Top 10 Flying Tips of 2015

Review this year's best pilot practices.

As we make our resolutions for the new year, vowing to shed bad habits and start fresh, one of the things we will want to continue to carry with us is the knowledge we have gained and lessons learned over the year to remind us of how to be the best and safest pilots possible. With these top 10 tips, as selected by what was the most read this year, no matter what level your skills are at, they are sure to offer a head start for improving your flying techniques in 2016.

Tip Final Approach
10. Energy Management on Final
Too many pilots who fly larger, more complex airplanes ignore the art of energy management in the pattern, flying all the way to the ground well above stall speed and landing fast with a very low descent rate. Normally these types of landings will work out OK with a satisfying squeak of the mains, but it's bad form. Carrying excess speed into the roundout means landing longer with more wear on tires and brakes and greater risk for damage or injury if something goes awry. Read the full "Energy Management on Final" tip here.Purdue
Tip Spiral Dive Recovery
9. Spiral Dive Recovery
How should you recover from a spiral dive? First, immediately reduce power to flight idle. Then bring the airplane to wings level with coordinated use of aileron and rudder. Finally, use elevator inputs to bring the airplane to straight and level flight, keeping in mind that at the high airspeed you risk structural failure, and you may eventually need to start applying forward elevator to keep the nose from rising too much. Read the full "Spiral Dive Recovery" tip here.YouTube screenshot
Tip Throttle
8. After Landing Check
To prevent the disappointment of an aborted departure, you could add a post flight runup. Just because the engine appears to run smoothly in flight doesn't mean that a problem has not occurred. It's better to catch it after you land than just before you are ready to take off on your next adventure. Read the full "After Landing Check" tip here.Stock
Judging VFR Cloud Distances
7. Judging VFR Cloud Distances
How can we know if we're really 2,000 feet from a cloud, or perhaps closer, say, 1,000 feet instead? There are some tricks you can use to approximate your distance. The first is to look at the area on the ground that the cloud is over. Find a prominent landmark and refer to your sectional chart to determine how far away you are. If you can't tell exactly what point the cloud is over, look for the shadow the cloud is casting on the ground to get an approximate location. Read the full "Judging VFR Cloud Distances" tip here.Stock
Small Airplane on Takeoff
6. Calculating Cruise Climb Speed
In general you should consider climbing at a speed closer to Vcc (cruise climb speed) anytime the conditions don't specifically warrant a steeper, slower departure. Not only will a cruise climb departure keep your deck angle lower for better visibility, it's more comfortable for passengers. Most importantly, it gives you extra airspeed to account for your reaction time to an engine emergency right after departure. After all, those extra feet of altitude aren't going to be of much help if you let your airspeed decay toward an imminent stall because you were so slow to begin with. Read the full "Calculating Cruise Climb Speed" tip here.Adrian Pingstone/Wikipedia
Beech Sierra Retractable Gear Takeoff
5. Get the Gear Up
During the takeoff the engine is pushed to the max right near the ground, making it one of the most critical phases of flight. Should the engine fail, there is not much time to investigate or think through the best course of action before the airplane hits terra firma. It is therefore a great idea to get as high as possible as soon as possible. And in a retractable airplane, one way to achieve that goal is to get the gear up as soon as practicable. Read the full "Get the Gear Up" tip here.FlugKerl2/Wikipedia
Stall/Spin Safety NTSB Most Wanted
4. Avoiding Loss of Control
Like in so many instances related to aviation, avoiding loss of control risks is a matter of breaking the first link in the chain of events leading to an unrecoverable loss of control or breaking the link after loss of control has begun (which, by the way, is much harder to do). This starts with gaining a thorough understanding of aerodynamics as they relate to stalls and angle of attack. Read the full "Avoiding Loss of Control" tip here.Sudbury Aviation
Crosswind Landing
3. Handling Really Strong Crosswinds
What should you do? Head for another airport with a runway better aligned with the wind? That's certainly one option, but you have another alternative you might not have considered. You were probably taught to crab into a crosswind on final approach and then "kick out" of the crab in the landing flare while simultaneously banking into the wind and applying opposite rudder to maintain a straight track. But what if the wind is so strong that you run out of rudder effectiveness and can't track the runway centerline? That's when it's time to employ the crab/sideslip combo method. Read the full "Handling Really Strong Crosswinds" tip here.Stock
Vent the Engine Release Steam
2. Vent the Engine
Are you in the category of pilots who park the airplane, lock it up and leave as soon as you land from a flight? You may want to take some time to hang out with your aerial chariot for a while after it gets you safely on the ground. Opening up the inspection door in the nose and removing the oil cap can prevent corrosion from building inside. Read the full "Vent the Engine" tip here.Supplied
Groundlooping a Skyhawk
1. Groundlooping a Skyhawk
If you land a tricycle gear airplane with a quartering tailwind, you'll not only land faster you'll also risk groundlooping if you attempt to exit the runway onto a taxiway at high speed and then in a panic hit the brakes. The result could be a bent wing or worse. The advice here, obviously, is to always land into the wind. If you can't for some reason, be mindful of the effects of a tailwind and directional changes in tri-gear airplanes. Read the full "Groundlooping a Skyhawk" tip here.Stock

For more helpful articles on staying proficient, check out our tip of the week section here.

Or continue looking back on the year with our "Top 10 Viral Aviation Videos of 2015."