16 Tips for Private Pilots to Make the Most of Lockdown
How are you coping in the lockdown?
The grounding of all general aviation flying is a real sting for us pilots who love to be up in the skies as often as possible.
And for those studying to gain a pilot’s license, this is a frustrating halt in progress where you must feel like you’re losing all that hard-earned knowledge and experience with no way forward.
But there are things for pilots to do in this lockdown to at least make some progress with flying, and keep it in the front of your mind while we await the green light to get airborne again.
Here are our tips…
1. Get your logbook up to date
Are you the kind of pilot who is a bit lax at keeping your logbook up to date?
Maybe you have lots of scraps of paper from recent flights, with flight times and details scribbled on, which have never made it to your official flying logbook.
Now is a great time to get to grips with this and get everything recorded correctly in your logbook.
2. Digitise your log book
Do you have a safe backup of your logbook, or a digital version? Now that your log book is up to date it’s a good time to make sure you have a backup handy.
Taking a picture of each page is a useful, old school way of doing that. But digitising your list of flights is also useful.
Even by simply creating a spreadsheet of your flights gives you an easy-to-search list of where you went, in which aircraft, on which date. It makes adding up times easy, too.
3. Make a list of renewal dates
Do you have a handle on your important renewal dates?
I always intend to do this, but soon find dates creeping up on me unexpectedly.
So why not make a list of renewal dates for your licences, your airport pass, you medical certificate and anything else that is liable to run out soon!
4. Sign up to some flying YouTube channels
The advent of action cameras and online streaming services like YouTube means there are now many different ways of tagging along with pilots on flights all over the world.
Now that we’re stuck at home, it would be a good use of time to subscribe to a few of these channels.
Some offer training advice, some demonstrate different aircraft, and many chart their flights to different airfields.
Most have ATC transmissions recorded and talk about their flying as they go along, so it’s a great way to keep your mind fresh about cockpit procedures, talking on the radio, navigation, and just enjoying the views and different airfields. Some different channels I recommend are:
Aviation101 (US based)
MzeroA (US based)
5. Upgrade your headset
Let’s face it, there are endless items of equipment and clothing you can buy as a pilot, and this suggestion could go for any of them. But I’ve chosen headsets as probably the most expensive item we pilots buy (aside from an aircraft!).
Getting the best headset you can afford is what you should be aiming for, and perhaps now is time to do some research.
There are always deals out there, and lots of pilots share their reviews online for you to consider. Alongside long-term classics from makers like David Clark, there are also expensive headsets from Bose which are popular at the moment. There are thankfully many less expensive options which are still good, too.
6. Offer to take an aircraft for maintenance or check flight
General aviation flying is banned in many places at the moment, but owners and operators are still allowed to take their aircraft for essential maintenance and test flights.
If this is the case for your flying school or shared ownership group, why not offer to be the pilot to take it on this essential trip? It will enable you to keep your skills sharp and get a little flying enjoyment out of the lock down we’re in.
7. Connect with fellow pilots
If you’re a member of Facebook there are lots of general aviation flying communities and groups to join. Some are quite general, and others specific to different countries, airfields or aircraft types.
Aside from the usual banter which seems to pervade any online forum, these are places where you can discuss flying with likeminded people, offer and ask for tips and advice, and plan that longed-for return to flight!
You may also have access to flying groups on WhatsApp (my flying school has one such group which is a way to keep in touch with other pilots and flying news, even if it does get silly sometimes!).
8. Plan your first flight back in the skies
Where will you go? A local jaunt to get you familiar with the aircraft again, or something more ambitious?
That first flight will come – remember that on the slow days when it’s sunny outside! So be ready to make the most of it.
Remember that you cannot legally carry passengers on a PPL licence if you haven’t completed three landings within the past 90 days.
9. Plan a long trip
I think too many of us fall into the trap of flying in the same local area, or on the same routes every time we fly.
Partly it’s because we’re familiar with it and it doesn’t push us too far out of our comfort zone, and partly because it’s easy to plan and familiar. But we probably all agree that being able to fly gives us such freedom to explore and travel, even within our own country.
Why not use this time to plan a long trip you’d like to take, maybe to a different part of the country or even overseas? Use your favourite flight planning software, or even just a map, along with a good airfield guide, and start plotting a route and researching the flight.
Then commit to taking the flight as soon as you’re able to get back in the air!
10. Make a wish list of new airfields to visit
Even though there are lots of general aviation airfields within about an hour’s flying time from my home airport, there are still many I haven’t been to yet. And further afield are many more.
I’ve been inspired during this lockdown to pick a few airfields that I definitely want to visit soon, and with the desperation to get back flying, I am determined to make it happen.
Which airfields do you want to visit? Make a list and start planning!
11. Keep the cockpit fresh in your mind
Do you have a picture of the aircraft cockpit you usually fly from?
Keep it current in your mind by refreshing your memory about its layout. Why not run through some checklists?
12. Refresh your theoretical knowledge
When was the last time you read through the Air Law manual, or any of the others for that matter?
Often we do all the studying we need to get through the exams, then forget all about the knowledge we gained.
This lockdown is the perfect time to refresh your memory on the rules of the air and theory behind flight, aircraft technical systems, human performance and meteorology to name a few.
13. Research your onward journey and make a plan
This one for the serious or career pilots.
If you’ve got to a certain level, for example by gaining your PPL, this could be a time to make sure you have a plan for the road ahead.
What experience do you need to gain? Which licences will you need to gain? Which schools and courses will you be applying to?
14. Fly on a simulator
There are various simulator software available for flying on your computer. It’s not the same as being in a real cockpit, but at the same time it’s not a million miles away.
The better simulators have realistic cockpits, flight physics, scenery, and even air traffic control and other aircraft.
If you have a simulator at home, you can run through some practice flights and keep your skills as sharp as possible in the circumstances.
15. Research the next aircraft you’d like to buy
If you’re in the lucky position to own an aircraft, or to be considering buying one, why not use the downtime to do some research into the next aircraft you’d like to own?
Flying magazines and websites often have reviews of aircraft, both new and old, and there are always lots of classified adverts offering planes and ownership shares for you to browse through.
Time apart from flying might just be the spur you need to take the plunge and buy that dream aircraft.
16. Read a book
There are lots of books on piloting available on various different subjects.
Whether you’re a student pilot or a seasoned pro, you can find everything from learning to fly guides to advanced techniques, biographies of famous pilots, manuals for commercial pilots and flying stories.
Having a bit of enforced down time at home is the perfect opportunity to get some reading done, whether for study or pleasure.
One book which you may be interested in is 100 Ways to Fly More, and Get More Out of Flying, which offers – as the name suggests – a hundred easily actionable tips and suggestions on how you can make the most of your pilot’s license and fly more often.
The tips are in different categories, and are relevant to everyone from student pilots to seasoned veterans. If you’re longing to return to the cockpit and get flying again, reading this book may give you some useful tips and ideas on getting more out of your pilot’s license and taking it further.