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Expecting a call
One common result of pilot distraction is missing a call from air traffic control. Student pilots work hard to learn the procedures, lingo, and etiquette of radio communications, as well as how to initiate contact, as explained in “ Learning the right words: A new pilot’s guide to ATC communications.”
But how do you know when ATC might initiate communications with you?
Fortunately, many situations when you should expect a call are predictable in timing and content. For example, after takeoff from a towered airport at the center of Class C airspace, you should expect a “handoff” from tower to departure control, possibly combined with an initial heading or altitude to fly. When you contact departure, the controller may issue further instructions or have you “proceed on course.” Additional calls may point out traffic nearby. Eventually you will be handed off to another ATC facility or instructed to “squawk” the VFR transponder code 1200. On your return to the Class C airport, expect approach control to hand you off to the tower. If the tower gives you arrival instructions but no landing clearance, expect landing clearance soon.
It will get easy with practice. “Flight instructors get us started with the basics, but we learn to use the radio mostly by listening and doing. Mistakes are inevitable, but educated practice is what makes us better pilot communicators,” Mark Twombly counseled in his January 2005 AOPA Flight Training column “ Continuing Ed: Something to talk about.”
A few more tips: You’ll learn to anticipate call-ups by listening carefully on the frequency. If ATC points out your aircraft as conflicting traffic to another pilot, you are probably also going to receive a traffic call. If the tower has you looking for traffic ahead of you on approach, your next instructions may be, “Follow that traffic, cleared to land.”
If you didn’t quite get a transmission, speak up! “There is no excuse for not asking for clarification if you do not understand the instructions you have been given,” Charles Wright said in “ Talking the talk” from the May 2005 AOPA Flight Training. “Never mind if the controller sounds irritated or annoyed. In the end, he would prefer that you ask and avoid an incident or an accident simply by asking a question.”
YOUR PARTNER IN TRAINING
Temperatures are dipping in most parts of the country. Before you go up for some pattern work on a chilly morning, you'll want to take extra steps before you start the engine. Review the preflight-to-tiedown techniques discussed in Jeff Pardo’s “ Frigid flight fundamentals” from the archives of AOPA Flight Training. Then read AOPA's Aviation Subject Report on winter flying to round out your understanding.
Did you know that student pilots who join AOPA are three times more likely to complete their flight training? Membership includes unlimited access to aviation information by phone (800/USA-AOPA, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time) or from AOPA Flight Training Online or AOPA Online. If you’re not already a member, join today and get the pilot’s edge. Login information is available online.
Before they embrace the roar of a jet engine or helicopter, 150 Naval Academy midshipmen had a chance this summer to get a feel for the controls in the whisper of engineless flight. The U.S. Naval Academy’s Summer Training Soaring Program began this year as a way to introduce midshipmen at the school to flying before they commit to a career path. The students practiced stick-and-rudder skills and learned the principles of flight before heading to Pensacola, Fla., for intensive training. Read more >>
VFR flight planning takes on another dimension at night—well beyond usual daytime planning. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Accident Database shows proportionately many more VFR accidents at night than during the day. Brush up on the knowledge and skills for night VFR flying with the foundation's updated Safety Spotlight: Night VFR Flight. The safety spotlight brings together courses, quizzes, safety reviews, and reenactments—including a “Real Pilot Story: Engine Failure at Night”—to give you the information you need to stay safe, alert, and in control after the sun sets. Topics include weather, aeronautical decision making, spatial disorientation, terrain avoidance, fatigue, and airport lighting.
As the Dec. 31 transition of the J-1 visa program from the State Department to the Department of Homeland Security nears, AOPA has teamed up with other aviation organizations to prevent the program from being terminated. The program allows foreign flight students to complete their professional training and then work as flight instructors to build hours. DHS has not decided whether to continue the program, and if no decision is made before the end of October, several J-1 flight schools said they will likely cease operations early next year. Read more >>
New England Ninety-Nines offer flight scholarships
The Eastern New England Chapter of The Ninety-Nines is offering four scholarships in 2009. The Martha C. Dunbar Honorary Scholarship and the Karla Carroll Memorial Scholarship, open to both men and women, are for $1,000 each. The William Bridge Scholarship for $1,000 is open to women with at least a private pilot certificate. The New England Section of The Ninety-Nines also offers a $1,000 scholarship in memory of pilot Shirley Mahn, who died in 1975 in her Piper Aztec. All scholarships require applicants to be either residents of the six New England states or studying in New England. For criteria and applications, send an e-mail or a stamped, self-addressed business size envelope to Olga Mitchell, 10 Glory Lane, East Falmouth, MA 02536. Applications must be postmarked no later than Jan. 31, 2010.
Enhance your aviation safety at Summit
While you’re perusing the dozens of aircraft on display and taking in the latest gadgets available to pilots, make time for aviation safety at AOPA Aviation Summit, Nov. 5 through 7, in Tampa, Fla. The AOPA Air Safety Foundation will be debuting new safety products in the Tampa Convention Center exhibit hall and hosting several forums: “What Went Wrong?,” “GPS from the Ground Up,” and “Single Pilot IFR.” Plus, AOPA Air Safety Foundation President Bruce Landsberg will discuss aviation safety on Nov. 7 on AOPA Live with NTSB Deputy Director for Regional Operations Jeff Guzzetti at 1 p.m. and with FAA Director of Runway Safety Wes Timmons and National Association of Flight Instructors Executive Director Jason Blair at 2 p.m. If you can’t make it to Summit, you can watch the interviews through AOPA Live on AOPA Online.
Flight sims take off at Summit
AOPA Aviation Summit flight simulator sponsor Frasca International Inc. is giving you an opportunity to climb into the cockpit for a virtual flight at Summit. Free simulator flights will be offered at the AOPA Learn to Fly Centers and the Women's Wing. Plus, find out more about flight simulator training with industry experts at Center Stage in the Tampa Convention Center exhibit hall. Read more >>
Let your dream of becoming a pilot begin at Summit
Bring your questions about flight training to the Learn to Fly Centers at AOPA Aviation Summit. AOPA’s qualified staff of pilots and certificated flight instructors will be ready to answer your questions about training programs, certificate options, and all things related to becoming a pilot. Read more >>
Shop exclusive Summit merchandise at AOPA Store
A trip to AOPA Aviation Summit would not be complete without a souvenir commemorating your visit. Stop by the first-ever AOPA Store and shop exclusive AOPA Aviation Summit merchandise and apparel such as custom T-shirts for youth and adults, hooded sweatshirts, hat and T-shirt combos, AOPA Aviation Summit collectible poster, gift items, and more! Classic AOPA merchandise also will be on hand for those looking to add another piece to their AOPA collection. Show the world you’re a pilot—shop the AOPA Store at Summit! Visit booth 1623 Nov. 5 through 7, in Tampa, Fla. Register today!
USB headset adaptor from Sporty’s
Want to take your desktop simulator sessions to that next level of realism? Sporty’s sells an adaptor that lets you plug in your general aviation headset to your computer and use it with your sim. There’s no software to install, but it does require a USB port. The unit sells for $59.95 and may be ordered online or by calling 800/SPORTYS.
Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.
Question: There is an older airplane at my home airport with very small, barely visible N numbers. I thought all airplanes had to have this identification larger and easily seen.
Answer: All aircraft registered in the United States are required to have a registration number displayed on the aircraft. Most airplanes sport 12-inch N numbers, which are easily seen. The FAA permits antique aircraft (more than 30 years old) to have smaller two- or three-inch numbers that may not be as readily visible.
Got a question for our technical services staff? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don’t forget the online archive of “Final Exam” questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.
Pilots love to take photos, and they love to share them with other pilots. Now you can upload your flying photos to our online gallery, “Air Mail.” Share your special aviation images, or view and rate more than 2,000 photos and counting. Highly rated photos will get put into rotation on the AOPA home page!
AVIATION EVENTS & WEATHER
Want something to do this weekend? Planning an aviation getaway? See your personalized online calendar of events . We’ve enhanced our calendar so that with one click you can see all of the events listed in the regions you selected when personalizing ePilot . Now you can browse events listed two weeks to a few months out to make your planning easier. You can also bookmark the personalized calendar page to check it as often as you want. Before you take off on an adventure, make sure you check our current aviation weather provided by Jeppesen.
Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics
The next AOPA Air Safety Foundation Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics are scheduled in San Diego, Calif., Atlanta, Ga., and Austin, Texas, Nov. 14 and 15; Anchorage, Alaska, Albuquerque, N.M., and Reston, Va., Nov. 21 and 22; Denver, Colo., and Orlando, Fla., Dec. 5 and 6; Northbrook, Ill., Dec. 12 and 13; San Jose, Calif., Baltimore, Md., and Detroit, Mich., Jan. 9 and 10. For a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.
Can’t make it in person? Sign up for the CFI Refresher Online.
AOPA Air Safety Foundation Safety Seminars
AOPA Air Safety Foundation Safety Seminars are scheduled in Tampa, Fla., Nov. 5 and 6; Tampa, Fla., and Pikeville, N.C., Nov. 7; Jamestown, N.C., and Greenville, S.C., Nov. 9; Decatur, Ga., and Smithfield, N.C., Nov. 10; Huntsville, Ala., and Castle Hayne, N.C., Nov. 11; Burbank, Calif., and White Plains, N.Y., Nov. 16; Ontario, Calif., Nov. 17; Costa Mesa, Calif., Nov. 18; San Diego, Calif., Nov. 19; Marietta, Ga., Dec. 1; Birmingham, Ala., Dec. 2; Pensacola, Fla., Dec. 3; West Palm Beach, Fla., Dec. 7; Tampa, Fla., Dec. 8; Towson, Md., Dec. 9. Topics vary—for details and a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.
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Editorial Team : ePilot Flight Training Editor : Jill Tallman | ePilot Editor: Sarah Brown | Contributor: Alton Marsh