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Our Airplanes Are Aging

The event perhaps most demonstrative of what can happen as an aircraft ages occurred on April 28, 1988, over Hawaii. Thats when an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-200 operating in scheduled passenger service as Flight 243 between Hilo and Honolulu lost part of its cabin roof while in cruise at FL240. The crew successfully landed the airplane after diverting to Maui. Of the 89 passengers and six crewmembers aboard, there was one fatality-a flight attendant who was swept overboard during the decompression event.

#OSH19

Once again, the Experimental Aircraft Association in July pulled off another great AirVenture fly-in at its home in Oshkosh, Wis. This years event had a little of everything, including torrential rain the Friday evening before Mondays opening day, nighttime air shows and lots of airplanes of every shape, size and purpose. Perhaps because the pre-show rain knocked everyone off-kilter-followed by mid-week heat-the overall event seemed to need more cowbell, but it definitely was worthwhile checking out all the new stuff and checking in with long-time friends.

Laters And Waiters

In the decade-plus since the coming ADS-B mandate became a thing for U.S. aviation, those whose operations will be affected have fallen mainly into two camps: early adopters and those who put it off as long as possible. In this binary world, I freely admit to being something of an early adopter. And despite some cool-and less expensive-new gear on the market, Im happy with my choice to equip with ADS-B in 2016. Its likely those who have taken a wait-and-see attitude also are happy.

Rusty Pilots

The weight of the engine is only significant in that it is part of the center of gravity of the aircraft, which naturally lies aft of the main gear in a taildragger. Therein lies the problem, especially while landing. That center of gravity, without interference, will travel in a straight line when in motion, according to Newtons First law, which is often called inertia. It is imperative that we keep the airplane (longitudinal axis) tracking and aligned with that same straight line.

Five Reasons Not To Fly A Coupled Approach

And like every other technology, autopilots have their limitations. For one, they have to be set up correctly-along with the navigation equipment-to reliably follow a heading and descend along a glidepath. Details like when to take over from the autopilot, how you might handle an equipment failure-if you notice it-and even whether to let Otto fly the missed approach or do it yourself need to be worked out ahead of time. Thats the short version of why we might want to consider hand-flying the approach. Lets expand on them.

Catching Up

By the time you read this, Ill be getting my Debonair out of its annual inspection. Its been a lengthy one, in part because of some items I had deferred from previous inspections and in part because the airplane was new to the shop doing the work. Basically, I decided it was time to catch up on a few wear-and-tear items that pop up with any kind of machine, from a Roomba vacuum cleaner to a personal airplane.

Flying On The Ground

Your primary training probably included a diagram explaining where the elevator and aileron controls should be positioned based on where the wind is coming from while taxiing. When we have such wind conditions-and even when we dont, if we want to be honest- we can and should use the ailerons to help control the airplane on the ground. Alas, we dont always have that diagram available, and its easy to forget whether the upwind wings aileron should be down or up. (Hint: It depends.) Lets try to come up with a one-size-fits-all understanding of when and how to use ailerons on the ground.

Buddy System

Normally, I might have panicked, but with my experienced copilot at my side, I stayed calm. We talked through our options and decisions along as I continued to fly the plane. I began a series of small adjustments to the throttle and mixture to see how the engine responded. We quickly discovered these changes only made matters worse, so we left the settings as is. My buddy reminded me to stay high-altitude is our friend-and we looked for landing spots in case things deteriorated.

A New Homebuilt And Rusty Pilots

They expressed their nervousness, which was understandable. Who wants to show their flight skills to a critic when those skills are at low proficiency? It is human nature to want to show your best side, but a rusty pilot flight review will show the naked truth. I explained there is nothing wrong with being out of practice, and a flight review is not a test, but an opportunity to learn. Their anxiety acknowledged, we moved on to the needed practice.

Three IFR Curveballs

Flying IFR can get deceptively routine. Most of the time, it means taking off, climbing, cruising, descending, and an approach and landing-all along well-defined routes and usually in VMC. The majority of IFR pilots tend to fly the same routes and procedures again and again, to the point they might memorize communications frequencies and even approach minimums. Its possible to be extremely proficient at the type of flying you usually do while letting other skills atrophy.

Lessons Not Learned

The accident occurred nine years almost to the day after an 18,600-hour airline transport pilot flew a Beech Baron into the lake just after departing from the same airport on a nighttime positioning flight. In the case of the Citation, the Board surmised that due to the pilots recent transition from a Citation Mustang with a different panel layout, he might have been unaware that hed never engaged the autopilot as hed presumably intended. On the night of the Baron accident, ceilings were 25,000 feet and visibility unrestricted, but the moon and city lights were behind the pilot once he turned north over the lake.

Carrot, Meet Stick

Since the deadline was established, rumors about how the FAA will handle the coming transition have ranged from extending the deadline at the last minute to dismantling every non-compliant aircraft within Class B airspace and selling them for scrap on January 2. Im so old I remember when Mode C first was required in certain airspace, and ATC would routinely accommodate non-complying aircraft. Later, they wanted at least an hours notice, and the request could be denied. In my experience, ATC has always tried its best to cut some slack on Mode C, especially if everything was working when you took off.