February 2016

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What To Look For In Instrument Training

Subscribers Only - If you’re on a path to becoming a career pilot, you’re also probably enrolled in a program offering instrument training. You’ll do it their way if you want to graduate. The rest of us face many more variables, and how we respond to them can impact every aspect of how and whether we earn the instrument rating. …

Forward Center of Gravity

Subscribers Only - Figures 1 and 2 depict the same airplane with a forward center of gravity and one in which the CG is further aft, closer to the center of lift. The CG acts on the airplane via the red arrow while lift—shown here opposing CG, actually works at a right angle to the relative wind. In both instances, some tail down force must be generated, as represented by the green arrow at each tail. That tail…

The Standard Warning

Subscribers Only - Stop us if you’ve heard this before: [IMGCAP(1)] This or similar statements appear in training manuals, articles, presentations and even in the FAA’s bank of written-test questions. It’s said so often that the original source is obscure. I tracked an early reference back to a 1982 FAA Advisory Circular, AC 20-117, “Hazards Following Ground Deicing and Ground Operations in Conditions Conducive to Icing,” which references regulations established by the Civil Aeronautics Board in 1950. While I hunted…

Who Is Flying the Plane?

Subscribers Only - According to the FAA, accidents and incidents have occurred due to a lack of communication or misunderstanding as to who actually had control of the aircraft. This is particularly a problem between students and flight instructors, but affects all flight operations when two or more people have access to the flight controls. Without clearly delineating responsibilities—who’s in charge—two undesirable outcomes are distinct possibilities: No one is at the controls, or both pilots are under the…

The Instrument Student’s Obligations

Subscribers Only - The instrument student/instrument instructor relationship works both ways, and the student has duties as well: [IMGCAP(1)] • Students have a duty to show up on time for their lessons, and to expect to pay for the lesson time that was set aside, even if they are late. The instructor has dedicated a certain period of time exclusively to the student and should not be penalized for the student’s tardiness. …

Weight Force & the Lift Equation

Subscribers Only - If the airplane’s weight force increases to 2150 lbs as described in the main text, then to maintain altitude and straight-and-level flight, the total lift force generated by the wings must increase proportionately using the equation in Table 1, at right. According to the lift equation, assuming wing area cannot be increased in flight (e.g., increasing wing surface area by deploying Fowler flaps) and air density is constant, a pilot may increase the wing’s lift…

Privatize ATC?

Decades ago, when commercial air transportation was first, umm, getting off the ground, it soon became apparent some way to sort and separate the growing amount of traffic was necessary to keep them from swapping paint. The first steps toward a modern air traffic control system were taken before WWII, and the U.S. government quickly began spending money, erecting navigational aids, creating airways and developing procedures to ensure the steady demand for more air travel would not be impeded.

More Laws And Sausages

Along with most pilots, I have been following the battle to eliminate third class medicals for private pilots under certain circumstances. I have asked myself, what benefits this might offer to the aviation community, and the general public? The AOPA has been an advocate for these changes, stating it is an excessive cost and burden to pilots! Some have suggested that this will help “increase” the decreasing number of pilots. Is this really the direction we want to go? One might make an argument in the opposite direction, that older pilots need more medical supervision.

Are Two Pilots Better Than One?

Subscribers Only - The day’s mission was to coach a friend of mine through his three bangs-and-goes using another friend’s Cessna 172. Although he had little time, if any, in Cessnas, he was in the left seat. I was serving as PIC from the right. Shortly after we secured the cabin and ran the before-start checklist, the mighty 160-hp Lycoming was happily purring away. We were getting ready to call for a taxi clearance when the engine stopped. No cough, no protest, no warning. “What did you do?” I asked. “Nothing,” the bang-and-go candidate responded. So we ran the checklist again. When we came to the floor-mounted fuel selector, I asked, “How did the fuel selector get turned off?” He said, “It’s not; I turned it to ‘both’ before starting the engine and haven’t touched it since.” Houston, we found the problem.

Keep Your Aircraft Clean

Subscribers Only - Ice, snow or frost adhering to our wings and other control surfaces add weight and drag, and can change way air flows over and around the airframe, making an otherwise “clean” air flow “dirty.” How dirty? Let’s drill down a little bit into the underlying aerodynamics of airframe contamination for a better understanding of what the difference between a clean and contaminated airplane can mean.

Your Missing Air Traffic

Subscribers Only - It’s not much of a stretch to say that in-cockpit traffic detection technology has never been more prevalent or popular than it is today. From the Boeings and Airbuses required to have a certified TCAS aboard, to the guy or gal banging around in a Cub on a lazy summer afternoon and using the traffic information from ADS-B, it’s likely some kind of in-cockpit traffic detection technology is available. There’s only one real problem with all of these technologies: there’s no way they detect all potential traffic, although some “see” a more complete traffic picture than others. From that one problem, however, flow two others. The first is the false sense of security even a top-of-the-line system can provide. The second is the extra workload—and especially the additional head-down time—to which pilots are susceptible as they watch the traffic display and not the sky outside the aircraft. But even the best traffic detection and alerting system won’t see an aircraft without a transponder, and the traffic information provided via ADS-B has its own set of considerations, which are summarized in the sidebar on the opposite page. Let’s take a look at why all this is true.

The Perils Of Forward CG

Subscribers Only - Anyone who’s made it through primary training knows the importance of determining an airplane’s weight and balance. From that training, we know there are real limitations on how much it can carry and where that weight—whether in fuel, cargo or passengers—can be. We also know a lighter airplane performs better than a heavy one, and that weight concentrated near the fore or aft limits can affect aircraft performance.

5 Reasons To Fire Your CFI-I

Subscribers Only - When it’s time for the instrument rating—the thinking rating—the instructor’s obligation ratchets up a few notches. An instrument-rated pilot is potentially going to be flying in high-risk environments—night IMC, ice, thunderstorms, approaches to a mere 200 feet above the unforgiving ground—with high workloads and in complex airspace. The instrument instructor must take a VFR pilot—who may have a casual attitude about checklists, systems, weather and risk analysis—and teach some respect for those subjects. He or she must impart the knowledge and skill needed to stay upright in awful weather, plus develop the savvy needed to think so far ahead of the airplane that the pilot is ready for whatever nature, ATC or system failures deal out.

Analyzing PBOR2

Subscribers Only - As long-time readers know, we’ve been following developments on industry attempts to deregulate the FAA’s airman medical certification process. Happily, on December 15, 2015, the full U.S. Senate passed its version of the underlying measure, the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 (PBOR2), by unanimous voice vote. The bill, S. 571, now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives, where its immediate future is uncertain at this writing. The Senate’s vote to pass PBOR2 comes on the heels of literally years of work by industry organizations, individuals and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the bill’s sponsor, to deregulate, or reform if you prefer, circumstances under which an FAA medical certificate is required for pilots commanding personal aircraft. The PBOR2 legislation builds on more than 10 years of experience with the FAA’s sport pilot certification, which merely requires a state-issued drivers license as proof of fitness to fly. The Senate-passed version may actually require pilots to spend more time with their personal physician, reviewing their fitness to fly than before. The sidebar on the opposite page summarizes the bill’s provisions.

Experimental Aircraft Fatals, New Advisory Circulars, and Avgas 2.0

Fatal accidents involving experimental, amateur-built aircraft (EABs) during the 2015 federal fiscal year—October 2014 through September 2015—fell 20 percent from the previous 12-month period. The FAA has published for public comment draft revisions to two ACs, as well as a handful of others useful to GA and other operators. The FAA’s efforts to approve a new, unleaded aviation gasoline are continuing, with an ongoing series of lab tests being conducted at the agency’s Atlantic City, N.J., research facility.

The Impossible Turn

Subscribers Only - This magazine often has discussed the so-called impossible turn: returning to the departure runway and landing downwind after an engine failure during takeoff. Our view of the impossible turn is that it is possible, but only with practice, sufficient altitude and some luck. Generally, executing a forced landing straight ahead is preferable to attempting a steeply banked turn at low altitude. This is especially true without engine power or sufficient airspeed above the wing’s stalling angle of attack to enable the steep turn.

NTSB Reports

Subscribers Only - At about 1950 Mountain time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing following a loss of engine power. The commercial pilot and his passenger were not injured. Night visual conditions prevailed. While en route, the pilot determined adequate fuel to complete the flight as planned was not aboard. The right fuel tank apparently failed to feed the engine. While preparing to land, the engine lost power. The pilot performed a forced landing to a field, during which the airplane nosed over and came to rest inverted.

Aviation Hydration

A few years ago, as my need to travel on business to various locations ill-served by the airlines grew, using a GA airplane was a natural solution. After months of making, missing and rescheduling appointments, conducting business in FBO meeting rooms and up to four sales calls a day, I started to get the hang of it. What I learned about weather flying and fitting small airplanes into the ATC system would fill several magazines!

Piston Problems

During oil and filter change, chips and large metal pieces were found. During an annual inspection, the engine oil quick drain valve was blocked with debris. About a dozen pieces of what appeared to be piston ring pieces were removed. While performing a condition inspection, a crack was found on #6 intake. After takeoff, the crew noted engine vibration and lack of power. Inspection revealed excessive oil in the engine area and on the aircraft belly. After a precautionary landing due to power loss, a compression check showed zero on cylinder A4.