Combine Harvester in the Sky

Aviation is always going through changes and advances. Some for the better and some for… well, just to see. One thing is for certain. No matter how many gadgets go hi tech in the cockpit or how many structural and performance changes are integrated into aircraft, we still need pilots. Check out this “fan wing” aircraft that is set to debut at next year’s Oshkosh:

Discounted flying

Discounted flying

Lately I’ve been seeing a lot of local ads in my area for “cheap” flight time and low-cost CFI time. I realize that there are a lot of aircraft owners who want their planes to fly as well as a lot of flight instructors who are desperate for flight time. The one thing that keeps popping in my head when I see low-cost rentals is this: How do you afford to keep good maintenance on that thing if you are renting it so cheap?

I’m not saying that the plane is going to quit on you or fall apart because it’s $20hr less than the flight schools down the runway but I do know, and pay attention to this next line because maybe you weren’t aware of this as a pilot, that if something goes wrong in an airplane you can’t pull over on the side of the road. So for my money and the people I love, I think I’ll rent a well maintained aircraft. I wouldn’t hesitate to ask for a maintenance log.

Now comes in the CFI that is offering deeply discounted hourly rates. In my area, the going rate is $45-$55hr for a CFI. One thing that’s clear is that flight instructors are specialists, a CFII or MEI specializes even more! So let’s compare this to doctors, do general practitioners make less or more than, let’s say, a heart surgeon? No, of course not! So therefore I could see a CFI billing $45hr vs. a CFII/MEI billing $55hr. But not $20hr!

If you are a CFI reading this, do yourself a favor and don’t undervalue yourself! Charge the going rate but not half. For one thing you have a skill like not other and people should pay for it. On the other hand, are you really going to give that student 100% of your effort if you just took a “charity” job because you need to hurry and build hours for your resume? Don’t rip off your student’s with lack of your effort when they deserve more. If you are so desperate for time, then just give it away for free. You’ll get your hours faster, on to the airlines faster, making more money faster and you won’t make yourself a disgruntled employee because your only covering your gas to the airport and back.

If you are a student looking for “cheap” CFI time, good luck! You will, in most cases get what you pay for which is not what you deserve. Interview a few CFI’s and compare rates. Remember, would you rather pay for a “discounted” surgeon or buck up and get a good one! “But why would I pay you $45hr when I can get 2.25hrs CFI time for the same price from this guy who only charges $20?”  Dude! Because I don’t sell garbage! I have no problem telling a prospective student that we don’t discount our rates because we don’t discount the quality of our instruction. Yes I’ve lost a few prospects that way, but I’ve also got some very happy students as well.

You can find some good deals out there, you just have to look. For instance, we run a buy two hours of CFI time get one free at time of service. This is something we target towards BFR or PIC students as we know that we are encouraging safety and pilot activity by keeping them flying safe and proficient. This is not a buy 20hrs and get 10 free as I’ve had several calls on that one as well. As a CFI, charge a reasonable rate and provide quality instruction to your students. As a renter, if the deal looks to good, do your homework and find out why that aircraft is so cheap to rent, it could be that it’s been used as a bird’s nest for far too long under those shade hangers! No one said aviation was inexpensive and everyone should know better.

Aviation Weather Resources and Web Links

Here is just a good all around source of web links courtesy of Jeppesen CFI refresher course. Thanks to those guys over there and the AOPA Air Safety Institute!


The National Weather Service (NWS) site has official forecast products including graphic weather products, SIGMETs, and NOTAMs.

NWS’s Aviation Weather Center is becoming an increasingly important source of preflight weather information for pilots. Through this FAA-sanctioned site, you can obtain reports, forecasts, charts, including nearly real-time NEXRAD radar, and all weather information for a standard briefing.

Intellicast offers a number of graphic weather products, including advanced radar data from various sites.

Unisys provides an archive of graphical weather products on its weather site, which are helpful in identifying trends and historical weather patterns.

The Weather Channel is one location to obtain recent radar data for a particular region, as well as general forecast information.

NOAA posts a site with information from wind profiling systems across the nation.

The Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS), sponsored by the National Weather Service, provides graphics depicting winds, turbulence, PIREPs, and other aviation weather data.

The National Weather Association is a good site to obtain educational materials relevant to weather.

Other Resources

AOPA gives access to certain Jeppesen weather services for its members.

Jeppesen provides weather services to pilots and flight departments on a fee-for-service basis

Source: Jeppesen CFI Renewal Online-Weather for Pilots

Air Traffic Control


Air Traffic Control provides a valuable service to all pilots of all levels. At some point in our training or piloting careers, we have to talk ATC. For many students as well as pilots that normally fly out of non-towered airports, communicating with ATC can be awkward, maybe even scary. Keep in mind that on the other side of the radios is a human being who is there to help.
For student pilots, ATC can be a huge asset if you are unsure of things like location, airport layout or simply didn’t understand the last set of instructions. For the private pilot, ATC is there to help you if lost, confused or you simply need progressive instructions. Sure it’s possible that a pilot’s ego may be bruised but as PIC, you are responsible for the safe operation of your aircraft and if that means you need to call ATC for some clarification or to say you’re lost, then do so and worry about your ego when your safely on the ground. Don’t be afraid to speak up!

Aviation Weather

Aviation Weather

You want to go fly and need to find out what the weather will be like. There are numerous sources you can turn to check on the weather regardless if it’s a local flight or a cross country trip.

Your local news forecast can be possible give you an idea of what could be expected but in my opinion is better for those wanting to know if they will be able to mow the lawn tomorrow or not. The aviation community has great weather resources designed just for pilots and flying; use them.

  1. My personal favorite is ADDS put out by NOAA’s National Weather Service. It has just about everything a pilot needs.
  2. DUATS can provide you with crucial weather briefings for those cross country flights while simultaneously filing a flight plan.
  3. Jeppesen also provides a weather page full of resources for pilots.
  4. Universal has an aviation page tailored for professionals that broadcasts weather that may impact flights and commercial travel.

If you’re planning a flight, know your weather forecast. It may look good outside now but things can change in a matter of minutes and us pilots don’t have the luxury of “pulling over to the side of the road” when things get rough.