Unicom

September 2004 Issue




Unicom 09/04: Patterns And Pounds

Readers sound off on recent articles involving traffic patterns and aircraft loading while finding a few mistakes.

He Who Is Without Sin
I just finished the article,”Five Pattern Sins” (July 2004); what a load of garbage! I didn’t see an author’s name and certainly understand why. A quarter-mile final? Try it behind a Citation. Land on the same runway behind a student pilot on their first solo; I’d like to be part of that lawsuit! At Vandenberg (VDF), if two aircraft pull out from the hangars without a taxi call, you can easily be face-to-face with one another. (The prop reverse in our Beech doesn’t work since the last annual.) Then you say to extend your downwind for a straight-in, what happened to the efficient ¼-mile final? I won’t even mention slow flight on the downwind, or turning base in front of someone. Just do me a favor, call me and let me know if you are flying (I assume you are a pilot) to the Tampa area. I think I’ll go boating that day.

-Steve Pescatore
Via e-mail


Better lay in some extra provisions for the boat, Steve. Paul Bertorelli, our intrepid Florida-based editorial director, wrote that piece and tells us he plans to fly every day in the Tampa area. It might be a good idea to steer clear of the Zephyrhills area, too, where he’s been known to actually jump out of a perfectly good airplane. Come to think of it, maybe just avoiding Florida’s airspace altogether would be a good idea.

----------

Taught To Sin
Your “Five Pattern Sins” article stated you’re “not sure why or how this wide-pattern trend got started.” As a new Private pilot, I can tell you the answer: We were taught that way. I never asked why, but by their instructions and directions, I think it’s to allow more time to set-up, align, track and adjust for crosswinds. The only time my final is ½ mile or less is when the tower instructs me to make a short approach. I recently attended a Wings seminar hosted by our airport controllers. They said they used to see final legs half the length of what is common now. Our flight school (and apparently many others) should reduce the final leg length as the student’s approach proficiency improves. Thanks for the article and the drills to improve my pattern work.

-Ted Bowe
Via e-mail

----------

Less Than Zero
I found your article on “zero-zero” takeoffs interesting, but I was puzzled by the fact that it seemed to focus mainly on techniques for doing them. I was hoping that a publication devoted to aviation safety would also have given more discussion as to whether such takeoffs should be done at all, and/or how to decide when they present an acceptable risk. In particular, since the accident case that opened the article involved colliding with an obstacle, I was surprised that there was not more discussion of how one goes about assessing the terrain and obstacle environment, and determining whether there will be a sufficient safety margin for the proposed takeoff.

-Richard Palm
Via e-mail

----------

More On Gadgets
I agree with your editorial “Death to Gadgets” (May 2004) but would like to suggest another substitute for all those non-essential gadgets. This is the purchase of professional reading books, such as Wolfgang Langewiesche’s Stick & Rudder or Bob Buck’s Weather Flying, among many others. The knowledge one gains from reading these books, along with publications like yours, is priceless. It’s the best way to strengthen two legs of that stool: information and judgment. Thanks for the great publication, I learn something new every month.

-Jeff Frye
Via e-mail

----------

Stop The Prop?
I enjoyed your recent article about “intentional” gear-up landings (“Gear-up On Purpose,” July 2004). But I wonder about your caution against shutting down to save the prop and engine. Doesn’t that depend on when you shut it down? A couple of years ago, my Commander 114’s nose gear indicator light did not come on. I did a fly-by and the tower observed the gear down, so I proceeded with a normal landing procedure. But after entering my flare over the numbers, I pulled the mixture, landed on the mains, and pulled back on the yoke during the roll out. The prop stopped with plenty of runway left and I maintained this slightly nose high attitude while slowly coming to a stop. I don’t understand why this maneuver is not prudent rather than as you put it, “one of the dumbest things to do.”

-Bob Kuehn
Via e-mail


Congratulations on handling the situation well. The problem in trying to save the prop is deciding when to pull the mixture. Pull it too early, and you won’t make the runway. Also, the glide characteristics can change if the prop actually stops instead of continuing to windmill. Stopping the prop can help you stretch a glide, but it can lead to misjudging the landing. We think worrying about making a smooth, controlled landing is preferable to worrying about the prop.

----------

Canned CG
Great article (“Positioning Pounds,” July 2004), and very worthwhile to note what you really have in your plane. I have a PA-28-140 Cherokee and a little trick I use may be helpful. I have plotted different loading scenarios, including both tanks full, one full and one to the tabs and one both on the tabs. Then I plot one pax, two pax and three pax—four pax is not really an option because of the cramped rear seat. I keep these graphs in my plane so when I am ready to go, all I have to do is look at the one that fits the plan. It’s fast and very accurate since I did it in the quiet of my office. Of course, and as you point out, I need to weigh all the stuff in my plane and add it.

-Frank Barron
Via e-mail


Not a bad idea, and one many commercial operators have implemented, either voluntarily or by regulation.