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Transitioning Between Low and High Wing Planes in Primary Flight Training

As a flight instructor at a school with both low and high wing planes, I've found that students ranging from pre-solo private to commercial have issues with swapping between planes. It's not that they have issues in flying the planes, but it's trying to get them to learn to fly in both rather than just one type.

To go more in-depth, for example, most people prefer either the Grumman Cheetahs or Tigers or the Cessna 172s. If they've flown in one type but not the other, it's almost a battle to get them to jump in the other type. I've found this is due to a confidence issue. While they don't admit it, it's because they know how to fly one type of plane and don't think they will be successful in another so they don't even want to try. 

So, let's talk about some of the main differences between the planes starting from preflight to landing.

Believe it or not, most general aviation planes almost all fly the same. Going back to the example of a Grumman verse a Cessna, these planes fly almost exactly the same even when it comes to landing. They are not two completely different worlds, and in fact, I tell my students the more planes you can fly, the better off you are for a check ride and the better skills you develop for real-world flying! It makes you a better pilot. 

On a typical Cessna, you lower the flaps on preflight all the way down and then bring them up after engine start. In-flight you bring the flaps down in 10-degree increments and can bring the first notch down outside of the white arc (Vfe) range on the airspeed indicator. 

On a Grumman, you usually bring the flaps down then back up on a run-up/before takeoff check. Still in increments, however, it's a switch by your leg rather than by the yoke and you HAVE to be within the Vfe range in-flight to even lower the first 10 degrees. 

The next "big" difference between low and high wing planes is the visual sight picture when you look outside: the wings are in different places!

Whether you're doing ground reference maneuvers or entering the pattern to land, you use the same area on the plane to look outside and measure the distance. On a high wing, you place your marker about 3/4th the way up the wing strut. On the low wing planes, just use the wingtip (because after all, it's not like you can see below the wing this time). This sounds like it may be a huge factor, but give it 2 minutes and you're used to the change in the new plane. Trust me on this. 

The last change: landings.

Again, either put your wing tip or top of the wing strut on the runway as you enter downwind and there's your sight picture! Bring your flaps and power back as set by the POH and keep your descent coming along with the proper speeds (also set by the POH). If you can get a stabilized approach, most GA planes will land the same here: main wheels touch down first and nosewheel last. Pitch attitude will be similar, again especially with the Grummans and Cessnas, and by the time you touchdown airspeed will have bled off appropriately and your yoke will be almost all the way back. 

If you're reading this because you're in flight training and needing to swap between model planes due to maintenance/availability issues, don't be upset. It's going to develop better skills for you in flying and the planes will likely fly almost identical so don't sweat it! 

Have any more tips to add to help someone in flight training who's having to swap between the two types? Comment below!

Happy Landings,

-Addi

Aircraft Mechanic Refresher: 9 Points To Remember

Aircraft mechanics, like other aviation certificate holders, are subject to many regulatory requirements - both with respect to obtaining their certification as well as how they exercise the privileges of their certificates. And although mechanics may be familiar with these obligations, sometimes it helps to be reminded of some of the specific requirements with which they must comply.

To that end, here is a short list of some of the regulatory requirements relating to mechanics and performance of aircraft maintenance.

  1. An aircraft mechanic may perform maintenance, preventative maintenance or alteration of an aircraft part/appliance for which he or she is rated, BUT the mechanic must have previously  performed the work. The mechanic may also supervise that work provided that he or she has previously performed that work. 14 C.F.R. § 65.81.
  2. An aircraft mechanic may not exercise the privileges of his or her certificate/rating unless the mechanic has satisfied the recency of experience requirements of 14 C.F.R. § 65.83 within the preceding 24 months.
  3. An aircraft mechanic may approve and return to service an airframe or engine (including related parts/appliances) or perform a 100 hour inspection on either, but ONLY IF he or she holds the appropriate rating, i.e. Airframe and/or Powerplant. 14 C.F.R. §§ 65.85 and 65.87.
  4. The holder of a mechanic certificate must keep the certificate within the immediate area where he or she normally exercises the privileges of that certificate and must present it for inspection upon the request of the FAA or NTSB. 14 C.F.R. § 65.89.
  5. An aircraft mechanic who holds inspection authorization ("IA") may only exercise IA privileges while also holding a currently effective mechanic certificate with airframe and powerplant ratings.  And, the mechanic must have a fixed base of operation with appropriate equipment, facilities and inspection data. It is important to remember that this is FSDO specific. If the IA holder wants to exercise IA privileges within the service area of another FSDO, he or she must notify the new FSDO. 14 C.F.R. §§ 65.92 and 65.95.
  6. The IA is renewable for a 2-year period on March of each odd-numbered year.  The renewal requirements include the performance of certain maintenance activities or attendance at a refresher course acceptable to the FAA – all to confirm that the IA holder is "actively engaged." 14 C.F.R. § 65.93.
  7. An aircraft mechanic's IA must be available for inspection by (1) an aircraft owner, (2) another mechanic seeking certain approvals, and (3) upon request of the FAA, NTSB, or any Federal, State, or local law enforcement officer. 14 C.F.R. § 65.95.
  8. An aircraft mechanic who approves or disapproves for return to service an aircraft, airframe, engine, etc. after inspection must, among other requirements, make an entry in the maintenance record containing the type and description of the inspection, the date of the inspection and aircraft total time in service, and the mechanic must provide a signature and certificate number. 14 C.F.R. § 43.11.
  9. If a mechanic performing a required inspection finds an aircraft unairworthy or not in compliance with the type certificate data, AD’s, or other approved data, that person must give the aircraft owner or lessee a signed and dated list of discrepancies and applicable equipment within the aircraft must be placarded “inoperative” as appropriate. 14 C.F.R. § 43.11.

This list is by no means all-inclusive.  An aircraft mechanic is subject to many more regulatory requirements.  However, this list highlights some of the requirements most pertinent to an aircraft mechanic's exercise of his or her privileges. And even though an aircraft mechanic may deal with these issues on a frequent basis, a quick refresher never hurts.

First Solo Preparation

Hey Hey everyone! Happy February! 

Let's talk about some "first solo preparation" today from both the student and instructor side.

As of yesterday, I soloed my first student and let me just say it was the most fun, yet most nerve-wracking thing EVER. I crossed all the t's and dotted all the i's making sure he was ready and yet, when I hopped out of the plane and gave him a thumbs-up, I think I was more nervous than him! It went well though because I made sure he was prepared and that he felt confident in flying the plane. Here's how:

First: we went thoroughly through everything that 14 CFR 61.87 requires us to do. Remember the FAR AIM is the pilot's bible! I obviously studied that section during CFI training but I didn't memorize it, so as it was getting closer to solo time and I wanted to be sure we were covering everything, I looked at the regs to double-check I was doing this the right way. 

I didn't just do the bare minimum either when covering those maneuvers, like power off and on stalls for example. We went out to practice them multiple times and while I didn't make sure they were "check ride material", I did make him talk me through them every time and perform a proper recognition and recovery consistently. 

We did the same thing for landings as well. We practiced normal landings but also emergency scenarios including how to abort a takeoff, engine failure after takeoff, engine failure and electrical failure in the traffic pattern, slips, and crosswind techniques. While it's scary to think about and rarely ever happens, the pilot in command should always be ready for these scenarios and react quickly to keep the flight safe. 

Okay, that's how to prepare for a solo. But when you actually go out to solo, there are several things to consider there as well.

Number one: is the person who's about to solo comfortable with that airport? If you, the student, aren't comfortable with the runway length, airspace, etc. then tell your instructor! Most instructors will ask their students 500 times that day if they're sure they're ready to solo and won't pressure them into it until the time is right. However, we know it does happen here and there so just remember from the student side, as the pilot in command, you have every right to turn something down. 

Number two: as the instructor, where are you going to go once you hop out of the plane? As you can see in the picture above, I just hopped out and stood on the side of the runway where I could get some good pictures and videos. Somewhere a safe distance away but close is normally good.

Number three: for both students and instructors here, how will you communicate once you're no longer in the plane together? Easy, invest in a handheld mic! Seriously the best invention ever. I had one and it came in handy because the student accidentally leaned his mixture too much for taxi and shut the plane down (it happens, mixture sometimes gets the best of us). So, I was able to talk to him and keep his nerves down while he restarted it on the taxiway. CFI's, you know what I'm talking about when I say we're the momma ducks and these are our ducklings. I would've hated not to have that mic and know that I couldn't talk to him from the ground! 

Remember, if you're looking for a good airport nearby to go solo at, Globalair.com has an awesome Airport Search and Information Tool to help you get prepared!

I hope everyone has blue skies and tailwinds this month and for anyone about to solo/solo a student feel free to leave comments or questions to add to this post! We always appreciate everyone's input. 

Happy Landings!

-Addi

 

Initial Radio Calls for Beginners

Have you been working on radio calls lately and struggling to get them down?

Let's talk about how to at least make your initial call and go from there.

Ok so here's the scenario: you're sitting at a towered airport and completed all your checklists that were called for so now you're ready for taxi. Your hand goes to the PTT (push to talk) and your mind goes blank. What do you say?

This is the format to use on the ground:

-Who you're talking to

-Who you are

-Where you are

-What you want

So let's say this towered airport is KEFD (Ellington Field), your plane is a Grumman Tiger N9696W (this is just a fictional tail number I created), and you're in front of the FBO Signature there waiting to go on your flight to KACT to Waco. Using all of that information as well as knowing they have an ATIS there you need to listen to for information, let's put it together for a radio call.

"Ellington ground, Grumman 9696W at Signature, ready to taxi with information Papa"

Some people can argue you don't need to say direction of flight on the ground, only after you switch to tower, but I sometimes let ground AND tower know. I simply do this because often when I call ground at a towered airport, if I don't say it they come back with "say direction of flight." So here it's your preference, given that at the minimum you let tower know which direction you're headed.

Okay now let's say it's the same situation except you're at an uncontrolled airport T41 making an announcement call. This sounds almost the exact same (using the same format still) but you start AND end the radio call with who you're talking to. Remember at uncontrolled as well you're not asking for clearance, so you're only announcing what you're about to do.

Assuming there is a Signature there as well (though in reality there is not) and we want to taxi to runway 12 via Alpha here's what this radio call would sound like:

"La Porte traffic, Grumman 9696W at Signature taxiing to 12 via Alpha, La Porte traffic"

The call for takeoff would sound the same, except then we'd be announcing which direction we'll be departing to to let other traffic know. If we're going to Waco from T41, the direction is to the northwest. Here's what that would sound like:

"La Porte traffic, Grumman 9696W taking the active 12, departing to the northwest, La Porte traffic"

Still generally the same format as we first talked about. Just to keep elaborating, if I'm now holding short of 17R on Bravo at Ellington and ready to takeoff here's my call to tower:

"Ellington tower, Grumman 9696W holding short of 17R on Bravo, ready for departure VFR to Waco"

You notice how in every call they're all similar? The format may change in some calls as you'll learn the more you practice using radios, but this is always the basis most of them follow. 

There comes the subject of after making your initial call what to repeat back at a towered airport and what you don't need to repeat back, or in uncontrolled airspace how to communicate well with other pilots. There's a lot more that can be talked about with radio calls, so we'll likely talk about them another day. 

I hope everyone has a Happy New Year, stays safe, and sounds like a pro on the radios now!

Questions or comments concerning radio calls? Let us know below!

Happy Landings,

-Addi

 

FAA Oversight Of Part 135 Drone Operations: What Can Operators Expect?

Part 135 Drone OperationsAs you may know, the FAA is charged with oversight of the national airspace ("NAS") and aircraft operations conducted within the NAS.  This includes making sure that that air carriers (those who transport persons or property for compensation or hire - Part 121 and 135 operators) are complying with heightened regulatory requirements applicable to those operations.

Until recently, air carriers were limited to operations with manned aircraft.  However, that is no longer the case. The FAA has issued Part 135 authority to certain operators of unmanned aircraft systems ("UAS"). If you have received, or anticipate receiving, approval to conduct 0n-demand UAS operations under Part 135, you should know what to expect from the FAA.

The FAA's Guidance.

Fortunately, this isn't a secret.  In fact, the FAA recently issued an order (FAA Order 8900.527) updating the guidance it provides to its inspectors to explain the surveillance and inspections required for Part 135 UAS operators.  Not surprisingly, the guidance isn't too different from typical Part 135 oversight, but it does specifically address issues unique to UAS operations.

So, what will the FAA inspectors be doing? They will be conducting surveillance of both the airworthiness of the UAS being operated and the operations conducted by the air carrier.

Airworthiness.

With respect to airworthiness, this will include inspections of the following:

  • The operator's facility, including operator data, maintenance facilities, data and records and, of course, the UAS airframe, powerplant, critical systems and AD compliance, as applicable;
  • The operator's manuals and procedures; and
  • The operator's records and recordkeeping systems;

Operations.

With respect to the operator's use and operation of its UAS, the FAA will inspect the following:

  • The operator's air operator certificate;
  • The operator's Operations Specifications;
  • The operator's Operations Manual;
  • The operator's records, including trip records, crew records, PRIA records, and any additional records required by an exemption, waiver, or certificate of authorization;
  • The operator's training program; and
  • The operator's UAS, as well as the operator's actual use/operation of the UAS.

Conclusion.

This list is certainly not all-inclusive.  However, it gives operators a good idea the major items the FAA inspector(s) will be inspecting/reviewing to make sure the Part 135 UAS operator is conducting operations in compliance with the regulations.

And, of course, the length and scope of the inspections will vary depending upon the inspectors involved, the same as it does for Part 135 manned aircraft operations. But if you are familiar with this guidance, you will at least have a general roadmap of what to expect when the FAA conducts surveillance and inspections of a Part 135 UAS operation.

Greg Reigel is a partner at the firm of Shackelford, Bowen, McKinley & Norton, LLP in Dallas Texas.

Greg has more than two decades of experience working with airlines, charter companies, fixed base operators, airports, repair stations, pilots, mechanics, and other aviation businesses in aircraft purchase and sale transactions, regulatory compliance including hazmat and drug and alcohol testing, contract negotiation, airport grant assurances, airport leasing, aircraft related agreements, wet leasing, dry leasing, FAA certificate and civil penalty actions and general aviation and business law matters.

He can be reached via:
Email: [email protected]
Website: https://shackelford.law
Phone: 214-780-1482

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