Acknowledgements: AIR FACTS/Steve Thompson

Most will agree that on a long VFR flight, there are stretches of time when your mind can wander. Other than doing the usual drills, here are the top activities for putting that time to good use:

10. Play with the ADF. If you’re blessed with older avionics, chances are good that you have an ADF in your panel. While the antiquated Automatic Direction Finder is intended to provide navigation based on the location of an AM radio station, it also allows you to tune into the AM broadcast band, where you can find some interesting programs to listen to; and by watching the ADF needle and confirming the station on your chart, you’ll learn more about how to use your ADF.
9. Submit a PIREP. Regardless of weather conditions, even if it’s clear and smooth air, reach out to Flight Service and give them a PIREP. You’ll become familiar with the format and exchange, and it’ll be useful information for the next pilot who comes along. If you have forgotten the standard dialog, just ask Flight Service to help you through the process and they’ll be glad to do so.
8. Create an efficient scan of critical instruments. If you’ve not already developed an optimal scan pattern, then here’s your opportunity to create one – this might be a left to right, top to bottom scan, or another pattern depending on your panel layout. Then, use your scan regularly… someday it might give you a warning of impending failure and you’ll be glad you caught it early.
7. Play the Alphabet Game. If you’re flying with your kids, then play the Alphabet Game with tail number suffixes heard on the radio. It’s a way for young pilots-to-be to learn the Phonetic Alphabet, and it encourages them to listen what’s going on with ARTCC.
6. Refresh your VOR skills. VORs are slowly being phased out, but are still valid means of determining your location should alternatives be unavailable. If you have a NAV radio, tune to the nearest VOR and confirm the CDI (Course Deviation Indicator) indication agrees with other means of navigation. If you’ve got two CDI instruments, play with triangulation and predict when both CDI needles will swing through centre.
5. Monitor NRST. Most aviation GPS units have a “NRST” button, allowing you to instantly see a list of the nearest airports. Watching this list will give you increased situational awareness, and it’s also fun to visually identify the airports you see on the list as you go by them.
4. If my engine quit right now… where would I land? Develop the habit of looking at regular intervals for an emergency landing spot. If it’s a road, is it clear of power lines? Are the trees alongside the road too close for comfort? How well traveled is the road? If it’s farm land, are there furrows to be considered? Or, if it’s rocky, raw desert, which surface is going to give me the best chances of walking away after the landing? If my aircraft flipped over during landing, how would I escape? It’s time well spent.
3. So, if my engine did quit… what speed would I immediately establish? Vglide is the speed which produces the farthermost glide if you were to lose power. During cruise, pull out the POH and confirm the Vglide speed. Then, commit it to memory. On most aircraft, it will be roughly half way between Vx (best angle of climb) and Vy (best rate of climb). Vglide speed increases with weight, and the published speed is likely computed for a max gross weight configuration. Is your best glide speed a knot or two less since you’re under gross? Know this number; it might save your life in an emergency.
2. Turn off the GPS. If you’re running a GPS, then turn it off or disable it for a bit. Look outside for visual cues – mountain tops, highways, power lines, railroad tracks – and match them to your chart. Then make a guess at your precise location and turn the GPS back on to see how close you were. If your GPS ever fails, then by occasionally having taken this challenge, you’ll feel more comfortable navigating solely by the chart.
1. Enjoy the flight. During the short golden age of powered flight, only a select few of us have the aptitude, ability and budget to be a PIC. This puts pilots in an elite group of human beings. Our privilege to fly at will could be threatened in the future by technological changes, personal budget, health, and even political climate – so pause for a moment and consider how fortunate we are to be pilots. We’ve got it so good!

Tony BirthComment