How To Refuel an Airplane


As soon as I left flight school and started renting airplanes on my own, I realized that there was a gaping hole in my basic pilot skills. I could do steep turns and turns around a point without breaking a sweat, but there was one skill that is neither tested on the private pilot practical exam nor is it on the curriculum for many flight schools. It’s a skill so essential in the real world that you will do it every time you go flying. The skill: refueling the airplane. I actually had to look it up online to see how it was done before renting an airplane, and the lack of good resources was a little disturbing. So as an effort to “pay it forward,” here’s the quick and dirty how-to for topping the tanks.

Read More

Three Reasons New Pilots Should Join the Civil Air Patrol


When I was doing my flight training at Stinson Municipal Airport in San Antonio, I would constantly see a couple red white and blue Cessna airplanes parked on the ramp proudly marked “Civil Air Patrol.” I honestly had no idea what CAP was, and when I turned to my CFI and asked him the response was “I dunno, sky cops?” So I looked into it a little more, attended a couple meetings, and pretty quickly realized that getting into the Civil Air Patrol might be the single best decision a brand new private pilot can make. Why? let me give you three reasons . . .

Read More

Private Pilot Certificate: How Much Does It Cost?


I’ve seen a couple posts recently over on Reddit asking about the costs involved with a private pilot certificate. Its a common question, and while some of the FBOs that offer instruction try to put a number on the amount of money you’re about to drop, those are based on estimates and not necessarily a real world example. For those thinking about taking the leap, I figured it would be a good idea to put my own numbers out there detailing exactly how much money it cost me to go from zero flight hours to passing the private pilot checkride.

Read More

Flying Through the New York City Hudson River SFRA


I grew up in the New York City area. I’ve been to the city many times, and even held a few jobs there. But most of my experiences with the city are from the ground, where the view is somewhat restricted. For years I’ve been trying to get to the top of the Empire State Building for my birthday to get a better look at the city, but it seems like every year I try they schedule the annual race up the building’s staircase for the same day. This year, with my Private Pilot’s certificate in hand and a Universal Pilot Checkout from Open Airplane, I figured I would try something different for a better effect: rent a plane and fly it up the Hudson River SFRA.

Read More

An Unexpected Visitor On The Ramp


I’m getting ready to start the flight portion of my instrument training, and while I’m waiting for the weather to improve (well, deteriorate actually) I’ve been thinking about some of the experiences I had doing the training for my private pilot’s certificate. Especially with the current work going on at Stinson Municipal Airport (KSSF) re-surfacing runway 14 and doing some taxiway work, I was reminded of a time when my instructor and I nearly ran over an unexpected taxiway obstruction . . .

Read More

Pre Flight: New York City Hudson River SFRA

In my (freshly started) flying career, I have only a few items that are really on my bucket list in terms of things to go fly. One of those involves flying up the Hudson river, past New York City, using the Hudson River SFRA route (see the video above for an idea of what it is). I grew up in the New York City area, and the chance to see it by air is something that I’ve wanted to do for ages. Now that I have my private pilot’s certificate and an OpenAirplane checkout, I can finally go live that dream. But first, I need to plan it. And since I’m sure there are others planning to do the exact same flight, I figured I should share.

Read More

Alternator Failure at Night Over San Antonio


Mechanical failures in flight are something that is taught from day one during primary flight training, but rarely do students get an opportunity to experience the real thing firsthand. I’ve seen some videos where that wasn’t the case, especially one student pilot who landed on a golf course after an engine failure, but for the majority of pilots the closest they come to an in-flight emergency in training is when the instructor abruptly cuts the throttle and won’t give it back. Lucky for me, I found myself with a playful little mechanical failure during the night cross country of my training . . .

Read More

When Airplanes Aren’t Where You Expect Them to Be


Since finishing my private pilot certificate, flying hours have been few and far between. That’s mainly due to the fact that I’m trying to pay off that flight school debt, and at $125 an hour flight hours aren’t helping that goal. Even so I need to keep my skills up, so I scheduled a flight a couple days ago to go fly around north of San Antonio. The plan was to head to Gillespie County Airport (T82) in Fredericksburg for some lunch (via full stop landing at New Braunfels, so I can log some cross country time), test out the Nexus 9 and Garmin Pilot on the way, and then head back in time for work that night. Things didn’t go as smoothly as I had hoped . . .

Read More

Taking the OpenAirplane Universal Pilot Checkout


There has never really been a good system for renting airplanes in the United States. In theory your pilot’s certificate, valid medical, and a recent flight review is all the proof you need that you are competent behind the controls of an airplane, but rental companies want a little more proof that you aren’t an idiot before you get the keys to their planes. This used to mean that you needed to prove proficiency at every FBO from which you wanted to rent, which isn’t really practical if you travel a lot and want to rent locally — it wastes time, money, and patience. OpenAirplane promises a better solution: get a checkout every year at one location, and you’re good to go everywhere else in the system no questions asked. The catch? It’s a heck of a checkout . . .

Read More

My First Passenger, and My First Emergency Diversion

noname (1)

Things are much simpler when you’re flying by yourself. You already know all the rules and are comfortable in the cockpit, but when you invite a complete newbie along for the ride things get complicated. Not only from a regulatory standpoint  — “do you know how your seatbelt works?” — but there’s now a second person who needs to be monitored to ensure that they are still A-OK medically. That’s a lot easier said than done, especially when your buddy conveniently forgets to remind you that he has motion sickness.

Read More