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5 Winter Weather Hazards Pilots Should Pay Attention To

by Sarina Houston 17. November 2014 01:26
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Photo: Scott Wright CCBY-SA 2.0

Winter has arrived early for some, with snow and ice abundant in northern parts of the country already! Cold-weather flying can bring smooth, calm air and great performance, but it can also bring ice and slick runways. If you’re an avid year-round flyer, then you’re probably familiar with the hazards associated with flying in the winter: cold engine starts, frost on the wings, structural icing, and slippery runways. Winter operations include preheating the aircraft, getting the frost off the wings before takeoff and avoiding icing conditions in aircraft that aren't approved for flight into known icing. There are even hazards involved with de-icing! Winter flying is enjoyable, as long as you stay ahead of these winter weather hazards:

  1. Cold engines
    If extremely cold temperatures, it’s wise to preheat the engine before flying. Besides sluggish oil, frost can build up on spark plugs and freezing cold temperatures can also cause instruments to freeze or be sluggish – all bad news for the airplane. Engine crankcases should also be inspected during the preflight to ensure there’s no icing due to vapors condensing.
  2. Frost
    Frost and ice found on your aircraft during the preflight can be removed. Frost and ice found during takeoff, not so much. Even a tiny bit of frost on the airframe can cause a significant loss of lift and the aircraft might stall at a lower-than-usual angle of attack. Never take off with frost on the aircraft!
  3. Icing

    As winter arrives and the freezing level gets lower and lower, pilots need to be prepared for structural icing. Without a properly equipped aircraft, pilots should stay out of areas where icing is forecast or likely. But sometimes icing occurs without notice, and it can occur rapidly. To stay out of trouble, make sure you always have an escape plan if flying in the clouds in cold weather. Ice build-up on the airframe causes loss of lift, increased drag and increased weight.

    If you enter icing conditions in an ill-equipped aircraft, your choices are to climb, descend or turn around. Much of the time, small aircraft will not have the performance to climb through a cloud layer, which is why it’s important to be able to gauge aircraft performance quickly if it’s reduced. It’s also very important to know where the cloud layers are. A pilot in a small airplane won’t want to try to climb if the cloud tops are at 30,000 feet. But if it’s a thin layer of clouds with, say, the base at 6,000 and the top at 7,000, you should be able to climb out of the icing conditions and get above the clouds.

    In most cases, you’ll want to turn around or descend below the clouds. And don’t forget that you can enlist the help of ATC and other weather services if you need assistance getting out of icing conditions.

  4. Runway condition
    During the winter, runways can be slick from frost or icy conditions, and they can also be wet from aircraft operating and winter vehicles removing snow. Know your aircraft’s performance and limitations with wet, snow-covered or icy runways, and make sure you give yourself plenty of extra landing space. Wet runways really do reduce landing performance.
  5. De-icing hazards
    It should go without saying that credit cards aren’t recommended for scraping ice off airplane windshields. But every year, I hear a story about this happening. Get the ice off the recommended way: A soft brush made for aircraft can get the snow off, and de-icing fluid can melt the rest. But de-icing procedures can be hazardous if you don’t know what you’re doing!

    Remember that melted ice can refreeze quickly, and you should always check flight controls and flaps, as well as hinges after de-icing, where water can drip and refreeze.

    De-icing fluid should always be handled with care. A quick check of wind direction before spraying will ensure you don't get Propylene Glycol in your eyes!

    Finally, make sure you’re using an appropriate chemical for your aircraft, and follow local airport procedures for de-icing areas and safety protocols.

Have your own winter flying tips to share? Let us know!

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Aviation Safety | Flying | Sarina Houston

Metrics and Measurements for Business Aviation

by David Wyndham 6. November 2014 13:54
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A metric is nothing more than a measurement.  It is used to gauge or measure some sort of performance. Metrics for pilots can include flight hours flown, instrument approaches flown, cross-country or IMC hours, and landings. All of these metrics can be used to measure the level of proficiency of a pilot. If a pilot has not logged an instrument approach in the past 90-days,  how proficient would she be to fly an approach on a windy, rainy, foggy night?

In a business, metrics are used to measure the company's performance, typically connecting it to costs and profitability. Metrics like return on investment (ROI), employee turnover, the cost to acquire a new customer are a few.  For a pilot, hours flown can be connected to proficiency. Fly more hours and you should have a higher level of proficiency. For a business, generating more revenue per square foot of retail space is a sign of proficiency in profitability.

In business aviation, we tend to stick to the pilot-centric type of metrics. We report hours flown per month, average trip lengths, passenger loads and perhaps unoccupied legs (deadhead). But how do these measure the level of effectiveness for the business aircraft? If a business aircraft flew 35 hours in September and flew 45 hours in November, is it doing a better job or increasing its level of performance for the business? How does flying 10 more hours this past month justify the effectiveness of your business aircraft?

Metrics, by definition, must be measurable. But they must also be valid. A metric that is valid can be used as a predictor of performance. You could have flown 10 more hours last month in holding patterns due to ATC and weather delays. Or you could have flown 10 more hours helping the executive leadership earn a new client for the company. For a charter operator, were the 10 hours billable-hours or non-revenue positioning hours?

What metrics to have for the flight department depend entirely on the missions assigned to the flight department. For a corporate shuttle, passenger-miles flown could be an important metric.  That can mean that the aircraft is serving its corporate customers and saving them travel time. Hours flown per business unit might be a good indicator. If the sales team is flying more hours, might that be indicative of a future increase in sales? If legal and accounting are flying more hours, is that good (a major acquisition) or bad (trouble with Wall Street)?

Costs should factor into your metrics.  Are we getting value for the money? For a charter operator, cost per hour when compared to revenue per hour is vital.  But for the corporate shuttle, cost per hour might not be enough. What about cost per passenger mile? That is handy when looking at a 10-seat aircraft versus 15 seats.  A Gulfstream G150 costs less per hour than a G450, but if your travels take you transcontinental or longer, is cost per flight hour telling the story?

What does your company need to know to show that the business aircraft is being properly utilized? Are the priorities with the use of the aircraft aligned with the overall corporate priorities? Depending of the role of the business aircraft, many metrics will be different.

One metric I think every flight department should follow is Aircraft Availability. This metric is the amount of time an aircraft is available to be flown or is scheduled to be flown as compared to the total operating period. 

Hours aircraft available / Total hours of schedule

This metric is expressed as a percentage. The key is defining the operating period. For an emergency medical EMS helicopter, they need to be available   24 hours per day, seven days per week. For the senior executive transport, the business aircraft may be needed 12 hours per day, six days per week. Regardless of the schedule, if the measured aircraft availability rate is declining over time, that can indicate an increased maintenance load.  I have seen an operator who had such poor aircraft availability, in order to meet a two-aircraft per day flight schedule, they operated five aircraft. 

What is the role of your business aircraft as it relates to the goals and mission of the corporation? How best can you measure the effectiveness of your aircraft as it relates to the corporate goals? Seth Godin said that when you step on the scale, you'd better be prepared to do something about it. So in choosing metrics for your flight department, choose ones that tell the story and that you can use to show how well you are serving the company.

What do you see as an important metric for your operation and whay? Tell us in the comments.

 

 

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David Wyndham

Beechjet/Hawker 400XP Garmin G5000 Retrofit Program

by GlobalAir.com 4. November 2014 08:50
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Breathing New Life into a Timeless Airframe

By Mark Wilken
Director of Avionics Sales for Elliott Aviation

www.elliottaviation.com

At NBAA this year, spectators had the opportunity to see the Garmin G5000 first-hand in the Beechjet. This is exciting news for Beechjet/Hawker 400XP owners and operators alike as it further affirms the longevity for this aircraft. Because avionics parts obsolescence is becoming a prevalent issue in older airframes, the G5000 retrofit rids any obsolescence issues and further enhances the capabilities of this magnificent airframe.

Garmin recognized the importance of the G5000 program, as over 700 Beechjet/Hawker 400XPs/Jayhawk T-1A are currently flying, with many of them older and rapidly facing avionics parts obsolescence issues. However, this viable airframe is still a leader in the light jet segment. The aircraft features 450 Knot speeds with a 1,300+ NM range. Additionally, this airframe is based on a squared oval design with a flat floor, allowing a superior cabin cross-section for ultimate head and shoulder room.

Paired with the G5000, the useful load increases by 150 lbs or more. The G5000 is not just a partial avionics upgrade leaving much of the 1980’s technology but a complete replacement of the entire avionics suite including a new Garmin autopilot system. The G5000 instrument panel consist of three 12” LCD displays that provide the pilot and copilot with all the latest technologies including Synthetic Vision, Electronic Charts, XM Weather, WAAS/LPV, ADS-B, Engine Indication, MFD Range Rings including Reserve Rings, and more.

The 2nd half of this decade will see the Beechjet series aircraft facing CRT Display obsolescence, AHRS obsolesce, WAAS/LPV upgrades, ADS-B out upgrades and a rising cost per hour for avionics repairs. The G5000 will take care of all of these issues in one short downtime, making it a true upgrade that will keep this aircraft flying for many years to come.

With the G5000 officially flying in the experiential stage, customers are looking at this retrofit beginning late 2015. At Elliott Aviation, we are looking forward to installing the Garmin G5000 in Beechjet/Hawker 400XP’s from all over the world. We will be striving to achieve the same milestones that make our Garmin G1000 King Air retrofits such a success like a 15-day downtime, all new wiring, and industry-leading checkout instruction.

About the Author

Mark Wilken joined Elliott Aviation in 1989 as an Avionics Bench Technician. He was promoted to Avionics Manager in 1996 and joined the sales team in 2003. Mark has led many highly successful avionics programs such as the King Air Garmin G1000 avionics retrofit program. He recently led efforts for Wi-Fi solutions in Hawkers, King Airs and Phenom 300’s. Mark holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Aviation Management from Southern Illinois University and is a licensed Pilot.

Does Your CFI Have to Look Over Your Shoulder When You Are Maintaining Instrument Currency in a Simulator?

by Greg Reigel 3. November 2014 17:12
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An instrument rating provides both options and opportunities that are not available to a VFR pilot. But in order for an instrument rated pilot to legally exercise the privileges of the instrument rating, he or she must be current. 14 C.F.R. § 61.57(c) lists the tasks that must be accomplished within the six calendar months preceding the month of the IFR flight, and logged under 14 C.F.R. § 61.51 in order for the pilot to be instrument legal for that flight.

But what happens if you are a pilot who lives in an area of the country where the weather, along with personal scheduling issues (since we few of us have the luxury of flying whenever we want, even though we wish we could) make it difficult to complete these tasks? Or maybe you are looking for a way to lower the cost of flying. Is it possible to safely stay instrument current while saving some money?

Well, one way to meet instrument currency requirements is to use a flight simulator, flight training device or aviation training device ("simulator"). In addition to the lower costs and safety benefits a simulator provides to a pilot, one of the specific advantages is that a pilot may use time in a simulator for instrument currency experience.

However, use of a simulator for logging instrument flight time isn't without conditions. First, the simulator must be "approved" by the FAA (a topic for another day, but if you are curious you can review the FAA's Advisory Circular AC 61-136 for more information). Second, and equally important, in order for a pilot to log simulator time and have it count towards instrument currency, 14 C.F.R. § 61.5l(g)(4) requires that "an authorized instructor is present to observe that time and signs the person's logbook or training record to verify the time and the content of the training session."

As all instrument rated pilots should already be aware, this second condition is different than simply performing the necessary instrument approaches and procedures in an actual aircraft. In the aircraft, an instructor's presence is not required. And, unfortunately, some instructors and flight schools believe that if an instructor is not required to be present when a pilot is performing the necessary approaches etc. in an aircraft, then an instructor should not be required to be present when the pilot is performing the same tasks in a simulator. However, that is not the case.

Additionally, keep in mind 14 C.F.R. § 61.57(c)(3) requires that a pilot who accomplishes instrument experience exclusively in a simulator must have performed the instrument tasks and maneuvers listed in that section within two calendar months before the month of the flight.

If you are going to use a simulator for instrument currency, make sure you are familiar with the requirements that apply to your training. When in doubt, review the regulations and associated FAA guidance. If you still have questions, contact your CFI or a knowledgeable aviation attorney.

7 Reasons an Instrument Rating Will Make You a Better Pilot

by Sarina Houston 1. November 2014 16:11
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Photo: N. Tackaberry/Flickr-CC BY-ND 2.0
Getting an instrument rating means you’ll be able to fly in the clouds and you won’t be stuck on the ground as much because of bad weather. But an IFR rating also comes with a few other advantages. Here’s why getting an instrument rating will make you a better pilot:

  1. You’ll become more accurate.
    There’s no doubt that accuracy improves with instrument flight. In order to remain safe while in the clouds, you have to stay on your altitude and heading. Deviations become much more of a safety hazard when you can’t see the ground below you or other aircraft flying around you. During your IFR training, you learn to fly more precisely, staying on your assigned altitude, heading and airspeed, or making exact pitch and power changes for, say, a precise 500 foot-per-minute climb. These skills will transfer over to your VFR flying, too.

  2. Your preflight planning will be better.
    Preflight planning is always important, but when you introduce low ceilings and fog into the equation, planning is done with a whole new outlook. IFR flight presents new challenges like icing hazards, holding procedures and traffic delays, and it’s more important than ever to be prepared for fuel stops, flight plan deviations and alternates.

  3. You’ll learn more about your airplane’s instruments and technology in general.
    In-depth familiarization with your aircraft’s instruments is one of the challenges of the IFR rating. You’ll not only need to know how these instruments work, but you’ll become familiar with what to do in case of instrument failure. The extra knowledge of autopilot systems and GPS technology will come in handy for flying in different environments, both VFR and IFR.

  4. You’ll always be ‘two steps ahead’.
    Any instrument student knows that part of IFR training is transforming your mindset from real-time flying to being at least two steps ahead of the airplane. Being ahead of the airplane is necessary for instrument flight, as there are numerous things going on and you’ll need to react quickly. Planning for the next two or three steps will become second-nature to you, and before you know it, you’ll be using this mental trick all the time – even for non-aviation tasks!

  5. You’ll be more prepared for inadvertent flight into IMC.
    Flying in the clouds is safe when it’s predictable, and when on an IFR flight plan. But there are times when you might find yourself in less-than-VFR conditions without intending to be, like at night, when the clouds roll in sooner than predicted, or if it’s tough to see the horizon in rain or hazy conditions. An instrument rating will greatly increase your chances of remaining in control of the aircraft should you encounter an inadvertent flight into IMC condition.

  6. You’ll be better at finding traffic in the area.
    As a VFR pilot unfamiliar with IFR operations, it’s difficult to know where exactly another aircraft is when the pilot reports “localizer inbound” or “on the 7 mile arc.” With an instrument rating, you’ll finally be aware of the exact locations of all of these other aircraft in the local area, improving your situational awareness and collision avoidance capabilities.

  7. You’ll become more skilled at noticing and predicting the weather.
    IFR training gives pilots a really thorough look at weather theory and weather reports. As you gain experience flying in IFR conditions, you’ll get much better at recognizing hazardous weather like icing, thunderstorm activity and frontal passages. This proves to be valuable knowledge to have during any flight, of course, and as a bonus you might also become the go-to guy for weather reports and forecasts among your family and friends.

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Aviation Safety | Flying | Sarina Houston





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