101 Things to do with your Private Pilot’s License

I’ve been grounded for the last few days with maxillary sinusitis, which gave me time to finish this book. It is divided into 53 small chapters, and is written for the newly minted private pilot looking for the next steps to take with the certificate. The book presents a breadth of topics, with chapters on low-level flying, operating from grass strips, VFR radio communications, flying the four seasons, aeronautical decision making, and joining a flying club, to name a few. The book’s final section serves as an introduction to various ratings beyond the fixed wing single engine land, covering gliders, helicopters, the instrument rating, sea planes, multi-engine airplanes, and the commercial and ATP ratings.

The book technically does have a list of 101 things you can do with your private pilot’s license, although some of the “things” are stretching it if you ask me, e.g. “Reporting postflight squawks”, “Buying Insurance”, and “Reporting Accidents”. The title is a little misleading in the sense that the intent of the book is to improve a pilot’s existing skills and fill in any gaps that may have been omitted or forgotten from the private pilot curriculum. In all likelihood as a pilot you’re probably already aware of the 101 things you can do with your license. But the book’s purpose seems to be to impart the wisdom of an experienced pilot to the inexperienced, covering topics that every pilot should know. The book is written clearly, interesting, and I think well worth the time spent reading it.

Today I finished reading the FAA’s Instrument Flying Handbook. It is available from the FAA’s web site in PDF format, but I read the hard copy. The handbook describes the physiology of sensory illusions, details the inner workings of the flight instruments, and covers the techniques for attitude instrument flying. The book’s home stretch covers navigation systems, procedures, and air traffic control’s role in IFR arrivals, approaches, and departures, followed by a short chapter on in-flight emergencies.

Instrument Flying Handbook

It’s a detailed book, and from it I gained an appreciation of the sheer size of the body of knowledge required for IFR flight. The handbook is a tough read at times, and in hindsight it may not have been the most appropriate book for introducing me to instrument flying. However, the material is concise and well organized, so I am certain I’ll consult it throughout my instrument training, very much the same way I consulted the Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge throughout my private pilot training.

One minor quibble I had with the book was that it makes heavy use of computer-generated graphics of flight instruments instead of real photos. While this may have reduced the book’s production costs, many of the images look blurry and pixelated, but worse some are inaccurate representations of the actual instruments.

Weird Attitude Indicators

For example, the chapter on attitude instrument flying contains several images of Attitude Indicators in impossible configurations, with the “ball” of the miniature airplane well above or below the wings. On an actual Attitude Indicator the wings and the ball are connected and aligned, and both remain stationary as the artificial horizon moves around the miniature airplane.

While I’m sure this book is a valid tool for covering the concepts of instrument flight, I’m also sure it is not the most approachable or interesting material available. It is clear that the Instrument Flying Handbook is not intended to serve as a gentle introduction to IFR operations, but rather it is intended to provide comprehensive coverage of the material required for the instrument rating when used in conjunction with the Instrument Procedures Handbook.

This morning I finished reading Aviation Weather (AC 00-6A), an “Advisory Circular” from the FAA. This book was heavily referenced in the study material I used in ground school, so I figured it was worth reading in its entirety. In fact, many of the questions on the Private Pilot Knowledge Exam seemed to be lifted verbatim from this book. It re-enforced concepts that I already understood, and more fully developed concepts that I had only minor exposure to.

Aviation Weather

From this book I gained a more complete understand of the Coriolis Force, the Jet Stream, the process by which thunderstorms develop, and the qualities of the various types of airmass fronts. The highlight of the book for me was the last chapter: Soaring Weather. The chapter covers topics that are primarily of interest to the sailplane pilot, but knowledge of when and where thermals will form and what qualities they will have is useful in assessing where turbulence might be encountered on an engine-driven flight. The last chapter also has a clear description on the formation of Lenticular Clouds and the effects of mountain waves (and their associated dangers!).

This book began as a bulletin in 1945, which was updated and published as the “Pilot’s Weather Handbook” in 1954, then released as “Aviation Weather For Pilots and Flight Operations Personnel” in 1965, and finally revised in 1975. Previous versions of the advisory circular included references to specific weather services, rendering it obsolete after a short period of time. The 1975 revision removed references to specific aviation weather services, which were moved to a separate advisory circular called “Aviation Weather Services” (AC 00-45E). The book attempts to focus on the more “timeless” aspects of weather processes, avoiding references to specific technologies or charts in use today. I got a lot out of the book, and I’d recommend it to those attempting to acquire a deeper understanding of the weather-related topics of interest to pilots.

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