All posts by Christopher Brown

Still Learning to Fly

A Pilot’s Life

I have been trying for a year or two to set up a class. It would be a graduate seminar, where I, as a pilot at the end of his career, could communicate with pilots just starting out. Not student pilots, but fully licenced pilots beginning their professional careers.

It has not happened. There are any number of reasons why, starting with COVID and my old age.

Fifty years ago, I had the good fortune to join the airline when apprenticeship was still a reality. I shared the cockpit with pilots who had, up to a few years before, been flying the CF-86, the CF-101, and the CF-104. It was a gift of learning I can never repay.

But I would like to try, and the time I have remaining is unknowable. So instead, I am writing a book.

It is called Still Learning to Fly, because I am. I have a Bonanza with 21st Century avionics. I still hold a valid Class I Medical, and a current Instrument Rating and ATPL. For how long? God only knows. But I feel desperate to communicate with pilots who are where I was exactly fifty years ago – in their first flying seat at the airline.

I have been given much. I have worked to bring the best of me to my vocation. I have known joy in my trade. So I have to try to pass on some of it.

Still Learning to Fly is about you. For you, about you, dedicated to you. I want to talk to you, but I want, even more, to hear your young voices.

Announcing the Airline Admission Preparation Course

Updated 11 October 2021

For Whom? is launching a new Airline Admission Preparation Course. This course is for pilots who have completed their Canadian Commercial Licence with Instrument and Multi-Engine Ratings and who are aiming for an airline career.

The course is a bridge between Flight School Graduation and the Interview and Simulator Check at the airline.


The newly-rated pilot wants to be hired by the airline of her choice. The Flight School wants to help that happen for its graduates. The Airline wants candidates who have the poise and confidence to pass their checks and move on to the admission courses and a successful career at the airline. Still Learning to Fly wants to pass on to the next generation of airline pilots the knowledge and experience of pilots who have had airline careers or military flying careers or both.

How is the Course Going to Work?

  • The classes will be seminars because the participants are all graduates with CPL, ME, and IFR
  • The classes will begin as sessions on ZOOM
  • Study and Reference Material will be emailed to participants
  • COVID permitting, as the program develops the sessions may be moved to an in-person venue in the Montreal area.
  • Piloting Techniques will be practiced in C-FQRV, a 1961 N-35 Bonanza

What is a Seminar?

  • The dictionary definition of seminar begins: a group of advanced students studying a subject . . . and all exchanging results of their research . . .
  • The Socratic Method is based on asking and answering questions to stimulate critical thinking and to draw out ideas and underlying assumptions.


Chris’s Bonanza, C-FQRV, is equipped with an Aspen P1000-Pro Primary Flight Display, a Garmin GTN-650 WAAS GPS, and a JPI EDM-830 Engine Display. It is an ideal platform for practicing the piloting techniques taught in the course, which will enable candidates to transition smoothly from light aircraft to transport category aircraft.


Purpose of CPL/IFR Seminars

Bonjour à tous,

Je voudrais vous dire que vous êtes tous de bons pilotes.

Vous avez chacun, dans l’imagination, une idée de comment vous faites la bonne exécution que vous faites. Ce n’est pas ma place de critiquer ou de vous dire que votre façon d’y penser n’est pas bien fondé. Au contraire – je vous félicite.

Instead, my role is to help you expand the range of tools you already have. I know from my experience (I first soloed in 1966) that while hours are important, they are not a guarantee that a pilot is still learning. And when I look back, I am frankly embarrassed by how much I have learned since I retired from Air Canada in 2004. Put another way, that is how much I didn’t know back then. It is a long list. It still is.

En pilotant en équipe avec d’autres pilotes, comme premier officier, commandant, ou instructeur, je suis toujours impressionné par la quantité et la variété des façons d’y penser. Ça devient évident très vite qu’il y ont bien de façons d’y penser. Mon rôle est de partager ce que j’ai appris des autres pilotes.

The questions in what to share are – is this useful? Does it work consistently? Have you had any success thus far in passing this along?

There is another question: is this true? That’s a much more difficult question. For that we have philosophy and the Scientific Method. Even there, though, truth is elusive. If you examine the Scientific Method, you might come away with the idea that it proves not what is true, but rather what works.

Let me give you an example from ground school – the textbooks give us four explanations for why we need right rudder in a climb in a single-engine airplane:

  • Torque

  • Gyroscopic effect

  • Spiral slipstream

  • P-factor

Are these all true? Are they all phenomena that exist?

Yes. But it is worth it to go back to those diagrams and ask some questions, paying particular attention to:

  • This would cause movement about which axis?

  • Is this a useful model for a pilot (does it predict exactly when I will need right rudder and how much?)

You will find that these explanations are all nice to know about. But they are not all equally useful. Gyroscopic effect, for example, is something you need to keep in mind if you are in a tailwheel aircraft and lifting the tail during the takeoff roll. With clockwise prop rotation the airplane will take a dart to the left – especially so if the prop is big and heavy, like on a WW2 fighter. This gyroscopic effect is the result of changing the axis of rotation of the prop, and is in addition to other factors doing the same thing, like a left crosswind or P-factor.

So your job as a pilot is to look through these diverse explanations to find what is useful for you, and in what situation it will be useful for you.

Donc mon rôle dans ces séminaires CPL/IFR est d’étendre et d’élargir votre répertoire d’outils et d’idées. Mon critère est toujours es-ce utile? Es-ce que ça me donne le moyens de faire plus précis mon pilotage?

Je vous remercie tous de votre participation et de vos contributions.

À vendredi !


CLASS of 11 Feb 2020

Hello All,

The links to the practice exam (TP 13014) are on under PPL Timeline and References.  Please print out a copy in the language of your choice. We will start the class Tuesday with a brief look at the first 10 questions.
Then we will look at how to actually fly a cross-country flight. What is Navigation, anyway?
See you Tuesday,