Why (I Think) You Should be Staying for the Summer Semesters if You are Flight Training at Western Michigan University’s College of Aviation

Flying in the summer months at Battle Creek, Michigan is, on average, almost 40% more likely to result in experiencing weather conditions that allow flight training to be successfully completed.

Flying when the weather is better allows more flight training to be completed. This is a simple statement, but many don’t really look into the details of what it means. While I spent some time working on an article comparing weather at sites across the country in relation to flyable weather conditions for flight training, I drilled down the numbers in much greater detail for Battle Creek because it is home, it is information that directly affects students and instructors I personally know, and the data that I found was strongly trended.


Click on the image to see a bigger detailed view of this chart.

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Inspire me…

“I just don’t feel like I’m inspired to fly,” a good friend of mine said in a conversation we had not too long ago. We were having a long conversation about the state of General Aviation when we came to this point. “I feel like I need a new aviation ‘hero’ to get me going again,” he continued. “Well, not a hero, but at least someone who makes me feel like flying is really cool or something I want to do again.”

The hard part of this realization was that I couldn’t really disagree with him. What’s worse is that neither of us are just involved in aviation part time. I fly regularly as an FAA Designated Pilot Examiner, as a flight instructor, and as a contract pilot. But I don’t fly in my spare time much anymore. Sure, I fly personally for travel, and I still much prefer this to driving a ground based vehicle, but it is more about function than inspiration. And I can’t say that I don’t still love it. I still get geeked out by the fact that I am defying gravity behind a big fan in a pile of tin (or in some cases composite) powered by dead dinosaurs, but I do have hard time coming up with what I can tell others to inspire them to involvement. Greg, my friend with whom I was talking, isn’t newbie either. He is a pilot and has worked for years in the aviation industry as a writer and editor, but he hasn’t been actively flying the last few years as a pilot. He hasn’t felt inspired. Continue reading

Discussing the Area Forecast

AFDDiscussMapRemember those vague Area Forecasts (FAs) that you try to interpret and figure out what portions of what areas the un-decoded text is talking about as you think about alternate minimums, cloud ceilings over an area bigger than a TAF site covers, or as you try to plan a cross-country flight through a region? Well, many people only use them periodically, but they can actually be very useful.

Specifically, while the actual forecast is very useful, a little paid attention to part of the forecast is the “Aviation Forecast Discussion. (AFD – no, not the green books with airport information, the weather product). Continue reading

The Tough Job of Being an FAA ASI

One of the most thankless jobs in aviation has to be that of an FAA Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI). This cadre of experienced aviation professionals has made the choice to work for the government bureaucracy that is the FAA and by doing so, are in many cases they are the front line for safety in the aviation community. But many pilots don’t exactly roll out the welcome mat when they see an FAA staff member show up at their local airport. It’s a tough job that doesn’t typically bring accolades from the aviation community.

While many of us in aviation specialize in one or two specific areas, the folks that do these jobs have to be masters of many areas. They have to be knowledgeable enough to conduct oversight for compliance and safety of the aviation community within each of their particular districts of every type of activity that takes place in their district. One day they may be overseeing the work of a Designated Pilot Examiner, the next day responding to an accident, followed by working to review and approve an RVSM manual for a corporate operator, and then doing a proficiency ride for a Part 135 charter operator. Oh, and they might have to work with a Part 141 training provider, do a few ramp checks, then try to stay on top of current internal policy changes the FAA makes that govern how they do their jobs. After that they may have do to an evening safety seminar. They are pulled in many directions and aren’t given much room to make mistakes. Safety and lives depend on their work. Continue reading