Top 10 Flying Tips of 2012

Check out our most popular flying tips of the year.

Mastering the Forward Slip

Mastering the Forward Slip

10. Mastering the Forward Slip To perform a forward slip to landing, bring the power to idle and slow to normal approach speed. Pick a point far in front of you and make it your target. To set up the slip, bank into the wind. As soon as you see your target start moving in the windscreen, apply opposite rudder to keep you moving toward your target. For example, apply right aileron and left rudder, or vice versa, depending onthe direction of the wind. Make sure the nose of your airplane during the slip is at the proper attitude to maintain your approach airspeed. To recover from the slip, simultaneously release the rudder pedal and level the airplane with the ailerons. Read the full Mastering the Forward Slip tip here.
METAR

METAR

9. Mastering the Metar A metar is a weather report issued near the end of each hour, while a SPECI is a special metar that alerts pilots of new hazards, such as thunderstorms or low ceilings and visibility that arise during the hour. Metar information is always given in a specific order, and that’s key to understanding how to read one, especially when they get complicated. (It’s also important to realize that if datais missing, such as the altimeter setting, for example, it will simply be omitted.) The order in which metar data is given is: Where; When; Wind; Visibility; Significant Hazards; Clouds; Temp/Dew Point; Altimeter Setting; and Remarks. Read the full Mastering the Metar tip here.
Read the POH

Read the POH

8. Read the POH The emergency procedures in your airplane should be committed to memory, and that means reading the POH long before you ever get behind the controls. You don’t need to remember every word, but you should be familiar with the basics and know the really important numbers and procedures by rote. If you haven’t dusted off your POH in a while, do yourself a favor and take some time to give it a read. Check out the full Read the POH tip here.
The Right Time to Fuel

The Right Time to Fuel

7. The Right Time to Fuel We often preach about how important it is to have enough fuel to get to your destination — odd that running out of gas should stubbornly continue to be a cause of accidents — but there's a flip side to having enough fuel to get where you're going: having too much fuel too soon. Not having enough fuel is the bigger issue, for sure, but you also don't want to have too much or, sometimes, the right amount but too soon. Read the full Right Time to Fuel tip here.
Aviation Shorthand

Aviation Shorthand

6. Aviation Shorthand Categorizing your clearance can really help you make sense of it. As for so many things in aviation, there’s a mnemonic for that. This one is CRAFT. C – cleared to, R – route, A – altitude, F – frequency, T – transponder code. I write these letters on the lefthandside of my notepad and then all I need to do is to copy each portion of the clearance on each line. This method works well for both IFR and VFR clearances. Read the full Aviation Shorthand tip here.
Airplane

Airplane

5. Radio Tuning Done Right The frequency adjustment knobs on aviation radios work just like volume knobs. Turning the knob left makes the numbers go down, turning it right makes them go up. If your radio is tuned, say, to 124.85 and you need to tune in 127.05, turn the knobs for frequency selection to the right, not the left, to reach the desired frequency more quickly and easily. The same goes for nav radios. It might seem like a minor thing, but over the long run it will save you a lot of knob twisting. Read the full Radio Tuning Done Right tip here.
Spatial Disorientation

Spatial Disorientation

4. Learning to Respect Spatial Disorientation Too many pilots get killed every year because they fly into clouds inadvertently. According to the latest Air Safety Institute Nall Report, 518 deaths were caused by VFR flight into IMC conditions in the past 10 years. It’s one thing to get under the hood and having an instructor put you into an unusual attitude. It’s quite another to see what it’s really like to be in the clouds. Even if you have no interest in getting your instrument rating, I highly recommend getting into an airplane with an instructor and getting into the clouds. It will teach you never to trust your inner ear and never to get into the clouds without being instrument rated and current. Read the full Learning to Respect Spatial Disorientation tip here.
Calculating Top of Descent

Calculating Top of Descent

3. Calculating Top of Descent Here’s a tip if you’ve ever wondered when you should start your descent to your arrival airport (assuming you don’t have an FMS with top-of-descent calculation capability). A quick and easyway to figure it out is to start with your altitude above field elevation and multiply that number by three. This will give you the approximate distance in nautical miles from the airport to start a 500-foot-per-minute descent in the typical light general aviation airplane and reach pattern altitude. Read the full Calculating Top of Descent tip here.
Hit the Brakes

Hit the Brakes

2. Hit the Brakes Have you ever advanced the power, gathered momentum on the runway and pulled back on the yoke or stick at the appropriate airspeed — only to be greeted by a shaking in the controls as you lift off that makes your mind start thinking about pre-stall buffets, your uncomfortably high angle of attack and proximity to the trees? If your airspeed is increasing on takeoff and you’re climbing nicely out of ground effect, chances are the vibration you feel through the yoke isn’t a stall buffet at all — rather, it’s probably caused by your slightly out-of-balance tires shaking the airframe as they leave terra firma and keep right on spinning. The remedy, of course, is to briefly step on the brakes to stop them. This is the recommended procedure immediately after takeoff in some retractable gear airplanes Read the whole Hit the Brakes tip here.
Calculating Density Altitude with a Pencil

Calculating Density Altitude with a Pencil

1. Calculating Density Altitude With a Pencil How do we calculate density altitude? There are just two pieces of information you’ll need for a rough approximation: pressure altitude and temperature. Where do you find this information? Easy: for temperature, you look at the thermometer in your airplane. For pressure altitude, set the window in your altimeter to 29.92. Whatever value it reads is pressure altitude. Finding pressure altitude when you're not sitting in the airplane is a bit more complicated, but here’s a nifty formula: pressure altitude = (standard pressure - your current pressure setting) x 1,000 + field elevation. That’s a pretty simple formula since two of the variables will always be the same and the other two are easy enough to find. Let’s say our current altimeter setting is 29.45 and the field elevation is 5,000 feet. That means (29.92 - 29.45) x 1,000 + 5,000 = 5,470 feet. Easy! Now let’s move on to step two, finding density altitude. Here’s the formula: density altitude = pressure altitude + [120 x (OAT - ISA Temp)]. Try this formula the next few times you go flying (or, just for fun, run some scenarios using Microsoft Flight Simulator) and before you know it you’ll be able find your ballpark density altitude without digging in your flight bag for that E6B. Read the full Calculating Density Altitude with a Pencil tip here.