Author: GoFly

  • Why VFR Pilots should always plan for an alternate aerodrome

    What is an alternate aerodrome?

    An ‘alternate aerodrome’ is another aerodrome other than the departure or destination aerodrome, that the pilot in command has selected to fly to, should the destination aerodrome not be suitable for a landing.

    If an alternate aerodrome is required, the pilot in command must ensure there is enough fuel to fly from the planned destination aerodrome to the alternate aerodrome and still land with the required minimum amount of fixed reserve fuel on board the aircraft.

    Why do we need to have an alternate aerodrome? 

    The main reasons an alternate aerodrome might be required is because the destination aerodrome has either no valid weather forecast, or the weather is forecast to reduce below the minimum required for a visual flight rules (VFR) flight. In Australia the conditions and rules can be located in the VFRG (Visual Flight Rules Guide) chapter 2 and  CASR 91.235 and MOS 8.04.

    It is also important to note that all alternate aerodromes must have a valid weather forecast and the weather conditions must also be above the minimum required for VFR flight. 

    When an alternate aerodrome is not required

    There are certain conditions where an alternate aerodrome is not required and a few of these conditions include:

    • When flying VFR within 50 nm of the aerodrome 
    • The weather conditions deteriorate below VMC conditions for a period of time at the destination aerodrome and you have enough holding fuel until conditions improve to above VMC.

    Why not always having an alternate aerodrome is a bad idea

    While legally you may not be required to have an alternate aerodrome, there are two main reasons (facts!) why I think it is prudent to always plan for an alternate:

    1. The weather forecast is not always correct. 

    A weather forecast is a forecast and it is not always correct. While the forecast may state that the VFR conditions will be above the minimum required occasionally this can be wrong. It’s always better to have an alternate selected on the rare occasion this happens to you when flying.

    1. The destination aerodrome may be closed due to an incident or accident

    This is the biggest reason you should always plan to have an alternate. Unfortunately incidents and accidents occur and occasionally they occur during the landing phase of flight. A landing incident may close a runway for a couple of hours or if serious the entire day. I have personally had this happen to me twice over the last ten years where I have had to divert to an alternate aerodrome due to a landing accident at the destination aerodrome.

    Even if you are flying locally, plan to have an alternate aerodrome 

    For the two reasons mentioned above – in particular an aerodrome closing due to an incident or accident – I always recommend planning an alternate aerodrome even if flying locally. Imagine if you decided to take your family for a local flight, only to return to the aerodrome to discover that it’s been closed due to an aircraft having a very hard landing, and you only had on board the minimum fixed fuel reserves for your flight (i.e 30 minutes reserve in Australia). You’d be in trouble.

    It does not take too much time to always plan for an alternate aerodrome and it will give you that extra level of comfort knowing you have a plan should the worst occur. I love the statement: ‘prepare for the worst and expect the best’ when it comes to planning your flight.

    For more information about nav and flight planning, why not take a look at our Navigation for the Recreational Pilot Easy Book.

    Happy and safe flying.

     

  • Why pilots and passengers get motion sickness and how to avoid it

    The reality is that most pilots and passengers in light aircraft have felt the effects of motion sickness at some point in their lives. It might have been just a slight feeling of uneasiness or it could have been a full-blown projectile event. 

    Understanding what causes motion sickness and how to avoid it, is very important for both pilots and passengers so they can mitigate the risks that are associated with sickness when flying a light aircraft.

    What causes motion sickness?

    Motion sickness is caused by conflicting information sent by your eyes and vestibular system.  Motion sickness can occur on any object that is moving but is generally most commonly experienced on a boat, vehicle or aircraft.

    A good example of this is when you fly through light turbulence, and your eyes are looking at the horizon and do not sense any movement, the information from your eyes is telling the brain that no movement is occurring and you are at rest. 

    However the vestibular system in the inner ear (more about this soon) is telling the brain that there is movement. The conflicting data to the brain can cause motion sickness.

    Balance 

    The inner ear is also very important as it contributes to our sense of balance. Most of our balance comes visually from our eyes but the ears also contain a balance mechanism to support our vision and as a backup to maintaining balance.

     

    The vestibular system

    The vestibular system is located in each inner ear. The system contains semicircular canals that contain a fluid with tiny hairs that can detect movement, on the inside of the canals. These hairs send information to the brain to help assist with balance.

    This information helps the brain work out whether you are moving backwards or forwards, up or down, and whether you are lying down or standing up.

    While the inner ear balance system is a great back up system it cannot be solely relied upon, particularly when flying. When flying, the aircraft experiences acceleration and deceleration forces that can cause the inner ear fluid to misinterpret the information and send the wrong information to the brain.

    Each ear contains three semicircular canals and these are roughly positioned at right angles to each other. They are aligned this way so they can detect movement in three dimensional space.

    Some of the early warning signs for motion sickness include sweating and the individual may become quiet and pale.

    Symptoms of motion sickness include: 

    • Pale skin
    • Feeling nauseous
    • Increase in sweat
    • Loss of appetite 
    • Dizziness
    • Inability to concentrate 
    • Shallow breathing 

    The dangers of motion sickness

    For pilots, motion sickness is a real threat that must be avoided as much as possible. 

    Even slight motion sickness affects the individual’s cognitive function and ability to concentrate on any task. Severe motion sickness could actually lead to total pilot or passenger incapacitation.

    Avoiding motion sickness 

    Eating a light meal before flying, and avoiding dairy food, is one way of reducing motion sickness. Also ensuring the cockpit is well ventilated and – for VFR pilots – that your eyes are on the horizon for the majority of the time, is helpful. Try not to make any abrupt head movements that could also disrupt the vestibular system.

    Pilots are not allowed to take most motion sickness medication, but ginger tablets are a natural remedy which can be used in moderation and may prevent or reduce the effects of motion sickness. The good news is that over time, most student pilots build a tolerance for motion sickness and the symptoms eventually disappear.

    Only take passengers flying on calm days

    If you are taking a first time passenger for a flight, please don’t take them on a day with high winds, severe heat and or turbulence. It is a sure way to ensure the sick bag will be used and they will never want to fly with you again!

     

    Fly the plane like an airliner (no abrupt flying)

    If you are an instructor and do not want your student to get sick, or if you are a pilot and don’t want your passenger to get sick, this one is the easiest method I know to avoid air sickness. My recommendation to all pilots and flight instructors (other than when doing stall and steep turn lessons) is to fly the aircraft like a mini airliner jet. When you fly in an airliner there are usually no abrupt movements.

    Climbs and turns are always made gently and slowly. This gives time for the vestibular system to catch up with what the eyes are seeing. Quick abrupt movements are a sure way to get everyone sick very quickly!

    What to eat before flying

    It is a misconception that having an empty stomach will help the body avoid air sickness. Having no food in your stomach is a sure way of getting motion sickness.

    Being well hydrated and having something light to eat before flying is very important. Any oily or fried food and any dairy foods should be avoided. Foods such as bananas, breads, almonds and crackers are examples of foods that can assist in decreasing the chances of getting air sickness.

    Treatment of motion sickness

    It is also a good idea to take sickbags in the aircraft in case any passengers experience air sickness. If you or your passenger experience motion sickness, try to relax and get as much fresh air as possible. If you are flying with an instructor, inform your instructor.

    Do not conduct any abrupt manoeuvres and keep your eyes on the horizon until the air sickness passes. Once you are on the ground, the quickest way to recover from the effects of motion sickness is to ensure you are well hydrated and to lie down in a cool dark room.

    The good news is, you will get used to it (eventually)

    The  majority of pilots (myself included) eventually adjust to the effects of flying. Passengers may not, as they may not fly enough in light aircraft  to overcome the effects of motion sickness, this is why flying on a calm day with no abrupt movements is so important when flying with passengers.

    The more your senses are exposed to flying in three dimensions, the more the effects of motion sickness will reduce. I have known airline pilots and air force fighter pilots who suffered severe air sickness during their early training and eventually their bodies adjusted and they no longer experience air sickness.

    Flying can be fun and rewarding. The  more knowledge the instructor or pilot has about motion sickness avoidance, the more likely students will continue their flight training and become a student pilot themselves.

    The GoFly Online Team wants to help you become the best pilot you can be, please try our free 7-day trial to access all of our flight training videos, theory books and practice exams. Happy and safe flying.

     

     

  • Why all pilots need to understand the ‘region of reverse command’

    Unfortunately loss of control accidents are very common during take off and landing.

    Many of these accidents could have been prevented if the pilot had a better understanding of slow speed flight and what is commonly known as the ‘region of reverse command’.

    Region of normal command 

    Before we talk about the region of reverse command, let’s look at the ‘region of normal command’.

    The region of normal command  is where most aircraft spend most of their time, that is, in  standard climb, level flight and descent.

    In this region, an increase in airspeed causes an increase in parasite drag (drag caused by the structure of the airframe interacting with the relative airflow) and a decrease in induced drag (drag caused by lift).

    To put this another way, in the region of normal command, when you pitch the nose up the aircraft’s airspeed decreases and the aircraft climbs; and when you pitch the nose down, the aircraft’s airspeed increases and the aircraft descends.

    Region of reverse command 

    The region of reverse command is encountered at low airspeed. It is also known as the back of the power curve, and is normally situated below the max endurance power and airspeed combination for the aircraft type. This region is always encountered during take off and landing.

    The aircraft is not behaving like it should!

    In the region of reverse command, any decrease in airspeed will see an increase in total drag, and any increase in airspeed will see a decrease in total drag.

    The graph below highlights what is actually happening. As you can see, at a certain airspeed, the total drag starts to increase again as the airspeed decreases.

    This is the reverse of what happens at higher airspeeds, hence the term ‘region of reverse command’.

    Low and slow on final 

    Imagine a pilot allows the aircraft to get low and slow on final approach and the airspeed enters the region of reverse command.  

    If the pilot decides to pull back on the controls to gain height, the total drag will increase and so will the rate of descent.

    The pilot will be expecting the aircraft to climb but it may actually descend. 

    If the pilot was using a substantial amount of power (such as a short field approach) there may not have enough power available to arrest the sink rate and not enough height below the aircraft to pitch the nose down to increase the airspeed. 

    Things can get ugly quickly on takeoff!

    Let’s assume a pilot is conducting a short field takeoff with full power and, due to a wet runway, the take off distance increases.

    Just after takeoff the pilot notices trees at the end of the runway and is worried that they may not be able to climb over the trees even though they are climbing at the best angle!

    To try to avoid the trees, the pilot pitches the nose up slightly to try and increase the climb angle to get over the trees.  Unfortunately, by doing this, the airspeed decreases below the best angle of climb and into the area of reverse command.

    At this airspeed, any decrease in airspeed will see the rate of climb decrease (as total drag is increasing) and potentially the aircraft will actually start to descend (or worse, stall).

    As the aircraft is delivering full power there is no longer any available power to improve the rate of climb or airspeed.

    The only way to improve your climb rate is to actually lower the nose to increase the airspeed before attempting to climb again (which is a hard thing to do if you can see trees heading towards the  windshield!)

    The relationship of power overcoming drag also reverses

    If you look at the graph below you can notice that above the best ‘lift to drag ratio’, more power is required to increase the airspeed (to overcome drag), until it reaches a point where there is no more power available (maximum level flight speed).

    However, below the best ‘lift to drag ratio’ line, more power is required to maintain level flight, as the airspeed decreases until it reaches a point at a very low airspeed (normally near, or at, the stall) where there is no more power available to maintain level flight. 

    Here are some simple rules on how to avoid unrecoverable situations in the region of reverse command.

    Know your aircraft’s limitations

    It is important to know your aircraft’s correct airspeed and limitations by reading the POH (Pilot Operating Handbook). 

    For instance, if the short field take off and landing airspeed is 65kts, then under no circumstance should you ever allow the aircraft to get below this speed! This also means understanding the performance and weight and balance charts for your aircraft type so you never have to put yourself and your passengers in a marginal situation with no buffer.

    Ensure a stabilised approach

    A stabilised approach includes a stable approach speed, stable rate of descent and the correct approach profile. If any of these variables are not met, particularly below 200 feet, conduct a missed approach.

    Do not fly below best angle airspeed (VX) on take off 

    For takeoff, ensure the aircraft does not adopt the climb attitude until the airspeed can maintain the minimum safe climb altitude and airspeed.

    Slow speed flight and approaching the stall

    The best technique is always to avoid a stall. Proper initial training plus refresher training with a qualified instructor on slow speed flight and stall avoidance is very important. 

    Know your own limitations

    If you have not done a short field takeoff or landing for a long time and you’re not feeling confident doing one, then don’t! Find an appropriate flight instructor and do some refresher training to ensure you are confident before conducting these types of takeoffs and landings on your own.

    If you balloon or bounce on landing conduct a missed approach

    For most light aircraft and in particular light sport aircraft, if the aircraft balloons or bounces on landing, the best decision is to conduct a missed approach. The aircraft is usually already in the region of reverse command on landing and any attempt to try and recover at this low airspeed with insufficient height below you, is very dangerous.

    Applying full power and allowing the aircraft to accelerate to a safe climb speed is always the best option.

    Slow flight does not have to be dangerous

    If slow flight is conducted within the designated limitations of the Pilot Operating Handbook by a qualified and current pilot, it does not have to be dangerous. 

    Understanding the how, what and why of the ‘region of reverse command’ is the first step in avoiding a negative outcome!

    Happy and safe flying and see you next time on GoFly Online.

    The GoFly Online team wants to help you become the best pilot you can be. You can access all of our flight training videos, practice exams and theory books with the 7-day free trial. 

  • What documents do pilots need to carry on board the aircraft when flying?

    What documents do pilots need to carry on board the aircraft when flying?

    It is important for all pilots in Australia to know what documents they must legally have on board the aircraft when flying. It can be quite confusing understanding the legal requirements and where to find the most up to date legislation in relation to documentation requirements.

    As the pilot in command, knowing these requirements will not only ensure you meet your legal obligations but also give you peace of mind should you get a ramp check or spot audit from CASA or Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAUS).

    Here is a list of items that need to ALWAYS be carried on an aircraft when flying in Australia for day VFR flights. These references can be located on CASR 91.105, 91.110 and the Recreational Aviation Australia Operations Manual and VFRG.

     

    Flight Crew licence

    A Pilots Licence holder must have a valid Flight Crew licence on them at all times.

    If they have a Recreational Pilot Certificate with RAAUS,  while it is a good idea to have the Certificate on you, it is not a legal requirement. As per the RAAUS Ops Section 2.03, Recreational Pilot Certificate holders only have to produce the documentation within 72 hours of being requested by RAAUS or CASA.

     

    Medical Certificate

    For a CASA pilot licence holder, it is a requirement to have your Medical Certificate on you at all times.

    For a Recreational Pilot Certificate, if you are required to have a medical certificate, then once again, as per the RAAUS Operations Manual, the pilot has 72 hours to produce  the document if requested by RAAUS or CASA.

     

    Photographic ID

    All pilot licence and certificate holders are required to have photographic ID on them at all times. This can be a passport, an ASIC card or a driver’s licence.

     

    Flight Manual or Pilot Operating Handbook (POH)

    The aircraft Flight Manual or Pilot Operating Handbook must be on board the aircraft at all times.

     

    Minimum equipment list for the aircraft type 

    If your aircraft type has a minimum equipment list, this equipment must all be onboard the aircraft. This list is often contained in the flight manual or Pilot Operating Handbook or could be a requirement for a particular commercial air operation.

     

    Not required if doing aerobatics

    There is an exemption from having to carry these documents if you are performing aerobatics and the documents could interfere with the safe operation of the aircraft.

     

    Recreational and light sport aircraft 

    As per CAO 95.32 and 95.55 and the RAAUS Operations Manual, each aircraft must have a means of ascertaining current registration and valid airworthiness. This would normally mean a registration certificate on board and a type certificate, or for LSA aircraft, a special Certificate of Airworthiness on board the aircraft.

     

     

    Other exemptions 

    As per CASR 91.110, the documents below are exempt from being carryied on board an aircraft, providing the flight is conducted within 50NM of the departure aerodrome flying within or traveling to and from a training area. These documents include 

    • Technical Log or Maintenance Release 
    • Authorized aeronautical information for the flight 

    If we look at this another way, if you are planning to depart from the departure aerodrome for more than 50NM or outside a training area then the aircraft must carry its Maintenance Release sheet. The aircraft must also have the relevant aeronautical information such as maps and other documents required to safely conduct the flight.

    Do pilots need to have their Logbook with them?

    As per CASR 61.345 and RAAUs Ops Manual 2.03, a pilot logbook is not required to be carried on board an aircraft. However, for Pilot Licence holders, the logbook must be presented to CASA within 7 days if requested by CASA. For RAAUS Pilot Certificate holders, the logbook must be presented within 72 hours if requested from Recreational Aviation Australia.

    Documentation checklist 

    It is a good idea to have your own documentation checklist which is particular for your licence or certificate type, that you check every time you go flying. The checklist will also vary depending on whether you are flying within 50nm or the training area.

    ***

    The GoFly Online Team wants to help you become the best pilot you can be. Feel free to take a look at our flight training videos, practice exams and theory books by signing up for the FREE 7-day trial at www.GoFly.Online

     

  • Will electric VTOL aircraft replace personal fixed-wing flying?

    I have owned a Flight School for over 10 years now. The majority of our students are learning to fly for fun. The majority of recreational flight students have no ambition to turn their passion for flying into a career; they just want to learn for the sheer joy of flying.

    The next aviation revolution 

    Currently there is a ‘quiet’ revolution going on with electric VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) technology. There are roughly 80 new start-up companies world-wide, designing, flight testing and trying to certify passenger carrying electric VTOL aircraft.

    Some of these companies have had close to a billion dollars of private equity investment. Some of the most promising electric VTOL start-ups include Joby Aviation, Lilium, Kittyhawk, Archer and Beta, and then there are the big aerospace companies such as Airbus, Boeing and Embraer, all working on their own designs.

    These companies are focusing on urban transport and are designing and certifying these new types of aircraft for affordable mass passenger travel. These aircraft only have a limited range (usually around 200km), however this satisfies densely urban transport such as city to airport transfers. Compared to current helicopters, the cost is projected to be up to five to ten times more affordable than current helicopter technology with less than half of the noise. This future VTOL market is estimated to be worth around a trillion dollars globally by mid-2035.

    The effects on learning to fly

    What has not really been discussed, is how this new technology will impact personal flying and in particular, personal fixed-wing flying. While most new startups are focused on the mass transport of passengers, some companies such as Jetson One and Air One are focused on the recreational pilot market. 

    Startup company, Air, an Israeli-based start-up, is solely focusing on the personal recreational market with their Air One electric VTOL aircraft. While the full-scale prototype is set to fly later this year, the initial performance projections are impressive, with a one-hour range at around 90 knots with 30 minutes reserve, and it can carry two people. The aircraft has eight electric motors and a ballistic recovery system (BRS chute) for additional safety. The Air One also will have AI (artificial intelligence) self-diagnostic software that will complete the majority of the pre-flight inspections on most of the systems on behalf of the pilot. Projected sale costs are similar to an upper-end of the market Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).

    Will students still want to fly fixed wing, VTOL or both?

    Will future recreational pilots wish to continue flying fixed-wing aircraft or will they see electric VTOL as a better alternative? There are a few things to consider when trying to guess the answer.

    Most recreational pilots fly locally

    While most of our students continue on to complete their navigation and passenger endorsements, the majority of pilots who fly for fun are content to fly locally (within 50 nautical miles of the departing aerodrome). Most recreational pilots just want to get up in their local airspace and enjoy the freedom of flying and maybe share it with a friend or family member.

    Those students who want to fly longer distances, have usually learned for business-related reasons and end up purchasing their own aircraft to save regularly having to drive long distances.

    Learning to land is the hardest part of flying

    Most people can be taught the basics of flying a plane, in a small amount of time. Landing however, is what separates the serious students from those who just think it will be cool to have a pilot’s licence.

    It appears that piloting these new VTOL aircraft will be substantially easier than flying a fixed-wing aircraft. For instance, the take-off and landing in most of these VTOL aircraft will be computer-assisted. The pilot will not be responsible for basic stability in the hover, as is a helicopter pilot.

    While mastering landings in a fixed-wing aircraft is rewarding, and some students love the challenge, I’m sure there are plenty of would-be students who would prefer this was a lot easier.

    Runways optional 

    The other huge benefit for VTOL is that no runway is required. Theoretically they can take off and land almost anywhere. 

    While there are start-up companies working on this issue such as Skyportz, it will be a while before there are mass urban take-off and landing sites available for all VTOL types of flying, not to mention charging stations. The other factor is whether these sites will be available for personal use or only for commercial applications.

    Range

    Initially, range will be the biggest issue for early VTOL aircraft, the same as for early electric fixed-wing aircraft. I believe that within 10 years there will be hybrid VTOL (vertical take-off with a fixed-wing component, such as the start-up Beta, that can actually take off and land as a fixed-wing aircraft and have a range close to 400km. 

    Battery technology is also improving at a rate of about 5 to 7% per year. This means that within 10 years, energy density should double. This is not taking into account any major breakthroughs in battery technology (such as solid-state batteries). 

    Picture courtesy of Beta Technologies

    VTOL cockpitThe future is exciting 

    While it is hard to predict the future, I think the personal VTOL aircraft revolution is still four to eight years away and when it arrives it is going to radically change urban transport and bring helicopter-like charter operations to the masses (rather than just the rich!).

    There will still be plenty of individuals who will want to learn to fly in a fixed-wing aircraft. There is something magical about mastering a landing in a fixed-wing aircraft and as all pilots know, you never stop perfecting your landings. However, I think flying a recreational VTOL will also be rewarding in new ways. It is possible that this new technology will open up new opportunities and entice more tech-savvy pilots into the recreational flying space.

    I can envision a future where a flight school has both electric fixed-wing aircraft and electric VTOL aircraft. Some pilots will be attracted to one type and some pilots will want to do both. The issue over the next five to eight years will be deciding who will manage the training and regulatory/safety aspect of these recreational VTOL type aircraft. 

    While Commercial VTOL will be governed by CASA in Australia, who will take the regulatory lead with recreational VTOL aircraft? For instance in Australia, will it be governed directly by CASA, or by Recreational Aviation Australia, or some new self-administering organisation?

    I don’t have the answers, but I think we need to start having the conversation now so we can all have a part in creating our flying (for fun) future. While it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future will hold, there is no doubt that the future of personal flying will be very exciting.

    Damien Wills, CEO GoFly Group

    Feature photo courtesy of Air One 

  • Why adopting the best glide speed is so important after an engine failure

    If you have already completed Practice Forced Landing (simulated engine failure) training you will remember how your flight instructor reiterated how important it is to adopt the best glide speed as soon as the engine goes quiet. So why is the best glide speed so important after an engine failure?

    Glide performance and best glide speed

    Firstly, for your aircraft type, the pilot operating handbook (POH) will advise what the best glide speed is for the aircraft type. The best glide speed is the airspeed for the best lift to drag ratio. Any faster than this speed and the total drag increases, and any slower than this speed, then the total drag increases.

    A  simpler definition is ‘at the best glide speed the aircraft is delivering the maximum amount of lift for the least amount of drag’. This best glide speed is important to know in the event of an engine failure, as it will result in obtaining the best maximum gliding range for the aircraft.

    As we can see from the graph below at the best glide speed total drag (Induced plus parasite drag) is at a minimum.

    Factors affecting glide range

    The maximum gliding range for the aircraft type will also be affected by wind, weight and aircraft configuration. If you are flying into a strong headwind, your gliding rage will be reduced; and if you are flying with a tailwind, your gliding rage will be extended.

    As for weight, the heavier the aircraft, the more lift is required to balance the force of weight.  The extra weight means that for the same airspeed, more angle of attack is required to create more lift, which results in more drag and therefore diminishes the aircraft’s glide range.

    Aircraft configuration also affects the aircraft glide range. For instance, if you have flaps selected, this will increase both induced drag and parasite drag. If the total drag increases, then the aircraft’s glide range will be reduced.

    Time and distance is critical following an engine failure

    Unless the aircraft is on fire, the pilot should aim to stay in the air as long as possible and have the longest possible glide range following an engine failure. This will allow the pilot to have more options in relation to field selection, and allow more time to complete the emergency procedures. By not adopting the best glide speed the pilot may not be able to make the pre-selected field to land in.

    This short article is an extract from our BAK Easy Book, from the GoFly Online flight training platform. The GoFly Online Team wants to help you become the best pilot you can be. Feel free to try our 7day FREE trial to access all videos, practice exams and theory books, at www.gofly.online

  • Mutual support or competitive hostility?

    I’ve just finished reading a fantastic book called ‘Super Pumped: The Battle for Uber’ by Mike Isaac.  The book gives a very accurate account of the early startup years of Uber through to its massive growth and then finally having the CEO and founder, Travis Kalanick, fired as CEO and thrown off the board. The book is a riveting read and an incredible look behind the curtain of a huge-growth company. In particular it looks at what constitutes a ‘toxic culture’ and the dark side of a business that is completely driven by a ‘kill or be killed’ business mindset.

    One of the main themes of the book, which struck a chord with me, is how many businesses, whether big or small, have the mindset of ‘we must kill or be killed’. Uber was incredibly aggressive with its growth targets and did not care which other companies they put out of business and what they had to do to achieve world domination. The book is a fantastic warning for any leader or business owner on how NOT to operate and grow a business.

    Competitive Hostility 

    ‘Competitive hostility’ is the opposite of ‘mutual support’. In this mindset we believe that the world is a hostile place and that the business environment can be likened to a battle field. We believe that every competitor is a threat to our business, so to be successful we need to dominate and destroy the competitor; kill or be killed.

    In this mindset we believe in scarcity; that there is not enough for everyone and we must fight to work hard to get ahead of the competitor; that no one can be trusted and we must protect everything that we own, at all costs, to secure our future success.

    Uber initially operated with a competitive hostility mindset but fortunately the shareholders and some key private investors and board members painstakingly tried to turn the company around by adopting a more gentle ‘mutual support’ mindset.

    What the former CEO of Uber, and many large multinational companies fail to grasp, is that there is more than enough business for multiple companies in that particular industry. Uber could still have been worth billions, even if their competitor, Lyft, owned half the global market share.

    Mutual support

    Mutual support is not built on a feeling of scarcity but a belief in abundance, a feeling that there is more than enough for everyone. It is a positive framework that is built on passion and inspiration and not fear. I have read a lot of books about the two different mindsets. One of my personal heroes is the late Buckminster Fuller (inventor, futurist and author). He strongly believed that to build a better world we must all start thinking in terms of ‘mutual support’. Mutual support is the idea that there is more than enough pie for everyone. It proposes that the best way to succeed is to help others succeed.

    By helping each other – even our competitors – we can ALL succeed. I believe that you and your competitor can both succeed.

    Strategic alliances and mutual support

    I started a flight school ten years ago, grew a little too fast and ended up having three schools, then closed the Armidale and Caboolture schools to concentrate on the school at Caloundra airport. I have always operated on the assumption that there is enough business for everyone and that if you just concentrate on making your product or service better – through continuous improvement –  and you have a meaningful reason for ‘why’ you are in business, the money will follow.

    To make my weather-dependent flight school business more resilient, I started the GoFly Online video platform. The Caloundra school is now at a point where I can afford to employ a CFI, and more recently, an Operations Manager, so that I can focus more on the online content. I have since formed strategic partnerships with two aircraft owners and three other flight school owners with similar values, to share resources, have cost efficiencies with maintenance and marketing, provide career pathways for staff and to share in even more slices of the never-ending pie. When we work together, we can achieve far more as a team than trying to compete and protect ourselves on our own.

    Declining industries are generally hostile 

    Many of us have heard the story of how the CEO of the Blockbuster video chain declined an invitation to partner with a little known startup company called Netflix. Blockbuster had a hostile competitive mindset. Now they don’t have anything.

    If companies in declining industries could move to a mutual support mindset, they would be better placed to work with other businesses and innovate their way to new high-growth industries instead of protecting what they have always done. In a similar vein, I recently discovered that the R&D team at Kodak invented digital photography back in the 70s but management thought it would cannibalise their existing business, so hid the technology. Kodak’s rivals seized the opportunity and embraced the innovation. Now there’s not many Kodak moments.

    Survival mode does not have to be hostile mode!

    I have noticed a trend over the last 10 years when the economy softens, or we have an unexpected disruption – such as COVID 19 – and revenue decreases, that many of my competitors get even more aggressive. I understand that many businesses in this present environment are in survival mode and doing it very tough, however that is not an excuse for looking at ways of putting your competitor out of business so you can get a bigger slice of the pie.  A better way would be to look at how you can pivot and cut costs in your own business or even look at supporting and helping your entire industry, not just your own business.

    Competitive hostility is rampant in the aviation industry

    I have competitors who refuse to speak to me and who have tried to damage GoFly’s reputation. One of our competitors used to copy our website and special offers almost word for word. Another wrote a bad Google review in an attempt to tarnish our brand. Yet another tried to poach an aircraft that we leased and yet another wrote a letter in support of a former student’s ill-fated attempt to sue me.

    What these hostile businesses don’t understand is that I actually want them to succeed. It is not a zero-sum game: I don’t have to fail for them to win and they don’t have to fail for me to win. We can all win in the long term.

    I am so grateful that we have formed alliances now with businesses and individuals who have a ‘mutual support’ mindset and this helps drive and create a better company and culture, and creates businesses that are less fragile over the long term.

    I also have noticed that businesses who are not driven by continuous improvement and innovation are hostile to companies who are. It is classic protectionism based on fear that the competition might come up with a better service or product than their business currently offers.

    If companies spend a large proportion of their time and revenue on their own business innovation and improvement, there will be less time to worry about what a competitor is doing, and less time to try to destroy the competition. At times it is hard to operate with a ‘mutual support’ mindset in business when a large majority of your competitors believe in competitive hostility and are trying to destroy your business or aggressively poach your customers.

    The ‘mutual support’ mindset is like the kind guy in the room, while the ‘competitive hostility’ mindset is like the bully waiting to hit you and steal all that you have. There are many proven ways to deal with bullies in real life. A hostile competitor should be dealt with the same way. Here are three easy ways you can deal with a hostile business bully.

    1. Ignore them (if they’re not doing any real harm, other than to your pride)
    2. Report them (if they are doing anything illegal or unethical which impacts on your business)
    3. Keep making YOUR business the best business it can be, and go back to point number 1 and ignore them

    It’s hard to not to want revenge

    I am a bit addicted to the TV series ‘Billions’, in which the main protagonist, a billionaire called Bobby Axelrod, believes that in the business world you have to kill, or be killed. He goes to great lengths to plan strategies to cripple his perceived enemies. At times when someone has tried to hurt me personally or professionally, I am aware of my inner Axelrod rising up, and for a moment I want revenge on the person or business that has tried to do me harm. It’s just a natural human reaction. When I feel this way, I remind myself that this will not only distract me from making my own business better but also distract from my own inner peace. Anyone who acts from a ‘competitive hostility’ mindset is living a life of fear.

    Einstein’s famous question

    Einstein famously stated that the most important question any individual can ask themselves is, ‘Is the Universe a friendly place?’ The CEO of Uber did not believe the universe was friendly – and the consequences for him were dire.

    I believe in a friendly universe and that mutual support is a much healthier mindset to have both as individuals, businesses and the planet as a whole. The irony of the Uber story is that most people that I know, love the quick, efficient and cashless Uber experience. Uber could still have built a great company by charging customers a little bit more, treating their staff and drivers a lot better, and accepting that more than one Uber-type business can exist in the world. Hopefully Uber is now travelling in the right direction.

    Competitive hostility is hard work

    With a competitive hostility mindset you’re always looking over your shoulder and living in a state of paranoia and fear. You’re obsessed with what the other business is doing, more than being obsessed with making your own business better. You make yourself work harder because you believe that if you don’t work harder, your competitor will put you out of business. Having this mindset is just plain exhausting and bad for your health.

    Your competitor may still go out of business

    You can have a mutual support mindset with your business and your competitor might still go out of business. If you focus on making your business the best it can be for your staff and your customers, and your competitor goes out of business, this doesn’t mean that you were being competitive or hostile. It just means they either didn’t create an environment of continuous improvement or their product or service did not find a market.

    Mutual support is easy

    You have all heard the phrase ‘go with the flow’. This statement sums up why living with a ‘mutual support’ mindset works. You still create and work, but you’re NOT DRIVEN BY FEAR. Fear is replaced by inspiration. The work itself is what drives you, not just the end result, and you couldn’t care less about what your competitor is doing because you’re having too much fun playing in your own business.

    When we heard that a local simulator operator was struggling to pay high rent in a central location, we invited him to move into our building, as I knew that our own students would love to use the sim and it was a value add-on to our own school. When we heard that a local aerobatics flying school was struggling to find a hangar to rent, we approached them to use our briefing rooms and share our hangar space – as I knew that aerobatics was an obvious next step in our own students’ training.

    We were approached by two other fledgling flight schools at Redcliffe and Heck Field, to form a strategic alliance to provide our excellent instructors and our online video training. We made sure that the partners shared our desire to give awesome customer service, and both partnerships and schools are now doing well. Likewise, we invited two of our pilots who happened to be video producers and web designers, to form a partnership to share in the creation of, and the income from, our GoFly Online video platform.

    Only you can decide whether to believe in hostility or support. I choose to believe that mutual support is the better option, and to surround myself with others who also believe it. I might still get bullied occasionally but life is so much more fun and peaceful with this mindset!

    Damien Wills

    September 2020

    To read more of Damien’s blogs, click here.

  • The twin issues of the pilot shortage 

    This article was originally written in February 2020 for the May edition of  ‘Australian Flying’ magazine – well before the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic, and its effects on the airline industry.

    This blog is for all Flight School operators, CASA and government policy makers, airline board members and anyone else who has an interest in innovation and the future of the aviation sector.

    I’m going to suggest a change. The main problem with change is that most of us see change as a threat, plus there is a natural bias towards maintaining the status quo when something is already working. Changing is even harder when many individuals and businesses are still making a profit by doing things how they have always been done. 

    Presently Australia’s major airlines are experiencing a temporary lull in the hiring of pilots, but it is evident that there will soon be a serious global pilot shortage caused by the increase in low-cost travel, the growth of the Asian middle class and and the retirement of senior airline staff. Boeing for instance has projected that airlines and business aviation will require another 790,000 pilots worldwide by 2037. Added to this is the fact that not so many students are learning to fly as the cost of flight training has been steadily increasing. Also some segments of  the flight training industry have been declining for some time due to increased costs, regulation and, to put it politely, a lack of imagination and innovation.

    When  business owners try to improve things for customers and staff, they try to reduce ‘friction points (or ‘pain points’). Flight training presently has many friction points, and I am going to focus on one of the main friction points which, I believe, if eliminated could create a positive trifecta for the airlines, General Aviation flight schools and student pilots. 

    Eliminate the need for a twin-engine instrument rating 

    For the direct entry route, most airlines currently equire the candidate to have at least 500 hours of multi-engine command instrument time before they can apply. Some airlines have reduced this requirement and only require a multi-engine instrument rating with no multi-engine command hours, however this is more of an exception rather than a rule.

    The issue with this scenario is that twin-engine piston charter is in decline. The industry is replacing the ageing twins (such as Piper Chieftains and Barons) with single-engine turbine aircraft or twin-engine turbines and many of these charter routes are being replaced with small turbine RPT airlines. It is becoming harder and harder for self-funded future airline pilots to get a twin-engine charter job to build the twin command hours required for the airlines.

    Most of the entry-level hour building jobs for the airlines are now coming from flight schools. Also airlines now prefer direct entry pilots to have an instructor rating as they can be utilised for check and training roles at a later stage. 

    BUILDING COMMAND TIME FOR THE AIRLINES AS A FLIGHT INSTRUCTOR

    The major issue with building twin command time with a flight school is that twin-engine flying only accounts for about 15% (or less) of the overall flying conducted at a typical non-integrated CPL flight school. 

    This means that for a typical flight school doing 100 hours of flying a week, it would take the average instructor three years to get to the point where they could conduct twin engine training and another three to four years to build up the required 500 hours of command that airlines want. 

    TWIN ENGINE PISTON TRAINING IS HIGH RISK

    Contrary to popular belief, twin-engine piston aircraft are no safer than single-engine aircraft. In fact, your chance of a fatality is higher if you suffer an engine failure in a piston twin. Let’s not forget that on takeoff with a twin, you are twice as likely to suffer an engine failure, and in most light twins if you are at max take off weight on takeoff on a less than ideal day, then there is a very real chance you are not going to climb. This is just an additional training risk that flight schools have to carry for their business, instructors and students.

    AIRCRAFT UTILISATION 

    A twin-engine aircraft generally can only be used for twin-engine endorsements and instrument ratings. Due to the high operating cost it is usually not used for any other type of training such as building command hours. This means that at many flight schools twin-engine aircraft are sitting dormant for the majority of the time. There is a cost to the flight school to train and make sure all their flight instructors are current on these twin-engine aircraft. 

    AIRCRAFT ACQUISITION AND OPERATING COSTS

    It doesn’t matter whether you are buying a second-hand twin or new aircraft, they are all expensive to purchase and maintain. A second-hand Baron can cost $150,000 to $500,000 while a new aircraft can cost upwards of a million dollars. The basic operating costs of a Baron (fuel, maintenance and engine replacement and insurance) is around $450 an hour. This is the minimum cost before the flight school can even think about making a profit. The current cost for a twin-engine endorsement and multi-engine instrument rating is between $20,000 to $30,000 for an Australian student pilot. 

    A POSSIBLE SOLUTION

    My suggestion is that the direct entry level requirement for airlines should be a CPL with a single-engine instrument rating and ATPL subjects passed. This would then allow schools to have only one or two aircraft types online for flight training. This would have the benefit of reducing costs for the flight school and the student and make available more potential pilots for the future airline pilot shortage.

    If the airlines were not hiring at the time the student graduated, they could use the funds that would have been used for a twin-engine rating towards an Instructor rating to make them more employable.

    You could hypothetically have a flight school doing ab initio training with a Cessna 172 which could also double as an IFR trainer and then the school only requires one Cessna 182 for CPL training and IFR training. (Personally I believe CPL training should be able to be conducted in a Cessna 172 providing it has a glass cockpit and autopilot. The Federal Aviation Administration in the US has now gone down this path.)

    Alternatively, a flight school could potentially operate only a fleet of Cirrus SR 20s for use as both basic training and advanced IFR CPL training (one aircraft type; you don’t get much simpler than that). The benefit is that once you have obtained your single-engine rating, keeping it current would be a lot less expensive than keeping a multi-engine rating current. Currently the cost of a standard CPL with multi-engine instrument rating is around $85,000. With a single-engine IFR integrated into a CPL course, this could be reduced to around $60,000.

    For those of you who worry about flying in heavy IMC in a single-engine aircraft, remember that IFR training can be conducted in VFR conditions with the student wearing a hood. You do not have to train in heavy IMC.

    MODERN SINGLE-ENGINE AIRCRAFT

    The flight school that I own operates a Cirrus SR20 for PPL and CPL training and the avionics are on par with any modern airliner. I believe that learning to conduct instrument training on this platform is going to be as good – or more beneficial – than in a 30 year old analogue piston twin for any future airline pilot. Also any Cessna 172 can be converted to have a modern Glass cockpit with autopilot for IFR training for a lot less cost than purchasing a new or secondhand twin-engine aircraft.

    TYPE RATING

    Operating a multi-engine piston aircraft is dramatically different from operating a multi-engine turbine or pure jet; performance and complexity being the big difference. The airline will type certify a newly employed pilot anyway on that particular aircraft. What airlines really want is a direct entry pilot who can fly an accurate instrument approach and who works well within a team and who is obsessed with flying. I would suggest that General Aviation twin piston charter companies follow the airline path and that CASA creates a type rating for every different type of twin-engine piston. So if you want a charter job flying Barons after your CPL, then you get a type rating on a Baron and this upgrades your single engine IFR to multi for that aircraft type.

    REAL WORK EXPERIENCE 

    The argument I hear from many airline and multi-engine pilots is that flying single pilot command twin engine IFR gives the pilot ‘real world’ experience before joining an airline. I don’t doubt that this does increase a pilot’s abilities however I would also suggest that flying single pilot IFR in a piston twin is a lot different than flying multi crew jets for an airline.  Also, a new First Officer in an airline will spend on average two to seven years as a First Officer before gaining a command position. Isn’t the First Officer learning real world experience during this time?

    THIS MODEL ALREADY WORKS

    For those of you who don’t like change or think that what I am proposing is ridiculous, then I would point out that this idea is nothing new and is already working. The current MPL or Multi Crew Pilots Licence is used by many airlines in Europe and the Middle East and has been very successful since 2006. 

    The MPL course usually involves a student completing around 75 hours of basic and instrument training on a single-engine aircraft such as a Garmin Cessna 172. They complete their CPL and ATPL theory subjects and then progress directly to a type rating on a simulator for that particular jet.

    No multi-engine time is required; just a focus on multi crew and advanced systems. If this licensing has been successful for many airlines then does it not stand to reason that the twin-engine rule is possibly redundant for direct entry airline pilots?

    TIMES ARE CHANGING

    I find it slightly amusing that CASA is supposedly going to grant approval for electric VTOL passenger carrying aircraft in Melbourne for Uber Elevate and yet many students still have to learn in 30 year old gas-guzzling twin-engine aircraft before they can apply for an airline. There is a huge disconnect between new forms of transport and existing transport and training (having rules that were created around WWII). The reason for this is quite simple: a new industry such as electric on demand VTOL does not have entrenched rules and regulations and an existing bias towards maintaining the status quo. 

    Some flying schools who now operate twin trainers and who are making a profit may be angered by this article, however before they judge or make up their minds about whether my suggestions make sense, may I suggest they all ask themselves these important questions:

    • Do you think schools will still be training on old piston twins in 20 years’ time?
    • Will flight schools be able to afford new million dollar twin-engine training aircraft to replace their ageing twins?
    • What is the best solution for the Aviation industry and students in relation to training the next generation of airline pilots? 

    Damien Wills

    CEO, GoFly Group

    To read more of Damien’s aviation blogs, click here

     

  • How to avoid feeling sick when learning to fly

    Some students and even some veteran pilots experience air sickness from time to time. In fact for my first 10 hours of flight training (about 20 years ago now) I was sick during every lesson.

    Eventually the sickness disappeared but I learnt a few things along the way. Below I have outlined a few of my tips:

    Eat something before you fly

    I am still amazed at how many new students have heard that it’s best not to eat anything before you fly or you might get sick.  Nothing could be further from the truth. You need something in your stomach otherwise you are guaranteed to get sick. However that doesn’t mean you should go and fill up with a stack of pancakes and a chocolate milkshake.  If you suffer air sickness keep your diet simple when flying. 

    Food to Avoid

    • Anything with lots of sugar and anything with milk (so rule number one = avoid milk)
    • If you are dieting, skip the protein shake and have some real food that day
    • Avoid anything too greasy or oily
    • Avoid soups – I have learnt this the hard way)
    • Avoid salads with lots of lettuce or cabbage, this will give you gas and will not help matters.

    Food you can eat

    Here are some foods I have found work well for me: 

    • Bananas work very well.  They fill you up with no yucky feeling
    • Rye Bread (toasted is OK) with vegemite or something else light on the bread  
    • Ginger tablets – these work well for stopping nausea

    Wear loose cotton clothing

    Make sure your clothing is light and can breathe. If you get hot you are more likely to feel sick.

    Have plenty of ventilation

    Choose an aircraft that has plenty of air vents and plenty of ventilation. If idling for a long period at the holding point or while sitting and chatting to the instructor before the flight, have the canopy wide open

    Drink plenty of water

    This one is a important: you will get air sick if you’re dehydrated.  So sip on pure water before you fly and take a bottle of water in the air to sip on.

    Tell the instructor if you feel sick

    It amuses me how some students would prefer to vomit all over the cockpit than to suffer the embarrassment of having to let the instructor know that feeling sick. I know know the tell-tale signs all too well:  students become quieter, they start sweating, their face becomes pale and they don’t react very quickly.

     It’s important to tell the instructor as soon as you feel a bit queasy.  The instructor can then make things more comfortable for you, to try to avoid any impending projection.

    Damien Wills, May 2015

    To read more blogs by Damien, click here.

  • Retraction of article published in January 2021

    In January 2021, I published an article titled ‘My SOAR point with VET Student Loans for Flight Training’. I hereby retract that article, in particular, my comments concerning Mr Neel Khokhani.

     

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