Proficient Pilot

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Proficiency: Get your head in the game

Article | Oct 07, 2014

“Nobody likesto take the instrument proficiency check,” said the woman at the front desk of a local flight school. But there are ways to make it almost fun, and that’s by taking a quick review course before presenting yourself to the instructor.

Training your feet

Pilot Magazine | Oct 02, 2014

A pet peeve of mine that is particularly grating occurs occasionally when I administer flight reviews in single-engine airplanes.

Proficient Pilot: Gotta have a static

Pilot Magazine | Sep 04, 2014

Prior to cleaning the airplane, the static ports had been covered with duct tape to prevent contaminants from entering the static system (a good thing).

Proficient Pilot: Pitot-static pitfalls

Pilot Magazine | Aug 05, 2014

At some point during a pilot’s training (advanced or otherwise), I might use a piece of said tape to cover either the opening of the pitot tube or one (or both) static sources.

Proficient Pilot: Something for nothing

Pilot Magazine | Jul 31, 2014

One of the most popular cross-country flights from the Los Angeles Basin is, not surprisingly, across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas.

Proficient Pilot: In the thick of it

Pilot Magazine | Jun 04, 2014

Santa Paula and LAX are only 40 miles apart, yet worlds apart procedurally.

Proficient Pilot: Best for the worst

Pilot Magazine | May 12, 2014

Every once in a while, a hangar-flying session involves debating the best and worst types of aircraft to use when ditching (assuming that one had a choice at such a time).

Proficient Pilot: 60 years a member

Pilot Magazine | Apr 04, 2014

Dark clouds had been gathering when AOPA was founded in May 1939. World War II began only four months later when Germany invaded Poland.

Proficient Pilot: Those good old days

Pilot Magazine | Mar 06, 2014

I sometimes feel sorry for younger pilots who read this column.

Proficient Pilot: Partial power

Pilot Magazine | Feb 12, 2014

One of the most common emergency procedures taught to pilots involves coping with an engine failure— a total engine failure.

Proficient Pilot: Flying is for the birds

Pilot Magazine | Jan 17, 2014

“Once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the Earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.”

Proficient Pilot: A bum rap

Pilot Magazine | Dec 19, 2013

Like other fields of endeavor, aviation is replete with myths, biases, and half-truths, many of which would be amusing if not taken so seriously and creating such misleading impressions.

Proficient Pilot: A bygone era

Pilot Magazine | Dec 01, 2013

When I started with TWA in 1964, the 250-knot speed limit below 10,000 feet did not exist.

Proficient pilot: Not a way to go

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2013

A sad aspect of having a lengthy career in aviation is that the list of people one knows who have perished in aircraft accidents grows longer with the passage of time.

Proficient Pilot: Speak up!

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2013

On December 28, 1978, United Airlines Flight 173, a McDonnell Douglas DC–8-61 with 189 souls on board, was approaching Oregon’s Portland International Airport.

Proficient Pilot Automation dependency

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2013

Most of us have heard about automation dependency.

Proficient Pilot: Interruption of routine

Pilot Magazine | Aug 01, 2013

Prior to taking off from the dirt “airstrip” serving the Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa, the manager there had requested that I treat the guests to a low pass over the lodge, which was nestled in a ravine near the departure end of the runway. Not one to pass up such an invitation, I enthusiastically agreed.

Proficient Pilot: Another nail in the coffin

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2013

Thirty-two years ago I wrote a feature article titled, "Death of an Airport" (August 1981 "AOPA Pilot"). It described how the city council of Santa Monica, California, had been conducting a war of attrition against aviation users in an unveiled attempt to close one of the oldest airports in the country.

Proficient Pilot: Reflections, 1963-2013

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2013

My first magazine article, “Why Not Really Learn to Navigate,” appeared in these pages exactly 50 years ago (June 1963).

Proficient Pilot: Time to be true?

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2013

When I used to fly TWA’s polar routes in Boeing 707s between the U.S. West Coast and northern Europe, we often passed close to the magnetic north pole.

Proficient Pilot: Airmanship

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2013

Safe, legal and comfortable

Proficient Pilot: Playing favorites

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2013

I've never met an airplane I didn't like

Proficient Pilot: True confessions

Pilot Magazine | Dec 01, 2012

Up, up, and away in a beautiful balloon.

Proficient Pilot: J–3 heresy

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2012

He's picking the Champ over the Cub!

Proficient Pilot: There is no excuse

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2012

Fuel mismanagement shouldn't be a gotcha.

Proficient Pilot: Look, Ma, no elevator!

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2012

When primary flight controls become a problem.

Proficient Pilot: Look, Ma, no rudder!

Pilot Magazine | Aug 01, 2012

On one fine day in the mid-1950s, a pilot was departing Santa Monica, California, in a Model 18 Twin Beech that had just been returned to service after extensive maintenance.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2012

While attending (and speaking at) this year's convention of the Soaring Society of America in Reno, Nevada, a frequent topic of conversation related to the state of soaring.

Topics Pilots

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2012

A friend recently told me that her chapter of The Ninety-Nines was planning a visit to SoCal Approach, the FAA's air traffic control facility near San Diego that provides approach and departure control service for much of Southern California.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2012

Last December I mentioned that some airplanes, especially Beech Bonanzas, threaten to enter an over-the-top spin when stalled with full power and flaps extended. This is why, I continued, Beech does not suggest using flaps for takeoff.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2012

Last October I announced an essay contest for young men and women between the ages of 16 and 21 ("Proficient Pilot: It's Payback Time," October 2011 AOPA Pilot).

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2012

The expression "behind the curve" apparently has to do with being on the left side of the so-called bell curve, the type of curve that many teachers use to issue grades. Being behind the curve also refers to something or someone unable to keep up with the norm.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2012

Whenever receiving my new copy of "Plane and Pilot", I almost always flip first to the last page of the magazine for my visit with Budd Davisson, one of my favorite aviation writers (and a regular contributor to "Flight Training" magazine).

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2012

When I was preparing for my private pilot "rating" in 1955, the night experience required by the Civil Air Regulations (CARs) consisted only of 10 takeoffs and landings. A cross-country flight at night was not required then as it is now.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Dec 01, 2011

No one likes to admit failure, and I'm certainly not an exception to the rule. One misstep I dislike mentioning is when I failed the flight test for my flight instructor certificate in 1956 when I was 18 years old. I was in the rear seat of the Aeronca 7AC Champion and looking forward at the back of the examiner's head as I completed the 720-degree steep turn.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2011

The old Piper Apache was anything but a muscle machine. Its pair of 150-horsepower four-bangers could barely lift it into the sky. Yet there I was pointing down Oakland, California's longest runway with a full load of fuel. And I mean full. In addition to burgeoning wing and auxiliary tanks, the cabin was stuffed with a humongous ferry tank also filled to capacity.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2011

Although I do not think that many young nonpilots read this column, that is exactly the audience I would like to reach this month.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2011

Mentioning certain types of military aircraft often conjures thoughts of single missions for which they were most famous. The North American B–25 Mitchell reminds us of the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo (April 18, 1942), and you cannot think of the Boeing B–29 Superfortress without being reminded of the role it played in America's use of the atomic bomb to end World War II. The "Superfort" was the only airplane capable of performing that historic mission. So it was that upon completion of my feature article about the B–29 ("The Lady has a History"), I thought it remiss not to include my thoughts about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki on August 9, 1945, the two most violent acts of war ever committed. Or were they?

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Aug 01, 2011

My friend, Hal Fishman, and I used to have an ongoing and vigorous disagreement about which was best, high- or low-wing airplanes, a subject that has been hotly debated since before the 1903 Wright Flyer. Tongue-in-cheek historians claim that Orville and Wilbur’s biplane was a compromise; its main disadvantage was having twice as many leading edges from which to remove bugs.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2011

If I were king of the FAA I would require students to become glider pilots before allowing them into the cockpit of an airplane. Soaring offers a certain purity of flight that teaches fundamentals by eliminating the masking and distracting effects of power and propeller.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2011

Sometimes when I write about the so-called “good old days,” I can usually anticipate some readers accusing me of being an aeronautical dinosaur. I can understand that kind of sentiment directed toward someone who refuses trying to embrace new technology.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2011

As an 18-year-old flight instructor in 1956, I tried to be clever and original in the way I taught. There were times, though, when I was too clever.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2011

One question I am frequently asked is, “What is your favorite airplane?” I answer candidly that I don’t have a favorite. It depends on my mood and the purpose of the flight.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2011

During a recent rainy-day gabfest at my home airport, one of the local pilots asked me to explain the principles of inertial navigation and why, in this age of GPS, inertial navigation systems (INSs) are still in use by the airlines. I told them that this is a subject more easily explained in writing than during the informality of hangar flying.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2011

Every pilot who flies a single-engine airplane with a constant-speed propeller is instructed by the emergency checklist to position the propeller in high pitch (low rpm) following engine failure. This is because a windmilling propeller creates less drag in high pitch than in low.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2011

Last April’s column touched on three unrelated topics, items that individually did not justify a full column but were thoughts nevertheless worthy of discussion (“Proficient Pilot: 3 in 1”). Here we go again.

Proficient Pilot

Article | Dec 01, 2010

The other day I read an article by Ross Detwiler in the October 2010 edition of Business & Commercial Aviation. The article conveyed a concept so simple in principle yet so profound in potential benefit that I immediately decided (at the risk of appearing plagiaristic) to pass it along to readers of this column.

Proficient Pilot

Article | Nov 01, 2010

Since retiring from TWA in 1998, I have made it a point to submit to an instrument proficiency check almost every year. In each case, I have used an airplane equipped with analog gauges.

Proficient Pilot

Article | Oct 01, 2010

Safety in flight relies on the health of both man and machine. Most of us are thorough and meticulous when it comes to the care and feeding of our aircraft, but many of us are not as careful about taking care of ourselves.

Topics Events

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2010

Every airline pilot has his favorite flight segments. Domestically, mine was the route between Los Angeles and Denver (or vice versa).

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Aug 01, 2010

There are two basic kinds of flight instructors. The first comprise the majority, those who instruct by rote, the do-as-I-demonstrate types.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2010

Several years ago I wrote about my desire to fly as many different types of aircraft as possible. My initial goal was to reach 300.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2010

In 1927, the Ford Motor Company used the first of its Tri-Motors to fly auto parts between Chicago and Dearborn, Michigan. This is when a young Ford engineer, Eugene Donovan, developed and patented the “four-course, loop-type, low-frequency radio range,” the first radio aid to air navigation.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2010

My last international flight for TWA was in 1998 and involved navigating across large chunks of ocean by following a magenta line on a moving-map display from coast-out to coast-in. It was little different than the way we now use GPS, a matter of flying direct from one waypoint to the next.

Proficient Pilot: 3 in 1

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2010

I marvel at how newspaper columnists develop ideas for numerous columns every month while I have such difficulty coming up with just one. So it was this month as I scrounged through my file of scribbled notes intended to remind me of possible column ideas.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2010

I have celebrated 71 years on Earth, including 27,000 hours above it. Spending the equivalent of three years in a cockpit nurtures a perspective that gives one the right to reflect on events aeronautical with some credibility.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2010

Reading Rod Machado’s column about fuel gauges (“License to Learn: Show Me the Money,” January 2010 AOPA Pilot), I was reminded of one of the most bizarre experiences of my aviation career. (Keep writing, Rod; I am approaching the point where I can use all the reminders I can get.) My ex-wife and I were visiting South Africa with friends Jack and Donna.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2010

Before and following my retirement from TWA, the most common question asked me by nonpilots has been, “What was the most harrowing [or equivalent adjective] emergency [or equivalent noun] that ever happened to you?” I always feel a little apologetic when I reply that I have not had any seriously threatening events as an airline pilot. A little disappointed, they usually then ask, “Well, what about engine failures? Surely you must have had some of those.” The truth is that during my 53,322 jet-engine hours with TWA, I never had so much as one failure.

Proficient Pilot

Article | Dec 08, 2009

Several local pilots and I were huddled in the Waypoint Restaurant at the Camarillo Airport sheltering ourselves from a rare October rainstorm that was scudding across Southern California. The discussion du jour eventually evolved into recollections of our most memorable flights.

Proficient Pilot

Article | Nov 02, 2009

Believe it or not, this really happened. I was administering a flight review to a 2,100-hour private pilot who had been flying his own Beech V35B Bonanza for almost 15 years.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2009

I apparently had passed the oral examination for my instrument rating, and it was time for the checkride. The airplane was a red Stinson Station Wagon, a comfortable old taildragger equipped with a low-frequency receiver and gauges barely sufficient for instrument flight (no gyros).

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2009

A friend, Steve Kivo, called excitedly, “Hey, Barry, how would you like to see that electric airplane from China?” A rhetorical question; he knew that I would. “It’s being flight-tested here in Camarillo.

Proficient Pilot

Article | Aug 03, 2009

One challenging aspect of being an instrument instructor is teaching instrument approaches. In major metropolitan areas, the CFII must cope with busy controllers, clearance delays, and so much VFR traffic that it can be impossible to complete an instrument approach (and the missed approach) because of VFR traffic in the pattern.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2009

Barry Schiff has written two aviation novels, The Vatican Target and Flight 902 Is Down. Anyone who has spent time watching landings from the sidelines probably has wondered why so many pilots land on all three wheels simultaneously in tricycle-gear airplanes.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2009

The Cessna 310 and I had begun the decades-ago trip from Los Angeles to Innsbruck, Austria, several days earlier using Greenland and Iceland as stepping stones across the North Atlantic. It had been a fatiguing flight characterized by short, sleepless nights caused by having to outrun weather.

Proficient Pilot: The joy of soaring

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2009

Barry Schiff was awarded an honorary doctorate from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. The last five years of my career with TWA involved flying back and forth between Los Angeles and Honolulu, the best parts of which were the layovers.

Proficient Pilot: Waiting for the go

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2009

Barry Schiff has held five world aviation speed records, one taken from the USSR. Our new Piper Aztec lifted off from John F.

Proficient Pilot: Engine Out

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2009

Barry Schiff has authored 12 aviation books including two novels. The student, of course, is expected to remain calm, establish a normal glide, locate and begin an approach to a suitable landing site, and make an effort to restart the engine (if time, altitude, and workload permit).

Proficient Pilot: When in Rome

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2009

Barry Schiff has written more than 1,500 aviation articles. When working on my instrument rating in 1956, I had to execute instrument approaches using four-course, low-frequency ranges.

Proficient Pilot: Flat-footed flying

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2009

Retired TWA captain Barry Schiff has been a flight instructor since 1956. Last month I administered a flight review to a 165-hour private pilot in a Cessna 172P.

Topics Pilots

Proficient Pilot: Schiff's Mailbag

Pilot Magazine | Dec 01, 2008

Barry Schiff has been writing for AOPA Pilot since June 1963. Tom Travis is a retired airline captain and was the fleet manager of the Boeing 747 and Douglas DC-10 for American Airlines.

Proficient Pilot: Attitudes to live by

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2008

Barry Schiff is an aviation writer and avid, active pilot who lives in Southern California. While driving to the airport a few weeks ago, I was listening to Leon Kaplan, a.k.a.

Proficient Pilot: It's about time

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2008

Author Barry Schiff retired from TWA in 1998. He has flown more than 300 types of aircraft.

Proficient Pilot: How slow can you go?

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2008

Barry Schiff retired as a captain for TWA in 1998. The Aeronca Champ in which I learned to fly had a four-cylinder, 65-horsepower engine that sipped only 3.5 gallons of avgas per hour.

Proficient Pilot: Biting the bullet

Pilot Magazine | Aug 01, 2008

Retired TWA captain and aviation expert Barry Schiff started flying in 1952. When I learned to fly in a galaxy far, far away, an IFR-equipped airplane needed only four flight instruments: an altimeter, an airspeed indicator, a turn-and-bank indicator, and a “whiskey” compass.

Proficient Pilot: The perfect landing

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2008

Author Barry Schiff began writing for AOPA Pilot 45 years ago—his first article was published in June 1963. As I was strolling through one of the display areas at Sun ’n Fun in Lakeland, Florida, in April, someone tapped me on the shoulder.

Proficient Pilot: Time marches on

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2008

Columnist Barry Schiff retired from TWA in 1998 at the then-FAA-mandated age of 60 years old. The earliest recollection I have of wanting to be older is when I was 14.

Proficient Pilot: Home is where the heart is

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2008

Barry Schiff has logged more than 27,000 flight hours in 300 types of aircraft. I was a 13-year-old kid when I first stepped onto Clover Field, now known as Santa Monica Airport (SMO).

Proficient Pilot: Flying lessons

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2008

Barry Schiff began writing for AOPA Pilot in June 1963. World War II had ended only 13 years and seven months before the first edition of The AOPA Pilot was published 50 years ago this month.

Proficient Pilot: On a dime

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2008

December’s column discussed how to perform a turn with the shortest possible radius while maintaining altitude (“Proficient Pilot: What, Me Spin?” December 2007 Pilot). A conclusion was that such a minimum-radius turn is achieved by rolling into a 75-degree bank while maintaining maneuvering speed.

Proficient Pilot: Confessions of a co-pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2008

Most who read this page know that I flew for Trans World Airlines (TWA) for 34 years. I was a captain for only 30 years.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Dec 01, 2007

Aviation veteran Barry Schiff writes from southern California. Some years ago I discovered with dismay that, oops, my flight review was going to expire in two days.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2007

Aviation writer Barry Schiff lives in Los Angeles, California. It has been 13 months since New York Yankee hurler Cory Lidle and his flight instructor, Tyler Stanger, inadvertently flew their Cirrus Design SR20 into a Manhattan high-rise.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2007

Author Barry Schiff retired from TWA in 1998 after a 34-year career. He has flown more than 300 types of aircraft.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2007

Aviation author Barry Schiff wrote two novels with his best friend, news anchor Hal Fishman. There is more to the joy of flying than manipulating controls and communing with nature.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Aug 01, 2007

In 1956, author Barry Schiff was working his way through college as a flight instructor. At a recent pilot meeting at Castle Airport near Merced, California, a local instrument instructor lamented that airspace and traffic issues frequently prevented him from having his students practice back-course and other instrument approach procedures.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jul 01, 2007

Aviation writer Barry Schiff lives in Southern California. Earlier this year I was invited by The Ventura County (California) Chapter of the Ninety-Nines to teach a three-hour class about mountain flying to local pilots.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jun 01, 2007

Aviation writer Barry Schiff retired from TWA in 1998. Considering the proliferation of very light jets being introduced, there are going to be many pilots flying jet airplanes for the first time, and some have asked me what it is like to fly a jet.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | May 01, 2007

Aviation writer Barry Schiff retired from TWA in 1998. When I was hired by Trans World Airlines in 1964, the airline's Jack Frye Training Center occupied all eight stories of an old brick building at 1307 Baltimore Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Apr 01, 2007

Californian Barry Schiff is a former TWA captain. He flies out of Santa Monica Municipal Airport.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Mar 01, 2007

Aviation writer Barry Schiff is a former captain for TWA. The worst turbulence I ever experienced while flying a jetliner occurred during the early 1970s near Newfoundland in clear air at 39,000 feet on a flight from Rome to New York.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Feb 01, 2007

Barry Schiff retired from TWA in 1998 after more than 30 years with the airline. Last month's column was a discussion of the differences between stalling a lightly loaded airplane with a forward center of gravity and one that is heavily loaded with an aft CG (see "Proficient Pilot: CG at the Aft Limit," January Pilot).

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Jan 01, 2007

Barry Schiff has been teaching flight for more than 40 years. A local flight instructor called me on the landline last month.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Dec 01, 2006

Retired TWA captain Barry Schiff is the author of several books, fiction and nonfiction. One of the strangest and most inexplicable events of my flying career occurred on Christmas morning in 1960.

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Nov 01, 2006

Aviation writer Barry Schiff retired from TWA in 1998. Last year a British Airways Boeing 747-400 departed Los Angeles International Airport, experienced an engine fire almost immediately after liftoff, and continued on its merry way to England on three engines instead of four (see "Proficient Pilot: Obligated to Land," June 2005 Pilot).

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Oct 01, 2006

Barry Schiff flew as a TWA captain for 34 years. He retired in 1998.

Topics Weather

Proficient Pilot

Pilot Magazine | Sep 01, 2006

Aviation writer Barry Schiff flies from Santa Monica Airport in California. At a recent gathering of pilots, I was asked about my all-time favorite general aviation flight.