From the March 2015 Issue

Weather Forensics

Weather Forensics

As I accelerated to 60 knots, I was already picking up a load of ice. It coated the windscreen and formed a thickening layer on the leading edges, I knew I’d made the right decision. Instead of flying, I was driving. My car was icing up. The day before, the takeoff forecast was for marginal VMC: a ceiling at 2500 feet agl. My destination’s morning fog layer was to break up at 10 a.m. local and be replaced by scattered clouds at 15,000 ft. Wanting to do this trip VFR-only, the picture was for marginal conditions at departure but trending toward good VMC.


Current Issue

Proficiency Levels

Am I ready for this flight? That’s the question I found myself asking when I decided to resume flying in a rental aircraft after a six-month lapse. This was after selling the V35B Bonanza I’d owned for eight years. Since I was due for a flight review anyway, I engaged an instructor and got checked out to fly a Cessna 172 from a local flight school. I was comfortable flying the Skyhawk after only an hour and three landings, despite not having flown in six months. That certainly wouldn’t be the case for all the aircraft I’m rated in: The last time I flew a jet was more than seven years ago.

Where’s The Remote?

Believe it or not, it’s been only five years next month since the first iPad was released. Even though it sometimes seems the tablet computers were developed for aviation use, it’s been even less time since they were first used in a cockpit. The fact is many pilots these days can’t imagine life without a tablet computer of some sort enhancing their situational awareness or displaying a needed chart. And as more and more performance, capability and convenience were shoehorned into them, it was just a matter of time before they were embraced by avionics manufacturers.

Weather Forensics

As I accelerated to 60 knots, I was already picking up a load of ice. It coated the windscreen and formed a thickening layer on the leading edges, I knew I’d made the right decision. Instead of flying, I was driving. My car was icing up. The day before, the takeoff forecast was for marginal VMC: a ceiling at 2500 feet agl. My destination’s morning fog layer was to break up at 10 a.m. local and be replaced by scattered clouds at 15,000 ft. Wanting to do this trip VFR-only, the picture was for marginal conditions at departure but trending toward good VMC.

A Good IFR Platform?

Especially if we include Experimental aircraft, there are many different makes and models from which owners and operation may choose, each of them having their own set of features. Whether we want an aircraft to perform aerobatics, do aerial application, conduct training or even engage in cargo operations, there’s a model out there, somewhere, optimized for the mission. But all aircraft embody compromises: none literally can do everything.

Incomplete Circles

Not all approach procedures are aligned with the runway on which we want to land. Once we have it in sight, to get from the procedure’s missed approach point (MAP) to the desired runway, we may need to maneuver well within 1000 feet agl in low visibility, and do it at a relatively low airspeed to remain within airspace protected from obstacles. It’s called circling to land, and is one of IFR’s red-headed stepchildren: a visual maneuver, with IFR constraints. Sadly, a few of us each year prang airplanes while circling to a runway after an approach. To learn more about how and why, we looked at a collection of recent accidents during circling maneuvers. They all seem to have a few things in common, like banking too steeply in turns and letting the airplane descend too early.

Bandwith

I don’t recall if it was a checkride, or just a flight with a friendly instructor putting me through some maneuvers. At some portion during it, however, the right-seater asked me what the single engine’s oil pressure was reading. It must have been a frustrating ride for me, because I responded with something like, “I guess it’s still in the green, because the engine hasn’t quit, but I’ve been so busy I haven’t had time to look.” My response didn’t go over well, but we both may have learned something from it.

In The Belly Of The Beast

You should never, ever, ever, fly into a thunderstorm. If you’re even thinking about it, you probably have a whole different set of problems, and there may be no choice. With that in mind, here are some suggestions on how to keep things pointed in the right direction—and the wings on—adopted from the FAA’s Advisory Circular AC 00-24C, Thunderstorms.

Reconstructing The Data

According to the NTSB, “Data downloaded from the primary and multifunction cockpit displays indicate that the engine began steadily losing oil pressure during the airplane’s initial climb until it leveled off at a cruise altitude of 5000 feet msl. Data suggest that, at that time, the pilot leaned the fuel mixture for cruise flight. Although the pilot could have detected the decreasing oil pressure at that time, [s]he did not report a loss of fuel pressure and engine power to the air traffic controller until about six minutes later.

Tree-Top Flyer

I was flying my Cessna T210 Turbo Centurion from White Plains, N.Y. (KHPN), to Atlanta’s Dekalb-Peachtree Airport (KPDK). Thanks to a supplementary tank, I had enough fuel to make the flight with an hour's reserve. Before takeoff, I had watched the line crew fill the fuel tanks to overflowing.

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