Today’s Flight Plan
What’s it like to grow up loving airplanes, start flying as a teen, and then find yourself as in instructor of one of the best aviation universities in the world? Well, this is what Brendan Farmer has done.
Of course, Brendan isn’t unique in doing this. It’s completely possible to turn this passion into a rewarding and exciting career or hobby. However, it does take PHD (mentioned in last podcast) PASSION, HARDWORK, AND DETERMINATION.
Throughout this podcast you’ll get a feel for just how hard one has to work to achieve this dream. And the journey only starts there for Brendan. Now the hours and experience building starts.
Building on the last podcast, From Teen to Pilot, this is an actual voice of someone who just very recently did those things we talked about.
Huge thanks to Brendan Farmer for joining us. UND is quite the impressive school, and not just anyone can instruct there. Brendan shows that you can go from essentially nothing, to something pretty awesome (not his end game, of course) in a short amount of time.
Major thanks to the amazing Angle of Attack Crew for all their hard work over the years. Our team works incredibly hard, and they’re very passionate about what they do.
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Grand Forks winds: 1-5-0-2-6 gusting 3-2. This is aviator cast episode 41.
Calling all aviators, pilots and aviation lovers, welcome to AviatorCast, where we close the gap between real aviation and flight simulation. Climb aboard, buckle up and prepare for takeoff. Here’s your host, Chris Palmer!
Chris: Welcome, welcome, welcome aviators, you’ve landed at AviatorCast. My name is Chris Palmer. Like many, I’ve had the blessed opportunity to learn to fly, first from a great University, then from many quality instructors and mentors. I’m just one of the lenient of excellent aviators that are everyday heroes in the skies. I’m the founder and owner of Angel of Attack, a flight simulation training company, which is bringing you this podcast today. AviatorCast is a weekly podcast where we talk about the spirit of the aviator.
We believe flying is an art form, one that we have to continually practice and master. This mastery is gained through a focus on continual learning, human factors, humility, and a commitment to excellence. Show notes, transcript, community discussion and links for this episode can be found by simply going to AviatorCast.com.
So welcome to this 41st episode of AviatorCast. You can tell that my voice is going out just a little bit but I’m trying to do this show each and every week so you’re just going to have to deal with it. It’s not too bad, not as bad as it was when I did the Oshkosh episode, but it’s absolutely fantastic to have you here. I’m grateful to have you week after week and I hope you are enjoying this show.
As always, we start off with a review, this one comes from Andy Kravleika. I hope I pronounced your name right, probably didn’t, but Andy gives us 5 stars and says, “Entertaining and informative, encompasses flight sim and flight training for great overall format. Inclusive, humble yet wonderful”. So thank you Andy really appreciate that. You can also review this show if you enjoy it. The primary place to do that is on ITunes.
Currently, I am not actually not at my regular AviatorCast studio, which is in Alaska. I am currently on a business trip, so, right now I am down in North Dakota. To be specific, I am in Grand Forks, North Dakota where the famous University of North Dakota is and the great Aerospace program that they have here. It’s been really great, the past hours that I’ve been here, the past day, really. It’s been about 24 hours now. To learn more about this program, more about what they do here. I’m really impressed, very, very impressed at the quality program here. Very professional. And I’ve also had the opportunity to meet up with an old friend, which we are going to talk about here in a second, and also some of the guys running things out here at UND. So really impressed with this program. We’re going to be talking more about that today. But, as always even if I’m on the road, AviatorCast comes to you wherever I am on the globe.
So right now it’s North Dakota. I’m going to be some other places in the next few days. Some interesting places actually. Ill actually be down in Austin, Texas as well. I’m going to the Redbird Migration, which is a conference that Redbird puts on for their simulators. So that should be an interesting experience as well. Hopefully I’ll have something to report over there.
Today I have a very special gust and if you are an old, timeless listeners of FS break, you are going to recognize his name. His name is Brendan Farmer. Brandan is currently an instructor here at UND. He just barely got started doing that and we all know Brendan is very topnotch guy and very knowledgeable and a lot of things, but now he’s here, making a career out of this aviation thing and we had a fantastic conversation. So let’s get to that interview with Brendan. Here is hangar talk with Brendan Farmer.
Now a special hangar talk segment…
Chris: Alright everybody, we are honored to have an old friend with us today. You’ll recognize his name, Brendan Farmer, how are you doing Brendan?
Brendan:It’s good to be back. I’m doing pretty well, how about yourself, Chris?
Chris: I’m doing fantastic. I actually ended up here in North Dakota, that’s where I am right now and you are an currently an instructor at the University of North Dakota. We’re going to get into that but a lot of people know you from our tenure together at FS Break, where we talked about flight simulation topics back in the day when you didn’t even have a license yet. We were all a lot younger and that seems like years ago but here we are now so it should be kind of interesting to see where you are now after all these years.
Brendan: Yes, it’s been a long time since I’ve done anything related to this so we’ll see if I can still talk on end for periods of time. Yes, it’s kind of a “Return to Sender” here.
Chris: Yes, alright so the first question I ask everybody, obviously we’re going to get into what you’re doing now, where you’ve been and what you’ve done…
Chris: …but the first thing I ask everybody is “How did you fall in love with aviation?” I know you grew up right next to Everett Fields where they built all the heaviest so maybe it has partly to do with it so tell us about that story.
Brendan: Sure. I feel that every good pilot has an answer to this question kind of primed and ready because it’s something we have to talk about frequently, not just for podcast, but people ask us this and it’s a good conversation starter. Generally growing up, I was incredibly blessed, I had the chance to do a lot of travelling. I got to see a lot of the world and growing up in the late 90s or early 2000’s, air travel was just a fact of life and it was something that was, I guess, grilled in my upbringing. Some of my youngest childhood memories were sitting in O’Hare airport, while I was getting snowed under and all the flights getting cancelled and sleeping on those, rosette chairs overnight while waiting to see for the United shuttle back to Seattle. So I think that’s probably where my love of aviation started. I just thought airplanes were cool that as far as technology goes, it was kind of the height of or maybe it’s not the height because airplanes are pretty old technology at this point, but certainly on a day to day basis, it’s one of the coolest things that mankind does and, I think, unfortunately might take slightly for granted.
I think that’s probably where it came from, it thought airplanes were cool so I said alright,” I should learn how to fly those things because I think they’re cool”. Well now we’re here.
Chris:You now, I actually stayed at your house one time, because we blew a tire when we were flying into Arlington, flying out of, rather, we blew a tire so I had to stay a night at your house and I remember you had this cork board or something on the wall. I’m not sure what it was you collected, I think it was ticket stubs.
Brendan: Yes. They were bunch of airline tickets around it, yes.
Chris:Yes, so I got the feel for the fact that you actually travelled a lot with your dad and that was perhaps a way that you kind of got into this. I think you are really dynamic person, a very smart person, and so aviation for you, if I’m not mistaken, I could be totally wrong, it kind of brings in a lot of these heady things together that you enjoy.
Brandon:Yes, it’s a way to combine a lot of different passions in mind. I really like meteorology, weather, I like math, I like science, I like flying, and aviation is just a really cool way to kind of screw all this together. That’s really what it is. It allows me to explore a bunch of different passions at once. Having long discussions about, maybe the physics behind something that a lot of pilots will simply state, like ground effects cause why the airplane floats?
Brandon: Reduction-induced drag, but to me, that is only half the answer. The other half rests in, well, why does induced drag increase? What’s happening to the wingtip vortices? All that stuff and it allows and kind of gives me an outlet to explore for my math and physics geekiness on a more applicable level. So yes, aviation brings a lot of passion for me and I think that’s probably why I love it so much.
Chris:I think we all experienced that with FSBreak. When you were 14 years and learning how to fly the Tupolev or whatever model it was.
Brandon: Yes, I remember that.
Chris:It was just crazy.
Brandon: That was some time ago.
Chris: You were a glutton for punishment trying to fly that thing.
Brandon: Yes something like that.
Chris:So now you have some years behind you.
Chris: You made this transition that a lot of teenagers make, which is, everyone kind of wants you to go to school, that’s how the school system works. They say “where do you want to go”, so you transition from actually getting a private pilot and stuff to actually choosing an Aviation school and now you’re an instructor. Let’s let loose on that. Tell us a little bit about that transition, what your decision process was like.
Brandon: Yes. I would say about, it was about 8th grade that I decided that I wanted to kind of turn the flying thing. I’ve probably taken in a couple of insured flights right then and then just messed around. I couldn’t even probably get a medical or as student pilot’s license at that point. But at that young age, I think, this is something that I would like to turn into a career. I want an excuse to travel, I think airplanes are cool, let’s turn this into a career.
So from that point on, I kind of is centered my college search around finding a good Aviation School. Maybe we’ll get into a little bit of how that turned out later but a lot of the campuses I toured, I think it was probably the summer after my sophomore or junior year of high school, I honestly cannot remember, where Aviation teemed. I had to look at UND, Western Michigan, Purdue, West Minster, and ASU. I had to look at a bunch of different schools and kind of made the decision to come here to UND.
Part of the appeal to UND at the time was that this isn’t just a school for pilots, it’s not just an aviation school, that the John D. Odegrad School of Aerospace Sciences encompasses a lot more than just Aviation. There’s also meteorology, the Computer Science Division falls in with us as well, and the school has an extensive nursing program and education programs well. So the fact that it wasn’t just an aviation-centered school that there was more depth in diversity to it, was extremely feeling to me. So I think that’s probably why I ended up here. This was a college first and then that flying and aviation was second to that. It was extremely appealing to me the time.
Chris: You’re not actually getting a professional pilot degree, right?
Brandon: No, here’s where the story kind of falls apart. So I chose the school based on the aviation program and after one semester in the aviation program, I made the choice to switch majors. We talked a little bit earlier about how I kind of like the Math, the Science, I kind of like to be able to answer the why about it. And I decided that if I’m going to go to school for 4 years, I want to do something a little different than aviation for my formal Collegiate degree. It was probably one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, but I sat down and had a look at it. So I’m already attending school at UND so if I’m going to switch majors I should probably get something that the school still offers.
So I sat down and looked through the course catalog and thought, “What could compliment my flying? What else can I major in that would make me better aviator, make me and serve me well in this profession? The answer, I think, was Meteorology. So I’m currently pursuing my Bachelors of Science in Meteorology, I think I’ve about two semesters left if the stars aligned and I continue passing classes. That’s kind of how I ended up in the Meteorology field. I still went and pursued all my ratings on my own time and I’m here instructing for the University very happily. I have nothing but good things, honestly, say about the aviation program here, but with the path I chose, I wanted something a little more diverse…
Brandon: …than just aviation on my resume. That’s why I’m not currently pursuing a professional pilot degree but I firmly believe if you’re going to learn to fly and want to make a career out of this flying thing, UND is far and away the best place to do it.
Chris:It’s a very good school and I’ve only been here for a couple of hours but you just get a feel for how serious they take this and the quality of people that are around. What I haven’t seen yet, and maybe I’ll see it in the airport when I go out there tomorrow, but I haven’t seen the flashiness yet and I know that you guys have a really nice area at the airport. I’ve gone through some of your buildings already, its structured and its looks nice but it’s not like, “Hey, look, we have a lot of money to throw in the aviation program”. It kind of looks good. I think it’s wise that you went to the Meteorology direction.
I know that’s advice that a lot of young pilots get and its good advice that you should diversify your training. Obviously, you’re going to learn a whole heck of a lot from flying. You’re not only getting that training but from that experience that you want to get over the years as a professional pilot. That’s the plan and people want to fly big jets. I still want to fly big jets. That’s not going to be my career but I still have the desire but diversifying and doing the Meteorology component is actually really appealing to me even, because, it’s this big mysterious space that we’re in all the time but we really don’t understand it that well unless we dive deep into it. It is actually quiet an interesting major I would think.
Brandon: Well do you want to know a little secret, Chris?
Brandon: The deeper you dive into Meteorology, the more questions show up and the fact is, there’s still a lot of stuff we don’t know about what happens in the sky near where you and I are flying. There’s still a lot we don’t know.
Chris: Exactly. I kind of learned that from going through some NASA courses on icing and some of the phenomenon there kind of blew my mind and actually debunked a lot of the myths out there about icing. That icing is actually very rare, it has to have the perfect condition, and it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t happen, it does happen.
Brendan: Oh yes.
Chris: It has to be the perfect conditions, so I found that kind of interesting. So, you decided to change your majors. I know it’s kind of been a whirlwind from there. You’re a junior, is that right?
Brendan: Yes, I think so.
Chris:It’s going to get a little confusing where you’re at, but you’re actually instructing as a junior. Is that typical or atypical?
Brendan: I would say, it’s somewhere in between. There’s a lot of people who are at the junior level status in the aviation program who have obtained their CFI certificates, however may be, but aren’t instructing for the University yet. And they might be smarter than me because they’ve found the fact that they want some more balance in their lives whereas me, I’m young dumb and want to do everything. I jump right into the instructing gig but as far as being 20 years old, having a CFI with MI-II, I think big picture outside UND, that kind of atypical here but I’m certainly not the only one.
That being said, there’s a wide range in very diverse range of instructors here people who have you turned UND into a career and they’ve been here and many, many years. Many of them quite happy should be a testament to the quality of this institution that there are people who spend time happily still involved in flight training for such periods of time specifically at one location of work I think that that really says something about this place that people try to make careers here.
Brendan: That’s not something you see certainly at a lot of local FPOs that they might have a lot of 3172s you can rent.
Chris: And they have to be rewarded accordingly in order to remain for that amount of time.
That speaks to the quality of the management as well. So how are you finding instructing? Is it stressful? Is it busy? What’s it like?
Brandon: I was saying to a friend of mine the other day who is going to be going in for his CFI initial right here in UND that if the check ride actually active in doing this job everyone would fail because nothing can prepare you for the first time you sit down with the student and you try to explain them something and they don’t get it. Then you have to come up with a new way and they still don’t get it, you just keep on repeating this process. And the mark of a good instructor is someone who can get it on the second try, me, who is still pretty green at this, I might get it on 3rd or 4th. So it’s a tough job I’ll be completely honest with you but at the end of the day it’s also probably the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
It can be very frustrating with the students, it’s like they’re not getting something like certain maneuver, they just aren’t getting. You keep showing it to them, you keep trying ways to introduce it to them and you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall entire time. But on their 15th attempt or their 10th attempt or whatever, when they finally get it and they hit that maneuver perfectly they hit their lazy eight and they bring it right back on altitude and speed then they do it again and they do it one more time after that, It is the most satisfying, gratifying feeling in the world managed and you got through to that student and their flying has become remarkably better because of your instruction, that feeling is completely irreplaceable and makes up 10-fold for all of the times you bang your head against the wall and maybe gave yourself 3 concussions.
Chris: Right on.
Brendan: So it’s an incredibly rewarding job but it is not easy.
Chris: So what was it like signing up to your first solo student, have you done that
Brendan: No, it’s funny you mentioned that. No, I haven’t a lot of people who are in my hiring class have started soloing student however with the way my student load worked out, I currently am wrapping up a commercial student at the moment and starting two instruments students so I do not currently have any student files at the moment.
Chris: Got you.
Brendan: So for better or worse I’m not soloing any students at the moment but I’ve been told it is a really terrifying experience.
Chris: Yes that would be very nerve racking thing to just sit there and watch. I don’t think you would be the type that just sit and watch or would you just kind of…
Brendan: Oh yes, no. I hear they let us go up in the tower and we go hang out with the controllers and watch them go around the pattern a few times and I’ve been sold the instructors usually don’t breathe very much while this is suffering and sometimes controllers are terrible. They will figure out what tower number is before we go up and they will say, “Hey is that your student and aircraft whatever” and you’re like yes why, “something bad happened”, just to mess with the students and mess with the instructors. I’ve been told it’s a nerve racking experience that I’ve never had the pleasure of.
Chris: Maybe someday.
Brendan: I’m sure it would happen sooner or later.
Chris: Knowing your current career path right.
Chris: You’re on a collision course.
Brendan: Can we pick a different terminology?
Chris: Yes, okay. So you and I we have had the episode on FSBreak where, for some reason they go on for 3 hours and it just goes on and on and on and on.
Chris: We’re not going to go that far today but we are going to tackle a little bit about simulation.
Chris: Not to the extent maybe what’s the hottest add on out there what’s the best hardware I can get or anything like that. What I want to get from you is you’re kind of in this new phase where you’re an instructor and you’re learning how rewarding it is and it’s kind of the first job you really have as a pilot. What I want to know is how simulation actually got you to this point.
Chris: Because you’ve had a lot of knowledge before you ever been in a cockpit or ever got an actual license that you picked up from the simulator world, so tell us a lot about that.
Brendan: Alright. I would say the biggest thing I can say about Microsoft Flight Simulator is that it didn’t actually help me learn how to fly an airplane. Like stick and rudder flight.
Brendan: Seems totally useless it’s like two different things, two completely different things I try to fly a small GA airplane in flight sim and it would cross and I’m completely useless like all over the runway bouncing up and down it was bad. You look at that and you never guess there is an instructor behind the joystick or think it’s some drunk person. But I would say the biggest thing flight sim helped me with, is it removed small obstacles that some of the biggest obstacles that a private pilot student will face, are things that you and I might take for granted, like talking to air traffic control.
Brendan: What that sim did for me was basically remove the barrier of talking to air traffic control and made it a not daunting experience that I was already I was relatively comfortable talking Aviation lingo on the radio. It was already pretty comfortable with a lot of that.
Brendan: I think that really helped in that regard. It was also, say, I follow procedures where it’s usually beneficial in flight sim getting that the chance again with that sim, to log on the network, file a flight plan and depending on how realistic I want it to be, it’s like a delinquent 16 year old. I would go look up the reds and decided if I needed an alternate and trying to figure out a legal route, I ended up teaching myself what an NDA and Mocha or a Roka. All that stuff was in route chart before I even had my pilot certificate. So simulation it’s definitely got its benefits and flight sim or vat sim is an extremely good tool for learning how to use a radio and kind of talking to air traffic control.
I would also say for IFR navigation procedures, it allows you to do a lot of stuff that you maybe won’t be able to in a real airplane. We do a lot of IFR training in the simulator here in Fresca flight training devices that modeled the Cessna 1222 and that’s really great because we get a chance to do a lot of things that would never do in a real airplane.
Brendan: Like if you messed up in approach and that dissembled the MDA and end up smacking into the ground well, okay you can do that, you’re in the sim, that’s fine you can do that and we can safely learn from that. If you do that on final trip on actual Forks airport, if we survive, me, my boss the FA won’t be thrilled. The simulator training is certainly beneficial but flight sim was, like I said for radio procedures but I was also great for IFR work and I still used it when I was preparing for instrument rating. I did a lot of old school six pack navigation with two VORs and even in flight sim, I would just load up and I would just sit there and hammer out approaches.
Brendan: I try to get a cockpit set up in flight sim as close to the airplane as I would take a check ride in. I’d install reality XP garment 430 into the panel and mixing the panel files and all that. That was really, really beneficial because I could build my workflow in the sim and practice how you load the approaches. If I forget to change the CDI mode on the OBS1 gauge, in flight sim, I won’t be able to follow my VOR because it’s still in GPS. If I’d messed that up in flight sim, it’s just like messing it up in a real airplane. I would say, flight sim big picture, is extremely beneficial for removing small barriers to flying but you need to be careful with it because it can make harder student to teach perhaps that if they think that flight sim works is how it actually works in the real world.
Brendan: That could be annoying, it may be hard to un-teach and I think I probably had some symptoms of that when I first started learning to fly. They have this Microsoft flight simulator work, I though that’s how real aviation works. That’s how real airplanes were supposed to fly or something then I got in a real airplane and I was just completely lost.
Brendan: Because I was used to one thing already and then I did one for real then that was a lot harder. I would say that’s kind of my take on flight sim, on flight sim training. That’s extremely small that’s applicable to most people. I’ve been told by people who’ve gone to work at various 737 operators around the world. A friend of mine, Ryan Air, for example, he used the NGX to study for his typregrading
Brendan: That’s a whole other level for professional add on development for that can be beneficial and I think there might be some value in that absolutely. Some of the stuff you know in Angle of Attack you’ve certainly proved that parts of flight sim can very closely model in the real world SOPs or Standard Operating Procedures and all that
Brendan: So there’s probably some value in that too, absolutely.
Chris: Yes, at the end of the day it’s really how you approach it. You take diff things from it like, you said, the instrument stuff, the communication stuff. I liked the word workflow because that’s a big thing and if you approach a simulator from a realistic perspective and treat it like it’s a real airplane, then you can do some really special things but if you’re just getting in there to mess around and to kind of do your own thing, you’re going to get some bad habits. That’s where it can be kind of different but I’ve always said that a real airplane and a simulator plane are two completely different things.
Chris: They fly completely different. It’s kind of funny but that’s exactly how it is. Alright, that’s kind of touching on the simulation part. I wanted to get that out of the way because building off from what I said from the last episode, how to go from being a teen to becoming a private pilot. I talked a little bit about that transition and the decision making process. You’ve kind of validated some of the things I’ve said there. Like when you were in 8th grade, you kind of going through this decision process and decided if you warned to get into it that sort of thing. So I want to find out a little bit more about how students can prepare, what they can expect, what you see as an instructor that students have hold ups on and what they can improve on and stuff like that. We’re going to get into that topic now, kind of like the flight training segment.
Let’s start off with how can a student best can prepare him or herself, maybe from step 1, from the second, kind of like with you in 8th grade, you decided to be a pilot, how did you start preparing to get to this level where you’re actually going to go to College and we’ll talk about the College aspect a little bit more. And what it’s like to. How do you prepare for that process?
Brendan: It’s an extremely good question. I’m trying to remember exactly how I did it. I would say before you get into this. Your interested in flying, you’re an 8th grade version of me. You think this flying thins kind of cool. I would say the biggest thing anyone who is interested in flying can do for themselves, is to go take one of those discovery flights.
Brendan: A lot of that field offer a discount, like getting a fish on a hook. They offer discovery flights for severely reduced amount of money compared to what normal flights now cost. You go up to the instructor, you might go to something fun, he’ll teach you come basic aircraft control maneuvers and then you come back and you do a little ground and to talk a little bit about aviation in general. I think if you’re interested in this, before you make any massive life choices. I’ve read enough times on RedIt of people giving advice to younger RedIters, as we call them that, don’t make life decisions when you’re in high school. Don’t even make a couple when you’re in your first year of college.
You have no idea what you want out of life yet and I think those people are probably right for the most part. I’m not going to discount what they are saying but if you’re interested in aviation, the sooner you can actually get a tangible experience on is probably the best thing you can do for yourself, to see what its really like to fly an airplane because I’m not going to use the word hard because it’s for a lot of times its completely manageable goal or manageable problem. The first time you go flying and you already hear and you’re in there and you get terribly airsick and that’s going to slow you down, it’s going to put hindrance on training. I would give this thing a try first before you come and decide to base your college education off of it. Just give it a try on your local FPO first and see what you think of it.
Chris: Just to interject, there are some different parallels too because we’re not talking about, or rather, we could talk about more than just a teenager transitioning into the college phase, we could also talk about the 45-year-old guy that finally got his finances in control and his career is kind of taking off and he can afford this flying thing now.
Chris: So there’s that transition too actually going from being the no-pilot to transition to, “Okay I’m going to out down 10 grand for this pilot course in my local FPO, is that something I should do, is that something I’m ready for, is that something I’m prepared for? I just wanted to drop all those parallels too so that a lot of audience will know how applicable to them.
Brendan: One thing I firm believer is that you’re never too old to learn to fly. This is truly a hobby and I would even go as far as saying, a way of life that encompasses all ages from young student pilots or even before that like me who sit around and play Microsoft planes for hours to people like you said who are in their mid-40s and always looked at the sky and wanting and dreamt of learning to fly. This way of lie, there’s room for everyone in it.
Brendan: You’re never too old to learn how to fly
Chris: I’ve seen some 70-year old guys taking lessons. In fact, after we blew our tire in Arlington, I remember there was a guy there and he was like 70 years old and he was taking lessons at that FPO. I don’t know if you remember that.
Brendan: Yes, I do.
Chris: And I think the instructor there mentioned to us, “He’s really old and He’s really stubborn and he doesn’t really know too much of what’s going on sometimes so it’s taking longer but he’s still doing it and he’s getting close”. Like you said, it’s never too late. You can definitely still do it.
Chris: Cool, so that’s really preparation, Its actually knowing first-hand is something you can do. Going in and taking an intra-flight. What do you think about going out and buying a set of books, just like a pilot course just kind of dig your head into.
Brendan: I think there’s nothing wrong with it buying the books ahead of time but without context, like what it takes to go from nothing to private pilot, without context and a lesson of training, is about the most daunting thing in the world.
Chris: Right. Yes.
Brendan: If you look at what’s required to be known. It is insane then someone like you and me whose been through this process and even maybe even more, except myself, who is instructing to this process, you just look at it and it’s like nothing. In truth, it is not nothing, it is the most daunting list of required knowledge in the world to someone who hasn’t done it yet.
Chris: It’s kind of all knowledge that you have to bring up entirely on the flight.
Chris: You have to switch to that mode on the flight while you’re out doing different things as a pilot.
Chris: Coming down a flare, you have to know what ground effect doe, you have to know, especially if there’s a crosswind, how do you control that and then what do you do right after you land? You’ve got to put your controls in the wind, all sorts of every little things.
Chris: We take it for granted but all of what we just said, could be Greek to somebody who has no idea of what’s going on.
Brendan: Exactly, I’m sure to some listeners, it is. It’s crazy. So go ahead and buy the books. There’s nothing wrong with having a look, reading. I know I certainly did but I also think it probably did about zero good because I had no context to put it in.
Brendan: I had no measurable goal and I’m a very goal-oriented person so maybe that’s just me. Maybe people do learn like that but for me it was interesting but useless…
Chris: What age did you get your private?
Brendan: I was 17. I think I got it when I was 17.
Chris: Really, right around on your 17th birthday?
Brendan: About 4 months after maybe.
Chris: Okay, cool. Alright, so we’re talked about some of these already but what are some of the challenges that you see students coming in, maybe because we kind of covered the simulation end of it already and we’ve covered maybe the I-got-too-much-knowledge-ahead-of-time-without-context version as well.
Chris: What are the challenges that you see from someone that’s kind of decided they want to do this, maybe even know they want to do this with someone with an experience with intro flight. What are some challenges you see people have grasping sets of knowledge or whatever?
Brendan: I think the hardest thing for a lot of people the first time is to press that magical button on the oak and key and start talking from ATC.
Chris: Mic fright.
Brendan: Mic fright, absolutely. And this is going to sound terrible advice but I’ve seen it work. I was describing to a student, it’s like talking to a girl in the party, you can’t think about it. Because if you think about it, you’re going to sink your own ship because you’ve got to remember at the end of the other microphone is another human being who speaks English just like you and I. I think keeping that in mind is usually beneficial. That’s certainly one thing and then every student present a diff challenge to the instructor. Some of them are just focused on just wanting to look at the instruments all day and that’s okay to an extent but on a pilot level, as it turns out, a lot of the maneuvers are a lot easier if you look outside.
Chris: Yes, they are.
Brendan: Every student comes with a set of challenges.
Chris: Would you say the instrument-fixation these days is like almost unique to this generation,
Brendan: Yes and no to that question. Technology has advanced significantly in the last 10 to 20 years in Aviation and now it’s completely common to walk into an FPO and the airplane you’ll be renting is going to have a full glass cockpit and have all these fun, magic buttons. It has autopilot that’s may be capable of doing flight level change where it’ll climb and descend at a given airspace.
Chris: Which by the way a UND aircraft don’t have, at least the 172s don’t have the autopilot which I think is awesome.
Brendan: No. All of our Cesna 172s are autopilotless, we’ve had them removed, We teach all of our single engine training, with one exception with one part of the CFI check ride in Cesna 172, G1000 because in truth, when a student leaves here, they’re usually not gong to end up flying a six pack. The goal of UND is to train an airline pilot.
Brendan: So that’s how we base a lot of our training around. And at eh same time, we want to make a good aviator. When a student completes a flight course, when they get their private pilot certificate, they shouldn’t just be set to go into a regional airplane to fly a CRJ200. They should almost a chameleon that they should be able to step into any aviation-related job and be successful at it. TO me that would be a mark of a successful student. That they’ve got a set of skills that they can adapt. And they’re nothing says that isn’t achievable in really flight training environment.
Chris: Yes I really like that concept because I’ve always differentiated between a pilot and an aviator. I think an aviator is what we think of when we think of the John Glens and the Charles Lindbergh of yesteryear, who could step into any airplane. If I’m not mistaken, I think that the spirit of St. Louis, he didn’t even have a front window, it was just like this big instrument panel and so he couldn’t even see out of the front window.
Brendan: There may be lights and windows that’s due to celestial navigation maybe.
Chris: These guys are the real stuff and they could jump into any airplane. Speaking of Charles Lindbergh too, the US hired him to go into the Pacific and teach them how to P38s and this guy knew airplanes so well that he taught them how to get a third out of their range by managing the engine and the fuel flow and different parameters which is just crazy. I think these days we have to walk this fine line where were dealing with all of these great technological advances, we’ve talked about them so much on this podcast, and even if were just time of the G1000 and where were at with the quality of manufacturing but we also have to mash it up with these core aviator skills.
It’s really cool when I hear things like UND doesn’t have an autopilot because, I know that even in my career, I’ve become dependent on the autopilot. But then when I got out and I just fly an airplane and I look outside and I enjoy the scenery, that’s when I’m having so much fun, that’s not to say that I don’t enjoy instrument flying because…
Brendan: No, it has the same power coming down in approach and getting that runway. That’s great.
Chris: I know. I love instrument flying and just cutting right at the top clouds. I love that too but you know what I mean, just having those core skills is so important.
Chris: So Okay I am student, I’ve determined that I was going to go to school, I’ve validated that it’s going to be good for me and it is good for me, I’ve prepared a little bit, I know a little bit of my challenges, maybe I don’t know my challenges but they’re going to come in anyway. I get here, what is it going to be like at an Aviation college? Tell us about the immersion of that.
Brendan: Sure. I think you can get a fairly good idea of what it’ll be if I’m speaking to a prospective student here that UND specifically and many other colleges, in fact all of them practically, will all offer tours to prospective students where they can come see the campus, see what it’s like, talk to active students here and get, for the most part, more or less the real story of what’s going on here. I would encourage anyone interested in that especially for UND to come purchase any of those tours and do it in the winter so you’ll actually see what this place is like because if you come here and visit on a nice summer day, it is not at all representative of what it’s like in January.
Chris: Yes, imp from Alaska and its worse that Alaska, which is pretty bad.
Brendan: Yes, a friend of mine whom I graduated high school with, he went to the University if Alaskan Fairbanks, only lasted a year out there. But he and I would have competitions on my first year here about who was colder and it turns out, Grand Forks is a lot colder than Fairbanks.
Chris: Now that surprises me.
Brendan: Most of the winter which I think is incredibly depressing. Dull fact check that was probably a falsity due to student sample size but I’d like to think of that victory, makes me think this place is worse, but come visit and you’ll get a taste of what it looks like here. I would say life as a student, if you’re an undergraduate aviation major, all of our undergraduate programs are set up to fly three times a week and have a grounds school that occurs every semester so every semester is a new flight course then enter private pilot and then they’ll proceed to go through two semesters learning IFR flying skills and IFR procedures. They’ll move into their commercial single course then their commercial multi-course and that wraps up through the commercial training and then they’ll move on to CFI, CFII and depending on the major or should they chose, there’s also the MAI course. You just had a bunch of acronyms but they’re just from a certified flight instructor.
Brendan: So that’s the progression they go through so they can expect to fly about 3 times a week. They’ll be taking the ground school and then as well as a breadth of other classes, all the way from stuff, I took Psychology, I’ve taken my fair share of Math and Physics classes that that’s not something every aviation major should take, but as a with any college, like I said this place is a college first before it’s an aviation school. There is what we call at the University of North Dakota, central studies requirements that are basically going to be just like your core classes that will be like your English classes, your communications class. So you kind of get a taste of everything. You have to take a fine arts class, which I’m not doing too well in, I’m not one for musical talents.
Chris: Everyone has their place I guess.
Brendan: Yes, mine sure is not musically related.
Chris: Conducting an orchestra at 10,000 feet.
Brendan: No, not even at zero feet as it turns out. You see you take all these classes and it gets you a good breadth of experience of different subjects and you become a more knowledgeable person for that and with aviation, it’s entirely possible that some people chose to pursue a double major. My roommate, a good friend of mine whose been here same time I have, he’s going the hardest possible route. He’s double majoring in Computer Science and Commercial Aviation and instructing here. He’s busier than I am but it’s entirely possible to add on a second degree on top pf Commercial Aviation should that be something you chose or you can minor in something as well. In truth, a minor is strongly encouraged by the Aviation department. They like to see that plus it makes a more knowledgeable, worldly person.
Brendan: Maybe more information to talk about at parties, I’m not really sure but it has some tru minor
Chris: Maybe in a mixer.
Brendan: So, a typical student has 3 days a week of flying, lots of classes, over all a pretty typical college experience to be honest, despite the fact that you’re also learning to fly an airplane at the same time.
Chris: Do you learn to fly, I don’t know if this is a completely ignorant question, but do you learn to fly on top pf the credit hours you have or does your flying actually count as credit hours. In other words, is that almost considered as extra-curricular activity?
Brendan: It’s a little more interesting how to handle that actually. Every flight course comes with a flight lad. A flight lad is your assigned time of day, some courses have an assigned time of day, and some don’t. And that’s your assigned time of day to fly.
Chris: Got you.
Brendan: And you and your instructor will then meet and fly at those assigned time and you’ll schedule it as such that it works for your class. It just makes everything a little easier.
Brendan: You don’t, specifically, receive credits for a time spent flying but there are flight gate requirements where you need to have X amount of lessons done by this week in the course.
Chris: Right. Got you.
Brendan: Stuff like that. So it’s an integrated part of the records goal.
Chris: So you mentioned something in our, kind of preshow here which was “scale”. You used the word “scale”. So tell us a little bit about that.
Brendan:Sure. This is something that’s hard to really quantify for someone who hasn’t started the process yet but when you look back, when you get to the instructor level and see how far you’ve come and see all of the stuff you’ve accomplished, it seems like a lot and, in truth, it is and that’s not something that a new student here necessarily realizes. To go from zero time; I don’t know anything about aviation, I’ve seen an airplane in the sky, maybe, the yolk might move the airplane up and down. To go from there to being a flight instructor who is certified by the Federal Aviation Administration to teach people how to fly to the next step after that, to be an airline transport pilot,, to carry anywhere from 50 to 120 people around the country. The amount of work and the amount of knowledge requirements, and I would just say, overall, maybe the stress of getting there, is not something that most people initially understand when they are learning to fly. They don’t understand what it takes to get from that private pilot ground school into being a CFI. I think as far as scale goes, it is a commitment that you have to want to this and you have to be able to out in the work because if you don’t put in the work, you don’t learn aviation through Osmosis.
Brendan: That’s one thing an instructor instilled upon me a long time ago and I completely agree with him. That you can’t just sit there and let aviation come to you. It does not work that way.
Brendan: You have to put in the time. You have to study and you have to do your homework if you want to be successful at this and I promise you, there is a direct result. The more time you put in, the more time you spend studying, the more preparation you put in every lesson, the easier this is and overall the more fun this will be. Because there is nothing that makes an instructor happy than a well prepared student whose enthusiastic and willing to work hard because that shows they’re committed and they want this and it’s something, personally, I can relate to. I haven’t done a bunch of ratings recently and taking a bunch of check rides for a short period of time but I can tell you, if you want to be successful in this, you have to want it. That’s probably what I mean by “scale”, it takes a lot of work.
Chris: There was an acronym that came up last podcast. I don’t know if it was divine inspiration or what it was but the acronym was PHD. It takes Passion, Hard work, and Determination.
Chris: And that just about sums it up.
Brendan: That is exactly it.
Chris: I couldn’t come up with something better.
Brendan: That sounds pretty good to me. Absolutely.
Chris: So tell me about some of the distractions that can throw me out of the course here.
Brendan: Sure. Like I keep saying, it’s a college first and then it’s a flight school. So it’s a college, and so it’s a college and I’m sure some of our listeners have been through college and all of, let’s call it temptations, are in college and we don’t always make the best of decisions. That’s where college and aviation can sometimes, really find balance that you’re entering in an extremely professional field at a very young age. It’s a field that requires a lot more professionalism than maybe, I don’t want to rag a on a Liberal Arts major but maybe a Communications majors or something. Maybe their professionalism displayed there versus professional aviation…
Chris: They aren’t holding 200 hundred lives in the balance in their travel.
Brendan: Yes, that’s a good way to quantify it, yes.
Chris: Let’s look at that with the expected results is it.
Brendan: Yes, exactly. We have to throw a beer can in the runway and hope we kind of hit it but miss at the same time. What do you think about it? Well, never mind, we’ll stop tying ex-Communications Majors. But you’re choosing to enter an extremely professional work at a very young age and as such you’re life choices,, decisions, and all that have to follow suite. That distractions, its college like what I said, there’s the temptation there to make a bunch of bad decisions and everyone does make bad decisions, to be completely honest, I’m sure you and I can both sit at this table and say we’ve done things were not proud of but at the end of the day, were both still where we are and that’s probably the effect of the result of, for the most part, making good decisions. I would say that have fun in college but at the risk of being blunt, don’t go out and get yourself a minor in possession of narcotics. That could be the death of an airline pilot.
Chris: Yes, you’re done.
Brendan: If you have any of that in your record, you are sunk.
Chris: It doesn’t mean that you can’t get some other flying job but chances are, you’re done at that point.
Chris: And speaking of that, you don’t even want a DUI.
Chris: You don’t even want something of a lesser offense like that. I mean you’re in the airlines and look at your traffic records.
Brendan: There was a class in a regional airline, which I will not name, it was called The Dirty
Thirty, and it was the bottom of the applications stack that they took these people. What kept them in the bottom stack at a regional airline were simply DUIs and other legal problems and the regional airline as we know, have been hiring a lot of people recently. They were really desperate for pilots so they finally had to go through the bottom of the application stack so the dirty thirty was the name of the class of all the people they have hired before.
Brendan: To maybe out some perspective on it that having something as minor as a DUI is something that can happen.
Brendan: That one can really set you back in this field of work. Some people say it’s unfair and I don’t know if it is. I personally don’t think it is because professionalism is extremely important. But you have to act above your age and get hat part of yourself together real quick.
Chris: Right. I think for me, it wasn’t so much of a distraction of drinking or drugs or anything like that, for me it was just the distraction of freedom. I was away from home for the first and I could do whatever the heck I wanted to do. I could spend my money on whatever I wanted to spend it on, I could get whatever job I wanted to get and all of these decisions make an impact.
Chris: And then getting a job at a drive through and I’ll be up until three in the morning and then I wouldn’t do super well in classes. Little decisions, even though they may not be of legal nature, they matter. It’s definitely important to keep that in mind. I know you even mentioned at preshow, extra-curricular activities even sports, along with doing a big professional program like you’ve been talking about aviation, even that’s something to consider.
Chris: Choosing between good, better, and best.
Brendan: I agree completely. Like what we talked about, it’s a lot of stuff to get from that private pilot up to that flight instructor. You need to put yourself in an environment where you have a chance to succeed at that. You get to put in the time, like you said, passion, hard work, dedication. You need time for hard work.
Brendan: When you’re young, it’s more than likely you have the opportunity, and it’s the best time to do it.
Chris: Great. I just want to touch quickly on International students because you told me some interesting things about some of the demographics here. So tell us, just quickly about that, about what kind of other pilots you have here, other than English-speaking Caucasian guys like me that come into the school and that have lived in US all our lives.
Brendan: Sure, we have contracts with a couple of Chinese airlines. We have a couple of contract from Saudi Arabia and we also have a contract in a partner University in Tokai, Japan. There are Chinese airline contracts. We train their pilots from nothing to multi-engine commercial pilots and they go back to China and will convert their licenses back to Chinese aviation licenses and they will go fly for their respective airlines. Our Saudi Arabian students operate some of our principles as well as some of the Tokais University students. It provides a really interesting and dynamic experience as an instructor because, one of the hardest things with working with non-native speakers, was the way I found I spoke. In my free time, I enjoy writing a little bit and part of the joy of writing for me is assembling complex and interesting sentences using metaphors, idioms and stuff like that. You cannot talk in metaphors and idioms to someone whose native language isn’t English. Sometimes the way I speak would be tough for someone who isn’t in the West coast or originally from America. Idioms change dramatically and usually it’s more of the Southern states have their own sayings.
Chris: And that’s tough because, sometimes, metaphors are some of the best ways to teach things in aviation.
Chris: How do I relate this to real everyday life?
Brendan: Exactly and you find new ways to say everything. You have about eight different tools in your pocket explaining the same concept to a non-native English speaker. I would say, personally, was a probably the hardest part. It was measuring how I spoke to make sure I could effectively communicate what I wanted to do.
Chris: Aviation is everywhere. It’s growing.
Brendan: It’s worldwide.
Chris: Yes. It’s one of those things that no matter where you’re at, you have the opportunity to do it. And I always say this, I realize there are situations that people have specific health problems or financial problems and may not become a reality for you, but again, going back to PHD, passion, hard work, ad determination. If there is a chance, at least give it a chance to try to make it work. It’s happening all over the world, not just in places that you’ve mentioned too. So were running up against time here so let’s wrap up the how if we can.
Chris: What’s your parting advice for a young lad that’s looking to get into an aviation school of quality and caliber, like UND, which there aren’t many, or like a 45 year old that is feeling that thing of motivation to jump into a private pilot or something like that? What would be your motivating, final speech here?
Brendan: Motivating, final speech? No pressure here. I’ll start with our 45-year old guy who’s been staring at the sky wanting it, it’s never too late to learn to fly. It is, far and away, one of the most joy hobbies you can have and there is absolutely no substitute for this. I encourage him to, maybe not to make a career out of it because it can be a little hard.
Chris: It might be too late by that point.
Brendan: Yes, I would say anytime about, actually it depends from person to person, so I won’t pay no disrespect.
Chris: One of my instructors, he was a high school teacher and I think he started when he was 33 years old. He started with his training.
Chris: And now he flies for Regional so you’ve got to catch up, pretty dang quick, but the clock is ticking when you’re in your 30’s. If you’re not doing this in your 30’s then…
Brendan: It can be tough but everyone’s different. It depends on a multitude of factors that could literally be its own show probably.
Brendan: So for our 45- year old listener, I would say, go to your FPO and talk to them and figure out what it’s going to take. I’d like you to know that there would be speed bumps and it’s not that easy but it is so worth it. It’s so worth it.
Chris: Right. My only word is, rarely would you forget it or regret it rather. You won’t regret
Brendan: Yes, the day you pass your check ride and hold that peiceof paper in your hand that says you’re a private pilot, believe me, nothing comes close to that feeling.
Chris: Yes, I’m really bad at birthdays. I don’t know what is but over the past few years, I couldn’t remember my family’s birthdays and stuff but I’m starting to catch up now. But I remember the date that I passed my private pilot check ride, no problem. I may not know my mother’s birthday but I know the day I got my private pilot. Terrible, I know.
Brendan: That’s bad. Terrible family man. And to our 16, 17, or 18 year-old prospective,
collegiate aviator, I would say, have a look at your options and see what works best for you. In UND, I have nothing but good thing to say about the aviation program here. We create great pilots. I have no doubt of that. Airlines love our pilots because, and these are direct quotes from airline training departments, they like UND pilots because we are, I think it was “fearless” maybe of winds and weather and stuff. By the time they get to regionals, they’ve seen it all. They’ve seen heavy crosswinds, they’ve seen icing, and usually the icing is always unintentional.
Brendan: Because we’re flying in thick, the airplanes here, but it happens. It happens to the best of us sometimes. I would say, see what works for you. UND is certainly an extremely good option, but don’t make any decisions about where you want to go to school without a minimum, coming to visit, taking a tour. If it’s going to be UND, do it in January.
Chris: Because the weather is terrible. That’s about the worse it gets and if you can survive that then…
Brendan: It was minus, well it was the wind chills and not the actual air temperature, but there were a couple of days last winter when we’re pushing minus 59 wind chill.
Chris: Goodness gracious. That’s too cold for me.
Brendan: Yes, it was too cold. We just don’t go outside those days. Don’t worry, we stop flying at minus 35 so if you’re out there really worried, we got you a little break there, minus 35.
Chris: You have to wear two parkas instead of three.
Brendan: So come visit the campus, check it out and realize what you’re getting into. As far as the field of work goes, even from my very, very junior view as a flight instructor, it’s an incredible line of work that, really, nothing comes close to paralleling. So, take a tour, have a look and if you think you want to turn this, maybe, into a profession, like we said at the beginning of the show, go to an FPO and take in a scary flight and see what you think of it. I know for me that after the first scary flight, I was hooked. I’m majoring in Meteorology and all that stuff, but truthfully, I don’t see myself doing anything else.
Brendan: This is what I want to do. I guess that’s my story.
Chris: You’ve got to get that experience as an instructor at regionals so you can go fly the Tupolevs.
Brendan: I think they’re all tired. Hopefully there would still be some 747s somewhere when I’m done.
Chris: I know.
Brendan: I have to be cargo.
Chris: Hey, lots of opportunity for that.
Brendan: Boxes don’t complain when you screw up the landing. Your student just judges you. “I
thought you were supposed to be good at this and you plant that”. We could work it out at times.
Chris: Well, let’s not make this another 4 years until we catch up again.
Brendan: Absolutely, it’s been a pleasure.
Chris: Good luck with your instructing career. I’m sure it’s going to be another couple of years as you build up your hours through ATP but you’ll be flying with the big boys someday.
Brendan: Yes, we hope so. We do this again in another 2 years, maybe I’ll sound a little different, right? Before I leave for an airline, we’ll see how different I’ll sound then.
Chris: Yes, how in love I am with everything. Hopefully, you’re still there with the passion. Keeping the passion alive.
Brendan: Yes, when it gets to this point, you don’t want it to die.
Chris: Alright man, I appreciate it. Thanks for your time.
Brendan: My pleasure.
Chris: See you.
Alright, so that was actually my first ever, face-to-face interview with somebody who just happened to be my good, old friend, Brendan Farmer. It was really great to catch up with him and see how great he’s doing. This is a knowledgeable guy that I’ve known for years now. He’s really put in the work and he’s done so ahead of time and he’s done a lot of the things we talked about in the last episode of AviatorCast, going from being a teen to an actual pilot. But you can also tell that now that he is in that professional-pilot-focused mode, he’s also, in a sense, kind of leaving behind, the simulator world then realizing that there are a lot of things about it that I enjoy, that I like, but I’ve got to be careful and I’ve got to watch out for that. But apart from all that, you can tell that Brendan is a focused professional. You can tell his passionate about this. He’s worked very hard to get where he is and he just keeps moving along.
I always appreciate his perspective on a lot of things, he articulates very well his thoughts, and I think we’ve all experienced that in the past as well. It was great to be able to catch up with him, get his thoughts, maybe some of you guys out there that are thinking of going to an aviation college, or some of you that are, kind of, not of that age of going to an aviation college but you are looking forward to starting your license and getting some motivation to do that. I hope that you found that in our conversation with Brendan, he is a fantastic guy. I’d love to have him back on the show sometime soon so big thanks goes out to Brandon for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. We’ll keep in touch with him and see how things progress.
He will no doubt have a bright career, hopefully full of a lot of great aircraft, even some heavy jets eventually so we’ll just have to wait and see. Alright so, now for some after show AviatorCast actions, you can take a quick 2-minute survey at AviatorCast.com. Here you can give us ideas for upcoming shows and some other things. Second, you can join the conversation for this episode at AviatorCast.com or write to me directly at me@AviatorCast.com. I’d love to hear from you from either location and I do answer every email that I get. Third.
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Thank you for being patient with my voice today, it sounds a little off. Not as bad as it could be, I suppose. Many thanks also to Angle of Attack crew for all their hard work to make this episode and all they do outside of AviatorCast. These guys are an absolutely awesome ground crew, a great support crew and I couldn’t do without them.
Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of AviatorCast. We are truly grateful to have you here, I mean that. Part of our community is so engaged in this wonderful passion for flying things. Until next time, throttle on.
Ready for takeoff, united 530…
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