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Somerset Air Services, Inc.
150 Airport Road
Bedminster, NJ 07921

Tel: (908) 722-2444
Fax: (908) 722-1359


Flight School

CFI Blog

By Margo Kay CFI/CFII

It’s a sunny Saturday at last! The parking lot is full and Doc is holding office hours with a waiting list twenty deep. Melanie is dispatching all seven of the company aircraft for flight training while the line boys are directing traffic at the fuel pumps. The ramp, which seems so spacious during the quieter week days, is jam packed with Medevac helicopters, a transient Alpha-Foxtrot Pilatus, and a charter Navajo disembarking passengers. Pilots who have waited all week to motor off in search of that delicious $100 hamburger are taxiing through a maze of aircraft eager to break ground. Welcome to Somerset Airport!

The day always starts out pleasantly enough. At 8 AM many pilots are just waking up but the die hard are out to enjoy the quiet early morning air and relatively quiet radios. By 10 AM, however, all bets are off. The radios are quickly jammed with the shrill squeal of too many transmit buttons being pressed simultaneously. Courtesy is the first casualty as pilots vie for air time. If we are not careful, safety can become the second. Basic rules of etiquette will also improve safety: think, listen and look first, speak last. When you consider that 51% of mid-air collisions occur in the traffic pattern we all have a strong motivation to see and avoid.

The Somerset CTAF (common traffic advisory frequency) is 123.00 and shared by several local airports which are equally active on a weekend: Linden, Robbinsville, Belmar, Blairstown, East Stroudsburg, Penn Ridge, and Braden to name a few. Just like Somerset, these airports go into overdrive on Saturday as bases for not only fixed wing traffic but also helicopter movements, banner tows, blimp launches, glider flights and increasing numbers of parachute activities (Jumpers away, Jumpers away, over East Stroudsburg airport, JUMPERS!!!). Time to review right of way rules in 91.113.

With all these airmen and women fighting to be heard and enamored of their own voices, the CTAF is overwhelmed and no one is heard or understood. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the FAA points out the majority of mid-airs occur during daylight in good VFR, within 5 miles of an airport during late morning/early afternoon hours on a warm weekend day. Sound familiar? According to the FAA document How to Avoid A Mid-Air Collision--most mid-air collisions occur not because two aircraft are approaching head-on, but because two aircraft are converging at shallow angles consistent with one aircraft being overtaken by another. The see and avoid principal has broken down. So what can we do to keep the fun in weekend flying?

Let’s start with the basics:

Wash your windshield. Is that a plane in the distance or a dead bug from your last flight? Or maybe a water spot from the rain storm last week? Where forward visibility is concerned, cleanliness really is next to Godliness.

Proper radio technique….LISTEN. With all those airports sharing frequencies expect congestion on a sunny weekend. Start listening up 10 miles out. If you hear a bunch of aircraft in the pattern for runway 26 right hand traffic chances are pretty good you can expect right traffic for 26 as the active. No need to clutter the frequency with a request for an airport advisory. Keep track of the aircraft calling out as you approach. Be aware that some aircraft are NORDO (no radio). Begin and end every transmission by identifying the airport. And please, save a description of the burger you enjoyed at Blairstown for the ground. Making a date for lunch or comparing the menus of your latest $100 hamburger has no place on a busy frequency. Banish the word “active” from your vocabulary! Give us a number, “Runway 30 or Runway 12” so the next pilot knows just what the active is! Use some common sense when it comes to making pattern calls. Imagine if everyone at the five local airports on 123.0 called “crosswind”, “downwind’, “base”, “final’ and “short final” on every pattern. I have also seen some pilots who will not turn the aircraft (base to final) until they have keyed the mic to make the call…Aviate, Navigate, then Communicate (if you have time).

Flight following and TCAS/TIS are great, but they aren’t silver bullets. Don’t let radar make you complacent. VFR flight following is a workload permitting service. Controllers have their hands full on Saturdays too. Likewise, on board traffic systems are great, but know their limitations. If the other guy (or gal) forgot to turn their transponder on you won’t receive any warning. Jumpers, gliders etc. don’t carry transponders. Even if TCAS and other products are working perfectly, if you are staring at the screen in the cockpit trying to interpret its information, you are not looking out the window which is where the danger lies.

Cockpit organization: Get yourself organized on the ground before takeoff. Fold your charts, write down frequencies and set up GPS. It’s hard to look for traffic when you’re rifling through your flight bag for your AFD.

Use passengers. They are an on-board resource and have a vested interest in identifying conflicting traffic. Explain to them (before takeoff!) how to scan for traffic and identify aircraft location using the “o’clock” method. Also, make sure they understand the concept of “sterile cockpit”. There are times when making conversation is just too distracting for safe flight.

● Lighten up! Lights on for safety.

● Scan, Scan, Scan FAR 91.113 says vigilance shall be maintained any time VFR conditions apply.

● Collision Avoidance starts when you turn the key and stops when you hand them back to Miss Melanie. Make sure you are listening up as you taxi and run-up. Try to make space in the run-up area. And always call clear of the runway. Unless you have x-ray vision, it is physically impossible to see both the approach and departure ends of KSMQ runways on the ground.

● Be aware of blind spots and aircraft limitations.

● Finally, we are a very busy training airport. Most Saturdays find five or six active flight instructors coaxing along the next generation of pilots. That means we have a bunch of young (in hours!) aviators learning the art of radio telephony. Most are suffering from mike fright to begin with. Please be patient with the rookies. We were all there once and the only way to learn is by doing!


Somerset Air Services, Inc has been professionally training pilots for over fifty years. Whether you want to take a few lessons, complete a private pilot's certificate or wish to pursue a career in aviation, we can take you there. In our Piper Cherokee airplanes you will be able to comfortably learn to fly in a professional, yet relaxed, atmosphere. From your first lesson you will handle the controls with a competent FAA Certified Flight Instructor guiding the way. You will learn the basics of aviation, navigation and communications aloft.

Somerset Air Service has a staff of four full time flight instructors to meet your scheduling needs. Lessons are customized to enhance your progress. One-on-one training for ground school is available. If you have career aviation goals, advanced training is available for instrument, commercial, multi-engine, airline transport and certified flight instructor ratings.

Keith Pronko (CFI I)
Mat Kiener
Ian Ricks
Neal Tilak (CFI I)
Paul D'Auria
Andrew Hofford (CFI II)
Eric Santos
Michael Barbato (CFI I) *

Theodore Steffens *
First Solo
Harin Jose
Private Pilot
Antonio Di Nizo *
First Solo
Terry Markovich
Private Pilot
Liz Sharkey
First Solo
Louis Giacomazza
Private Pilot
Clarke Moody
First Solo
Nilson Bolanos Private Pilot
Bob Kolodziej
First Solo
Juan Salgado Private Pilot
Andres Machado
First Solo
Austin Brady Private Pilot
Matt Allergra
First Solo
Mike Barbato Commercial
Bill Moore
First Solo
Vijay Singh Commercial
Andrew Jimcosky
First Solo
Mike Akers Private Pilot
Harin Jose
First Solo
Tony Lo Presti Private Pilot
Tim Tachun Lin First Solo 7/28/11 Sumeet Khurana Private Pilot
Luis Alvarez First Solo 9/20/12 Fred Ginsberg Private Pilot
Rahul Shah
First Solo
Virendra Patel Private Pilot
Kevin Kober First Solo 6/1/13 Bill Patullo Private Pilot
Ben Simoff First Solo 6/21/13   Theodore Steffens Private Pilot
Jett Singh First Solo 7/11/13   Clarke Moody Private Pilot
Seth Kimmel First Solo 7/25/13   Jim Schlott Private Pilot
John Grant First Solo 8/15/13   Doug Rybczynski Inst. rating
Mark Brown First Solo 9/4/13   Johnny Avendanoi Private Pilot
Bryan Barhydt First Solo 9/6/13   Leon Carrar Private Pilot
Geovanny Ochoa First Solo 9/25/13   Edward Tirpack Inst. rating
John Fitzgerald, Jr. First Solo 10/16/13   Wayne Flieschhacker Inst. rating
Jonathan Dambrot First Solo 11/30/13   Mr. John Reynolds Private Pilot
Vincent Guariglia First Solo 12/21/13      
Mr. Steve Henryy First Solo 6/28/14      

Drew Harteveld
Jeffery Probasco
Jeremy Dole
Danny Kay

Down to Details - With our FAA approved curriculum, you will flight train for a minimum of 40 hours for your Private Pilot Certificate. This total time requirement includes dual and solo flights flown locally and over cross country routes (at least fifty miles from home). With the use of our well planned syllabus, your instructor will guide you through all the FAA requirements for certification. Please note these times are minimums. The national average for completion is 70 hours or total time.

An FAA Medical Exam is required prior to solo flight. As an added convenience, we have an FAA Medical Examiner located at the airport.

You are required to pass both a written and practical flight test for certification. Your Jeppesen Flight Training Package will be the foundation of your flying curriculum.

Rate Information - Call us today at (908) 722-2444 for the most current information.


Cherokee 140 $ 97.00
Cessna 172SP $ 140.00
Arrow $ 165.00


$ 40.00
$ 55.00
Own Aircraft
$ 60.00
Ground Instruction
$ 40.00
** Multi Engine rates available on request

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