Private pilot practice test.

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private pilot practice test - Private pilot practice test.

Student pilots need to practice for private pilot knowledge tests.

With the availability of countless resources online, choosing the right one can be a dilemma.

I shared three private pilot practice tests, that you can use to familiarize yourself with the FAA knowledge test questions.

I listed the free resources and the paid courses. All of these courses will help you to assume:

  • The type of questions you will see in the actual test;
  • How to answer all the questions correctly within the time limit to pass the exam.

In short, paid courses are always the best to prepare for the exam, and I will tell you the reason at the end of this article.

But first, let’s see the free courses that you can find online.

Exams 4 Pilots is an online tool where you can choose the type of exam you will take.

Student pilots can choose the Private Pilot License exam and decide how many questions to generate questions and practice test duration accordingly.

Immediately, you will see multiple-choice questions with a time limit.

The time limit will be variable depending on the number of questions you choose.

Exams 4 Pilots‘ FREE practice exam is excellent for familiarizing yourself with the FAA knowledge test questions.

Similarly, you will be comfortable with completing an exam within the time boundary.

Nevertheless, merely taking the Exams 4 Pilots’ free practice test is not adequate to pass the FAA knowledge test.

FAA does not publish the questions of FAA knowledge tests like they did in the past. Thus free platforms like Exams 4 Pilots have limited questions for student pilots to practice for free.

FREE platforms have limited questions and they do not update the question bank as frequently as a paid tool. After you take the PPL practice exam in Exam 4 Pilots, you will see a repetition of the same questions, which is futile.

King School’s FREE FAA Private Pilot Practice test.

Like I mentioned:

Free courses are not adequate to pass the real FAA knowledge test.

Similar to Exams 4 Pilots, King School’s private pilot practice test is useful to get comfortable with perfecting the exam without exceeding the time limit.

In King School’s free mock examination, you can choose a maximum of 60 aeronautical questions at once.

King School designed it like an actual FAA knowledge test, unlike Exams 4 Pilots, where you can pick a lot more questions at once.

However, like all other free platforms, King School’s question bank has outdated questions.

Student pilots cannot memorize the free questions and expect to pass the private pilot FAA knowledge test.

These were common before decades:

  • Student pilots memorized the answer to the questions and pass the FAA knowledge test.
  • Students didn’t need to understand a subject clearly.

Hence, the FAA frequently adds new questions in the knowledge test and steers clear of publishing the questions for student pilots.

It is a superb technique to drive student pilots towards studying harder and progress toward being smarter and safer pilots.

Now, it is essential for student pilots that they:

  • Clearly understand aeronautical subjects, so they are ready to answer all types of questions;
  • Don’t rely on FREE tools for memorizing questions answers.

Kings School’s practice test page has a bold warning regarding this concern to prevent students from failing their FAA knowledge test.

Private Pilot Written Test Bootcamp by FLY8MA.

FLY8MA’s private pilot practice test is an excellent tool and it is not for FREE.

I mentioned two FREE training tests for student pilots. By now you may already know why the FREE resources are not enough to pass your actual exam.

FAA discourages student pilots to memorize the answers for the exam. FAA desires student pilots to learn a subject clearly so that they can answer any kind of question from their knowledge.

Paid private pilot practice tests like FLY8MA’s Bootcamp course will train you to answer unique questions.

In FLY8MA’s Bootcamp course:

  • The flight instructors work hard to prepare solid questions and add it to the question bank for the students to practice.
  • Experienced flight instructors add questions that are most relevant to the FAA’s recent questions.
  • FLY8MA’s flight instructors consistently update the questions database according to the FAA’s new regulations that keep student pilots up to date.
  • Instructors emphasize on brand new questions to prepare student pilots for unseen questions.

Pilots who did not take the exam for a long time.

Once a student pilot practice answering different questions from the paid version of FLY8MA’s Bootcamp, they will be able to answer all varieties of questions.

Paid practice test course train student pilots on how to manage time to answer unfamiliar questions without exceeding the time limit.

FLY8MA’s Bootcamp also helps student pilots to understand aeronautical information even more clearly.

It is so common that many private pilot trainees did not take any exam in over a decade.

For such student pilots, FLY8MA’s private pilot Bootcamp is a must.

Figuring out the answer to a unique question takes time and someone who did not take any exam in a long time will likely fail because of poor time management.

For those student pilots, using this FLY8MA’s private pilot practice test will help sharpen their aviation knowledge. Likewise, practicing different kinds of questions will ready them for the FAA knowledge test.

In the long run, a paid version is always beneficial for student pilots regardless of when you took an exam the last time. If you don’t want to take the private pilot knowledge test more then once, then paid tools are the way.

Knowing aeronautical subjects in-depth, and understanding precisely, will benefit you in several ways.

  • You will become a better pilot;
  • Can pass your private pilot exam with ease;
  • Students pilots will be ready for their check-ride.

To become a better pilot, and pass your FAA knowledge test, use an online pilot course together with FLY8MA’s private pilot practice test.

High energy approaches: student edition

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Recently, a video of a Cessna 172 crash into a hangar after landing in Canada went viral. The student pilot got out of it with minor injuries, but the fact that he was just another one saved by Cessna’s generous engineers underscores a critical point in training that might have been overlooked. Once again, just as in any safety case, the saints are not important; the miracle is what really matters. It is a systemic issue across the industry, and it has to be mitigated, like any threat.

The difference, though, is that this threat is an essential characteristic of any airplane. Even autoland systems are limited to certain crosswind components because automation too has its boundaries. So human pilots must compensate for these limits—we can’t afford to not address this subject emphatically from the beginning.

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That centerline is there for a reason.

We have talked before here in Air Facts about crosswind landings, so I will not bother getting into it deeply again. Everybody knows what to do, and in the Cessna 172—or any similar model–a sideslip must be accomplished before touchdown for several reasons. The main point on this Canada case, or in another solo flight that veered left of the runway last year and also went viral, is that both students likely failed in using the rudder pedals.

Just because tricycle gear airplanes are much simpler to land does not mean they are inherently centerline stable. So, even light wind components–and I say this from my own scary experience during a takeoff with my wife and mother onboard many years ago–can push the airplane onto the runway edges quite decisively. It is the pilot’s responsibility to keep it on the centerline, and this must be addressed from the first hour of training. It is not just the wind, but P-factor, torque, etc. So yes, a rudder (at least a right one) must always be applied.

Nevertheless, since no further investigation will probably reveal much more, we will take the videos to do a kind of debriefing on ourselves. The pilots involved learned it already the hard way, so let’s not waste their lesson and generosity. Yes, I am not that critical of cameras on solo flights, although I think it is wise to save them for after the private pilot checkride at least.

Both crashes started the same way: a high energy approach. We’ve been talking about this in the airlines for years and we train on them in the simulator quite often. Yet once again, it looks like general aviation is not being as cautious. The balked landing training we make every six months on a widebody Level D is exactly that: a deliberate (for training purpose, obviously), high energy approach that smashes the airplane into the ground in a way that tends to make it bounce. So the trainee must assume the controls once it happens and save the day–usually by getting power in and initiating a go around.

In general, the idea is to create resilience by the mechanics of the maneuver. Once you do it many times, you won’t have to think much if it happens to you in real life; you will recognize it quickly and react accordingly. This is the way we address time critical failures or maneuvers, since “thinking” is a luxury we won’t have in these situations once they develop.

What we can think of, though, is how to avoid them altogether. A high energy approach will not start during the few seconds of the flare, but possibly even in the top of descent, half an hour earlier. And even in a small single engine piston in the traffic pattern, the pilot will have more than a couple minutes to realize and fix its energy state before landing.

I won’t get too technical, but let’s think of typical approach speeds in a Cessna 172 and compare them with any airliner. I’ve said this before, maybe not here–although you’ve heard it from other authors here at Air Facts—but the way you land a light GA aircraft is fundamentally different from the way you land an airliner or jets in general. And the key is the amount of energy and how to bleed if off during the flare.

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A bounced landing almost always starts from a high energy approach.

Just to start with, airliners have what we call Vref, which is a weight-based speed. Since they vary greatly with the weight–in the Dreamliner alone, we are talking about over 40 tons during normal operations–they must be calculated for every landing. Every 4,000 pounds or so will make a knot of difference in the landing speed, and on top of that, we put a five knot buffer, which is called Vapp.

So during final approach, in full landing configuration, you are going to be on Vapp and transition during the flare to ideally touchdown on Vref and power in idle. These five knots–and no more or less–should be bled during the final seconds of the flight, below 50 ft, by seeking the correct attitude. If that is not set, you might find yourself with too much energy and a bounce. If you bleed too much, you can easily have a tail strike, just to start the package of a bad day in the office.

But the fundamental difference from a GA aircraft approach speed is not the weight itself: generally speaking, a jet Vref is based on 1.3 times the stall speed. So, at the moment you touch down, you are 30% above the stall speed. And that excess third is the key for a smooth and safe ride. It is not too much, but not too little either.

When it comes to a Cessna 172 it is another world. You are approaching at 65-70 knots for a normal landing. Yet your stall speed is much lower, less than 50 knots even at maximum weight. So you have far more than the stall speed during approach. Do not get fooled: you are already in a high energy state and you are doing the right thing. The key is to keep it that way, on the target speed, until you start the flare.

Once again, the Skyhawk is very easy to fly, and that’s why over 40,000 have been built, making it the most popular civilian aircraft ever. Nevertheless, it is not autonomous—it needs an acting pilot in command to fly and land properly. Once you cross the threshold, start bringing the power back and the nose up accordingly. Remember, you may have half of your speed to bleed before you touch down. On top of that, you definitely don’t want to touch down flat, and in order to get the main gear on the ground first, you need to be slow enough.

A common fear students have is to stall during the flare, and to convince them they are very far from it during the approach, the slow flight dirty maneuver is a great tool. Once they get the concept, it’s a matter of practicing. Getting to the ground with the right amount of energy–which in the Skyhawk is touching down near the stall speed after approaching at nearly twice that–is the start of a nice and safe ground roll.

And of course, do not forget the rudder pedals. Ever.

Microsoft Flight Simulator: Easier to Get Flying Than You Might Think!

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microsoft flight simulator easier to get flying than you might think - Microsoft Flight Simulator: Easier to Get Flying Than You Might Think!

While some people may look at Microsoft Flight Simulator (MSFS) and call it a video game, it is much more than that to a large swath of people. It’s right there in the name: “simulator”. I know a handful of lifelong aviation enthusiasts that can attribute their fascination with flight to Microsoft Flight Simulator. When Microsoft shelved the series and licensed out the code, that was presumed to be the end of the series. 

While 2020 has taken so very much from the world, it has finally given us a new entrant into the coveted flight series. I’ll get right to it, though: MSFS is imperfect. In fact, in its initial release, it is far from perfect. The bones of the simulator, however, are setting the stage for something very special…eventually. And I am very excited for what likely will be coming soon. 

At launch, MS Flight Simulator is only available on PC and that means that many will need to put money into their machines… the more you spend, the better performing your computer will be, and the more likely your experience will be improved. To be blunt; MSFS is a pig. The gaming community has compared it to Crysis, a 2007 game that was legendary for its hardware requirements. Even the highest end consumer gaming PC hardware struggles to run MSFS well, so playing MSFS may require a steep investment. There are ways around this, however, and I’ll touch on that a bit later.

The world created by the MSFS team is stunning; it’s quite literally the entire world. Using satellite imagery from Bing Maps (remember Bing!?), combined with artificial intelligence from Blackshark, MSFS recreated the entire world in a level of detail never before seen. So, even if most people won’t have computers that can run at the highest resolution, it won’t stop us from sharing some pretty good photos of the potential!

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The MSFS developers handcrafted dozens of airports from around the world, and the results truly are amazing — strolling around JFK looks just like the real thing. The base level of MS Flight Simulator includes 30 detailed airports, while the Deluxe version bumps it up to 35 and Premium to 40. Airports throughout the rest of the world are dynamically generated, but taxiways and runways were manually plotted for accuracy. It’s fun to put the game into drone mode and just explore the world without having to worry about actually flying an aircraft.

microsoft flight simulator easier to get flying than you might think 4 - Microsoft Flight Simulator: Easier to Get Flying Than You Might Think!

Just above the world created in MSFS is, of course, weather. This aspect is a bit of a standout feature. While prior iterations of the simulator let users tinker with the weather, the 2020 version cranks it up to a whole new level. Really, they could have created another simulator called MSWS: Microsoft Weather Simulator, with no planes — it is that good (for our #wxGeek friends). Users can create their own layered weather systems or turn on the real-time weather service.

microsoft flight simulator easier to get flying than you might think 5 - Microsoft Flight Simulator: Easier to Get Flying Than You Might Think!

The base version offers 20 aircraft, including the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 747-8I. The Deluxe version adds practically nothing, while the Premium version adds in the Boeing 787-10. While the aircraft look as amazing as you would expect, the actual simulation is on the weak side. Most of the aircraft do not handle as I would expect… at all.

microsoft flight simulator easier to get flying than you might think 6 - Microsoft Flight Simulator: Easier to Get Flying Than You Might Think!

I often find myself fighting the aircraft as it makes inexplicable movements. No matter how many times I calibrate my controller, aircraft simply refuse to fly in a straight line and small movements on the controller’s analog stick often result in unrealistically dramatic aircraft movements.

Even though the base level includes 30 aircraft, it includes training for just one — the Cessna 152. If you want to fly the A320neo, or any of the other aircraft, you need to figure it out yourself, and depending on the complexity of the aircraft, that might not be so easy. There are checklists to guide you, but I’ve never gotten MSFS to display a checklist beyond engine start. So takeoff, after takeoff, level flight, and landing procedures are all on you. Don’t forget to lower the landing gear.

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The autopilot for the majority of the aircraft, at least in my experience, does not work properly or at all. Stable flight, for the most part, just isn’t something I have been able to reliably produce using autopilot. The “AI” pilot is supposed to be able to take over control and fly the aircraft, kind of like a super autopilot, but that will often result in the aircraft flying upside down or into a mountain. At least it seems to be able to handle ATC communications without trouble, just like a real first officer (the latter part, not the former).

While I often spent hours at a time playing Flight Simulator X back in the day, the 2020 version isn’t keeping my attention. Maybe it’s the extended loading times between flights. Maybe it’s the lack of simulated challenges. Perhaps it is all the bugs… or maybe I just have more to do these days (Haha, I doubt that Jason -Editor). I just haven’t been able to sit in front of the sim for more than an hour at a time and that is disappointing. 

microsoft flight simulator easier to get flying than you might think 11 - Microsoft Flight Simulator: Easier to Get Flying Than You Might Think!

The bones of a great entry to the Microsoft Flight Simulator series are there, and the framework to get it to greatness is present. Third-party support was, and still is, a massive business for Flight Simulator X, and the 2020 release of MSFS aims to keep that support alive. I am excited to see what aircraft become available to purchase as add-ons, and to see how they up the ante in terms of realism. There is already an effort to improve the A320neo flight mechanics and systems, so the development community is definitely ready.

Microsoft has said that support for MSFS will last for a decade, so don’t feel like you need to rush out today to buy a gaming PC — it might actually be best to wait a year or two for the ecosystem to fully blossom. If you must play now, and don’t want to drop a few grand on hardware, you can wait for the Xbox console port or try something called Shadow. Shadow is a gaming service that puts all of the expensive hardware in the cloud and runs locally on your device, ranging from a Mac to an Android phone. Simply put, the service is pretty damn amazing (and no, I get no kick backs). Granted, you need a fast internet connection for it to work, but it has enabled me to run MSFS without having to buy anything except for the $5 monthly Xbox Game Pass for PC subscription, which includes the base version of MSFS.

Happy flying… eventually.

All images are from Microsoft

Astral Knight 2020 Exercise Kicks Off In Eastern Europe

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File photo of a B-52H Stratofortress bomber aircraft assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, taking off from RAF Fairford, UK. The B-52s will take part in AK 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jesse Jenny)

Astral Knight 2020 is a multinational exercise focused on air defense capabilities.

Between Sep. 17 and 25, 2020, it is going to involve relevant air assets in Poland (airbases and aircraft), Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. Interestingly, the Tobruq Legacy 20 exercise focused on air defense, is taking place almost simultaneously in Lithuania. Last year the Tobruq Legacy took place in Poland.

Astral Knight 2020 will see the participations of U.S., Poland, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Sweden forces.

The air assets involved in the drills include the USAF F-16s, KC-135s, KC-10s, E-3s, and B-52s, alongside the Polish F-16s, Su-22s, and the Mi-17 helicopters. Furthermore, U.S. Army Europe plans to provide soldiers and equipment to operate the Patriot surface-to-air missile system out of Szymany Air Base, Poland.

The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs release states that the exercise is aimed to “develop and exercise an enduring regional integrated air and missile defense architecture, command and control integration, coordination, and interoperability of air and land capabilities with overlapping operations into the integrated air and missile defense enterprise.”

Interestingly, the Polish MoD also outlined the threats that will be simulated or addressed during the exercise. These are going to include missile and air threats, UAVs, stealth cruise missiles, hypersonic weapons, and advanced ballistic missiles, because, as the Polish Ministry highlights, “close competitors are rapidly developing the military domain”.

Finally, the Astral Knight 20 will also allow the participants to test the command capabilities. This remains relevant, as it will involve cooperation between the allied nations and U.S. Air Forces in Europe.

The official press release also specifies the deployment location for the US Army Europe Patriot SAM system. The Patriot battery in question is to be operated out of the Szymany Air Base in Poland. The release may be misleading – Szymany is not an airbase; it is a civil airport located near Olsztyn. The airport issued a note that it would be hosting the US and Polish forces between Aug. 18 and Sep. 30. Thus, the civil airport would undergo a militarization. This is yet another important (and overlooked by most of the media outlets) aspect of the training. The Olsztyn-Mazury (Szymany) airport’s release places a major emphasis on the fact that the General Aviation and passenger flight ops would not be interrupted by the training undertaken by the military operations there.

This would not be a major issue also due to the limited amount of traffic that flies out of Szymany. The airport offers connections to Krakow, Dortmund (Germany), London Luton, and London Stansted. During July 2020 the airport has been a point of departure by 8,368 passengers, reports. The above translates into a 45.7% drop when compared to last year (15,408 passengers checking in). This renders the aforesaid airport a perfect spot for militarization. Not to mention its strategic location near the so-called Suwałki Gap. NATO views the region as a pain-point in the conflict with the potential adversary.

Another interesting notion is that the USAF Europe strongly emphasizes the fact that the exercise has been long-planned and is not associated with any current events. The statement above seems to be a preemptive measure, refuting the potential reaction of the Kremlin – Moscow could potentially create a narrative here, suggesting that Astral Knight could be a part of a military buildup in response to the crisis events currently unfolding in Belarus.

Astral Knight 2019

Last year, Astral Knight was a 4-day exercise held in the Adriatic region: more than 30 USAF aircraft took part in the exercise, including the F-35A Lightning IIs deployed to Aviano as part of TSP (Theater Security Package) on May 23, 2019, (and moved to Spangdahlem, Germany, on Jun. 11, 2019), F-16 Fighting Falcons, KC-135 Stratotankers and E-3 Sentry aircraft. The Italian Air Force took part in the exercise with the F-35A Lightning IIs and Eurofighter Typhoons deployed to Istrana as well as a G550 CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) aircraft from Pratica di Mare airbase. The Croatian Air Force took part in the drills with its MiG-21s.

The focus of the multi-national exercise, was to defend several key areas of terrain from cruise-missile and aircraft strikes. Integration was one of the key themes of Astral Knight because it will be essential in any future war, and for the first time, U.S. Air Force F-35As (belonging to Hill AFB’s 421st Fighter Squadron) integrated operationally with Italian Air Force F-35As and communicated with each other over the MADL.

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This B-52 model is available from AirModels. Click here to buy yours.

A less-than-graceful arrival

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During the Summer of 1966 I was working at the Philadelphia Seaplane Base and accumulating hours towards my Commercial certificate. I worked at the seaplane base while attending college and in 1964 I had acquired a 1939 Aeronca Chief seaplane project. I finally had it completed and flying by the summer of 1966. She hadn’t flown since 1947.

I planned to do the required long cross-country flight by taking a week at the end of the summer and heading north. My ultimate destination was Greenville, Maine, on Moosehead Lake.

The pre-war Chief was a good little floatplane. She didn’t get off the water as soon as the J-3 I had been flying, but was 10 to 15 mph faster. Also, having a door on both sides was a plus for docking.

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Ready to make the grand arrival…

Labor Day weekend found me heading to Highgate Springs, Vermont, the first overnight on my multi-day trip. My fuel stops were the seaplane base at Peekskill, NY, Garnseys Airport on the Hudson River north of Albany, and Westport, NY, on the southwest side of Lake Champlain.

The first two stops went fine. The stop at Westport would be at a marina where I would be able to get some white marine gas. Although not by the rules, this was somewhat common back then with floatplanes if avgas wasn’t available.

It was a beautiful day and as I taxied in I noted a nice open dock with no obstructions. Not being a seaplane base, you were own your own for docking. Not a big deal—I had ideal conditions. I just needed to taxi up, cut the switch at the appropriate time, drift alongside the dock, and step off. A piece of cake.

Well, I stepped down onto the float and slipped right off into the lake while grazing my head on the dock on the way down. Of course, being a holiday weekend, there was a nice size crowd watching this fiasco.

As I came up for air I saw my Chief drifting away, so I swam over and doggy paddled it back to the dock. The feeling of humiliation was overwhelming.

The manager helped me out of the water and was initially concerned about my bleeding forehead. When it was obvious that it was just a little cut he started to laugh and said this was one of the best and funniest things they had seen in years. He joked that he would pay somebody to stage such an event.

They really treated me well and loaned me a pair of goggles so I could dive down and retrieve my glasses, which were in about eight feet of water. Darned if I didn’t find them.

Lockheed Martin Releases New Animation of F-16s Using Tactical Airborne Laser Pod

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Lockheed Martin Releases New Animation of F-16s Using Tactical Airborne Laser Pod
An F-16 using its laser to target an incoming threat. (Screenshot from LM video).

An interesting new video has just been released by Lockheed Martin. Focusing on the Tactical Airborne Laser Weapon System (TALWS), the animation shows F-16s equipped with laser pods cooperate with a Boeing KC-46 Pegasus equipped tactical infrared sensors able to passively detect and track threats. Once the tanker (a High-Value Aerial Asset that can be targeted by several different threats) detects an incoming missile, it passes its position to the two Vipers that can use their the beam director in their pod to put high-energy light on-target and keep it there with high precision to defeat the threat.

Some parts of the animation were already included in another video that was released last month, but this time we get to see the whole “scene”.

Laser Weapon Systems

Two laser systems could be seen in the previous video released by LM: a pod mounted under the centerline hardpoint of an F-16 and a fixed system mounted in a fairing under and AC-130’s fuselage. As already explained, the systems are based on fiber laser technology, a type of laser which uses as active gain medium an optical fiber, as opposed to solid-state laser which uses a glass or crystalline solid material.

You can read everything about the Lockheed Martin Airborne Defensive Laser System for F-16 and C-130 in this article we published last month. Here is an excerpt:

The name of the laser system has not been mentioned, however, in 2017, the Air Force Research Lab (AFRL) awarded Lockheed Martin a contract for the design, development and production of a high power fiber laser, as part of the Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) program to protect aircraft from air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles.

In the press release for the contract award, SHiELD is mentioned as including three subsystems:

  • SHiELD Turret Research in Aero Effects (STRAFE): the beam control system, which will direct the laser onto the target;
  • Laser Pod Research & Development (LPRD): the pod mounted on the tactical fighter jet, which will power and cool the laser;
  • Laser Advancements for Next-generation Compact Environments (LANCE): the high energy laser itself, which can be trained on adversary targets to disable them.


The SHiELD pod was to be tested in 2021, however DefenseNews reported that the test will be delayed to 2023 due to technical challenges and complications that followed the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Jeff Heggemeier, SHiELD program manager for AFRL. Adding to this, then Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin was quoted as saying: “I’m extremely skeptical that we can put a large laser on an aircraft and use it to shoot down an adversary missile even from very close.” It is not completely clear if Griffin was referring to a specific system, which most probably could be some anti-ballistic missile defense system, however this raised some concerns.


As of now, we don’t know officially on which aircraft the AFRL will test the SHiELD pod, however AirForceMagazine reported last year that the defensive laser system may be demonstrated on the F-15, while Lockheed Martin showed the pod on the F-16C and C-130J-series aircraft. An older rendering showed the pod also on the F-16V Block70.

TikTok Video: Getting Hit By Flame Retardant From A DC-10

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dc 10 dropping fire retardant - TikTok Video: Getting Hit By Flame Retardant From A DC-10

To state the obvious, working on the front lines of a major fire has its risks, and one of those is getting hit with retardant from a firefighting plane. This truck, which looks to be a tanker of some kind, witnessed first hand the power of a big drop from a converted DC-10. The video, which was posted by HBK1966 on TikTok and subsequently cross-posted on other platforms, shows the size and power of the DC-10. Check out these other videos on Plane & Pilot to see, one, just how awe-inspiring this plane in action is and, in the other, just how much damage a drop can do if a vehicle takes a direct hit. And thanks to the heroes on the front lines!

DC-10 Firebombing run from r/aviation

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

Aviation Sales Numbers Down In First Half Of 2020

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20 Archer Fleet ATP 6 SM 1536x991 1 - Aviation Sales Numbers Down In First Half Of 2020

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association came out with the first-half numbers for GA plane sales, and as you might have expected, they were significantly off of last year’s marks, though certain segments fared far worse than others.

Sales of piston-powered aircraft were off, with 497 singles and twins being delivered (deliveries and not sales are what count) to customers in the first half, 219 of them in Q1 and 278 in Q2, which was a decline of 13.3% from the same period last year—the kind of dip that isn’t uncommon year to year even without multiple crises affecting the United States. And with the fourth quarter often being the busiest sales period of the year, it’s not hard to imagine that the segment might recoup some of those presumably postponed purchases later this year.

The news was worse for turboprop plane makers, with deliveries down 34.2%, with sales of 152 aircraft. Business jets were hit almost as hard, with a decline of 26.7% on sales of 244 jets. The bottom line number, the value of planes sold, saw a steep decline, with sales of $7.9 billion, a 20.2% drop over the same period of 2019.

Categories: How to Become a Pilot

Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

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The overall weather for your flight today from Scottsdale, Arizona (SDL), to San Carlos, California (SQL), looks excellent—no fronts, no storms, no ice, hardly any clouds—with one exception. Huge wildfires have covered much of Northern California with smoke. That means widespread IFR conditions near your destination. Can you make the trip?

The flight should take about 3:30 in your Cirrus SR22, given the less-than-direct route and 12,000 ft. cruising altitude that are required for avoiding terrain. That’s a long trip in this airplane, but certainly within its capabilities; you should arrive in the Bay Area with about 20 gallons of fuel remaining, which is more than your one hour personal minimum. However, the need to fly to an alternate might cut into that reserve. You’re instrument rated and current.

Departure time is planned for 9:00am PDT (1600Z). Read the weather briefing below and then add a comment sharing your decision.


Your trip today will take you north out of the Phoenix area, then west towards Bakersfield, before turning northwest towards the San Francisco area.

SDL to SQL - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

The surface analysis shows hardly anything to worry about, with no organized weather system throughout the Southwest.

SDL surface analysis - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

The prog chart shows more of the same, with generally fair weather continuing throughout the day and into tomorrow.

SDL 24 hour - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos


There’s nothing to look at on the radar today, but the satellite image shows the smoke covering much of California. It’s clearly not vertically developed, but it is all over the coast.

SQL sat - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

Graphical Forecasts

The Graphical AIRMET shows what you would expect—good weather except for restricted visibilities. The unusual FU stands for smoke.

AIRMETs - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

These weather conditions are where the Graphical Forecast for Aviation (GFA) can add some detail. First, the surface forecast, which shows widespread low visibility near your destination.

SDL surface forecast - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

Then there’s the cloud forecast, valid for about an hour and a half before your arrival. It shows clear skies except along the coast, where tops are low and ceilings are forecast to be around 1000 ft.

SDL cloud forecast - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

Text weather

Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Will conditions allow you to make a safe approach and landing at San Carlos? First the good news: your departure airport is reporting excellent conditions and it’s forecast to stay that way.

SDL weather - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

En route, the weather is good VFR until you get north of Los Angeles. At your destination, conditions are definitely IFR—in fact, they are below approach minimums right now (which are 900 and 1 1/4 for the RNAV (GPS) Z to runway 30). The nearest TAF (for SFO) suggests things will get better as the day goes on.

SQL weather - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

Given the current weather at SQL, the TAF at SFO, and common sense, you need an IFR alternate today. Unfortunately, there aren’t many good options. Smoke has brought ceilings and visibility down all over California. Here are three nearby international airports, all reporting conditions that are above approach minimums, but not by much.

local weather SFO - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

The story is the same almost everywhere within 100 miles. In fact, Bakersfield is the nearest airport with truly VFR weather right now (clear skies and 3 miles visibility with haze), but that’s 200 miles away.

A few PIREPs offer the last details. As expected, tops are very low but so are ceilings.

SDL PIREPs - Go or No Go: smoky San Carlos

Decision time

For a fairly benign weather day, there’s actually a lot going on here. First things first: if the TAF holds, you can fly to your destination and land safely. Easy. Legally, you need an alternate and while none of the airports around San Carlos qualify right now based on the METARs, they do based on the TAFs. In fact, you could wait half an hour longer and eliminate the need for an alternate altogether. The only minor issue is that a Presidential TFR is going active early in the afternoon in Phoenix, so you’d definitely like to be airborne in the next two hours or so.

The legwork for a “legal” IFR alternate is beside the point, really. When you arrive at SQL, you’ll have enough fuel to shoot the approach, miss, and divert to a nearby airport (there are plenty around with precision approaches, including SFO, OAK, SJC). Given all that, you’ll still have the FAA-mandated 45 minutes of fuel on board, so you’re legal. But you won’t have much more fuel than that, so if conditions happen to go down, you have few good options and no solid VFR weather within range. And then of course there’s the hassle factor—San Carlos is much more convenient for your ultimate destination than the big airports at San Jose or San Francisco, not to mention the higher costs.

Is it a go or a no-go? Add your comment below.

Boeing Has Completed Engine Run on First Unmanned Loyal Wingman Aircraft For Australia

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gif;base64,R0lGODlhAQABAAAAACH5BAEKAAEALAAAAAABAAEAAAICTAEAOw== - Boeing Has Completed Engine Run on First Unmanned Loyal Wingman Aircraft For Australia
Boeing Australia has completed the engine run on its first Loyal Wingman unmanned aircraft as part of ground testing and preparations for first flight. (Boeing photo)

Boeing Australia has just fired up the commercial turbofan engine on the first Loyal Wingman, as part of ground testing and preparations for first flight (planned before the end of the year), the company has announced on Sept. 14, 2020 (EST).

Very few details can be found in the official press release:

“This milestone comes on the heels of Boeing completing the first unmanned Loyal Wingman aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force earlier this year, a major step forward for the unmanned vehicle serving as the foundation for the global Boeing Airpower Teaming System, an artificial intelligence-powered teaming aircraft developed for the global defense market,” says the official statement released by Boeing.

“This engine run gets us closer toward flying the first aircraft later this year and was successful thanks to the collaboration and dedication of our team,” said Dr. Shane Arnott, program director of the Boeing Airpower Teaming System. “We’ve been able to select a very light, off-the-shelf jet engine for the unmanned system as a result of the advanced manufacturing technologies applied to the aircraft.”

However, two new images of the Airpower Teaming System (ATS) unmanned aircraft, developed for the Loyal Wingman Advanced Development Program of the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) have been released alongside the pretty short official statement (one is the headline photo, the other one can be found here below).

ATS engine testing 9844 hi res - Boeing Has Completed Engine Run on First Unmanned Loyal Wingman Aircraft For Australia
ATS Engine Test. (Image credit: Boeing)

A video was also shared online:

Although Boeing has been tight-lipped and has provided no detail about the location where the first three aircraft are being built, the ATS was sighted in the open while undergoing ground testing in preparation for the taxi trials at an unspecified airfield in Queensland, a location that we believe could have been RAAF Base Amberley, some 40 km south-west of Brisbane, home of Boeing Australia.

Here are some details about the ATS included in the article on the program, written by Stefano D’Urso, we published few weeks ago:

As we wrote in occasion of the roll-out, this drone is the first clean-sheet design created by Boeing outside the United States and also the first RAAF’s clean-sheet design in more than 50 years. The project, which involved several Australian companies, used new development techniques, like the “digital twin” concept, and new automated production systems.

One of the key features of the ATS is an 8.5 ft (2.6 m) long modular nose cone with 9000 cubic inches internal volume to house different payloads, which can be entirely swapped quickly according to the mission’s needs.

A similar AI-based program, called Skyborg Vanguard Program, is also in development by the U.S. Air Force and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Skyborg is described as “an autonomy-focused capability that will enable the Air Force to operate and sustain low-cost, teamed aircraft that can thwart adversaries with quick, decisive actions in contested environments.”

The system’s functioning looks similar to the Boeing ATS: “Military pilots receive key information about their surroundings when teamed aircraft with integrated autonomy detect potential air and ground threats, determine threat proximity, analyze imminent danger, and identify suitable options for striking or evading enemy aircraft. Embedded within the teamed aircraft, complex algorithms and cutting-edge sensors enable the autonomy to make decisions based on established rules of engagement set by manned teammates. Field tests will ensure the algorithms’ accuracy and verify that the system continuously operates within the constraints established during mission planning.”

For a quick comparison, the ATS will be flown by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and controlled from the back seat of a Super Hornet or a Growler for smaller formations, or from a control station aboard a Wedgetail or a Poseidon. Boeing didn’t provide details on how the AI specifically works, but explained that the controller will simply signal the mission intent to the Loyal Wingman and the AI will figure out by itself mission specifics and navigation, while keeping a safe separation from other manned and unmanned aircraft.

Boeing plans to submit a variant of ATS for Skyborg. Other companies competing in the program are Northrop Grumman, General Atomics and Kratos.

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