Stepping Out


Okay, okay, I know theres no such thing as “the step” (“Cruise Dynamics,” August). Or is there? Our Glasair One + One Half (half Glasair I, half Glasair II) has a strange cruise characteristic. Other Glasair FT pilots have observed this on their planes too, so were not alone.


At cruise, at altitude, you can fly in level flight at one of two airspeeds, separated by only five knots and obtained by an almost imperceptible pitch change. My partner always flies at the slower of the two speeds because the airplane stops accelerating there as she levels from climb. Whereas I will set the nose to the known level flight attitude and fly at the higher speed. The only way she can get herself to fly five knots faster is to overshoot her final altitude by 100 ft and “dive” to get past the first level flight cruise speed, just like the proverbial step technique.

Were not on the back side of the power curve, where, by definition, more power would mean you could fly slower. In other words, at the five-knot-slower cruise attitude, speed is still proportional to power. More power, more speed.

I think its a drag bucket phenomena, where some component of airframe drag is lower at the lower pitch attitude.

In a few thousand hours of flight instruction, I never noticed this phenomenon in the ubiquitous trainers. But it may be that a few other aircraft also have this kind of drag bucket that, like talk of the Yeti, keeps talk of the phantom step alive.

Mike Palmer
Via e-mail

No, youre not on the power curves backside; youd need to be flying substantially slower for that.

It would be very interesting to do some controlled testing of that airplane. Wed wager it will display repeatable cruise characteristics at specific power settings and loadings. Wed also wager either level-off technique you or your partner employ will eventually result in the same indicated cruise airspeed.

Alternative Corrections

The article “Alternates Made Easy” (August) is a nice review but the rules for listing an alternate are wrong.

Specifically, the “602 or 802” rule for standard alternate minimums is not for one hour before to one hour after but for the estimated time of arrival. Reference page 2-11 of the FAAs Instrument Procedures Handbook, FAA-H-8261-1A. The second error is in listing an alternate with GPS-only approaches which is allowed for WAAS-equipped aircraft. See the same reference.

Im sure youll get other e-mails regarding this but just wanted to make sure it got corrected. I enjoy Aviation Safety and look forward to each issue. Thanks!

Lee Bergmann
Via e-mail

Thanks for keeping us on our toes. According to the IPH, airports with only a GPS approach procedure cannot be used as an alternate by users lacking WAAS-equipped aircraft. Select RNAV (GPS) and GPS approach procedures may be used as an alternate by aircraft equipped with an approach-approved WAAS receiver. In any case, an airport may not be used as an alternate use if it does not have weather reporting capabilities.

Dancing Centurion


I found the article “Going Around” (June) timely, having recently made the most difficult landing in my 30-plus years of flying (after going around with the first attempt, of course).

The runway at Nestor Falls, Ontario, is a nice tree-lined strip with a big cut on one side. In a strong crosswind, the wind swirls significantly. As I was settling over the runway, my T210 became a bucking bronco. After two rough touchdowns without any sense of real control, I instinctively firewalled it to get out of there-not necessarily a good idea when overboosting a turbocharged airplane trimmed for landing.

Fortunately, I learned about elevator trim stalls in my CFI training. With the stall warning sounding, I had to use both hands to keep the nose down while my pilot wife retracted the flaps.

The elevator trim stall is not commonly discussed. But during a go-around in a powerful airplane, it can be a source of trouble. The excessive nose-up attitude not only can cause a stall, but also a loss of reference to terrain and obstacles at a most unfortunate time.

Gregg Strathy
Via e-mail

As you discovered, firewalling a low and slow airplane while in its landing configuration instantly transforms it from relatively docile to a handful. It certainly can be handled well-you proved that-but its better, easier on the pilot and easier on the airplane to add back moderate power first to arrest the descent, then pitch for a climb while retracting the gear and “milking” up the flaps. As the flaps come up, reset the pitch trim to something approaching a cruise climb, set climb power and motor out of there.

In an extreme example, a rare F-51 Mustang was lost and its pilot killed during a go-around maneuver at Camarillo, Calif., back in July. According to the NTSB, “the pilot initiated a go-around, and the airplane immediately rolled left and impacted the ground beside the runway in an inverted position.”

Speculation is that the pilot applied full power at too low an airspeed and lost control. Even though a P-51 has much more power available than your Centurion, it still has to be applied judiciously.



I just received your August 2007 issue and, in the sidebar on page 22, under “Missed Calls,” you admonish pilots for failing to respond to ATC calls. I can assure you the number of times ATC does not respond far exceeds the number of times pilots fail to respond.

Its not unusual for many of us to make as many as five calls to ATC-all the while wondering if our comm radio has failed-just to get an acknowledgment. I have Class B airspace directly east of my home base and most of my flights are in that direction. Circumventing the Bravo is not practical.

I have made many 360s waiting for ATC to respond when approaching the airspace. If whoever wrote this flew often enough in the system they would realize this.

Finally, how many pilots are taking a “sweet young thing” for their first ride? Give me a break. How about a little professionalism?

Jim Wells
Via e-mail

Cmon, Jim, give us a break, too. Many more pilots read us than controllers, and the few times ATC has missed one of our initial call-ups is dwarfed by the number of pilots failing to respond to calls. Theres no question ATC can do better, but the roughly 200 hours a year we fly tell us pilots have more room for improvement than controllers.

And maybe were just lucky, but we get to give a first ride in a light airplane to attractive women at least once a year. The point is not to let passenger inquiries and other distractions divert our attention from the basics of communicating.


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