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Transport Canada modifies Flight Tests to assess stabilized approaches

cessna 172 on departure

The General Aviation Safety Campaign (GASC) was established in June 2017 and since has endeavoured to identify the most common contributory factors in aviation accidents. The GASC created working groups to look to key areas and phases of flight that were particularly hazardous. The GASC divided into nine working groups addressing various areas of interest.

The result of these working groups identified that major contributors of fatal aviation accidents are caused by in-flight loss of control. The more interesting thing is these accidents usually occur during a few critical phases of flight: you guessed it – when you’re at a lower altitude and don’t have enough time to recover.

Some of the specifics of their findings can be found on Transport’s website here

Most loss of control (LOC) accidents ocour during the arrival phase of flight, the base to final turn and on final. Over 20 years of similar research in the U.S. has aligned with these findings. Stalling the aircraft near the ground is very dangerous. One particular area of interest was the topic of stabilized approaches. Transport Canada listened, and has now incorporated the testing of stabilized approaches for the RPL, PPL, CPL and multi-engine flight tests.

transport canada
Transport Canada logo. Image from

The new flight test guidelines will be incorporated into the Flight Test Guides on March 1, 2019. They’ll be available on the Transport Canada website then for download. IFR tests already have this criteria in place, but it will be new for all other flight tests. 

The testing involves ensuring the pilot understands what constitutes a stabilized approach. We’ve always been instructed on what makes a stabilized approach during training, the only difference now is it will be a formally and officially tested skill. So what does it mean to have a stabilized approach? Our instructors have always maintained that a good approach results in a good landing. It’s all part of safety and to make our passengers more comfortable.

One thing that comes to mind is to state at a specific point in the approach is checking in on a specific point in the approach, say 200 AGL, whether your approach is :stable.”  Have you reached your target airspeed and are you flying the attitude? Have you chosen your final flap setting, if applicable? Do you have your wind inputs in, if you face a crosswind? Is the runway clear? If you’re not stabilized according to the criteria set out in the guide, you’ll be expected to initiate an overshoot.

Things we’ve always done, but now will be officially tested on. 

Look for your next handy flight test guide from Transport Canada here





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Flying out of Springbank Airport

Approaching CYBW, right downwind 25 for final.

If you live in Calgary or the surrounding area and are thinking of getting your license, you have a few choices when it comes to flight schools.  The closest airfield to Calgary where you can get your license is Calgary – Springbank (CYBW), about 30 minutes from downtown Calgary.  There are currently four flight schools at CYBW.

Control tower at Springbank Airport.
Control tower at Springbank Airport.

The four schools are (1) Calgary Flying Club,  (2) Springbank Air Training College (SATC), (3) Fly Right, and now (4) Springbank Aero.   The biggest schools are my flight school: SATC, and Calgary Flying Club; they have the largest fleet of aircraft and the most instructors on staff.   Fly Right and Springbank Aero are smaller.

Springbank Aero re-opened May 2013 at Springbank Airport.  They are back in operation after briefly loosing their CFI (Chief Flight Instructor).  They have hired a new CFI and are ready to accept students as of last May.  This flight school has been in operation for over 15 years before the brief closure. They are located off of taxiway Charlie – so like the Calgary Flying Club, they are a shorter taxi to the runway.  They have 3 Cessna 172’s for single engine training and their twin engine is the Piper Twin Comanche which has been recently refurbished.

The Calgary Flight Training Centre is also an option for those who live in the area, but they fly out of the Old-Didsbury Airport, which is further from Calgary (almost an hour north of downtown).  The advantages are a smaller airport and far, far less busy airspace.

Big school or small school?

The advantage of going with a larger school are generally there are more resources available in terms of aircraft and instruction.   Also, ongoing private and commercial ground schools are generally found at the larger schools. Smaller schools sometimes don’t run formal classroom teaching unless they have enough students – but the ground schools may be administered online.  The benefits of a smaller school are a more personal experience and better availability of aircraft.  A smaller school will have less students and won’t be as busy – so better odds that your instructor will have more time for you and your chances of booking an aircraft short notice are likely better.

The CFS entry for CYBW. Procedures are very overwhelming when you first start flying here.
The CFS entry for CYBW. Procedures are very overwhelming when you first start flying here.

Read some things you should consider when picking a flight school.   Also, some things you should consider if you are deciding whether you want to learn how to fly or a laugh about why learning to fly is a bad idea.

Happy flying!