Archive for the 'Continuing education' Category

Private Pilot Ground School – Petaluma, CA

If you know anyone who may be interested, please pass on the information below. She can come to the first class. If she decides she wants to take the course, she can register in class.

Wings Over Marin 2013 – Scholarships


Information about the GFCA youth scholarships will be distributed to Marin High Schools, 8th grade middle schools, and organizations including Young Eagles, Boy Scouts, Civil Air Patrol, Explorer Scouts, Novato High ROTC, GFCA Membership, and Marin County 99’s.

Scholarship Purpose:
To fund youth who wish to actively pursue their interest in the field of aviation.
Two scholarships of $1,250 will be awarded to 1 male and 1 female winner.

Age of Applicants:
This scholarship opportunity is open to applicants between the ages of 14 to 22 years who submit an essay showing genuine and specific goals of what the student would accomplish if awarded
the scholarship funds.


  • Must be a Marin resident
  • 14 to 22 years of age (Note: FAA requires student to be 16 years of age to acquire a pilot license.
  • Students can take ground school and flying lessons prior to being sixteen.)
  • Students may be attending school (college/flight school) outside of Marin, as long as they are from Marin.
  • Applicant must write an essay of no more than 1,500 words (three single spaced pages)
  • This essay must be submitted and received by 5:00pm, Thursday, September 12.
  • Top 6 finalists may be interviewed by phone. Must provide your Name, Address, Email, & phone number with your essay.
  • Submission will be sent to Pat Scanlon, Scanlon Aviation, 451 Airport Road, Novato, CA. 94945
  • GFCA will make every effort to announce the scholarship recipients at the WOM 2013 airshow at Gnoss Field in Novato. Applicant does not need to be present in order to win the scholarship.
  • The scholarship recipients, by accepting the scholarship, agree that GFCA may publish their names and photo for use in web site, news announcements or publicity activities.

Essay should explain:

  • Name, email, address, phone contact, age, year in school
  • How your interest in aviation developed
  • What activities and actions have been pursued to date in aviation
  • What area of aviation you are interested in and why:
    • Private or commercial pilot (fixed wing or helicopter)
    • Flight instructor
    • Air Traffic Control
    • Air Transport Pilot
    • Airframe and Powerplant license (airplane mechanic)
    • Military career
    • Other
  • How you plan to achieve your goals with and beyond the scholarship funding

Updates by Recipients:
Both winners will agree to submit a 1 page update every two years for the next 4 years (2 updates) to GFCA reviewing the progress toward your goal. GFCA may request an “in person” update with GFCA membership at some mutually agreed upon time.

Submission of Application:
Please submit the essay as a PDF file via email to BOTH Pat Scanlon and Steve Knecht

Engine Failure

My recent BFR included a few power off/ engine failure procedures that can really make you gather all your training; there’s no time for slow, deliberate thinking. Your response should be clear and crisp. Most pilots spend too much time ‘swimming in the glue’ before they start any useful response such as establishing best glide speed and then troubleshooting and trying to restore engine power.

This denial, frozen mind, glue-like response happens because the pilot has not practiced his or her emergency procedures and is trying to recall the steps that she/he should take. Muddling around takes time and altitude. You can loose 1000’ in a nano second looking for your emergency check list.

In the meantime the airplane has not been trimmed for power off, best glide
speed condition. Every plane has their ‘official’ manufacture defined best glide speed.
Besides getting up in the morning and knowing the sun is up you need to know what that speed is. Go ahead, put this article down now and find out. Come back when you know. If you just remember the big number, which on my plane is at the three o’clock position on the airspeed indicator, you won’t be far off. If you are light (no
passengers or baggage/fuel) you can slow it quite a bit more.

Before you take any other action, remember to fly the airplane. There should be a hammer spot on your head from your flight instructor beating that into you. This must always be your first priority. The following steps are my pattern; your plane may take a different configuration:

  1. Establish best glide speed and don’t lose any altitude until best glide speed is established.
  2. Electric fuel pump “ON” and switch to a fuel tank containing fuel.
  3. Carburetor heat or injected heat “ON.” This step should be taken even if ice is impossible. Something (sand? flying stuff?) could have blocked your air filter and the use of “heat” allows a different path for air to enter your engine and may allow a restart.
  4. Switch the magnetos from both to “left or right” to see if the engine will run better on one of them than it does on “both”. If it does leave the switch where it is.
  5. Enrich the mixture to ensure that the engine didn’t quit because it was too lean. If at high altitude, moving the mixture control full forward may flood the engine. Go slowly!
  6. If the engine has not restarted pull your prop control all the way out to improve your glide ratio. This will cut your sink rate about in half.

How long does this sequence take? It should take less than 10 seconds and a few more to fight out of the paper bag in your mind. You need to be at the same altitude as when the silence started, approaching best glide speed and already deciding the direction you should turn to head for your landing site. Hopefully that’s an airport. Out in the middle of no where it will be a dirt road, paved road or open field. Mountainous terrain often has lots of forest service roads. Passes over mountains usually have two lane roads. ‘IFR’ to me means I follow roads when in uninhabited areas.

The above steps do not have to be completed in this order. The geometry of each cockpit drives your actions. You can be holding the nose up and trimming while turning on the fuel pump, switching tanks, turning on “heat” or switching the mags. The point is to complete them and hopefully one of them restores that magic noise of a purring engine.

Cockpit Resource Management is all about making the most of whoever is in the plane. If your partner is usually with you train them on specific moves. In our plane the right seat is in charge of switching the fuel selector because it’s on the floor and looking down, turning the lever takes time. The right seat can also find the closest airport, pull out the directions, get the radio frequency and be the calming influence to your spiking blood pressure. Use their logic; their sight is not as muddled as yours.

A good thing to do is sit in your plane, on the ground, and practice your maneuvers until you can do it in 10 seconds or less. Make this a part of your run-up. Engine failures so rarely happen, but when they do, you need to be on auto-drive.

After your automatic response, if time permits, pull out your written
checklist and make sure you did not skip any steps. It’s really important to trim
for best glide speed so that if your attention is diverted while reading you won’t loose excess altitude.

Back Country Lessons

My aspirations to become the ‘back country’ pilot have been put on hold. It was too far of a reach, there were too many missing building blocks to become proficient in just a few hours. The rugged and unforgiving wilds of Utah’s canyon country are no place to be in less you are extremely experienced. The flight service needs a ‘shelf ready’ pilot. That will come, but not now. When I got the call back in March to come on board my first response was “Why not?” Give it a try; put 100% into the effort and all that you gain from such an investment. The challenges weren’t just the terrain, (or lack of it), the winds and the wildness.

My biggest obstacles would be learning to fly planes that I had no experience in. The Cessna 206, 207 and 210s feel like driving a bus around. Their power management, sight lines, geometry of the cockpit was a challenge that was going to take more than a few hours to figure out. I had to have a thick booster seat to get my eyes up and over the cowling and extended engine compartment. But the boost took away my reach necessary to get on the rudders. When you have a load of people in the back you have to make each landing a ‘wheeler’. The nose can’t touch down until the final roll out or you’ll bury the nose gear.

Our destinations were skinny, short, dirt strips, hanging off mesa edges or hidden deep in the rubble of canyon walls. Common approaches would be following a creek or river, deep into a canyon, down to a blind bend, chop and drop the plane onto a patch of sand or gravel to pick up a load of river rafters. They would be dreaming of their first shower and cold beer, you’re dreaming of those lazy days when landings were simple.

Winds howl, they scour the rock into cracks and crevasses lining the ancient, earthen face. From the air the pathways of wind and water look like animal trails etched deep into the history of our planet. The wind is the herd that migrates, stampedes, from a lower resting place to the heights outside the canyon walls. We as back country pilots become familiar with all that this rugged and often wicked flight environment can generate. Flying along picking your way over upheaval, drainage, swell and mesa is a challenge and privilege. There is always something new or a lesson to be gained.

Some days it can be so hot those huge Continental engines refuse to start. The fuel will evaporate before it gets to the cylinder head. There are tricks. Fred Patterson told me before I left “Cindy you have to be the engine”. He was so right! Your hands dance between ignition, fuel pump, mixture controls and throttle. The passengers get edgy wondering if this is the start of another TV series called ‘Canyon Survival”. You coax, you swear, you sweat to get those engines sputtering, coughing, then roaring into life. Engine start up after a 20 minute period to load gear and people can be the worst challenge of the day. I’ve lost liters of sweat in just a few hours.

Redtail Aviation is a wonderful group of pilots, friends and now family. Unfortunately I am not ready to jump on board. Twenty years of flying Pipers across our continent does not equate to the knowledge you need to fly the back country. We decided to put my job on hold until the fall when I can put in some more training and find a comfortable position in their flight line. At first I was crushed, it felt like I had failed to step into these new shoes. Yet what I gained was a HUGE respect for the learning process. It’s not impossible; it will take some time, this I can do.

As a post script… Our chief pilot was lost to a back country flight. A father/son from Texas flew their C-180 out to fly the canyons of Utah. Larry was hired to show them around the area and get them comfortable with the very un-Texas like terrain. No one knows what has happened, there is no NTSB report, other than they crashed into a canyon wall and everything and everyone perished. Larry was a legend in the back country flying community.

It is like loosing Sparky Imeson from the Idaho flying community. All have been humbled by this accident. We still mourn the loss of life. What can we learn? Our lessons never cease.

PART 135 ADVENTURES Commuter and On Demand Aviation Activities

Commuter and On Demand Aviation Activities

March 22-24th was my introduction to the world of part 135 Aviation operations. Being ‘blown away’ would belittle my response to the world of commercial flight. Our orientation took place in Price, Utah. Price is half way between Salt Lake City and Moab. Redtail Aviation runs the FBO at both Moab and Price and has a larger facility for meetings in Price.

Moab will be the airport where most of our ops will originate. My company is rich with pilots who are icons of back country flying. If you mention LaVar’s name heads turn. The guy is so respected as a pioneer of canyon flying. Another pilot has made a film of flying the arches of the Southwest (that’s through them!). So here I am, one of four new hires, surrounded by 12 pilots of exceptional skills, stories and experiences. How could I get so lucky?

The Chief of Redtail Aviation, Mark Francis, started out the session describing a ‘normal’ day in June. Meet at the airport 7am for the morning briefing. Six planes take off for Green River airport where we rendezvous with 30-40 rafters. We shuttle them to a skinny, dirt strip high on a mesa over the Green River. While waiting for the rafters the noseeums, (biting gnats) attack any exposed skin. The ‘Off’ can passes around quickly. Besides the rafters there’s crates of food, beverages, and gear to transport. The cargo doors close when you push the gear in with your foot. We will be flying C-172s, C-206s, C-207s, and C-210s. Being a Piper pilot for the last 20 years I have a steep learning curve ahead. The C-207 can carry 7 people…what a mule! The trip to Sandwash Airstrip doesn’t take long. There is an urgent need to get in and out quickly. By 8am the winds up on the mesa can really blow and you don’t want to be flying around those canyons.

Back to Moab to pick up loads of tourists. The bus tour companies like to offer a side trip of flight seeing for their passengers. The French are especially enamored with our canyons of the Southwest. As the day gets warmer the air gets choppier and there is usually someone in the plane wanting to reevaluate their previous meal. Back at the FBO we clean up the planes and ready them for an afternoon pick up down the Colorado River at Hite Marina. Getting into Hite can be dicey due to winds coming up the Colorado. Getting out can be an even greater challenge. You are now loaded to the head liner with rafters, gear and temps over 100*. The engines vaporize fuel quickly in the heat and aren’t eager to start up again. Takeoffs are little more than ground effect and stall warnings. The lift doesn’t come until you’re a few minutes out over the water and speed and altitude slowly are gained. Then it’s an upriver turn and beautiful, bumpy canyon flying. Back at base around 7pm and a half hour of paper work, half hour drive home, dinner, shower, bed and get up early to do it all over again. After this description my knees were shaking, my throat was dry and the voice of survival asks “Why in the world would you want to do this?” Mark gave everyone the option to walk. No one had enough sanity to take the offer.

In the next 3 days what was described gave me the confidence that these skills can be mastered, and yes I really want to do it. It brings together all my loves of people, place and flying. Call me crazy, call me a challenge junkie, shake your head in disbelief.

The training will be intense, not just flying but spec sheets of 12 different planes and their personalities and foibles. The beauty is that these guys are wonderful, supportive and warmly taking me into their fold. I’m so proud to even be sitting in the same room as this congregation of legendary pilots. Training, training, training, sleep, eat, training, training, training!

Our new home construction should be complete by early April; about a miraculous, month early. Usually in Moab everything takes longer to get done. They are on a different clock. As soon as the ‘all clear’ rings out we’ll be shuttling our dog, car, plane and lives to Moab until early July.

Thank you very, very much to all who sent notes of support and celebration. It means so much, in so many ways, to know that your friends believe in you. You may hear my howls of frustration all the way back here in CA. Yet the learning curve and growth are always punctuated by the moments of despair, followed by the brilliance of success. Light the candles, say a prayer for me and stand by for more stories.