Newbie pilot pro and practical tips

Discussion in 'Hangar Talk' started by Daven, Oct 15, 2020.

  1. Daven

    Daven Filing Flight Plan

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    Just recently got my private pilots' endorsement and about to purchase a plane in about a week and realized that while my flight training was top notch, there is much not taught from a practical sense presumably because things everybody knows and seems stupid. :) For example, you land at an unfamiliar airport and need fuel and to tie down. What's the process here? What about after hours? What are some pro tips to tying down? Line tightness? Etc. Etc. Any and all other pro and practical tips for a newbie pilot? Inquiring minds want to know. :) No tip too stupid and much appreciated. :)
     
  2. Arnold

    Arnold Cleared for Takeoff

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    Fuel and tie down can usually be figured out. First try contacting the FBO on unicorn. If the pumps are self serve that is usually apparent through observation. If you get there after hours parking can be confusing but there are generally free spaces with tire downs that look like they are not assigned. Sometimes not. You can always telephone in advance and ask. I tie my plane down with taught lines. Don't want the wind to start the wings a rocking.
     
  3. eman1200

    eman1200 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    fly to one or two places and you'll figure most of this stuff out pretty quick
     
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  4. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    Like @Arnold mentioned, I like to call ahead if I know I am going to an airport I have never been and plan on staying overnight. Good questions to ask are - where to park, do they have tie downs, is there a courtesy car, do they charge a fee. Honestly, when I call a new place and mention I have never been there before the person on the other end of the phone starts regurgitating this stuff anyway. Usually they are very friendly folks and will have a list of things they tell new visitors.
     
  5. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member

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    ...and if that doesn't work, try the pegasus! (love autocorrect!) :)

    First thing I usually do is search for the airport on www.airnav.com, to get a general feel for what's there in advance.
    How many FBO's are there? (Usually only one, but some places might have more than one. Or none.) It'll list phone numbers for any FBO's.
    It'll say whether their fuel is full service (FS) or self-service (SS).
    An after-hours call-out for full-service fuel will usually cost you something, maybe $100 or thereabouts. There may be a sign on the (locked) FBO door with the after-hours contact number.
    Most self-service kiosks are 24hours and accept credit cards. Except, of course, for the ones that aren't, or don't. Or are broken.

    It's not always possible, but if you can be present while someone else fuels you up, make sure the truck says "100LL" on the side. If someone asks you if you want something called "Prist", they are confused and DO NOT LEAVE until you make sure they are going to give you 100LL and not jet fuel.

    Some FBO's like to marshall you in. Some don't. Look for a guy waving his or her arms at you. They may or may not be carrying orange sticks. If you don't see a waving guy, then pick a spot that looks like it's what other people are doing or have done.
    At some places, transient parking is labeled. Most of the time it's not and you just have to guess.
    At some places, if there are already ropes there at a tiedown spot, this is someone's way of saying "This is a rented spot that already belongs to me - don't park here."
    At other places, if there are already ropes there, it means "Park here! We've got ropes!"
    Parking customs and etiquette is somewhat a matter of "local culture", and there's no way to learn it in advance except to show up and ask.
    (Have I ever parked somewhere, and come back to find the plane in a different place, with a note on the window saying "You took my spot and I had to move you"? Yup. Done that...)
    A set of tiedown ropes and travel chocks should be standard equipment for the cargo compartment of any plane IMO.

    Tie one end to the hook in the ground with something like a bowline knot. Then, for the strut-end, I use a taut-line hitch, like this one:
    https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2017/june/flight-training-magazine/tiedowns
    If someone else ties you down, inspect their work (if you're present) and make sure they've done it right.

    Think of "showing up at an unfamiliar airport" as like traveling to an unfamiliar city or country... an adventure of discovery of a new culture! Don't be afraid to get it wrong and look like a newb or a tourist, it's part of the fun! Rehearse the following phrases, and use them on the locals:
    "Is this an OK place to park?"
    "Can you help me work this fuel kiosk?"
    "Ground, can you give me a Progressive to the <parking/fuel/restaurant>?"
    "So, what's cool to do around here?"
     
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  6. RyanB

    RyanB Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    Typically there will be self serve fuel you can just taxi up to and fuel the same way as if it were your car at a gas station, if not, you would have to contact the FBO (during business hours) and they would assist you.
    If the FBO is closed and there isn’t a self serve fuel option, than you’re out of luck. Part of your preflight planning should include places that offer a self serve fuel option.
    Ratchet straps are better (and easier) than rope imo. The tie down should be snug, so there isn’t any slack. If using rope, my suggestion is to run the rope through the tie down ring and pull on the rope with your left hand to keep it tight, while taking the end with your right hand and make two loops to tie in a knot. Quick and easy!

    Good luck!
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2020
  7. Daven

    Daven Filing Flight Plan

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    What if the FBO is closed but you need to tie down? Just any empty tie down spot and then pay the next day?
     
  8. Daven

    Daven Filing Flight Plan

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    Etiquette on courtesy cars?
     
  9. sourdough44

    sourdough44 Pattern Altitude

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    Fuel & tie down is easy, let’s get to the hard stuff. Say the cops show up & want to search your plane?

    How about that mechanical, Saturday evening? Maybe you land low on fuel, the pump is down?
     
  10. PaulS

    PaulS Touchdown! Greaser!

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    For the courtesy car i usually put gas in and ask how long I can have it.

    Also, your instructor should have covered most of these questions you have on airports. It wouldn't hurt to bring an instructor along with you and go through this stuff. But the previous posts have covered most of it.

    Also, don't be a dick and park blocking the self serve pump. Get your gas, get out of the way before you go in and have lunch.
     
  11. exncsurfer

    exncsurfer Pattern Altitude

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    I can relate, all of my training was done at an FBO that pulled the plane up for you to the flight line and when you were done they marshalled you in. After you shut down, before you could even get out, they had it chocked and you just left it there. They towed it to a tie down spot later. Spoiled.

    newbie tip:
    practice using the hand tow bar to back into a parking spot
     
  12. Sinistar

    Sinistar En-Route

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    And if you walk away from the plane the towbar stays in your hand, not on the plane...no matter how much of a nuisance it may be.

    For parking after hours or uncontrolled I like to look with the google satellite view. Even our sleepy airport's ramp parking spots can be seen easily. Its nice to know this before landing so when you taxi in and there are other planes which ways you can park, be able to get out, not block the pump, etc.
     
  13. Daven

    Daven Filing Flight Plan

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    What kinds of things besides tow bar and tie down ropes does everyone typically carry along? I assume like a basic first aid kit and then a basic tool kit? But any recommendations? Anything else typical or you like to carry just in case?
     
  14. catmandu

    catmandu Cleared for Takeoff PoA Supporter

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    Cash, oil, funnel, Plexus, rag, chocks, cowl plugs, pitot cover, lightweight canopy cover, jump start pack, spare tubes, spark plug, shear pin for starter, and a decent tool kit to use all the parts.
     
  15. Daven

    Daven Filing Flight Plan

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    All good stuff. :) Thanks everybody. :)

    As for more in general, anything else? Like just think back to being a newbie idiot pilot who knows nothing and what do you wish someone had told you? Inquiring minds want to know. :)
     
  16. Deelee

    Deelee Cleared for Takeoff

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    somebody already mentioned marshaling at the FBO... on one of my first trips after getting my private, I landed at an airport with an FBO. As I was taxiing over, I was greeted by a marshal waving his wands trying to get me to turn a certain direction to parking... well I completely forgot the marshaling signals I learned during training. He wanted me to go left - I went right... repeat and repeat... eventually, I figured it out and he and I laughed about it after I shut down. But it may be something you want to refresh your memory on.
     
  17. 4CornerFlyer

    4CornerFlyer Pre-takeoff checklist

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    After you get some cross-country experience, you may find that airport planning takes more time and effort than flight planning. You'll probably become familiar with the airspace and terrain within a couple hours of flying time from your home base, so the flying part becomes easy. The going to a new airport part can be confusing.

    I like to use sites like Airnav to get a feel for the FBO's. Comments there and on Foreflight give me an idea what to expect. So I try to post a comment with as many specifics as I can after I visit an airport, especially if there aren't a lot of comments out there already. (See C24 airport on Airnav for an example. As of now mine is the only comment).

    I wouldn't worry about messing up too much. About the worst thing that happens is some jerk yells at you to get out of his parking space. So you move the plane, and try to remember that most pilots are friendly and would be helpful in that situation.

    Finally, there is no substitute for using the telephone to call your destination and ask these questions. As you'll find out soon enough, if you don't do the research in advance you may get hit with outrageous unexpected fees.

    Jon