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Three Tips for Avoiding Runway Confusion

Have you ever had runway confusion? This confusion could come from runway numbers closely aligned or even complex airport layouts. From one pilot to another, we’ve all had some confusion during one stage of training or another. Here are a few tips to equip you with better runway familiarity and ridding the chance of possible confusion.

Three major ways to avoid possible risks associated with runway confusion include:

I) Always remember ATC is there to help you, especially at unfamiliar airports. Make sure to request progressive taxi instructions. Progressive taxiing is essentially asking for step-by-step, turn-by-turn instructions to your destination runway or airport destination.

 

Current Airport Diagram

 II) Always carry a current airport diagram, trace or highlight your taxi route to the departure runway prior to leaving the ramp. This also applies to when you are in the air. If you are a distance out from the runway environment and are unsure how you will enter the pattern, draw out your aircrafts heading and position on your airport diagram to the runway of intended landing. Be sure to listen to the airport ATIS to anticipate the runway in use before ATC tells you. Stay ahead of the aircraft if you can!

 

PIT Airport Diagram

 

III) If departing on Runway 36, ensure that you set your aircraft heading “bug” to 360°, and align your aircraft to the runway heading to avoid departing from the incorrect runway.

Before adding power on the runway currently aligned, make one last instrument scan to ensure the aircraft heading and runway heading are centered.

 

Runway and Pressure Gauge

 

Airport Information

It is important to review the current data for your airport or airports of use. Make sure you have these three common sources to obtain airport information.

I) Aeronautical Charts

  • Map designated to assess navigation of aircraft. Make sure your charts are current!

Aeronautical Chart

II) Chart Supplement U.S. (formerly Airport/Facility Directory)

  • Contains information on airports, heliports, and seaplane bases that are open to the public.

FAA Chart Supplement

III) Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) 

  • NOTAMs are time-critical aeronautical information that include such information as taxiway and runway closures, construction, communications, changes in the status of navigational aids, and other information essential to planned en route, terminal, or landing operations.
  • Types include FDC, SAA, FICON, Pointer, D, and military. 
  • NOTAMs are super important to understand the condition of the airport environment around you and how it can affect your awareness/routing.

These are a few very useful tips to help you familiarize yourself with unfamiliar airports and reduce confusion. Do you have any other useful tips to avoid runway confusion? Leave a comment below! 

 

Reviewing The Basics of Flying an Emergency Descent

Aircraft Propeller

If you're flying a high powered aircraft, then you probably have a flash card with 'Emergency Descent' on it.

If you're flying a normal piston aircraft, then you likely have the muscle memory down from practicing an emergency descent.

Let's do a quick review of an emergency descent because this emergency scenario actually tends to happen more often than others. 

1) Decreasing Lift

Bring the power back and, if needed, start rolling in bank ranging from 30 to 45 degrees. Remember the basics of aerodynamics! If you increase bank without increasing back pressure, you'll increase horizontal lift and decrease vertical lift. Therefore, losing altitude and beginning the descent. 

2) Increasing Drag

If you have spoilers, extend them. If you're flying a constant speed propeller then you'll need to place the prop in low pitch and high rpm to make it LESS aerodynamic. You want to get the aircraft down as soon as possible without overspeeding.

As speed allows, start bringing gear and flaps down. 

3) Decide Your Level Off and Advise

Now you're configured and in the descent but when will you level off? Well, it depends on why you're flying an emergency descent. If you started down because you lost pressurization, then you just need a level off low enough to safely breathe without getting hypoxia (around 10,000 feet) then go from there. If you're doing so because you've lost a critical system or have a sick passenger, the question then becomes which airport are you going to?

Airport Runway

Consider factors when choosing an airport such as:

-runway length (most important if you're flying a larger aircraft)

-maintenance facility on the field so you can get your plane fixed

-emergency crews that can reach you quickly

Whatever you decide, let ATC know as soon as possible then start thinking ahead to getting your checklist completed and ready for approach/landing. 

Lastly is don't forget during all of this that if you're flying a pressurized cabin you need to first get your oxygen mask on and during the descent ensure the passenger masks have deployed!

An emergency descent is a rather simple memory item, but a good review of the basics of each item never hurts!

Questions or comments? Feedback below! 

Understanding Aircraft Wake Turbulence

You are flying into a controlled airport with the intent to land and ATC states, “ Cessna N617WT winds 160 at 5, cleared to land Runway 18, caution Wake Turbulence”. What is ATC trying to tell you with the message “caution wake turbulence” and how do you avoid the hazard associated with it?


Wake Turbulence

 

First off, to avoid wake turbulence we have to know what it is and how it is created. Simply put, wake turbulence (also known as wing tip vortices) is the product of created lift from the wings. The creation of this wing vortex generation is made by the creation of a pressure differential over the wing surface. As we know from basic lift aerodynamics, the lowest pressure occurs over the upper wing surface and the highest pressure under the wing. Due to that pressure differential, the rollup of the airflow aft of the wing resulting in swirling air masses trailing downstream of the wingtips. 

 

Aircraft Counter Control

 

Okay now we know what it is, why is it so dangerous? 

Compared to our little Cessna, large aircrafts wake can impose rolling tendencies exceeding the roll-control authority of the encountering aircraft. A lot depends on the encountering aircrafts wingspan. The larger the wingspan the larger the vortices, therefore, greater rolling tendencies are imposed. The greatest vortex strength occurs when the generating aircraft is

o    Heavy

    More lift is required 

o    Slow 

    Higher AOA is required to counteract lack of airspeed

o    Clean 

    The extension of flaps and other wing surface devices will change the characteristics of flight vortex (dirty, indicates delayed vortices)

Now that we know what it is and why it’s so dangerous, how do we avoid it?

When landing behind a larger aircraft— stay at or above the larger aircraft’s approach flight path and land beyond its touchdown point.

When departing behind a large aircraft—rotate prior to the rotation point and climb above its climb path until turning clear of the wake. 

Next time ATC gives you a caution such as “wake turbulence” you will know what you’re working with and looking out for. Make sure you exercise the proper precautions and avoidance techniques! You never know when you could encounter another large aircraft on takeoff and/or landing. Fly safe!

Why Aircraft Engines Thrive in Colder Temperatures

Since day one of flight training, we have all heard pilots say that aircraft perform better when it's colder outside. 

You may have heard the term density that has to do with this factor but may have not have seen it actually broken down and explained before. So here's why:

Temperature and Density

When air is entering an aircraft engine to be mixed with fuel, it goes through the 4 phase process of "intake, compress, combust and exhaust" in order to generate power. This is the same for both jet and piston engines. 

But how much air can actually enter the air inlet in order to enter the 4 step process?

Well, the slightly better question is how many air molecules

jet engine design

As explained by BoldMethod.com, "cold air molecules move slower and collide with less energy than hot molecules, causing cold air to become denser. As temperature drops, more air molecules enter an engine, and as temperature rises, fewer air molecules enter an engine."

The more air molecules that can enter an engine, the more power/performance that can be generated, therefore cooler temperatures are more preferred. 

Density Altitude & Performance 

Since we're discussing the density of air in relation to temperature, density altitude goes hand in hand with the topic. Density altitude is altitude relative to standard atmospheric conditions at which the air density would be equal to the indicated air density at the place of observation.

Or for better terms, simply put it is the density of the air given as a height above mean sea level (MSL). 

The higher you are above sea level, the less dense the air becomes, posing the same problem: fewer air molecules entering the engine, therefore, less fuel is mixed with it and lesser power is generated. 

So if you're flying somewhere with a high field elevation such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming for example, and you're taking off in the afternoon where temperatures are at their hottest, you may want to double-check performance numbers. High altitude and high temperature is the worst combination for your aircraft. 

This can even potentially stop you from being able to take off, where your only option is to wait out the temperature until the sun goes down and air cools off again. 

So, if you've been flying and curious why your plane seems more sluggish than a few months ago, now you know! Airplanes like the cold!

questions or comments? Write us below. 

Lesson Plans from a CFI for Steep Turns Part 2

Two weeks ago I shared the first half of my lesson plan for steep turns. Today I will continue to share the last part of that particular lesson plan covering Va (maneuvering speed), weight impact, load factor and accelerated stalls, lastly rate and radius of turn. So as promised, here you go!

Maneuvering-speed

Why do we maneuver at the Va speed?

Va or your designed maneuvering speed is the speed at which the airplane will stall before it exceeds its designed limit-load factor.

  • Full and abrupt aerodynamic control
  • Lower weight lower maneuvering speed
  • Heavier weight higher maneuvering speed
  • It permits an aircraft to preform maneuvering training (such as steep turns) at or below calculated airspeed. This will allow the aircraft to stall (exceed the critical angle of attack) before it develops structural damage.
  • The weight of the wings will exceed designed load limits when operating above Va resulting in structural damage.

The VA Formula

The Impact of Weight Changes

  • Heavier weight = greater AOA to produce sufficient lift to weight ratio
  • Lighter weight = less AOA needed to produce sufficient lift to weight ratio
  • Note* due to higher AOA of heavier aircraft it is closer to the C-AOA (Critical Angle of Attack)

Angle of Attack
Load Factor and Accelerated Stalls

  • Load factor has a proportional relationship between lift and weight. The measurement for load factor is Gs—acceleration of gravity.
  • Gs is a unit of measurement that is equal to the force exerted by gravity on a object at rest and indicates the force to which a object is subjected when it is accelerated. In other words, any force that is applied to an aircraft to change its flight path from a straight line produces some sort of stress on its structure. The resulting force that is created is the load factor.
  • A 60 degree bank pulls 2 Gs— the weight of the aircraft is doubled.
  • By increasing your load factor you also increase the stalling speed and make stalls possible at seemingly safe speeds.
  • We use the normal category— limit load factor 3.8 to -1.5 Gs.
  • The total lift has to increase substantially to balance the load factor or Gs
  • As load factor increases, so does stall speed exponentially. An aircraft’s stalling speed increases at the square root of the load factor. Accelerated stall!

Rate and radius of turn

Rate of Turn

  • The rate of turn (ROT) is measured in the number of degrees (expressed in degrees per second) of heading change by the aircraft.
  • Airspeed increase = ROT decreases unless bank is added
  • Bank angle increases = ROT increases unless airspeed is added
  • “It is found that the horizontal component of lift is proportional to the angle of bank—that is, it increases or decreases respectively as the angle of bank increases or decreases. As the angle of bank is increased, the horizontal component of lift increases, thereby increasing the rate of turn (ROT).” (PHAK Ch. 5)

Radius of Turn

  • The radius of a turn is directly proportional to the ROT as it is a function effected by both bank angle and airspeed.
  • Airspeed increases = radius of turn increase
  • “As the airspeed is increased in a constant-rate level turn, the radius of the turn increases. This increase in the radius of turn causes an increase in the centrifugal force, which must be balanced by an increase in the horizontal component of lift, which can only be increased by increasing the angle of bank.” (PHAK Ch. 5)

Completion Standards

Student is able to maintain the entry altitude ±100 feet, airspeed ±10 knots, bank ±5°, and roll out on the entry heading ±10° of steep turn preformed.

Whenever you create a lesson plan, don’t forget to give credit and cite your sources!

References:

PHAK Ch. 9 & 5

Private pilot Airmen Certification Standards

Airplane Flying Handbook

Commercial Pilot Practical Test Standards

If you have any questions or suggestions for improvement I’d love to read them in the comments below. 

Question for current or previous CFI’s: What advice would you give a pre-CFI regarding creating lesson plans or preparation to becoming a CFI that you wish you knew before you started instructing?

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