The Great American Eclipse

Astronomers are calling it The Great American Eclipse. On August 21, 2017, an eclipse will start and end in Denver at 10:23:17am and 1:14:40pm respectively, with the mid-point being at 11:47:03am and covering 92% of the sun. This will be the first eclipse to span the entire continental United States in 99 years, starting on the Oregon coast, sweeping through the nation at a rapid 3000 miles per hour, and leaving the South Carolina coast an hour and a half later.

Hotels along the path of totality began receiving requests for reservations as long as 15 years ago from people anticipating this event. Roads are forecasted to be jam packed and slow on the day of the eclipse, so if you’re a pilot, you’ll probably be flying there instead. Aviation enthusiasts will be flocking to airports across the path of totality to watch from the wide open views they will most likely offer, with many of the airports hosting fly-ins, camping and/or even festivals.

Things you may need to know:

  1. Never look directly at the sun without special glasses. If you are in the path of totality, it’s ok to look at it without them when the moon has completely covered the sun.
  2. If you have plans to travel for the viewing, try not to do it the day of since many roads may be immobile.
  3. This event may break the internet. Billions of people will be flocking to the internet to view it on social media and other online sources.
  4. If you’re taking pictures, unless you have a special lens, your pictures of the sun may not turn out as well as you hope.

This eclipse even has its own website at where you can find facts on the phenomena, a history of eclipses, where the best viewing spots are, and a store for memorabilia.

Bud Sittig

Bud’s broad aviation career includes the USAF where he took the Fighter Weapons Instructor Course (AKA: Top Gun), 31 yrs in the Air National Guard flying F-16’s, 28 yrs with Delta Airlines where he was a Captain, G.M. of Flight Operations, Chief Pilot, and then Director of Flight Safety. He was inducted into the South Dakota Aviation Hall of Fame, is on the Board of Trustees for the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, OH, and currently flies one of a handful of B-17’s still in operation when he’s not teaching people how to fly a Cirrus!

Never Load Vectors To Final!!

So you’re in the clouds, you’re at the end of a three hour flight to Las Vegas, weather is 500’ overcast, five miles vis.  The ATIS reports they are using the 25L ILS.  Being in a radar environment, you go to your GPS, select PROC, choose the 25L ILS with Vectors to Final as your transition.  Everything is looking great.   And now the approach controller says, ‘Expect Vectors to Final runway 25L, contact Approach on 123.4.’   You respond with, ‘Roger, approach on 123.4.’

You switch the frequency, the controller is a little busy, but you report in and he says, ‘Roger, proceed direct to PRINO for the 25L ILS.  You look at your Flight Plan page and you don’t see PRINO so you ask for ‘Vectors’ and the response is ‘Unable, too busy, proceed direct to PRINO, you did say you were Slant Golf.’

If you do most of your flying or received the bulk of your instrument training at an airport served with radar where all you get is vectors to final, you can find yourself in this trap.  It’s happened to me more than once before I learned my lesson.

The key thing to remember is regardless of which transition you select when setting up your approach, going to PROC will always give you the option of ‘Activating’ Vectors to Final.  But loading a transition, typically the one that makes the most sense from where you are arriving, loads all the subsequent waypoints into your flight plan and they are just sitting there waiting to be used if you need them.  In the case of the 25L ILS in to KLAS, there are five waypoints outside of the Final Approach Fix.  More than once I have been told to expect VTF (Vectors to Final) only to be given ‘Direct to PRINO,’ head that direction and then be given ‘Direct to LARRE, cleared for the 25L ILS.’  Whatever happened to ‘Expect Vectors to Final?’

In any case, loading the entire approach puts all the information you could need into your Flight Plan, just sitting there waiting to help you.

The same concept works for flying in to uncontrolled airports.  When you are doing your flight planning the night before and checking what kind of weather to expect, look at the GPS approaches that are available.  Select the one that you think will best accommodate the weather and do one of two things.  Either file to the initial approach fix or have that idea in your back pocket and ask Center for direct to it when you get closer to destination and you’ve decided that doing the approach will make sense for you.

It’s all called ‘planning ahead’ and keeping all of your options available to you.

Robert L. Stedman
Independence Aviation, LLC

Go Around!!

Aircraft loss of control (LOC) is still Public Enemy #1 for the FAA.  LOC during a go around remains a problem in general aviation that still results in aircraft and human damage.  And it shouldn’t be.

There have been many very good articles written on the subject so the issue is getting a lot of attention.  Yet we continue to bend airplanes.  In my opinion the issue is a simple matter of execution – execution of what is actually a very simple maneuver.  The tendency seems to be a sense that everything about the go around needs to be done right now!!  Nothing could be more wrong.  So how do we break that sense of rush?

To do that, let’s separate the components of the go around and figure a way to eliminate the panic.  But first let’s understand that a go-around is really just a series of very simple maneuvers.

The first step in the go around is deciding to go-around, whether we are in the flare on a beautiful VFR day because a flock of baby ducks is walking across the runway or if we have just arrived at the Decision Height on a hard IFR day.  Once you decide to go-around, don’t waffle – do it!! Do the go-around!!

The first element of the maneuver is ‘Pickle, Pitch, Power.’  ‘Pickle’ will mean something different by whatever plane you are flying but basically it means punch the go-around button, kick off the autopilot, whatever is appropriate to your plane.  ‘Pitch’ means exactly that – pitch up to the  command bars or if you are flying raw data, start with 7.5° pitch up which is a pretty typical go-around pitch attitude.  Finally, add power, make some noise.  And I am not a big proponent of jamming in full power.  You are at the end of your flight, not heavy, etc.  Just add near full power – that will be enough to get you away from the ‘bad stuff’ – you can fine tune the power in a bit.  And DON’T FORGET to bring the right rudder in at about the same pace as you advance the power – keep the ball in the middle!!  Most go-around accidents end up on the left side of the runway from the pilot not adding that right rudder so be assertive with it – keep the nose going straight.

The second step is ‘Fly, Fly, Fly.’  Make sure the plane is doing what you want it to do – airspeed is near best rate, the wings are level, you’re holding the heading and the VSI is going in the right direction.  This is a separate step of the go-around maneuver.

Third, clean the plane up by retracting the gear and flaps.  It’s important here to be aware of your configuration.  If the flaps are fully deployed, bring those up to half flaps first, then gear up then flaps all the way up.  If you only used half or approach flaps, bring the gear up first.  As a general rule of thumb, if the plane has propellers I generally use just half or approach flaps unless there are special considerations.  In a jet we almost always use full flaps on the approach.

Next?  ‘Fly, Fly, Fly.’  Let’s confirm one more time that the plane is going where we want it to go – Still climbing?  Good Airspeed? Holding a heading?  All good!!

Next, Automate and Navigate.  This will vary by the approach and what kind of radios you have in your aircraft.  But, basically, use the autopilot or flight director or raw data as you wish.  Make sure the GPS has the correct waypoint sequenced whether your box does that automatically or if you need to take it off of Suspend (SUSP.)  If you are VOR only, it’s probably time to twist a dial to a new course, maybe switch to a different frequency.  Know your equipment but make sure that what is shown as your active waypoint is what it should be based on your pre-approach briefing.

Guess what comes next?  ‘Fly, Fly, Fly.’  Again, make sure the plane is still going where it is supposed to be going.  By now there may be an altitude related change in heading or course.  Now is a good time to do that.

And finally, now it is okay to key that microphone and tell ATC what you have done.  Way too many times, the pilot grabs the mic first and that is just so wrong and obviously gets in the way of what is most important – flying the plane.

Just remember that if it is a VFR day and you’ve been cleared to land or given the option, the runway belongs to you.  If it is IFR, unless you are flying in to the small number of major airports that allow simultaneous IFR approaches, the airport belongs to you until you cancel your IFR flight plan or the tower sees you taxiing in.  Get the airplane flying and climbing – you were pointed at the runway and last time I checked they don’t plant trees or buildings in the middle of the runway.  Take your time and get the airplane going up and away from the bad stuff.  Again, calling the tower is the last thing you want to do when executing a go-around, regardless of the weather.

Practice this in the comfort of your chair.  You will be amazed at how little time this actually takes.  Close your eyes and move your hand around the ‘cockpit.’  Time yourself.  You’ve got plenty of time.

Robert L. Stedman
Independence Aviation, LLC – Colorado Flight School

Colorado to get Aviation License Plate!

On May 3,  2017, HB17-1212 passed its 3rd and final reading in the Colorado Senate, and moves on to Governor Hickenlooper’s office to be signed into law. The Support Colorado Aviation License Plate Bill was introduced into the 2017 General Session after getting its start 3 years ago.

Colorado aviation associations first sought support for an initiative that would allow Colorado residents to flaunt their passion for aviation by way of a “Support Aviation” license plate in 2014. Led by the Colorado Aviation Business Association (CABA), an online petition was created in order to collect the necessary 3000 signatures needed to be eligible for introduction to legislation.

Chris Swathwood, who is a CABA board member and the designer of the plate, came up with the idea and said it “just sort of popped up one day when I was driving down the road”. Swathwood said he thought of other states’ aviation license plates and the impact of aviation in Colorado and wondered why his state didn’t have one too.

According to the license plate’s website, General Aviation in Colorado contributes $2.4 billion to the state’s economy, supports 265,700 jobs, and has a payroll of almost $11.2 billion. It has an estimated 1.8 million visitors, and proudly boasts 76 public-use airports, serving 17,819 pilots and 5,483 general aviation aircraft. There are 40 charter flight companies, 69 repair stations, 70 FBO’s, and 16 flight schools. There are also several colleges that provide aviation degrees.

Any Colorado resident with a registered vehicle in the State of Colorado may purchase the plates for the standard $50 special plate fee at the DMV, with no additional charges. At this time, CABA expects the plates to become available in Sept 2018.

We can’t wait to see these out on the road soon!

Click here to learn more about our Colorado flight school training program.

FAA BasicMed Checklist

FAA’s BasicMed Regulations Start May 1, 2017

Starting May 1st, the FAA has created a BasicMed rule written into the new Part 68 of the FARs. While every pilot is still required to obtain an FAA medical certificate at least once (including student pilots), a pilot may choose to continue to operate under the BasicMed rule even after that medical certificate has expired.

In order to operate under BasicMed, a list of requirements MUST be met:

  • Possess a valid US driver’s license. Any restrictions on a driver’s license also apply.
  • Must have held a most recent (unrevoked, unsuspended, unwithdrawn, un-denied) medical certificate that expired July 15, 2006 or after.
  • Complete a BasicMed medical course every 24 calendar months.
  • Complete a comprehensive medical exam and checklist signed by a licensed physician (NOT their assistant) every 48 months.
  • Be under the care of a physician for certain medical conditions.
  • Found eligible for special issuance of a medical certificate for certain specified mental health, neurological, or cardiovascular conditions (if applicable).
  • Consent to a National Driver Register check (given during BasicMed education course).
  • Carry no more than five other passengers with you.
  • May operate VFR or IFR, but may not fly internationally unless authorized by the country in which you will be flying.
  • Operate at less than 18,000 feet MSL and MUST NOT exceed 250 knots.
  • Cannot fly for compensation or hire unless as a CFI.
  • Airplane cannot exceed a certificated takeoff weight of 6000 pounds or be authorized for more than 6 occupants.

Medical course certificate and physician checklist documents are required to be kept in a pilots logbook, but may alternately be kept as a digital representation easily accessible on demand by an FAA inspector.

2017 Outstanding Aviator Award

Major Heather Penney given 2017 Outstanding Aviator Award

Major Heather Penney will be awarded the 2017 annual Outstanding Aviator Award! The award will be presented by the Wings Club Foundation at their annual meeting, and International Aviation Womens Association (IAWA) during a presentation that will take place on March 29, 2017 at The Yale Club in New York City.

As soon as Congress opened combat aviation to women, Penney applied to the Air National Guard to fly F-16’s, and was the first woman in the 121st Fighter Squadron.

Penney is being recognized for her service to our country when on September 11, 2001,  she was one of two pilots asked to take action and protect the airspace over Washington D.C that morning. Her mission was to take down the hijacked airliner United Flight 93 by any means necessary. However, because of the urgency of the situation, there hadn’t been enough time to actually arm her F-16. It was obvious she had been sent on a suicide mission.

When asked about being ready and willing to fly a kamikaze mission, she stated, “Because there are things in this world that are more important than ourselves.”

Today, Penney works for Lockheed Martin as the Director of Air Force Aviation Training Systems, specializing in capture management, government relations and strategic business development. She has worked with the F-16 and F-22, and is currently working on the F-35 project.

Since it’s commencement in 2010, the annual Outstanding Aviator Award has been presented to exemplary recipients such as the Tuskegee Airmen, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the Doolittle Raiders, Patty Wagstaff, and Bob Hoover.

Independence Aviation would like to say Congratulations!

Mountain Flying Course

Flying in the Mountains

If you’ve never flown in the mountains, you don’t know what you’re missing. Our instructors fly in the mountains all the time and we’d love to share the experience with you.

Visit us and we’ll talk about mountain weather, density altitude, A/C loading, route selection, survival gear to carry, planning, communications, and we’ll get you to as many airports as your schedule allows. Our specialty is operation in and out of high altitude airports close to skiing, hiking and fishing.

Mountain flight experience programs are tailored to your needs and wishes using your plane or one of ours. Our simulator will enhance the experience to demonstrate high density altitude operations, terrain avoidance using ODP’s and planning.

IA’s Mountain Training Options

Our mountain training course includes a ground discussion of topics specific to mountain flying safety and survival techniques. Then we go out and fly!

Typical Scenarios

  • Obstacle departure procedures in the mountains
  • Challenging mountain instrument approaches
  • Equipment failures & emergencies
  • Mountain range crossings
  • Circle to land approaches

The typical flight plan can include stops in Buena Vista (KAEJ), Leadville (KLXV, the highest airport in the continental US), Aspen (KASE), Steamboat Springs (KSTS), and Eagle (KEGE, Vail).

The fun can be accomplished in one of our fleet aircraft or your own aircraft that meets some minimum mountain requirements. The training may also qualify for a flight review, instrument proficiency check, or part of a Cirrus Transition Training.

Feel free to call the Independence Aviation office for information on all we offer at our Colorado flight school locations.

Chuck Gensler Named 2017 Flight Instructor of the Year

Chuck Gensler Named 2017 Flight Instructor of the year

Photo of Chuck GenslerEnglewood, Colorado, February 16, 2017 – Veteran Certified Flight Instructor (CFI) Chuck Gensler has been named 2017 National CFI of the Year, one of the highest honors bestowed in private aviation, by the FAA’s General Aviation Award Committee. Based out of Centennial Airport in Englewood, Colorado, Chuck is a co-founder of Independence Aviation (IA), which Cirrus Aircraft recently honored as Cirrus Training Center of the Year for 2016.

In 2004, Chuck became a Cirrus Standardized Instructor Pilot (CSIP), one of the first in Colorado, but his dedication to flight instruction began long before with a 25-year career in the United States Air Force Air Training Command (ATC). Unlike most Air Force pilots who relish travelling the world, Chuck was content early on to dedicate himself to the ATC where he could indulge his passion for teaching.

Today Chuck shares his love of flight with students in all Cirrus model types including the SR20, SR22 & SR22T with enhanced navigation systems such as Garmin® Perspective and Avidyne®.

“Chuck is always looking for ways to help pilots improve their skills and knowledge,” said IA President Robert Stedman, who has known Chuck since 2004. “He’s an active leader and participant in our pilot proficiency programs. I’ve never known anyone to have greater dedication, professionalism and passion to do everything possible to advance flight safety.”

Stedman said that when he was launching his aviation business in 2006, Chuck was the only person he considered to work alongside as co-founder. “Chuck helped us grow from a small company with two instructors and one aircraft, to a robust company with 15 instructors, 16 aircraft and simulators, and a variety of focused programs designed to improve the aviation experience.”

Chuck serves today as IA’s Chief Flight Instructor Emeritus, dedicating his time to helping students become better pilots and working with other CFIs to help them become better teachers. He’s also an avid volunteer, supporting activities such as Challenge Air, a non-profit dedicated to changing the perception of special-needs children through the gift of flight. He also volunteers with the Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association Pilot Proficiency Program and the Pilot Proficiency Center at EAA AirVenture.

The National CFI of the Year award is presented annually at AirVenture, the “World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration,” based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. “When I found out that I was nominated, I figured someone else with better credentials would win. I was not expecting this!” said Chuck in his typically modest style. Stedman said that with more than 9400 hours and counting, Gensler has long been a standout among his peers and is extremely deserving of the honor.

About Independence Aviation

Independence Aviation (IA) provides aircraft rentals, aviation instruction and pilot mentoring programs, plus aircraft and hangar management. Founded in 2007 by two veteran Certified Flight Instructors, the firm is guided by a philosophy that relationship-based flight instruction produces superior private pilots. Key elements of IA’s approach are to teach students in airplanes they’d be willing to fly cross-country, and mentor them as they evolve to aircraft that fly faster and higher. All IA planes are used for instruction and rentals to qualified pilots. The entire fleet is equipped with modern avionics and current databases, and each aircraft is impeccably maintained in both mechanical operations and appearance.

Cirrus Vision Jet Makes an Appearance at Centennial Airport!

Photo of Cirrus Vision JetCirrus Aircraft has recently started delivering the new Cirrus Vision SF50 Jet to its first customers, and one of them made an appearance in the Arapahoe Aero hanger at Centennial Airport! We had the privilege of seeing this new airplane up close and personal, and experiencing the smells of the new leather interior for ourselves.

Rumor has it that this is the 2nd SF50 off the production line, and the very 1st to be delivered to a customer. Cirrus has about 600 placeholders waiting for their SF50 to be delivered over the next couple of years, and we can’t wait to be flying around in one of these on a regular basis!