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Checkouts

I quite agree with BPF here (though not to disagree with others). Particularly the briefing part. To my discredit (though steep learning curve), much of my earlier "checking out" was horribly informal. The boss suggesting to a client that having me go for the flight with him would be a nice idea. I thought I was going to keep someone company, the boss thought I was going to keep him out of trouble in a 185 amphibian, headed to the outland for the day.

Neither of us really knew what I was doing there, and that was bad. No briefing, and me being timid, and not wanting it offend the rich guy. For a brief time in my career, I figured that if you could afford such a fancy aircraft, you could fly it well. Not necessarily the case I learned. I never had a serious problem, but I learned to pay much sharper attention, and a few times had to quickly make a suggestion about how the flight could be safer right away. From that, and a few other experiences, I learned that if I was anything other than a passenger, there would be a briefing. Out of respect, it would begin with my asking if the other pilot would like to give me a briefing. 19 in 20 had only a surprised look. The other one suddenly reminded me that I only need be a passenger. The briefing had at least :"I will.... you will.... and if X, I will....". Though nowadays for me, a two crew test flight briefing is probably 30 to 60 minutes for the first one, shorter after that. In the case where I'm test flying with a very experienced pilot, I will say that I will always fly the plane (meaning I'll never give up), unless they say they have control, then they instantly will - no misunderstanding, and only one pilot trying to fly at a time.

My most vivid recollections of my being one of two pilots, and something going poorly, could always be attributed to no or very poor briefing. I can see no reason why a check pilot candidate pilot crew would be any different to need to brief. When I fly twins, or very complex singles solo, I brief myself - but unlike a two crew cockpit, it ends up being "I will... I will, I will and if X, I will...". That's okay, it still rolls it over in my mind again....

Home runway, in central Ontario, Canada

I recently did a checkout ride on a Robin DR400............I asked for it to be for handling and not just 3 T&G circuits as way not experienced (3 1/2 hrs after getting my PPL(A) and one of those was a check ride on a C150)....and never having flown one before and used to yoke not stick.

Downloaded a POH, wrote out all the speeds for various situations on my knee board, I nearly cancelled it as wind was 310/14G30 on r/w27 but was told it would be good for me. No real briefing but CFI did the walk round with me pointing out all the things and happy to answer even the daftest of my questions about the aircraft. Damn hard work flying but yes it was good for me and glad I did it even if advised on 2nd circuit that there was windshear to add to everything else.To complete need to do 3 circuits in "calm" weather which I am happy with. Its their aircraft and as I said I'm a very very low hous newbie.

Suppose too it wont take too much tie to get used to the nose down S&L attitude compared to the C150 and C152 but did seem like aiming for the ground!

Jude

EGBJ, EGBP, EGTW, EGVN, EGBS

BPF makes a really valid point, that I think is far far too often missed. Briefing!

I think that the US and Canada are not, from my experience, as bad - but the UK has a real issue with briefings. Far too often I've seen UK pilots, often quite experienced instructors regard both a brief and a debrief as essentially unimportant. It niggled me often, and when I did my instructors course and learned that best instructional practice is to ALWAYS brief and debrief, it was a massive relief to me. It made me feel that I at-last had a licence to insist that things are done properly.

Which doesn't mean that I haven't still failed on occasion - I did a club currency check recently (at the school I did my instructors course!) to hire a C182 and whilst the flight was extremely thorough, the brief by the CFI was utterly minimal, and the debrief was basically "keep the nose up a bit more on landing". I was focussed on the next flight (a test flight with another instructor and TP in the right hand seat, so I wasn't overly worried) but it was arguably substandard.

No brief, and no debrief was a common experience of my PPL training, and no brief (although not no debrief) was not totally unknown in my CPL training. Most PPLs I've flown with as an instructor seem genuinely surprised at my insistence on a formal briefing of the instructional flight we're about to do.

So best practice, and normal practice - at-least in Britain, are a long way apart.

G

Boffin at large
Various, southern UK.

Let me offer a view slightly to the contrary to some given

It's easy to say that people who don't want checkouts are probably those who need them most, and I am sure that is true most of the time.

But let me recount my experience from when I bought my then-new plane in 2002.

With 1hr on the aircraft, and with an instructor in the RHS (I was not signed off on the type yet) I taxied into a pothole. £20k and 8 weeks off. I now know that if I was an instructor I would do a decent briefing for the customer as to ground risks. It's actually quite hard to crash a normal certified plane (in VMC, anyway) so long as you keep half an eye on the speed and don't do anything crazy. A TB20 is not a Pitts. But there are a 100 ways you can ruin your whole day on the ground. Too many of those, and the insurers won't want you. One needs to exercise a lot of care crossing hard/grass boundaries, etc.

I never found an instructor who knew how the KI525 HSI worked.

No hope at all of finding one who knew how the KLN94 worked, or any of the other kit. Forget the autopilot...

Fortunately most of the stuff was obvious and I worked out the rest myself, while flying on autopilot, over Kent, at 5000ft

These days, there is more knowledge around, but it is still easy for an aircraft owner flying something half decent to get next to nothing out of a checkout flight. The best commonly found instructors are ex airline pilots who are familiar with cunning procedures (example: when descending on autopilot, and not having auto throttle, try not setting an MP so low that the aircraft stalls when it levels off at the target altitude). The best instructors are those current on your type and they are usually very rare and are in great demand; I haven't come across one for 10 years.

For non owner pilots (perhaps those with the least currency) there is ample evidence that PPL training often doesn't cover even the most basic things like planning a flight from A to B in the modern environment i.e. using the internet to get weather, notams (yes notams), and the various "operational" details like why it might be a good idea to give the destination a quick call to check they are open, have fuel, etc.

JAA PPL holders are supposed to have a reval flight every 2 years. Notams have been "around" in a usable form (via the internet) for almost 10 years, yet it's obvious that perhaps half of all pilots flying don't get them. Who does these revalidations? PPL instructors.

I am sure the instructor posters on this thread are professionals, but a big % of the rest of the scene has some way to go yet

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Getting a good checkout other then your run of the mill trainer/tourer is exponentially harder. The proliferation of GPS boxes and glass panels doesn't help as they are all different. In the last 5 months I have flown IFR in aircraft with a KLN 900, KLN 89A, KLN 94, and Garmin 430/530 both as stand alone units and playing through a KMD 550 or MX 200. The bottom line is while I am safe to operate in these aircraft there is no way I could really do justice to a request to do a proper checkout on any of these units as I won't have all of those neet little tricks and gotcha's that makes the difference from bodging along vs really getting the most out of the unit.

Re briefings. When ever I finish any training I get the student to debrief me on what really worked for the student and what he/she thinks could have been done better. Student feedback has been invaluable to me and IMO has made me, and continues to make me, a better instructor.

Wine, Women, and Airplanes = Happy
Canada

Though I don't disagree with the points Peter raises, I do think that they are to some degree off to the side of the core issue, as it applies to your average low time pilot.

It is a certainty that there can be shortages of check pilots qualified on certain types. There are many types that just cannot be found in a rental or "publicly available" environment. That means that your average instructor probably does not have access to them either. This reality extends to the advanced avionics too.

Letting alone for the moment the fancy avionics, it would often be the insurer who requires the checkout. For this, there is very certainly a double standard. I have been called upon to check out a new owner, on type on which I have little or no experience. I read the flight manual, then take the plane, and go practice solo. When I am confident in myself, then I will check out. But, there still would be much more competent pilots on that type than I, if they could be found and hired. The new pilot can't be insured until I sign for him, but I check myself out on the fleet policy which covers me on whatever I fly - the double standard. To the extreme, I was sent to familiarize myself on the Tiger Moth, which type I had flown only twice before, 30 years earlier, so I could train the new owner's training pilot. I did my flying, though the sale fell through, and it still sits... But Peter, I could manage the full function of the avionics in the Moth - none...

That said, I feel great personal benefit from being checked out in something. I can always learn something from another pilot, and work to present an image as a competent pilot myself. I have found myself asking to extend a checkout, when the check pilot told me I was done. Often I find myself thinking to much, and applying too much experience to my flying. A less experience check pilot can (and has) sad "what are you doing? All I would like to see is....". Then I realized I was distracting myself from proper attention to piloting. It does not take super pilot to notice these things - though it might take some nerve to comment them!

I always ask for comments on my flying from other pilots who check me out on type. Not just the type check out, but flying in general. I don't pretend to have it all figured out. The minute I think I can't learn something from another pilot, I'm in trouble! Recently trained pilots have quite different training than I received decades ago. The fact that I have held a license all these years, does not automatically make me current with new techniques and standards. I'm amazed at what I do not know about piloting!

As for the fancy avionics, I used to ferry all kinds of high performance singles. This was back in the 80's, when new avionics, RNAV, Loran and GPS were coming to GA aircraft. I'd be sent off in a plane whose single avionic had a keyboard, and buttons directing where the entered number was to go in the system - and I had to figure it out as I taxied out at an unfamiliar airport. I test flew a Twin Comanche, in which I could not figure out how to turn on the transponder. Turns out, it was turned on by a weight on wheels switch for the transponder - who knew! It happened all over again when I had to test fly a G1000 Caravan, and could not find the radar controls in the layers of menus for 15 minutes.

I simply don't believe that it is possible for any one pilot to be competent on all the different avionics out there. More to the point, the average instructor who is checking out the rental pilot, probably has little access to those avionics, so practice is difficult.

As nice as it would be, I feel that a VFR pilot competence check out should be able to be accomplished without the candidate pilot demonstrating complete knowledge of the avionics. It would be nice, but is not a safety of flight issue for VFR flying, as long as communication is certain, and navigation adequate. If more avionics skill is desired, that is beyond the scope of a basic checkout.

I sure agree that important peripherals (weather, notams, Flight Manual Supplements, and weight and balance) are commonly missed during check outs. I received a checkout on a brand new airplane, for which I read the entire Flight Manual, up to the beginning of the Floatplane Supplement (I was flying the skiplane version, so wheels data applied), to then be checked out. After the flight, I found that there was a whole other supplement after the floatplane supplement, for the wheelplane with fowler flaps (which this plane had). All the speeds, and some of the weights and operation were different. Most of the checkout I had just done was not really valid, and even my check pilot did not know that, until I pointed it out!

There are always things to learn! Lots of times, following a check flight I have done, I have gone back to find something out, realizing that I was not right up to speed for the flight I had just mentored.

Home runway, in central Ontario, Canada

Peter,

and I read about your 2nd mishap with the TB 20 too, in Spain! Ouch! A hidden structure caught you out while taxing I believe!?

I will have my instructor fly with me once a year, and last time (which was actually the 1st time! NOVICE ALARM) that wasn't pretty. He found a lot of stuff for me to work on, bad habits I picked up in my 1st year as PIC etc. Nothing dangerous as such, but a bit of an eye opener for me! Having flown with non-pilots only, I guess it is easy to get comfortable & confident because of cheap compliments from the pax that go something like "Hey, we're still alive; well done pilot!"

Why wouldn't you want yourself being checked out once in a while? What is there to hide? You can only improve from there, I guess......

Ultra Long Hauler

and I read about your 2nd mishap with the TB 20 too, in Spain! Ouch! A hidden structure caught you out while taxing I believe!?

Forgot about that one

It was a metal tube - a forgotten fence post - hidden in the tall grass. Fortunately the wing hit it very lightly, with the landing light cluster which broke, and the tube itself was very loose. No real damage resulted. Lesson? Do not let a wing sweep through tall grass next to a taxiway.

Why wouldn`t you want yourself being checked out once in a while? What is there to hide? You can only improve from there, I guess

I do; I have one check every 2 years for the FAA CPL, and one check every 2 years for the JAA/EASA PPL, and now one check every year for the JAA/EASA IR. That's about $500 worth of checks per year. I may need more but I don't really feel like it

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Peter,

my remark about "why wouldn`t you" was just a general one, not particularly aimed at you!

I think it`s great to be checked by a senior. I believe "PilotDar" lurks about in Latin America sometimes, how great would it be, for instance; to take him up for a spin......or should I say for him to take me up?

I bet he could teach me a thing or two about aircraft handling!

Ultra Long Hauler

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