Today’s Flight Plan
Trevor Bair, one of my good friends and once colleagues. We’ve known each other as long as Angle of Attack has been around. He’s a funny guy with a sharp mind and a love for aviation.
He and I sit down and talk about the joys of flight simulation, getting and using a PPL, decision making, RedBird Simulators, and so much more.
Currently Trevor is working on his instrument ticket, which can be quite a challenge in the Denver Area where he lives. But, knowing Trevor, he’ll pass with flying colors.
This is a great discussion, leaning mostly toward simulation. However, all will find it enjoyable.
Shownotes and Questions
When did you first fall in love with airplanes and aviation?
Flight Simulation Segment
When did you get started with Flight Simulator?
– I had to explain virtual airlines to my wife the other night. I felt a bit sheepish and embarrassed.
— Better to rank up at a VA than on call of duty!
How deep does your simulator nerdery go?
Now you’re in your pilot training, specifically instrument- How has a simulator helped you prepare for where you are?
How are you using it today?
Flight Training Segment
- When did you start flight training?
- What has the experience been like?
- You’re a dad now. Hard to juggle?
- Flight Instruction Quality?
- What’s it like training in a difficult area like Denver? (high traffic, high winds!)
Trevor “Grizz” Bair
Huge thanks to Trevor for joining us on this show. It was a lot of fun, and we had some really in depth and thought provoking discussions. Best of luck to Trevor on his continued work as he builds hours.
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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Airplanes, airplanes, airplanes, this is AviatorCast episode 14.
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer.
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators. You’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. I’m fascinated with this whole aviation thing. I’ve been a pilot for a good number of years now although I still find, I can’t define just how miraculous flight is, and how much flying speaks to my soul. I’m the founder and owner of Angle of Attack, a flight simulation training company which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator. We believe flying is an artform, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility, and a commitment to excellence. Each episode of AviatorCast will have real flight training and flight simulation topics, or an interview with an inspirational and influential aviator. Our desire and mission is not only to create awesome aviators, but also bridge the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So thank you for being here on this, the 14th episode of AviatorCast. It’s my absolute pleasure as your host to welcome you to the show. We have a great show for you today, so I’m excited to get right into it, but before we get there, we like to start off with a review from one of you out there in the vast world, to review AviatorCast. This comes from LinearGroove. He said “This is great, 5 stars…” he’s from the United States. “I’m a sport pilot finishing up my private pilot, I have thoroughly enjoyed Chris’ podcast thus far and look forward to future episodes. The content on the AOA website is outstanding as well. His website has renewed my interest in flight sims. I haven’t flown a flight sim in over a decade.” Thanks for your review, LinearGroove. Much, much appreciated. And it just goes to show that you can be away from flight simulation for a while, you can come back, and you can still use it as a tool to assist you in doing things like you’re doing which moving from your sport pilot up to your private pilot. So great to have you and great to have everyone else listening here on the show.
We have a great show lined up for you today, we are going to be talking with Trevor Bair. Trevor is a friend of mine and has been so for a number of years, almost the entirety of actually running Angle of Attack. I started Angle of Attack in 2006, and one of the first things I did is I went to a flight simulation conference in the Denver area which is where Trevor is from, and that is where he and I met. He came to the show and we struck up a conversation and it’s all ben history from there. It’s really great to have Trevor on the show. He is another one of those common aviators. Trevor is young like me, and he hasn’t been around the block too many times, yet he’s been in flight simulation for a really long time. He is a private pilot working on his instrument but he hasn’t chosen to do aviation as his professional career. So he’s one of those like Matthew in our last episode that is kind of the common everyday pilot most likely like you and I that are striving to be better pilots, striving to use a simulator to better our safety and overall improve our experience and our expertise as aviators, which at the end of the day, is a very worthwhile cause to pursue.
So let’s get right into it. This is a great and fun conversation with Trevor. Here is hangar talk with Trevor “Grizz” Bair.
Now, a special hangar talk segment.
Chris: Okay everybody, we are honored to have a guest on our show today, a longtime friend of mine, Trevor Bair. How are you Trevor?
Trevor: Hey Chris, I’m doing great. Thanks for inviting me to come on the show. I’ve been a longtime listener and like you said, it’s exciting to be a part of the show.
Chris: Yeah. For sure. I’m sure we have a lot to talk about. You know, I have the feeling that this episode is going to be a little more giggly, just because we have this relationship where we just laugh about things constantly.
Chris: In fact, when we were making the show notes for the show, we decided that your callsign was going to be Grizz, so we’re going to refer to you as Trevor “Grizz” Bair, which I thought was pretty appropriate.
Trevor: I feel like my Cessna is deserving of some sort of nose art of a grizzly bear in attack mode or something but, yeah. We’ll have to talk to flight school on that.
Chris: We really need to get back to get back into those days. Why aren’t we putting nose art on all of our airplanes?
Trevor: Yeah. I mean, there’s plenty of history obviously and you know, for the history bus going back to the nose art days, even World War I for that matter. There’s tradition there that’s not being followed up upon.
Chris: No kidding. We need to bring that back.
Trevor: Yeah. I’ll take my markers out to the flight landing, see if I can scribble something down and bring it back.
Chris: Probably need to keep it G if we want to remain married.
Trevor: That’s right, exactly.
Chris: Great. Well, it’s good to have you on the show. You and I kind of caught up again recently. We’ve had a little bit of a history together where we’ve actually worked together before. We’ve also been friends for probably going on 10 years now. You’ve kind of made a transition to where you were once a simulator pilot only and now you’re aggressively pursuing flight training not necessarily for the ultimate goal of becoming a professional pilot but just because you got a private pilot because you love it and now you’re getting an instrument because that’s the safe thing to do, and so we’re going to be talking about a lot of those things today. Before we get into that, one thing and the first thing I always ask our guest here on the show is when did you first fall in love with aviation, tell us about your love story.
Trevor: My love story, yeah. It’s a lengthy love story. I think what probably started, my universe spinning toward aviation was probably my grandfather. He had a huge impact on my hobbies, my interests. He was into playing some trains and automobiles, and as I grew up, I picked up each one of those and those are still things that I’m interested in but the planes is what stuck. I never actually went flying with him. His licensed lapsed and he wasn’t actively flying when I was around him as a boy growing up, but just going into his basement and he had model airplanes, like World War II spot airplanes, models sitting around. There’s like an airspeed indicator from a World War II fighter and then a piece of bulletproof glass from the nose of another fighter. Just being surrounded by those things, it kind of quickly became engrained in me, and like I said, I was doing the planes, the trains and the automobile things and the airplanes thing just stuck, it just resonated and that was probably when I was 10 years old or so, that was 1990 and here I am, 34 and it’s a huge part of my life.
Chris: Definitely. And you largely got there too kind of a way that a lot of the people that come on the show got there, is through flight simulation. So, flight simulation is one of these things that keeps that alive. We may not be able to go up in an actual airplane, we may not be actively training, but as a young teenager and through your teenage years, it’s just a very common story for people to have fallen even more in love with aviation through flight simulation. So when did you get started with all that?
Trevor: So I think, my first flight simulator experience was with Flight Assignment: A.T.P. which was published by subLOGIC back in the late 80s, maybe early 90s, I think it was 1990 or so. I picked it up a couple of years after that. I had a friend who also had Microsoft Flight Sim 3 and so between seeing that at his house and coming back to my house and getting Flight Assignment: A.T.P., there was a lot of just being enamored by these software programs that would replicate flight. And it was super cool, I mean, you want to talk about rudimentary graphics, 256 colors maybe and stick figures, and external view that still had your panel involved and I’m sure everyone has seen kind of the early days of Microsoft Flight Simulator, but I had no joystick, I had no rudder pedals, I did everything using the keypad on the machine. It was very rudimentary but that’s kind of where it all started and then from there, I had just about every single Microsoft Flight Simulator product through FSX, through the present and even into the Lockheed Martin prepared. So yeah, it’s been a long haul. It’s been, what’s this, 24 years or so but it’s just been awesome to see how things improve and how the visuals have improved and how the systems have improved.
You and I have gone down this road with AOA with just the complexity of things, the PMDG 747, the Level-767, the MD-11, it’s just amazing. And we tried to explain to somebody. I think what they picture is that stick figure flight simulator from back in the day. It’s just like “no,” it’s immersive now. It’s real. It’s just so much fun.
Chris: Right, and you got the pilots that have been away from it for 10 years. You know, the last version they saw was FS-2000 or FS-98 and they come back and they see what’s being done now and they’re just totally shocked. It’s like “Wait a minute, what have I been missing,” sort of thing. That’s almost an overwhelming feeling at that point, and they don’t necessarily made the transition because then it’s like “Oh man I have to catch up so far to get back into it.”
Trevor: Yeah, exactly. You know, I’ve got a good friend here in town who used to fly 757s for a large international US-based airline, who shall remain nameless.
Chris: A very large Denver hub I presume.
Trevor: Exactly. He’s transitioning over the 737 and so I brought him over and I showed him the PMDG 737 NGX and he’s just like “This is amazing.” Then he texted me the other day and I think I was telling you Chris that he’s going through the training with 737 sims, he’s learning the flows, he’s committing memory items to memory and all those sorts of things and he was like “Your sims seems to have better graphics and better systems that we’re using here in training.” It’s amazing.
Chris: Yeah. I remember being at Flight Safety in Wichita and their Bonanza simulator, I know it’s a little weak, fixed-based Bonanza simulator but anyway. Still, the visuals and the cockpit and stuff still kind of up to the standards that you would expect from an outfit like Flight Safety. And I just remember. I had this instructor that was sitting next to me. He was a native Italian and some of the time I couldn’t understand what the heck he was saying but, super cool guy. He was actually one of my favorite instructors while I was there, and I remember. I was in Phoenix, no it wasn’t Phoenix. We were doing some procedures at Teterboro, and just some instrument procedures and some scenario-based stuff, and I remember him saying once we got up in the air, he was like “Just look at how beautiful the scenery is. It’s amazing. You can see the shorelines.” I’m thinking “This is crap!” Like there are no buildings. There are no ships in the water. This looks terrible. And this was five or six years ago now and now it’s even so much better than it was then but I’m thinking “Man, if this is the standard that these guys are working toward, then they really are missing the boat.”
And, kind of a flipside story to that. I was watching a video from the CEO, one of the founders of Redbird, and he was saying that he actually went through a very similar experience and this is one of the things that inspired them to kick off Redbird Simulations is, he and his partner, they went and did a type-rating course at flight safety and they realized that the graphics were just completely terrible. It really didn’t add well to the situational awareness and the believability of the simulator, and so they walked away from that saying “There’s a market here. There’s something that we can do, and that was largely, kind of… obviously there are going to be more parts to it but that’s largely part of the reason that they started Redbird, was realizing that there’s such a big gap, and it’s still there. There’s still that separation. And you see that all the time. If you go on YouTube and you look at videos of actual Level-D simulators that people are using today, you’ll know, especially if you’re a flight simulation enthusiast, that the scenery you have in your simulator is so much better than what they’re using.
Trevor: Yeah, absolutely. It’s funny, you mentioned Redbird. I just this week was helping the final assembly with an 80,000-dollar Redbird FMX Full Motion Simulator. I was working with the Redbird rep. We got locals at our airport and I’m friends with the guy who runs it, and I was helping out and we fired out on there for the first test flight, sitting on the left seat, getting ready to go, and we take off and I’m like “This is default scenery. This is our airport but this isn’t how our airport looks. The scenery that I built for our airport is much better, I should get to you.” So yeah, even with an 80,000-dollar simulator, my thousand-dollar computer that I cobbled together myself and the add-ons and the display capability, it’s a little bit better.
Chris: Yeah. It’s really interesting just how advanced part of the flight simulator community is with the scenery and the add-ons, and it really is this separation in mindset between real aviation and flight simulation. I don’t know if that’s a matter of marketing or if it’s just a matter of ignorance, but at the end of the day, flight simulation, just the habeas market itself, has so much to offer real training applications. It’s pretty incredible and it’s just something that is only know coming to awareness of a lot of these companies.
Trevor: Yeah, absolutely. Just think of where it’s going too. Lockheed Martin being very responsive about customer concerns when it comes to Prepared and what they’re going to rolling forward and releasing updates and making it better and better. I can’t wait to see it.
Chris: Yeah. Prepared looks pretty promising. Alright, so we’ve been talking a lot about flight simulation, that’s kind of the segment we’re in now. So the other day, this funny thing happened to me and I mentioned it to you too. First of all, when we first met, it was when I first just started Angle of Attack and I attended this conference in Denver which is where you live currently, you had some other places you lived in between and now I live in Alaska but I’m temporarily in Hawaii.
Trevor: We’ve covered the United States pretty well.
Chris: Yeah, we’ve got the four corners taken care of. So, you know, we met pretty early on in the process of me doing AOA, so we’ve kind of been together all the while while we’ve been I guess partaking of the best part of what simulation has to offer because simulation has really come into fruition the last 10 years. It’s just becoming incredibly realistic. Now, one of the funny things, I admitted this to my wife for the first time the other day because I just kind of stepped back and realize how funny it was. I had to explain to her what a virtual airline was. I told her “Okay, there’s a bunch of guys. We get together for a specific airlines, say it’s Delta Virtual Airlines or United Virtual Airlines or Southwest Virtual Airlines. They take us on as a pilot, we have to gain hours, we have to gain experience, we have to do training, we’re active in the community, and we don’t get paid for it.” And we study like crazy to pass our checkrides and everything.
Chris: And I was thinking to myself “Man, what am I doing.” But you know, at the same time, I’m thinking, and one thing that I told her is a lot of people can go out there and they can play this first-person shooters which I’m definitely one of those who will do that from time to time. You can go out and kind of be mindless about playing a video game but man, if you’re going to be involved in video games, you may as well be involved in something like flight simulation or even to a greater depth in nerdery with virtual airlines because you actually have to study and you’re studying all these different aspects of science and mathematics and navigation and a bunch of different cool subjects and actually learning something in the process.
Trevor: Absolutely, yeah.
Chris: So you and I, we actually, we used to both be with Delta Virtual Airlines. I don’t know, are you still hanging around there?
Trevor: Coming up on 10 years and I think May 4th or May 5th of this year it will be 10 years which is an incredible amount of time for any internet organization, but I surprise myself that I’ve been a member of an internet organization for 10 years, it’s pretty surprising. But yeah, it’s a tribute to what you just said. It’s incredible fun. If there are listeners who are listening to this podcast and getting bored with flying point A to point B and haven’t ever been part of a virtual airline, definitely check it out. There are ones that cater to all interest, all levels of commitment which, Delta Virtual for example is great with that. All you have to do is to log in to the website I think once every 60 days or whatever that, so there isn’t really even a flying requirement. In fact, I didn’t fly at all in 2012 just because I was busy with life, and still catch up on the forums as he was going on, but fly when you can. It’s one of those things that like you said, you can really expand your skills and just really become immersed in.
I think when I kind of realized that moment like you described when you were describing to your wife what virtual flying was or fake flying as my wife calls it. I guess the moment I realized I was kind of in really deep was when I was quizzing one of my friends who is a real airline pilot about the setup of their navigation display and their “Are you using a speedtape?” or “What’s your EFIS look like? How’s everything set up? What’s your V-speeds? What’s your flap retraction schedule?” I mean, these sort of questions. Can you imagine if, whatever your day job, say you’re a dentist and someone was coming up to you and being like “Well, do you use the gold crown on the bicuspid in the lower right hand…” It’s just like, “Okay. More power to you.”
Chris: Yeah. I know Nick made a comment like that when I interviewed him. He was saying that he went to his first introductory flight when he was 10 or 11 and as part of their preflight, he asked the instructor what VR was for the Cessna they were flying.
Chris: Pretty funny. Also, just before I forget, virtual airlines are one thing actually picking out some of these carriers that you would fly if you were going on vacation, but those are the only type of groups that are out there flying together. There are groups of back country pilots. There are groups of World War II military aviation pilots that go up and do huge group formations with B17s and actual, recreating bombing runs that were historically accurate. So all sorts of different groups you can join, kind of pick your poison, there’s a lot of different things out there, and you get into every type of aviation. Anything you can think off, it’s out there in virtual aviation as well. So, we talked about some of these things but how deep does your simulation nerdery really go because out of all the guys I know, you’re one of those that has kind of stayed in it. I wouldn’t say that you’re in it as deep as some but you stayed in it for quite a while now.
Trevor: Yeah, yeah. Again, it’s one of the things that you kind of have to, the first step to recovery I guess is admitting that you have a problem so, yeah. I’m doing flight sim and I enjoy it on a detailed level. But on the other hand, I realize that a lot of people are more casual and into the recreation side of things, and they’re not as intense as either myself when it comes to… I guess, my flying is more procedure-oriented which I think is probably more rooted in my background and my profession in IT and project management, those sort of things. I pay particular attention, like I was just mentioning, what’s your flap retraction schedule? So I tried to bug those particular speed just like they would in the real airplane via the 757 or MD-88 or whatever it is. Try to get immersed as much as I can in the actual by the book flying. If I were flying this on the line, how would I do things now? That said, one of the things that I have never done and don’t really have a whole lot of desire to do is to fly from Atlanta to Dubai or something like that and set up the computer for however long that is, 12 hours, 13 hours, whatever it is.
Most of my flying is short haul flying and like I said, I realized that, like you said, it’s kind of pick your poison. To each their own. There is all types of flying out there. Thanks to a lot of the add-ons out there, it’s quite possible to be that immersive and to be that by the book when you fly them. I know when the Aerosoft Airbus X Extended came out, I spent probably a good couple of days’ worth of Skype sessions, sharing my screen with actually one of our good friends, Chris Desjardins who is an airbus captain for a major Canadian airline, and just kind of learning the air, I mean because all I had prior to that was Boeing logic, so to relearn the airbus and to have someone who flies it and knows how things need to be set up and how things are flown and being able then to do most of those procedures in the Airbus X Extended at that point in time. It was a great. I was a kid in the candy store. It was fantastic.
Chris: Yeah. It’s pretty wild you know. A lot of pilots, they get to fly maybe a dozen different types in their career. I would guess that’s about typical all the way from their training up until what they actually fly in the line for the majority of their career. They fly maybe a dozen aircraft. When we’re talking about simulation, we have this whole different world open to us because obviously the entry level is just so much different. We can spend 90 dollars on a very, very, very high quality, the high quality, the top quality aircraft, and have something that is incredibly realistic. It brings this whole new set of knowledge that we can learn from time to time in kind of adding that to our flight bag.
Trevor: Yeah exactly. I think the appeal for me and probably for a lot of the people listening to this podcast. Like I said, there’s the recreational people who wanted to do control shift F1 or F4 and control shift E or whatever it is to start the engines. I don’t even know what those key strokes are. There’s those people who want to do that and that’s fine, that’s a-ok by me but having the ability to get as immersed in the simulation itself has just been, it’s awesome. It’s been a great experience. And to learn that. I don’t know how much time I’ve spent on these, talk about misspent youth, growing up doing these things and learning V-speeds on the MD-88 and then learning the flap retraction schedule on the 757 and whatever the airplane is, and now moving into my real world flying, adding more aircraft types. Yeah, the challenge is for me a large portion of the fun.
Chris: Yeah. Honestly, I think that’s part of why we love aviation anyway, is the challenge that comes with it all and the variety. The other night, my wife and I, we were cooking just some penne pasta with some homemade sauce, and I’d kind of taken over the recipe that she had taught me a time or two and I was doing it on my own, and as I was sitting there preparing this meal for us, I mentioned to her “Flying is a lot like cooking, because you have all of these different things you have to continually monitory and change and add and subtract.” It really is. It’s one of these places and it’s been explained by most authors when I read their books or their articles, it’s one of these places when we’re in a cockpit, that we are different there than we are anywhere else. It’s not necessarily a different reality but it’s almost a whole way of being, and I think that’s why when someone like you, you mentioned this, someone like the last few people we’ve interviewed, get up in an airplane, said that they never come back down or that that was the most expensive flight of their life right? Because we realize that this is such an immersive experience and it’s such a momentary experience too. It’s in the now. We’re not thinking about the past or the future. It’s all about the now in this flight and what we’re doing. That’s a big reason why I feel it’s enthralling for me and good for my soul, and that goes back to the challenge too that you mentioned, just the challenge of it all.
Trevor: Yeah. I mean, I’m not sure if you’re like this or if your listeners are like this but I found that if I haven’t done something on flight sim for a couple of weeks… well, okay, I haven’t found this, my wife has found this, that I start to get a little bit cranky. I want just kind of that intellectual stimulation and the challenge and like you said, there’s so much going on, be real aviation especially but flight sim as well. Just being able to kind of go down and it sounds weird but to relax by becoming immersed in something that can be very difficult. Think about flying an ILS full procedure down the minimums or something on your computer. It’s therapeutic. It’s a fun thing to do.
Chris: Definitely. I think business is a lot that way for me and why I do enjoy what I do with Angle of Attack because it is so challenging. Now, the difference is that my view is completely different. I’ll sit there and I’ll work on my computer for five or six hours a day. Man, I’d rather be in a cockpit. That’s definitely where I’d rather be, it’d be much better, but I don’t have all the money in the world to throw at airplanes so I can’t be up there all the time. Okay, so we’ve talked about flight simulation a lot. One of the core reasons for this show, one of the core purposes of it is to prove and to show not only through interviews but also through just sharing knowledge, that a simulator is infinitely applicable and useful when moving over to a real pilot’s license or using a simulator in conjunction with it, or using it even after you have your training to get better and better. So, you’ve recently made this transition and before we kind of get into what’s been going on with your flight training and how that experience has been, I’m sure it’s just been awesome because that’s how it goes for everybody that continues on. How has a simulator specifically helped you throughout this entire process?
Trevor: Yeah, that’s a great question. That’s one of the things. Throughout the AviatorCast podcast, there’s been lots of times where I just sat there nodding my head to what your guest was saying and just be like “Wow, yeah. That’s absolutely true.” I mean, there is a connection between the simulator world and the flight sim world. Now, it doesn’t cover everything and we can talk about later. But for me, I think the biggest part for me has been the ATC side of it. I was active in VATSIM, SATCO which was the predecessor to VATSIM, even going back to 1998 or so, was involved with that. I had kind of a background of the air traffic control side, applying those principles, and then of course flying. I think, at the time I started my flight training last year, I had maybe 6500 or 7000 hours, most of which have been flown on VATSIM whenever I can. It’s not all on VATSIM of course but anytime I can fly on VATSIM, I’m going to. Just being able to talk the talk if you will and being able to communicate with air traffic control, for me that was immediately one of the most recognizable benefits of the simulator training.
In addition to that, knowing the basic flight principles, how to fly various approaches. I think probably all of us who do fly on VATSIM or PilotEdge or IVAO, any of those organizations. We’re pretty much operating in an IFR environment probably 95-98% of the time. The VFR side of it really was kind of its own beast but at the same time, if you can talk on the radio and do IFR stuff, you can easily learn how to make position reports on VFR, on a UNICOM or common traffic advisory frequency. There was certainly that background of things and I think like I said that’s one of the main benefits that I saw to simulator flying, just being able to fly the airplane and being kind of having this awareness I guess of how airplanes fly and how airplanes interact with traffic and airspace and all those sort of things.
Chris: Right. Yeah, you definitely get to dabble in each and every area. Going back to communications, it’s something we talked about on the last episode with Matt as well and he actually mentioned that that was one of the things that he learned best with a simulator. Just as with our skills with handling the aircraft and how that is a muscle memory exercise, I find that moving our mouth is a muscle memory exercise as well, and when you learn to communicate well online through some of these different sources that you mentioned like VATSIM, PilotEdge and IVAO, I don’t know how you say that in acronym sense, I’m sure there’s some way to say it without it being an acronym. With some of these different organizations, it becomes second nature and you don’t have to think about your radio call so much. It’s more like “Okay, well I’m at this position now. I’m going to key the mic and say this.” It’s all just kind of done. You don’t have to worry about actually getting on the radio, that mic fright is gone, you don’t have to worry about that. One of the things I joked with him about was “Heck, those guys on flight sim? We’ve been doing IFR clearances since we are 13 years old.” And you can rattle it off with a ton of other guys waiting at the gate on this huge fly-in that people are doing on VATSIM, and man, it is crowded, it is busy, and we can comply with those directions too.
Yeah, communication is big, and honestly, it’s fun. One of the things that I enjoy doing and maybe you do too, I’ll get your take on this. I actually like having air traffic control all the time. I’m not one of these guys that likes to switch off the radio, not switch off the radio, but squat 1200, switch to UNICOM in the area and just kind of cruise around VFR. I’d rather have Flight Following. It I had my druthers, I’d rather be actually on an IFR flight plan just because it is one of those muscle memory items. I do think that moving your mouth is one of those muscle memory items, and from a safety perspective, it puts you in direct contact with someone at all times, you don’t have to worry about that aspect. This is kind of jumping ahead a little bit but in you flying around because I know that you’ve been doing quite a few cross-countries, what are you doing as far as flight following and keeping in contact?
Trevor: Yeah. I mean, I absolutely prefer that. Funny, just to jump back to what you’re saying about the CRAFT acronym. My first instrument lesson, you know, I’m sitting next to my CFI, we’re getting ready to get a clearance, and he whips out his iPad and scratchpad and writes the CRAFT and was like “Have you ever heard of this?” I’m like “Heard of this? I’ve been doing this close to 20 years, yeah.” So yeah, it’s funny. And what you say about the muscle memory aspect, it’s absolutely correct. I can rattle back clearance like it was nothing. You really don’t have to think about it, just write the important parts and same with communication and same with flight following, same with class Bravo transition, one of my probably within the first five or so lessons that I had when I started my private pilot training. We went straight through the Denver class Bravo airspace and it was one of those things where basically my only direction that I sought from my instructor was “When do I call him? Should I call him now?” and he was like “Yeah, call him now.” From there on out, it was me talking to him just like I had on my computer for all those years.
You mentioned flight following and picking up clearances or I guess doing that aspect whenever possible, yeah, I’m absolutely with you on that. It’s funny because when I was doing my training, one of the other guys that was kind of along the training, same training path as me, we started about the same time and we had the same instructor. I’m doing my long cross-countries, he was doing his. I did my cross-country, I picked up flight following and I departed from a little airport out on the eastern plains in Colorado, pop up to 8000 feet or whatever and called center and asked for Denver Center to get me flight following back to wherever the airplane is based, and I mentioned that to him, he’s like “Wow, I try to avoid talking to air traffic control.” I was just like “Why? We are in an airplane that’s 40 years old here. Anything can go wrong at any point in time, I would love to have somebody to talk to and it may be for just a few minutes because of the altitude and the reception issues but yeah, if I can have…” And the benefit of that, the side benefit, is that you do show up in FlightAware which is awesome for showing your friends. So yeah, it’s great to be able to use that skill even in VFR flight and of course in my instrument training, it’s been like second nature.
Chris: Right, and you know, you get advisories for traffic, there are a lot of benefits now that we’re talking about it that come to mind. That’s just a small detail that I really like. Now that you and I are kind of in this area where we’re comfortable with communication which is eventually somewhere that everyone gets. Different things can start to happen right, so you understand the system now, you know how to comply, and so you can start to do some different things. One of the things that I really love about IFR flying was this is just kind of just a different detail that you can ask for is if I was in a particular area, it wasn’t very busy and I was right at cloud tops, say I was 500 feet about the cloud tops cruising at an IFR cruising level, or even 300 feet, I could call up to air traffic control and ask them “Can I have a black altitude?” and then what I would do is I would descend to 4,250 feet or whatever it was and just go right at the cloud tops at sunset. It’s just awesome. If you’re nervous about speaking to air traffic control and you don’t really understand that relationship, I don’t feel like that is something that you would necessarily experience because you wouldn’t feel like you could ask if that makes sense.
Trevor: Yeah, and that’s where flight simulation and these networks come in, it’s just that level of comfort, the familiarity with making a call to air traffic control and kind of knowing. I think a lot of, especially IFR flying, is obviously anticipating what’s coming next and setting your radios in advance, identifying an ILS or a VOR, something in advance, but also knowing kind of what to expect from air traffic control. You know, you fly and you talk and I’m sure any veteran pilot, flight simulator or real world will agree that just kind of knowing the flow of things and that’s something that virtual air traffic control and flight simulator combined can teach you for pretty much free, which is an excellent value.
Chris: And, along that same argument, with flow, there is a time and place where you shouldn’t be on flight following and you shouldn’t have an IFR if it’s VFR conditions. You should be getting out of the hair of air traffic control, ducking under the airspace and kind of getting out of their way because it’s just too busy. There is a time and a place to do that and again it just goes back to that familiarity with flow and working your relationship with the control because it is kind of a two-way relationship. You can help, they can help you and makes everyone happy.
Trevor: Yeah, absolutely. It’s certainly a two-way thing and the more opportunity to practice that and especially the more opportunity to practice that without a Hobbs meter running on the ground on your home computer, even better.
Chris: Definitely, and when you’re not burning those precious dollars.
Trevor: That’s the thing. That’s what makes airplanes fly.
Chris: Exactly, let’s get into burning those previous dollars now. We’re going to talk about flight training. Back in the day, when you were visiting me when I lived in Salt Lake, we’d cruise around in the Bonanza at that time, we had a grand old time. I’d come and see you in Denver whenever I was there, but now you’re kind of doing it on your own. We always wondered when you were going to go and get your actual license, so tell us a bit about the start of your flight training, what that process was like, maybe mix in, we’ve already kind of talked about simulation but how simulation helped you in that sense if at all, and just tell us what that’s been like, and I’m just going to let you go with it, so go all the way up with where you are now with your instrument training as well.
Trevor: Alright, well sit back and prepare to listen to my nasally drone here for a couple of hours. I mean, yeah. Just the exposure to flight, jump at the opportunity to fly with you in the Bonanza, jump at any opportunity I had leading up to starting my pilot training. Kind of how things went for me. We talked about where I kind of, my first glimpse of flight through flight simulation and kind of where I got hooked, early 90s, about seven, eight years after that, I was able to start my flight training at a small airport in Nebraska. Did as much flying as I could as a high school student who had to rely on his parents to not only provide funding but also come and pick me up for part of that time, then had to do school studies in between. I ended up logging about 10-1/2 hours during that period of time and that actually kind of bridged my latter part of probably my junior year, my senior year and then into my freshman, sophomore years of college, so it was a like a four-year span during which time those 10.5 hours accumulate. So, was anything retained? Did I get any value out of it? Probably not but what it was certainly kind of a tie-in to my simulator flying and being able to practice these real world skills if you will, even if it’s a really infrequent practice, but still getting out there and getting flight time.
Graduated college, still in love with aviation, still flying a flight simulator, started my career, etc., kept going. Finally kind of fast forward to last year, actually exactly a year ago, March 2013. I had talked with my wife about I really want to pursue this passion for aviation. I feel that if I get to point of my life where I’m 70, 80 years old and I have not accomplished this, I think that’s going to be one of the regrets of my life, is not having obtained a pilot’s license. And you mentioned it before, that my goal was never to be a professional pilot, to be involved with the airlines. When I was in college, I entertained that idea for about a semester and then kind of reality set in and I dismissed it. So yeah, March 2013, this groupon comes through for a local independent flight instructor. I thought “You know, why not? I’ve got the money. Time, kind of another issue but we’ll make it work. Wife on board, also kind of another issue but we’ll make it work.” She was not super thrilled but anyone would realize this is what I’m passionate about. She kind of stood back which I credit her immensely. Not outright support but a quiet support if you will.
I started flying, I met this flight instructor. He had a 1967 Piper Cherokee PA 28-180, the Mighty Cherokee 180, and I’ve since come to the conclusion that the Mighty portion of the Cherokee 180 name was designated at sea level because at 5000 feet where I fly, an 180 horse power engine just is, we’re cheering if we see a 500 feet per minute on departure climb. It was great. I managed to change my work schedule such that I could go and fly afternoons, and so I did a lot of flying in the afternoons in Colorado which presented its own set of circumstances.
Chris: Yeah, no kidding. I was just wondering why you chose that time of day.
Trevor: That was the only time that I was available. Having a family, having a job, you have to make sacrifices and nearly losing my lunch on every single flight was one of the sacrifices I made.
Chris: You didn’t make it easy on yourself, that’s for sure.
Trevor: Exactly. Now, when I fly any level of turbulence, it’s nothing. So I was really able to kind of acclimate myself to downdrafts and updrafts and turbulence and flying in unstable conditions. But, yeah, so I proceeded my flight training. I didn’t exactly do it at a brisk pace. I started March, I flew two or three times a month, as much as I could, and a lot of our flights were weathered for various reasons, especially in the summertime where you get a lot of high-based thunderstorms here in Colorado which produce downdrafts that are not at all fun. Even the Mighty Cherokee 180, that’s 500 feet per minute climb. This may surprise you but it cannot outclimb a 1500-foot per minute descent from a high-based thunderstorm downdraft.
Chris: I’ve seen that before actually in the Denver area. I was passing through to the north of the international airport and could see what was going on, and there was a downdraft area the size of DIA, of the entire airport and it had everything shut down, just unbelievable. And being in Salt Lake, we had similar weather but it’s not as challenging as Denver. Denver is just, it’s so notorious for the high winds and the turbulence, and not only that, you throw the density altitude on top of that too and you have a very unique location.
Trevor: Yeah, there were times, I kind of chuckle at the 400, 500-feet per minute but it’s justified because we would depart our local airport which is just a tad over 5000 feet elevation here, and listening to the AWAS and I would say density altitude, 9,500 or 8,700 or whatever, it’s just like, we might as well be flying up to Leadville. Thankfully we’re not because the density altitude there is even worse, but yeah, I mean it’s just an instructor, full fuel and 180-horse power in the Cherokee and it would still struggle. I don’t know how like a Cherokee-140 or a Cessna 150 or 152, I’m not really sure how that even works out here, in the summertime at least.
Chris: Yeah, I mean, I train in the 152 but it was mostly during the winter so we enjoyed our space shuttle takeoffs and it’s short-lived, wasn’t for real.
Trevor: Yeah. I mean, it’s all about knowing your limitations and knowing what to expect, and that was just something we counted on, we’re going to have this anemic climb rate and we have to not load up on fuel, then whatever it takes, we’ll deal with it. So that’s, we kind of talked a little bit about the weather and the flying and that sort of things. My training spanned from March until November of last year, and at the end part of November, actually the week before Thanksgiving, had my checkride scheduled. Went out, flew with the great DPE. This guy is awesome, he’s very laid back but fair but also he knows all there is to know about flying. He’s very wise, and I think that was a great experience. The checkride was something that I think anybody kind of agonizes about and dreads that day, and in fact you’ve talked on this podcast about checkrides and kind of what goes into it. My experience was certainly that as far stress goes but just the demeanor of my DPE, and just the casual nature of it. It was a conversation with someone who knew a lot about aviation and was there just to converse with me. That made it pretty easy I would say. It’s easy as a checkride can get. Got my license, proceeded to fly as much as I could, and then an offer from my CFI came along that he would help me with my instrument training as well, and was that in my plan when I first took my first flight when I got back into aviation last year, was it in my plan to get an instrument rating? No but opportunity presented itself, it was a great deal, and it’s something that I recognize could make my flying even that much better and even that much safer, and that was kind of really the key.
I look at the long-term goal of being a safe pilot. I know it’s not realistic right now in my life with a family and with job commitments and responsibilities, to fly every single day or every week even and fly as much as I want, that’s not realistic, so whatever I can do kind of buttress that and help me to become a safer pilot, I was interested in. Started my instrument rating, started working toward it I should say and have kind of been going through that. I’m at the point now where just working on finishing up cross-country and the last 10 hours or so of my instrument rating before I take the checkride. Whether or not that will happen this year or this month, whenever it is, the training itself has been incredibly beneficial in just getting me not only into the system but the hood time, the simulator time, flying approaches down to minimums. Just being in an environment where it’s not blue skies and fair weather cumulus. It’s solid IFR. It’s the things that kill people.
Chris: Right, exactly.
Trevor: Yeah, so you know, just having that education again. It’s something that I think regardless of if you will intend to actually get an instrument rating or wherever you are in your training or your actual holding of a pilot certificate, having that experience and maybe going to a Redbird sim for example and flying approaches down to minimums, and just getting a look what good example mild visibility. We know that’s something that’s in the AFRs but what does it actually look like. When you’re sitting in a sim or the actual plane with a mild visibility, you’re like “Holy cow, this is not much at all.” Something like that not only helps your training but also helps reaffirm what your personal minimums may be.
Chris: Right, exactly. I love instrument flying. I think it’s one of the pinnacles of what we can do. Regardless of how many licenses we add on. If we have an instrument rating, it’s always one of those things that will remain challenging, one of those things that we have to remain sharp. I’m actually of the camp that believes that an instrument rating should be required with a private pilot rating. I think that would be absolutely great for aviation safety and a lot of different reasons too.
Trevor: Yeah, exactly. You know, on this podcast, you’ve had Paul Craig, the author of The Killing Zone and I had talked about this before, reading that book and just kind of his take on the safety aspects and what happens when you do have that, maybe not an instrument rating but the ability to not inadvertently fly into IFR conditions and to know what to do to get out of them, the reliance on your instruments and not getting disoriented, that sort of thing. I mean, just having that there is certainly a good thing.
Chris: Yeah, it’s very useful. So, what else do you want to cover? Is there anything else you can think of?
Trevor: Well, you know, one of the parts, I guess if we want to swap flying stories. I had the opportunity a few months back to do a cross-country for my instrument rating. It was not, I guess it was not a short cross-country. It was definitely a long cross-country and it was a grueling cross-country. What we did was I flew commercially down to Tampa, Florida in I guess this is early part of February, few down on a Thursday night, spent probably close to like 14 or 15 hours in Tampa and then joined my flight instructor the next day he flew across. He was actually taking the plane down to visit some relatives on the east coast of Florida. He came across and picked me up in Tampa, on the north part of the Tampa area, and we flew a cross-country that consisted of flying from Tampa, Florida to Denver Colorado in a single day, and it was 17.3 hours of flight time.
Trevor: Yeah. Something more like, you know, I was awake for more than 24 hours, but, was it safe? Was it the best thing as far as pilot alertness, those sort of things? No. I look at it not really as a cautionary tale but it was something that we did and we did everything we could to make it safe. Now, part of my flying was my IFR requirement so we needed a cross-country in there, so that’s we did. We took off from Tampa and the first three stops then became my IFR cross-country because we knew we wanted to bang it out early and while we were still sharp to get that portion taken care of. We stopped in Florida, we stopped in Georgia, we stopped in Mississippi, and then flew across to Texas and then up to Oklahoma. When we got to Oklahoma, it’s about 11 o’clock at night. That entire day, I had had two Red Bulls and a couple pop tarts as well as a free hotdog and a free waffle in Meridian Mississippi. If you ever fly into Meridian Mississippi, let me tell you they will treat you right at the FBO there with free hotdogs and free waffles. But, you know, it was entirely IFR the entire way as far as the instruction goes. I was under the hood for the vast majority of it.
Trevor: Yeah, I meant it was, there was not much to see, and the weird part is we did not encounter a single cloud that entire 1800, 1900 miles, whatever it was, we did not fly through a single piece of IMC.
Chris: That’s funny.
Trevor: Which, you know, so much for the training aspect in the actual IMC. So we got to Oklahoma at 11 o’clock at night, we stopped to get fuel and realized there was no 24-hour fuel service there. That was certainly a good learning opportunity. Always check ahead. Don’t assume that fuel’s going to be available. We didn’t even have fuel enough to fly to the nearest airport that did have fuel because it was over an hour away. It was one of those things, we were sitting there on the ramp. It was maybe 35 degrees of cold wind, we were kind of huddled there in the airplane for warmth on the phone with the FBO trying to figure out what to do. And we’re like “Well dude, we just call it a night, is that good enough?” I’m like “I’m hopped up on Red Bulls now so I’m still good to fly.” So we got our fuel and we got going and I think, that was one lesson to be made.
The other lesson then was the ADM aspect, the aeronautical decision-making because we were coming up from Oklahoma to Erie Airport which is on the north, well it’s on the northwest side of the Denver International Airport, kind of in the north part of the metro area. Coming off on the instrument flight plan, it’s nighttime, Western Kansas, Eastern Colorado, there’s no lights whatsoever. I mean there’s may be a light per square miles and then some towns scattered out, so I mean you want to talk about it might as well be IMC, that’s one of them. And then you get to a point where you’re talking Denver Center, all of the sudden they start to get kind of sketchy and you can’t really hear every word of their transmission, then you lose them completely, and you’re like “I’m alone.” If the engine were to quite, I guess we try to find a road. I think that might be a road. The good thing about flying in this particular part of the country is you stand a pretty good chance of hitting either a cow or windmill, than a tree.
Chris: Right, totally.
Trevor: Yeah. I know my fellow pilots on parts like Tennessee or the East Coast, it’s not as good of a prospect for sending down off airport, but out here at least there was that. Anyhow, the ADM side of things. We were coming toward Denver. It was coming up on probably one o’clock in the morning. We’re looking at our fuel, we’re looking at our headwind which by that point had pushed us down to about 78 knots or so across the ground which when you’re like “Well, I can just about drive my car as fast as I’m going right now.” That’s where you really start to kind of wonder what you’re doing 4000 feet above the ground in Western Kansas at midnight. But we pushed on. My instructor was thinking we could make it all the way. My thought was “Let’s not chance it. Let’s set it down somewhere prior to the Denver area.” Because we don’t know what air traffic control is going to do. Maybe we’ll get routed around the class Bravo or south or something. We kind of had a back and forth dialog on what should we do. Should we keep pressing on or divert or what. Eventually, I kind of stated to him that “I’m not comfortable continuing until all the way to our final destination, I’m not comfortable with that. Let’s stop it either this airport or this airport.” We talked about it and he’s like “Yeah, I think you’re right.” It’s one those things where Get-There-Itis was kind of creeping in but at the same time… Especially in those situations, it’s late at night, you’re vulnerable, you’re probably not at your sharpest. It’s one of those things where you just kind of have to assert yourself and trust your gut.
And so we stopped at Front Range Airport which was on that side of the International Airport, and I don’t know, we put in like 35 gallons, 36 gallons or something like that, 33, enough that we would have made it to our destination but we would not have been legal and the ability to encounter anything and deal with it. So yeah, it was a great thing we stopped. Like I said, it was one of those things where you kind of have to assert yourself. Even though my instructor has thousands of hours, it’s one of those “Let’s collaboratively make this decision that will be the best possible or the most opportunity to have a safe outcome.”
Chris: Yeah, definitely. You know, this goes directly to the core of what we talked about or have been talking about a lot in this show which is scenario-based training. You can go up all day in the Denver area and you can do a [inaudible 01:03:47] approach, you can do holding patterns, you can follow navigation courses, whatever it is, instrument proficiency sort of things right? But that is not what counts at the end of the day, and applying that to a private pilot as well. You can go up and you can do your ground reference maneuvers all day long, but what scenario-based training is teaching all of us and it’s something that’s been here all along but it’s becoming more a part of the core of training, is there is so much to be learned in the actual decisions that go into a flight. One thing that I’ve always contested actually is we’re out here training. Yes, we have to pass these certain practical standards and you need to learn these certain skills as a pilot, whatever license you’re trying to learn, but let’s go somewhere and learn something along the way. And so I’m really glad that I kind of asked that final question because this is the perfect experience and you may have grown more during this process than any of the other hours that you spent during your instrument training, because you actually saw that these are real things that happen, and you kind of knew anyway right?
We all know because we read the stories, but it makes it real. It makes it personal to you that yes, there is Get-There-Itis, yes, it’s night and I’m over Kansas. Is this really smart? I’m not necessarily telling you that it wasn’t smart but all of these different things that go into this process, and that is what pilots become. When you become a pilot, you’re not going to go out, you’re not going to do ground-reference maneuvers. You’re not going to go out and just do instrument approaches. You’re going to be taking your family, you’re going to be taking your friends, you’ll be flying yourself, and you’re going to be going from point A to point B and you’re going to have to manage the decisions and the processes and you’ll have to tell yourself to stop as well if things just aren’t working out. That was an incredibly valuable experience and it would be great if training was more like that, if we had instructors that wanted to head out and go somewhere and do something and we’re seeing that with the implementation of the FITS program and things like that in the flight schools but this scenario-based stuff is great.
Trevor: Yeah, I mean, that flight itself, I realized we were playing with the deck somewhat stacked against us, and my CFI realized that too. It’s 1 a.m. after 16 or 15 hours of flying, and you know, a dark night, but the weather conditions at least are clear, our mental state… it was one of those things where, like you said, you have to realize kind of what you’re getting into and I realized this isn’t potentially unsafe situation, it was not unsafe at that point, but we cross-checked each other and that was the thing. After you’ve been flying for that long, “Okay, fuel pump on. Okay, you check the fuel pump now. Okay it’s on. I’ll double-check the fuel pump.” That sort of thing. There were times when we said to each other “Okay, I’m going to make this radio call, you make sure I set the headings.” Essentially what we did was employ kind of the CRM aspects of airline flying of a dual crew, of the challenge and response or double check what altitude I’m or that sort of things. So yeah, I mean, just having that sort of, it’s not the number of hours you fly, it’s the quality of those hours, and I think, getting into that and certainly flight simulation and personal minimums and all those sort of things that you can explore with flight simulation.
Maybe for those guys flying Atlanta to Dubai and staying up all that time, maybe they also get that aspect of being completely exhausted and running only on Red Bull fumes.
Chris: I think it’s pretty common.
Trevor: I think so which is, that’s what great about the community.
Chris: You explained that and it sounded like the pilot diet I know.
Trevor: Yup. Not exactly healthy but…
Christ: You run on trail mix, pop tarts and 100 low lead, that’s how it goes.
Trevor: That’s right. Absolutely.
Chris: Well, it was great having you on the show, really enjoyed our conversation. I’d love to have you back too. Next time we have you back, we’ll dive into a subject together and kind of break something else down now that everybody knows you a bit better, but good luck with your instrument training, I’m sure it will be a blast, and you will be rocking and rolling there in the bumpy unstable area in the Denver area.
Trevor: That’s what we get here. Yeah, I mean, I certainly appreciate it and I hope your listeners found something of value in our conversation. I would definitely invite everybody check out my website, TrevorBair.com. It’s just getting up but I like to put my flying videos out there and I’ve done a few flying videos for Microsoft Flight Simulator as well, so there’s all sorts of my interest in aviation, my photography, my flights, my training, all that. So yeah, thanks for having me on Chris. It’s always great to talk to you and I certainly appreciate it.
Chris: Awesome. Thanks for being here Trevor.
Trevor: You bet, thanks.
Chris: It’s really great to catch up with an old friend in Trevor and learn about his experience of becoming a real aviator, and learning more about his history as a flight simmer. So one of the interesting things that happens to all of us is we never truly ask these questions about our peers. We never ask “How did you fall in love with flying,” or “What was your experience like when you got your private pilot,” or “What is your flight simulation experience like?” It’s one of those questions where we just kind of not necessarily avoid it but it’s just one of those things we take for granted. One thing that I find as we go through these great conversations with people like Trevor, is that we learn that we have a lot in common, that we came from very common backgrounds and desires and a passion for aviation. So, thank you Trevor so much for being on the show. This was a really great hangar talk episode and I can’t wait to have you back on the show so we can talk more about what you’re learning and what you’re going through and also break down some great topics for the audience here. And I know, on behalf of the audience, I can thank you for them as well, and again, we’d love to have you back on the show sometime soon.
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