Myths and Complaints About Designated Pilot Examiners Discussed

As someone who has been acting as a DPE for a significant period of time and still currently provide CFI services to clients, I hear all kinds of assumptions and myths about DPEs.

After recently encountering a few of these myths, I thought I’d try to help explain the job that DPEs do and the services we provide to the aviation training community. There are many myths and misconceptions about why DPEs do some of the things they do, and I think it is important to help dispell them.

While I don’t claim to speak for all DPEs, I wouldn’t be surprised if many examiners would agree with my observations on the following.

Examiners Charge too Much, Need to Charge Less, or Should Provide Practical Tests for Free

Yes, we actually get told that examiners should do this for free, should not charge any more than a flight instructor charges per hour, or that the FAA should have a capped national price level.

Ok, “free” is just a silly recommendation. As an examiner, I can come back and say, “then why don’t flight training providers provide their aircraft for free?” Their answer is that they are in business to make money. The same is true of examiners. We work hard to gain the skill and experience to become examiners, keep our qualifications current, and provide the service. Charging for that service is a business endeavor. If examiners couldn’t expect reasonable compensation, why should they do the job?

I personally wouldn’t bother to go through all of the work and take on the liability that comes with being an examiner for free. Continue reading

Government Shutdown Effects on FAA Testing/Training

UPDATE 2:30pm 1/22/18 – A short term funding extension has been passed so tomorrow things should be back up and running. As long as no other shutdowns develop, it should be back to normal operatons.

Deja Vu all over again. I wrote almost the same thing in 2013. So, it made figuring out the effects easy(ish) again.

We all are hoping that the government shutdown will be over soon, but in the meantime, a few effects that will be felt during any continued government shutdown on airman testing, training, or certification: Continue reading

Local Airport Conditions Information (and a Lack Therof) During Winter Operations

While we all may be starting to wish Old Man Winter will take his leave of us soon, we still have a couple months of operating our aircraft, and Wings of Mercy trips during the colder season. This season brings with it challenges for pilots in obtaining current information about runway conditions that can be important to our decisions of what taxiways, runways, or even airports may be the best to use for some of our flights.

NOTAMs are the primary official delivery mechanism for current information such as closures of things like runways, taxiways, or even airports, but many times these are not issued for very “temporary” conditions. Which means a pilot may not be able to find critical information for flight operations through official sources. Certainly, check those NOTAMs, but in some cases, at smaller airports that may have less staffing infrastructures and official reporting practices especially, a well-placed phone call prior to a departure when any questions exist can be well worth the time.

Not all airports are all that good about getting current NOTAMs out for changing conditions. In many cases, airports are plowed, operated, and/or managed by the local municipality who has little interaction or even interest with day-to-day flight operations. Local road crews just plow the runway as a part of their normal route. Sometimes, this is right after the storm, sometimes, it can be days. Knowing what current conditions really are may mean doing a little more research than a pre-flight briefing. Continue reading

Landing Where Seaplanes Go…but on Wheels (or Skis)

‘Tiz the season for cold weather flying, and in a few cases, pilots may find the opportunity presents itself to do a few landings on a frozen lake or two!

For pilots from the further north, the question of whether to do this is not a matter of if, it’s just a when each season these landings become a part of normal general aviation operations. Sometimes, the ice is in better condition than the runways! Southern pilots who have never done this may think we are crazy, and those of us that live in the middle zone of the country (I happen to live in Michigan), find that we get lucky enough with the right conditions to be able to do this some years and not others. With that said, under the right conditions, there is no reason it can’t be done safely.

Now, there are a bunch of precautions that I obviously must recommend, but when the conditions are right, it can be a unique and pretty fun way to spend an afternoon of general aviation flying.

First question, is the ice thick enough?

Naturally, no-one wants to sink their aircraft to the bottom of a frozen lake. So, making sure the ice is thick enough, and I mean consistently, is the first task to even start thinking about if you are going to try to make some landings.

There are general rules of ice thickness that can be considered for comparable objects, such as people, vehicles, or other things. If we extrapolate those weights and compare them to some aircraft, we find that for most general aviation aircraft it is a good idea to make sure there is at least 7- 8 inches of ice before considering any landings.

Continue reading