Safety Publications/Articles

Foundation Perspective: Looking in the Library

How good is your local-area knowledge?

One of the nice things about inclement weather is the opportunity to dig into the things that never seem to make the top of the priority list. When a line of thunderstorms recently scotched plans for a local flight, it was a chance to sift through my aviation library and become reacquainted with some old friends. The books and magazine articles that I used to prepare for my CFI checkride were more than a few years old, but much of the information hasn't changed.

A few things were obvious. Times were simpler then; the writing seemed more basic. No one had ever heard of GPS. Still, the basics of aviation have changed very little.

The aircraft now are the same ones we flew then - literally, in some cases. The techniques for handling them haven't changed. Aerodynamics and physics aren't much different. At the upper end of the aviation business there have been a few revelations, but the needs of primary students aren?t appreciably different. To be sure, the rules and the airspace are more complicated, but that is bureaucracy - it isn't the essence of flight.

The regulations are thicker, and the testing is more cumbersome. This is not necessarily a gain for pilots - only for regulators and lawyers. The Aeronautical Information Manual gained a new name and more pages.

The most likely time to bend metal is during takeoff and landing. That hasn't changed over the years - the books of yore spoke of rudder control and airspeed. Yes, so do some of the new materials, but they don't seem to be as emphatic. Maybe I'm looking at them differently as well. We are now much better at graphics, with video and CD-ROMs to display maneuvers. But some information is better conveyed through books.

One group of publications stands out as much better than in the past. Pilot operating handbooks written since 1975 have conformed to what is known as the GAMA format (a committee of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association developed them). They have far more detail and follow a consistent layout so that emergency procedures will always be found in section three. Let's hope that we can get some standards for GPS training manuals as well, if not for the hardware itself.

Some instructional classics are so well written that every instructor should read them. Stick and Rudder by Wolfgang Langewiesche, Weather Flying by Bob Buck, As the Pro Flies by John Hoyt, and Flying the Weather Map by Richard Collins are some of my favorites. For a nice all-around inspirational book, try Gift of Wings by Richard Bach. Saint Exupery and Earnest Gann will also shape your aeronautical thoughts. You probably have a few to add to the list. An afternoon in the library is enough to get one looking toward the next flyable day and the next opportunity to guide a student to be just a little better than he thought he could be.

Bruce Landsberg is executive director of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.

By Bruce Landsberg

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