Thursday, June 30, 2016

The Four Ws

As stated on Monday, confidence is the key to not only believing in yourself and enjoying your successes in life, but it is also a way to make your needs known and to effectively communicate.  This comes into play with one of the most important aspects of being in a flight deck environment and is a must for any pilot: communicating with ATC.  I write this post partially as a skill review and reminder to myself.

Student pilots master this concept in training and is carried throughout one's career, whether recreational or professional, in the plane.  My flight instructor initially taught me how to communicate with the tower via the 4 Ws:

  • WHO are you intending to call to?  ATC? Ground? Having the right frequency and people to talk to in order to voice your needs or emergencies is key.


  • (KNOW) WHO you are and always state it to ATC.  Pilots and controllers are all human and make mistakes - especially when operating fatigued.  As taught and stressed to me before, you must always know your identifier and state it to ATC even though they may know who you are.  [A side point for all student pilots: do not rely on dialogues over LiveATC as role models.  CFIs do take note of their students trying to model readbacks of these pilots when communicating with ATC during a flight lesson - with a groan - and correct their students accordingly.]
  • WHAT is your request?  Clearance?  Taxi?  Takeoff?  Which ATIS information set do you possess?  
  • WHERE are you?  Always know your position both in the sky and the ground.  If ATC asks your position and intentions, state clearly and ASAP.  We all know that controllers have their hands full.  The bigger the airfield, the fuller the hands.  It's always good to study, in depth, the flight charts of an intro airport pre-flight.  Lastly, ATC communications in the U.S. and most airports worldwide are in English.  Every pilot worldwide should know how to effectively understand and communicate over the radio to even if it is to get from the runway to the gate.  Yes, having the famous or infamous miscommunication between that 747 from the Far East and JFK Tower in mind to realize how important this really is.    That radio recording is probably still on YouTube.


I personally do not like wasting other's time, especially having ATC repeat instructions at a busy airport.  Time is money and could also be another flight's emergency.  The only exception to my personal rule is when I need to have ATC repeat because of inability to understand the controller due to radio reception or safety issue/emergency.  Having a system to jot instructions down, preferably pen and paper is a great idea (especially in genav) as opposed to a handheld electronic device.  This concept is best ingrained during initial flight training.  Even though one may have a great vocal memory, it's still best to note instructions.

My thoughts  and empathy do go out to the controllers as the job itself is stressful for sure, but critical.  I only have one humble and professional request, though: please give instructions at a reasonable tempo so your time is not wasted repeating them.  I've actually heard a controller once giving instructions at the pace of the guy on the MicroMachines commercial.


Grand Rapids, Michigan (GRR)

Mastering confidence with effective radio communications will save not only heartache and headache, but also with others operating around you as well.  Do not be afraid to ask ATC for anything you need to fly effectively and safely as well as provide a safe flying atmosphere for others.

Aviation Is About Speaking Up
Whether you are a student where safety should be taught from the intro to being a professional always striving and fighting for safety, aviation is about speaking up.  Speaking up is a form of safety.  Be confident and do not be afraid to speak to ATC altogether.  They are here for a reason.  Be confident and speak your needs, intentions, and verification of instructions.  It could mean your life as well as those of others.  Soon enough, you will recognize and "get the feel" of the controllers at the airports you frequent.  [Referencing the final ATC dialogue between Speedbird Concorde 2 and JFK Tower upon it's final revenue departure.  It was tear jerking.]

Be and stay confident.  Speak up.  Speak effectively.  Fly safe.


Monday, June 27, 2016

A World of Confidence

This month and year marks twenty years since I first sat foot on an airplane.

Even though it wasn't a 172 intro, it had just as some of the most amazing experiences as a 172 intro would.  It was on a red, white, and grey Boeing 747 and flying on my first international trip.  The first destination was scary to me as I've never traveled there before and the language was one that I never learned nor grew up with.  The comforting thought was the fact that almost everyone there speaks English.

Even though I was traveling with a group throughout Mediterranean coastal Europe, we had moments where we were split up and we were on our own.  I didn't find this problematic in the south of France, as I was the only one in the group who was a French speaker, this was a challenge for me in Italy.  And, a good majority of this trip was spent there as well as Spain.  

If you ever want to test your confidence as a human being, visit a foreign country for the first time not knowing the first word of the language spoken there.  I will say as an undergrad Foreign Language major, you may think that you know the language perfectly, however, when you go out into the street, it is a whole different world.  Apart of the language is reflected in the culture of the society of that country.  You may learn a lot via Rosetta Stone and DuoLingo (the foreign language app available on both via the App Store and Google Play), the best way to learn is spending an immersion year in that country and/or having a significant other who speaks the language fluently.

[I still remember the ultimate confusion of the French exchange students at my university from Lille who kept asking my professor constantly about Americans obsessively using the world "like" in every sentence.  This was in the late 90's when this bad habit like started.  Now it is common in English to like... talk like this.  (Not.)  But the habit has been engraved and will take a lot to change it.]

Once you arrive there, you will quickly attach yourself to the folks who speak your language.  They help you learn your first phrases - instilling your confidence that you will make your needs and wants known and your willingness to learn and have a good time.  You enjoy the company of locals, taste the local cuisine with a delightful palate, and see some of the world's most beautiful sights.  

I will never forget my time in Genoa, Pisa, Assisi, Florence, the rest of Tuscany, and Rome - not to mention all of the above during my time there.  I still smell the delightful smells to this very day and can still taste the food.

I will never forget Peter, our tour guide from Genoa.  He never ceased to amaze me starting with the fact he spoke eight languages fluently and impeccably.  He truly was our Christopher Columbus taking us on many expeditions showing us the back roads as if we were locals ourselves that we never would have seen under a regular tour.  The experiences he taught us were priceless.  Not only was he our tour guide, he instilled a confidence in each and everyone of us that showed us how to experience and love the world we live in.  Because of him, I made it a point to travel abroad by myself no matter which country - because I was confident to do so.
Before the E.U. & the Euro

Every time I think about that trip it proves more and more that time flies.  Because of my experiences in both the first passenger flights and overseas trip, it instilled not only my willingness to travel abroad alone, but also my decision to go for my 172 intro to start my journey to become an international pilot.

  For those who are older and decide that you want a career change to be an international pilot, this is where confidence comes in.  It is possible.  No one can stop you.  Develop a financial flight plan without letting your budget discourage you.  If you've never been abroad before and wish to explore the world - develop a financial plan even if it means traveling with mates.  This trip I am blogging about, yes, I did have some help financing it from some graduation money, however, I paid for most of this trip by working while going to school giving violin and viola lessons.
Use those who discourage you from pursuing anything by telling you that it will never be possible due to age as jet fuel.  Develop relationships with others (pilots) who are confident and not overly confident because it could be just as detrimental as those without any.

Lack of confidence or overload of confidence will remove the power of your mental engines need to accomplish your life.  It will take away your life's lift and life will stall to an oblivion.  It is your choice to remain confident.  There is a whole chapter in Flight To Success devoted to confidence.  Read it along with the others.  Attach yourself to confident people because confidence is contagious.

Stay confident, stay in the air, and please indulge yourself in the suggested readings below.  Make yourself a successful Monday and week!

Buona Giornata!


Suggested Readings:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Enjoy The View

Sometimes we remember why we are here on this Earth with any profession, hobby, or purpose in life.  This week was all about having a dream, finding our strength by making wise choices in life, having in mind to discover our true purpose in life.  And always, keep yourself busy.  As I always say, if you are not busy, something must be wrong as there is a lot to accomplish in life.

With all of the above, we must remember one thing:  take a break once in a while to take in the view..

June 24, 2016

Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lessons Learned

Being that Father's Day weekend has past, I think of the many lessons my dad taught me throughout his life here on Earth.  Not only lessons through words, but actions.  Even though I was young, I was old enough to watch dad go from being a basic cable TV installer to being a corporate auditor within a short period of time.  There were bumps along the way, but he made it.  Hard work was apart of his being.
This was only of the many action lessons that my father taught me.  It was unfortunate that he was only present for only 32 years of my life, because I wished I was there to witness his other achievements, one of them being: his service to the United States Air Force.  

He served here in the US in San Antonio, TX and Wichita, KS.  Upon my mother recently finishing Flight For Control, she told me something that I never knew about my father that he always kept a secret when he was alive:  he did actually go to Vietnam.

During my time with him, he always also taught me to be assertive, carry out initiative always, and the biggy - even though we should never say never - never assume!  (This is the only piece of advice I really give to others.)

The biggest lesson learned - if you have a relationship with your parents, spend time with your parents and learn from them.  You were brought into this world for a reason. Do not take the time you spend with them for granted.  They sacrifice their lives for you.  That in itself, is a lesson to carry over to the people you love as love is when you will sacrifice anything of or about yourself to give to another so they can enjoy life.  

My father loved his family and was a great provider in every single way.  He put a roof over our heads, food on the table, and clothes on our backs.  He took us flying and showed me what it was like to fly First Class for the first time.  He also took us on many trips on land and water as well so that he could not only show us, but gives us the world.  He went above and beyond for us as his family.  Most of all, it was the lessons above that I am just as grateful for.

Being that today is Tuesday, and lessons learned is the Tuesday topic, I will bring a Tuesday trivia question: Can you name the 16 flight lessons in Flight To Success?  

I will give one of them which happens to be one of my favorites: Remember to find humor in all situations.  It breaks tension and builds friendships.

Haven't read Flight To Success yet?  My best piece of advice, do it!  Take it to the park, the beach, or like my dad did with us, take it flying!

Have a great Tuesday!


Friday, June 3, 2016

Blue Skies

I was in the backyard yesterday on a beautiful West Michigan day and my iPhone sent me an alert that no one, especially a family member nor a pilot would ever want to see: "BREAKING: Blue Angels F-18 Crashes in TN.  Details to follow."

More unfortunate alerts followed that no one, especially one fatality and it was of Marine Captain Jeff Kuss.

I never had the honor to meet nor get to know Captain Kuss personally, but I will say that he was a someone to a whole lot of people: his beloved family, squadron comrades, dearest friends, and those of us who never knew him, but he brought so much enthusiasm to, to fly buy his great aero acrobatic skills.  

He fulfilled his purpose in the world as such, and now has earned his Blue Angel wings to soar the heavens above shining down on the people who he loved so much - fans included.

With these words, I present to you the Friday Fotos I was able to capture, to pay tribute and remember this remarkable fleet in his memory.  

Captain Jeff Kuss, thank you for being an outstanding Captain Aboard.

Friday Fotos
June 3rd, 2016

My sincerest condolences, thoughts, and prayers to his family, friends, and to the United States Navy Blue Angels Flight Squadron.  

Celebrate this weekend by celebrating his amazing life he flew in this world and pay tribute to his memory.