Best place to learn - controlled or uncontrolled? [Archive] - Glock Talk


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Texas T
12-13-2003, 17:03
I took my lessons at MOD which has a tower, and most of the other airports I flew to were also controlled. In fact, I think I only landed at two strips during my training that were not controlled.

Any opinions as to which is an easier/better environment in which to learn?


12-13-2003, 19:56
I learned at a controlled field, but we would do landing work at an uncontrolled field.

I think it was a good experience. I learned out of ADS in the early 90s. It was/is a pretty damn busy single runway airport in the middle of suburban Dallas. All kinds of prop and jet traffic in and out of there, plus it's underneath DFW's airspace.

It really forces you to use the radio from almost day one. Using the radio is a little overwhelming at times in the beginning, but you'll be happy that you can talk just as fast you the controllers can by the time you're done with your private checkride.

Of course, it was nice to go to uncontrolled fields for the pattern work just so you don't have to wait around for other aircraft that much. It's nice to know both sides. I fly in some of the busiest airspace in the world at times, but at other times I find myself saying "South bend traffic, blueridge 6*** 10 miles out, left base for 27L" (I can't remember if SBN closes, it's one of those airports up there, though!)

Texas T
12-13-2003, 20:30
Originally posted by Patriot328
I learned out of ADS in the early 90s. Our regional office sat on the SE corner of the airport right next to the private hangers and my boss kept his 172 based there. As a matter of fact, the last time I was up in a GA plane was in his in 1991.

I think there was a hamburger joint right under the approach across the street from the field that we used to eat at and watch the planes touch down.

Every time I'd fly up to Dallas from Houston for a meeting I'd bring my scanner along with me to listen while I was in the office. :)


12-13-2003, 23:00
I'd say controlled...because that's how I did it. ;f

Seriously, I think it is. I started in '75 at HWD (SF Bay Area) adjacent and under OAK class C (then TRSA) and under SFO class B (then TCA). Initial "other airport" training would always be stuff you had to transition 3 towers to get to.

Learning uncontrolled later was easy. On the other hand, uncontrolled (especially busy, uncontrolled) requires even more finesse and judgement. You know, now that I really think about it, I dunno. ;d

Next question, please! ;f

12-14-2003, 10:31
Controlled, no doubt about it.

I know plenty of pilots who learned in uncontrolled environments and quite a few of them would rather fly 45 minutes out of their way to avoid controlled airspace than fly through it. I'm sure we've all heard guys on the radio that haven't had much experience in controlled's not safe.

12-14-2003, 10:57
This is another 'depends' situations. Sure the pilots who learned in an uncontrolled pattern are often tense and use interesting R/T technique, but there's the other side also. I managed a small turf airport for sixteen years and I have vivid memories of those who came here from controlled airspace for their short/soft field work not looking out of the window and effecting separation. Some seemed to think 'somebody else' was going to keep the metal from bending. There were close calls that had shadows merging, landings facing each other, and everything in between.
So, I'd tend to cushion any opinion on this question with 'it depends' on the quality of instruction and the attitude of the student. That sounds familiar, I'll bet.

12-14-2003, 12:44
Uncontrolled. Learned at a small airport outside Cooperstown, NY. Grass field, hills to east and west; was the perfect place to concentrate on flying and not talking on the radio (was taught to ALWAYS self-announce on entering pattern and turns, etc.) My instructor had me fly to Albany, NY, Binghamton, NY and Burlington, VT for practice in a controlled environment. I am confident enough with my radio work that I do not hesitate to fly into controlled airspace and I use "flight following" whenever possible. Learn to fly first, learn to talk on the radio second.

M2 Carbine
12-14-2003, 16:24
I vote for the uncontrolled airport. The smaller the better.
Simply for the reason a student can get more time in the air for his money.
He isn't spending money taxiing a half mile to the active or being number three for takeoff while the clock is running.

At a small strip he could do two or three touch and go's before he might get TO clearance at a controlled airport.

At the small strips you can also get numerous "engine failures" to a touchdown when working in the pattern.

I remember the first time my instructor had me fly to an "international airport". Friendship Airport, Maryland. I never saw so much concrete. I asked him if he wanted me to land across the runway.

After that dual flight I flew into Friendship solo for practice. A student could do that in 1960. No air traffic like now days.

Texas T
12-14-2003, 23:16
Originally posted by BillCola
Seriously, I think it is. I started in '75 at HWD Deja Vu all over again. :) I spent a lot of time near HWD in the late 80's. The circuit city store at Hesperian and Winton was one of mine so every time I'd do a store visit I'd bring along the scanner. Shortly before I left N Cal in the early 90's someone put their plane down in the parking lot of the shopping center across the street. No injuries that I can recall.


12-14-2003, 23:16
Both :)

I'm currently taking lessons at a school based at San Antonio Intl (KSAT), but we do a lot of work in New Braunfels (BAZ) and some of the other uncontrolled fields in the area.

I really think I'm in an ideal situation, as most days when I fly I have to deal with both controlled and uncontrolled fields.

12-16-2003, 01:56
(I am a student pilot, so take this "advice" only for what it's worth.)

I think most would agree that you need experience in both environments. I am learning out of a controlled airport(RHV), but did touch&goes prior to soloing at a neighboring uncontrolled one (Q99) so we wouldn't have to deal with all the traffic and delays (for those times we went full stop). This got me plenty of experience in both environments, as I obviously had to fly in and out of my home airport.

It seems natural to me, though, that someone who flies out of an uncontrolled field would mostly stay there, and only venture into controlled airspace for the sole purpse of getting that experience, thus not getting as much exposure.

Thus, the answer would be "controlled." :)

01-03-2004, 00:58
uncontroled, less student pilots in class d = less work for me and my idiot flight data/ground controler who seems to be in position everytime I'm in local

01-03-2004, 17:49
As a controller at an international airport, I don't mind working students any more than air carriers. I don't like working with pilots that don't pay attention, and or don't do what they are told. If you don't understand your instructions, ask. Try to plan your arrival or departure at less busy times, don't think that you can make a practice approach and touch and go at the main airport during a traffic push. When you are flying into major cities, most have outlying airports that you can get approaches into and some even have towers at them. Controllers can get short with pilots that unjustly increase their workload. If I am working 15 aircraft I cannot allow one to take up a third of my time. If you feel uncomfortable don't hesitate to cancel service and leave the class B.

01-03-2004, 21:39
my post was really just a joke, I love student pilots b/c they actualy do stuff other then arrive and depart, getting to say left cosed traffic approved report base breaks up the dull times, plus everytime I clear someone for the option I never know what I'm gonna get=)

01-04-2004, 11:53
I didn't take your post too seriously, and that idiot ground controller will follow you if you decide to go to a busier facility.

01-04-2004, 14:47
lol he ouldn't get rated at another facility, I'm not even sure how he got this one, but he may be losing it soon if he keeps going like he is, I have soooooooomany stories about that guy

01-04-2004, 22:47
I thought that when I left Fort Wayne back in 1990 and went to Memphis that I was leaving incompetence behind. There is a whole new level of incompetence here. There are people that get rated with no business working at this level. We have washed out our share also. Your favorite ground controller might surprise you. If you really don't want him around, suggest that he bid to Memphis. I would rather have good controllers bid here, but I would not recomend this place to someone that I liked.

01-05-2004, 00:18
Originally posted by CDM
Both :)

Agreed. I think it is good to start off uncontrolled so you can have more frequent landings and pay close attention to the mechanics and controls of landing the plane. You can also practice your radio work without fear of screwing it up in an actual pattern. After you are comfortable with landing and the traffic pattern, you can "graduate" to a controlled setting and incorporate the radio work and higher amount of air traffic.

01-05-2004, 14:36
A controlled field will bring you up to speed quicker as you will dealing with all the facets of flying you will use later. If you start at an uncontrolled field you are more likely to have "brain fade" when confronted with a controller talking a mile-a-minute, especially during busy times (and you won't have any control over that). The more you learn, the sooner in your training the less likely you will develop bad habits. I still hear people on the radio talking to approach or tower and wonder how the heck they ever got their pilot licenses, unless they spend most of their flying at uncontrolled airports. Also remember that controllers are there to help not hinder your progress.