Ever since I got my Private Pilot’s license, my friends have inundated me with many aviation questions. So I decided, why not compile everything into a blog post?
Can I fly in Singapore with my American FAA license? Do I need to do a conversion?
Simply put, having a pilot’s license from a certain country will allow one to fly planes registered in that country.
With my American license, I can only fly US-registered planes with the N-prefix anywhere in the world subject to the limitations of my license. So for me it’s just currently single-engine land with the engine power not exceeding 200hp and have to be a “relatively simple” plane.
Nevertheless, being legally allowed to does not mean I’ll jump direct into an N-plane at Seletar Airport and takeoff immediately. It’s best to fly with an instructor for a few hours to learn about the different procedures and regulations used in Singapore before going. I’ll have to familarise myself with different plane models compared to the Cessna 172R I trained in.
N2441E is the Cessna 172R I used the most in my training at San Diego. My first training flight, solo and checkride were on it.
I can legally fly this N-registered Piper under Seletar Flying Club but better to get more training first.
Fun fact, there are more US-registered general aviation N-planes in Singapore than there are Singapore-registered general aviation 9V-planes.
What’s up with those pilot shades? Trying to look cool?
Those shades are really a necessity as the glare can be quite strong especially at altitude. I have personally experienced staring towards the sun while landing as the runway heading is directly towards the west. Without the shades, no way I could have landed safely.
If you take me as a passenger, you better have parachutes in case the engine fails.
Engines very rarely fail in the well-maintained planes of today. Besides, private pilots are also trained execute emergency procedures and attempt a landing someplace if the engine does fail. A plane with a failed engine does not just fall out of the sky. It can still glide for some distance.
Besides, parachutes need special training to use them. In an emergency without parachute training, your best bet is to trust the trained pilot and go down safely with the plane instead of die jumping with the parachute.
I’ll only be your passenger if you take me up in a multi-engine plane. At least will still have one extra engine if one fails
An extra engine does add to safety but only if the pilot can use it properly in an emergency. I’m not trained to fly a multi-engine aircraft but I roughly know that when an engine fails, the pilot has to quickly use the rudder to counter the yawing effects due to asymmetric thrust. The speed can’t get too low also if not there is insufficient rudder authority to counter the yaw.
I can easily venture to say it is not that straightforward to learn to fly a multi-engine plane. People have died when pilots could not deal properly with an engine failure in a multi-engine plane.
Almost all pilots in the world start their training in tiny single-engine piston planes like the Cessna 172 I was trained in. If it is that unsafe, governments will have banned that long time ago.
So since you are a Private Pilot, can you fly a Private Jet?
The word “Private” means differently for both phrases. A Private Pilot means I cannot earn money from flying. In fact under most circumstances, I have to at minimum fork out money no less than what other passengers are paying for the flight.
A Private Jet usually means that the jet plane is owned by some individual or company that is not an airline. A Private Pilot can in theory fly a Private Jet or even a privately-owned Airbus A380 provided he/she gets the necessary qualifications which are too numerous to say here.
What do I need to do to maintain my license?
It differs from the country which the license is taken from. For my FAA license, I need a biennial review, minimum 1-hour ground and 1-hour flight review with an instructor once every 2 years.
For a Singapore license, at least 5 flight hours every year with 2 of them being with an instructor.
For Malaysia, a test with an examiner every 6 months.
The key difference is that the FAA license is for life whereas the others actually expire. Should forget I to take the biennial review, I can theoretically take it any time after that and if the instructor clears me, I’ll be fit to fly again. Nevertheless, I would also try to bring family and friends up as regularly as I can manage to maintain my proficiency.
For all 3 licensen to carry passengers in the day, I need 3 takeoffs and landings in the last 90 days.
Tell me what you think caused these accidents. Boeing crashes, missing planes etc?
I think it is better to let the investigators do their work and come to their conclusions. I have my opinions and am happy to explain what I have understood but don’t treat what I say as expert opinion.
I’ve watched some of your videos and pictures. How come the aircraft instruments look so primitive and analog? Where are the modern LCD displays like in my favourite Airbus/Boeing?
Those dial-instruments are also called steam gauges although they don’t actually run on steam! They are cheaper and easier to maintain than the modern glass-cockpits. It may even be more reliable as they are less complex. Even on some modern Cessnas with glass cockpits, they still retain some analog gauges as backup.
As a student pilot, I would actually prefer to learn from the simpler and less complex instruments then move on the feature-rich glass cockpits after I have more flight experience. There is also something deeply nostalgic about those dials, flying with the same instruments as the early aviation pioneers. The exotic steam-punk feel to them certainly helps too!
The trend today is moving towards glass cockpits for General Aviation aircraft. Modern jetliners now almost always use glass cockpits.
Can you fly a helicopter?
A helicopter is a fundamentally different flying machine so I cannot fly one. I would even venture to say learning a helicopter is actually harder than a plane.
I might want to learn to fly helis one day and I’ll have to start pretty much from scratch although there are some reusable skills like ATC communication, regulations and airspaces.
Why don’t I use Instrument Landing System (ILS)? You mean I land the aircraft by sight only? Bad weather how?
Using ILS is not taught for the Private Pilot Course. It is only taught in the Instrument Rating course which is generally the next step up above Private Pilot. Yeah, I really land the aircraft by sight and it is actually good enough. The thing about bad weather is to make sure I don’t encounter the situation in the first place. Private Pilots like myself are trained to check the weather (forecasts) before the flight.
If there is bad weather or poor visibility, we’ll just stay on the ground. As they say, “Better to be on the ground wishing you are in the air than being in the air and wishing you are on the ground.”
Why are pilots are still needed when modern planes can takeoff, cruise and land by themselves?
In actual fact, 100% of takeoffs and 99% of landings are done manually. The 1% of automatic landings are actually to test whether the autoland system is still working. Autolands are also only supported at certain airports with special equipment. Cruising on modern jetliners are mostly automatic correct.
Computers cannot be programmed for every foreseeable emergency. Computers can fail as well too so humans are still kept in the loop. Talking over to the radio to ATC is still done by human voice.
However, just like driverless cars, I’m not surprised that the pilot jobs will be fully taken over by computers just like any other job. To all those that say computers have crashed planes too. Well computers like humans are not perfect, but they just need to be safer than the human. One day, piloting skills may just be a hobby activity like horse riding.
How do pilots fly to other countries? Do you have to learn many languages?
English is the de facto international language of civil aviation. It was recommended in the ICAO Chicago convention in 1951 but recently ratified in 2003. So all pilots and Air Traffic Controllers are now required to use English.
Even in maritime, English is also used as a standard language. Nevertheless, there are some terminology differences between Aviation English used by the FAA vs ICAO but that is another story.