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The Impossible Turn: When Your Engine Fails on Takeoff

The Impossible Turn: When Your Engine Fails on Takeoff

My engine quit on upwind… what now?

Do I land straight ahead or do I turn around? The impossible turn. We’ve all heard the stories, the advice, and mostly the warnings.

The turn is so seductive in the moment, as I can personally attest.

Generally, the consensus is that you shouldn’t turn unless you’re above 1000 feet AGL.

If you need a one size fits all approach that may be a good one, but we all have different size feet. You must decide what’s right for you. As an instructor, I’m a firm believer in personal minimums. I help all my students develop good personal minimums, as most do. This includes personal minimums as they relate to the impossible turn.

Cover Engine Failure in Your Pre-Takeoff Briefing

For the instructors reading this, consider accessing the individual student to determine if a turn is advisable. If it is, under what conditions? Some people are better off pulling the parachute if the aircraft is so equipped or simply crashing strait ahead. The statistics say these are the more survivable options.

You or your student must be ready to pull the trigger: turn around or land strait ahead. It takes the average pilot seven seconds to respond in an emergency situation.

That doesn’t sound like much… right? Lets perform an exercise, count with me: one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand, five one-thousand, six one-thousand, seven one-thousand.

Now just imagine that entire time your engine was not running and you did nothing to respond. It’s an eternity. You must be ready. A good pre-takeoff briefing helps insure that those seven seconds are more like two or three.

Should You Turn Around

So what should you consider when deciding at what minimum altitude you should turn around? The list is long.

  • How proficient are you in the aircraft?
  • What type of aircraft is it?
  • When was the last time you practiced the turn? (More about this later.)
  • What is the head wind component (or tail wind when you turn around)?
  • What is the terrain?
  • How long is the runway?
  • How heavy is the aircraft?
  •  What is the density altitude?
  • How is the gear actuated if retractable (engine driven, hydraulic pump?)
  • Can I feather or coarsen the pitch on my propeller to decrease drag?

There are many other factors as well. This is why the decision is so hard. It is also why we must have a plan prior to taking off rather than making a hasty decision in the moment.

Practicing Engine Failures in Training

What is the first thing you were taught to do when you were practicing engine failures in training? Pitch for best glide… right? WRONG! If you have made the decision to turn around than you must do so without wasting any precious time or real estate.

I recommend testing this procedure. The next time you’re at altitude try this maneuver: Pick a heading and make a 180-degree turn trying to loose as little altitude as possible.

The best procedure for this is not pitching for best glide and making a shallow bank. Try pitching down 5-10 degrees (or more) and rolling into a 60-degree bank with the engine at idle.

If done properly and without hesitation you can loose as little as 150 feet. This all depends on the aircraft type and the speed at which the engine failed.

It beats the shallow turn every time.

Try changing the propeller blade angle to a courser pitch if your aircraft is equipped. Remember, if this happens for real you will loose more altitude more quickly as an idling propeller makes much less drag than a wind-milling one.

I know what you’re thinking: You’re recommending I make a 60-degree banked turn close to the ground? Not necessarily.

This maneuver is not for everyone and must be practiced and adapted for different airframes, configurations, weights and mostly proficiency. I am saying, that if you choose to turn around, this is your best chance for survival if properly performed.

Airspeed and coordination is key. Your stall speed goes up considerably when in a steep bank which is why it is necessary to insure you have a low enough pitch attitude and a high enough airspeed to keep the wing flying.

I have personally experienced a catastrophic engine failure on takeoff. I used the procedure described above and made it back in one piece. I also personally know many others that were not as fortunate.

I would never encourage anyone to make or not make the turn. I do, however, urge everyone to have a plan before each and every takeoff based on his or her personal minimums.

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Flight Training: How to Obtain a Weather Briefing

Flight Training: How to Obtain a Weather Briefing

Every student training for their private pilot license will have to complete a cross-country flight. As part of planning that flight, you’ll need to learn how to obtain a weather briefing.

How to Obtain a Weather Briefing

The two main ways to obtain weather briefings is to call a flight service station and take notes on an oral briefing, or connect online to find weather briefing sites like, the Aviation Weather Center and 1800WXbrief.

Types of Weather Briefings

There are three types of weather briefings you can request: A Standard, Outlook or Abbreviated Briefing.

A standard briefing is requested for flights that are due to depart within six hours, and requires the following information:

  • Type of flight (VFR or IFR).
  • Aircraft identification.
  • Aircraft type
  • Cruising true airspeed.
  • Departure airport.
  • Proposed departure time.
  • Proposed cruising altitude.
  • Route of flight.
  • Destination.
  • Estimated time en route.
  • Remarks
  • Fuel on board
  • Alternate airport.

An Outlook briefing is requested if your proposed departure time is six hours or more in the future.

And an abbreviated briefing is requested to update an earlier briefing.

Each of these briefings will give you current weather information for airports along your route, forecasts and winds aloft.

What is No-Go Weather

No-go weather is when weather conditions are too bad to fly. What constitutes as no-go weather can be determined by your local flight environment and skill level, but here are some general no-go weather conditions:

  • Visibility less than 3 miles
  • Ceilings below 1000 feet
  • Crosswinds over 20 knots
  • Severe turbulence

Weather is a big factor in having a safe and successful flight, so make sure you take the time to get accurate weather briefings before each flight.

Whether you’re just learning how to become a pilot or your gearing up to become an airline pilot, knowing how to obtain a good weather briefing is an essential skill every pilot should master.

Whether you’re just learning how to become a pilot or your gearing up for a career in aviation knowing how to obtain a weather briefing is an essential skill every pilot should master.

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How to Become a Flight Instructor

How to Become a Flight Instructor

After a sizable investment of both time and money you’ve finally become a pilot and obtained your commercial rating and are ready to earn some income as a pilot.

Unfortunately, the number of jobs available to low hour pilots is rather small.

One of the most common however, is that of flight instructor. When I first learned that most flight instructors were rather new pilots themselves I was rather shocked.

Shouldn’t someone with a few thousand hours of flight time be the one to teach me to fly?

But when you step back for a moment, it makes quite a bit of sense. The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “While we teach, we learn.” I’ve found this is absolutely true.

else, it becomes solidified in our own mind. (This has been dubbed the “protege effect,” – students who teach, score higher on tests than students learning only for their own sake)

But becoming a certified flight instructor is no easy task. It takes considerable effort and there’s a few requirements you’ll need to meet before you can become one.

In this article we’ll walk you through the requirements you’ll need to meet along with some tips on working through a certified flight instructor academy and passing your checkride.

Certified Flight Instructor Requirements

Before you pursue your CFI rating make sure you’ve met these requirements:

  • Have logged at least 250 hours (or 190 hours Part 141) total time.
  • Hold a Commercial Pilot Certificate or ATP (ASEL or AMEL) with Instrument Rating.
  • Hold a valid FAA 3rd Class Medical Certificate (or higher).

If you’re pursuing a CFI Sport these are the requirements:

  • 100 hours of flight time as PIC of a powered aircraft
  • 50 hours of flight time in airplane category
  • 25 hours of cross-country flight time
  • 10 hours of cross-country flight time in airplane category
  • 15 hours of flight time as PIC in airplane category that is Light-Sport aircraft

With these requirements met, you’ll need to then attend a CFI academy. Many flight schools offer these academies on a monthly or bi monthly basis. A good CFI academy will teach you how to teach students and give you a strong teaching foundation for you to build on.

The academy will also prepare you for the FAA checkride.

Now, before we dig into an academy we should note, a CFI academy isn’t required. You can do instruction one-on-one with an instructor but it typically takes longer and costs more because you aren’t splitting the cost of ground instruction with an entire class.

Choosing a CFI Academy

If the school where you’ve done most of your training offers a CFI academy you may want to consider going there, however, it doesn’t hurt to shop around. The best thing to do is talk to different flight instructors.

See where they went and find out if they recommend it. You can also jump on the local aviation Facebook group to see if anyone there has any recommendations.

To help you prepare to become an instructor, look for a reputable school who is know for turning out proficient and effective flight instructors.

Do They Hire Instructors from Their Academies

If you’re going to be looking for a job once your done, you may want to find out if the school hires instructors from the pool of graduating students. If they do, you may be able to land a job as soon as you finish.

As you evaluate CFI academies don’t be afraid to ask to see a syllabus. You may also be able to audit a class for an hour one day to see how you like it.

While this may not seem important to you, I also like academies that are taught by multiple people. Since CFI academies last for 2-4 weeks typically, listening to the same person that entire time can get a little dull.

What to Expect in Your CFI Academy

Most CFI academies are structured such that you spend a portion of the day in class and a portion of the day flying. Depending on the size of the school and the class, you may not fly every day.

On days when you don’t fly you should spend the extra time writing and practicing your lesson plans.

In your CFI academy you’ll learn how to teach various materials, review FAA guidelines, and practice instructing. One thing many CFI students aren’t prepared for, is how much time you spend talking about how people learn.

Consider the academy a crash course in a teaching degree. While this may seem odd, it’s important as a flight instructor to understand how your students learn and how to cater your teaching style to each student.

How to Do Well In Your CFI Academy

Here at Thrust Flight we’ve seen many students pass through our academy. In each class, there’s a clear distinction between those who perform well and those who struggle.

How to Do Well In Your CFI Academy

The most successful students start the class prepared. They’ve studied the material and are ready to teach it. Successful students also make the time to create their own lesson plans.

It’s easy to buy pre-made lesson plans, however, if you truly want to succeed as a flight instructor you need to create your own lesson plans. Remember the Senaca quote above?

As you prepare lesson plans to teach a principle, you will gain a stronger understanding of it. This greater understanding will help you become a safer, more capable pilot and instructor.

Study Every Day During the Academy

In addition to creating your own lesson plans, you should also make time to study every single day you are in the academy. We have seen so many students who think they can simply sit through the class and somehow be ready for their checkride without preparing. Don’t be one of those people.

Practice with a Partner

Another great tip for doing will in your CFI academy is to find a partner to practice with. Teach one another from your own lesson plans again and again. Then critique one another and help each other improve and grow.

Few people will do this but the best instructors we have seen do so with great effect.

The FAA Checkride

At the end of your CFI academy you should be ready for the FAA checkride. During this checkride expect the DPE to ask you quite a few questions about learning.

Again, you need to have a strong understanding of these learning principles so that you can effectively communicate them to the DPE and so you can best train your future students.

For a large portion of the checkride you should expect to play the role of teacher with the DPE as your student. They will probably give you a large variety of scenarios which you must then adapt your teaching to fit.

How to Prepare for the CFI Checkride

To prepare for your checkride, you should role play in this manner with your fellow CFI academy students and, if possible, with current instructors. As you practice your teaching on other students and current instructors they can help you identify holes in your teaching.

The only way your teaching will ever improve is if you do it again and again, so get in as much practice as you can before your checkride.

Once you’ve obtained your CFI rating your ready to start instructing and earning those 1,500 hours needed to become an airline pilot. If you’re in the process of choosing a CFI academy right now consider Thrust Flight.

Our CFI academies have become quite famous with students coming from across the country to attend our 15 day program. Contact us to find out when our next academy will launch and to get signed up.

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3 Tips to Help you Pass Your CFI Checkride

3 Tips to Help you Pass Your CFI Checkride

Almost every pilot who pursues a career in aviation spends at least a little time as a flight instructor. Achieving that title however means you have to pass the ominous CFI checkride. In order to prepare for your CFI checkride you’ll need to attend a CFI academy.

In another article, we covered the basics of what a CFI academy is and how to become a flight instructor and what you can expect when attending one.

In this article, we’re going to share three simple tips you should follow to help you prepare for, and pass your CFI checkride.

Prepare Your Own Lesson Plans

After witnessing many, many students pass through our program we’ve come to find a distinct difference between the students who purchase lesson plans and those who write their own.

Students who write their own, frequently understand the material better and are able to more easily recall info as they teach.

Take your FAA written exam

While the upfront labor to write your own can be intense, the payoff is huge. Nothing prepares you better for your checkride then taking the time to write your own thorough lesson plans.

And not just a few either. If you will go through and write out every single lesson plan in your own language you’ll be amazed at how well this prepares you to teach and to pass your checkride.

Buying Lesson Plans

Now, if you aren’t quite ready to dive into writing your own lesson plans from scratch, you could go ahead and purchase some.

But you should then go through them and make them your own, by adding notes, references, and diagrams or images you want to include.

The last thing you should do is purchase lesson plans and just read through them in an attempt to memorize them.

While the short term goal is to help you pass the checkride, what we really want is to create effective flight instructors who know the material backwards and forwards.

We’ve found that writing your own lesson plans is one of the most effective ways to accomplish that goal.

Practice with Everyone

As you’re writing your lesson plans, practice them repeatedly. Teach your dog, your brother, your parents, your roommate, fellow CFI academy students, even current CFIs.

Anyone that will give you some time to listen can help you prepare.

During your CFI academy it’s a great idea to find one or two people to partner up so you can teach one another your lesson plans.

Preparing lesson plans and then hearing them taught over and over again by your partners will really help solidify the info in your head and make it easier to recall during your CFI checkride.

If possible, you should also try to practice at least one or two lessons with an experienced CFI. Since they’ve actually worked with multiple students they can help you identify any holes in your lesson plans and help you improve them overall.

During your CFI academy you’ll work with an instructor who you will help you practice teaching but it can be a good idea to get a second opinion from yet another CFI.

Understand How People Learn

One aspect of the CFI academy is learning about how people learn. Much of this material is covered during your CFI checkride but it can be easy to overlook while focusing on your own flying and making sure you’ve prepared & practiced your lesson plans.

During the academy take the time to really understand the material. Don’t merely memorize acronyms and facts. Truly understand what it means and how you can tailor your teaching to different types of students.

While this may not help as much with passing the checkride, this will help you become an excellent teacher and that’s the true goal of a good CFI academy.

As you come to understand how people learn you’ll begin to pick up on what techniques work with each student. You’ll be able to modify your lesson plans effectively and you’ll see your students begin to progress more rapidly.

Understanding these principles of learning, won’t just take place during your CFI academy. As you work with more and more people, your level of experience will increase and absolutely help you become a more effective teacher, but only if you work at it.

If your searching for a good CFI academy to get you ready for your CFI checkride give us a call today and we can tell you more about our program and why you should join us in Addison, TX!

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Flight Training: Part 141 vs. Part 61

Flight Training: Part 141 vs. Part 61

As a new pilot there are two methods of flight training you can pursue; Part 141 and Part 61. There are pros and cons to each method so to help you decide which type of training is right for you we put together this quick guide.

But before we dive in, let’s take a look at what Part 141 vs. Part 61 even mean.

Both training methods are actually a reference to the regulations that govern them a.k.a. the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs).

FARs govern everything in the world of aviation, from the type of training you receive to when maintenance is required on airplanes.

As you pursue various licenses and ratings you’ll come to know the FARs quite well.

Part 61 outlines exactly what you need for pilot certification while Part 141 governs training from flight schools.

An easy way to look at it is a solo certified flight instructor could train you under Part 61 but if they are not part of an approved Part 141 school, they could not train you under those regulation.

Only FAA approved flight schools that have met all requirements are able to train under Part 141.

To figure out which is best for you watch the video below or continue reading.

What is the Difference Between Part 141 and Part 61 Flight Training?

The primary difference between the two is the minimum number of hours you have to fly to become a pilot and the standardized curriculum you’ll be taught.

You’ll learn the same material as you go through both training methods but at a Part 141 school you’ll typically move more quickly.

Both methods require you to meet the same standard of performance to obtain a pilot certificate, and you earn the same exact pilot certificate regardless of which regulations you train under.

Neither system is better than the other; there are pros and cons of both, but ultimately it’s a matter of personal choice. It all depend on your specific needs and goals.

Flight Hours for Part 141 vs. Part 61

Under Part 61 someone pursuing their private pilot needs to fly a minimum of 40 hours. Under Part 141 you only need to fly a minimum of 35.

While this may sound like a huge perk it’s important to note that the national average for obtaining a private pilots license is between 65-70 hours regardless of the type of training.

Where the FAA minimum requirements really matter is if you are going for your commercial certificate.

Under Part 61, you’ll need to log 250 total flight hours. But you can do so in any way you want. Go visit family, take friends flying, go to a fly-in, and have fun with it!

Under Part 141, you’ll only need to log 190 flight hours, but only if all the hours are flown in the schools approved aircraft, all ratings are attained in the minimum hours, and every flight follows a pre-approved syllabus.

Curriculum for Part 141 vs. Part 61

Part 141 schools offer a very structured training environment.

This can be great for those of you who thrive in more strictly organized settings, but for others – especially those not interested in pursuing a career in aviation – it may be too rigid.

Many Part 141 schools may not allow you to choose your instructor, however most good ones will allow you to be reassigned to another instructor in cases of incompatibility.

Just getting started with your flight training? Check out our article on the best flight bags for student pilots to help you start collecting the gear you’ll need for training.

In order to train students under Part 141 regulations, a flight school must go through a strict FAA approval process, meet certain FAA requirements, and have each curriculum reviewed and approved by the FAA.

In addition, Part 141 schools are subject to regular surveillance audits by the FAA and must meet minimum pass rates on the practical exams.

Part 61 instruction on the other hand isn’t generally as strict in organization of the material.

While you’ll learn the same material as part 141, you’re instructor doesn’t’ need to follow a specific order and can teach in whatever order they choose.

In general, Part 61 instruction moves at a slower pace.

The main advantage of Part 61 flight training is the added flexibility. Since you aren’t following a strict training plan you can bounce around a bit more in your training.

Part 61 training is particularly well suited for pilots who aren’t planning on working professionally.

So if you’re planning on learning on a part time basis, Part 61 is probably for you.

Still not sure which one is right for you? Nathan, our head of sales is an expert at helping future pilots find the best training to meet their needs. Give him a call or send us a message here.

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Study Tips for the FAA Knowledge Test

Study Tips for the FAA Knowledge Test

Taking your written exam for your private pilot license may seem a bit daunting but it doesn’t have to be. In this article we’ll share some key points to help with your FAA written test prep.

What is the FAA Written Exam?

With every pilot certificate or rating, there is an associated FAA written test that must be taken. Keep in mind that you must meet the minimum age requirements for your specific test.

You will usually have 2-3 hours to take your exam. These exams typically have between 40-100 questions and, in most cases, you must have a score of 70% or higher to pass.

How To Study for the FAA Exam

This may sound silly, but you need to actually study. So many people think they can meet with their instructor, listen to them talk, and then pass the written exam.

It just doesn’t work like that. You’ll need to spend time on your own prepping. We recommend taking practice tests repeatedly. If you can take three practice tests consecutively and score over 85%, you’re probably ready.

To help you find these practice tests we’ve compiled a list of resources that you can utilize.

The following is a list of FAA written test prep programs available:

*Sheppard Air does not offer test prep for the private exam.

What to Bring to the FAA Written Exam

The written test must be taken at a designated FAA Testing Center like the one here at Thrust Flight.

Before your exam, make sure you have all your necessary forms of legal identification and an endorsement from your instructor.

Forms of ID

Acceptable forms of identifications must be valid and current and include the following:

  • Photo
  • Date of Birth
  • Signature
  • Physical,residential address

If your ID does not state your current physical address you can still use that ID so long as you also have a form of address verification.

If you’re under 18 your legal guardian can present an acceptable form of ID and verify your identity.

For more information regarding acceptable forms of ID and Address Verification visit the FAA’s website.

Don’t forget to bring any necessary endorsements or authorizations for your FAA Exam.

Prohibited and Allowed Items

Once you’ve been checked in by your proctor you will be required to leave behind any personal items such as:

  • Cellphones
  • Smartwatches
  • Advanced Calculators (anything above 4 function)
  • Supplements
  • Paper/Pens/Pencils

Be sure to leave these items in your vehicle or, if the testing center has them, in a locked container. Each facility is different so ask beforehand.

Your proctor or yourself may provide the following for your exam:

  • A manual or electronic ESB6
  • Plotter
  • Pencils
  • scratch paper
  • Ear Plugs

After the Exam

After finishing the test, all materials such as scrap paper, pens/pencils, and other exam materials will be collected.

Do not leave the facility until you verify that your information matches your ID and pilot certificate.

Your proctor will print out and emboss your score sheet.

After you leave you cannot come back to the facility to make changes to your information. Make sure you hold onto your score report since you’ll need to present this to the examiner when you take your checkride.

Taking an exam can be stressful but by following these tips and being well prepared, it doesn’t have to be.

If you study your materials and follow this procedure, you’ll be more than ready for your FAA Written Exam!

Not sure what the next step is after your FAA written exam? Check out our complete guide to becoming a pilot.

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