Commercial Pilot Opportunities

It’s common knowledge in aviation circles today that the airline pilot shortage is real, so if your dream is to fly an airliner for a living, now might be a good time to take the plunge. But what are the requirements? How long will the training take and how much will it cost? How much can you expect to earn after you’re hired? What other jobs can you qualify for that will allow you to get paid to fly while you build time? The answer to these questions depends on who you ask and how much experience you have already, but here are a few basic facts to consider:

Commercial Pilot is not the same thing as Airline Pilot. This is a common misconception among non-pilots and new students. A Commercial Pilot certificate allows you get paid to fly, and is a prerequisite to earning an Airline Transport Pilot (ATP) certificate. While you need 250 hours to qualify for a Commercial Pilot certificate, you need 1,500 hours to earn your ATP and qualify for a position as an airline pilot. How do you go about earning those 1,500 hours?

Flight instructing is by far the most common and cost effective way to build flight time, but it’s not the only way. Decades ago, the airlines filled pilot positions with former military pilots who served as active duty fighter or transport pilots. Today, as most of those pilots have either retired or are nearing the mandatory retirement age of 65, airlines are scrambling to hire civilian pilots who have earned their ratings at a university or flight school. Most of these pilots have built flight time by instructing other pilots, so it’s a self-feeding cycle. But what if you don’t want to be a flight instructor? What else can you do to build flight time?

Consider alternatives such as bush flying, crop dusting, air taxi and air tours. If you’re willing and able to relocate and want to experience other aspects of aviation, you can get a job flying a single-engine airplane with as little as 250 hours of flight time and a Commercial Pilot certificate.

Tailwheel experience is generally preferred or even required for some of these jobs, especially crop dusting and bush flying. Two of Dana’s former students have built very successful aviation businesses for themselves with just a Commercial Pilot certificate. One owns a skydive company and serves as chief pilot, flying twin-engine turboprops; the other owns a crop dusting company and serves as the chief pilot, flying single-engine turboprops. Another former student of ours now flies tourists near his home in the Bahamas.

If your ultimate goal is to fly for an airline, though, we still recommend earning your Flight Instructor certificate and doing at least some teaching part-time to gain valuable pilot in command (PIC) and customer service experience. Our friends who work in the airline industry tell us that while instructing experience isn’t necessarily required today due to the demand, it definitely looks good on a resume. Also, a college degree still seems to be preferred, but is not required by at least some airlines.

Training Costs

Let’s say you’re already a rated pilot, working a non-aviation job and considering a career change. How much additional training and money will it take to qualify for an airline job? It depends on what you bring to the table. I know a woman who, in her late 30s, put her successful photography business on hold to pursue her childhood dream of becoming an airline pilot. She was already a flight instructor part-time and had logged enough flight time to qualify, so she applied, went through the initial jet training, and got the job.

If you’re starting from zero flight time and considering moving into a career as a pilot, here’s a breakdown of what you can expect.

Step #1: Private Pilot — Minimum 40 hours of flight time. Budget $8,000 to $10,000 for aircraft rental and instruction. At Holladay Aviation, you can earn your Private Pilot certificate in our Cessna 150, 152 or 172. You can also purchase and fly your own airplane if you wish, and this can often be a good option if you want to build additional flight time quickly. We offer aircraft purchase consulting services at our regular hourly instruction rate.

Step #2: Commercial Pilot with Instrument Rating — Minimum 250 hours of flight time. Budget another $20,000 to $25,000 for aircraft rental and instruction; less if you fly your own airplane. At Holladay Aviation, we have an FAA-approved simulator to help you earn your Instrument Rating, and a retractable-gear Piper Arrow to help you earn your Commercial Pilot certificate. At this point you’ll be qualified for a variety of single-engine pilot jobs. This may be enough for you. But if you want to be an airline pilot, continue.

Step #3: Flight Instructor — No additional flight time required beyond the minimum for the Commercial, but you can expect to log an additional 10-20 hours of flight time, plus about as much ground instruction, to prepare for the flight instructor test. Budget $5,000 for aircraft rental and instruction. At this point you’ll be qualified to teach others how to fly single-engine airplanes.

Step #4: Multi-Engine Commercial / Flight Instructor — Additional training required to act as pilot in command and teach others how to fly a multi-engine airplane, which is a prerequisite for flying an airliner. Budget another $5,000 – $10,000 of aircraft rental and instruction in a multi-engine airplane. At this point you’ll be qualified to fly and teach in twins. To fly a jet (even a privately owned corporate jet) you’ll need additional time in a full-motion flight simulator and what’s called a “type rating” to fly a specific make and model of aircraft.

Most new airline pilots start out flying a small jet or turboprop for what’s often referred to as a regional airline. Starting salaries for regional airline pilots today range from about $45,000 to as much as $60,000 including hiring bonuses. After earning some jet experience and seniority at a regional, pilots can then apply for a position with a major carrier like Delta, United, American, or Southwest. Airline captains with experience and seniority can fetch salaries of $200,000 or more.

Still curious about what it might take for you to land your dream job as a commercial pilot? Contact us to schedule a consultation in our office.

 




Traveling In Our Cessna 172

Our daughter, Alex, loves to sit up front and help us fly.

Last week we completed another round trip flight from Jacksonville to New Jersey in our Cessna 172, covering nearly 1,500 miles in a little over 16 hours of flying. That’s an average ground speed of about 100 miles per hour. We often refer to the Skyhawk as “the family truckster” because it faithfully and comfortably carries the two of us, our young daughter, our dog and our baggage anywhere we need to go. It’s much faster than driving, less expensive than the airlines — and a lot more fun than either of those two options!

We file IFR on most cross-country flights because it allows us to safely penetrate any clouds or lower visibility conditions that we might encounter. We are conservative IFR pilots and like have at least a 1,000 foot ceiling when we fly, and are always willing to divert to better conditions. We left Jacksonville on Thursday morning with the intention of landing in Norfolk, VA to visit Dana’s mother, who lives in nearby Virginia Beach. But after departing our first fuel stop in Florence, SC, we realized that the morning IFR conditions in Norfolk were not improving as fast as originally forecast.

Using ForeFlight and ADS-B weather input from our Garmin GDL 39 3D, we were able to see that if we continued to Norfolk, we’d have to fly for nearly an hour in the clouds with bases as low as 500 feet above the ground, and then fly an ILS approach into Norfolk. While the flight was certainly possible and within our ability, we chose to instead turn north to where the clouds were much higher. We stopped for fuel just outside Richmond (W96) and then continued on to Lincoln Park, NJ (N07) on an IFR flight plan but in mostly VFR conditions. Our daughter enjoyed popping through some puffy cumulus clouds on the way, and was able to have dinner with her grandparents at the airport cafe.

Hiking with Meredith’s parents along the Hudson River in Cold Spring, NY.

It was rainy and cloudy in New York most of the weekend, but we snuck in a quick hike along the Hudson River. By the time we were ready to leave on Monday, the clouds had lifted and we were able to depart Lincoln Park under VFR, which is actually our preference there. Why? Lincoln Park is a small, non-towered airport wedged underneath the western edge of the New York Class Bravo airspace, and if you want to get an IFR clearance to depart Lincoln Park,  you have to call New York Approach on the telephone and wait your turn in line — much like you’d wait your turn at a busy Manhattan deli. It’s just more efficient to depart Lincoln Park under VFR, and call New York Approach in the air for flight following to the next fuel stop. We could have landed at a towered airport like Westchester County (KHPN) and easily received an IFR clearance on the ground, but considering that we don’t like to depart in low IFR conditions anyway, and it costs a lot more for parking and fuel there, we’re willing to wait for good VFR conditions at Lincoln Park.

That’s exactly what we did Monday morning. By noon, most airports in the New York metro area were reporting ceilings of at least 3,000 feet with good visibility. I’d hoped to fly over Newark Airport to the Statue of Liberty — something I’ve done before and enjoyed very much — but the controller was unable to grant my wish due to a traffic conflict. I was a little disappointed but our priority was to get to Norfolk, so we headed south toward Georgetown, DE, our first fuel stop. We ate a late lunch at the airport cafe and then departed VFR for Norfolk.

Family portrait on the ramp at Signature Flight Support in Norfolk, VA (KORF).

The next morning we said good-bye to Dana’s mom and began making our way back home to Jacksonville. We had a 30-knot headwind departing Norfolk, but climbed above the clouds for a smooth ride at 6,000 feet. Our first fuel stop, Florence, was within reach but at the edge of our personal limit of 3 hours due to the strong headwind. There were also storms developing near Florence, so we decided to amend our IFR clearance and land a little sooner, in Lumberton, NC. We rested there for about an hour while the storms passed, and then departed VFR toward Savannah. Once again our ADS-B weather proved its worth and we navigated southeast of Savannah toward the coast to avoid storms. We landed in Brunswick, GA (KSSI) and grabbed a quick dinner at one of our favorite barbecue pits, Southern Soul. From there it was a quick flight home to Craig.

Our Cessna 172 may not be the fastest or fanciest single engine airplane out there, but it’s a great traveling machine for our family. If you’re a student pilot or thinking about learning how to fly, take a few minutes and imagine where you might travel in an airplane. With enough time and fuel, you can go anywhere!




Digital VFR Flight Planning

When I started taking flying lessons in 2001, smart phones and iPads didn’t exist. Though the Internet was still a relatively new phenomenon, I learned to use it to log into DUATS to obtain my weather briefings. I would cut and paste the contents of the text-only briefing into a Word document, and then delete everything but the portions that I wanted to print out and carry with me for my flight, usually several pages of METARs and NOTAMs. I also carried around a collection of paper sectionals, an Airport/Facility Directory, and my olive green aviation headset in a bulky, multi-compartment, monogrammed Official Pilot Flight Bag. The bag doubled in weight when I started working on my instrument rating and had to lug around several regions’ worth of Instrument Approach Procedure (IAP) books.

Today, my load is much lighter. I fly with only my Bose headset and my handbag, which contains a small notebook, my iPad, and my iPhone. On longer trips I’ll also bring a 12V charging cable or a USB battery pack for the devices. We keep a paper sectional in each plane as a backup, but over the past several years of using my “electronic flight bag” exclusively I’ve never had a need to use any hard copy navigation products in flight.

I accomplish nearly all of my VFR and IFR flight planning using ForeFlight on my iPad, with my iPhone as a backup and quick reference. ForeFlight Mobile is an app that provides access to all of the information and tools I need in one central location. For a base subscription fee of $99.99 per year, VFR pilots using ForeFlight can replace paper charts and achieve enhanced functionality and situational awareness. Apple and Android users can also use Garmin Pilot, which offers similar features and functionality as ForeFlight.

ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot cost a little more than what you’ll pay to maintain a stash of current paper charts and supplements (about $50 a year, more if you buy IFR charts), but they are well worth it when you consider the added features, benefits and convenience these apps provide. There are several free alternatives (FltPlan Go, AOPA Go), but I find ForeFlight to be more full featured, easier to use and well worth the annual subscription cost.

Here’s how I plan and execute a VFR flight using ForeFlight on my iPad. I’ll also offer tips for those of you who are still using paper charts.

Step 1: Plot The Course

One of the greatest advantages of any electronic charting application is that it eliminates the “chart flipping and folding” problem you encounter when your departure airport is on one side of the sectional and your destination is on the other side. Also, if a portion of your route spans a chart Inset or a Terminal Area Chart, you can simply zoom in and out to see the detail rather than referencing a different chart.

Photo4

Even if you’re not using an app like ForeFlight, you can solve this problem electronically. Visit www.skyvector.com and create a free account. In the upper left corner of your browser window, click the Flight Plan link and enter the information about your flight. You’ll see your route depicted on the screen as a magenta line. Find a distinct feature along the route that’s at least 10 miles from your departure point, then go to your paper chart and find that same feature. Draw a straight line from your departure point through that feature to the edge of the chart. Do the same thing on the other side of the chart, working backward from your destination. Your hand-drawn line should match the electronic route you see in your browser window.
Photo1

In my example, I’ve drawn a course from KCRG to KFIN, which spans both sides of the Jacksonville Sectional. See how the magenta course line passes through the number “5” in the Class D vertical limit for Northeast Florida Regional Airport (KSGJ), just above my thumb in the picture above. I used that as my reference when drawing the course from KCRG to the bottom of the chart.

If you really want to go old school and test your course plotting skills, you can reverse engineer the displayed magnetic course to find the true course, simply by adding or subtracting the appropriate magnetic variation. After you’ve drawn the line on your paper chart, use a standard aviation chart plotter to determine the true course and see if it agrees with the course suggested by your electronic helper.

If you’re using ForeFlight and wondering where the Legend information is hidden (i.e. hours of operation and controlling facilities for MOAs, Restricted and Prohibited Areas), you can view it by clicking: More, Settings, Map Touch Action, “Bring chart to front with legends.” Turn the legends off by going back to Map Touch Action and select “Bring chart to front.”

Step 2: Get A Briefing

Getting a standard briefing from Flight Service is easy with ForeFlight. From the FPL (flight plan) view on the Maps page, click the “Send To” icon in the lower right corner (it looks like a square with an arrow pointing up). Then click File & Brief. This will take you to the File & Brief page with the information from your route pre-populated. All you have to do is click the Brief button in the lower right corner. The briefing information is displayed in a user friendly graphical format, and will be stored on your iPad so you can bring it with you as an in-flight reference without having to print out sheets of paper like I did back in the day.

If you’re not using ForeFlight or similar app, you can still obtain a really nice graphical weather briefing using the Lockheed Martin Flight Service website, www.1800wxbrief.com. You can opt to have the information emailed to you so that you can have it as a reference on your smart phone or other device in flight.

Step 3: Go Fly

ForeFlight allows you to enter performance data for your airplane and will calculate estimated time enroute and fuel burn based on your selected cruise altitude and forecast winds aloft. If you get your briefing using the Flight Service website, you can generate and print a navigation log including estimated winds aloft, heading, ground speed and fuel burn by clicking on the “NavLog” button on the bottom of the briefing form.

Navigation log generated from Flight Service briefing form.

Navigation log generated from Flight Service briefing form.

The real stand-out advantage of using ForeFlight or a similar app is what it can do for you during flight. The internal GPS on your iPad allows your position to be displayed on the chart and updated real-time as you fly. When paired with a portable ADS-B receiver like the Garmin GDL 39 3D or a Stratus 2S (current retail $899 each), you can also display NOTAMs, weather reports and forecasts, precipitation radar and dual-band ADS-B traffic. With the right equipment and subscription you can also display a backup attitude indicator (AHRS).

Toss The Plotter and E6B? Not So Fast…

The FAA still requires private pilots to know how to plan a VFR cross-country flight the old fashioned way using a flight computer and a paper chart, and honestly, this is not a bad thing. While the odds of all of your devices failing at the same time are pretty slim, if you’ve only got one (say, just your iPad but no other GPS or paper chart in the airplane) and it dies, you’re forced to rely on basic pilotage and time-distance calculation skills to get where you’re going. Besides, understanding how to read a compass and the effects of the wind on your course is essential for staying on course en route, and determining the active runway and crosswind component when landing at your destination.

Pilots need to use technology intelligently, with a healthy respect for the limitations of the devices we’ve come to rely on so heavily not only in the cockpit but in our daily lives on the ground. But let’s face it: satellite navigation is no longer a futuristic idea, it’s the basis of nearly all ground and air based transportation. So grab your smart phone and tablet and start learning how to make the most of them when you fly!

AHRS displayed on ForeFlight using Garmin GDL 39 3D portable ADS-B receiver.

AHRS, traffic and visibility displayed on ForeFlight using Garmin GDL 39 3D portable ADS-B receiver.




AOPA Rusty Pilots Seminar

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) now offers Rusty Pilots Seminars throughout the country as a way to help pilots who have taken a break from flying get back into the air with confidence. Holladay Aviation is hosting a Rusty Pilots seminar here at Craig Airport on Saturday, June 10 from 9 a.m. until 12 p.m. The seminar will be held in the JAA Conference Room, which is located in the main building near the control tower. The seminar is free to AOPA members and $69 for non-members. Click here to register.

Your presenter is Ron Timmermans, who was named CFI of the Year for 2017 by the FAA’s Orlando Flight Standards District Office. Ron earned his private pilot certificate in 1972 and quickly progressed to earning his commercial pilot and flight instructor credentials. He and his wife live in central Florida, where Ron has a sizable following of Beechcraft clients who seek his professional ground and flight training services for recurrent training, transition to high- performance aircraft, instrument training and IPC’s, multi-engine training, and other specialized training.

At the conclusion of Ron’s presentation, Meredith Holladay will be available to answer questions about scheduling a flight review or other recurrent training with us. Holladay Aviation will give away one free hour of flight training in our aircraft! The winner will be selected via a random drawing at the end of the presentation.

For more information about the Rusty Pilots program, visit AOPA’s website.

Special thanks to the JAA for making the conference room available, and to our local FAA Safety Team representative Bill Stuhl for coordinating audio/visual equipment for the presentation.




The Ultimate Equalizer

An airplane is the ultimate equalizer. It doesn’t care whether its pilot is black or white, male or female, straight or gay or something in between. An airplane doesn’t care whether you are fat or thin, short or tall, young or old. It doesn’t care what your political affiliation is, how much money you make, or whether you believe in a god. It doesn’t even care about your immigration status, your medical history, or what level of pilot certificate you hold.

It only cares about one thing: Will you fly it? Because if you fail to do that one thing, it will let you down. Hard. But if you do your job and just fly the airplane, it will not fail you. Your landing might not be the smoothest ever recorded. Insurance claims may get filed and hospital visits may be required to mend wounds. But chances are good that you will survive, learn from the experience, and live to fly again another day.

March is national Women’s History Month, and as pilots we pause to honor the pioneering women who have achieved notoriety in the aviation and aerospace industries. Today American women have the same legal rights as men and have equal access to educational and career opportunities across the board. Yet women represent only 6 percent of all pilots here in the United States, which is home to the largest population of pilots of any country in the world. That number has not changed much over the last several decades, despite the outreach and advocacy efforts of groups such as The Ninety-Nines and Women in Aviation International. The reasons for this stagnation are unclear, but industry leaders often cite lack of exposure to aviation among girls as a contributing factor.

I joined The Ninety-Nines in 2004 at the suggestion of my flight instructor, whose wife was the local chapter president. I was a private pilot working on my instrument rating, and had not yet decided to pursue a career in aviation. I belonged to a flying club, and at the time was the only female member among 50 or so male pilots and flight instructors. It was actually kind of nice, though, because I felt like I had dozens of big brothers, uncles and grandfathers who all cared about me and taught me to be a safe pilot. These men respected me for my skill and knowledge as a pilot, and never treated me any differently because of my gender.

For me, joining The Ninety-Nines opened up a broader circle of mentors and friends at my home airport. I didn’t join because I wanted to identify as a female pilot. I just wanted to be a better pilot and learn from others with more experience. My chapter was a group of highly intelligent, motivated and talented women who shared a passion for aviation. I’m still friends with many of them. They hosted a baby shower for me at the airport, and provided a special source of comfort and encouragement to me both during and after my pregnancy, when flying airplanes took a back seat to adjusting to the physical and emotional challenges every new mother faces.

Me getting ready to fly a Cessna 172 in the fall of 2012, when I was pregnant with our daughter, Alex.

Me getting ready to fly a Cessna 172 in the fall of 2012, when I was pregnant with our daughter, Alex.

In my opinion, the only thing that’s unique about being a female pilot is flying while pregnant. Only a biological woman can truly relate to that physical experience, but fathers also face unique challenges once their child is born. When Dana and I welcomed our daughter Alexandra into the world four years ago, we all endured a very rough ride. She was born with a life-threatening respiratory condition and spent three months in the neonatal intensive care unit before she was healthy enough to come home. During that difficult time in the hospital, Dana continued instructing as our sole source of income while I spent every day in the hospital with our daughter, managing her care. Seeing what Dana went through to keep our family and our dreams afloat during our first year of parenthood, I can honestly say that my male students face the same challenges as my female students. They have to balance family and work responsibilities with the demands of flight training, and in many cases, face additional pressures because they are the sole breadwinner in a family with several young children at home with their mother. So while we honor women in aviation this month, I’d also like to recognize all the good guys out there who support us in following our dreams of flying.

I was extremely fortunate to have several great mentors during the years I was working on becoming a flight instructor. I recognize, however, that many budding pilots are not as fortunate as I was, and do not have the emotional, educational and financial resources that I had available to me when I was working my way up the ladder. Organizations like The Ninety-Nines do a great job of providing some assistance, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to rise to the occasion and do whatever it takes to succeed.

I now serve as president of the First Coast chapter of The Ninety-Nines, based here in Jacksonville. We are a very small group focused on providing mentoring and educational resources to pilots in northeast Florida. If you would like more information about The Ninety-Nines, please visit the organization’s website. www.ninety-nines.org.

Scholarships, mentoring programs and service opportunities are available at both the local and national levels through The Ninety-Nines and other organizations, including:

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (http://www.aopa.org)

The Experimental Aircraft Association (http://www.eaa.org)

Women in Aviation International (https://www.wai.org)

The Black Pilots Association (http://www.bpapilots.org)

The National Gay Pilots Association (http://www.ngpa.org)

The Civil Air Patrol (http://www.gocivilairpatrol.com)

I think the best thing any pilot can do to promote aviation is volunteer his or her time to expose a child or a young person to airplanes and the magic of flight. Aviation is a great medium for teaching kids about science, personal responsibility and the value of honest, hard work. It doesn’t matter if you are a student pilot or a veteran airline pilot, your experience is extremely valuable! Dana and I visited our daughter’s preschool this week for show-and-tell. We brought toy airplanes and headsets for them to try on. Our daughter is growing up around airplanes just like I did (my father is a pilot) and it is our hope that even if she never learns to fly, she will view aviation as a rewarding and viable recreational activity and potential career path.

Below: Me flying the Cub to a nearby grass strip in the summer of 2016. I went there to visit with a fellow Ninety-Nines chapter member.




Maintaining Balance

by Meredith Holladay

January 18, 2017 — As a mom-and-pop flight school, maintaining a healthy work-life balance is very important to us. Like most business owners, we want to stay busy, remain profitable, support our family and save for the future. It’s also critical for us to carefully manage our schedule so that we build in enough time for exercise, play and rest. This is especially important in our role as flight instructors, where staying healthy and energetic is essential.

Meredith and Alexandra flying N65842.

Meredith and daughter Alexandra flying N65842. Perhaps our next CFI?

Our office is closed Mondays so that we can enjoy a relaxing day off, though we often find ourselves at the airport for a few hours on Monday mornings catching up on behind-the-scenes administrative tasks like cleaning, billing and invoicing, and updating maintenance records. As we enter our fourth year of operation at Craig Airport, we are proud that our business is thriving. In fact, we are at the point now where we conduct a weekly audit of the student roster to evaluate whether it’s feasible to take on new students. Customer satisfaction is very important to us, and if we’re too busy to fly with new students, nobody will be happy.

Dana and I are the only instructors you will fly with at our school. We often get asked if we are going to hire additional instructors to build the business, and the answer is, probably not. The reason for this is because we are fiercely protective of our hard-earned reputation for providing the highest quality and safest flight training experience available, and as such we are reticent to farm our services out to people we don’t know. We truly enjoy flying and teaching, and frankly don’t have the time or the desire to manage and administer employees. We are happy with the status quo and think are customers are, too.

The downside is that this limits the number of people we can train at any given time. Currently we have the capacity to serve our existing student roster with one or two lessons per week, but we can no longer accept students who want to conduct an “accelerated training program” on a more frequent, compressed schedule. It’s not fair to us or to our existing customers.

Our training schedule is also limited by the reduced daylight hours in the winter months, and the availability of quality child care for our soon-to-be 4-year-old daughter on the weekends. This is why Dana and I “tag team” on Sundays, with only one of us available to fly unless we can find a babysitter, which can be difficult. Still, inasmuch as we feel we’ve established an efficient daily workflow, we’re always looking for ways to work smarter, not harder. To that end, we’re going to implement a few scheduling changes that we hope will offer more options for our customers, while still satisfying our needs as a family.

The first and perhaps most important change is that starting April 1, Dana will only be available for lessons after 6 p.m. two days a week. Last year, Dana often worked three or four 12-hour days in a row just to meet customer demands. This left him exhausted and with no time or energy for exercise. We are committed to our new family health and fitness routine, and the only way we can stick to it is to block ourselves off the flight schedule accordingly. The FAA wants us to stay healthy, and we do, too!

The second change you’ll notice is that effective January 24, Meredith will be available until 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, allowing for two, 2-hour lessons after lunch (1-3 pm and 3-5 pm) instead of just one, 2.5-hour lesson (1-3:30 pm). While we still feel that a 2.5-hour block is ideal for most lessons, the 2-hour block is sufficient for local flights to practice maneuvers, takeoffs and landings in the traffic pattern, and ground lessons. This staggered schedule should present minimal conflicts since we have three aircraft available and two instructors.

A successful flight school is a team effort, and our customers are part of that team! We are hopeful that our new weekly schedule will ensure a positive experience for everyone who flies with us. Thank you for your continued patronage and we look forward to flying with you soon!




Light Sport Update

FullSizeRender-2January 4, 2017 UPDATE — The owner of N152SC has decided to sell the airplane; here is a link to the advertisement. Holladay Aviation is not involved in the sale. The plane is no longer available for flight training or rental.

Since we added the Sport Cruiser to our roster in June 2016, the response from existing and new customers has been mixed. The handful of students and certificated pilots who have flown the Sport Cruiser appear to have been satisfied with it, but our flight logs indicate that the majority of our customers prefer to fly the Cessna 150, 152 or 172. We can speculate on the reasons for this, but we’d appreciate your feedback.

What is the future of light sport at Holladay Aviation? It’s difficult to say, but it’s important to consider the following facts. According to FAA data, in 2015 there were approximately 590,000 pilots holding some level of FAA pilot certificate. Of those, there were 170,000 private pilots but only 5,000 sport pilots. It’s clear that the majority of people who choose to fly recreationally in the United States hold a private pilot certificate. Of the dozens of pilots we’ve trained over the years, only one has obtained a sport pilot certificate.

It’s also important to distinguish between “light sport aircraft” and “sport pilot certificate” because they are mutually exclusive. As the holder of a sport pilot certificate, or as the holder of a private pilot certificate or higher without a valid FAA medical certificate, you may only fly a light sport aircraft. But pilots who hold a private pilot certificate or higher with a valid FAA medical certificate can choose to fly a light sport aircraft, but are not limited to light sport aircraft. Most people who are healthy enough to fly an airplane can easily obtain a Third Class medical certificate and are therefore eligible for a private pilot certificate.

Some classic Ercoupe models qualify as light sport aircraft, with a maximum gross weight of 1,320 pounds or less.

Some classic Ercoupe models qualify as light sport aircraft, with a maximum gross weight of 1,320 pounds or less.

The notion that a sport pilot certificate is substantially less expensive or easier to obtain than a private pilot certificate is patently false. It is not a “half price pilot’s license” as many have called it. Even though the FAA only requires a minimum of 20 hours for a sport pilot certificate versus 40 for the private, the reality is that most people need at least 20 hours of training to prepare for their first solo in any airplane. After that, it’s another 5 hours of solo flight and at least another 5 hours to prepare for the sport pilot check ride — which is essentially identical to the private pilot check ride. By the time you do that, you’re at 30-plus hours, and for a nominal amount of extra time and money you can earn a private pilot certificate and have many more options and aircraft available to you. The bottom line is that unless you are unable (or unwilling) to obtain a medical certificate, it makes little sense to earn a sport pilot certificate unless you are planning to buy a light sport aircraft and don’t have any desire to fly at night or earn an instrument rating down the road. (Click here to read an article about Third Class Medical Reform, published by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.)

Upgrades planned for our 1969 Cessna 150 include a new interior, color moving map GPS and radio.

Upgrades planned for our 1969 Cessna 150 include a new interior, color moving map GPS and radio.

It will be interesting to see how the prices of new and used light sport aircraft change as the new FAA medical certification rules become effective this year, and more existing pilots are able to fly non-LSA without renewing their medicals. Will we purchase or lease another light sport aircraft? The answer is, only if it makes good business sense. We love little airplanes and appreciate new technology as much as anybody, but we also have a responsibility to ourselves, and to our customers, to make good decisions and sound investments. A late-model LSA with the required FAA paperwork to be used in a commercial operation like a flight school (S-LSA) can cost $100,000 or more. That means that the insured value is high, which drives up the cost of insurance both for our company as well as for renters. A classic Cessna 150 or 152 in excellent condition costs less than half of a new LSA. Another consideration is maintenance. Most aviation mechanics are qualified to inspect and repair a Cessna, but only a small number of them have the proper training and certification to work on newer light sport aircraft, which by and large are powered by a Rotax engine. There are a handful of reasonably priced classic airplanes that meet the FAA definition of light sport aircraft that we’d consider, but only if there was a valid business case for doing so.

We are very satisfied with our Cessna fleet and continue to make functional and aesthetic improvements to these economical, rugged and time-tested aircraft. Upgrades planned for 2017 include larger moving-map GPS displays and ADS-B traffic and weather. We hope you will appreciate these investments and that you will continue to enjoy flying the Cessna 150, 152 and 172 for years to come.




Fly or drive?

There’s an old aviation adage that goes, “Got time to spare? Go by air!” It’s a reminder to the pilots of small airplanes that while most of the time we can get where we need to go in a timely fashion, sometimes we can’t due to forces beyond our control — namely, the weather.

Dana and I were hoping to be able to use our Cessna 172 to visit our family up north for Christmas this week, but only if the weather was nice. We prefer to fly in good weather and only use our instrument rating privileges to penetrate thin, benign cloud layers as needed when there’s good visibility and plenty of room below the clouds to fly under VFR. When we looked at the aviation weather forecasts yesterday, it became clear that we might have to wait until at least Wednesday for decent weather here for our departure. Jacksonville has been IFR all day, and the forecast for low clouds and poor visibility tomorrow confirmed our decision to hit the road in the morning. If we were to fly, we’d need the fog and low clouds to lift by noon in order to make it to Dana’s mother’s house in Virginia by early evening. But if the weather isn’t better by noon and we decide to drive, we’d be on the highway well into the night which we don’t like to do either. We need to make our fly/drive decision today in order to make it all work out best for our family. Even though it will take us about twice as long to drive as it would to fly, we won’t have to worry as much about the weather and more importantly, we won’t have to risk not being able to see our loved ones in the limited timeframe we have available.

My parents' deck in New York a few days ago. It's been snowing and very cold there recently.

My parents’ deck in New York a few days ago. It’s been snowing and very cold there recently.

Flying long distances in a small airplane is totally possible, but you have to be willing and able to delay your departure by a few hours or even a few days in order to have acceptable weather conditions. We are comfortable flying IFR in our airplane for short stretches, and even shooting an instrument approach to land if the ceiling and visibility aren’t too low. But we choose to do most of our flying under VFR because flying in the clouds is much more tiring, especially without an autopilot, which we don’t have. Winter weather can also be problematic because flying through clouds in below-freezing temperatures can cause ice to build up on the airplane, which can be very dangerous. Most small, single engine airplanes like our Cessna 172 are not equipped to handle ice buildups, so the safest thing to do is to stay out of the clouds entirely if the temperature is at or near freezing.

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This map, which is hanging in our office, represents the route Dana and I followed when we flew a restored 1938 Piper J-3 Cub around the United States in the summer of 2012. The trip took about eight weeks, during which we spent about 130 hours flying over just about every type of terrain this country has to offer. Do you want to guess how many hours we were delayed due to weather? Two! That’s it! The plane didn’t have a radio or any IFR instruments, yet we were able to fly it all that way with virtually no weather related downtime.

Christmas in July sounds like a great idea to me!

Happy Holidays everyone, and safe travels this week.




My Flight With Patty Wagstaff

frame-21-11-2016-12-34-35People who know me best would agree that I am not a thrill seeker or an adrenaline junkie. Slipping the Cub on base to final for a sporty crosswind landing is about as exciting as it gets with me at the controls. But when Dana offered me a rare opportunity to take an introductory aerobatics lesson with world famous air show pilot Patty Wagstaff, I just couldn’t say no.

Throughout my flying career I’ve always sought ways to challenge myself as a pilot. Earning my flight instructor certificate in 2005 was probably the greatest aviation challenge I’ve ever faced, and since then, I’ve learned to fly multi-engine airplanes, taildraggers and seaplanes. Flipping upside down in an airplane has never been something that’s particularly interested me, though, mostly because my body doesn’t respond well to rollercoasters and carnival rides. But the aerodynamics of spins, rolls and loops have always fascinated me, and I’ve enjoyed watching legendary pilots like Patty Wagstaff perform at air shows ever since I was a kid.

Patty operates a flight school in St. Augustine, FL, a short drive from our home in Jacksonville. She offers various courses depending on the student’s experience level and interest. We arranged for a one-hour introductory lesson in her Super Decathlon that would focus on sharpening some of the skills I use everyday as a flight instructor, and also explore some maneuvers that are a bit outside of my comfort zone.

img_4036Patty is a genuine, down to earth person who has a real passion for her work. Her office is unassuming and comfortable and occupied by her two little old dogs and bird. She made me, Dana and our daughter Alex feel right at home. After a preflight briefing and some snacks, Patty helped me put on my parachute (required for aerobatics) and let me start the engine, taxi and take off.

We climbed to 4,500 feet a few miles west of the airport and began the lesson with some steep turns and lazy eights, so I could get a feel for the Decathlon’s handling characteristics. Next, she showed me how to perform aileron rolls. The purpose of this maneuver was for me to gain confidence using full control inputs. The rolls weren’t as difficult or as physically jarring as I imagined they would be. Next, at my request, we did a spin. Flight instructors are required to log one hour of spin training before taking the CFI practical test, so it had been more than 10 years since I’d actually done a spin. I wanted to see if I could still recover from one, not just describe how to recover from one. I asked Patty to perform a power-on stall that would result in a spin. It wasn’t scary and stopping the rotation was easy, but the pull-up to recover from the dive was more aggressive than I remembered, and registered 3G’s on the accelerometer. That didn’t feel so good, and I needed a few minutes of straight and level to clear my head before we moved onto upset recovery procedures. She made it sound so easy: Just roll the airplane right or left, whichever is the shortest distance back to wings level on the horizon.

Patty flew the Decathlon back to the airport and made a perfect crosswind wheel landing. As we taxied back to her hangar, I realized that I need to make the time to practice some of the advanced maneuvers that I demonstrated on my commercial pilot and flight instructor practical tests years ago: lazy eights, chandelles, steep turns (60 degrees), and steep spirals. These just aren’t the sort of maneuvers I do day to day while teaching new students how to land a Cessna 150, and certainly not during instrument training. Plus, there are only so many hours in the day; between running our business, flying with students, and raising our daughter, I don’t exactly have a lot of free time for “fun flying.” But I’ve been carving out an hour or two a week to fly the Cub, and now I can add these maneuvers to my aerial “me time.” I really enjoyed reviewing lazy eights with Patty, and realized that these and other maneuvers are useful in maintaining confidence controlling the airplane at the edge of it’s operating envelope, wherever that might be.




Weather Briefings: Video Tutorial

We get a lot of questions about weather briefings — what they are and how to get them. With so much information and so many ways to obtain it today, it’s sometimes difficult for pilots — especially new students — to sort through it all. Rather than reinventing the wheel on a tutorial, I found this 13-minute video produced by Lockheed Martin Flight Services that does a pretty good job of explaining how to obtain a standard weather briefing on their website. Keep in mind that it doesn’t explain all of the different elements of a briefing, but rather how to navigate their website. If you’re new to LMFS, it’s definitely worth a few minutes of your time.




Our Office

855-14 St. John’s Bluff Road
Suite 3G
Jacksonville, Florida 32225
Directions: From Atlantic Blvd, turn north onto Saint Johns Bluff Road. You will see the airport at the intersection. Turn right into the airport at Craig Drive. Turn left at Charles Lindbergh Drive and continue to the end where you'll see the Craig Air Center straight ahead. Our office is on the left.
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