August 2019 Aviation Articles

Nailing Your Glide Slope on Final

If you're anything like me when I was working on my private pilot certificate and struggling to hold a proper glide slope, then here's some tips for learning how to adjust and making your descent more consistent.

First things first, if there is a PAPI or VASI on the runway (like the one pictured above) then use it! Make yourself create what's called PAPI discipline. Don't accept seeing 4 white and stay being too high, and FOR SURE don't accept 4 red. "4 red you're dead" is an old saying, and it's a saying for a reason.

This isn't to say that every time you see 4 red you're in critical danger, but don't create a habit of accepting that and still continuing a descent or you may find out the hard way that you're far too low. Here's 2 pictures to help illustrate both a PAPI and VASI lighting system:

PAPI

VASI

When it comes to actually flying the plane, the trick is always airspeed. Transition from your final approach speed to touchdown speed and you'll grease the landing every time too. 

You'll always hear that there is 3 things a pilot controls: heading, airspeed and altitude. Heading is more simple in this case, use the ailerons and rudder hold runway centerline as you descend down. Have a crosswind? Use more! 

We then control airspeed with pitch, and altitude with power.

So let's say you're getting a reading of 4 white on the lights and you're 10 knots faster than what you should be. What do you do? Take out some power! Bring the throttle back a bit and let the altitude slowly start to decrease and bring the nose up slightly as well. When you're back on the glide path bring some power back in and keep watching that airspeed because it is so so important, especially as you move up to larger and faster planes.

Remember too to keep it smooth, normally it only takes small corrections to come back to where you need to be. In that previous example, if you immediately take out full power and abruptly jerk the nose up you'll descend quick and lose airspeed too fast and will go past what you were needing to correct. From going to being too high and fast, now you might be too low and too slow. Being too low and too slow kills good pilots, because you can stall the plane with little to no altitude to recover. 

It's always good to know how to conduct a proper forward slip too, especially when you're way too high and close to the runway. Take it from me, you won't turn on final and be exactly where you want to be every time so it's best to know how to correct. 

Make sure you have no flaps, take out power, keep your eye on a spot on the runway to touchdown down on, then get that rudder and ailerons in and start going down! Once you're coming up to where you want to be smoothly add the power back in as you take out rudder and ailerons. Then work with airspeed and power to grease that landing!

A good landing is all about knowing how to work the plane. You're always watching heading, airspeed and altitude and applying the proper corrections. If there is a PAPI/VASI there, use discipline and work to stay on the right glide path. 

Wondering where you can go practice some good landings at? Head over to our website and use the Airport Search Link to find an airport near you with an adequate runway. Be sure to comment any tips and tricks you have too or some good landing stories and stay tuned for the next post! 

 

 

 

Popular Topics on the Multi Engine Oral Exam

Whether you're going for a multi add-on to a previous certificate or doing a "fresh" multi certificate so to speak, you'll need to know these popular topics that almost every examiner will ask. They're the most important factors about multi flying and knowing them also keeps you safe.

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a. What's the difference between a single engine and multi engine plane? Well the most obvious answer here is one has one engine and the other has 2 or more. Tell that to your DPE and see if you can get a laugh out of them (and then follow with this elaboration). On a single engine plane when you lose an engine, you can no longer climb. You pitch for airspeed, find a spot to land, run through your checklist to diagnose the problem and then try to restart the engine. The danger here is stalling if you lose too much airspeed. In multi engine planes, the danger is the yaw that becomes uncontrollable until it rolls the plane over. You very quickly have to bring pitch to Vyse, manage your power settings, clean up any drag (like landing gear and flaps) and then the famous identify, verify and feather. These are life saving procedures that prevent you from becoming an accident statistic. You're preventing the yaw and stopping the plane from going below Vmc.

b. Describe Vmc. The definition for Vmc is that it is "the minimum control speed with the critical engine inoperative" and is marked by a red line on most airspeed indicators. You can find this on page 12-2 of the Airplane Flying Handbook along with all other V speed definitions. This goes back to what I previously wrote, that if you get below this speed you likely won't be able to recover from the aircraft yaw in the event of an engine loss. This also relates to Vsse, the safe intentional OEI speed. This is on the same page as Vmc in the AFH where it states it's the "minimum speed to intentionally render the critical engine inoperative." So when an MEI is demonstrating engine loss during flight, they don't go below this speed. It gives the pilot a safe margin to keep away from going below Vmc during the demonstration. 

c. How is Vmc determined? This is something that's set by the manufacturer. To memorize how, use the COMBATS acronym.

Critical engine inoperative

Operating engine full power

Max takeoff weight

Aft CG

Takeoff configuration (gear and flaps down)

Standard day: standard temp and standard pressure

To add onto this, WHY does the manufacturer do this? All of these conditions are set for the worst scenario. The critical engine is obviously the worst to lose because of airplane controllability, and with full power on the good engine the airplane is now hardest to control. Max takeoff weight and an aft CG can make the airplane unstable and hardest to recover from. As for the takeoff configuration, with gear and flaps down this exhibits the most drag. 

d. Know your plane. By this I mean know what type engines you have (horsepower, which one is a critical engine if there is one and why), propellers, max takeoff and landing weights, service/absolute ceilings etc. When you go through these items in the operating handbook, pretend you're teaching it to someone else. This will help you understand it better and point out weak spots that you wouldn't be able to explain to a DPE. For example, the multi plane I fly has constant speed, hydraulically actuated, full feathering props. When an engine is lost, I'm still able to feather the plane without oil pressure (which keeps the prop at a low pitch) from the propellor governor. Without oil pressure the propellers go back to feathered position, and to fully feather them is where dry nitrogen kicks into place. Here's the best photo I could find to help illustrate the propeller system: 

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If you're like me and taking a multi check ride soon, then study study study ALL of this and be ready to explain it to a DPE! Stay calm, ask questions to clarify anything you don't understand, and most of all believe in yourself.

After your check ride if you're in the market to buy a multi engine, then you know where to go! Head over to our main page on Globalair.com and click the "aircraft for sale" drop down arrow and start searching. 

Any other tips you'd like to add on from your check ride experience? Comment below!

 

Remembering my first soft field landing

In flying, as with anything else, when you have a goal, it helps to stay laser-focused. It helps to avoid distractions.

This is especially true when you're working on earning a new rating or trying to learn a new skill.

Take soft field landings, for instance.

I did my first soft field landing in April 2018. It was several months before I would get my private pilot ticket, and my instructor at the time, Justin, was intent on teaching me soft field landings on actual SOFT FIELDS.

That's the only way to learn it if you want my opinion. Simulated soft field landings might get you checkride-ready, but there's nothing like having some actual grass and hard dirt under the wheels to show you what it's really like.

The field in question was Lee Bottom Airport (64I), a gorgeous 4,000-foot-long nicely kept grass strip tucked away among trees in Hanover, Indiana. While it made some instructors nervous, Justin loved that field, and would often be happy for any excuse to touch down there, as long as the grass wasn't wet.

I still have video of my first landing there. With my Go-Pro pointed out the window – slightly crooked, as always seemed to be the case – I swung the plane onto final, at Justin's direction. Nervously, I could see the tops of the 60-foot trees passing below me as our aircraft glided closer to the airstrip's threshold, the branches seemingly reaching up trying to snatch our little Cessna in their clutches.

I was always nervous at this point -- particularly on days when there was a strong headwind and the airplane appeared to be moving slowly over those trees. On days like this, I was tempted to add power and come in too fast, floating down the length of the airstrip.

"I just feel soooo slow coming in over those trees," I once quipped.

"That's because we've got the headwind," Justin replied. "Don't worry about your groundspeed. Your airspeed is what is important."

But invariably I would glide over the trees and come down beyond them, landing just past the white cones of the airstrip's threshold. I'd try to add just a little bit of power just before the wheels would touch down on the grass.

The rough feeling of the grassy strip just rushing by under the wheels was so alien to a student pilot like me, who was so used to the smooth concrete of runways at controlled airports.

But I thoroughly enjoyed applying full back pressure to the yoke as I held the nose up and gently pumped the throttle so as not to lose momentum before turning the plane around near the end of the grass strip. Using no brakes, to avoid getting stuck in the grass, I'd taxi back to the threshold, set the flaps at 10 degrees and take off again.

We did this over and over again, in all types of winds, lesson after lesson. Because I was determined. I wanted to get my soft field landings down perfectly. I had a goal. I had a checkride. And I wasn't going to let anything distract me.

But one evening was different.

It was June 16 of 2018. It was sometime around 7 o'clock in the evening, and Justin and I were once again returning to Lee Bottom Airport to do some soft field landings. It was supposed to be a short lesson, and after one or two landings, we were going to fly back to the flight school and head for home.

But as we were gliding down on final, something caught our eye. A small plane was parked midway down the field, off to the side of the airstrip. We couldn't tell what it was. As we drifted closer, we could begin to make it out.

"It's a Pietenpol!" Justin said.

As we touched down on the grass strip and rolled passed the airplane, it grabbed my attention.Pitenpol

"You wanna stop?" I asked.

"You wanna?" Justin replied.

Thankfully, no one else was scheduled to rent the plane after us that evening, so there was no need to get back to the flight school right away. Sure, I had a lesson, but we could get back to that later. Right now, I wanted to check out the classic plane. After landing, we pulled our plane over into the grass on the side of the strip and climbed out.

The kind owner of the aircraft -- I don't recall his name, unfortunately -- had flown in from the north that afternoon and was more than happy to show us his plane. It was bright yellow taildragger with an open-air cockpit, with two big front wheels that reminded me of oversized wheels that came from a child's wagon.

On the side of the aircraft was mounted a device we could tell was the pilot’s pride and joy. It was labeled the "Bacon Savor" -- a simple pointer that warned the pilot when he was about to exceed the critical angle of attack and stall out.

On the ground next to the airplane was a simple blue mat. The pilot had actually flown in and planned to camp out that night under the stars – perhaps making use of the fire pit near the airfield to cook some grub.

It seemed like the perfect life.

Of course, we had to get going. I had a lesson to finish -- more stuff to learn -- I had to get ready for that checkride. But just as we were about to head back to our plane, we spotted another aircraft about to land on the field.

It turned out it was Elijah -- another pilot who flew out of our flight school. Cheerfully, he landed and taxied over to where we stood.
Quickly joining the conversation, the four of us found ourselves laughing about the things pilots and student pilots often joke about: Eccentric flight instructors, strange airplanes, predicaments we shouldn't have gotten ourselves into but did anyway, upcoming checkrides, stupid oral exam questions, etc.

Before we knew it, two more hours had elapsed.

By the time Justin and I climbed back into the plane and took off, the sun was setting -- and we were way later than we planned. As we flew west, we followed the Ohio River with the burning horizon in front of us. Behind us in his airplane, Elijah tried to race us back. He lost, but to be fair, we had a pretty big head start.

So much for avoiding distractions. Truth be told, I wasn’t very focused that night. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time practicing landings or doing maneuvers like I originally planned.

But we did have a whole lot of fun. And in the final analysis, I guess those are the lessons you remember most.

Travis K. Kircher is a private pilot based out of Louisville, Kentucky.

 

Transitioning from Day to Sunset Flights

Have you ever flown during the daytime and watched the sky transition into sunset, then nighttime? 

If you haven't, add it to your to-do list. It's a fun and beautiful experience. 

I did several sunset flights during my commercial training and loved it every time. Below is my favorite photo from my best sunset flight experience:

While it's not the best photo, the sunset was transitioning into nighttime. The clouds were also overcast, so we were IMC coming back into our home airport.

So, what's the best way to prepare for sunset flights? Here's some tips:

1) Bring a flashlight

In fact, I bring two in case the battery on one dies. Specifically, your flashlight needs to have a red light. To prepare your eyes for night flying you should avoid bright white lights 30 minutes before, which if you're flying it includes that time you're flying in the sunset while the sky slowly darkens.

2) Unless your route of flight is forecasted to be "sky clear" or you've done some thorough weather planning using the Globalair.com Weather Tool then prepare for any possible IFR scenarios.

After I finished commercial, I continued to fly with another student on instrument flights so we could both gain IFR experience. We learned that weather changes quickly, and although we planned several times for VFR flight it ended up being best to file IFR in-flight. Flying in the clouds can be a lot of fun, but especially during nighttime it can be dangerous. Be careful, and make sure you're comfortable with the flight. 

3) This one isn't necessarily a safety tip, but bring your phone or a good camera to take pictures!

You'll thank me later.

Above is another favorite flight of mine, and as you can see from the background we were in and out of the clouds during sunset. I'm sure if we had taken more time, some beautiful pictures would have came out of it.

Especially if you don't have the opportunity to do sunset flights often, make each one worthwhile and take pictures! It gives you something to look back on, and maybe even a new profile picture for Facebook ;)

4) Back to safety, because sunset/night flights are at the end of the day you need to ensure you're hydrated and well-fed before jumping in the air. Being hungry or dehydrated can have a real impact on your flying whether or not you realize it. I learned this the hard way by not drinking water before a day flight (in summer in Texas if I may add) and started to feel dizzy, so I made the best decision and cut the flight short. Don't wait until it's too late, because your decisions now can impact you later. Things like reaction time, decision making, and ability to fly the plane will start to deteriorate.

Use the PAVE and IM SAFE checklist from the Pilots Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge before each flight, it's there to keep you safe. 

Remember that in aviation, safety should ALWAYS be the number one priority. Nothing else. 

Aside from sunset flying, Globalair.com got a makeover so head to our main page to check it out! We still offer all of the same resources and services, but with a new and more efficient look.

Have any tips or fun stories from sunset flights? Share them with us! We'd love to hear from you.

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