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Student and New Pilot Support Group


December, January, and February Meeting Report

The Bay Area Student and New Pilot Support Group kicked off the New Year with a number of great topics. Our group formed in December of 2011 to provide a forum for student and new pilots to share their knowledge of aviation with other likeminded pilots. The group continues to attract new attendees in addition to a core group that have been around since the first meeting. For the latest news and announcements we encourage anyone interested in participating in this group to register as described at the end of this article. The group has also established a MeetUp group for those that want to stay informed of future meeting announcements. The MeetUp group is:

December Meeting

The topic in December was how to use the FAA Wings program to complete the Flight Review requirement. Flight Reviews, per 14 CFR  Sec. 61.56, are generally required every 24 calendar months unless you have completed a new certificate or rating. Usually this is accomplished by getting with a CFI to meet the requirements of a minimum of one (1) hour of ground and a minimum of one (1) hour of flight. What is not widely known is that you can also accomplish a Flight Review by completing a “phase” of the Wings program. Most of us use the Wings program to sign up for FAA Safety Seminars but it seems very few pilots know how those “credits” for attending a Safety Seminar can be used to accomplish a Flight Review. Herb Patten presented to the group how the program works to satisfy the Flight Review requirement. The presentation covered the requirements, which include obtaining a minimum of three Knowledge Credits along with three Flight Credits.  Knowledge credits can be obtained by attending FAA Safety Seminars or taking online courses which are listed on  Flight credits must be done with a CFI. A flight credit is typically a group of tasks that come from the PTS, e.g. normal and crosswind takeoffs and landings, short-field approach and landing, go-around. Once the three (3) knowledge activities and three (3) flight activities have been completed, you will be issued a certificate of completion for a phase of Wings and a corresponding certificate indicating that you have met the requirements of 61.56.

The second half of the meeting was an interactive, Jeopardy style pilot trivia challenge complete with push button buzzers. The group was divided into teams to play Pilot Trivia Jeopardy. Like the game of Jeopardy, a clue is revealed in the form of an answer and participants have to reply in the form of a question. The topics were grouped into interesting categories like Gadgets – clues about navigation devices, or “By the Book” – clues related to regulations and “Suck, Squeeze, Bang, Blow” for clues about aircraft engines. Responses had to be in the form of a question just like the real Jeopardy show. “Contestants” even got a chance to play Final Jeopardy. This was a great way to mix fun with a review of private pilot knowledge questions. This was such a great hit that we plan to do this again at future meetings with new and more challenging questions.

January Meeting – Skyhawk 123, San Francisco Tower runway 28 right cleared to land
As pilots we enjoy flying around the Bay Area and enjoy the many sights from the air. Certainly one of those sights is flying near San Francisco Airport. As we remain south and west of the Bayshore Fwy we gaze out in awe at the massive airport and watch the likes of United 15 depart runway 1 Right while American 210 heavy lands on 28 Left. We sometimes wonder what it would be like to actually land at SFO and talk about previous reports of a pilot in a small plane landing at SFO. For a number of us, we no longer have to wonder what that experience is like because late night on January 3rd a group of planes actually made that a reality and landed at SFO. Our meeting in January was devoted to a review of that event. 

Stuart Davies started the evening off with his experience of the event. There were a total of twenty (20) planes that participated in the landing at SFO. As you can imagine with this many planes a bit of planning was needed. The evening started out with a briefing at 10:00 PM. The briefing covered a number of topics including PIC responsibilities, safety concerns, the approach to SFO, expected landing clearance, Class Bravo air space operations, surface operations, as well as departure procedures. After completing the briefing, pilots began their walk out to their planes to complete final preflight inspection and get ready for departure. Stuart brought along a number of video and audio clips to share with the group so they could get a sense of flying the approach into SFO. NorCal was the first point of contact after departing from KSQL. NorCal began to vector planes to slot them in to a landing sequence between the dwindling streams of commercial aircraft that were coming in for landing at SFO. Some planes got vectored down toward SJC before being turned back for a long straight in to either 28 Right or Left while some plane got a short cut and were able to get a left base entry to one of the 28 runways. For most pilots, it was a once in a lifetime experience to get the SFO Tower clearance of “Cleared to land 28 Right”. Stuart brought some of the audio feeds from the evening so attendees could hear the ATC communication.

After landing at SFO, all planes were met by a “follow me” truck that marshaled the aircraft to Signature, the FBO at SFO. There was a group celebration at the FBO with snacks that were enjoyed prior to departing to return back to airport of origin. 

As pilots, we are constantly learning and thinking about how to do something better. This experience was no different. For those that participated, we gained the experience of landing at a Bravo airport. We also shared a number of good observations and suggestions for the next time an event like this occurs.

February Meeting

Our February meeting was a discussion about mountain flying. This was a topic that was suggested by one of the attendees from the January meeting. Most flying clubs will require some sort of checkout before allowing members to fly to airports above 3,000 feet. We started the discussion with a review of the various club checkout requirements. We had a number of participants that had completed a mountain checkout and they described their experience, e.g. where they went, what to expect, what aircraft they took and how long it took.

We were fortunate to have Brian Eliot, CFI, in attendance at the meeting since he has extensive experience with mountain flying. Brian walked through a number of factors that need to be considered when flying in the mountains and at high elevation airports. This discussion included a number of the usual topics including aircraft performance, density altitude, weather factors, route selection, survival considerations, and airport operations.

Brian discussed how he has conducted mountain checkouts including which airports he has used in the Bay Area. He talked about some of the more common ones like Truckee (KTRK) and South Lake Tahoe (KTVL). He also discussed some other ones including Alpine County (M45) and Mammoth (KMMH). Mammoth happens to be the highest elevation airport open to the public in California.  Brian shared with the group experiences from multi-day mountain flying trips that groups have conducted to places like Colorado and Yellowstone. For those that were considering getting a mountain checkout, this was a great session.

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.  We meet on the first Monday of the month at 7:00 p.m. The group meets in various locations at the San Carlos airport 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 in the coming months:
•    In flight anomalies – learning from the experiences of others
•    The instrument rating – what to think about and when to consider it
•    Insights from the Tower – the perspective from ATC
•    Private pilot aeronautical knowledge test taking tips
•    Instrument charts – Jeppesen vs. Aeronav – what are the differences? Advantages and disadvantages?
•    Aviation fuel – a discussion led by a local subject matter expert on aviation fuel and what alternatives for 100LL are on the horizon
•    Aircraft ownership – things to know about purchasing an aircraft from members that are owners

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 Herb Patten at if you would like additional information.