IFR Mastery in 4 simple steps…

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Every pilot wants to be safer and adding an instrument rating is one of the best ways. The problem with getting your instrument rating is that all of your new skills and knowledge have an expiration date. It happens a lot sooner than the 6 month currency requirement from the FAA. In fact, your skills start to deteriorate within a matter of days of passing your instrument check ride. All knowledge and skill rapidly go away unless you use them. Don’t believe me? If you’re like me and took 4 years of Spanish in school, you’re probably not fluent except for the important words like cerveza. There is good news. Any pilot can become and stay an IFR Master by following four simple steps.

The first step to IFR mastery is to keep working on the basics. Just because you passed your written test and check ride, doesn’t mean you should stop reviewing your ground knowledge. A true master knows that every time they re-read a textbook, or watch a set of videos again, they get more. Not only does repetition increase retention, but you’ll also pick up parts you missed the first time. Set an appointment on your calendar to read one chapter of an IFR textbook like the great books from Rod Machado every week. Or if you like video, add in watching a segment of MZEROA.com PIC or Instrument Rating course.

The second step is to train with an expert. A safety pilot is not a good idea to save money during training. Someone who is not certified and trained to teach to standards often causes more problems and bad habits. Choosing a CFII is also critical. A brand new CFII will have the advantage of recent training and may be better at new technology. An experienced CFII will have the advantage of real world experience that only comes with time. A master CFII, although a little harder to find, will have the most experience and often be best. You also need to choose an instructor that is an expert in the avionics you will be flying and training with. The best instructor is someone who can teach several hours of ground on just your ForeFlight and Garmin or Avidyne GPS. If you don’t have someone qualified locally, add some training yourself by watching Avidyne, Garmin, ForeFlight or IFR Mastery Videos here.

The third step is to practice. This may be the most important and often neglected step of them all. If you’re an airline pilot you get to fly IFR constantly, even though it’s crew based, and are forced into constant simulator retraining and company check rides. The hardest part for most pilots is that they have jobs, family and other pressures that prevent flying IFR at least two times per week. If flying IFR twice per week is not possible there are ways to practice at home for free. Buy a simple yoke and a low cost flight simulator program for your home computer. It won’t meet legal currency, but it will keep your skills sharper than nothing. When you do fly, always shoot at least one practice instrument approach every time. Practice approaches in VFR conditions won’t count towards legal currency but again, it will keep your skills up. This is where a safety pilot is a great idea, because under the hood with someone looking outside does both. Better yet file IFR and shoot 2-3 approaches including the missed when you fly.

The fourth step is really what makes the difference between the good and the great pilots. It’s the same thing that makes the difference in any important skills. Repetition is where the gold is. If you do the first three steps every single month you will become and stay a true IFR Master.

If you’d like to really challenge yourself to be better, consider taking our 3-Day IFR Mastery course that offers intensive and challenging new training. Our new course is 20 hours of intense ground and flight instruction including landing at a Bravo airport, SIDs, STARS, and real-life busy DFW airspace. The best part is by taking a 3 day course it gets you away from your normal environment and pushes you to a new level of mastery. Learn more by clicking here.


Heads UP for Safety


The new technology available on the panel and on iPads is amazing. I’ve never felt more confident or safer when flying. Traffic, weather, flight planning are all available to any pilot in bright shining color only a finger tip away. The problem is that with all the available tech,  pilots are spending way too much time looking down. A traffic display is designed to teach you where to look outside, not to keep you heads down.   I’ve seen way too many students lose the big picture because they are focused inside.

Where should we be looking when we taxi, takeoff, land, and most of the time enroute? OUTSIDE! But we need to look at a taxi diagram, and we need to check our gauges, and the new shiny GPS to make sure we are on our course, you say. Of course if you are IMC you should be looking inside most of the time but you still need to check outside for changes in weather, ice and other factors.

The highest workload is when shooting an approach inside the final approach fix. Look at the gauges, look at the GPS, look up for an airport and repeat over and over again. Look at three different places fast enough and pretty soon you won’t really see any of it. It’s pretty typical for people with several thousand hours not see a warning or message for several minutes even though they look directly at it.

The solution is really very simple and something that military, charter jet, and airline pilots have known for years, look outside and at your flight path at the same time! It’s called a HUD or Heads Up Display. It’s usually projected information from the flight management system and air data computer onto a drop down visor that the pilot can use to reduce scanning distractions and still see outside.

military hud

Military Heads up Display courtesy of Dyess Air Force Base

It’s time to bring the benefit of improved situational awareness and reduced workload to the world of general aviation. There are several different companies that produce “non-certified” portable HUD’s available for purchase today. Non-certified means that they don’t require an STC to use in your airplane, but they can’t serve as your primary form of navigation either. You still need to check your gauges and GPS, but because you are seeing a big picture every time you look outside you can slow down your scan and absorb more while still focusing on outside the airplane.


My view through the Epic Optix HUD in actual IMC.  I was shooting an ILS into OKC.

I’ve looked at several HUDs but decided on the HUD from EPIC OPTIX for my airplane. I chose the EPIC EAGLE for three reasons. They are so good that Textron aviation is installing them in all new Cessna aircraft starting in 2019 as permanent equipment. If Textron thinks they are important, than that’s a pretty big recommendation. The 2nd reason, is that they are the only HUD that is focused at infinity. This means that the display will never block any outside object from your vision. The 3rd and most important reason is that I’ve seen the several HUDs and to me the EPIC EAGLE is the clearest and the easiest to use. I’ve flown with it for several hours now and can’t imagine flying single pilot IFR without it. The ability to look outside for an airport while shooting a GPS approach in IMC and still know that you’re on course and stabilized is a real time and work saver.

The biggest thing is how much safer I am. Recently while flying IMC near Oklahoma City, my vacuum system failed. I honestly just don’t know when and it was a total non-event. Using the Avidyne/Aspen/HUD combination made flying so much easier. It allowed me to concentrate on flying the plane and navigating around weather without being fixated on a failure.

There are a couple things to remember when you first get your HUD. Remember, that they are an aid to situational awareness and should not be your only source of flight information. There is a learning curve with all new technology. Just like you should never try and figure out a new GPS system in flight by just pushing buttons, you do need at least a little training before you go. Make sure you practice placing the HUD in a good position and figure out what data source you are going to wirelessly transmit to the HUD.  The EPIC EAGLE I have “airplays” the ForeFlight app, the stratus horizons app, and the Avidyne IFD 100 app all equally well from my iPad and I use each at different times. Android devices can also send info to the HUD. Most importantly fly with a master CFI, experienced with HUDs,  or at least a safety pilot for several hours in VFR only while you get used to the new technology. For more information on the HUD visit: www.EpicOptix.com

Fly Safe!


Gary D Reeves, is a 7,000+hr ATP and Master Flight, Instrument & Multi-Engine Instructor. He’s also the 2016 FAA Instructor of the year, WP Region and a lead representative for the FAA Safety Team. Both Avidyne and Genesis(STEC) have named him their only National Training Provider. He provides both video and in-person mastery training for Avidyne, Garmin, ForeFlight and Single Pilot IFR. For more information please visit www.PilotSafety.org or www.MasterFlightTraining.com


PilotSafety.org & Master Flight Training Go Pink

PSMFT New Logo

“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on.  But that’s not what it means at all.  It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are.” Steve Jobs

   PilotSafety.org was founded in 2012. Why did we start? I was tired of hearing that, “little planes are dangerous.” If we provided free aviation seminars and webinars we could prevent some of those accidents. I wanted to help to every pilot in every way they might need it. We’ve covered radio communication, VFR flight planning, night flying, mountain flying and over 20 other topics including GPS and IFR. We’ve had lots of help and I’d especially like to thank Master Instructors(John Mahany and Mike Jesch), Aviation Attorney(Gary Stark), Medical Examiner(John Phillip, MD), FAA Rep(John Stuernagle) and more. Oh and in case we forget…. OVER 15,000 PILOTS like you signed up to be members! We’ve also had some outstanding corporate support. Avemco was the first and has always supported aviation safety. Avidyne and Globalstar also have been big supporters and have allowed us to grow more than we ever thought.

During the last six years I’ve also sold a flight school, moved to Texas, and changed my business to specialize in providing in-person Avidyne and Garmin IFR training. My new company was Master Flight Training. The biggest problem is that when I worked at MFT I didn’t spend enough time volunteering at PilotSafety and vice versa. It’s not fair to neglect PilotSafety or Master Flight Training and there is just not enough time to do both.

The best solution is to focus and become one entity. PilotSafety.org is going to merge with Master Flight Training and become one. It will allow us to grow and do even more for general aviation safety by focusing on one business instead of two. We will focus on helping pilots who want to become better in the use of autopilots, GPS and iPads focusing on Single-Pilot IFR.
What we promise to do:

  1. Provide more free FAASafety WINGS classes all over the US.
  2. Create more free videos on autopilot use and glass displays.
  3. Provide updated and more in-depth video mastery options for Avidyne, ForeFlight and Garmin use.
  4. Provide more opportunities for in-person advanced mastery training for good pilots who really want to be the best in their airplanes with the best new technology.

GPS, and understanding how to use it, will be the base on which we build a new group of videos and classes to help pilots use the next generation of avionics safely. The aviation world is moving to follow the pink line and PilotSafety.org is going to lead the way!

What does this mean for you, the pilots and the people, who made this all possible? Better and more training options is the benefit you will like the most. Our website will finally get the much needed update and be easier to use. As for the logo going pink, you’ll be able to find us at every convention and see us from 200 feet away!

What does this mean for me? I can just wear one shirt(yes it’s bright pink!) I can wear only one CEO hat. I can answer one phone, one email, and only carry one business card. My promise is that I will use the saved time and resources to do even more for GA Safety.

You, the members, have always been the best part of everything we’ve accomplished together. Thank you for everything and I hope you will stay with us going forward.

My best and fly safe,

Gary Reeves, ATP, MCFI

Making Single-Pilot IFR safer with Video and in-person Master Flight Training for Autopilots, Avidyne, ForeFlight, and Garmin avionics.

Learn more now at:

3 Things I learned from flying in Hawaii

As a traveling master instructor, I teach all over the US and am usually on the road 20-25 days per month. When my wife announced she wanted to go to Hawaii for our upcoming wedding anniversary, my first thought was how much I needed a break from flying. Don’t misunderstand me, I love flying even after teaching for 14 years. It’s just I needed a break from work. So in the middle of my vacation I decided to go fly anyway. Flying in Hawaii was an amazing experience and taught me three important lessons.

The first thing I learned was that renting an airplane in Hawaii is not as simple as just walking up to a local flight school and asking for a set of keys. All of the really good ones require extensive training with a local expert CFI before handing you an airplane. The best one I found was Tropic Bird Flight Service in Kona (PHKO) on the big island. Mike Lauro is the owner and chief flight instructor with over 13,000 hours flying in Hawaii. Mike certainly respected my credentials and experience but went on to explain why renting in Hawaii is not just a 30 minute checkout. He usually requires 10 hours of dual before he will let someone rent on of his aircraft. In fact his ground training session taught me the next thing I learned and why he is right to give even an experienced pilot that much training.

Hawaii is mountain and volcano flying. I went flying the day after the 6.9 earthquake and volcano eruption. I’ve taught mountain flying before, but never where you get such a rapid change of environment and weather. The big island of Hawaii has 10 out of the 14 climate zones on the entire earth. From the summit of Mauna Kea, which has snow often through June, down to small areas of hot desert area that gets less than 10’’ of rainfall per year. All of this is surrounded by tropical rain forest with 6 other climate zones mixed in! All of this incorporates into a rapidly changing weather pattern driven mostly by the trade winds. True to his word when we took off south from Kona the weather was marginal VFR with Vog (Volcanic emissions mixed with fog) and fairly low ceilings. After a quick trip down to the Captain Cook memorial we turned around and headed back north. Less than 2 minutes north of the airport we entered an area of light turbulence and high broken cumulus clouds with at least 30 miles of visibility.

Ten minutes later you could see a visible wind shear zone where the wind coming around the north side of the island broke the clouds as cleanly as cutting them off with a knife. Clear blue skies with unlimited visibility mixed with some light chop coming from a mountain wave. Seeing 3 completely different weather patterns and 5 different types of land in 30 minutes by a Cessna 172 is an amazing experience. Unless you are very familiar with the local weather and topography, even good pilots could get themselves into trouble.

The third, and most important, thing I learned is that it felt really good to learn. I think it’s pretty easy for professional pilots and flight instructors to become complacent and believe they don’t need any training when renting something simple.   Private pilots seem to be more interested in seeking out adventures and new training. It’s sometimes hard for professionals to check their ego and seek out someone who is an expert in something they are not. I certainly talked about how I felt silly renting an instructor to “teach me” in a Cessna 172 before I went. I was 100% wrong and can’t tell you enough what a great experience it was.

Check out Mike and his website at www.TropicBirdFlightService.com. I took his Island Adventure Tour for visiting pilots. It will be the best money and time you’ve ever spent for C172 time and the memories will last forever. Flying with a true local expert not only makes you safer, but also provides the best local knowledge in where to fly.

What’s the best extra training you’ve ever taken and why? Let me know in the comments and as always…


Fly Safe!


Gary D Reeves, ATP, MCFI




Gary is a 7,000+ hr ATP and Master Flight Instructor. The 2016 FAA Instructor of the year, WP region, he is also a lead rep for the FAA Safety Team. A well know national public speaker at every major aviation convention he is the only Avidyne National Training Provider and focuses on single pilot IFR with Avidyne and Garmin avionics.

Is your runway too short??

What’s your definition of a short runway? Depends on a lot doesn’t it? I think it depends on the answer to 4 main questions, one of which most pilots don’t answer until after they’ve been hurt in an accident. I think we’re all familiar with the first three questions. What type of aircraft you’re .lying, your takeoff weight and, the density altitude of the departure area. I agree that a 2000 foot runway probably looks short to an airbus, but my Cessna 206 seems to enjoy it. During private pilot training, weight and performance charts are taught, to everyone. Anyone who is qualified to fly in the mountains (defined as having taken professional mountain training), understands how to use a Koch Chart and determine takeoff and climb rates.

So what’s the fourth question? What question would save lives if every pilot asked it before every takeoff? It’s simple. How much runway do you need to land back safely straight ahead after an engine failure at 200-300’ agl? After teaching for over 10 years, mostly in light GA singles, I’ve noticed a widespread fault in aeronautical decision- making(ADM). It’s part of get-there-itis. It’s pretty simple and very common. Pilots asking for a shorter runway by length or intersection and thereby cutting the safety margin they need in a low altitude emergency.

I know that asking for a shorter runway or an intersection takeoff closer to your school or parking is faster. I know it may be easier than taxiing to the full length. I know it may be easier on ATC to keep you on a non-airline runway. What I don’t know is what you will say to the FAA and NTSB when they ask, why after a low altitude accident with major damage and injuries you asked for a shorter runway.

Stop and imagine a catastrophic engine failure at 200 feet. Picture your family in the plane. What do you want to see in your front window? 3000 feet of runway remaining in front of you or, a bunch of buildings and poles with the safety of the runway behind you? I have never had ATC tell me no when I ask for the longer runway. They occasionally say it’s a longer taxi or that I will need to wait for a few minutes to take off, but compared to the safety benefit, that is a very low cost. Look at the picture below and see how a simulated engine failure at 200’ on a long runway gives plenty of room to land safely.


Anyone reading this article is a safe pilot. How do I know? Because if you weren’t interested in safety you wouldn’t be reading it! I hope you’re also open to three suggestions that will help keep your loved ones safe when they fly with you.

One, always ask for full length and if it agrees with the wind the longest runway available.

Two, treat every takeoff as a short field takeoff with holding the brakes and recommended flap settings.

Three, make at least every other landing a short field landing, it will keep you in practice.

In aviation the quicker way is usually not the safer way, remember a longer runway gives you a safety margin and that another five minutes in an airplane is better than five days in the hospital. I’m not saying that I have never taken a shorter runway. I’m just starting to think it’s not the safest decision. What do you think? Is there any safety bene.it to taking a shorter runway? Let me know and as always, Fly Safe!

Gary Reeves is a 7,000+ ATP, the 2016 FAA Instructor of the Year(WP Region), a lead rep for the FAA Safety Team, and a Master CFI. He is best known as a national public speaker on aviation safety for the volunteer group www.PilotSafety.org. He also travels the US providing expert Avidyne, Garmin, and IFR training for www.MasterFlightTraining.com


Alexander Pena!  With over 60 FAA Safety Credits and this winning essay I think you’ll agree we chose wisely!  Alexander receives $750 in cash and training programs for being a real inspiration to other pilots!

Here is his winning essay:

I started flying in 1981 when I was 18 and earned my private in about 7 months with full intentions of immediately pursuing my CFII, and eventually ATP. As with many, life and finances got in the way and the time just slipped away.

When I stopped flying in the 80’s, I had about 120 hours, and it wasn’t till 28 years later when I started flying again. It was always a deep desire to get current again, but the longer I stayed out of flying, the more monumental the task seemed. I am 54 now, and though the dream of a airline flying career are probably behind me, I am convinced that somewhere there must be something I could still do to stay involved in aviation.

Three years ago when my son started becoming interested in flying, I decided that this was the time to stop making excuses, and if I wanted to be part of his experience and share my passion with him, I needed to get myself back into flying. I still didn’t have the finances to support the amount of instruction I felt I probably needed to become current and safe, so I decided to start saving, and in the mean time study as much as I could on my own till I had enough for at least 10 hours minimum of dual lessons, and more realistically 15-20 hours. I first started by re activating my memberships with AOPA and EAA, then started looking into ground school courses. I quickly learned that the price of most professional courses, although very well structured, was more than I could afford at the time, so started looking to alternatives. With the help of the Internet I found the FAASAFETY program, and through it links to many online lessons, webinars and various seminars offered by the FAA, as well as many private organizations offering free course material.

It wasn’t long before I was well on my way to getting reacquainted with all the changes that have occurred in my absence from flying, as well as basic flight fundamentals. I found course selection material from airspace, towered airport operations, weather just to name a few. Also found many safety related ones such as setting personal limits, resource and risk management, and evaluating ones fitness, both mentally and physically to fly, all of which were not taught when I originally learned to fly.

After about a year of self study I talked to a local FBO and signed up for their 10 hour tail wheel course, an endorsement I had always wanted to obtain. I started the course September 2016, and through the patience of the instructors I obtained my tail wheel endorsement and completed my Flight Review in a Super Cub in 18 hours by January 2017. Not having funds to seriously pursue a rating such as Instrument or CFI, I was once again faced with the challenge of how to continue to fly in order to stay proficient enough to be safe, but also to have goals to reach for, that were in my limited financial range.

I turned once again to the FAASafety website, and since I was still actively taking courses and listening to webinars and building credits, (about 50 in the last 24 months, see attached .pdf) I started looking at the flight requirements for the different levels of the Wings program. I then presented the information to my instructor and together created a lesson program that to date has earned me Phase 3 of the Basic Wings, and Phase 1 of both the Advanced and Masters Wings level, and plan on continuing to advance as long as I can.

One of the courses I found on the FAASAFETY program was for a UAS rating which intrigued me since drones are a fast and furious industry, and if I can’t fly for a living, maybe I could get hired to fly UAS’s instead. Since I had recently completed a Flight Review and met all the other requirements with my private certificate I decided to take the course and soon earned a UAS Remote Pilot Rating.

While listening to a EAA webinar I found on the course list on FAASAFETY I learned about the VMC club and the program and it sounded just like something that would help keep me involved in aviation even when I couldn’t fly, but unfortunately there was no such club in

Arizona. I contacted the local chapters in my area and asked if they had considered starting a program but neither were interested or were too busy with other chapter duties. After some soul searching, I contacted EAA and asked about starting a VMC club myself but was told that the club was set up to be part of the local chapter system and needed to coordinate through the chapter. After telling them I already contacted them and was told they weren’t interested. EAA contacted the local chapters on my behalf only to get the same response. As a result, EAA changed the program parameters which allowed me to start a VMC Club independent of the local chapters. I formed the club and arranged to get a CFI to be present at meetings from my Local FBO, and we had our first meeting this last October which was a resounding success, and the perfect platform to promote the faasafety program, and I have recently applied for and have taken the training to be a FAASAFETY Representative in order to provide wings credit as a way of encouraging pilots to stay involved. Our inaugural meeting will be held in December and Radek Wyrzykowski, EAA Manager of Flight Proficiency and founder of the IMC/VMC Clubs will be flying in from New York to be in attendance.

During a pleasure flight I was thinking of other ways I could give back, and seeing many children in the public viewing area watching the planes through the fence and talking about how they wish they could fly in an airplane, I remembered hearing about the EAA Young Eagle Program. I contacted EAA and after completing a background check and few other details and training I earned the privileges of being a Young Eagle Flight Leader. I have given two flights to date, and can say the experience is very rewarding and hope to give many more children the joy of their first flight.

Not sure if an aviation career is possible this late in life, but one thing for certain is I plan on being as active and involved as I can, and give back at every opportunity. Im currently saving for my next rating, Single Engine Sea Plane, which I anticipate to start as soon as funds are saved, and what I would use this PilotSafety.org scholarship to achieve. I am also hoping to take an aerobic course in a Great Lakes that is offered by my local FBO as my next goal following. I now have 175 hours, and no plans on stopping.

Thank you, Alexander Peña

To Autopilot or Hand Fly, that is the question…

Reading a lot of online and magazine articles lately may lead some to believe that modern pilots are using autopilots too much. A lot of instructors teaching IFR and Private Pilot don’t let the students use autopilots at all, until just a little bit at the end. I’d like to offer a different perspective… people should install and use autopilots more! Modern pilots are much safer when they do use autopilots, in fact much safer than hand flying for three big reasons. Before you begin sharpening your pitchforks and planning how to best tear this opinion apart, I’d like you to hear out my reasons first. If you still think I’m wrong, you can always light the torches later.S-TEC_System55X

The biggest reason I would like pilots to use the autopilot more is that they can pay more attention to more important things. I’m not saying flying the plane isn’t important, I’m just saying the pilot’s focus should be on weather, traffic, and other critical situational items more. It’s very easy when you’re focusing on maintaining altitude, course, and heading to miss a radio call, traffic conflict, or even a critical altitude or change in IFR. A good autopilot is especially important for Single Pilot IFR.

The second reason that pilots should use their autopilot more is that it gives them time to get ahead of the airplane instead of just keeping up. It’s a whole lot easier to work your new Avidyne or Garmin GPS,  use ForeFlight or look at XM or FIS-B weather when the robot does the simple stuff. Getting set-up and briefed for an Instrument approach thirty minutes early is a lot safer than holding a plane on course and being too busy later.

The third reason that autopilots should be used more often is simple. We know that it works and makes flying safer! Ask any professional pilot who flies stuff that goes high and fast. Their job is to manage the entire plane and constantly changing situation around them not just hold a course. The airlines know this and that’s why they fly this way. Any GA jet or turboprop certified for single pilot is designed to be flown by the autopilot.

I think everyone will admit that an autopilot can make flying safer, but only if a couple things are true. First, the pilot must understand everything about the autopilot, including limitations and how to recognize and respond to malfunctions. For instance some of the new GA certified autopilots will only track a GPS signal and can’t fly an ILS. Some older autopilots can only hold the wings level. The STEC 55X can do a lot more. Second the pilot must constantly check that the autopilot is doing what you want it to do. Third the pilots must train on a regular basis in how to disconnect and hand fly if any malfunction occurs. That means a lot of training in malfunctions and flying without the autopilot too.

Remember a great autopilot will make you much safer, if you know how to work it and know how to turn it off and hand fly if something goes wrong.

Fly Safe!


Gary Reeves is an ATP and Master Flight, Instrument, and Multi-Engine Instructor. A well-know national speaker, he has over 6,800 hours and was the 2016 FAA Instructor of the Year for the WP Region. Gary is also the Avidyne National Training Provider and offers 3-4 day programs teaching Avidyne and Garmin Avionics in IFR. He is also the Chief Safety Pilot for PilotSafety.org. Contact him at www.MasterFlightTraining.com or www.PilotSafety.org