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Know Your Airspeeds and How They Can Help You

No matter how much you flight plan and prepare for a flight, sometimes unexpected things happen that can throw you for a loop. The best way to be ready for these situations is...

1) Always expect the unexpected

2) Practice how you'll handle situations that can arise

3) Stay up-to-date on your knowledge

One valuable way to do this knowing your airspeed indicator.

I bring up being prepared because it's summer, meaning the air is hot, it's bumpy, it randomly builds into convective layers, and is sometimes simply unpredictable. So being able to manage your airspeed and knowing when to be in which arc is a good way to keep you and your passengers safe. 

Airspeed Indicator

The first two on the bottom of the indicator are Vso and Vs1: your stall speeds with and without flaps. Always be checking yourself on takeoff and landing to make sure you're not too close to these. In fact, if you're landing in gusty winds/tailwind carry a little extra power to give yourself some extra speed. 

Vfe is your maximum flap speed, so if airspeed is being erratic on a bumpy day and you're trying to bring flaps down for any reason, give yourself some cushion room as to not overspeed them.

The green arc is your normal operating range for the aircraft. Something that is not marked on the indicator however is Va, your safe maneuvering speed. If you're going to be making full abrupt control movements (or penetrating turbulent air since it does this to your controls) then stay not only below green arc but also below Va. 

Vno is the top of your green arc with the yellow arc to follow. The yellow arc is simply your caution range, it's not a specific V speed but it's warning you that if you keep going fast you'll reach Vne, your never exceed speed. Regardless of if you're in smooth or turbulent air here, you could damage the aircraft. This would most likely happen if you had a lot of power in with the nose pitched down. Imagine flying near a thunderstorm cell and catching part of an updraft. If you're lucky enough to recover from it, you might look up to find yourself in this situation. So scan everything, keep the aircraft under control and stay calm if this does happen to you. 

Phenomenon such as updrafts and windshear can be encountered outside of a thunderstorm area. The best way to predict which areas they may be in is PIREPs. So do thorough flight planning! 

If you're currently flight training and college and need some help financially, head on over to our scholarship page and apply! 

Questions or comments? Write below!

Flight Training — Same Fleet Avionics or Multiple Avionics Systems?

Aircraft Avionics

What type of avionics did you use during your flight training? One aspect that I have found to be very difficult for many students during their flight training is the use of avionics and automation management. Personally, the automation in our fleet at BGSU consists of Warriors with G500 Garmin 650, Avidyne with Garmin 430, Steam gauge with Garmin 430, Archers with Glass panel G1000, and Seminoles with Glass panel G1000 with autopilot. It is the university's plan to consolidate their fleet to an all Archer G1000 and Seminole G1000 fleet. So the question at hand is this: is fleet variation a benefit or disadvantage?

Hazard Consideration

  • Challenges (variation consistency and understanding)
  • Technical knowledge
  • Proficiency across avionics
  • Mode awareness
  • Expectation Bias
  • Pilot & Aircraft Experience level
  • Depth of knowledge/ familiarity
  • Situational awareness
  • Environment
  • Conditions of flight: Dual/Solo, Day/Night, IFR/VFR

Garmin 430’s are not WAAS equipped. Therefore, during instrument training, you can only use non-precision approach minima (Ex. LNAV). Garmin 650’s are WAAS equipped therefore during instrument training, you can use precision approach minima (Ex. LPV). For your Garmin avionics (650’s and 430’s) with dual GPS you can disconnect the “Cross-Fill” option and overlay two approaches. G1000 you are not given the option to disconnect the “Cross-Fill” option, therefore dual GPS overlaying isn’t an option. Different avionics have sometimes very different functions as well as ways to program.

Solution Consideration

  • Fleet continuity
  • Differences training
  • Aircraft equipment guide
  • Avionics supplements and online simulation tools
  • Initial and recurrent instructor Standardization
  • Flight simulator training
  • Emergency procedures training

Piston in Flight

I have always personally loved the challenge posed by learning different avionics. With some of the steam gauges, you can practice NDB approaches and learn firsthand compass errors. These are all things G1000’s don’t have. But I do actively see possible risks and importance to mitigation. As you all know, safety first is a must!

 Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Transportation Secretary stated in an FAA compliance policy that “Aviation is incredibly safe, but continued growth means that we must be proactive and smart... to detect and mitigate risk.” Establishing “proactive behavior” is about controlling a situation through progressive mitigation rather than responding after something undesirable has happened. Proactivity is not just for pilot risk mitigation but for community wellbeing. As for pilots in all levels of training, safety is a decision and a shared mindset that must be trained and maintained. 

Here are a couple of takeaways to think about.

  1. Fly the airplane… Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, then and only then automation. How can automation assist me? Do not let it degrade performance further.
  2. Make sure your habit formation in your training environment, is constantly improving and growing stronger.
  3. Maintain a high level of proficiency. You will get out of it what you put into it. Challenge yourself to understand the avionics and automation you are using.
  4. Lastly, Be the PIC! You are the final authority and the keeper of safety for that flight. Prepare and gain understanding accordingly for safe operation.

What do you think? Should there be the same fleet avionics or multiple avionics systems in a flight training environment?

Basic Math Behind Radar Tilt

There's no doubt about it: as we get into summertime, we're transitioning into the fun game of dodging storm cells. 

The air is hotter and more unstable and quickly builds into convective-type clouds that keep rising into the troposphere, next thing you know you have pop-up thunderstorms everywhere. The job gets especially fun as they grow into squall line thunderstorms. The best way to stay safe in these situations is to plan ahead, always have a backup plan, let ATC know what you need, then cooperate with them, and know how to use your radar.

Clouds in the Sky

Each radar is slightly different from the other but for the most part, they work very similarly. The first step to knowing how to tilt your radar is knowing how long your antenna is. The length corresponds to the beam it puts out. For example, a 10-inch antenna puts out a 10-inch beam, 12 inches has 7.9 degrees, 18 inches has 5.6 degrees and lastly, 24 inches has 4.2. So as the length increases, the beam degrees decrease.

If you happen to know the width of your beam in degrees then you can figure out your tilt with a little math. This photo and mathematical formula from Code 7700 explains it simply using the G450 as an example, where they have the 24 inch 4.2 degree beam:

Beam Width Gulfstream G450

So at 45,000 ft, it would take 100nm to paint the edge of the ground clutter, and tilting the beam to 2.1 degrees would point it at level flight. 

While it can sound a little confusing at first, using this formula and adjusting the tilt at the same time will help you adjust to being able to tell when you have the radar set how you want and when it needs to be readjusted. A good practice is to always use your radar while you're trying to learn it, even to see terrain rather than the weather. Most would recommend whether you're in the Texas flatlands or near high terrain in California that it's good to have your terrain feature on. 

Weather Radar on Map

Something else I like to do to double-check I have the tilt on an accurate setting is to see if I have service/wifi onboard like this G450, open up that Foreflight radar (or your most trusted radar app, also highly recommend MyRadar). After all, two is better than one!

The last tip, but most definitely not least to trust your onboard radar, is if you're VMC, simply look outside. Night or daytime, you can see lightning and guestimate where that cell is in relation to you. If you're not sure how close it is, take a 10-degree deviation off course to feel safe. ATC 99.999999% always approves deviations for the weather. They want you to land safely just as much as you do. 

Hope everyone is ready for the summer flying season to take place! Remember to be knowledgeable, be safe, and download the BuyPlane app. Safe flying everyone. 

Ready to File a Flight Plan? Here’s What You Need to Know!

              Flight Planning

What is a flight plan? A flight plan is pretty much the product of thorough flight planning that the pilot is responsible to do before every flight. There are certain flight plans though that require you to file them to FSS so that ARTCC can process the information for route sequencing. This precise planning, in other words, provides written intentions to ATC outlining their (the pilots) intended plan of flight.

There are five types of flight plans—VFR flight plan, IFR flight plan, composite flight plan, defense VFR flight plan, and International flight plan. Today, we will be discussing the two flight plans primarily used—VFR and IFR flight plans. If you are interested in learning more about composite flight plans, defense VFR flight plans, and International flight plans, check out AIM 5-1-6 through 5-1-9.

Even though filing VFR is not necessary unless you plan to fly through an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), there are still benefits to it. It’s purpose is to activate search and rescue procedures in the event that your flight plan is not closed 30 minutes after your proposed time of arrival. This is why it is very important to remember to always close your flight plan as soon as it is safe to do so!

         Filing Flight Plan

Your IFR flight plan works a little bit differently. Before you enter into IMC conditions that lower visibility below VFR (1000 ft ceilings and 3SM) or entering Class A airspace you must file a flight plan to FSS. It is recommended that the pilot file their IFR flight plan at least 30 minutes prior to estimated time of departure to preclude possible delay in clearance received from ATC. If nonscheduled operators are conducting an IFR flight above Flight Level (FL 230) they are asked to voluntarily file their IFR flight plan 4 hours prior to Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) to allow the FAA to provide traffic management and routing strategy. Be sure to pay close attention to the clearance you are given! If you are on the ground at your controlled departure airport contact clearance deliveries frequency to receive your clearance. (REMEMBER the acronym CRAFT)

  • Clearance Limit
  • Route (Via route, via direct…, via radar vectors)
  • Altitude 
  • Frequency
  • Transponder Code

In the event that your airport is uncontrolled, there’s still a way to open it before you get into IFR conditions. Take note that the methods in which you can open your flight plan, are similar to the ways you can close your flight plan.

OPEN FLIGHT PLAN                                                                               

  • Contact Clearance Delivery via frequency on the ground
  • Call FSS via 1-800-WX-BRIEF or radio frequency (On the ground or in the air)
  • Call your local tower controller (On the ground or in the air)
  • Open with Electronic Devices (ForeFlight, FLTPlan Go, etc.) 

CLOSE FLIGHT PLAN 

  • If your at a controlled field, the tower will close it upon your landing
  • As long as you can guarantee you are in VFR conditions, can maintain VFR altitudes for involved airspace, and can remain in VFR conditions all the way to landing, you can close your flight plan in the air (Via approach controller or FSS).
  • Once we land at a uncontrolled field, you can close your flight plan via FSS or controlled tower of local region.
  • Close with Electronic Devices (ForeFlight, FLTPlan Go, etc.)

  Flight Plan

Which way do you prefer to open and close your flight plans?

 

 

Understanding Nosewheel Steering

In most small aircraft, steering on the ground is controlled by brakes and rudder pedals. This is through a mechanical linkage pulley system that's pretty old school, also referred to as a free-castering system.

However, as planes get heavier and faster the need for a different system came into place. The Learjet 60 is a perfect example of an aircraft with this. Thus nosewheel steering became the solution. Nosewheel steering facilitates better directional control on the ground for takeoff and landing and sharper maneuvering at slower speeds such as taxiing to park. 

A Design of a Nosewheel Steering

Nosewheel Steering depicted by FlightMechanic.com

There are various designs for nosewheel steering but this is the basic depiction of how it is designed. Most are hydraulically powered and have mechanical, electrical, or hydraulic connections that transmit the pilot input to a steering control unit. The range that these inputs can control the movement of the nosewheel are important, as you don't have full range to move the nosewheel 90 degrees in either direction at just any speed. Most systems only operate up to about 90 knots, and the faster the aircraft is increasing speed towards those knots the less movement the wheel will move. 

Hardly any aircraft manuals depict or discuss this range in detail but this is the best photo I could find that helps illustrate this. Just remember that the faster the aircraft reaches, the more the system goes from nosewheel steering back to your usual rudder pedal system. 

Another important component to know about in this is shimmy dampers. There are torque links attached to the stationary upper cylinder of a nose wheel strut that work to control rapid oscillations, otherwise known as nosewheel shimmy. You'll feel these oscillations sometimes when you're taxiing too fast and/or have too much pressure centered on the front wheel. Simply slow down or try pulling the yoke back then gently back forward and 9/10 times this will stop unless it is a mechanical issue that needs to be addressed. 

There's a lot of components that are a part of the nosewheel steering system. These however seem to be the most common issues pilots have when transitioning to using one and trying to keep their operations smooth and comfortable for passengers. To understand the system better on YOUR aircraft however make sure to always read your flight manual in depth and talk to your mechanics when you can. Usually they're happy to share knowledge and teach you how to not break things as much ;)

Questions or comments? Add them below. 

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