AOPA President Craig Fuller (Still) Seeking a New Training Paradigm

You would think that the AOPA would have the answer by now to the question…”How are we going to grow the pilot population?” Yet in the November issue of AOPA Pilot they are still asking the same question.

The AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to general aviation, was incorporated on May 15, 1939. That means they have had 71 years to figure it out…right? Wrong!

Let me save Mr. Fuller a lot of time and money by giving him a list of things that prohibit the growth of the pilot population.

Aircraft Purchase/Rental Costs

Cessna 172 (New) – $269,500 (Should I live in a house or an airplane?)
Cessna Skycatcher (New) – $112,250 (This is an affordable entry aircraft?)

Cessna 172 (Rental in Western NY) – $110.00 WET Hobbs
Cessna 172 (Flying Club Rental in Western NY) – $69.00 WET Tach

Instructors – $25 to $45 per hour.

Your mileage can and will vary by state and airport.

Training Facilities

Classrooms are pretty rare, informal training areas are the most common; however some have neither a classroom nor a dedicated spot for instruction.

Part 61 or 141

Part 141 schools are audited by the FAA and must have detailed, FAA-approved course outlines and meet student pilot performance rates. Training under Part 61 rules doesn’t have the same structure and paperwork requirements. The keyword here is “structure”.

Since I have taken part in both types of flight schools let me say that structure is GOOD and most Part 61 offerings are seldom structured and therefore there is little accountability.

Accountability is GOOD because poor instructors can get the boot! We also we might have statistics as to which flight training locations are good or BAD both in personnel and equipment, so that negative experiences can be reduced. Right now this doesn’t happen!

I would recommend that we have just one standard that formalizes ground and flight training so that we are all working from the same playbook, or better yet…”process”…so that no matter where you are located in the United States you have a similar experience.


Aviation is going through a technology shift. Industry is putting out aircraft that have high tech glass displays and instrumentation that would have made an F-14 pilot in 1985 green with envy. The old pilots aren’t too keen in learning this stuff (cause they don’t need to) yet the 30 something prospective pilot might be faced with adopting this type of aircraft.

Can a student pilot off the street learn a glass paneled Cirrus SR22 quicker than a Cessna 172 steam gauge plane? You tell me. My guess this that it’s going to take a lot more time (and money) to be proficient. How many average flight instructors have enough training to even train in Cirrus aircraft?

In a glass cockpit you manage systems and somehow still fly the plane. I just took a Garmin G1000 FITS class and know that glass is NOT the same animal. I have my certificate for the FITS class, but what I learned the most is that I don’t know much after 6 hours in class. Thankfully the class was free since I am a member of the Civil Air Patrol. This class is required in order to start training in the glass Cessna 182.


Growing in number but not by leaps and bounds are female pilots. However, many local GA airports are not female friendly in their approach in welcoming women interested in aviation. This is changing, but I would say that a 30 to 1 male to female ratio in the pilot world would be a generous ratio. I was lucky enough to have a woman ground instructor who also did flight training with me for a short while. From that experience I was able to see how important it was to have classroom instruction and was inspired to earn my Advanced Ground Instructor certificate so that I could teach some day.

Airport Environment

It’s a new world. Airports are guarded, gated communities…and then after 9/11 it got even worse. Look at things today! I can’t sit and watch commercial planes take off and land at KROC without getting questioned by police. And I am not even on airport property when I get questioned. I am on private property on the opposite site of a road, far from the fence near the field that spans a quarter mile from the fence to the threshold, and still get questioned. What the hell?

Fuel Costs

Need I say more?

Hanger Fees

Need I say more?


Pilots are an interesting group. Thanks to twitter I am finding younger ones that I can strike up a conversation with, without having to pay for the advice. But if you take away twitter you won’t find much interaction at the airport. Most pilots are Lone Ranger types who don’t want to hang around much let alone share any passion about flying with others.

Another problem I see are planes rotting…literally…at the airport from lack of use. Absentee pilot’s who kind of got their ticket, a plane and then just kind of let things go are nowhere to be found. I’ve put out feelers to see if they want a partner, or want a second set of eyes so they could fly…nothing! It seems that a plane in a hanger or tied down, not used by its owner or anyone else is fashionable. My question is….why don’t you just sell it and rent as needed?

Mentoring and Support

Whether you are a student or a pilot it’s good to have a mentor….or at least a flying buddy. We need to push for this not just for students, but for all pilots. Expecting a flight instructor to do everything is not fair to them. We as pilots needs to step up and promote our industry and see that the next pilot can climb higher, quicker and have a good experience.

I am at a crossroads now trying to decide if I should go for my Instrument Rating. Since my private pilot instruction never included IFR (or flying through anything that looked like a cloud), I don’t know what to expect. It would be nice to find a competent person who could take me safely into the clouds so as to make my decision a bit easier. This would require some technology infrastructure to allow the matching of interested parties.


Yes, I saved the best for last! Perhaps the biggest spoiler (no pun intended) is the concern about getting sued because you were kind enough to take a person up only to have the engine quit with a serious injury or worse as the unintended outcome. No good deed goes unpunished!

I don’t have the data but my assumption is that if something goes wrong, everyone gets sued…and in the proper order to collect the most money. This is probably the biggest reason why I will never be a CFI. How much protection any of us really have against getting taken to the cleaners is not known and I don’t think there ever will be protection from getting sued regardless of how much of the accident was our fault.


So there you have it Mr. Fuller, a quick list of things that keep student pilots from coming on board and a few items that keep pilots being more inviting and helping others. I am sure we all have our own stories we could tell!

For me the bottom line is and always will be money. I combat this problem by trying to make every flight count for something. For me each flight needs some ROI and this year I earned the following:

Complex Endorsement
High Performance Endorsement
Advanced Ground Instructor Certificate

I fly to keep my 90-day currency and when I can I will do some night flying since night currency is not a requirement.

My goals for 2011 will be to earn my Instrument rating and completing a form 5 in a CAP G1000 equipped Cessna 182. Will this happen? Who knows! But it won’t be because I’m not trying, or  I don’t want to fly or that I don’t love aviation.

Mr. Fuller I will be saving my money for flying. I won’t be giving to a PAC fund, joining a wine club or buying Christmas (Holiday) cards. Don’t take that the wrong way…I know GA needs my support and the best way I can support it is by flying at my local airport and becoming a friendly, giving pilot who shares the joy of flight with others.

AGI Exam Passed

Today I passed my Advanced Ground Instructor exam. Having done that, along with having passed my Fundamentals of Flight exam means that I can get my Advanced Ground Instructor certificate and potentially get paid to teach student pilots and current pilots on the ground.

An advanced ground instructor can provide the required knowledge training for any certificate issued under part 61. That means, private, commercial, airline transport pilot, etc.

I now need to contact the Rochester Flight Standards District Offices (FSDO) present my FOI and AGI exam scores and walk out with a temporary airmen certificate for Advanced Ground Instructor. My official one will be mailed to me a few weeks later.

Next project…REST and then in 2011 concentrate on my Instrument Rating.

Today You CAN See Barry Fly

Today’s flight was a cross country from Penn Yan, NY (KPEO)  to Olean, NY (KOLE) and then 12 mile hop over to a grass field in Great Valley, NY (N56). Our mission was breakfast at Eddy’s Restaurant which is just across the street from the grass strip in Great Valley.

Special thanks to Gordy Young. Because of his efforts I finally have video instead of words to describe my first grass field landing. Before we see turf however, we stop in Olean just to say we did and in the process see a bi-plane back taxiing on runway 22!

I have never been to either of these airports before so this was a real treat. We had fall colors, blue skies, smooth air and time to relax and enjoy the flight. It was a GREAT DAY!!!

See Barry Fly! On our way to Olean, NY (KOLE)

Wind Turbines near Cohocton, NY

Landing at KOLE (Olean, NY)

Line up and wait take off at KOLE (Olean, NY)

Grass strip landing at N56 (Great Valley, NY)

What’s on the Menu at Eddy’s Restaurant?

Valley fog near N56 (Great Valley, NY)

Checklists – Got to Use Them!

On Saturday I flew. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do or where I was going to go. You could say I was in limbo; I just wanted to be in a plane. I probably could have saved some money and just camped out in the Cherokee on the ramp, but instead I started the engine and headed out.

As boring as take offs and landing can become for some people, I always enjoy them. Since I didn’t have a specific plan in mind I figured just getting more time in on the low wing Cherokee would be good idea (most of my training was in a Cessna 172).

The Cherokee is very nice plane to fly and I plan on alternating between this plane and the clubs Arrow with the retractable gear. I have yet to solo in the Arrow, which makes flying in the Cherokee that much more important. They obviously have similar panel layouts, except that GEAR and PROP are the main differences between them.

For the Arrow I created a modified CBGUMP checklist and included Cherokee specific items. Below is just a portion of what I have setup.

On Downwind, Base and Final 105-95-85 mph

Fuel Flow – 10 to 12 Gallons
Carb Heat – ON (Cherokee)
Boost Pump – ON
Gear – Down DARK to (3) GREEN < 150
Mixture – FULL
Prop – FULL
Primer – Set and Locked (Cherokee)

But today I was not flying the Arrow and didn’t have a Cherokee only checklist. But if I did it would have looked more like this:

Carb Heat – ON
Boost Pump – ON
Mixture – FULL
Primer – Set and Locked

I have imprinted in my memory a melody for remembering the Arrow checklist. I did this because it’s so important to HAVE THREE GREEN when you extend your gear!

However, today I was going to test myself. After using the checklist a few times I threw caution to the wind and decided to not use the checklist after one of my take offs. So after my sixth landing I flew away from Penn Yan and headed northeast.

As I obtained cruise altitude I shut off the boost pump and my landing light. That concluded my mental cruise climb checklist. I headed across the lake and over toward Finger Lakes Regional. I had heard that the runway was closed so I thought I would check it out. I arrived to see a paving project going on and after I circled to take a good look I headed back toward Penn Yan.

So as I was coming back and watching the low clouds I decided to fiddle with the GPS. Although the clouds were too low for an instrument approach, I played around with it anyway. After a few minutes I decided that it was more important to fly the plane and not bother setting up the GPS, which was pretty much on every screen that I didn’t need to land at Penn Yan.

As I reached the airport I decided to do a mid-field crosswind for runway one. I made all of my radio calls and away I went. I crossed mid-field and turned mid-downwind and came around and landed. As I cleared the active I reviewed my performance and discovered that I didn’t do the following:

Landing Light  – ON
Boost Pump – ON

I never touched these apparently. My landing light could have come on when I did my 10 mile out call, but I didn’t do it.

In the pattern I was occupied by doing something I never really did much as a pilot, a mid-field crosswind, so I lost track and missed out on turning on the boost pump.

My conclusion is that as great as my memory might be for some things, it can’t be trusted to remember all the things that I need for a flight. That’s a fact Jack!

I hate to admit it, but part of me wants to be macho and think “Yeah…no problem…I can do this from memory.” Yet part of me says, “Ya’ know, commercial pilots use checklists.” So it isn’t a sissy thing to use one or admit that you need one. Obviously, it would have been even more important to use it in the Arrow, since the Cherokee’s fixed gear gives me some cover from a seriously dumb mistake.

The fact is that I learn something new EVERY time when I fly! (whether I like it or not)