February 2020 Aviation Articles

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

 

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