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Question About Real World Flying...

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Feb 1, 2002
This question is for those involved in single pilot freight ops, 121, 135, or anything else commercial for that matter!

Do you ACTUALLY go through the same long process of flight planning as you were once taught as a student?

I'm referring to planning TAS, cruise performance, time to climb, descend, etc.

I'm aware of the importance of all this and understand that sometimes estimates are just fine. I do sometimes find myself spending around an hour on a flight plan for each cross country.

What are all of your methods for a fast, convenient way to flight plan without compromising safety?

I'm currently working on my CFI rating and hope to pass on some valuable flight planning knowledge to my students, but I'm also curious what's in store for me down the road.

Thanks in Advance!

While the desire to speed up the learning curve for your future students is admirable, your students, like yourself (and all of us) must walk before they run.

In actual practice, very often a flight involves repetative data. One knows one's airplane; one knows what fuel burns to expect, what time to expect, etc. In many cases, pilots are operating under Parts 121 or 135, and planning data is done for them (often by a dispatcher). The pilot only need review the data to determine it's correct, or appears correct.

A quick review of winds aloft and the distance involved wil indicate most of what an individual needs to know. Basic preflight items such as weather and NOTAM's should never be overlooked.

You calculate everything as a student because you need to understand not only the results, but the process itself. Your future students must do the same. They aren't calculating data for the sake of a single flight; they're calculating performance for the sake of the rest of their lives. Do not shortchange them by trying to shortcut the process. It's the very nature of repeating that process as a student that a grasp may be had of the tenets of navigation, planning, etc.

In many cases, later your planning will become intuitive; you can do most of it in your head. However, for student operations, the full process should never be compromised. Aside from the lessons learned, you must learn to set the pace and an example for your students. You cut corners, they'll take the inch you give and make it a mile. Don't let that happen. Do everything you expect from the student and understand that you're being watched much more closely that it might appear. Set the standard by taking no shortcuts in developing basic skills and understanding in your students. Your liklihood of ever needing to speak at their funerals is drastically decreased, and they'll appreciate you for it in the long run.
The above bost is right on. I do the same amount of flight planning but I do it on the computer... www.FltPlan.com .. or for international flights we use the Global Data Center, or GDC. They do all the paper work and we review the info which doesnt take any time at all.
PHXAviator said:
I'm currently working on my CFI rating and hope to pass on some valuable flight planning knowledge to my students, but I'm also curious what's in store for me down the road.

Couldn't agree more with avbug...Especially these days with all the electronic planning and navigation tools at hand, when you do get your CFI and start teaching X-CTRY planning, make sure you don't teach your students any short-cuts. The the only way to ingrain the basics is to do it all the long way, step by step. They'll figure out ways to speed-up their planning later on.
I fly single-pilot 135 and the planning becomes simple and fast when you fly the same run on a regular basis. I agree with the above posts and using a computer program does help speed up the process. If you know the route and how the airplane performs it is not all that time consuming. My normal routine is to take a thorough look at the weather, winds aloft, and NOTAMS. I already know what route I am taking so it is just a quick turn of the old whizz wheel and I how long each leg will be and how much gas I am going to burn. I use that shortcut because it works for me, but I also spent a good amount of time planning flights drawing lines on charts and picking checkpoints every so many miles. Make sure your students do it the traditional way, those basic skills are a necessity.
I fly 135 on demand freight, so most of the time I don't know where I am going until 10 minutes before I depart. Basically I make sure I have enough gas to go round trip, but not to much that I am overweight. If I know that where I am going it is good VFR usually the only thing I will check then are the notams and current weather when I file my flight plans. If there is a line of thunderstorms out there I may look at the radar quick, but not to long since I really don't want to know what I am flying through if its that bad. Since usually I am flying my flight plans on my drive to the airport, or while going through the drive through at some grease pit I don't exactly have a half an hour to plot my course and all that stuff. When you do it everyday you can guess on flight times and all the stuff and usually get it right within 10 min or so when you don't really have a clue even what state you are going to. The only tricky part can be trying to remember which airplane you are flying that day when you fly 4 different types.
Make a game out of it. See how close you can come to your plan. If it isn't close you should know why for next time.

My 121 airline has it down to a science. I'll be flight planned for 48 min, and sure enough that is what it took and the fuel burn i right on too.
I used to fly a Navajo Chieftain under part 135. I built a "profile" of the airplane in the DUATS flight planner. I could plan a flight and file an IFR flight plan in about 10 minutes. I'd print out the flight plan and the weather and look over it as I was getting the aircraft fueled. The DUATS flight planner plugs in the forecast winds aloft. This worked like a charm. Years ago it was sometimes dificult to find a DUATS computer at small FBOs. Now they're just about everywhere.

Just for kicks, I've programmed in a profile for the L-1011. I sometimes check how close my flight plan comes to that of the company dispatchers.

Have your stuents do the whole ball of wax. Rules of thumb and gouges are nice for you to check their work and planning. When you are flying the same type aircraft enough you will tend to develop your own rules of thumb and gouges. And generally they work. After awhile you will tend to remember where most places are in time plus what what your fuel burn will be. And with a little wind information, be reasonably close on planning.

But when I take aircraft over the pond or over uninhabited areas, I still do the full bag of planning, plus a few extra items. Like 'Equal Time Point', 'Point of No Return', enroute alternates, ETOPS requirements, etc. And it all comes back to the E6B and a plotter. I still keep them in a pocket of my flight case. It's too bad that many students now a days don't know how to use an E6B. The aviation calculators are nice, but what do you do when the batteries die?
Thanks for the Great Responses!

I also love DUATS but sometimes feel a little guilty about using it!

I plan on placing strong emphasis on the good old fashioned E6B. The visual of the wind plotter is a lot nicer than a calculator.


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