Drawing circles in the sky – The Holding Pattern

Anthony Bottini, CFI, teaches the principles involved with flying a successful Holding Pattern as outline in the UND Aerospace IFR Standardization Manual. This time UND Lead Flight Instructor, Rob Clausen, and his student Matt Preysz sent in another great video sign-off. Check out the awesome pics from Arizona pilot and UND Alum, Jeff Larson.

FAA – Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) – Manual Flight Operations

The FAA – Federal Aviation Administration, is promoting manual flight operations

The result of a recent analysis of flight operations has identified a dramatic increase in errors, incidents and accidents caused by lack of manual flight by flight crews, for this reason the government agency has issued a recommendation to all flight operators encouraging manual flight operations when appropriate.

Modern aircraft are commonly operated using autoflight systems (e.g., autopilot or autothrottle/autothrust). Unfortunately, continuous use of those systems does not reinforce a pilot’s knowledge and skills in manual flight operations. Autoflight systems are useful tools for pilots and have improved safety and workload management, and thus enabled more precise operations. However, continuous use of autoflight systems could lead to degradation of the pilot’s ability to quickly recover the aircraft from an undesired state.

Directors of Operations, Program Managers, Directors of Training, Training Center Managers, Check Pilots, Training Pilots, and flightcrews should be familiar with the content of this SAFO. They should work together to ensure that the content of this SAFO is incorporated into operational policy, provided to pilots during ground training, and reinforced in flight training and proficiency checks.photo(1)



In a recent post, we were talking about this matter.  http://www.cockpitchatter.com/are-we-pilots-losing-our-basic-flying-skills/


Source:  http://www.faa.gov/other_visit/aviation_industry/airline_operators/airline_safety/safo/all_safos/media/2013/SAFO13002.pdf

Captain Sullenberger: What’s Missing in Pilot Training

Famed pilot Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger discusses the state of flight training through the experience of his near disaster on the Hudson River. Sullenberger says that pilot training has been cut to basic air regulation mandates, and aviators aren’t taught every flight scenario, including a water landing.

Flying by the Numbers Series – Steep Turns

UND CFIs Mike Lents and Anthony Bottini team up again to bring our viewers the Cessna 172 UND Standardization lesson that’s all about turning the airplane, well, steeply. This video hits all the important points that are necessary to review before attempting the Steep Turn maneuver in the C172 at the Commercial Pilot level. Thanks to Ammar from Amman, Jordan and to Justin from Grand Forks, ND for submitting some great photos. Have Fun and Fly Safe!

Flying by the Numbers

Days ago, I was observing how my junior First Officer was fighting to keep attitude, altitude, heading and airspeed where they were supposed to be meanwhile we were in a course to intercept the localizer. In the meantime I was telling him:  – Good, Fly the numbers!

As pilots, every time we fly a new aircraft or, “equipment”, as is called by the airlines, we are told memorize hundreds of numbers, speeds, power, trust settings, pitch degrees, limitations, etc., but numbers also give us patterns and patterns is what we must follow if we want to notice that something is not right or in the place is supposed to be.

Numbers give us borders, as an example, the concept of a stabilized approach is based on having a certain speed and configuration at a certain altitude during approach if, for some reason this pattern is not achieved, a go around is mandatory.Untitled

Patterns for complex aircraft and airliners are established on the AOM – Aircraft’s Operator Manual, but we can also develop a pattern for our small GA airplane based on data extracted from the POH – Pilot’s Operating Handbook and develop our own pattern or “numbers” for takeoff, climb, approach and landing.  You can start experimenting by yourself noting what power setting gives you a certain speed in level flight, let’s say 100 knots and, if you add flaps? – Then, to maintain same speed with a flap deflection you will need a higher power setting.  Next can be, 360 degrees steep turns? – in clean configuration, level flight, establish your airplane in a certain heading, speed and power and note it, by reference to the ADI – Attitude Director Indicator or Artificial Horizon, bank your airplane in a 45 degrees angle to either side and increase the power by about 5% to the setting required to maintain wings level. Pull on the control yoke as you roll in to counteract for the push down force, instead of chasing the Vertical Speed Indicator pull up to a certain degrees of pitch that gives you a zero on the VSI.  See? You have a certain power setting, you are maintaining speed and you have certain degrees of pitch to maintain level turn. Approach and landing – don’t simply extend flaps when your airspeed indicator shows white arc, define a “speed threshold” for each flap setting.  The POH for the 2001 Cessna 182S shows a Vso at maximum takeoff weight of 50 knots, when multiplied by 1,3 as a result we obtain a Vref of 65 KCAS or 61 KIAS, adding a correction of 10 knots we get an approach speed of 70 knots KIAS.  Use this speed in still air, with full flaps, if windy conditions we have to add a correction for gusts. (add to Vref half of the headwind component plus the gust).  See? We are already flying by the numbers.

Always remember, power plus pitch attitude equals performance

Flying by numbers give us an envelope, learn to respect and follow them should be part of our culture



A pilot’s life is made of a succession of “firsts”.  Our first solo flight.   Our first landing.  Our first flight at night.  Our first flight in real IMC.  Our first flight in heavy rain.  Our first approach on IMC down to minimums.  Our first go around.  Our first flight avoiding weather and so on, maybe for some of us this happened long time ago, but can you remember how fast your heart was beating those “first” times?  And, what happens now?  Maybe if we can measure your heart beat during approach and landing you rarely can pass 80 b/min!.  Well, my friends, that’s called “adaptation”.

Pilots have to adapt constantly to new challenges or they cannot progress on their careers.  Problem is when adapting we go too far and we start bending limitations, regulations, procedures and we begin walking on the edge.

I remember a couple of years ago, when I was flying for a new born airline, we were always taking off above the maximum takeoff weight, nobody was pushing us to do it, was a constant with everybody and was completely normal, sometimes when we were at the maximum allowed takeoff weight we used to say, today we are light!.  In other situation, same airline, on IMC conditions, we were always approaching below minimums, it was a non-written rule, always go 100 below and see if you can find the runway, so we were ending doing a category I ILS down to a category II minimums, with … no autopilot!  And,  the list continues. Luckily we never had an accident, but was only that, luck.

This kind of group behavior did not develop on a single day, it began when someone started experimenting how far he can go and the rest followed him, then when the explored new limits, overweight, go below minimums, etc, become normal, we tend to “adapt” to the situation.  Problem is the farther we go, the limit is much narrower and there is no margin for error.

When will we ever learn? We are not helping the Company this way.  Someone ever said: “if you think that safety is expensive, try with an accident”.  Not want to do something that can jeopardize your aviation career?, then don’t do something that can end both.

As Ernest K. Gann wrote in his book “Fate is the Hunter”,  in an extraordinary example of humility, when he lets understand that he was still alive not for being a good pilot, only because he was “lucky”.  Maybe we can find some good examples between us.


At the end of 2004 I was flying for a company specialized in anti-hail fight.  I was instructor of cloud seeding in a Piper Cheyenne PA-31T.  We had to ferry an airplane from our operations hub in Mendoza (Argentina) down south 112 NM to San Rafael in a 25 MIN flight.  My partner that day was a fellow captain recently checked by myself on the aircraft.  When the operations order came and we discovered we had to fly together we made a few jokes about it and I decided to assume the copilot’s duties that included preparation of flight plan and verify if the cloud seeding stuff.  The external inspection (walk – around) was always copilot responsibility and mistakenly we both assumed that was done by the other part.

In this particular airplane there was a fuel gauge failure, for moments the needle was moving from indicating full to empty tank and, for that reason the cockpit fuel indicator was not reliable.

After discussing for a while who was pilot flying, I decided to be pilot non-flying for this leg.

Once in the air, we received the order to patrol some active cells that were growing en route.   After joking for a while in a relaxed atmosphere, the LOW FUEL light came ON.  The obvious question was:  – Did you verify the fuel?, isn’t it?  – No, I thought you did it..

And, the worst case scenario, there was a wall of thunderstorms in mature stage between us and our destination.  0destination.

In contact with San Rafael tower, we requested a high speed straight-in approach.

Fortunately both engines continued running until we arrived and taxied to the ramp, total fuel on board: around 5 min.

This is my first flight experience to share with all of you




Capt. Gonzalo Martin


PA-31T / SF34 / A340


“if we professional pilots share our experiences, we are making a safer aviation”

  •   GDL 39