John Zimmerman

5 free tools for flight instructors at Sporty's CFI Portal

Staying organized and staying connected to students is essential for any flight instructor who wants to be their best. Sporty’s CFI Portal, part of our Learn to Fly Course, makes this easier than ever. Available free to any active flight instructor, this suite of tools includes lesson plans, a free refresher course, FAA library, and more. No trial, no credit card, and no catch—just sign up and enjoy these exclusive benefits.

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Which handheld aviation radio should I buy?

A portable radio is an essential tool for pilots of all experience levels. When you're just starting out, listening to local traffic is a great way to improve your communication skills. When you're an instrument-rated pilot, a handheld radio is a convenient option for picking up IFR clearances before engine start. And for any pilot, a quality radio is cheap insurance should the panel go dark.

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Episode 58. What MOSAIC means for pilot training and airplane designs, with Dan Johnson

More privileges for Sport pilots and more affordable light airplanes—that’s the promise of MOSAIC, a sweeping new proposal from the FAA this summer. Industry expert Dan Johnson has been tracking this reform for years, and he gives us a behind-the-scenes tour in this episode, including which legacy airplanes will now be available for Sport pilots and what new airplane designs might emerge. Dan also talks about timing for the final rule, the LSA safety record, and why ultralights are overlooked. In the Ready to Copy segment, he shares his favorite airplanes from AirVenture 2023, why he loves the AirCam, what he’d change about the FAA.

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Episode 57. FAA medicals and flying as a Top Gun adversary pilot, with Dr. Keith Roxo

The FAA medical is just another check ride and pilots should prepare for it the same way. That's according to Dr. Keith Roxo, an aviation medical examiner and former Top Gun adversary pilot. He shares plenty of practical tips in this episode, including: what to do if you’re unsure of an answer on the application, why some pilots are stuck in medical limbo for over a year, what SODA and CACI mean, and how the FAA is handling mental health issues these days. Keith also talks about flying the F/A-18 and F-16, and how Top Gun taught him the difference between a standard and a technique. In the Ready to Copy segment, you'll hear why color-blindness isn’t a disqualifying condition, whether BasicMed has been successful, and what Keith's favorite aviation movie is.

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Episode 56. Fuel management and flying the U-2, with Tim Decker

Tim Decker’s flying career includes almost every segment of aviation, including military, fractional, airline, and even airshows. He applies safety habits from each of these jobs to his flying in his Cirrus SR22, and shares some of those in this episode. He explains the difference between minimum fuel and emergency fuel, when it’s smart to declare an emergency, and why instructors must embrace scenario-based training. He also talks about the concept of factored landing distances and shares how to calculate them in ForeFlight. In the Ready to Copy Segment, Tim tells us what it’s like to land a U-2 in a crosswind, two key lessons he learned from flying airshows, and the key differences between a career as an airline pilot and fractional pilot.

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Episode 55. Why airplane accidents are not just stories, with Steve Green

Pilots think about accidents all wrong, according to author and retired airline captain Steve Green. In this thought-provoking episode, he explains why you can't predict every accident, why protecting margins is the key to safe flying, and why pilots must have an overarching strategy beyond just following the checklist. He also argues for more detailed systems knowledge and for maintaining two situational awarenesses (one for the pilot and one for the automation). In the Ready to Copy segment, Steve talks about surviving an airplane crash, whether ice bridging is a myth, and what to carry in your survival kit.

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Sunglasses: what pilots need to know

Choosing the right sunglasses is crucial for pilots, and not just because we all secretly want to look like Tom Cruise. Given the harsh environment pilots fly in, a good pair of sunglasses is actually a smart investment in one of your most important assets – your vision. Sunglasses make it easier to spot traffic, reduce fatigue, and protect your eyes from long term damage due to solar radiation. They can also provide some protection from debris during a bird strike.

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Episode 54. ATC for flight simulators and SimVenture, with Kevin from PilotEdge

Flight simulators boomed in 2020 and have barely slowed down since, but many pilots don’t use all the available tools for flight training. Kevin from PilotEdge has watched it all unfold over the last decade and he explains what flight sims are good for (and what they aren't). He talks about how Microsoft changed the game, whether you can log simulator time, and how virtual ATC plug-ins can make training more realistic. Kevin also created SimVenture, and he describes how pilots can prepare to fly to the world’s busiest airport by talking to real AirVenture controllers during this live online event. In the Ready to Copy segment, he tells us his favorite flight sim airplane, what upgrade he wants to see from sim developers, and whether AI will ever replace human controllers.

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Episode 53. Airline myths and leadership lessons, with retired airline CEO Bill Ayer

You have to be both realistic and optimistic to run an airline - that's according to retired Alaska Airlines CEO Bill Ayer, an industry veteran and experienced GA pilot. He offers wisdom from his four decades in the airline business, including why safety must be a data-driven activity, where the real pilot shortage is, and how to manage the tradeoffs between efficiency and safety. He also shares leadership lessons, explaining why "hope is not a strategy" when you're running a business and what young people can do to build a career in aviation. In the Ready to Copy segment, Bill tells us his favorite airplane to ride on as a passenger, whether you should drink coffee on an airliner, his opinion of supersonic airliners, and why aviation culture is so welcoming.

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In Depth Look at Sporty's updated Flight Instructor Refresher Course (eFIRC)

Sporty’s has developed a fresh new option for flight instructors looking to renew their CFI certificate, using a modern online learning system to deliver innovative content. Sporty’s fully FAA-approved eFIRC, newly updated for 2023, will get you up to speed with the latest technology and new developments from the FAA, vastly improving your teaching skills. The best news? Sporty's FIRC is completely free! Let’s take a look at some of the unique features.

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