Archive for March, 2010

What is a Near Miss in Commercial Aviation?

Boening 777A recent “near miss” that occurred in San Francisco, California this past weekend – March 26, 2010 – illustrates the seriousness of these kinds of incidents. The potential for catastrophe is devastating. The “near miss” involved a Boeing 777 that was carrying 261 passengers and a small Cessna four-seat, single-engine, light airplane. This is important reading for every flight training student and pilot.

San Francisco – Federal investigators are looking into the near collision of a commercial jet and small airplane near San Francisco International Airport.

The Federal Aviation Administration will take “strong measures to make sure something similar does not occur in the future” following Saturday’s near-miss between United Airlines Flight 889 to Beijing, China, and a light-wing airplane, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The closest the planes came to each other was 300 feet vertically and 1,500 feet horizontally, Ian Gregor said. The United flight continued to Beijing with no further incident.

According to Gregor, air traffic controllers cleared the United flight, a Boeing 777 carrying 251 passengers, for takeoff at 11:15 a.m. and quickly spotted the Cessna 182 flying south.

The controller radioed both planes’ pilots and the jet’s automatic traffic collision avoidance system alerted its pilots of the small aircraft approaching, causing them to level the jet’s climb.

The Cessna pilot reported that he had the 777 in sight, and adjusted his path to maneuver above and behind the 777.
Ian Gregor said the controller should have noticed the Cessna earlier, but noted that the pilots were quickly contacted once the situation was recognized.

What is a “Near Miss?”

A “near miss” is a narrowly avoided collision involving two or more aircraft usually in the air or approaching an airport. A near miss at an airport is often called a “runway incursion.”

The Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS) has been collecting voluntary reports of close calls from pilots, flight attendants, air traffic controllers since 1976. The system was established after TWA Flight 514 crashed on approach to Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., killing all 85 passengers and seven crew in 1974. The investigation that followed found that the pilot misunderstood an ambiguous response from the Dulles air traffic controllers, and that earlier another airline had told its pilots, but not other airlines, about a similar near miss.

The ASRS identifies deficiencies and provides data for planning improvements to stakeholders without regulatory action. Some familiar safety rules, such as turning off electronic devices that can interfere with navigation equipment, are a result of this program. Due to near miss observations and other technological improvements, the rate of fatal accidents has dropped about 65 percent, to one fatal accident in about 4.5 million departures, from one in nearly 2 million in 1997.

In the United Kingdom, a “near miss” is called an “airprox” by the Civil Aviation Authority. Since reporting them began in England, aircraft near misses have continued to decline.

Even though “near misses” are not as common as they used to be, every flight training student should be aware and prepared in case they ever happen to them.


Five of the World’s Strangest Commercial Airports

Engineers are faced with countless challenges when they build an airport. The ideal location needs abundant space, endless flat ground, favorable winds and great visibility. But locations in the real world are rarely ideal, and engineers are forced to work with what they have, making sure that the end product is the safest possible structure for pilots and passengers. A survey of airports around the world turns up a mixed bag, ranging from dangerous and rugged landing strips to giant facilities that operate like small cities.

Popular Mechanics Magazine has put together this interesting list of the world’s strangest airports and why they stand out. It is interesting reading for flight training students and everyone else who likes flying and aviation.

1. Gibraltar Airport

GibraltarThe tiny British territory of Gibraltar sits between Morocco and Spain. Construction of the airport dates back to World War II, and it continues to serve as a base for the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force, though commercial flights land on a daily basis. Winston Churchill Avenue, Gibraltar’s busiest road, cuts directly across the runway. Railroad-style crossing gates hold cars back every time a plane lands or departs.

Kansai2. Kansai International Airport – Osaka, Japan

Kansai’s artificial island is 2.5 miles long and 1.6 miles wide—so large that it is visible from space. Earthquakes, dangerous cyclones, an unstable seabed, and sabotage attempts from protestors are just some of the variables engineers were forced to account for. As impressive as the airport is, Stewart Schreckengast, a professor of aviation technology at Purdue University, cautions that climate change and rising sea levels pose a very real threat to the airport’s existence. “When this was built, [engineers] probably didn’t account for global warming,” he says. “In 50 years or so, this might be underwater.

Saba3. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport – Saba, Netherlands Antilles

Getting to this paradise-like island can be a bit distressing thanks to a 1300-foot-long runway, slightly longer than most aircraft carrier runways. Large planes aren’t landing here, but the small runway is difficult even for Cessna’s and similar aircraft. “The little X means don’t land there,” says Stewart Schreckengast. “It’s challenging, but if you don’t have something like that, the people here don’t get things they routinely need, like mail.” Given the limited amount of land and rolling topography of the island, not many other options exist.

4. Qamdo Bangda Airport – Qamdo, Tibet

TibetThis is the world’s highest airport, perched more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Even more impressive than the airport’s altitude, perhaps, is the nearly 3.5-mile-long runway.

Having a runway that’s the length of 61 football fields may seem a tad excessive, but Stewart Schreckengast says that long runways are crucial to making safe landings at higher altitudes. “When you go up to these higher-elevation airports, then your approach speed, landing speed and takeoff speeds will need a higher ground speed,” he says. “At sea level, where your approach speed is 150 mph, it may take 5000 feet of runway to stop. At 14,000 feet your approach speed is still 150, but maybe it takes 10,000 feet to stop.”

5: Don Mueang International Airport – Bangkok, Thailand

ThailandFrom a distance Don Mueang International looks like any other midsize airport. However, smack-dab in the middle of the two runways is an 18-hole golf course.

Stewart Schreckengast, says one of the major problems is that the only taxiways were located at the end of the runways. “We recommended that they build an additional taxiway in the middle, from side to side, and they said ‘absolutely not, that will take out a green and one fairway.'” The airport and the course were originally an all-military operation, but have since opened up to commercial traffic. Security threats, however, have limited the public’s access to the greens.

Flight training students can see more of these strange airports by going to Chris Sweeney’s excellent article on the Popular Mechanics website.

5 Ways to Find A Perfect Flight Training School

Aviator CollegeSo you want to be a commercial pilot? Perfect. It is an excellent career choice and there isn’t better profession in the world. But how do you accomplish this? The first thing you need to do is find a flight training school. There are many flight schools out there – over 1400 in the U.S. at last count – so selecting the perfect school may be a challenge. Don’t worry – we made a list so the selection process will be easy. Here are five ways to find a flight training school that will be perfect for you.


Make sure the flight school you are considering is accredited and certified. Check their reputation. You can do this through the local FAA Flight Standards District Office, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, National Air Transportation Association and the Better Business Bureau. They will give you information about a school’s business practices and safety record. Look for a school with a good record of getting graduates employment. It is important for a flight school to help you get your first job.


What does the facility look like? Is it cluttered, unattended to or run down? Then chances are your flight training will be the same. A clean and professional facility means a well- run organization.

How many planes are in the fleet? Are they properly maintained? Can you see the maintenance logs? A flight training plane should be serviced after every 100 hours of flight time. It doesn’t have to be new when you are learning to fly but it does have to well-maintained.

Make sure to inquire about flight simulators. Various categories of flight simulators and flight training devices are used for pilot training. They range from Part-Task Trainers (PTTs) that cover one or more aircraft systems, Cockpit Procedures Trainers (CPT) for practicing drills and checks, to Full Flight Simulators (FFS).

Student Housing Options

You are most likely going to be living away from home when you attend a flight training school and housing can get pretty expensive. Take a look at the housing facilities and look at the local real estate listings, prices and availability. Check the cost of living index of the city the school is in. You can do this by going to Google. A city with a low cost of living will be a better environment for learning.


Does the flight training school give you a choice of payment plans? It is important for the school to offer you payment plans and options. We are still in tough economic times and that makes it tough for a flight school student.
If you are a veteran, make sure the flight training school is approved for the GI Post 9/11 Bill. The Post 9/11 Bill provides financial support for education and housing to individuals with at least 90 days of service on or after September 11, 2001, or individuals discharged with a service-connected disability after 30 days.


Location is important when you are looking for a flight training school. What the weather is like is a key factor for getting a commercial pilot license. Florida is a great place to earn your wings. The average median temperate in central Florida is 75 degrees and the skies are clear and sunny over 280 days out of the year. The good weather allows you to log more flying hours faster, get your degree quicker and be on your way sooner to an aviation career.

Some of Florida’s flight training schools, however, are in major urban areas like Orlando, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. High-density traffic on the ground means high density traffic in the air. Find an aviation school in a town or small city where it isn’t congested. This will be better for you when you are learning to fly.

These are five ways to find a flight training school that will be perfect for you. Good luck and happy flying!

The Practical Examination For Flight Training Students

FAAThe following is a section about the FAA’s Practical Examination. It is part of our continuing series of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge for flight training students that is published by the FAA. This is the second part of the examination you will have to take in order to obain your license. It is the practical exam – or the flying part of the test. Most flight training students and pilots call this the “checkride.” We discussed the skill examination – the written part of the test – in an earlier article.

Practical Examination

The FAA has developed PTS’s (practical test standards) for FAA pilot certificates and associated ratings. These practical tests are administered by FAA ASIs and DPEs. 14 CFR part 61 specifies the areas of operation in which knowledge and skill must be demonstrated by the applicant. Since the FAA requires all practical tests be conducted in accordance with the appropriate PTS, and the policies set forth in the Introduction section of the PTS book, the pilot applicant should become familiar with this book during training.

The PTS book is a testing document and not intended to be a training syllabus. An appropriately rated flight instructor is responsible for training the pilot applicant to acceptable standards in all subject matter areas, procedures, and maneuvers. Descriptions of tasks and information on how to perform maneuvers and procedures are contained in reference and teaching documents such as the Pilot’s handbook. A list of reference documents is contained in the Introduction section of each PTS book.

Each “task” is comprised of knowledge areas, flight procedures, and/or flight maneuvers appropriate to the area of operation. The candidate is required to demonstrate knowledge and proficiency in all tasks for the original issuance of all pilot certificates.

When To Take the Practical Exam

14 CFR part 61 establishes the ground school and flight experience requirements for the type of certification and aircraft selected. However, the CFI best determines when an applicant is qualified for the practical test. A practice practical test is an important step in the flight training process.

The applicant will be asked to present the following documentation:

  • FAA Form 8710-1 (8710.11 for sport pilot applicants), Application for an Airman Certificate and/or Rating, with the flight instructor’s recommendation.
  • An Airman Knowledge Test Report with a satisfactory grade.
  • A medical certificate (not required for glider or balloon), and a student pilot certificate endorsed by a flight instructor for solo, solo cross-country (airplane and rotorcraft), and for the make and model aircraft to be used for the practical test (driver’s license or medical certificate for sport pilot applicants).
  • The pilot log book records.
  • A graduation certificate from an FAA-approved flight school (if applicable).
  • The applicant must provide an airworthy aircraft with equipment relevant to
  • the areas of operation required for the practical test. He or she will also be asked to produce and explain the:
  • Aircraft’s registration certificate
  • Aircraft’s airworthiness certificate
  • Aircraft’s operating limitations or FAA-approved aircraft flight manual (if required)
  • Aircraft equipment list • Required weight and balance data • Maintenance records • Applicable airworthiness directives (ADs)

For a detailed explanation of the required pilot maneuvers and performance standards, refer to the PTSs pertaining to the type of certification and aircraft selected. These standards may be downloaded free of charge from the FAA.

They can also be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents or GPO bookstores. Most airport fixed-base operators and flight schools carry a variety of government publications and charts, as well as commercially published materials.

The Boeing 747 The Mightiest Plane in the Sky

BoeingThere is nothing like it and there will never be anything like it again. The Boeing 747 – the world’s first wide body commercial airliner. It is the most recognizable aircraft in the world and perhaps the most commercially successful aircraft in aviation history. The 747 is manufactured by Boeing’s Commercial Airplane unit in the United States. The original version of the 747 was two and a half times the size of the Boeing 707, one of the most popular large planes of the 1960’s. The 747 first flew commercially in 1970 and it held the passenger capacity record for 37 years.

The four-engine 747 uses a double deck configuration for part of its length. It is available in passenger, freighter and other versions. Boeing designed the 747’s hump-like upper deck to serve as a first class lounge or for extra seating and to allow the aircraft to be easily converted to a cargo carrier by removing seats and installing a front cargo door. The 747 exceeded expectations with production passing the 1,000 mark in 1993. As of June 2009, 1,416 747’s have been built, with 107 more in various configurations remaining on order.


The 747 was conceived while air travel was increasing in the 1960’s, led by the enormous popularity of the Boeing 707 and the Douglas DC-8. Boeing was urged by Juan Trippe, president of Pan American Airlines, to build a passenger aircraft more than twice the size of the 707.

In 1965, Joe Sutter began working on the design. Sutter was the chief engineer of the Boeing 747 and is often referred to as the “father of the 747.” At the time, it was thought that the 747 would eventually be superseded by supersonic transport aircraft. Boeing responded by designing the 747 so it could be adapted easily to carry freight and remain in service even if sales of the passenger version declined.

On January 15, 1970, the first 747, Pan Am’s Clipper Victor, was christened in Washington D.C. It entered service on January 22, 1970 on a route from New York to London. The 747 enjoyed a smooth introduction into service and the rest is history.

If you are a flight student, you have probably flown in one of these magnificent planes as a passenger. It will be an even more exhilarating experience if you get the chance to command it as a pilot.

Boeing 747 Facts


The 747 fleet has logged more than 42 billion nautical miles (77.8 billion kilometers), equivalent to 101,500 trips from the Earth to the moon and back.

The 747 fleet has flown 3.5 billion people – the equivalent of more than half of the world’s population.

A 747-400 has six million parts, half of which are fasteners.
A 747-400 has 171 miles (274 km) of wiring and 5 miles (8 km) of tubing.
A 747-400 consists of 147,000 pounds (66,150 kg) of high-strength aluminum.
The 747-400 has 16 main landing gear tires and two nose landing gear tires.
The 747-400 tail height is 63 feet 8 inches (19.4 m), equivalent to a six-story building.

The 747-400 wing weighs 95,000 pounds (43,090 kg), more than 30 times the weight of the first Boeing airplane, the 1916 B&W.

The 747-400 wing measures 5,600 square feet (524.9 m 2 ), an area large enough to hold 45 medium-sized automobiles.

Flight Training Fundamentals Knowledge Examination

Sample TestThis is a continuing series of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge for flight training students. The handbook is published by the Federal Aviation Administration and provides important information for flight training students and for pilots who already know how to fly. Here is a part from the chapter about Knowledge and Skill Examinations.

These are the two exams administered by the FAA that a flight training student needs to take and pass before he or she is issued a license. This section is about the knowledge test. We will discuss the skill examination in another upcoming article.

Knowledge Examination

The knowledge test is the computer portion of the exams taken to obtain pilot certification. The test contains questions of the objective, multiple-choice type. This testing method conserves the applicant’s time, eliminates any element of individual judgment in determining grades, and saves time in scoring.

If pursuing a recreational pilot or private pilot certificate, it is important to become familiar with 14 CFR part 61, section 61.23, Medical Certificates: Requirements and Duration; 14 CFR section 61.35, Knowledge Test: Prerequisites and Passing Grades; and 14 CFR section 61.83, Eligibility Requirements for Student Pilot, for detailed information pertaining to prerequisites and eligibility.

If pursuing a recreational pilot certificate, it is important to review 14 CFR section 61.96, Applicability and Eligibility.
Requirements: General, for additional detailed information pertaining to eligibility; and if pursuing a private pilot certificate, 14 CFR section 61.103, Eligibility Requirements: General, contains additional detailed information pertaining to eligibility. Sample test questions can be downloaded from Airmen Knowledge Test Questions:

Each applicant must register to take the test, and provide proper identification and authorization proving eligibility to take a particular FAA test. The option to take an untimed sample test will be offered. The actual test is time limited, but most applicants have sufficient time to complete and review the test. Upon completion of the knowledge test, the applicant receives an Airman Knowledge Test Report that reflects the score and is embossed with the testing center’s seal. To pass, a minimum score of 70 must be attained.

When To Take the Examination

The knowledge test is more meaningful to the applicant and more likely to result in a satisfactory grade if it is taken after beginning the flight portion of the training. Therefore, the FAA recommends the knowledge test be taken after the student pilot has completed a solo cross-country flight. The operational knowledge gained by this experience can be used to the student’s advantage in the knowledge test. The student pilot’s CFI is the best person to determine when the applicant is ready to take the knowledge exam.

Where To Take the Examination

The FAA has hundreds of designated computer testing centers worldwide that administer FAA knowledge tests. These testing centers offer the full range of airman knowledge tests. Applicants will be charged a fee for the administration of FAA knowledge tests. A complete list of test centers, their locations and phone numbers can be downloaded at “Airmen Certification Frequently Asked Questions”

An applicant can also contact the local FSDO to obtain this information. If the student pilot chooses a 14 CFR part 141 flight school with test examining authority, the school will administer the knowledge test during the curriculum.

8 Ways To Get Financing For Flight Training

FinancingIt’s a good time to go to flight training school. The economy is improving and the commercial pilot job market is opening up. Sp what are you waiting for? Here is a list of 8 ways to get financing for your flight school if you are not a U.S. veteran. If you are a veteran, the post 9/11 G.I. bill is your best bet.

FAFSA – or Free Application for Federal Student Aid – is your first step in the financial aid process for your flight training. Use it to apply for federal student financial aid, such as the Pell Grant, student loans, and college work-study. Most states and schools use FAFSA information to award their financial aid. Visit their website for more information.

1) Pell Grants: This need-based award varies. The award amount is directly related to the student’s expected family contribution as determined by the FAFSA form and the student’s enrollment status (full time, half time, etc.)

2) Federal Stafford Loans (FFEL): Amounts may vary each year and are dependent on need and the grade year of the student. Federal Stafford Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS): The FFEL PLUS loan can be borrowed by the parents of the dependent undergraduate student to help pay for their child’s education. The PLUS loan is not based on financial need. The amount borrowed each year is limited to the cost of attendance less other forms of assistance.

3) Federal Direct Loans: Amounts may vary each year and are dependent on need and the grade year of the student.

Federal Direct Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students (PLUS): The Direct PLUS loan can be borrowed by the parents of the dependent undergraduate student to help pay for their child’s education. The PLUS loan is not based on financial need. The amount borrowed each year is limited to the cost of attendance less other forms of assistance.

4) Federal Perkins Loan: This low-interest loan is dependent on availability of funds each year and must be repaid to the flight school you are attending. The loan accrues no interest while the student attends school or during the nine-month grace period.

5) Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (FSEOG): Grants through this federal program are available to a limited number of students who demonstrate exceptional financial need. Priority is given to students with the greatest need.

6) Federal Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG): This federal grant is for full-time, undergraduate, Pell Grant-eligible U.S. citizens who have completed a rigorous High School curricula and are in their first two years of study. ACG grants are for first and second-year students with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher.

There are also a few traditional student loan providers that now offer professional or trade school loans – perfect for a flight training school.

7) Sallie Mae’s Career Training Loan: This loan may be able to provide you with all the benefits of a traditional alternative student loan. It can fund up to the full cost of the flight school, non-degree seeking program, full-time or part-time participation, and flexible repayment terms.The Career Training Loan from Sallie Mae is one of the most practical loans for students pursuing a trade program. It allows applicants to apply with a co-borrower if necessary, borrow up to the full cost for the program along with all related expenses and still benefit from flexible repayment terms and interest rates.

8) A small number of lenders have created a new brand of private student loan that fills a vacuum for flight school students. Trade and technical school loans feature high loan limits and flexible repayment plans, many of the same features of more traditional private loans. Check with any local bank for more details about these kind of loans.

There are plenty of ways to get financing for flight training school. You made a good choice for a career. Good luck and happy flying!