed climb all require great effort and the maneuvers won’t be particularly well done.  They’re learning, after all!  There’s a lot of self-doubt and sometimes students simply feel they are drowning in new experiences and buckets of information.  This can prove to be discouraging for the student.  They need to know that this is a normal part of learning to fly!  The instructor has to really walk a student through this phase of their training carefully to keep them encouraged and moving forward.  Look for even minor areas of improvement and build on them.  Don’t let despair take root!  If they can hold on through this phase, the breakthroughs are coming!

STEP 3: Conscious Competence: “That landing was all yours!”

I’m always excited to say that to a new pilot who has just made his first unassisted landing.   Without fail they are surprised and question me, “Really?  You weren’t on the controls?!”  They don’t realize that they have gained competence in this new skill.  At this stage your student’s flying has improved immensely and they are able to do many of the maneuvers well.   They can see their progress and remember how they had struggled only a few weeks ago with many of these same maneuvers.  Even though they are doing well, their competence still requires a great deal of conscious effort.  Many of the maneuvers are still rather mechanical, but they are done well and to standard.

At this point in training, their ability to fly well is dependent on their ability to mentally stay ahead of the plane.  Students can be fairly easily overwhelmed if too many tasks demand their attention.   Even so, as they move through this phase and become more competent, it is good to challenge them with distractions and diversions so they learn to think more and more ahead of the plane.  Students are usually very enthusiastic about their progress in this phase (and they should be) but it does take a lot of effort to do many of these tasks.

STEP 4: Unconscious Competence: As instructors we notice this long before the student will.  They begin holding their altitude without much effort, their turns no longer sling the instructor to the outside of the turn, and the pattern becomes second nature.  Stall awareness and recovery becomes automatic.  They feel the buffet, they sense the break of the stall, and automatically make their recovery.  It’s important to help them see their progress and celebrate their newly developed skills.  These skills are now second nature.  They occur without much thought at all.  As an instructor, this is great to see develop in a student.

Hopefully, by the time of the checkride the student knows what they know and have confidence in their skills as a pilot.  They will have become “unconsciously competent” but not overly cocky, which is a bit of a balance.   At this stage, the pilot knows she can fly the plane and her knowledge base is such that she has solid command of the Private Pilot material.  They are proud of their accomplishments and confident in their abilities, but also know there is much more to learn.  By Step 4 they do many of the tasks of flying without thinking.  They have learned not only the motor skills required to fly, but have also grown comfortable in their role as pilot.

These four steps can provide a great frame of reference for both instructors and students to understand their place in the training process.  It can be encouraging to understand that this is indeed a process and that it is normal to feel  overwhelmed before gaining your confidence and proficiency as a pilot.  It is good for a student to see his progress and his growth in competency.  Hopefully flight instructors can also frame their experience in a new way and be encouraged in their work as teachers.

Episode 11 | The MyFlightCoach Podcast

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or call 615-669-2359

On today’s show, I talk about the success of the Discovery Channel’s “Flying Wild Alaska” series as well as the recent rebound in new student pilots.  We talk about the Flight Review–what’s it all about?  I discuss the philosophy behind it, ways to approach it and exactly how I conduct my reviews.

I also talk about the concept for an electric 172, a great book on communications and also answer a question on pattern entry using the mid-field cross.

Resources from Today’s Show:

Flying Wild Alaska On for Second Season

Battery-Powered Cessna Skyhawk

Pilot Population Highs and Lows

Flight Training Article on the Flight Review

The FAA’s Guide to the Flight Review

“Say Again Please” Pilot’s Guide to Communications

10 Keys to Being a Great Flight Student, Part 2 (6-10)

Continued from 10 Keys to Being a Great Flight Student, Part 1 (1-5) >>>

6.  Choose an aircraft that makes sense- An often overlooked issue is choosing an airplane that makes sense for you.  Sometimes the glass cockpit makes sense and is affordable to a student pilot.  Other times a modest 172 is the right choice for a person’s aviation career and pocketbook.  Explore your options and find the plane that makes sense to you.  Remember, what you get your license in doesn’t tie you to that plane forever.  So you might want to use a 172 and after your license you can always move up to a more advanced platform.

7.  Study- Few things can hamstring your training more than failing to study.  Along with your flying skills, you must also be building a solid knowledge base.  It is very important to always be reading and learning.  This ensures that you are prepared for each lesson and reduces the amount of time your instructor has to spend explaining concepts in the air (not the best place for theorizing) –which costs you additional money.  If you’re doing stalls, be reading about stalls, recovery, and common errors.  If you’re going to do a dual cross country, then study navigation and airspace and be ready for the trip.  You’ll get so much more out of the flight itself.

8.  Be Financially Prepared–  One of the problems when talking about the cost of flight training is that we equate it with other hobbies like golf or ski lessons.  Flight training is a specialized skill with very specialized equipment.  Of course we all wish it was less expensive, but you’re looking at around $7,500 to earn your license.  This number can vary up or down depending on a number of factors including the type of plane flown, how often you fly, and how fast you pick up the concepts and techniques involved in flying.  I encourage my students to plan ahead to avoid hitting a financial wall in their training.  It will make your training much less stressful and enjoyable if you aren’t worried about the cost of each successive flight.

9.  Take your Written Exam early- I’m a huge advocate for getting the written out of the way.  I’ve explained my method and rationale for passing the written in other articles.  For this, I simply encourage you to not get hung up on studying to pass the test.  I think that’s OK –just as it is with other mandatory standardized tests (GRE, SAT, etc.)   Your preparation will indeed deepen your knowledge and you will, by default, learn many of the concepts.  But the written is in no way comprehensive or even a great barometer of learning.  I believe your knowledge and understanding is shown more in the preparation and execution of the Practical Test.  By the time you get there, you’ll know your stuff.  So take the written early (I like to see it done before you begin your solo cross-countries), it’ll help your knowledge and give you the excitement of crossing one of the major hurdles between you and your license.

10.  Stretch Yourself- Be willing to attempt new things (under the watchful eye of your instructor of course) and trust when your instructor says you’re ready to move your flying to the next level.  Be willing to fly when winds are higher than normal.   Be willing to experience a day of flying in low visibility.  Let yourself be challenged and embrace those challenges.   A wealth of training experiences will serve you well as a Private Pilot.

What other factors help students be GREAT flight students?  Leave your ideas in the comments!

10 Keys to Being a Great Flight Student, Part 1 (1-5)

1.  Find a great school or instructor – After you decide to earn your license, this is the first real step in your training.  Don’t rush this decision.  Talk to several instructors and several flight schools and pay attention to your impressions.  Are they helpful?  Are they encouraging?  Do they seem knowledgeable and do they seem to have the heart of a teacher?  Is the equipment clean and seemingly well-maintained?  These are the types of questions you want ask yourself as you look for the right instructor for you.

2.  Fly often (2 to 3 times a week) –Learning to fly requires that you become proficient in two broad areas: procedures and techniques.  Procedures can be learned by reading and memorizing.  Techniques are learned by flying and developing your coordination, motor skills and experience.  To solidify your training you really need to fly regularly, preferably 2 to 3 times a week.  This will help you learn your procedures, but will also really help  you develop your technique.  You’ll see more progress, faster by flying regularly.

3.  Learn everything you can about your airplane –Become a student of your training aircraft. Obtain a copy of its Pilot’s Operating Handbook.  Read it (I know it’s not exciting).  Learn about the systems, it’s limitations and performance.  Know everything you can about the plane.  This sets a great precedent for you as you move to other aircraft.  But it’s of fundamental importance that you know your aircraft.  You entrust yourself to that aircraft everytime you fly.  Know how it works!

4.  Be teachable–  This is one of the most important points in this list.  If you are teachable then your flight training will be a joy to you and to your instructor.  If you are not teachable then you and your instructor will stay frustrated.  This means taking honest feedback without being defensive, knowing your instructor wants you to be a great pilot.  This means learning what you think might seem irelevent (say, pilotage when you have dual Garmin GPS or a glass cockpit).  The means trusting in the training and insight of your instructor.

5.  Be Patient –You must be patient.  Patience fosters good decisions.  Be patient with yourself.  You will have plateaus when it seems your training is going nowhere.   Be patient in the various situations you will face.  From unforeseen weather and scheduling conflicts to maintenance issues and delayed checkrides, be patient.  I can’t think of a single area in flying where the virtue of patience won’t pay great dividends.

Numbers 6-10 will be coming tomorrow!  Got a suggestion, email me >>>