Frequently Asked Questions
What Does It Take to be a Pilot/Mechanic?
While each organization will have a slightly different take on things, most would agree that if you want to be successful in mission aviation, there are a core set of skills and attributes that a pilot should have before heading to the field. We call them KSA's - Knowledge, Skills and Attributes.
Following is a list of 41 KSA's that missions are generally looking for in an applicant. This is a list that was compiled by JAARS Aviation Training but is very compatible to other IAMA Member Organizations.
14 CFR Part 91: Knowledge, Application and Compliance
Aircraft POH: (Including but not limited to)
- Aircraft: Systems, Limitations and Performance
- Weight & Balance
- Normal Procedures
- Emergency Procedures
Aerodynamic Theory: (Including but not limited to)
- Lift vs. Drag
- Types of Drag
- Center of Pressure
- Vx vs. Vy
- Flight on the back side of the power required curve (area of reverse command)
- Flap Theory
- Trim Tabs
Commercial PTS Special Emphasis Areas: Page 7, FAA-S-8081-12C
Weather Reports, Notams, TFRs
Navigation: Theory & Application
SKILLS: (Aircraft handling)
- Normal Procedures: Preflight, Loading, Performance, Weight and Balance, Pre Start, Start, Post Start, Run-up, Taxi, Pre Takeoff, Pattern Departure, Level Off, Cruise, Approach to the Airfield, Pattern Entry, and use of the Radio.
- Emergency Procedures: Done in accordance with Checklist and expanded procedures found in aircraft POH. Being aware of where the aircraft can be landed in the event of an engine failure or other emergency situation. Awareness of engine failure options during takeoff and initial climb.
- Use of Checklists: Were checklists used? How was the “flip tab” checklist used? Used in accordance with the checklist use explanation in the POH, or used as a do list?
- Basic Configurations: Knowledge and application of basic operational configurations. Transitioning from configuration to configuration.
- Positive Pitch and Power Control: Pro-active in pitching to the airspeed and powering to the altitude during airwork. Working the pitch and power together.
- Tolerances: (A/S, ALT, Hdg.) Tolerances as spelled out in the Flight Lesson Plan, for Orientation, or as found in the Performance Standards Section of the TE handbook, for TEs.
- Takeoff and Climb Procedures: As per the POH and/or the Flight Sheet parameters
- Approach Procedures: (Pattern and Final Approach) As per the POH and/or the Flight Sheet parameters
- Landing Procedures: As per the POH and/or the Flight Sheet parameters. Transition to touchdown, use of pitch and power. Landing in a (the) predetermined Touch Down Zone
- Agreement of Indicators: Pitch, Power Rate of Descent, Picture. Pro-active in pitching to the airspeed and powering to the altitude during the pattern and approach.
- Scan inside/outside: VFR Scan. “Methodical eye movement in search of information” The degree of consistent and appropriate scan which actively and continuously seeks to confirm and update critical information needed to operate the aircraft, including monitoring of engine gauges.
- Orientation/Navigation: The ability to maintain conscious awareness of geographic position and the ability to hold headings and altitudes and note times and distances and relate charts information to observed features. Chart use and plan for locating one’s position.
- Smoothness: The degree of even control and power changes made in a timely manner at appropriate rates and quantities. It may also be used to reflect the general flow and manner of flight actions.
- Coordination: The degree to which the trainee applies correct and timely flight control inputs which result in the coordinated and optimum flight performance of the aircraft.
- JUDGMENT: Appropriately compares and evaluates courses of action. The person with good judgment is able to accurately evaluate a situation or course of action to ascertain the associated risks and benefits. Aspects of good judgment include pragmatism, prioritization, conservatism, and consistency.
- DISCIPLINE: The degree of quality self management and self direction which results in good returns for the effort and produces highly predicable and consistent outcomes.
- PROFESSIONAL: Is thorough, responsible, reliable, and conscientious; maintains high standards.
- SELF-CONTROLLED: Exercises restraint over one's actions and desires. Adheres to standards, procedures and regulations.
- INTEGRITY: Does what is right even when alone. The person with integrity does what is right no matter what.
- FUNCTIONS WITHIN LIMITATIONS: Recognizes personal and organizational limitations, establishes appropriate margins, and consistently functions within those margins. People should have boundaries, know what those boundaries are, and respect them. They should have the ability to “say no” to any violation of their boundaries. Pilots should have boundaries on how much they work in general and have limits on non-aviation duties.
- SAFETY CONSCIOUS: Places a high value on safety. The pilot who places a high value on safety looks out for personal and team safety, is very safety conscious, and is not cavalier about safety.
- CONSERVATIVE: Exercises moderation and/or caution when making decisions. A pilot who is inherently conservative when making decisions; not a risk-taker. They halt the present course of action when faced with unacceptable risk. They are conservative both in life and in flying.
- HAZARDOUS ATTITUDES: Does not exhibit attitudes that lead to dangerous behavior. Pilots should not have any of the following attitudes: get-there-itis (pressing), anti-authority, machismo, invulnerability, impulsiveness, resignation, complacency, air show syndrome, emotional jet lag, excessive professional deference, or passenger/copilot syndrome. They should not exhibit rogue behavior. (See: Kern, Redefining Airmanship, pages 90-96.)
- TEACHABLE: Is willing to be taught. A teachable person is willing and open to being taught. They are not a “know-it-all,” nor do they have a fixed mindset about how to do things. They do not get defensive when being instructed, and they change their ways in response to instruction.
- APTITUDE FOR LEARNING: Has the ability to learn new skills and information. “Capable of being educated” Willingness to truly listen and learn as evidenced by modified behavior in areas being addressed by the instruction. This is fairly close on the heels of “rate of progress”. It is the index of change which results from specific instruction and coaching. (This is not simply how amiable or willing to listen the pilot is.)
- ADAPTABLE: Is able to change activities in response to changing circumstances. An adaptable person has the willingness and ability to make continual changes in their daily aviation activities and schedules.
- INTEGRATION: Appropriately integrates and applies knowledge, skills, and experience. (Commonly referred to as adaptability when applying past aeronautical experience to a new situation) The ability to appropriately synthesize and utilize knowledge, skills, and experience when making decisions, solving problems, making plans, and operating the aircraft.
- RATE OF PROGRESS: “Progression from simple to a more complex form”. The rate at which training outcomes and consistent performance demonstrate development of the needed technical knowledge, skills and attitudes.
- SITUATIONAL AWARENESS: Accurately perceives what is going on with oneself, the aircraft, and the environment, in the short-term past, the present, and in the near future.
- PLANNING: Makes and adapts plans (including for contingencies). Pilots should have plans, be able to make plans, and be able to plan “on the run.” They should be able to skillfully handle changes in plans and make plans for “what if.”
- DIVISION OF ATTENTION: The degree of ability to prioritize attention and activities appropriate to the phase of flight and to multi-task without becoming overly focused on any one of the factors needing attention at the same time.
- TASK MANAGEMENT: Prioritizes and accomplishes multiple tasks in a timely manner. (This is commonly-referred to as multi-tasking.) Pilots should have the ability to do the right things, the right way, while many things are happening at once.
- RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: Uses resources effectively to accomplish tasks. Resource management entails using information, equipment, materials, time, fuel, and people in appropriate, deliberate, and skillful ways to accomplish tasks.
- RISK MANAGEMENT: Appropriately recognizes, evaluates, and mitigates risk.
- STRESS MANAGEMENT (PERFORMANCE UNDER PRESSURE): Carries out activities appropriately when under pressure or stress. The ability to do the right things the right way when under the constraints of time, lack of resources, or policies. Pressure may also come from expectations or demands placed on the pilot. In the immediate sense it is the ability to continue to function when the workload becomes and remains higher that normal for a protracted portion of the flight. Please note, however, the trainee’s general ability to maintain personal priorities, anticipate high activity loads, exercise proper relaxation, and to effectively recognize and relieve stress.
- AERONAUTICAL DECISION MAKING (ADM): Makes correct decisions in an appropriate manner and in a timely fashion. Pilots should have the ability to make good, conservative, and timely decisions. They should be able to gather information for use in decision-making, and have a sound process for making decisions. Pilots should have experience in making aviation-related decisions and must be able to make decisions alone and when under pressure.
- PIC MENTALITY: Is in command of all the aspects of flight A PIC mentality entails having the ability to accomplish the mission, being in full control of the aircraft, and being confident in one’s abilities regardless of who is in the other front seat. This mindset also includes taking responsibility and exhibiting leadership.
- ATTITUDE: Toward the TE, in-flight tasks, the aircraft, him/herself, the evaluator. Attitude is a very broad term. Taking into account the stress of the TE process, what is the applicant’s attitude toward each of the items mentioned above? What good qualities are observed? What drives or motivates this person? Does the applicant excuse below standard performance or blame the poor performance on externals, stating that they are out of his or her control?
- INTERPERSONAL SKILLS: Relates to all people appropriately. The person with good people skills is caring, compatible, considerate, and sensitive. They take time for people and they listen to people. Pilots should have pleasant personalities. They should also have the ability to work with, and relate to, the widest spectrum of people. Good people skills are considered very important as pilots are involved in ministry, work with nationals, and are managers.
- INQUISITIVE: Has a desire to learn. A person who has a desire to learn seeks knowledge beyond that required; they realize they “haven’t arrived.” A learner is inquisitive about the subject matter, seeks to have their knowledge evaluated, is detail-oriented, and responds well to new things.
- INITIATIVE: Looks for what needs to be done and does it. Pilots should be self-motivated to address tasks and correct problems within appropriate parameters.
- SELF ASSESSMENT: Assesses one's own skills and performance accurately. Does the pilot’s own evaluation of their performance match reality? Do they recognize their own strengths / weaknesses?
- SELF-CONFIDENCE: Has the appropriate level of confidence in one’s knowledge and abilities (their competence). Confident people are sure of themselves; they know that “they know what they’re doing.” They are not over-confident, but rather, their confidence and competence are well-matched. The pilot’s confidence helps passengers to be comfortable.
- CONSISTENCY: Are procedures and modes of operation correct and consistent from operation to operation?
- COMMUNICATION: Receives and conveys information well. Pilots should have the ability to communicate well with other people. This includes communicating appropriately as well as in a timely and forthright manner. They get issues into the open and are able to carry on a conversation. Is a good listener
- VERSATILITY: Can successfully perform a variety of tasks. A person with versatility has the ability to do different tasks within the technical, non-technical, and personal arenas. How broad is their skill set?
- PERSEVERANCE: Continues on in the face of difficulty. Is resilient. Pilots should be persevering and stick with difficult situations. They should also be resilient. That is, able to bounce back from mistakes and continue the task.
- MOTIVATION: Is motivated by spiritual rather than worldly or fleshly reasons. The prospective pilot should be motivated to fly based on their relationship with Christ, a commitment to missions and especially to Bible translation. Their motivation should not stem from ego, selfishness, or the pursuit of adventure. An innate love of aviation could be considered a spiritual reason as it’s a part of our God-given design.
- SERVICE: Desires to serve rather than be served. A person with an attitude of service recognizes their role on the field is not about them, but about others. An unhealthy desire to serve could reflect a lack of boundaries.
- WORK ETHIC: Is inclined towards work; is not reluctant to work. Pilots and mechanics should be willing to work hard, enjoy work, and be willing to get dirty and sweaty. They should know their limits and when to say “enough.”
- POSITIVE ATTITUDE: Has a positive attitude as their normal disposition. Pilots should have a positive attitude in general and not be complainers or have critical spirits. They should tend toward the bright side of life.
- TEAM PLAYER: Is able to function as part of a team. Team players have the desire to cooperate with others. They need to understand team dynamics and how their actions affect others. They should be interdependent on the team.
- CONFORMITY: Has a willingness to conform to prevailing standards or customs. A person who is willing to conform is willing to accept new / different ways of accomplishing tasks. They do not have to “have it their way,” nor are they set in their ways. They change their ways when asked.
- PHYSICAL CONDITION: Sufficient physical strength, stamina and dexterity for the position sought
- MATURITY: Emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually able to conduct oneself appropriately
- HUMILITY: Is modest and unassuming in attitude and behavior. People who regard themselves as less important than others.
- MODESTY: Placing a moderate estimate on one's abilities or worth. Having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one's merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions.
- UNASSUMING: Exhibiting no pretensions, boastfulness, or ostentation; modest. Not assuming; not bold or forward; not arrogant or presuming; humble; modest; retiring; as, an unassuming youth; unassuming manners.
This list was compiled by the JAARS Aviation Training staff and is representative of the KSA's generally agreed upon by most mission aviation organizations. Each organization, however, will have slightly different priorities and variations, to match the pilot for their particular program.
What Does It Take to be a Mechanic
While each organization will have a slightly different take on things, most would agree that if you want to be successful in mission aviation, there are a core set of skills and attributes that a mechanic should have before heading to the field. We call them KSA's - Knowledge, Skills and Attributes.
Following is a list of 31 KSA's that missions are looking for in an applicant. This is a list that was compiled by JAARS Aviation Training but is very compatible to other IAMA Member Organizations.
Knowledge & Skills
Definition: The ability to determine the cause of a problem using a systematic and analytical approach.
Attribute Summary: Able to think through, utilizing appropriate resources when necessary, and evaluate causes of defects in aircraft systems using a safe, logical common sense approach that will result in correct diagnosis of problems.
2. Aviation Maintenance Knowledge (A&P or equivalent)
Definition: Understanding what is required to maintain aircraft to an airworthy standard.
Attribute Summary: Demonstrates a basic knowledge of aircraft maintenance including general, airframe, and powerplant subject areas.
3. Knowledge and Use of Tools
Definition: Familiarity with and experience using tools required to perform aircraft maintenance.
Attribute Summary: Able to determine what tools and equipment are needed to properly maintain an aircraft to an airworthy standard and is proficient in their use.
Definition: The ability to find faults while examining aircraft for airworthy condition.
Attribute Summary: Able to independently perform a one hundred hour / annual inspection of a typical high performance piston or turboprop single engine aircraft, and able to identify defects.
5. Reciprocating Engine
Definition: An understanding of the workings of an aircraft internal combustion engine and how to properly maintain it to an airworthy condition.
Attribute Summary: Understands the theory of operation of a reciprocating engine as found in high performance aircraft and knows the basics of engine operation, maintenance and inspection.
6. Turbine Engine
Definition: An understanding of the workings of an aircraft turbine engine and how to properly maintain it to an airworthy condition.
Attribute Summary: Understands the theory of operation of a turbine engine and knows the basics of engine operation, maintenance and inspection.
7. Engine Accessory Systems
Definition: Familiarity with and understanding of the theory and operation of components utilized on or with an aircraft engine and how to properly maintain them to an airworthy standard.
Attribute Summary: Knows the theory of operation of the basic accessory systems and can demonstrate how to remove, inspect, test, install, adjust and maintain them as appropriate.
8. Fuel Systems
Definition: Understanding and experience with both theory and operation of aircraft fuel systems and the components utilized in them.
Attribute Summary: Is familiar with the components utilized in a typical general aviation aircraft fuel system and can demonstrate how to remove, inspect, test, install, adjust and maintain them as appropriate.
Definition: Understanding and experience with both theory and operation of aircraft electrical systems and the components utilized in them.
Attribute Summary: Demonstrates a working knowledge of a typical electrical system found in general aviation aircraft and possesses the necessary troubleshooting skills to diagnose and correct common system malfunctions.
10. Sheet Metal
Definition: Understanding and ability to plan and perform structural repair of aircraft using approved methods and practices.
Attribute Summary: Demonstrates the fundamental knowledge and hands on skills of sheet metal inspection, and fabrication practices and procedures to maintain and repair aircraft structures in an airworthy condition.
11. Knowledge and Use of Resources
Definition: Awareness of and ability to use all means necessary to accomplish a task.
Attribute Summary: Able to effectively identify and use normally available technical resources such as manufacturer’s manuals, bulletins, FAA Airworthiness Directives, and inspection aids.
Definition: Good understanding and skill with electronic resources used in aircraft maintenance.
Attribute Summary: Is familiar with and can demonstrate working with the typical computer software programs used in record keeping of aircraft and is effective in using the internet as a resource. Is familiar with how OEM’s (Original Equipment Manufacturer) along with the civil aviation authorities utilize the internet.
Attributes (Supporting Observations)
1. Interpersonal Skills
Definition: Relates to all people appropriately.
Attribute Summary: Is caring, compatible, considerate, and sensitive. Takes time for and listens well to people. Has a pleasant personality and the ability to work with and relate well to a wide spectrum of people.
2. Mechanical Aptitude
Definition: Able to figure out and understand how mechanical things work.
Attribute Summary: Has perceptive insight of how mechanical things work.
Definition: Looks for what needs to be done and does it; a self starter.
Attribute Summary: Is self-motivated to address tasks and correct problems within appropriate parameters.
Definition: Is willing to be taught.
Attribute Summary: Welcomes input and is willing to change in response to instruction without being defensive.
5. Hazardous Attitudes
Definition: Character traits that lead to dangerous behavior.
Attribute Summary: Does not possess either extreme of dangerous behaviors, but is balanced near the middle on the Extremes Table.
|Table of Hazardous Attitude Spectrum|
6. Inquisitive / Professional Curiosity
Definition: An eagerness to learn coupled with a questioning, investigative manner.
Attribute Summary: Is appropriately driven to learn new skills or knowledge and investigate and probe for information until the right answers are found.
7. Aptitude for Learning
Definition: The ability to learn new skills and information.
Attribute Summary: Able to truly listen and learn as shown by modified behavior in areas being taught. It is evidenced by the change which results from specific instruction or coaching.
Definition: The ability to communicate one’s position in a firm yet positive, respectful manner.
Attribute Summary: Is able to advocate for their view, idea, opinion, position, or concern about a maintenance issue in a way that facilitates good decision making.
Definition: A realistic assessment of one’s knowledge and abilities.
Attribute Summary: Appropriately demonstrates self-assuredness in knowledge, abilities, and capability to accomplish given tasks.
Definition: Honesty and a firm adherence to a code or standard of high values and uprightness.
Attribute Summary: Is honest with himself and others and does what is right, even when alone.
11. Recognizes and functions within personal limits
Definition: Awareness and acknowledgement of limitations and the ability to establish appropriate margins and consistently function within those margins.
Attribute Summary: Understands personal and safety limitations, establishes appropriately conservative boundaries, and respects them. Has the ability to say “no” to any violation of established boundaries.
Definition: The ability to make sound decisions by gathering, discerning and evaluating information.
Attribute Summary: Is able to accurately and appropriately evaluate a situation or course of action to ascertain the associated risks and benefits. Consistently chooses practical, safe solutions.
Definition: The ability to adjust and change in response to changing circumstances.
Attribute Summary: Has the willingness and ability to adjust and make appropriate changes in their aviation activities and schedules.
Definition: Perceptive alertness that enables one to make significant observations.
Attribute Summary: Is proficient in making detailed observations regarding aircraft maintenance. Has the ability to make relevant observations, noticing trends and anomalies.
15. Attention to Detail
Definition: Accomplish duties in a careful, complete and precise manner.
Attribute Summary: Tasks are completed with quality workmanship.
Definition: Completes tasks in a timely fashion.
Attribute Summary: Realizes not every task needs to be performed perfectly, but rather appropriately. Is able to perform to a set standard in a timely fashion.
17. Stress Management (Performance Under Pressure)
Definition: Carries out activities appropriately while responding to mental, emotional and physical demands.
Attribute Summary: Is able to prioritize time and workload to safely and effectively perform assigned tasks while remaining within personal limits. Takes charge of thoughts, emotions, schedule, environment, and effectively deals with problems.
Definition: Able to accurately appraise one’s own personal skills and performance.
Attribute Summary: Is able to accurately assess one’s personal strengths, limitations and weaknesses.
19. Team member
Definition: Able to work effectively in harmony with others.
Attribute Summary: Offers positive contributions to the team process and goals. Is willing to take responsibility for elements of the team’s work, is committed to the success of the team, and does not emphasize his own individual achievements (shares the glory).
Training Advice for Aspiring
In Exodus 25 and the following chapters, God lays out for Moses the blueprint for constructing the tabernacle and all that is to go into it. The plans are detailed and precise. Moses must have wondered how he was to complete the task given to him. However, in Exodus 31:2–3 God says to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezaleel. … I have filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship…”
As you consider your future, God may be calling and preparing you for a career in missionary aviation, filling you with His Spirit, wisdom, understanding, knowledge and in all manner of airmanship to further build His Church and accomplish the Great Commission! Mission aviation is a challenging, enjoyable and fulfilling career option. As you further your aeronautical training, the following suggestions from veteran missionary pilots will help you prepare for service in mission aviation
- Learn to be disciplined. Aviation is all about discipline, so to be a good mission pilot you must be a person of discipline. This should be demonstrated both inside and outside the cockpit. It is the foundation upon which you will build all your other skills, abilities, knowledge and judgment.
- Be a person of character. U.S. Senator Dan Coates said, “Character cannot be summoned at the moment of crisis if it has been squandered by years of compromise and rationalization. The only testing ground for the heroic is the mundane. The only preparation for that one profound decision, which can change a life or even a nation, is those hundreds of half-conscious, seemingly insignificant decisions made in private. Habit is the daily battleground of character.”
- Be professional. Remember that it takes at least as high a degree of professionalism to be a mission pilot as it does to be an airline pilot. Airline pilots fly in an environment that is significantly loaded in their favor—multi-crew cockpit, current and detailed weather reports, modern equipment in the airplane, and on-the-ground and regulations that help protect them and their passengers. Mission pilots fly in a far less structured environment, which requires an even higher degree of professionalism to operate safely. Seek to be professional, not just to pass the checkride. Passing the checkride means you have met the lowest common industry standard. Missions are looking for professional pilots who strive for excellence and aren’t just satisfied to get by with the minimums.
- Be precise. Although we realize no one is perfect, we’re looking for people who are always working toward perfection and are not content with staying 75’ high even though commercial tolerances may allow you to fly an altitude ±100’. Fly a chosen airspeed on downwind, base and final. Fly a stable approach. Push yourself to be precise, whether you are a student pilot or an ATP.
- Maintain good situational awareness (SA) and practice good aeronautical decision making (ADM). Know where you are, how much fuel you have onboard, the weather ahead, daylight remaining, options available, etc. Having good SA helps you exercise good judgment and make knowledgeable decisions.
- Be the pilot in command (PIC). Make the decisions pertinent to your flight. Instead of asking your instructor what altitude or heading to fly, if you are capable of making the decision, do it and communicate your plan to your instructor. Don’t make decisions based on what you think your instructor wants you to do. Take ownership of your training and your flying. Be the PIC.
- Redefining Airmanship by Tony Kern is an excellent resource. Learning to apply the principles found there will help you become a better pilot.
- Learn to fly by outside visual reference. We’re looking for VFR pilots who fly with their eyes outside the cockpit and do not depend primarily on instruments. The mission environment demands that you gather much of the information for flight from outside references, especially during approaches to short and/or sloped runways—pitch, bank, yaw, surface winds, and the ability to judge glide distances. If you fly well by outside reference, the numbers on the instruments will be right too. Develop a good VFR scan, and be sure to include the VSI in that scan.
- Know the weight and balance for your airplane. Calculate these with various loads so you get a feel for what the airplane can handle.
- Calculate your takeoff performance and compare those numbers to what the airplane will actually do.
- Get in the habit of conducting appropriate and professional passenger briefings for every flight—even to your flight instructor. FAR 91.105, 91.107 and 91.519 may give you some direction in the development of a thorough briefing.
- Develop good habits. Taxi on the centerline. Take off on the centerline. Land on the centerline. Taxi back to the ramp on the centerline. Use smooth control inputs. Don’t ride the brakes. Clear before you turn. Listen on the frequency. Make clear, concise and professional communications on the radio. Remember that practice makes permanent, so be sure to practice correctly.
- After runup, when ready for takeoff, give yourself a short pre-takeoff briefing that includes a review of runway conditions, wind, abort point, pertinent speeds to fly and emergency procedures for various points on the departure path.
- Develop good VFR cross-country navigation skills using dead reckoning (DR) and pilotage. Navigate chart-to-ground, not ground-to-chart. Learn to use DR properly and trust it. Push yourself to find and use the small details on the chart, without losing the big picture. It is essential to learn the foundations of VFR navigation well (DR and pilotage) and not just default to electronic navigation.
- Use control pressures instead of control movement to build smoothness into your flying. Learn to use your feet on the pedals to maintain smooth coordination. Develop a feel for proper coordination while comparing it with what you see outside. Verify with a quick glance at the ball, but don’t look there first.
- Prior to landing, give yourself a pre-landing briefing. Like the pre-takeoff briefing, this allows you to consider the surface, winds, planned touchdown point, abort point, speeds for the approach and any other pertinent information.
- Develop the ability to critique yourself. The ability to self-assess enables you to make the most of your solo flying. Note what you did well, what you learned, what needs improvement and what you are going to change next time. Take good post-flight notes from your instructor too. Having information written down is more beneficial than relying on your memory.
- Get checked out in different types of aircraft. Each type of aircraft you fly has the potential to add a different facet to your aviation experience. Apply yourself with all diligence to your study of the POH and preparation for this transition.
- Fly Safe - All the time.
What is an A&P and why do I need it?
he A&P, also known as the Airframe & Powerplant license, is an FAA license that permits someone legally to perform mechanical maintenance to an airplane. The A&P however cannot be had at most airports. You need to attend an FAA certified A&P school. The entire process can take from 12 months to possibly five years, depending on how you go about it. But none-the-less, it is one of the distinctives that make most missionary pilots stand apart from the rest of the pilot kingdom.
Why do most mission agencies require candidates to possess an A&P license?
There are several reasons. However let me say this up front. When I would share this with churches and individuals, very often someone would respond, “Well that makes sense, so you can fix your airplane when it breaks down in the jungle.” Guess what….that really isn’t true. Yes it can happen and has, but it’s actually very rare. Why? I believe it’s becasue mission aviation aircraft tend to be better maintained than the general population of aircraft over all. But here’s the answer to the above question.
First, remember where we fly.
When work needs to be done…mission staff have to do it.Top end overhaul, starter replacement, routine 500 hour inspections on alternators, starters, magnetos.
Also in MAF’s case, we are required to complete a thorough inspection of the aircraft every fifty hours of flight which includes (but is not limited to)- oil/filter change; inspections of the brakes, prop , magneto, starter, fuel injection system, avionics, flight controls, cables (checking tension, broken strands and pulley wear), lights/electrical, skin/fuselage surfaces, etc. etc. etc. These inspections are based on a precise set of standards and tests that only a trained A&P can often perform and understands the importance of maintaining.
In other words what you are required to do on the field as an missionary pilot/mechanic goes way beyond what most weekend pilots are capable of or have had professional training in, technically inclined or otherwise.
Second, it is an issue of efficient use of available resources.
Again, remember where we are: generally poorer third world economies. On most larger bases there are dedicated maintenance specialists. However the ratio is generally one maintenance specialist for every four or five planes. Therefore he/she cannot be expected to deal with all of the day to day maintenance squawks that pop up.
Here the bread and butter, pilot/mechanic comes into play and because he/she can handle most day to day problems and most importantly legally sign off the log books on his/her work, the entire flight program operates more efficiently with less down time per aircraft and more flights completed in a timely manner.
There are also many smaller bases around the world with only one or two families in the entire country. What then? Well, for one thing, the A&P license isn’t an option, it’s is a hard requirement. Add that many of these pilot/mechanics often have their IA (Inspection Authorization) as well. This is basically an advanced level A&P with certain authority granted by the FAA to sign off and oversee very major aircraft work (like complete wing rebuilds for example).
Finally, let me use a real example from my own experience.
While I was flying in Ecuador with MAF, one of our pilots, Dan, had just taken off late one afternoon from a jungle airstrip deep in the Ecuadorian rainforest.
He immediately felt the initial drop in power when he reached one thousand feet AGL as the turbocharger began to die. They just do that sometimes. With twenty years of flight experience under his belt he had seen this before. Returning to the same strip for an uneventful landing he did some checks on the ground to pretty much verify that the turbocharger was in fact ready for the junk-pile.
Radioing back to the hangar in Shell, 60 miles away as the crow flies, he asked for a pick-up and it was decided he would leave the aircraft, fly back to Shell with another MAF pilot flying in the area that afternoon and come back the next morning to replace the turbocharger in the field.
The next morning I flew Dan and a visiting short-term A&P mechanic from the US, Rick, back to the airstrip to begin the work. I continued on my route. By early afternoon they were finished and flew the plane back to Shell.
Dan is a Commercial Pilot and an A&P and this is just the type of job our guys are can be called on to perform in the field. So I hope you can see and agree…this is no place for a weekend mechanic.
Missionary aviation is composed of a unique cadre of professional airmen; combining both commercial piloting skills and A&P maintenance skills in one package. So no matter what you may have heard, 99% of the time, we do require the A&P license.
So if this is what God has called you to and you want to be the best you can be serving Him, get your A&P.
Remember, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” 2 Tim 2:15.