The Quad Cities area is home to a lot of pilots, retired pilots and inactive pilots. Many of these pilots are what we in the aviation business call “rusty pilots.” These are pilots who haven’t flown for some time and are not current under Federal Aviation Regulations. Quite frequently, these individuals will not be up on the latest regulation changes or all the technology changes that have become pervasive in the aircraft cockpit.
For example, when I learned to fly, all calculations were done on printed maps, with rulers and a mechanical E6B calculator, which, for those of you who haven’t seen one, you can kind of think of the E6B as a rotary slide rule.
Today, most preflight planning is done on phones, tablets and computers. The leading two applications in this market are ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot. Both applications are nearly as simple as using Google Maps to plan a trip from point A to point B, except it is in the air. These applications are integrated with live weather data, so your actual time on a route leg can be calculated precisely. If you’ve entered your airplane’s information correctly, such things as fuel used and time in route are calculated automatically. These calculations could easily take an hour or more on a flight with multiple legs when I learned to fly, yet today can be done in minutes quite literally on your phone at the airport.
The technology change extends to the cockpit as well. Pilots my age learned to fly on what we call “steam gauges,” which are six analog instruments that provide information like airspeed, rate of climb, altitude and so on. We were taught to develop a “scan” among these instruments so you could gather critical information on what your aircraft was doing in flight very quickly.
Today, in most new aircraft, the cockpit is what we call “glass” or display screens. The newest screens are touch screens, as in Leighnor Aircraft’s Aeroprakt A22LS. These systems have the same capability that the phones and tablets have, with even more functions. For example, the federal government is phasing in ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast) as a requirement. This system gives real-time air traffic information on digital cockpit displays. So, on the moving map, you will literally see where other aircraft are and what direction they are moving.
To put it very mildly, the “scan” requirements in a modern glass cockpit airplane are far different from the old steam gauge cockpits. There is far more information presented in a far more concise and graphical nature.
Then there is the Federal Aviation Administration. I’m sure I’ll surprise no one when I say that the regulatory environment continually gets more complicated as regulations get written and changed over time. It is quite important for a pilot to be up to speed on his or her compliance requirements under the FAA, as the agency can be quite unforgiving when a regulation gets broken.
For many in the general aviation community who aren’t paid professional active pilots, such as myself, there are times in our lives where we can’t fly. The house, the car, the kids, college – life in general –happens. Aviation as a hobby is quite expensive and there are other priorities. In my own life, there have been years where I didn’t fly for many of the above reasons. Then life changes and we are able to get back into it. If you love flying, that desire never goes away.
I have heard this story numerous times since Leighnor Aircraft started in business in 2017 – probably dozens of times in the two plus years.
If you’re a rusty pilot and want to get back to flying, it can be done. Training aircraft such as our C-162s or A22 are quite simple to fly. They have no bad habits or quirks that make the pilot work hard to stay on top of the airplane.
In addition to air skills, a rusty pilot really needs to sit down with an instructor and understand what’s changed since he or she last flew. For example, the medical changes alone would consume an entire article to explain. Likewise, regulation changes need to be covered to avoid a painful encounter with the FAA.
If the rusty pilot hasn’t been exposed to the new technologies, that pilot really needs to understand these changes and how to work with them because technology is only going to get more advanced over time.
It is possible to get back into flying after a long absence. QCBN
By Lance Leighnor
Lance Leighnor has four decades of experience in general aviation aircraft, and active management of rental aircraft since 2011. Lance is the managing member of Leighnor Aircraft. He can be reached by phone at 928-499-3080, by email at lance@LeighnorAircraft.com or via the Leighnor Aircraft website at LeighnorAircraft.com.