Jul 26th

How to find Trike instructor or trike pilots near you.

By Paul Hamilton

Always being called from people who are looking for trike pilots and instructors near them.

I send them to


Please send people here to find the most updated pilots/CFIs, add your self to the map, and let me know if this represents your area. People are especially looking for flight instructors to get started. I personally do my best to keep this updated with the most accurate information.

e mail me at paul@SportAviationCenter.com if you have any updates.


May 30th

How to avoid a tuck/tumble, power on stalls, whip stall avoidence

By Paul Hamilton


To start out, what is "attitude"?


 There are two types of attitude for avoiding a tuck/tumble:


1. Pilot attitude - mental decision making which can prevent whip stalls/tuck/tumble and


2. Aircraft attitude which we will talk about here - the position of the aircraft as determined by the relationship of its axis and a reference, usually the earth's horizon.


 Simply, aircraft attitude which we will cover here is the angle the aircraft is with the earth's horizon.


 For those of you newbees concerned with this, you can easily avoid the details here by using your mental attitude for tuck/tumble avoidance by:


1. Flying within the manufacturers limitations,


2. Flying in milder conditions/good weather,


3 Obtaining the proper training in pitch stability.


 This is just another tool for the toolbox where we will be discussing the aircraft high and low attitude avoidance specifics.


 Whip stalls, which result from a very high pitch attitude (nose high) can be avoided simply by keeping this pitch attitude down. Please reference a high and low pitch attitude in the FAA Weight-Shift Control Flying Handbook Figure 2-8 for a visual of aircraft high and low pitch attitude. Additionally there Is a Whip stall/tuck/tumble sequence figure 6-23.


 The goal for all of us is to not get into a situation where the pitch attitude is extremely high or low.


 Generally the nose up pitch attitude will result in about the same nose down attitude. Example: If your nose up attitude gets to 45 degrees, this will result in a nose down attitude of about 45 degrees. Nose up 60 degrees, nose down 60 degrees etc....


 Generally to avoid a tuck/tumble you simply keep the aircraft attitude within manufacturers limitations typically 30 to 45 degrees nose up/down.


 So how do we minimize the nose up attitude to minimize the nose down attitude?


 This was not covered very well in the  FAA Weight-Shift Control Flying Handbook so here is an effort to provide guidance to all future trike pilots.


 Tumble avoidance will be broken down here into 3 separate phases.


 PHASE 1. Nose up - for one reason or another. Wind shear, pilot induced, etc.


PHASE 2. Stall and initial rotation nose down.


PHASE 3. Low pitch attitude headed for the ground.


 The important phase for all of us is to know what to do in these 3 separate phases.


 First the basic physics of increasing and reducing aircraft attitude. As a pilot, you have control over the bar and the throttle.


 If you want a higher nose attitude you:






 If you want a lower nose attitude:






 Let's look at each phase described above:


PHASE 1. Nose up - for one reason or another. Wind shear, pilot induced, etc.


If you feel the nose going up for one reason or another you should reduce the aircraft attitude by simultaneously:






This are the corrective actions to reduce the nose high attitude.


 PHASE 2. Stall and initial rotation from high pitch attitude to low pitch attitude.


OK this is where timing is critical. You should/would have the bar in from the previous PHASE 1. The instant you feel a stall or the nose start to rotate down, immediately and without hesitation,


GO TO FULL THROTTLE to minimize rotation down and push out on the bar. Hopefully at this point you bring the bar to neutral and resume normal flight.


 PHASE 3. Low pitch attitude headed for the ground.


If you keep rotating down, keep the bar out and full throttle until you level out and resume normal flight. If you have gained speed in the dive and the nose starts to shoot up go back to PHASE 1, pull in the bar and let off the throttle.


This is the basic procedure for preventing the tuck/tumble.


I have heard that some say to go to full throttle in a climb to avoid a tuck/tumble. This is partly true but the "timing" in PHASE 2 is the important factor that must be understood. Do not go to full throttle in a climb when the nose is going up or you will increase pitch attitude and make things worse. Only get on the throttle as you start to rotate from the high pitch attitude (nose up) to the lower pitch attitude (nose down).


Mar 31st

Two Used Revos ready to go for spring

By Paul Hamilton

Right now I have two used Revos in stock.


My demo N66PH which has about 350 hours and customized for my operation with heating, camera/video mount with GoPro sound wired into the com system. Great condition and beautiful trike. Ready for personal or commercial flight instruction. I am currently getting the new Revo Fuel injected ready for my personal use so I will be parting with this beauty


Just got a 25 hour "Like new" fuel injected back from a customer who has decided to pursue different interests. This is a great deal.


See for details and pricing:


So if you are thinking about a Revo, here are a couple of great options

Mar 13th

More trike CFI's needed.

By Paul Hamilton




One of the best ways to promote triking is to take people up and get paid for it. Intro flights and primary training. A new way of life. I started it as a full time job 5 years ago and it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Each day is "Another day in paradise".




Join in and live the dream.


Feb 18th

Airplane pilot transitioning to trike - lessons learned

By Paul Hamilton

This is a complete excert from web site http://sportpilottraining.sportaviationcenter.com/pilot-training-cost/transition-trike/

that might help everyone understand about transitioning from airplane to trike........



There are two ways to transition to weight-shift control (WSC) LSA (light-sport aircraft) trike.

You can go for the “adding a category” at the sport pilot level which is being trained by one CFI and than taking a proficiency check with another CFI per 61.321. Here there are no minimum hours required, no knowledge test, no solo and it is a logbook endorsement for an additional category. An FAA 8710-11 form is sent into the FAA to add this to your current pilot certificate. Even if you are a private pilot or ATP airplane, you must fly with the sport pilot limitations of 61.315 except you do not need any of the airspeed or airspace endorsements as specified in 61.303.

It must be noted that if you add a category per 61.321, this does not count as a flight review because it is NOT adding an additional rating, it is adding a log book endorsement same as adding a tail wheel endorsement. So as ridiculous as it might seem,  if you are not current as a pilot and you do a proficiency check to add the WSC trike to your airplane private pilot certificate, you need to do a flight review in the trike (or airplane) to be current as a pilot.

Also note you do not have to solo to add a category per 61.321.

You can also go for the Private Pilot WSC Trike. This is almost like starting from scratch. It is like adding a new private pilot category such as helicopter. You need all the 20 hours dual training in WSC plus 10 hours of solo plus all of the cross country requirements per 61.109 (j). You get a break with no knowledge test required. This gives you the privileges of a private pilot for the trike without the limitations of the sport pilot.

We have the capability to do either here at Sport Aviation Center. We have two trike CFI’s for the sport pilot proficiency check option, and two private pilot CFI’s and a private pilot examiner (Paul Hamilton).

How long does it take for an airplane pilot to transition to a WSC trike?

Trike controls are different than the three axis airplane. New skills/habits must be learned by the airplane pilot. It is very different at first for an airplane pilot because you take away the thin walls that provide a false sense of security of being inside something, you take away the horizon reference the pilot usually uses to control the aircraft, than you reverse all the controls so nothing is familiar. It is like learning to ride a motorcycle after just driving a car. We can all do it it is simply different.

Typically, airplane pilots feel disoriented for the first 20 minutes, and must “think” about the movements for the first hours of flight. But it is very interesting how some pilots pick it up really quick and others it takes a while. This large variance in how quick an airplane pilot feels comfortable flying a trike is not easily explained. The “danger zone” for an airplane pilot is the time between when they feel comfortable flying the trike and when the correct body motion habits are developed for flying in bumps. Some pilots can feel comfortable flying a trike in as little at 5 hours in calm air, but it typically takes at least 20 to 50 hours for the proper habits to be developed to instinctively do the right pitch and roll movements in bumpy air when things get challemging.

The dreaded “control reversal” unfortunately is common for airplane pilots transitioning to trikes.

The main danger is flying close to the ground in bumps where pushing out to slow up and increase pitch angle and pulling in to speed up to reduce pitch is critical. Some pilots pick it up quickly, others take longer. It is a matter of learning to “fly the wing” rather than move and coordinate the controls. It is in those “moments of truth” when airplane pilots get pitched up or down when the old airplane control habits may come out and cause a problem.  The shortest flight hours for a pilot to transition from airplane to trike has been 8 hours and the longest has been 25 hours. Even as it may appear the airplane pilot is doing great in the trike, we always make sure to fly in bumps to assure the transitioning pilot does not still have this “control reversal” deep in his/her brain.

We highly recommend any transitioning airplane pilot fly at least 30 hours in calm air before flying in the bumps.

I have found that 150 to 500 hour airplane pilots take the longest to learn. ATP, helicopter and jet pilots appear to pick it up quicker. Perhaps the low to medium time airplane pilots are still trying to think about the movements and the body language habits are highly ingrained. The high time pilots fly more by feel of the aircraft.

A number of analogies used that work on most airplane pilots are:

  • It is like the stick is on the top of the wing and you are controlling it from the bottom
  • it is like driving the car with your hands on the bottom of the wheel rather than the top.
  • It is like a motorcycle, pull in/lower your self to resist drag and speed up, push out to go slow, sit up and cruise
  • Move/pull your self in the direction you want to go
  • The wing is in your hand, there are no controls

Usually one of the above assists in airplane pilots transitioning to trikes.

Overall, the best way to transition is to get the DVD’s and watch them and start to visualize that to do before you start doing it. This visualization usually is a big help in reducing the time it takes to transition.

Training materials for a transition trike pilot are:

  • Training Syllabus and Workbook Weight Shift Control Trike
  • FAA Weight Shift Control aircraft Flying Handbook
  • Weight-Shift Control Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge
  • Learn to fly a trike DVD
  • Sport Pilot Checkride book

All these can be found at www.pilot-stores.com

How do we go through the training process?

Typically, we follow the training syllabus of a new pilot learning to fly. This provides the most efficient procedure for transition pilots.

What do you get when you complete a proficiency check to add a trike to your private/commercial/ATP pilot certificate?

After you complete your proficiency check, 8710-11 paperwork is sent into the FAA and they send you a new pilot certificate with the added category and you get a log book endorsement for the added category/class by the instructor who performed the proficiency check.

Feb 4th

An Epic day part 2. Heather shows up to get her hours for private pilot .

By Paul Hamilton

Some background. Heather Davis from Petaluma CA is an incredibly talented pilot. She started out hang gliding and has evolved to triking. Besides flying in the USA, she has flown trikes in Europe.  Starting out with a hang glider pilot background, I feel, is better than starting out with a GA airplane background for transitioning to trikes.  


Heather contacted me and wants to get her private pilot trike. Her first training session we went onto Reno Class C airspace for the airspace endorsement, did the spiral recovery, full power stalls, nasty air  cross wind landings (not by choice).  I may as well go to sleep in the back. Heather had this all figured out. We burned off some productive hours and our first flight she got her Towered Airspace endorsement. Bad weather for a month or so.


She calls back and wants to "get more hours" for the private. My confidence as a CFI is incredibly high with Heather so how do I challenge her to  make this "get more hours"  productive?


The first DAY she came was epic for this. CLOUDS. Perfect for flying in the high Sierra's with decisions on how to fly in the mountains and deal with clouds.  



Story will be in the pictures. Enjoy

Jan 30th

An Epic Day Flying Trikes Part 1 First Flight

By Paul Hamilton

The story starts at the Reno Air Races September 2015. Two beautiful woman approach the booth and ask about this Revo trike and become very enthusiastic about flying. Visiting nurses. No solid reservations. They will call. Yea. 


Surprisingly I get a call about the visiting nurses who want to go up. We book. First attempt we schedule, and it looks good but when they show up it is cranking out of the south not predicted. I have to send them home. Disappointment for all.


The second attempt I was able to predict to call it off the night before and nobody drive down because  a strong storm was coming through. Even then it was canceled they were unhappy since it was there on day off together and they had to scrap it.


Third attempt. Everything looked OK, winds 20 to 26 at 9000 so it is flyable. Nice inversion below 7000. We get there and it is completely calm at the airport  and the mountain top measured winds at 10,000 MSL were 30 gusting to 45. Typically I call it off at 30 to 35 knots at 10,000 measured. I had to call it off when it was calm on the ground. Hard to do. They were almost insistent on going up and a agreed but said it would be nasty. Disappointment for the third time. First time I have ever had to cancel someone three times.


They decided to book separately now since their schedules were hard to coordinate.  Well finally, the winds looked calm but there was fog and low lying clouds. We took off not knowing whether we could even make it to Tahoe. Looked like a nice passage under the clouds but anything could change.


Got through and climbed up and got above the clouds.


Yea. Sunshine. Clouds and mission 1 accomplished by getting to Tahoe.


Now to get down through the higher layer and the lower layer.


Looks good.


We descended on down and was able to scoot under the lower layer and skin the dry lake bed.


Her comments I will remember "this is like being in Heaven" and "Now I know why you do this. The best thing I have ever done"



We finished at 9:30 and I have the lovely and talented Heather Davis from Petaluma scheduled to fly the rest of the day.

Dec 31st

2015 Year Triking Review

By Paul Hamilton

From my perspective, it has been another great year for Triking. Larry continues to Evolve the Revo with many new upgrades and introduced another great addition to triking, the ultralight REV. Abid continues to support the Apollo line plus continues to supply the Delta Jet 2, a great option for a USA supplied/supported trike. P&M introduced the PulsR and the "British" dominated the world games.  Thanks to our one USA entrant to the world games 2015 by team USA Todd Ware the USA had a significant presence. The Brits currently provide great exposure through the world games.


 Also we must congratulate Henry TrikeLife for getting his CFI, transitioning to a Revo and getting people interested ion triking through his videos. Henry is a big asset to triking. My other Henry Boger  trike friend, from Pacific Blue Air  LA, has been providing an incredible number of  intro flights that introduce people to triking. It was almost exactly two years ago he came up for his trike CFI and has been a huge success in southern California.


As far as safety, We were able to get spiral dive awareness (thanks to Henry and Larry again) to a new level and start the process to get spiral dive recovery into the FAA PTS.  


Thanks to all those others introducing those to triking in one way or another and providing a POSIIVE  influence for triking . Many who are not mentioned here. We are all lucky to have industry experts/professionals as well as new bees providing positive input for the form of aviation we love.


Any other accomplishments/progress for 2015 you feel are significant please include.


My best to all for a great 2015 and the upcoming 2016.


May the positive trike force be with you....



Paul Hamilton

Oct 12th

LSA Repairman: Maintenance or Inspection Rating? by Carol Carpenter

By Paul Hamilton

For those who are iterested in the course:


The Light-Sport Rule establishes a new repairman certificate with two ratings (Ref: 14CFR §65.107): Inspection and Maintenance.

There is only one repairman certificate, but two ratings: The “repairman (light sport) with an Inspection rating” (LSRI) and the “Repairman (light-sport aircraft)—Maintenance rating.” (LSRM) The inspection rating is available by attending a 16 hour, two day repairman course. The maintenance rating is only available by attending a much longer 80-120 hour Repairman course.



Experimental Light Sport Aircraft

As a sport pilot flying an ELSA for pleasure, you only need the 16 hour inspection course. Classes are normally schedule on the weekend and offered across the country Successful completion of  the LSA Repairman Inspection course, allows you to apply for an FAA Repairman Certificate for any  Experimental Light Sport Aircraft  which you own or one you purchase  in the future. (Note: this does not apply to Experimental Amateur Built)  Once the aircraft is listed on your repairman certificate, you are allowed to do the condition inspection each year. You do not have to be the builder. You simply have to have successfully completed the 16 hour training course for LSA Repairman Inspection in the assigned “class” of the selected

course (airplane, weight shift, powered parachute, glider, gyroplane, or lighter-than-air). There is no expiration date on the certificate of course completion. You do not need to currently own an ELSA.

 (There isn’t any authorization required to perform the maintenance on experimental aircraft.) However, if you fly two different class of aircraft, say, airplane and weight shift, then you will have to take one 16 hour inspection course for weight shift and another 16 hour inspection course for airplane.

The good news: There are no renewal requirements for your certificate, once you earn it, and there are no limits on how many aircraft in the select class you may own. Additionally, all maintenance is already allowed. There is no requirement for a repairman certificate to perform maintenance on your E-LSA. This is important because after your ELSA is certificated you  will have one year until you need to have completed the required repairman inspection course. (It is easy to schedule a 16 hour inspection course at your location. Rainbow Aviation travels with the course based on demand.)


Special Light Sport Aircraft


Owners of a Special Light Sport Aircraft (SLSA) must attend at 15 day workshop (15 day/120 hrs).  Successful completion of the Repairman Maintenance Rating allows you to perform the maintenance, the annual condition inspection, and the 100 hour inspections (required only for aircraft used for hire)  on any Special Light Sport Aircraft and or any Experimental Light Sport Aircraft in the assigned “class” of the selected Course. This is an FAA approved workshop and an FAA certificate is issued after successful completion. You do not have to own the aircraft. You do not even need to be a pilot and you may charge for your services.


Unlike the Repairman-Inspection rating, a person with the Repairman-Maintenance rating can perform maintenance and inspections on anyone’s S-LSAor E-LSA and charge for his/her services. For this reason, he is sometimes referred to as a “Sport

Mechanic.” There are no prerequisites for the training course. In fact, a Repairman with a

Maintenance rating need not even be a pilot.

However, the Repairman with a maintenance rating may not perform the annual inspection on amateur built aircraft or standard certificated aircraft- only Light Sport Aircraft.

The S-LSA repairman maintenance rating training course is designed using modules of

instruction that can be customized to the specific class of S-LSA the repairman will

maintain. There are three required “core” modules, and five elective “class” modules. The minimum training time for each class is:

Airplane: 120 hours, Weight Shift: 104 hours,

and Powered Parachute: 104 hours. Participants may take the three core modules and add an “elective.”

Below is a list of the modules pertinent to the

various class of LSA.

Core Modules:

Module 1 (16 hours) Regulatory

Module 2 (35 hours) Airframe

Module 3 (45 hours) Engine

Electives Modules:

Module 4 (24 hours) Airplane class

Module 5 (19 hours) Weight Shift

Module 6 (19 hours) Powered Chute

Module 7 (64 hours) Lighter-than-air

Module 8 (40 hours) Glider

For example, if a person attends a course to

obtain a Repairman-Maintenance rating to work on airplanes, he/she would take a 120-hour course consisting of modules 1, 2, 3, and 4. If he later wanted authorization to work on weight shift aircraft, he would only need to take module number 5. If he was only interested in weight shift, he would take 1,2,3,and 5. Unfortunately, if someone takes a 16-hour course before taking a 120-hour course he/she does not get any credit for having taken the 16-hour course. Interested in a new career? The job opportunities for the repairman with a maintenance rating are huge. Light Sport manufacturers and dealers in the light sport industry will all require a LSRM. Additionally, flight schools will need LSRM for the required 100 hour inspections. Not to mention the opportunities for new Light Sport Maintenance facilities. Also, there are other little known- advantages available to a Repairman with a maintenance rating:

The repairman may also keep a portfolio of

his work and apply for authorization to take theA&P written and practical exams for general aviation after working in the field for 30 +months under his/her own supervision.

Additionally, the LSRM is a stepping-stone to the DAR (Designated Airworthiness Representative.)

For more information on the repairman

courses or transitioning your ultralight before

the deadline visit Rainbow Aviation Services

website at www.rainbowaviation.com or email

info@rainbowaviation.com, call Carol Carpenter

at 530-824-0644.



Sep 12th

What do we call ourselves to avoid mid air collisions?

By Paul Hamilton


I have been using "Light Sport Trike" for reporting in the pattern at non towered airports with last three digits of my N number when there are more than one trike in the pattern. Short, sweet everyone is used to it.


I remember someone using "Delta" which is almost more descriptive. Almost ready to use "Light Sport Delta".


 What do others use announcing in the pattern for trikes?  This is a project I have been working on which I finally released to the local FAA FSDO and the airport manager. Would like to get some descriptive terms for trikes  as I move forward implementing this to hopefully the highest levels.


Any one is welcome to use this for their airport. It has been well received. Most CFI's and pilots have the same concern.

What descriptive phraseology would standardize us triker's?


Here it is:


Recommendations for safer operations at CXP reducing the probability of  midair collisions.




To increase safety at CXP airport, it is recommended that aircraft descriptive phraseology be implemented with CTAF so pilots can identify the type (profile and speed) of aircraft conducting operations at CXP. This will decrease the possibility of midair collisions.


This can be accomplished by promoting more descriptive phraseology of aircraft types with the AF/D, AWOS, airport website, utilizing posters at the airport, handouts to students and pilots during their flight review, and CFI's/pilot's simply asking for the aircraft type if not provided with radio transmissions. Additionally having two safety meetings, first with active CFI's and second pilots operating at the airport at the direction of the FAAST Team.


Although this first step is targeted specifically at the non-towered airport in Carson City (CXP), the goal is to implement these procedures nationally and be incorporated into FAA recommendations/procedures. This is a paradigm shift for many pilots and CFI's at non towered airports.


The problem will be defined, best practices discussed, examples provided, phraseology suggested and specific implementation steps recommended.


Profile of Midair Collisions


Studies of midair collisions reveal certain definite warning patterns. It may be surprising to learn that nearly all midair collisions occur during daylight hours and in VFR conditions. Perhaps not so surprising is that the majority happen within five miles of an airport, in the areas of greatest traffic concentration, and usually on warm weekend afternoons when more pilots are doing more flying.


Not What You Might Expect

Also surprising, perhaps, is the fact that the closing speed (rate at which two aircraft come together) is relatively slow, usually much slower than the airspeed of either aircraft. In fact, the majority of in-flight collisions are the result of a faster aircraft overtaking and hitting a slower plane.

Statistics on 105 in-flight collisions that occurred from 1964 to 1968 show that 82 percent had convergence angles associated with one aircraft overtaking another. Specifically, 35 percent were from 0 to 10 degrees - straight from behind. Only 5 percent were from a head-on angle. These numbers, plus the fact that 77 percent occurred at or below 3,000 feet (with 49 percent at or below 500 feet) imply accurately that in-flight collisions generally occur in the traffic pattern and primarily on final approach. Collisions occurring enroute generally are at or below 8,000 feet and within 25 miles of an airport.


Above "Profile of Midair Collisions" exert from FAA document

 How to Avoid a Mid Air Collision - P-8740-51

Communication safety deficiencies at CXP and non-ATC operations


There are two basic communication problems for operations at non-ATC airports.


·       First, there are no requirements for radio use at non ATC airports. This is a known safety deficiency, but this issue will not be addressed in this recommendation. This document will address increasing safety by reducing midair collision probability for those using radios.


·       Second, there is little official guidance, or published procedures that are utilized for safe operations at non-ATC airports for pilots using radios. Lacking any guidance, many use ATC phraseology at non-ATC airports. This is unsafe for a number of reasons that will be described here. Safe operating procedures and phraseology with ATC is completely different than self announce procedures at non towered airports.


It is easiest to explain the basic safety deficiency with radio use with some actual examples:


Example 1.

I was in my light-sport aircraft taking off and climbing at 70 knots and hear "One two three Alpha, (generic call signs used here) ten miles  out, will be entering a downwind". For typical operations, I would be well ahead of most aircraft while conducting closed pattern operations. I announce cross wind and then after my mid field downwind announcement I hear " One two three Alpha, downwind, no contact". So in other words,  he must be coming up in back of me and he cannot see me. Soon to my right and slightly above a jet passes closer than I like, especially if he cannot see me.  I responded "have a visual on the jet and will follow you in".


So here we have a jet pilot using the ATC N number as his complete "call sign" phraseology to identify himself with no indication of type of aircraft/profile to look for or speed to anticipate his whereabouts. N number only, as he usually does with ATC after his initial contact where the type of aircraft, profile and speed is communicated and established. This was an unnecessary close call and almost a midair collision. If he had simply said "jet" or "Cessna citation" I would have altered my course closer to the runway with a tighter pattern and expected him to be there when he was so I could be looking for him to use basic "see and avoid" techniques. Any indication that this was a fast aircraft besides just his N Number would have avoided this incident and a possible midair collision.


Example 2.

I overheard this conversation over the radio while flying. A CFI I know was doing pattern work at CXP airport. He reports mid field, downwind and I hear someone report "Carson traffic, Cessna two three bravo, starting a forty five for a downwind". No indication of type (model) of aircraft or speed. This appeared to be a normal sequencing into the pattern. Soon after, I heard "Two three bravo, downwind". The CFI  immediately said "Skyhawk, one nine Charlie, just past midfield downwind no contact".  The reply was "Two three bravo, no contact, will do a 360 for spacing" apparently trying to stay in back of  the Skymaster one nine Charlie.  Next I hear the "Skyhawk turning base" and the other aircraft announces "on base, no contact". He must have blasted by the Skyhawk because the Skyhawk said shortly after, "Have a visual on the twin because you just went by me". Knowing now this was a twin since the Skyhawk identified it as such makes sense.  It was a twin traveling much faster . The twin asked the Skyhawk "I did not see you how close was I?"  The Skyhawk responds "about 400 feet".


Again,  we have a fast aircraft using ATC procedures at a non towered airport, N number only, as he usually does with ATC after his initial contact (where ATC gets his aircraft type/speed). Again, there was another unnecessary close call, almost a mid air collision. If he had simply said "twin" the Skyhawk could have known where to look or altered course to avoid this incident. Additionally the twin should have been more situationally  aware and done a wider pattern rather than try to get in tight with the slower Cessna.  Again, anything besides just his N number would have been helpful to the Skyhawk with this incident.


Above, we have two examples of actual incidents where the incoming pilots were following the intent of ATC AIM communication procedures that resulted in near misses where better descriptive phraseology of the aircraft type/speed would have provided better safety for both pilots, their passengers, and the general public on the ground.


Pilots and CFI's using ATC practices at non towered airports


Another example will be used to emphasize the problem of how engrained ATC procedures are at non towered airports:


There were two aircraft flying around the pattern doing touch and goes at CXP. We were keeping track of each other and coordinating very well. I was reporting my aircraft model as "Sling", the other aircraft was reporting their identity as only the full "N number". It looked like a typical Cessna high wing Skyhawk or similar. I was training a student getting ready for his first solo when someone came on the CXP  CTAF 123.00 and said:


"No one knows what a Sling is, please use your tail number".


This really surprised me. Saying my N number would not provide any more information on the aircraft type nor provide any greater safety in this situation.


Following this incident, I conducted research to try to understand the thought process and what would motivate someone who was not flying to exhibit such behavior on a CTAF to someone who was flying. I called the local FSDO and discussed this issue. I called FAA safety experts in Oklahoma City and discussed this issue. I talked with seasoned CFI's and pilots. The best explanation I could get as to why some in the industry only uses the N number and not the more logical type of aircraft to identify themselves was simply "it is a habit because what is what I have always done".

Some CFI's believe it is good practice for operating with ATC. Again, operations at non towered airports and ATC is completely different and both should be practiced/trained independently.


For non ATC operations it is best if everyone knows the aircraft type/profile and speed so they can more easily predict where the aircraft is and what to look for to make sure and not confuse it with another aircraft.


The problem is that almost all the AIM Chapter 4, Air Traffic Control procedures is for towered operation and pilots are typically trained to use this phraseology for non-ATC. There is little guidance in the AIM for non towered operations except AIM 4-1-9  recommending some phraseologies that include the model and full N number. This is better than just the N number in the incidence/examples above, but from typical ATC procedures and experience, pilots are dropping the model of aircraft for non ATC operations.  Unfortunately a number does not help anybody in the pattern identify the type/profile/speed of aircraft for safe operation.


I cannot count the number of times I have witnessed someone, including me, who is identifying the wrong aircraft when only the N number is being used and no aircraft type is given.  


Current practices used for non-towered air traffic control


Research of existing practices, presented below, provide the  basis for using primarily the type of aircraft and second the N number so it can be easily identified by other aircraft in the pattern or in other non ATC aircraft operations.


Here is some background and research on this subject:


There are a couple of FAA Advisory Circulars AC 90-66A, AC 91-42F both which are older than 12 years on this subject. Both are before the growing light-sport aircraft/sport pilot rule was enacted. Both of these are little help for modern communication phraseology practices.


FAA AIM 4-1-9 has some recommended self announce practices that use the model and full N number.  This is commonly used and appropriate especially if there are more than one type of aircraft, such as a Skyhawk in the pattern training. Typically the N number is shortened to the last three characters. Unfortunately, since everyone has the habit of using only the last three characters of the N number for ATC operations, typically the type of aircraft is dropped to shorten the call and we are left with no type of aircraft for visual reference and speed.



FAA publication "RUNWAY SAFETY A Best Practices Guide to Operations and Communications" has a section, page 13 and 14, for non-towered airports and it recommends specifically:

Beginning of FAA brochure quote:

Radio Communications Format

● Identify the airport you are calling

● State your aircraft make, model and call sign (you may also want to identify your aircraft color)

● State your position and your intentions

● Repeat the airport name at the end of your transmission

End of FAA brochure quote

Actual brochure:



Here the FAA have added make and possibly color to the AIM 4-1-9 so other aircraft can identify your aircraft. I think color is helpful if you are not the standard white. Red, yellow, blue, black, green are distinctive colors.


AOPA Air Safety Institute (ASI) Safety Advisor Operations and Proficiency No. 3 provides solid advice on this topic. The following is quoted when it comes to their recommendations on phraseology Page 5 which I support and agree.


Beginning of AOPA quote:

• When you transmit, begin by stating the name of the airport, followed by the model of your aircraft (Skyhawk, Cherokee, Bonanza, etc.) and the last three alphanumerics of the aircraft N number.

• It's common practice for pilots of homebuilt and other aircraft certificated in the experimental category to identify their airplanes as “experimental.” There is a tremendous performance differential between a Lancair and a Baby Ace. Likewise, an RV-4 silhouette is altogether different from an Acro Sport. In order to aid identification and predict performance, ASF recommends that all traffic-pattern announcements include the aircraft type.


It’s more important for pilots to know what kind of airplane you’re flying than to know your complete call sign. Knowing the model of airplane will help other pilots plan their pattern flight relative to you.

The abbreviated version of your call sign takes up less of valuable air time. It’s also easier for other pilots to remember a short call sign if they need to request an update on your position.

End of AOPA quote


Complete AOPA document:



It is inferred by AOPA that both the call sign and experimental can both be eliminated (except if more than one model is in the pattern, then the last three digits of the N number/call sign should be used to keep track of more than one model aircraft). Specifics will be discussed in the call to action section later in this document.


Oshkosh Operations:

Experienced ATC volunteers control aircraft visually for operations of many aircraft coming into Oshkosh.  It should be noted that these procedures have evolved over the years for visual aircraft identification.


There is allot of dialog but some highlights will be provided below relevant to visual ID of aircraft.

Beginning of Oshkosh quotes:

Aircraft identification type & color


·        If the controller is familiar with your type, we may be more specific.


·        "Taildragger" - Conventional landing gear (with tail wheel).

·        "Tricycle Gear" - Nosedragger

·        "High wing taildragger" or "Red and white low wing" or "Yellow biplane" or even "Low wing with wig wag lights", etc.  

If you reach Fisk and ATC has not authorized you to proceed beyond Fisk to the airport, contact ATC on 120.7 stating your type, "Red and White Skyhawk", your location, etc.....

From this outdoor vantage point, utilizing binoculars and a radio the Fisk controller team uses their combined ATC experience to locate you, visually identify your type and possibly color, etc...

End of Oshkosh quotes

Complete EAA website :



Oshkosh FAA  2015 NOTUM quote

Controllers will call your aircraft by color and type (if known).


Note the results here for Oshkosh aircraft identification is type and color. No N numbers are used for visual identification.



Call to action recommendations to increase safety at CXP


1. Add a statement on Carson AWOS to ask all pilots to provide their type of aircraft when communicating at CXP for the safety of all.


2.   Add a simple statement in the CXP AF/D  to ask all pilots to provide their type of aircraft when communicating at CXP for the safety of all.


3. Call a FAAST safety meeting of active flight instructors operating at CXP to discuss this new safety initiative and discuss any fine tuning that should be accomplished. Follow with a pilot meeting.


4. Posters at the airport


5. CFI's provide handouts to students learning and handouts to pilots getting a flight review.


6. In practice, if you hear only the N number, ask for aircraft type (I have done this a number of times and some get bent out of shape but I consider it necessary for safety).


7. Add a simple statement in the Carson City airport website to ask all pilots to provide their type of aircraft as top priority for communicating at CXP for the safety of all.


Recommended Aircraft Type Phraseology Examples


In implementing specific phraseology there are many variations of which will be controversial and debated past our time. Please understand our common goal - In our unified recommendations for safety, what is the best priority of Phraseology to obtain the optimum level of safety. We all may drop something, so what is the priority to make sure we provide and what should we drop based on priority and simply reducing the less said to provide  the type, color, N number , speed, or what ever, the first step is to 1.

what for the  achnology  It comes down to the best priority for safetyThe most descriptive would be





Last three alphanumerics should be added if there are two similar aircraft types broadcasting:


What is the best description of your aircraft to help pilots recognize your profile and speed?


Specific common model names

Citation Jet, Twin Cessna, Twin Barron, Skyhawk, Skycatcher, Zodiac, Warrior, Decathlon, Tee Six, R V, Sling (perhaps Light-Sport Sling)


General types

Tail Dragger, Seaplane, Light Sport Trike, Helicopter, Biplane


If you do not know the type simply ask. Some examples with more detailed explanation.

·       Sling - Low wing light sport airplane

·       Light Sport Trike - Powered hang glider some call ultralight

·       RV - Red Tail dragger


·       T Six - war bird