Stall / Spin Training - Eagle Colorado

Thoughts on spin training and unusual stalls.

Yesterday I flew with a pilot to conduct a flight review.  We had a discussion about stalls and spins and why understanding the nature of a spin was so important.  He was flying a Cessna 210 and one of his comments was basically that he thought he would have to screw up pretty bad to enter a spin.  In actuality that's not the case - inadvertent spins commonly occur as a result of an overshoot  of final and entry to a cross-controlled stall on the base to final turn.  In addition to that common recipe, there are others include flying a given attitude on departure rather than a speed.  Hot day, heavy load, bingo... full power-on stall during climb out, add a climbing turn that’s a little uncoordinated and you've got all the ingredients for a spin entry.

I can distill all my thoughts on unintentional spins into one statement.....

If you learn good rudder control and always keep the flight controls coordinated unintentional spins will not occur.  (Coordinated means the ball in the center)

Same topic, changing ideas…

This morning NAFI sent me a survey - they sent it to all flight instructors regarding spin training.  The survey asked questions about our own spin experience and how we teach spins, and stalls.

The survey is good; it's a good topic worth researching.  Several questions on the survey peaked my interest....

Does fear of entering a spins prevent you from teaching certain types of stalls?

Do you get uncomfortable about teaching stalls for fear of spins?

I answered yes to both questions, but my answer was based on considering all the different types of aircraft I teach in.

If I’m teaching in a Seneca  I don’t ever want to even come close to a spin – I can’t be sure the aircraft would recover.  If it did I wouldn't know how much altitude it would take.  Manufacturers of twins don't need to show spin flight characteristics to get the craft certified.  So they don't.  If Piper wasn't willing to test that, why should I be willing to?

On the other hand, if I’m teaching in a Katana or a 172 then I wouldn’t hesitate to drill every type of stall over and over, and even fly the plane well beyond the initial indication of stall. – Because I know I can recover from the stall and spin without problem!


I believe that it's important for every pilot to understand the aerodynamics of a spin, the causes, and how to recover.  Pilots need to practice cross-controlled stalls, accelerated stalls, secondary stalls, power on, off, dirty, clean, and turning stalls.  End of story... pilots need to know this stuff.

That doesn't mean all these things need to be taught in every different aircraft.  My personal rule - if the aircraft isn't certified for spins then I don't go beyond power on and power off stalls.  If the craft is certified for spins then we do it all, cross-controlled stalls, accelerated stalls, secondary stalls, turning stalls, spins.

So my recommendation to all pilots is that you learn and practice these maneuvers occasionally.  That doesn't mean in your Bonanza, Baron, or Seneca, get an aircraft certified for the spins and then if the cross-controlled stall becomes a spin - no biggie.

If you need an aircraft or instructor willing to tackle these topics, come see me and we'll fly use my Katana!

Mountain Flight Instructor | Mountain Flying Courses

I figured I would dedicate this blog post to telling a little about our mountain flying courses. We frequently instruct pilots who own their own airplane, and are from areas without mountainous terrain. One of the first questions that comes up, is how do I get to Eagle Airport to fly with you in my airplane given that Eagle is in the mountains and my reason for coming is that I don't know how to fly in the mountains. We can and do frequently fly our airplane to the front range to meet pilots. Generally, if you’re coming up for a couple days of training then what we do is fly our plane to an airport east or west of the Rockies, and we just park our plane there for a couple days and then ride back to eagle with our student. There are a couple airports where parking is free or cheap that we generally use. In that type of scenario we charge a flat fee of $200 for the round trip just to cover the gas and time on the airplane. When you’re ready to depart to go back home you would just drop our instructor back at the airport where we left the plane.

In terms of a mountain flying course, we custom tailor the course to a pilot's experience, goals, and their airplane. In most cases, pilots will spend two days flying with us. Sometimes we have students that want more, others want to simply limit it to a half day or 1 day. So in that regard a pilot can really determine how much time you want to spend.

As we're planning your training it helps to know a little more about the student... their goals for the course, as well as future goals for your flying. For example some people come to us as a prep for flying to alaska. Are there any any specific airports you want to be sure to visit – resorts you like going to etc. Are you an instrument pilot? How much time, ratings, how much time do you have flying your airplane?

On the typical 2 day plan, we generally start off with a couple hours of ground instruction/discussion on the basics. Following that, we work through a variety of scenarios basically navigating to and from different mountain airports, pass crossings, and mountain corridors. Throughout the training we mix in additional discussions and ground instruction. The goal is not to bore the student with hours upon hours of ground, and instead have an integrated learning experience. At the end of two days most pilots will have landed 10-15 different airports with different challenges, flown most of Colorado’s major mountain corridors, and tackled the major passes generally used to navigate east to west in the central Rockies.

Occasionally we have students that simply want a 1 day, or a half day because they maybe have a 2nd home in a certain area, like Telluride, but live in Texas. In those cases they may only be interested in flying that route with an instructor and learning the most basic knowledge. We’re happy to do this type of training also.

In terms of cost, Our instructors bill hourly @ $75.00/hour for mountain flight instruction in customer aircraft and $40/hour for ground. If you’re flying with us 1 full day or more we provide a 20% discount. The two day courses generally work out to around $700-$1000. In most cases we have a total of 4-5 hours of ground and 10-12 hours of flight.

Mountain Flight Training in Colorado

If you're interested in flight training with an emphasis on extending your knowledge with some mountain flight training then Colorado is the place to come to, and Alpine Flight Training can provide the instruction.  We operate from Eagle County Regional airport, located in the central Colorado Rockies.  Whether for several hours, or for several days, Alpine Flight Training instructors will show you what it takes to fly safely in the mountains.  Each mountain flight training instruction session is specifically tailored to the student.  We can provide training in your aircraft or our rental Katana.

Throughout each session, we will build on your aviation knowledge and airman-ship by presenting opportunities for hands-on practice and application of learning on some of Colorado's mountain airports including Steamboat, Eagle, Aspen, Telluride, Glenwood Springs, Gunnison.  We'll also show you how to navigate the mountain passes and give you strategies for dealing with mountain weather in a small aircraft.


Mountain Flying Checkout in Colorado

Colorado is a great place to learn the ins and outs of mountain flying and get a mountain checkout. While there is no formal FAA rating or endorsement for a mountain checkout, many insurance companies will still require such checkout before pilots are allowed to fly into high terrain. At Alpine Flight Training we follow a curriculum that follows the topics developed by AOPA Air Safety Foundation. In Fact, we recommend every student coming for mountain flying to take the online ASF Mountain Flying Course prior to mountain flying with us. Doing so will make your mountain checkout count towards a wings phase of pilot proficiency, and that can mean a reduction in insurance premiums.

Any mountain checkout should consist of a combination of ground and flight instruction. Topics should include weather, performance limitations, specific maneuvers, strategies, practice landing and departing mountain airports with a variety of challenges, and practice flying mountain passes.

Flight Lessons in Vail Colorado, Eagle Airport

Learn to fly in the mountains at the Eagle Airport, located near Vail Colorado
Whether you are learning to fly for the first time, or simply looking to add mountain flying to your skill set, Alpine Flight Training located at Eagle Airport can help.  Alpine Flight Training offers private pilot ground and flight training as well as instrument training at the Eagle County Regional Airport located in Eagle Colorado.  Our training features a Diamond DA-20 Eclipse, one of the safest training aircraft in the industry, The DA-20 is the primary choice of flight schools through the nation as well as the training airplane for the US Air Force initial flight screening program.

If you are looking to lean more about Mountain Flying, Call and talk to the instructors at Alpine Flight Training. We will build a training plan ideally suited to any pilot’s skill level and experience. Our instructors can provide mountain training in our rental aircraft or in your own aircraft. Additionally, we can arrange to meet you at an airport east or west of the Rockies on the way from where you are coming from.

Our location at Eagle County Regional Airport is ideal for new pilot training and a convenient drive from Vail, Eagle, Glenwood Springs, Edwards, Minturn, Avon, and Gypsum, Colorado.  Students learning to fly at Eagle Airport will learn mountain flying first hand from our team of professional instructors.  Our proximity from Aspen, Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Steamboat Springs provides our students with a diverse selection of airports and challenges ideal for learning safe mountain flying.  Learn more about Alpine Flight Training by visiting our website or call us today at 970-401-5105.

Alpine Flight Training is conveniently located at the Eagle County Regional Airport.  We a re a short driving distance and the best location of choice for leaning to fly in the Vail Valley, Vail, Beaver Creek, Gypsum, Minturn, Eagle, Avon, and Edwards.

Learning to fly at 16, 17, or 18 years of age, what's the right age?

When is the right time to have your son or daughter learn to fly?I occasionally get asked what's the right age to get my son or daughter into flight lessons.  Having just had this discussion a couple hours ago, I figured this would be a great topic to add to the blog.

First, let's look at the legal age requirements to learn to fly...  FAR 61.103 states "To be eligible for a private pilot certificate, you must: Be at least 17 years of age for a rating in other than a glider or balloon."

Keep in mind, that regulation applies not to instruction, but the completion of private pilot training.  Meaning a person cannot take the practical test to get their license until they are 17, but it doesn't state anything about learning to fly before that date.  If we dig a bit deeper in 61.83 and 61.87 we'll see that in order to solo a person must posses a student pilot certificate and in order to get a student pilot certificate a person must be 16 years old.

So, the short answer is 16 to solo, and 17 to get a license, but that answer is simply the legal aspects of getting a license and doesn't really address when to start the learning process.

So when should your son or daughter begin learning to fly?  I think a good deal of this is dependent upon their motivation, time commitments, and burn out rate.  Having three kids of my own I know that my children have occasion to get hyped up about things, then burned out a short time later.  If your son or daughter really wants to learn to fly and they have interest in aviation that you want to help cultivate then my advice is to take it slow as to not be the cause of their burn out.

Why do I say that?  Pilot training can be somewhat rigorous.  There are motor skills to develop (flying the plane), knowledge to acquire, practical and written tests to take, and all of these things will require effort from them.  There's no question that your son or daughter could learn to fly in a 4 week period over their summer break.  The issue is whether or not that crammed learning experience would (1) allow them retain that knowledge and  (2) burn them out on aviation in the process.

So with that said, I believe taking your time is a better strategy - it has less opportunity to lead to burnout and the quality of the training is higher. 

For many years I've said that cram type training is no good.  My belief is that pilots that cram their training into a short duration don't remember as much as pilots who spread the training out, and ultimately these pilots that leaned to fly in a cram session are simply not as safe.

My recommendations - Anytime after the 15th birthday I think the time is right to learn to fly.  Much younger than 15 the child will develop good hands on stick and rudder flying skills, but I have found that kids that age have a hard time grasping the regulatory aspects, as well as the mathematics required.  Certainly you can have your 12 or 13 year old flying, it just means they will spend a lot of time flying with the instructor before they are able to get a license. 

Once they hit high school the math and regulations seem to click for most.  Starting at 16 is a great age, they can take their time, do a lesson a week and a little bookwork (1-2 hours) on the side and this will lead them to easily accomplish the training by their 17th birthday when they are legal to get the license. 

Keep in mind they are kids.... The idea is to not burden them with copious amounts of aviation homework when they have so much other demands on their time from school.  FLYING SHOULD BE FUN FOR THEM... Not a burden of one more thing for school they owe a teach on.

In some families, soloing on a 16th birthday is a right of passage.  If your child wants to solo on their 16th birthday then I recommend them starting regular flight lessons at 15 1/2.  First once a week, leading up the birthday they will probably fly twice a week.

So what about after the private pilot's license and the 17th birthday?  If they have successfully obtained their private pilot's license then I recommend going on to an instrument rating.  If they decide to fly for a career then they will need an instrument rating, if they don't fly for a career then an instrument rating makes them that much better and safer a pilot.

Hopefully that's helpful.  Just my perspective based on training kids of all ages over the years.  If you have any questions feel free to contact me. 

Alpine Flight Training is conveniently located at the Eagle County Regional Airport.  We are a short driving distance and the best location of choice for leaning to fly in the Vail Valley, Vail, Beaver Creek, Gypsum, Minturn, Eagle, Avon, and Edwards.

Renewing Your Pilot's License | Recurrent Flight Training in Eagle Colorado

The process to get flying again after you have been out of it for years.

Frequently I am asked what type of process is involved in getting back into flying after a person has been away for 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years or more. The process is surprisingly practical and straight forward.  Unlike the initial certification process, this process is entirely based on proficiency.

Perhaps you may have noticed, US pilot licenses are issued without expiration. This is different from driver's licenses and a source of confusion on the topic. Where as a driver's license needs to be renewed every couple years, the pilot's license does not need to be renewed, however the regulations do require the pilot to have had a flight review in the prior 24 months and be current in the category and class of aircraft in order to carry passengers. Additionally, a pilot is required to have a medical.

So as a flight instructor, how exactly do we help get a rusty pilot back into the air? Our strategy has always been to go back to reviewing the basics - we start just as we would start a new student. Straight and level, turns, climbs, descents. We move on to slow flight, stalls, ground reference maneuvers, and finally landings. Along the way, the communications skills come back naturally, as do navigation skills through the process of simply flying. On the ground we do a similar exercise, reviewing regulations, airspace, weather, performance, flight planning.

Ultimately the graduation from recurrent training occurs when the pilot has at a minimum demonstrated the basic skills we would expect from a freshly minted private pilot. We treat the final flight as a flight review consisting of 1 hour of ground and 1 hour of flight. As the instructor, we simply sign the logbook as a successful flight review and at that point the pilot is cleared for flight assuming they have also received a new medical.

The last element being currency in make and model is really not an impediment to flying, but rather a requirement for carrying passengers.  Technically speaking, a pilot can get a flight review in a single engine land airplane, even though they also have a multi-engine land rating on their license.  Where the currency becomes relevant is if the pilot who is considered current in single engine land wants to take passengers in the multi-engine airplane, then they must perform three landings in the last 90 days in the multi-engine airplane, and similarly, if the pilot wants to carry passengers at night then the landings must have been at night to full stop.

So there you have it. No written tests, no checkrides. Simply work at your own pace with an instructor until the skills return. I think you'll be surprised as to how fast they come back.  In general I've found that getting a pilot back to currency and getting a review done requires 1.5-2 hours of ground and 1.5-2 hours of flight per year they have been away from flying.  So, a pilot who has not flown in 10 years will probably require between 15-20 hours of instruction in ground and air to return to currency.

If you would like to learn more about recurrent training to get back into the air please contact us. We operated from Eagle County Regional Airport and service the areas of Eagle, Vail, Glenwood Springs, Gypsum, Edwards, Avon, Minturn.

How close to the edge of the performance envelope are you?

The importance of closely examining aircraft performance in the summer and at higher elevations.

We frequently hear about complacency with relation to flying. The tendency of course is that as pilots get more and more time under their belts, they tend to become complacent with regards to the operation of their aircraft. We see this in all aspects, from planning, to preflight, and right on into flight operations.

This last weekend I was at the Glenwood Springs airport where I witnessed a takeoff that could have easily ended in tragedy. This particular incident made me think back to another incident several years earlier that was very tragic indeed where lack of flight planning resulted in a child burned to death on the side of a mountain in the wreckage of a small plane crash. This particular crash actually killed 2 of the four passengers, one being a child and the other being his father. The irony of this wreak was that it was an airplane in perfect working order, had plenty of fuel, and was being flown on a perfect sunny cloudless day here in Colorado.

I see it everyday, pilots becoming lazy… not flying with precision of altitude and heading, not scanning for traffic as intently as they had when they first got licensed. What used to be a thorough preflight becomes a brief walk around. Of course no single aspect seems to fade more than the flight planning process. What was once a well prepared flight plan seems to go away entirely.

During our mountain flight training I often fly with pilots that have been flying for years if not decades. I usually begin each flight with what did flight service say? It’s amazing how many pilots will not hesitate to hop in the plane without even so much as a weather check. This is problem for a variety of reasons, which I will get into. But even if you think you know and understand the weather in your local area and you’re only staying in the pattern it’s still smart to see what’s happening with temporary flight restrictions.

Lack of flight planning is an even larger issue when flying in the mountains. Thinner air means operating much closer to the airplane performance limit. With both the incident that nearly occurred this weekend as well as the wreak I referred to, the issue was the same. The pilot’s failure to do any type of planning and subsequent failure to understand the performance limitations of their aircraft.

In the case of the wreak, the pilot departed Eagle Airport with full fuel and 4 passengers and tried to fly direct to Salt Lake. The only problem, it was high density altitude and the aircraft simply could not deliver the climb performance needed to fly direct. The missing ingredient… planning. A thorough planning would have revealed the aircraft’s inability to fly direct over a 13,000 foot mountain, and the result of the planning would have been either a lighter fuel load or a different route.

The incident I watched nearly unfold was all too similar. Without thinking (or ranther any planning), a pilot of a normally aspirated ’74 Arrow topped off the tanks, and him and his passenger took off. They got in the air with only a couple feet remaining of runway and cleared the trees at the end with only a couple feet of clearance. Had they consulted the POH and some some basic performance calcs they would have known they were on the very edge of their aircraft performance.

Colorado Flight Instruction : Demand for airline pilots set to soar

Begin your flight instruction today at Eagle County Regional Airport... Here is an interesting article from USA Today regarding the future of Pilot Hiring.  I'm guessing this is a good time to learn to fly in order to position yourself for this upcoming hiring frenzy.

After nearly a four-year drought of job openings, the airline industry is on the brink of what's predicted to be the biggest surge in pilot hiring in history. Aircraft maker Boeing has forecast a need for 466,650 more commercial pilots by 2029 — an average of 23,300 new pilots a year. Nearly 40% of the openings will be to meet the soaring travel market in the Asia-Pacific region, Boeing predicts, but more than 97,000 will be in North America.

"It is a dramatic turnaround," says Louis Smith, president of, a website that provides career and financial planning for pilots. "Pilot hiring was severely depressed in the last three years. The next 10 years will be the exact opposite, with the longest and largest pilot hiring boom in the history of the industry."

The demand for pilots will be so great that the industry could ultimately face a shortage, sparking fierce competition among airlines across the globe vying for candidates qualified to fill their cockpits.

"We're already seeing in some spots around the world a shortage of pilots … and if you were watching this a few years ago at the last peak, you had airlines stealing from other airlines," says Sherry Carbary, vice president of flight services for Boeing Commercial Airplanes in Seattle. "It's a global marketplace for pilots, and … we'll not have enough if that growth trend continues over the next few years. That's something the industry needs to come to grips with. Where is our pipeline of new pilots going to come from, and how are we going to finance them?"

The hiring surge is being fueled by several factors:

•The rapid growth of travel in Asia, which is on track to surpass North America as the largest air travel market in the world;

•A looming wave of pilot retirements in the USA;

•Proposed changes to rules that could increase the time pilots must train, rest and work;

•And increasing demand for air travel within the USA as the economy improves.

U.S. carriers had 4.9% more pilots in 2010 than in 2009, with much of the increase fueled by low-cost carriers that are continuing to expand, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

Low-cost airlines such as Southwest, Virgin America and AirTran increased their pilot staffing 11.2% in 2010 over 2009, while regional carriers increased their pilot numbers by 4.9%. Major network airlines, however, saw their pilot workforce drop 1.3% last year, the bureau says.

"The cost of the fuel has spooked a few carriers," Smith says, noting that the massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan have also had some impact. But, he says, the industry-wide hiring explosion is "still on track."

See Also

  • USA Today
    Nice article about airline pilot hiring.

Vail Valley Jet Center Flight Instruction

Alpine Flight Training has moved into their new offices as the Vail Valley Jet Center located in Hangar 1.  The Vail Valley Jet Center is the Primary FBO for Eagle County Regional Airport.  Our new facility offers a classroom, FAA Certified FTD (Flight Training Device) that can be used to accumulate training time towards an instrument rating, and a heated hangar for your preflight inspection.  If you want to learn more about the flight instruction services we offer please call us today at (970) 401-5105.

Eagle County Regional Airport is the ideal place to learn to fly.  The large runway and air traffic control services provided at Eagle County Regional increase the level of safety for students.  Our local surrounding airports of Glenwood Springs, Rifle and Aspen help to create a diverse training environment ideal for instructing new pilots.  Alpine Flight Training offers Private Pilot, Instrument Ratings, Commercial Ratings as well as instruction for Certified Flight Instructor and Instrument Instructor applicants.

Alpine Flight Flight Instruction at Eagle County Regional Airport -  flight instruction in the Central Colorado Rockies and Western Slope of Colorado.  Close proximity to Leadville, Vail, Edwards, Eagle, Gypsum, Avon, Glenwood Springs, Rifle, Aspen