Recurrent Flight Training

Recurrent Flight Training


As all pilots know, the Federal Aviation Regulations require licensed pilots to go through recurrent flight training in the form of a Flight Review every 24 months.  The regulations require 1 hour of ground review and a 1 hour flight.  This is all that a pilot has to do to legally maintain his or her VFR currency to fly alone in an airplane.  Of course, when passengers are aboard, the pilot has to have done 3 takeoffs and landings in the previous 90 days.

What if the pilot in question hasn’t flown in 20 years?  All the regulations require is 1 hour of ground review and a 1 hour flight.  Kind of scary, isn’t it?  (Any instructor worth his salt would not, however, turn a pilot loose with just those flight review minimums if they haven’t flown in 20 years without an extensive amount of recurrent flight training)

Now, a lot can happen in 2 years in between those flight reviews.  Regulations change, airspace is modified, and skills change (for the better or worse, most often for the worse over a period of not flying).   For a current pilot who flies once or twice a week, those minimums are no problem.  Here’s the thing, though.  Even those current pilots typically don’t do a lot of stall practice or emergency procedure practice on their own.  These are the most critical areas of flight and to only do them every two years leads to a lot of rust building up, sometimes even causing safety concerns in some instances.

Recurrent Flight Training

How to remedy this?  Scheduling recurrent flight training as often as possible with a good instructor who puts you through your paces.  Do this often enough and stalls will become second nature.  The stall warning horn goes off?  Well, lower the nose and add power.  Engine failure?  Switch tanks and set best glide.  Recurrent flight training allows you to become as familiar as possible with your airplane, allowing you to know what to do in every circumstance.

What’s a good recurrent flight training schedule?  There are several options out there.  The WINGs program is a pretty good option, though you will only have 3 flight training sessions in those two years instead of 1, but it’s a good start.  In recent years, the FAA has put out Advisory Circular 61-98B encouraging pilots to begin personal currency programs for themselves.  The suggested schedule for VFR recurrent flight training is every 4-6 weeks.

Faa safety team

Texas Top Aviation highly recommends this suggested schedule, for both VFR and IFR.  The AC doesn’t have a specific recommendation for IFR recurrent flight training, but flying 2-3 approaches a month with an instructor helps keep pilots as proficient as possible in the IFR environment.   This way, the instructor can introduce circumstances in a controlled environment that simulate abnormal conditions that might possibly be encountered in flight.  If those abnormal conditions are encountered, then it will be second nature on how to handle them, leading to less accidents and safer flying habits.

Try to schedule your recurrent flight training every 4-6 weeks and your piloting skills will stay top notch, keeping you safe and proficient in every circumstance.

Cirrus SR22 Owner Completes First Solo



Monte and N565TV

Congratulations to Monte James who, on July 31, 2014, completed his first solo flight!  Monte is the owner of N565TV, a 2007 Turbonormalized Cirrus SR22.  N565TV is a G3 model with an Avidyne panel.  Monte was very excited to complete his solo flight.  He reported very good landings during the flight (he even said the last landing, which was probably his best yet, caused him to break into laughter!).  Texas Top Aviation’s Hank Gibson, Monte’s instructor, took pictures and continued the tradition of cutting Monte’s shirt tail to commemorate the flight.

Congratulations to Monte!


Hank Gibson Earns ABS Instructor Designation


ABS Instructor

Texas Top Aviation is proud to announce that Hank Gibson has completed the training to become an American Bonanza Society Instructor, or ABS Instructor.  He is now qualified to give instruction in Beech Aircraft.

As an ABS Instructor, Hank brings over 2800 hours of flying experience in a variety of aircraft to the cockpit of Beechcraft. Along with his ABS Instructor Designation, Hank is also a Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot (CSIP) and a Cessna FITS Accepted Instructor in both Cessna high and low wing piston aircraft (CFAI+). Hank is proud to add the ABS Instructor designation to his list of qualifications.

The process of becoming an ABS Instructor is quite comprehensive. The coursework consists of 20 powerpoint lessons covering anything and everything related to flying Debonairs, Bonanzas, Travel Airs, and Barons.  The ABS Instructor course is quite in depth and detailed, giving the graduate a full understanding of the Beechcraft piston line of aircraft.  To find out more about ABS Instructors, see the ABS website.

Hank is now giving initial and recurrent training in Beech Debonairs and Bonanzas.  Please visit the Texas Top Aviation Bonanza Training page for more information on Bonanza and Debonair initial and recurrent training.  Interested in Bonanza or Debonair training with a qualified ABS Instructor?  Contact Texas Top Aviation today!



Aircraft Purchase: The Logbook & Pre-Purchase Inspections

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Your about to make your dream aircraft purchase.  The plane has low time on the engine, is reasonably priced, and, according to the seller, has no damage history.  You are overjoyed!  Your dream of making an aircraft purchase is finally coming true.  You prepare your offer for the seller, set up the escrow account, and start all the paperwork.

Two weeks later, the airplane is yours!  You start flying it, though, and the engine starts to have some strange vibrations.  After several flights, it starts to get worse.  You take it to your mechanic to get it looked at and you find out the airplane needs three new cylinders along with some other engine work that is going to total a lot of money.  Plus, your airplane is now going to be in the shop for several weeks.

All that excitement you just had?  It just went out the window.

Could this have been prevented?  Probably so, with a logbook inspection and a pre-purchase inspection.

Aircraft Purchase:  Maintenance Logbooks

Aircraft Purchase: Logbook Inspection

Inspecting a logbook can be very daunting when making an aircraft purchase, especially for older airplanes.  This is, however, one of the most vital steps in making a new aircraft purchase.  You can find out many things from looking at the maintenance logs of an airplane.  First, you can check the compression levels of the engine.  Typically, you want compression levels in the 70’s, with it still being okay in the high 60’s.  Anything below 65 and there could be potential problems.

Second, you can find out if there has been any odd maintenance done pointing to possible unreported damage history.  This is rare, as most aircraft owners are honest and up front when talking about damage history.  But, if there is an entry detailing a prop overhaul after only 50 hours on that prop, you may start to ask some questions.

Third, you can find out how well the airplane has been maintained.  If a lot of maintenance was completed at each annual, even if it was a lot of small things, then the airplane has been maintained by a good mechanic who is very thorough.  This also involves a check of the ADs, Mandatory SBs, SBs, and SLs that have been issued for the airplane.  If all that has been kept up with, it’s a well maintained airplane.

Finally, it gives you a good idea of how much the airplane has been flown.  Sure, the ad online will have the total time and time since overhaul, but you can look at the year by year breakdown of how much the airplane has been flown.  It may have been flown a lot earlier in it’s life, but not quite as much recently.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but airplanes like to be flown.

Aircraft Purchase: Pre-Purchase Inspection

Before making an aircraft purchase, it is extremely vital that whenever you are buying an airplane that you get a pre-purchase inspection done on the airplane.  Even better is getting one done by a mechanic who specializes in that type of airplane (eg. Piper Service Center for Pipers, Cirrus Service Centers for Cirrus, Kevin Mead for PA-46s).  A pre-purchase inspection can save you a lot of money in the end.

There is always going to be some kind of maintenance issue with an airplane being purchased, whether it is big or small.  Once a pre-purchase inspection is completed, you can take the findings to the seller and negotiate for a lower price based on those findings, or just have the seller fix the items before the sale is completed.

I would recommend having the seller fix the problems before the sale is completed.  Even though it may take a little longer for the sale to be completed this way, you’ll get to enjoy your airplane right away instead of it being in the shop the next several weeks after you complete the purchase.

There is the circumstance where the  pre-purchase inspection reveals some serious airworthiness issues which would cause the deal to be voided.  Always put this clause in a purchase agreement, giving you, the buyer, an out if there are serious airworthiness issues.

When it comes to making an aircraft purchase, it is not a process to be rushed.  Slow and steady usually gets the best airplane for the money, giving you years of enjoyment in the future.

Looking to make an aircraft purchase?  Daunted by all the work that’s involved to find a good, quality airplane?  Let Texas Top Aviation do your aircraft search for you!  To learn more, visit Texas Top Aviation’s Aircraft Purchase Consultations page.

The Piper Saratoga Turbo


Piper SaratogaRecently, I assisted with the delivery of a 2007 Piper Saratoga Turbo from San Antonio to New York City.  It was a very nicely equipped airplane, complete with a Garmin G1000 panel, an STEC 55x autopilot, and air conditioning.  The owner joined me on the flight back to get trained in the airplane, getting him comfortable in it over our 2 day excursion back to NYC.  Total flight time was 12 hours, though that did include several stops along the way and landing practice at the airports we stopped at.

The 6 seat Turbo Saratoga is a very comfortable, very capable flying machine.  It is made for hauling, with a gross weight of 3,600 pounds, but that’s not to say it isn’t lacking in comfort, either.  The rear cabin has 4 seats, 2 facing forward and 2 facing rear.  It would be a little tight for 4 full size adults in the back seat.  To avoid knee knocking, the plane is an excellent 4 person and bags aircraft (or 4 adults and 2 kids).

The really nice part about the Piper Saratoga is the baggage door.  Unlike the Bonanza, the Piper Saratoga has a baggage door that opens to the baggage compartment, creating a much easier way to load and unload baggage.  The nose baggage compartment, which holds an additional 100 pounds, is a very nice feature, allowing the bag load to be spread out.

Piper Saratoga Inside

We typically saw cruise speeds of 155-165 KTAS depending on altitude.  The highest we went was only about 9,000 feet, so we didn’t get up real high to see what the single turbo could do.  Even though the Lycoming TIO-540 engine burns about 20 gallons an hour, with 102 gallons of gas on board, the fuel consistently outlasted our desire to continue flying.

Being equipped with the G1000 was a very nice feature of this particular Piper Saratoga.  The screens are nice and big, larger than the displays on a high wing Cessna or a Corvalis.  That allows for easier viewing of approach plates, NEXRAD, and the engine gauges.

There are always downsides to an airplane, and the Saratoga is no exception.  The STEC Autopilot leaves some to be desired as I felt it hampered the capability of the G1000 when shooting approaches because the 12 knot crosswind limitation on the autopilot. You can still use the autopilot on an approach with higher than 12 knot crosswinds, but the autopilot tends to search around for the final approach course.

The air conditioning works very nicely, though it did have a tendency to freeze up at altitude.  We discovered that quickly and just decided to turn it off and leave the blower on, since it was cool enough up high anyway.

Overall, the Turbo Saratoga is a very nice airplane.  The speed leaves a little to be desired (you can get 10 KTAS more out of a Bonanza with a Continental engine, about 20 knots more if it is a Turbo Bonanza), but it is very high on comfort.  The Piper Saratoga makes for a good family airplane or as a hauler.  I liked the airplane a lot and thoroughly enjoyed my time in it.