Based on your collective responses, one of the most popular blogs I’ve written was the recent posting that introduced you to George; aka, your autopilot and highlighted the many ways “he” can help make your flying safer and more relaxed. And while he’s handy anytime, your upcoming summer flying family vacation is one time where he can really be most helpful.
These once – or if you’re real lucky – twice-a-year family adventures, are some of the true benefits of private aircraft ownership. You go where you want and when you want. But sometimes that flexibility can bring on unusual levels of stress. Why? Well, half the fun of flying yourself is going to places that aren’t easily accessible by the airlines. Hey, vacation time is precious and you don’t want to waste any driving to your destination – not when there’s a GA airport close by.
As convenient as they may well be, many times these smaller airports take you into unfamiliar territory. That’s where George comes in. By letting him take over much of the en route and pre-approach tasks, you are freeing yourself up to listen to the airport’s approach controllers, ATIS and Unicom.
And because, many of these smaller airports are uncontrolled, it’s also a really good idea to take one last look at the airport information and familiarize yourself with key landmarks in the area just to confirm you’re where you’re supposed to be.
There’s nothing worse, or more dangerous, than announcing your intentions to land at one airport and actually touching down at another one that’s close by and “looks the same from the air.” Hey, it happens. And all too often I might add.
Another way you can prepare for your approach and landing is to be well hydrated prior to entering the high workload portion of the flight. Let George fly while you grab a snack, a bottle of water and enjoy the new scenery. Remember, flying is supposed to be fun.
Of course if the weather is marginal or IFR, your autopilot’s benefits are paid off in spades. Checking weather, runway conditions, METARS, alternate airports, etc., is much easier when you’re not hand flying at the same time. And no offense, more times than not George will fly the precision approach better than you can. I’m just sayin’.
So before you load your family and launch off on your great vacation of 2016, take an hour or so and brush up on your autopilot skills. You’ll see that he’s a lot easier to control than your teenage kids.
Until next time, fly safely,