More Information‎ > ‎Newsletters‎ > ‎

2014 Q1 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

New WVFC Safety Office

First of all, I would like to wish every member a happy and prosperous New Year.

2013 was a big year for the club with the introduction of Schedule Master - our new accounting system, a major remodel of our PAO clubhouse, new G1000 SIMs, new high speed Internet, and taking over the management of the Phillips 66 Fuel Service at PAO. 

2014 promises to bring several more improvements to the club.  One of the changes is the creation of the new Safety Office.  I would like to use this forum to tell you more about this exciting development.

The Safety Office will consist of three different roles, held by three different people.  The manager of the group will be Ashley Porath.  She has been assisting in the Chief Pilot Office for several years and knows the roles and responsibilities of that office extremely well.  She will continue to be responsible for most of the logistical and administrative functions that are necessary to keep the membership flying safely.  

There are two new roles as a part of the Safety Office.  Both roles are going to be managed on a consultant/contractor basis, and we plan to manage the cost of these roles effectively to get the maximum return for our investment.

The Safety Officer will be responsible for most of the flying aspect of the old Chief Pilot role.  This will include conducting phase checks, remediation, managing the CFI line checks once a year, and half of the CFI meetings.  We are excited to announce that Don Styles, the current CFI Board Representative, was elected by the Board to fill this role.  

The Standards Officer will be responsible for most of the non-flying aspect of the old Chief Pilot role.  This includes setting and managing the standards by which the membership is held to for checking out and maintaining currency in our fleet. There is also the interface between the membership and maintenance, the Safety Seminar series, safety meetings, and half of the CFI meetings.  We are pleased that WVFC CFI Mike May was selected, from a group of 4 internal candidates, to fill this role.

We believe that this team of three brings vast experience and institutional knowledge to the club.  We also believe that many of our processes will speed up because we have members of the team who are more focused and able to substitute for one another when someone else is absent from the club.

The team officially kicked-off on Monday February 3, 2014.  They can all be reached in a new group email at  While we will maintain the old for sometime, we ask that you use the safety office email as much as possible as we move forward.

Thank you for your support as we continue to move the club in new directions that meet the needs of the membership while maintaining our great long-term safety record.


Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC

What is the new Safety Office?

To kick off 2014, West Valley created a new Safety Office. This office will fill the role of the Chief Pilot, but it is structured differently. Traditionally, the Chief Pilot has been one person, but the new Safety Office will consist of a team to share the responsibilities that go along with managing the flight operations at such a large club.

The Safety Pilot is the first member of this team, and the scope of this position has been changed somewhat to focus primarily on the flying side of managing our operations. West Valley CFI Don Styles will be filling this role, and as the Safety Pilot he will be performing phase checks, remediations, maintaining the CFI line checks, and various other flying duties.

The Standards Officer is the second member of the Safety Office, and I’m very pleased to be writing to you in that capacity. My role will be administrative in nature and will involve a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into running the operation. Things like creating ground review forms, working with our maintenance department, and scheduling the Safety Seminars will be some of my primary tasks. I’ll also be a regular contributor to this newsletter, and I love suggestions! You can reach me at or at

Ashley Porath will be the manager of the Safety Office.  Our General Manager, Steve Blonstein will be the final member of the office in his current capacity as GM.

As the name implies, the primary objective of the Safety Office is SAFETY!  We will all be working together to maintain our safety standards in all aspects of operations. This includes flight training, member checkouts, maintenance, and compliance with FAA and local regulations. This new structure should also create some distinct advantages for the club. One of our goals is to reduce the turnaround time when things like ground review forms are submitted, or a phase check is scheduled. If you have a question at the airport, chances are at least one of us will be there to answer it.

The spirit of the new office will be all about maintaining and improving safety, and on that note I’d like to close out this introduction by reminding the membership about a valuable safety tool that is available to all members of the club, free of charge. West Valley has a grand total of 4 simulators split evenly between San Carlos and Palo Alto, and 2 of them include a free hour every month, to every member. These simulators can be used for virtually any aspect of training, cost a fraction of renting a plane (after the free hour has been used of course), and can simulate scenarios that cannot be safely conducted in a real airplane. They are a fantastic resource that we can all use to help become safer when we get behind the controls of the real thing.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Decision Making – Why do Airplanes crash?

Numerous studies have concluded that 70 to 80 percent of aviation accidents are due to human error (pilot error). However, human error is complex and accidents usually cannot be attributed to a single cause. Several studies suggest that aviation accidents are the result of numerous causes, but only the last few unsafe pilot actions trigger an accident.

The “Swiss Cheese” model of human factors developed by James Reason suggests four cascading levels contributing to human failure.

                         1.     Unsafe Acts

            2.     Preconditions for Unsafe Acts

            3.     Unsafe Supervision

            4.     Organizational Influences

Reason’s first level is Unsafe Acts of operators (pilots) which is the focus of most accident investigations. An example of Unsafe Acts might be a VFR only pilot entering instrument meteorological conditions.

The second level is Preconditions for Unsafe Acts. One example might be a mentally fatigued pilot who has Get-Home-Itis, becomes fixated on a problem, and/or loses situational awareness.

The third level is Unsafe Supervision. One example might be an inexperienced flight crew that is sent by company dispatch on a flight at night in bad weather.

The fourth level is Organizational Influences. One example might be a flight school that has insufficient or poorly designed pilot/aircraft checkout procedures which might allow unqualified/inexperienced pilots to fly.

Now, let’s look at a real life accident and try to determine where the Reason’s four levels might have played a role. See the notes (1, 2, 3, 4) corresponding to Reason’s four levels.

A family of four begins a flight from Indiana in a Cessna 182A to attend a weekend wedding in Michigan. The pilot was concerned about overall weight, so he carefully calculated the weight and balance, then added just enough fuel (1)and (2) to make the round-trip with 45 minutes reserve. The flight was planned VFR, so the pilot believed he would be well within the regulations and his personal minimums. The pilot had recently installed new fuel gages (2) during an avionics upgrade.

On the return leg, the weather in Michigan was excellent VFR but there were some cloud layers in Indiana. About halfway back to Indiana at 8500 feet, the pilot noticed a cloud layer ahead and decides on a slow descent to 6500 feet to fly below the layer. He wife comments that she is concerned about the “new” fuel gages as they show very little fuel remaining and there is still 40 minutes before arriving at our home airport. The pilot starts to become concerned whether he has enough fuel. Was there a fuel leak? Are the fuel caps on tight? The pilot notices some engine roughness which adds to his concern about possible fuel starvation.

The pilot then noticed a small grass strip below and decides to make a precautionary landing to check out the fuel and rough engine issues. The first approach was high and fast (1) and (2), so the pilot begins a go-around. On downwind the engine stops, the stall horn sounds, left wing drops suddenly, pilot recovers wings level, then lands 45 degrees to the runway. Unfortunately, the left wing touches first and in a nose low attitude causing the nose gear to shear off, the prop to dig into the ground, and the plane flips over on its back (1). Fortunately, the family of four survived with only slight injuries. The FAA, after exhausting other possibilities, concluded that carburetor icing was the problem, not fuel exhaustion. The pilot had not considered that pulling back on the throttle during the descent had contributed to carburetor ice formation.

Ops...    Are there any levels (3) and (4)? Possibly, the pilot’s aircraft checkout, emergency procedures, and currency training?

Swiss Cheese - Dr. James Reason (1990), Scott Shappell and Douglas Wiegmann developed the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS)


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor

Going to the Dogs

A couple of months ago I had never heard of Wings of Rescue.  Since then, I have flown two missions for them.  There are some significant challenges to the process.

Wings of Rescue is an organization that takes dogs that have reached the end of their free stay at dog pounds, finds homes for them (not local) and transports them to their new owners.  In some cases it’s just another pound that doesn’t have a death sentence at the end of the free room and board.

My first load of dogs consisted of a solo flight in a Pilatus (with all the seats removed) and 49 dogs.  Good news, they were all in dog carriers.  Bad news, there were 49 dogs in a single plane. 

So, let’s start with the basic issues:

1.  How would you rate the chances that each dog carrier had been weighed?  And you’d be right, I had to weigh each one, total them up, and figure weight and balance, when they weren’t exactly at any particular station on the W&B chart.  I love Excel spreadsheets!

2.  What are the chances they will all fit in the cargo area of the PC-12?  Zero, of course – that’s why we pulled all the seats.  And that means there has to be some way to secure the crates (which at this point are stacked two high in the case of those holding Huskies and Shepherds, and up to five high in the case of Chihuahuas).  Fortuitously, the Pilatus has floor- and wall-mounted strap anchors for this very purpose.  Though I doubt Pilatus actually PLANNED to have their plane act as an airborne kennel.

3.  How many dogs enjoy being packed into carriers and taken for a ride?  For most of them, the termination of various rides is a variety of shots, and an occasional knife.  So these dogs aren’t completely happy, and many are vocal about it.  Even though their futures are far better, and far longer than they would have been, they seem not to understand it.

4.  Aside from the noise, what do dogs do when they are nervous and scared?  I won’t even start that conversation, but there ARE pads in each carrier.  As if that were really effective.

The flight plan on the first trip was Hayward to Riverside to pick up the dogs, and pose for pix and publicity, followed by a flight to Salem, Oregon to drop off about 2/3 of the dogs, then Olympia, Washington to drop the rest, and then empty back to Hayward.  The carefully planned schedule happened nothing like the plan.  Of course you expect that in aviation, but this took it to a whole new level.  The process of loading dogs and carriers takes a LOT longer than planned – like nearly an hour longer.

Once the yapping, howling, and barking horde was all aboard, the doors closed and the engine started, the fun began.  It was a very turbulent day in SoCal, and the dogs didn’t appreciate the bumping and bouncing, and voiced their displeasure.  I have no idea what the ATC folks thought as I made the various calls during the climb-out, but it was NOISY in the cockpit.  Even with the ANR headset.  Good news, when the cabin altitude got up to about 8,000 ft, all the dogs went to sleep – it’s hard to be really active at that altitude and not get tired.  Bad news, they all woke up and started commenting on the flight conditions as we encountered turbulence during the ILS approach into Salem.  It probably didn’t occur to any of them that I was busy and could have used some peace and quiet.  I wonder if an FAA examiner would consider that to be a “realistic distraction”.

The next surprise was that when the Salem dogs were taken from the plane, the folks on the ground emptied the carriers and put them back on the plane (with the smelly pads still in the carriers).  They disassembled the carriers, so the weight and volume were both reduced, and the noise factor was down a bit with the smaller number of dogs, but I still got to smell the dogs, so in one sense they were still with me.

The same game on the trip to Olympia, followed by a very peaceful trip home.

When I got home and opened my car door, every cat within a mile disappeared.  Didn’t see a single cat for nearly a week.

Unbelievably, I volunteered for another one of those trips last week.  Hayward to Van Nuys, Bakersfield, Coeur D’alene, Helena, and home – a LONG day.  But on this one, I had a co-pilot and a rep from Wings of Rescue.  Those dogs are CUTE.  There was this chocolate Lab puppy…


January and February Meeting Report

Happy New Year to all students and new pilots! This marks the third year that our group has been meeting. There have been so many great meetings since we started the group in December of 2011 and a tremendous amount of information has been shared. We are excited about all the things planned for 2014. With the change to a quarterly newsletter we will publish the monthly meeting notices and summary to the group email. We encourage anyone interested in participating in this group to register as described at the end of this article.


January Meeting


The Student and New Pilot group held its January 2014 meeting on Monday January 6th. As we kick off the New Year we are pleased to report that these meetings are continuing to attract new pilots from the Bay Area that meet to share information and experiences. The group also has a base of the regulars that tend to always make the meetings

The featured topics for the January meeting were presentations and discussions on the following:

  • ·       Careers in Aviation – conversation with Mark Moran, First Officer for SkyWest
  •         Trip Report – KVCB - Nut Tree Airport (Vacaville, CA)
Mark Moran, a former WVFC CFI, provided his insight into the life of a pilot working for an airline. Mark is starting his third year for SkyWest and flies the Embraer EMB 120 Turbo Prop aircraft. He discussed how he approached making the leap from being an instructor to landing a job flying for the airlines. Mark gave insight into the life of an Airline Transport Pilot, ATP, flying for SkyWest. 

He shared with the group the equivalent of the POH for the EMB 120 along with the SkyWest procedures manual. He provided an inside look into the interview process for becoming an airline pilot and what to expect during the first years of working for the airlines. This included the indoctrination process and the intense ground school where you spend the first 3 months learning the systems for a particular aircraft and the SkyWest procedures.

He talked about the importance of learning a standard flow and how airline pilots use flow checks along with a check list to accomplish the required procedures at various stages in flight. Flying for SkyWest usually involves a duty period of four days straight. Mark stated that the EMB 120 is a great aircraft to fly. Even though most of the time spent flying is with the autopilot, he did say the workload is still quite high since you are still monitoring the aircraft as well as dealing with ATC. One of the perks of working for the airlines is the ability to fly almost anywhere when you are off the clock. He has been able to travel quite extensively with this perk. Even though you are on the road and away from home for four days at a time, Mark said with a smile that once you are in the air it is the best job on earth, well in this case in the sky.

The second topic for the evening was a trip report from Nut Tree airport, KVCB, in Vacaville CA. Herb Patten shared his recent flight as part of a Fly Out Group, FOG, Full Moon flight event from December. The presentation highlighted some of the dining options within walking distance of the airport as well as the shortcut path to get to the nearby mall from the airport. He also shared his experience with the night Bay Tour and the transition at night through San Francisco Bravo surface area including an offer by SFO tower to overfly the SFO airport. The presentation is posted to the files area of the Yahoo Student and New Pilot Support Group

The February meeting was held at the West Valley Flying Club San Carlos clubhouse. We had a standing room only crowd for a dazzling presentation by Andrea Bittau. Last year, he took a “dream trip” which covered more than 8,000 NM over a period of a month. His dream trip took him from San Carlos to Miami, out to the Bahamas, then up the east coast to Maine, turning back west to Vancouver (Canada), then finally returning to the Bay Area. His route and various stops are shown in the picture above. 

As you can imagine, a trip of this magnitude is not completed without both some advanced planning as well as some unique experiences. At the beginning of his presentation, Andrea shared with the group some stunning video of the highlights of his trip. This included landing at Las Vegas McCarran airport at night, views from a Hudson River tour, approach into Toronto Island airport, view of Niagara Falls from the air, and various other spectacular landmarks.

It is impossible to summarize the great wealth of information shared during this informative presentation. In addition to a detailed discussion about pre-trip planning, Andrea shared observations on the following key points:

1.     Airports

a.     Big airports can offer great value even to small planes

b.     Big airports present unique challenges to small planes – be prepared

c.     Midway – free pilot room for overnight

d.     Teterboro – great access to local transportation

2.     Mountain Flying

a.     G1000 Aux page can show density altitude

b.     Be careful flying in the afternoon

3.     Flying over water

a.     Stay near boats

b.     Heightened awareness to the engine gauges

c.     Review ditching procedures for your airplane

4.     Restricted airspace

a.     Washington DC SFRA is doable – several unique procedures

b.     Complete the online training and follow the rules

5.     How to ask for the equivalent of a Bay Tour in an unfamiliar area

a.     Give clear description of what you want to do, e.g. request to circle downtown 3 times then fly south along the shoreline

b.     Don’t be afraid to repeat the request

c.     Controllers will accommodate if they understand what you want to do

6.     International operations

a.     Talk to a local briefer – they know how to do the border crossing and can help you file

b.     Verify the required documents including the planes radio license decal as well as obtaining a radio license from the FCC

c.     Land at designated airports, call customs, get the code, then you can taxi to the FBO

7.     Night flying

a.     Consider flying IFR

b.     Taxing is harder at night – Foreflight was advantageous as well as the G1000 – some unique challenges of using the G1000 at large airports

c.     Look for the dark areas in the city for typical locations of airports

8.     Bad weather

a.     Most of the inclement weather was in the Pacific Northwest

b.     Pop up IFR clearances are not a big deal

Andrea’s inspirational and informative presentation was well received. Sharing of this information among pilots IS the key reason for the existence of this group.

Coming Up


A key benefit to this group is the opportunity to share information and meet other pilots.  We invite any interested pilot to attend our next meeting.  The group meets in various locations between the San Carlos and Palo Alto airports so please subscribe as detailed below so you will get the latest information.

We have a number of great topics lined up for the next three months. We will be expanding our topics to include areas on instrument flying. Look for the following topics and more for the next couple of months:

·       PG&E Corporate Aviation – We will have the Director of PG&E’s corporate aviation join us. Come hear about PG&E’s corporate aviation fleet, the experiences they have on a daily basis and the chance to learn about commercial aviation.

·       Instrument charts – Jeppesen vs. NACO – what are the differences? Advantages and disadvantages?

·       ELTs and PLBs – what are the differences, advantages. The history behind these life saving devices and future regulation changes.

·       Aviation applications – group throw down on who has the coolest aviation applications – this will be a show and tell event where members can share their knowledge about the apps they use.

·       The Private Pilot checkride – hear about a recent members experience with their checkride and how they prepared.

Everyone, whatever and wherever they fly is welcome. In addition to some tasty pizza and beverages, you will have a great chance to meet your fellow pilots in an informal setting.

To subscribe to this group, please email: The presentations from past sessions are posted on this group site.

Please contact or  if you would like additional information.


Flyout to Westover, Amador County (KJAQ) 

Please join us for a fun flyout to the foothills at Westover Field (KJAQ) on Feb 22.  This is a perfect CFI/student opportunity for a cross country excursion!  We will meet at the airport at noon and grab a taxi into the town of Sutter Creek for lunch at Susan’s Place at 1230.  Susan’s is about 2 miles from the airport.

After lunch we can stroll around the cute little mining/wine country town and check out the shops to see what goodies they have to offer.  All are welcome!!!

Please RSVP as the restaurant requires reservations.  Email:  Sue Ballew

Whale Watching

The WOW Whale Watching event on January 18th turned out to be fabulous with 39 people attending lunch and about 10 airplanes participating in the actual flying and whale watching.  With a clear, calm day we flew down past Monterrey and started seeing whales almost immediately around the point.  The whales were mostly in groups surfacing and blowing through their big blow holes…not sure who was having more fun!


After about 45 minutes of maneuvering around to spot these big, beautiful mammals, we headed for Watsonville to enjoy a delicious lunch at Prop’s Restaurant.  Our group consisted of WOW members and guests, The Santa Clara Valley 99s, The SC Airmen’s Association, and the Fog group from San Carlos.  Many Bay Area Airports were represented and some drove in as well.

This was a great flyout and lots of fun.  Hope you will join us next year!


Save $60.00 a year on regular dues or on regular family dues.  

Email to prepay your dues for 2014 by February 28th (first 125 members only!) 

  • Regular $600
  • Regular Family $240

*6 Month Minimum Commitment.  Early termination will result in charge for the discounted difference.  Safety incentives still apply.


Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC

My first really long cross-country flight after earning my private pilot certificate was a trip to Las Vegas.  In an Archer, traveling the route south of the Sierra Nevada to North Las Vegas airport is a two-hop trip.  Our fuel stop would be Shafter-Minter airport, just north of Bakersfield.  I was taking three friends along.  One had flown with me on shorter trips and was an aviation enthusiast; he eventually earned his private pilot certificate.  The other two were a couple on their first general aviation adventure.

I had reserved an Archer with GPS.  Although I was comfortable with VOR navigation, pilotage, and dead reckoning and had not flown a plane with GPS during my private training, I was looking forward to the added help of GPS on the long trip.  We also planned to depart Palo Alto with time to complete the trip before night.  I was night current, but I wanted to complete the flight to an unfamiliar airport with busy airspace and nearby high terrain with daylight remaining.

When I arrived at the airport, I discovered that the airplane I had reserved was still in Oakland receiving avionics repairs; it was not clear when it would be ready, but not on the day of intended departure in any event.  Another Archer was available for the weekend, but it was being flown for a lesson and it would be a half-hour before it would be back.  The replacement airplane did not have GPS.  So, we waited for the plane to be available, preflighted, packed up, and departed.

The flight to Shafter-Minter went as planned.  The weather was gorgeous, we landed at the fuel stop as planned, re-fueled, and were quickly on our way again.  After departing Shafter-Minter and clearing Tehachapi, the Mojave was laid out before us.  Due to our late departure, the sun had set at this point and dusk was falling.  I turned up the interior lights, made sure the flashlights were arrayed appropriately, and contacted Los Angeles Center for flight following.  At this point in my piloting career, I didn't regularly avail myself of flight following.  But, for all the reasons I wanted GPS for the flight, flight following seemed sensible.  As we neared Las Vegas, the flight plan called for remaining east of the McCarran Class Bravo, rather than getting a Bravo clearance (again, as a new pilot I wasn't too comfortable working ATC for these privileges).  

As we turned north along I-15, Los Angeles Center advised that at our current altitude, we would be below radar coverage. After passing the ridge between us and Las Vegas, they'd pick us up again and advised me to retain my squawk.  As we passed one of the mountain ridges, a valley lay below us.  Now in the Las Vegas valley, I turned north to follow the east side of the ridge to avoid the class Bravo.  I began looking for the airport beacons that would be McCarran and North Las Vegas.  Additionally, I tried to contact Las Vegas Approach, given that we should once again be in radar coverage.  Those attempts failed.  After traveling up the valley a bit and not being able to find the airport beacons, I admitted to my passengers that I was unsure where we were.  I described what airport beacons look like and asked them to help me find them.  They all remained calm and dutifully began looked out the windows at the darkness for the flashing white and green lights.  I followed the lost procedures from my training, slowing the airplane, circling, and gaining altitude.  I was definitely concerned that I would end up violating class Bravo with this maneuvering, but not really knowing where I was, I didn't have another option.

About this time, I noticed that there was another mountain ridge to the east, with a glow emanating from the top.  At this point something clicked: there was no way that the valley that I was flying over was Las Vegas.  Las Vegas, with all its lights, the strip, and a half-million people in its metropolitan area would not be so dimly lit that I would have trouble making out the street layout.  I gained altitude and when we were high enough to see over the ridge, the true Las Vegas basin spread before us in all its glittering glory.  The Las Vegas Strip and McCarran were easy to find.  Much more sure of where I was now, I navigated around the Class Bravo, located North Las Vegas airport and landed without further incident.

Once on the ground in North Las Vegas, we taxied to transient parking and the airport van approached to take us to the terminal building.  On seeing our tail number, the driver told me to call Flight Service, as they were looking for us.  I had filed a VFR flight plan and had not yet closed it (though I hadn't forgotten; we'd just been on the ground for fewer than ten minutes).  After losing contact with Los Angeles Center, I'd never re-established contact with them.  The time we spent flying over the valley west of Vegas had eaten up the padding I'd put into the flight plan and they had begun the process of discovering our whereabouts.  I called WX-BRIEF and closed the flight plan, allaying their concerns.

In the end, most of the lessons learned from the flight were reinforcements of my private training.  By taking on full fuel at Shafter-Minter, my becoming lost was concerning but did not rise to the level of an emergency.  We had over two hours to discover where we were before fuel would have become an issue.  Once I recognized that I was lost, I admitted as much to myself and my passengers, thus moving along to recovering.  My passengers remaining calm and working through the problem instead of becoming distraught was a huge help.  Filing and activating a VFR flight plan played its role as well: had we landed off airport, Search and Rescue would have been dispatched to locate us quickly.

On the other hand, there were ways that the flight could have ended less well.  Had the night been darker than it was, I may not have seen the terrain of the earlier valley to avoid it.  Had my passengers not reacted well, being lost could have panicked them, causing me to have to deal with them as well as my own level of concern.  Had I not taken on sufficient fuel or tried to stretch the trip on one tank, the outcome would have been different.  Looking more closely at my flight plan, I should have questioned how we had arrived at the final checkpoints several minutes earlier than planned.

Coming back to the very beginning, I could have avoided the whole episode by waiting until the next day to depart after not being able to depart according to plan.  Even without the GPS, we would have been flying in daylight with all the advantages that affords over the night.  These days, GPS would have been available on my iPad and the fact that the plane wasn't so equipped would not have been an issue.  But, back then, the confluence of a less-well-equipped-than-planned plane and a later-than-expected departure resulted in a real life lesson on lost procedures.


Max Trescott, WVFC CFI

I specialize in teaching in glass cockpit aircraft and I now spend most of my time in G1000-equipped aircraft and in Cirrus SR20 and SR22 planes. Concentrating my flight hours in these planes has helped me discover where people consistently encounter issues. And some of the Insights I've gleaned from teaching at West Valley have ended up in my Max Trescott's G1000 and Perspective Glass Cockpit Handbook, now in its fifth edition.

For example, half the time I climb into a G1000-equipped plane, I find that the standby attitude indicator is set incorrectly. You’ve probably noticed the same thing…even if you’re in the group of people setting it incorrectly!

In non-glass cockpit planes--those equipped with six round gauges--pilots are accustomed to setting the attitude indicator so that the orange dot is on the horizon, which is a horizontal white line that runs across the center of the instrument. If however you set the standby attitude indicator in a G1000-equipped plane the same way--with the orange dot on the white line--you're setting it incorrectly.

The correct way to set the standby attitude indicator is to first look at the Primary Flight Display (PFD) and determine how many degrees the aircraft is pitched up. Typically while on the ground, a Cessna 172 is pitched up about 2.5 degrees. Therefore the orange dot on the standby attitude indicator should be set to 2.5 degrees, not to the zero line.

Another common issue is a lack of understanding of the manual squelch on the intercom. Squelch is the feature that eliminates the background noise coming through your headset microphone when you’re not talking. If the squelch setting is too “loose,” you’ll hear continuous background noise. Or, if the squelch is set too ”tight,” the first syllable you speak won’t be heard, as the squelch is opening late. In the extreme, if the squelch is way too tight, it won’t open at all and you’ll never hear yourself speaking on the intercom. Fortunately, none of this affects how well you hear, or are heard, when you’re transmitting on the radio.

The G1000 has an automatic squelch, but it’s generally a little tight for most headset microphones and it clips your first syllable. To get around this, you need to set the manual squelch.

I often hear people saying “test one two” as they adjust the squelch control, but this won’t give you a precise setting. Instead to get the most precise squelch setting, you and your passengers shouldn’t be talking at all!

To start, push the MAN SQ key on the audio panel. Then make sure the intercom volume is turned up so that you can clearly hear any background noise. To do this, look at the concentric knobs at the bottom of the audio panel and make sure the VOL annuciator to the lower left of the knobs is lit. Generally, the background noise is louder coming from the pilot side and you may have to turn the volume up fairly high to hear the background noise coming from the copilot’s microphone.

Then push the center knob so that the SQL annuciator to the lower right of the knobs is lit. Grab both knobs and turn both counterclockwise until you hear plenty of noise in your headset. Then adjust each knob individually. I start with the center knob that controls the pilot’s squelch and I turn it slowly clockwise to the point where the background noise just goes away. Then if I’m on the ground, I’ll turn the knob one more click clockwise. If you don’t do that, the squelch will open when you take off, due to the higher noise levels.

Set the outer knob, which controls the copilot and passenger squelch, the same way. Turn it slowly clockwise to the point where the background noise just goes away and then add one additional click if you’re on the ground when you set it. When you’re done, press the center knob so that the VOL annuciator is lit. Finally, DON’T push the MAN SQ key, or you’ll undo everything you’ve just done!