First R-ATP Authorizations Announced

Institutions Authorized to Certify its Graduates for an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) Certificate  with Reduced Aeronautical ExperienceThe Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this week issued the first Letters of Authorization for universities to make their graduates eligible for an airline pilot certificate under FAR 61.160.

It is a short list of lucky firsts:

  • Eastern Kentucky University
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
  • University of North Dakota

These three universities can now officially certify graduates as qualifying for a restricted privileges airline transport pilot (R-ATP) check ride.  Without such certification, pilots are required to meet a new minimum experience level of 1,500 flight hours before working at an airline.

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CFIT Training Aid

Controlled Flight Into Terrain Education and Training AidControlled Flight Into Terrain (CFIT) prevention is one of the main topics of Single-pilot Resource Management (SRM).  As a pilot, I do want to avoid flying into terrain!  I also enjoy studying any aspect of aviation.  Sometimes this means tracking down an obscure publication, and I do enjoy that challenge as well.

I found several mentions of a document named Controlled Flight Into Terrain Education and Training Aid from around 1996.  However, something has gone buggy in the FAA website, and there is no obvious way to find the document.  It looks like someone copied an old CD-ROM to the website and expected it to work without any modernization.

As a service to the aviation community, I have painstakingly reverse-engineered, scraped, edited, and re-assembled the more than 500 individual files to create an easy-to-download version on a single link.

PDF Icon CFIT Training Aid (40 MB)

Important note: The original document was approximately 914 pages long and I have been unable to find at least nine of those pages.  I am also missing the original video.

R-ATP Regulation to Reality

The newly-promulgated FAR 61.160 went into effect last week.  Already, I am seeing positive changes in the aviation industry.  Hiring is on a rapid up-swing, and rumors are starting to circulate about a liberal interpretation of the new first officer qualifications and certification rules.

While discussing the potential for a pilot shortage last year, I didn’t yet mention the combined effects of existing trends and the looming 1,500-hour minimum experience level for new first officers.  What was happening at the time, and slowly becoming problematic, was that the regional airlines were increasing their own hiring qualifications.  Those hiring policies were becoming restrictive faster than the country was producing ATP-qualified pilots.  Remember, before the Airline Safety Act of 2010 there was no requirement for regional airlines to hire ATP certified first officers.  But the Act required by August 1, 2013 that “all flight crewmembers have obtained an airline transport pilot certificate.”  The Act also required the FAA to issue its Final Rule on this by an August 1, 2012 deadline, which it failed to do.  This left airlines in the awkward position of hiring only those pilots who could obtain an ATP before the 2013 deadline.  Hiring slowed to near zero because there was a shortage of entry-level pilots who could accumulate 1,500 hours of flight experience.

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Deciding Not to Land

In response to the recent Air Safety Institute blog about the Asiana crash at San Francisco, I am addressing the point of developing basic “stabilized approach” skills and how they are used in flight training.

Bruce Landsberg wrote:

I absolutely agree that students will be working it all the way down and that is part of their learning what “good” is but there’s that judgment thing on teaching when an approach has become unsalvageable. Not so good to allow them to “attempt to save it” when the risk is rising rapidly.

Given that a light single-engine airplane needs to make turns and configuration changes below 1,000 feet above ground to complete a traffic pattern, at what point does one decide to not even attempt the flare and landing?  Do I need to make that decision at a fixed height such as 500 feet?  Do I need to meet specific criteria such as stable airspeed, stable descent angle, and stable configuration?

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First Officer Qualification Rule in Detail

Cover page of the Federal Register for July 15.The new first officer qualifications are a hot topic.  On July 10, the FAA released its Final Rule, which should appear in the Federal Register next week.  Everyone has something to say about this.  But opinions aside, all I can I find on the web is the text of the new rule and several paraphrased copies of the FAA press release.

Let’s take a closer look at what’s inside the 221 pages of the Pilot Certification and Qualification Requirements for Air Carrier Operations.

To get the most important information up front here, I compiled a detailed summary of changes as they would apply to a graduate of a qualifying 4-year degree program.

I also outlined the structure of the Final Rule and noted the page numbers of some important sections.  The small page numbers correspond to the unofficial FAA version, followed in parentheses by the official page number in the Federal Register.  For example: Page 1 (42324).  This will help you to reference either version of the Final Rule.

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Eastern Michigan University Graduation

EMU Outstanding Student award in Aviation
Outstanding Student Award

I always thought college graduation would be like high school graduation; a happy day that goes by too quickly.  But in many ways, my college graduation stretched over two months filled with celebrations, gifts, studying, and so many exams that I’ve lost count!

Over the past two months, I’ve had several new experiences and accomplishments:

  • Attended the Alpha Eta Rho National Conference in Kalamazoo.
  • Received the Outstanding Student in Aviation award at the College of Technology Celebration of Scholarship banquet.
  • Mailed commencement announcements.
  • Scored 100% during the 3-day final exam for Aircraft Dispatcher.
  • Moved out of my dorm room.
  • Enjoyed my undergraduate commencement ceremony.
  • Passed the FAA practical test for Aircraft Dispatcher certification.
  • Took a train ride from Ann Arbor.  Collided with an 18-wheeler full of kayaks!  Luckily, there were no injuries.
  • Presented my pilot survey research project to the Dean of the College of Technology.
  • Completed spin training and the flight instructor stage check.
  • Passed the FAA written test for Fundamentals of Instructing.
  • Passed the FAA written test for Flight Instructor Airplane.
  • Passed the FAA written test for Ground Instructor Basic.
  • Passed the FAA practical test for Flight Instructor Airplane Single Engine.

Rob in cap and gown

It was a busy time for me.

From here, I should see my final grades posted for Flight Instructor training.  I will bring those grades to the attention of my graduation auditor who will review the grades and give me a letter verifying I am a graduate (summa cum laude) of EMU officially on August 23, 2013.

Since I have no further academic obligations, I only have to wait for August 23 to come around before EMU can put my diploma in the mail.  I should have it in my hands sometime this fall!

In the meantime, I plan to work on the instrument rating for my flight instructor certificate and send my résumé to a variety of flight schools.  My goal is to have a flight instructing job by the end of year, and I am determined to make that happen.

College Admission & Advising

After deciding which flight school to attend, the next step to becoming a pilot is to get admitted to the school.  At smaller schools, this process may be as simple as signing a couple of forms and making an initial payment.

When I decided to attend EMU, the Office of Admissions there refused to review my application.  Surprise!  If I had given up, or if I had only followed the advice I was given, I would not have been admitted.  This is an example of perseverance being a necessity in flight training.

I hope my story and advice can help inspire future pilots to overcome the little obstacles that arise in training.

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St. Ignace Fatal Flight of Amazon.com Exec

VFR navigation chart excerpt showing St. Ignace and Mackinac Island.
From the Michigan Aeronautical Chart

Airplane crashes often make sensational headlines in the news, yet thousands of them go mostly unnoticed by the media.  Consider the count of fatal accidents in the United States during 2011.  There were 285 investigations initiated by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), or about one crash every 30 hours (NTSB, 2013).

On 7 March 2013, one month ago, the NTSB published a factual report on the St. Ignace, Michigan accident of 3 December 2011.  Amazon.com executive Thomas Phillips and his pilot were killed in this accident, which garnered national headlines in 2011.  In contrast, there was only one article about the recent factual report in The Detroit News (Miles, 2013), plus an Associated Press article that appeared sporadically in newspapers such as the Wisconsin State Journal (“Bad Weather”, 2013).

I have followed this investigation since 2011 when I was coincidentally in contact with a relative of Mr. Phillips.  I was not personally acquainted with Mr. Phillips, but I learned that he was a cousin-of-a-cousin to me.

While speaking with this common relative, I reviewed the NTSB preliminary report available at the time and explained my opinions:

  1. That the investigation would be a very long and potentially painful process from the family’s perspective.
  2. That the circumstances of the accident strongly suggested poor decision making by the pilot and the airline, which likely involved violating multiple Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR).

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Symposium a Success

Robert Chapin and his poster presentation on airline passenger misconduct.
Rob at This Year’s Symposium

My research presentation was very popular this year.  One has to be prepared for anything with an 8 AM audience, and I was pleasantly surprised by the number of people who expressed interest in my work.

This was my third appearance at the EMU Undergraduate Symposium.  Drawing on experience from previous years, I created a poster that had a left column of major bullet points.  On the middle half of the poster, I filled the area with 18 graphs summarizing the survey results.  The right column summarized the survey participants’ demographic information and general answers about passenger misconduct.

I am invited to present my research again for the Dean of the College of Technology at an upcoming board meeting.  This is an exciting opportunity to think about while working on the manuscript and, hopefully, publication.

Here are a few tips for future symposium presentations, based on what I’ve observed about designing an effective poster:

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Choosing a Flight School

The first step into flight training is to go flying.  Many flight schools offer a discounted first lesson as a taste of how exciting it is to be in the airplane.  I paid $29 at the local flight school for my intro flight in 2008.  That’s practically free, and it was one of the best investments anyone has ever made in me.  I came back to them in 2010 for several thousands of dollars worth of training to become a private pilot.

During the intro flight, you should expect to fly the airplane yourself.  My instructor and I agreed that after he started the engine, I could take control of the airplane on the taxiway, take off, and fly out about 30 miles and back while the instructor handled the radios.  He demonstrated a climb and an idle descent for me, and landed the airplane.  He also complimented me on navigating and flying straight and level without any help.  This was a great experience, and a big factor in my career plans.

When making an appointment for your first flight, be sure to ask about the school’s dress code and security procedures.

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