Instructing at Morden Regional: Part I

Hi. My name is Lance Appleford and I am the Chief Flight Instructor of Mountain City Aviation. It sounds like a grand title but really it’s just me and my other instructor Mike working here at the Morden Regional Airport. As far as flight schools go, we are as small as they get, but don’t let that fool you. There are a lot of great things happening here.

I’d like to talk about the two airports I have instructed at beginning with the one where I started my career. Before coming to Manitoba, I started my first flying gig at the Moncton International Airport instructing for the illustrious Moncton Flight College. At the time they had about 50 instructors and 30 aircraft and 100’s of students from all over the world, but mostly from China. I learned a lot there as a noobie instructor but eventually found that working for a big school in the Maritimes not to my liking.

All of my students were Chinese and they were the best of the best that Beijing could send us. High IQs aside, their lack of English posed a big problem for me as a fresh instructor. In fact it created a huge amount of stress for everyone.

I remember one day in particular.

I had been trying to get my student ready for his first solo and needed to do another full hour of take offs and landings. The weather had finally become nice after weeks of snow, wind and extremely low temperatures. I was excited because today was the day I could finally get flying and hopefully recommend this guy for his first solo. We lined up for take off,got our clearance and quickly climbed up to get established on the downwind. As soon as we had levelled off, paralleling the runway on the downwind, we made our call to the tower. The tower responded with, “Foxtrot, Foxtrot, India you are number 7, extend your downwind, we will call your base leg.” Number 7? We had 6 aircraft wanting to land before us, and more coming in from the training area. We eventually turned our base and the student asked me, “Uhh Lance, where is the runway?” Needless to say, we got only 3 take offs and landings done in that hour. Once on the ground, I had to beg the director of the China department for more flight hours because my student wasn’t safely ready for his first solo and we had already used up all his allotted flight time for circuit training.

The Chinese students were given 60 hours to complete their training and if it was projected that they would go over their allotted flight time then we as instructors would have to explain why they needed extra training. Every time a student would make a mistake, the school would create a new operations policy amendment that we as instructors would have to sign to show that we had read it and would go over it with our students.

Completing a student’s training within the 60 hours, given their language ability, traffic congestion, and very conservative weather minima created a very stressful situation for everyone involved andkind of took the joy out of flying, especially with Moncton ATC who was unable to cope with the language barrier and the huge volume of students.

I am extremely glad I moved to Manitoba and very grateful for the opportunity Jim Peters gave me when he agreed to reopen Mountain City Aviation in May, 2009.  Next week I’ll share with you my experiences teaching students from the Morden area.

-Lance Appleford, CFI

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Winter Flying

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One of our Cessna 172s in Devils Lake, ND on a December morning flight.

Some of the best flying can be done in the winter months.  This time of year offers many clear days, smooth, stable air, and low density altitude for great engine performance.

However, there are a few special considerations that go along with cold weather operations.  Though it may be tempting, don’t rush the pre-flight.  Carefully check the pitot tube, fuel vent, stall warning, and all other openings and intakes to make sure they’re clear of snow and ice.  All flying surfaces must also be completely clear of any frost, ice, and snow accumulation, and you may need to take time to pre-heat the engine.

Check your POH for details on cold weather operation, and remember to take care when starting the engine without pre-heat.  Prior to starting on cold days, pull the prop through several times by hand to “limber” the oil (and make sure the mags are off when you do that!).  Oil has a higher viscosity in the cold and it is more difficult for the engine to turn over, therefore starting can drain the battery more quickly and cause more wear and tear.

We recommend you check out this great article for a detailed description of everything you need to be aware of when planning for winter flying: http://www.oregon.gov/aviation/docs/tips_on_winter_flying.pdf.

Many recreational pilots simply choose not to fly during the winter, but if you bundle up and take a little extra care getting your airplane ready, you will be rewarded with some of the smoothest flying you’ve ever done.