Are you a Pilotaster?

Catch Me if You CanMy wife is an English teacher - but even if she weren't I'd still be a language and grammar nerd (I'll be honest).

I subscribe to Dictionary.com's Word of the Day, and I recently got a very interesting word: "poetaster."  Here's the definition:


po·et·as·ter [poh-it-as-ter] noun
an inferior poet; a writer of indifferent verse.

Essentially, a poetaster is an imposter poet.

And I thought about my flying and other pilots I have flown and worked with in the past - and I realized that many pilots, once they "finish" training, become "pilotasters" - indifferent, inferior, imposter pilots!

How do you know if you are a pilotaster?

  • Do you rush your preflight, and miss things in the process (like visually checking your fuel)?
  • Do you try to "save" a bad landing instead of going around and trying again?
  • Do you skip checking weather (DUATS or 1-800-WX-BRIEF) because you're "just staying in the pattern" or only going to the practice area?
    • Do you have a hard time believing what is actually happening with the weather because "it's not what the forecast said" or "not what the METAR / ATIS said?"
  • Do you fly lower than necessary or "buzz" your friends' or family's houses?
  • Do you "stretch your fuel" and pass up perfectly good refueling spots on cross-countries,even though you might have a stronger headwind (or weaker tailwind) than anticipated (or for some other reason you are burning fuel more rapidly than you originally planned)?
    • Related: Do you even pay attention to your ACTUAL fuel burn and your time between checkpoints on your cross-country flights?
    • Do you note the time you takeoff on your cross-country flights so you can actually keep track of how long you have been in the air?
  • Do you forget to lean, or lean improperly (or maybe were never taught to lean your plan and then never took the time to learn it on your own)?
  • Do you regularly forget to untie or un-chock the airplane?
  • Do you accidentally leave the parking brake set as you start your taxi (or even all the way through takeoff, and maybe even landing)?
  • Do you review your Pilot's Operating Handbook (POH) regularly to refresh your knowledge of your V-Speeds and emergency procedures?
  • Do you play "what if" every chance you get, and actually pick out a good emergency landing spot "just in case" something happens and you need it? Do you keep that always in mind as you fly?

I'm sure you can think of more items to add (so tell us in the comments what you think should - or should not) be on this list.

I'd also like to point out that I don't think that anyone always "is" or "is not" a pilotaster. I, myself have been guilty of just about every item on the above list at one time or another (never all at the same time, but sometimes more than one at a time) - I think that we all have days when we are pilotasters and days when we are not. My goal is to not be a pilotaster most days - to minimize the flights where I would have to consider myself as a pilotaster after the fact.

So I strive to avoid these situations by doing my absolute best, absolutely every time I step up to an airplane. I hope you can say the same!

Thanks for reading the Smart Flight Training blog – I hope you enjoyed this post, and please add to the list above if you have things that you - ahem - know other pilots do that might bite them someday! Tailwinds, and have a great week!

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor and commercial pilot in Columbus, Ohio.

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Weather Terminology: Winds

windsockHere's something dumb - "direction-erly" winds.

Have you ever heard someone say the winds are easterly today, and wondered what that meant? I always assumed that easterly winds meant that the winds were going towards the east (like an easterly facing wall, or a boat moving in an easterly direction).

But when it comes to winds, easterly actually means "from the east," - so the winds are actually moving from east to west.


I actually discovered this because of an aviation quiz question in a magazine - probably AOPA Pilot or Flying Magazine.

I got the answer wrong, so I googled the term so I would understand it if I heard it or saw it again.  Personally, I think it is dumb.  But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Here's why:

Winds in aviation are always reported using the compass direction they are coming from and then their velocity, in knots.

An example of this is on a METAR:

KCMH 021551Z 33011KT 10SM BKN042 07/M03 A2995 RMK AO2 SLP147 T00671028

In bold, above, this METAR says that winds at Port Columbus airport in Columbus, Ohio, are from 330 degrees (from the northwest) at 11 knots.

Another example of this is when you listen to ATIS or get your departure clearance from the tower - they will almost always give you the current winds in degrees and speed, just like the METAR above does.

In summary, since all other aviation winds are reported as "from" some direction, it makes sense that "westerly" winds would be "from the west."

So, below, I offer a handy "key" to direction-erly winds:

easterly = from the east

westerly = from the west

northerly = from the north

southerly = from the south

You can apply this as well, if you like, for non-cardinal directions - like north-westerly winds in the METAR example above.

Just don't try to tell the tower or your instructor that the winds are 330 degreeserly.

Anybody else out there who struggled with this kind of seeming inconsistency? Tell us about it in the comments. Erly.

Andrew Hartley is a Certificated Flight Instructor in Columbus, Ohio.

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