Bob Schmelzer’s Resources

I’ve written the following two guides to help pilots prepare for practical examinations. In them, you’ll find subjects that are fair game on the exams as well as common stumbling points. Feel free to use them while preparing for your practicals. Private and Commercial Pilot Test Guide Instrument Pilot Test Guide As a flight instructor and pilot examiner, one of the areas I consistently see (and hear) both new and veteran pilots struggle with is proper ATC Communications. You don’t have to be a professional pilot to sound like one. But the more important reason to use proper ATC Communications is that they result in a safer and more efficient operation with less likelihood of misunderstandings between pilots and ATC. An effective study of proper Radio Communications Phraseology and Techniques should begin by reviewing the AIM (Aeronautical Information Manual) Chapter 4, Section 2. To supplement your AIM review, I have provided below several typical ATC/Pilot communication exchanges in a wide variety of ground and flight scenarios that you can use to enhance your own ATC Communication skills that I hope you will find helpful. Please bear in mind the exact wording I have used in these scenarios are only suggestions that have worked well for me over the years and are in no way intended to illustrate the only or necessarily the best phraseology to be used in every possible situation. Let your own good common sense and judgment be your guide. Good luck and happy communicating! ATC Communications Sampler

All in a Day’s Work!

Although he already considered himself a pilot and dreamed of the day he would finally become an airline captain, he would not actually be piloting the airplane at all. The successful completion of an extensive oral exam, flight simulator and aircraft flight tests would earn him his FAA flight engineer certificate – and with it, his official new title as a United Airlines Douglas DC-6 Second Officer (S/O) would take effect.   The past two and a half months at the Flight Training Center in Denver, Colorado were a long and grueling way to begin his career as a United Airlines flight officer. He’d spent countless hours learning the aircraft’s normal, irregular and emergency procedures, the various aircraft systems and just as important, the company flight operations manual (FOM). That’s what was expected of each of the twelve “new hires” in his class. And woe was the new-hire flight officer who could not keep up. They called it, “Drinking from the fire-hose,” because that’s just what it felt like, minus the water.   With his new “FE ticket” tucked into his hip pocket, he proudly walked into the Pittsburg (PIT) flight office and introduced himself to his S/O Line Check Airman (LCA) who spent the next three days looking over his shoulder as they flew into nine different airports before heading back to PIT. Under the LCA’s careful guidance, he was introduced to how things really worked on the line. When satisfied the new S/O could cut it, the LCA had signed him off for “solo” and his next trip was assigned the following evening when crew scheduling phoned the “crash pad” he was sharing with five other new-hires. The first leg of his three […]

The Next Generation

There they were again. A father and his young son of around twelve stood in their regular spot. They were standing just behind the chain link fence separating the terminal building from the main ramp and had returned just to watch the planes coming and going. I had seen them there at least six or seven times over the past several months. It reminded me of the many times my father had taken me out to the airport near our home on a beautiful evening just to watch. As a new first officer with just a few months experience as a line pilot, I was learning the ropes from the guys who had been flying these routes for years and today was no different. I was flying with a real veteran. He’d been with the company since he was 19 years old, had accumulated nearly 10,000 hours flying these commuter airline routes and was rapidly approaching what, at the time, was the dreaded cutoff age for new hires at the major airlines; 30 years old. The majors were, of course, the ultimate career goal for most of us commuter pilots, but a bad economy had left hundreds of pilots furloughed at most companies with just trickle hiring going on at a few. But things finally seemed to be improving and a few of our senior pilots were actually getting job offers. That was the case for Captain Danny, as we called him. He was on butt nine today. This was his last day as a “Commuter Pilot” before heading off to his “Dream” airline job. Nothing could ruin his day and every fellow worker we saw today congratulated him and wished him well. It almost seemed like a retirement flight, but in reality, was more like a […]

Traffic, Traffic!

While cruising at FL370 last week on our way to Chicago, (ORD) my first officer asked me a question that stuck with me long after the flight had ended. Aware that I was also a designated pilot examiner in the general aviation world and knowing how important clearing turns are in accomplishing the various checkride maneuvers, he asked me how many flight hours I thought I had accumulated over the years just doing clearing turns? Interesting question. Well, I had never really thought of that. Probably because clearing turns are something pilots do without regard to the time it takes to complete them. I think this was the first time in over thirty-one years of airline flying that a question about clearing turns had ever come up. However, as a pilot examiner I am frequently asked a variety of questions regarding clearing turns, usually from either aspiring pilot applicants about to take their checkrides or from CFIs responsible for preparing their students to become the safest pilots possible. Typically, their questions are more like, “What constitutes a proper (or acceptable) clearing turn for the checkride?” Or, “How often do I need to accomplish a clearing turn during the checkride?” These questions are usually centered on their desire to determine what I will need to see during the checkride to be a “happy DPE” and therefore PASS the applicant for behaving like a safe pilot. But whenever I hear questions like these, I can’t help thinking that the person asking the question is maybe missing the point. What I think they really ought to be asking is, “What must I do as a pilot to virtually eliminate the risk of a mid-air collision?” That’s really what it’s […]