Instructors' Comments

Here is a section where each of Clear Air Aviation LLC's instructors can post comments about flying, including general questions, myths, facts, or insight that they want to share with current or prospective pilots. Comments reflect the individual instructors' ideas and are not a direct reflection of Clear Air Aviation, LLC.
Submit an aviation question to [email protected] that you would like one of the certified instructors to explain or comment on and post the answer here! Your question may help others out there with the same question...
TOTAL POSTS: 3 as of


J. Michael Jeswald (click here for more info on Mike)


June 14, 2015


The question and debate about reintroducing spins to the student pilot training curriculum is still present. Spin training is only required for flight instructor training; those becoming first-time flight instructors.

As certificated instructors, we teach stall/spin awareness for students. The goal is to recognize and recover from stalls, not get you into and out of a spin. You can't spin if you're not stalled. Most deadly spins happen at 500' AGL (above ground level) and are mostly unrecoverable. Spin training will likely not save you there. Stall awareness and stall/spin awareness training will help prevent the spin from even being a condition, thus being the saving technique. Stall training needs to be the emphasis, not spin training.

For example, in driver's eduction courses, is it better to teach someone how to drive carefully and defensively on snowy roads, or is it better to put the students into a spin on the snow and ice to see what happens and teach them to recover? It is as if the concept of going out of control in snow and ice is not understood unless the driver spins out on the ice and snow. I say the prevention training is better than the emergency training, an emergency that wouldn't happen if the prevention methods are adhered to.

Basically, save spins for flight instructor training and aerobatic training, not student pilot training. They are fun, eye-opening, and a great technique for pilots to learn. The case being made here is not "absolute anti-spin training." The spin training should not be added to the student pilot/pre-private pilot training standard syllabus. Either do spin training separately from your primary training as an extra task, or do some extra aerobatic/upset training with a specialized aerobatic flight instructor.



J. Michael Jeswald (click here for more info on Mike)

March 13, 2014


Local designated pilot examiners have come back from their annual reviews with the FAA with a refined directive when administering check rides. The FAA holds the DPEs, and therefore the test applicant, to higher expectations on check rides.

There are a few big topics worth mentioning, and they aren't anything particularly new. Airline and corporate-type cockpit procedures are now expected even at the private pilot level in small general aviation aircraft. They expect to see a passenger briefing (look up the "SAFETY" mnemonic device from the FAA and include it on your before-engine-start checklist (or click "SAFETY" for the link.) Also, they want a takeoff briefing before taking off, particularly what you will do (and equally important what NOT to do) if any abnormalities 1.) arise during the takeoff roll, 2.) immediately after lift off, 3.) during climb out, and 4.) when reaching traffic pattern altitude. Practice these every flight so it is natural and not cumbersome. We do it every flight in the professional flight world and your current training is meant to get you ready for that environment and mindset.

Checklist usage is huge now. Every single procedure you do must be accompanied with a checklist in your hand and referred to so compliance is met. This does not mean you need to bury your nose in it and follow it step-by-step like a robot. However, every phase of flight needs to have a checklist associated with it from preflight, before engine start, taxi, before takeoff, after takeoff, cruise climb, cruise, descent, before landing, after landing, clearing the runway onto the taxiway, and shutdown, to name a few! Even missing one checklist with the associate phase of flight (e.g. forget to run the checklist after clearing the runway onto the taxiway) will cause the examiner to question you. That may not bust you if it is a one-time oops, but it doesn't help! And please, don't forget those clearing turns; we've heard a lot about this during check ride debriefings. If you are wondering if you need to do one, then you have just answered the question with "YES, you do." You'll never get busted for doing one when not needed, but you will get busted if you don't do one when it is needed.

Also, there are increasingly strict and literal interpretations from the Practical Test Standards (PTS,) especially the Special Emphasis Areas (now there are 16  listed in the front.) You need to know limitations of every maneuver and the PTS itself as a physical book. The PTS needs to be incorporated from first lesson, not something you dust off, familiarize yourself with, and cram in at the last minute once you've been signed off to take the flight (practical) test. There is no excuse about the performance tolerances during the check ride, because the answers are given to you ahead of time. The examiner accepts the student's flight instructor's logbook sing off as meaning "they applicant knows what the PTS is, and what is expected and required for each maneuver." Busting on a task because you didn't know what the standards were is no excuse, and no sympathy is bestowed.

Lastly, some written exams have been overhauled, especial the Fundamentals of Instruction (FOI.) This is one of the two written exams a CFI (flight instructor) must take; it is now a lot more in depth, more like a basic college psychology course exam peppered with teaching techniques, but it comes VERBATIM from the FAA's Aviation Instructor's Handbook (FAA-H-8083-9A, published in 2008). Pick up a copy and read it when you start your CFI training. The CFI-Airplane written exam is a bit more technical too. Rumors about the Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) and Private Pilot written exams hint of modest changes as well. 

I hope this information helps refine the training you are completing. It comes to you now because of certain complaints and requests from those that oversee our flight training and evaluate it with the appropriate practical tests. Good luck!



J. Michael Jeswald (click here for more info on Mike)

August 08, 2013



Flying is a year-round activity. The fall is beautiful with the trees' colors and there are opportunities to get a flight in the night hours; the summer days are longer and many social events are scheduled for pilots to congregate at; the spring fills the sky with enthusiastic flyers ready for another season of flight. 

However, many think that we can't fly in the winter; we get this question a lot from people who want to start flight training in the fall/early winter time frame. Although the daylight is limited, winter is one of the best times of year for flying. The air is crisp and sometimes smoother, and visibilities are virtually unlimited due to the lack of summer haze. It's the best time to grab those coveted night time hours, occurring as early as 4:45pm. 

The airplane has optimal performance in the winter since the more dense cold air allows the wing to make more lift, the engine to produce more horsepower, and the propeller to create more thrust (the air is "thicker" when it is cold.) This has a dramatic effect on the airplane performance (sometimes doubling or tripling its climb performance!) Also, most planes do not have air conditioning (we use ram air from flying through the air to cool off in the warmer seasons) but most do have heaters, so the temperature tends to me more comfortable and easy to regulate in the cockpit during the winter.