All posts tagged 'Flying' - Page 13

How Well Do You Know Your Stalls & Spins?


Image: Theresa Knott/Wikimedia Commons

For new flight students and passengers, an aircraft stall can often be a source of fear. What is a stall? Will the airplane fall out of the sky? Does the engine quit?

And while stalls shouldn't be something that pilots fear, they should be taken seriously. Aircraft stalls and spins remain a leading cause of general aviation accidents - causing ten percent of general aviation accidents, according to one AOPA study. And stall/spin accidents result in more fatalities than other types of aircraft accidents. Private and commercial pilots are most likely to enter a stall, while student pilots and ATPs are less likely to stall, according to AOPA.

A 2012 advisory circular claims that loss of control accidents are a growing problem and that inappropriate reactions to stall indications are part of that problem.

What's a Stall?
Let's start with the basics. For those of you non-pilots, you need to know that an aircraft stall has absolutely nothing to do with the engine (unless we're talking about compressor stalls - an entirely different topic). Instead, an aircraft stalls when the airflow over the wing is disrupted enough to cause a loss of lift.

Stalls are dangerous because control surfaces become inadequate to control the flight, and if a recovery is not initiated, the aircraft will quickly lose altitude. And then there's that deadly spin: If uncoordinated, a stall can develop into a spin.

The FAA defines an aircraft stall as "an aerodynamic loss of lift caused by exceeding the airplane’s critical angle of attack."

The critical angle of attack is the key phrase here. The angle of attack is the angle between the chord line of the wing (an imaginary line running from the leading edge of the wing to the trailing edge) and the relative wind. The critical angle of attack is the angle at which maximum lift is produced. An increase in the angle of attack beyond the max coefficient of lift results in a loss of lift, airflow separation over the wing and a subsequent stall.

An aircraft can stall at various airspeeds, altitudes, pitch attitudes, configurations and weights. But the critical angle of attack must be exceeded for a stall to occur.

Types of Stalls

  • Power on stall: A power-on stall occurs during situations in which the aircraft power or thrust is increased quickly, such as during takeoff. Power on stalls usually occur (not always) with gear and flaps up.

  • Power off stall: Power off stalls occur when the aircraft power is decreased or at idle, such as during landing. Power-off stalls tend to occur with gear and flaps down.

  • Elevator trim stall: If the pilot disregards the elevator trim setting, any abrupt change in power or configuration can initiate a stall. This can happen easily during takeoff or go-arounds, when the aircraft trim tab is adjusted for the descent and a go-around is initiated. The aircraft can pitch up quickly and unexpectedly to a high angle of attack.

  • Cross controlled stall: A cross-controlled stall is one of the most dangerous types, as it's an uncoordinated stall and easily transitions to a spin. A cross-controlled stall occurs when the pilot inputs aileron control in one direction and rudder pressure in the opposite direction. Cross controlled stalls are known to occur during turns in the traffic pattern.

  • Accelerated stall: When excessive loads are placed on the airplane (such as during steep turns), an aircraft is capable of stalling at a higher airspeed and/or a lower pitch attitude than the pilot might be accustomed to.

  • Secondary stall: Secondary stalls occur if a pilot attempts to recover from a stall too quickly by pitching up to recover from the dive before obtaining an appropriate airspeed and generating enough lift.

  • Deep stall: Also called a super stall, the deep stall happens in T-tail aircraft, like this Piper Lance II or this King Air 350. It occurs when the airflow over the wing is disrupted and airflow over the tail of the aircraft is also disrupted, rendering both the ailerons and elevator/rudder ineffective at the same time. In a deep stall, recovery is difficult and sometimes, impossible.

Spins
An uncoordinated stall can result in a spin. According to the FAA Airplane Flying Handbook, a spin is an aggravated stall that results in autorotation - a downward corkscrew motion.

The spin is a result of one wing being at a higher angle of attack than the other, often descried as one wing being "more stalled than the other." The difference in angles of attack creates lift on the less stalled wing and drag on the more stalled wing.

Spins are more difficult to recover from, as altitude is lost very quickly and control surfaces may react different than the pilot expects, which is why it's important for pilots to continuously practice stall and spin recovery.

The Aerobatic Experience of a Lifetime

There is great excitement around Louisville right now. Last weekend Thunder Over Louisville came to our charming little city. Thousands of people gathered around the Ohio River to watch the Blue Angels, Lima Lima Flight team, Trojan Horsemen, Team AeroDynamix, and several other big names in airshow entertainment. It was a sunny day with a slight breeze, the perfect setting for the 25th anniversary of the airshow.

One of these Thunder performers was John Klatt. He is an Air National Guard pilot who proudly flies the F-16 "Fighting Falcon" and C-130 "Hercules" aircraft on combat, air support, and humanitarian missions. In addition to all of this, he is an airshow performer extraordinaire with over 10 years’ experience flying for millions of spectators. In his current routine he flies his MXS in a plethora of twists, turns, and flips at stunning speeds.

Last Thursday I had the opportunity to ride along with John and his flight crew for some practice before the big event. I strapped on my parachute and climbed into the front seat of their 300 horsepower Extra 300L. I had not experienced aerobatics previously, so as they secured me with the abundance of harnesses and safety straps I had a brief moment where I was questioning what I was getting myself into. Being born a thrill seeker, I gave a thumbs up to the crew and braced myself for the adventure that awaited us.

After an incredibly speedy liftoff, we flew in close proximity behind John in his single seat MXS. When we reached the practice area he headed north of the Ohio river and we headed south to do maneuvers. We started out simple, with just a dive from 5000’ to gain airspeed and roll into some steep turns. After this we did a hammerhead, loop, and barrel roll. I tried to play it cool but every moment I lost sight of the ground I couldn’t help but grin.

Flying aerobatics is what I believe to be one of the fundamentals of aviation. Humans have always been seeking out the biggest thrills. We question how fast something can go, how high we can fly. Part of human nature is pushing the limits and finding new ways of controlling our surroundings. For years we have been building faster and better aircraft in this pursuit of maximizing our abilities. Maybe I am getting too philosophical with this, but the entire concept of aerobatics beautifully demonstrates the human spirit. Airshows are built around this human adoration of pushing boundaries. The fact that we have created machines capable of such breathtaking feats is worth celebration enough. Add in the remarkable skill and talent of pilots like John Klatt, and you have a perfect display of human intellect and liveliness.

After I hopped out of the Extra 300L, I felt like my eyes had been opened to a whole new world of flying capabilities. The sheer power and agility of the plane shocked me. This truly was an unforgettable experience and I want to thank John Klatt and his team for this opportunity.

Your Guide to Summer Aviation Fun

After months of freezing temperatures, snow, ice, and grounded airplanes it’s nice to finally have some warm weather in the forecast. What better way to embrace the end of winter than to begin planning for summer aviation activities? The number of events that await your attendance this summer is both exciting and a little overwhelming. I hope to help give you a quick reminder of the major events, as well as introduce you to some that are lesser-known but well worth looking into.

Airshows

There is nothing better on a warm summer day than to go to an airshow. You can grab a cold drink, wear a sun-blocking hat, and watch beautiful aircraft dazzle you from the flight line. Listening to the buzz of the engines and hearing the enthusiastic announcer awakens the love of aviation that is inside all of us. Last year was a difficult one for the Airshow industry, but thankfully things are looking hopeful for 2014.

The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels are back in action, ready to woo audiences in their tours around America. The patriotic and awe-inspiring pilots will be at several locations during the spring and summer, so visit their websites to get more information on this can’t-miss show.

Classic airshows for summer fun are being held at AirVenture and SUN 'n FUN. However, most states host at least one local airshow during the year, several hosting more.  The Globalair.com Aviation Events calendar can help you find your nearest show, and give you an idea of what is going on around the world.

Fly-Ins

For pilots who are itching for a change of scenery, a fly-in is a great option. Many airports and aviation organizations host fly-ins, which usually involve great food. Most EAA Chapters host monthly pancake breakfasts which are open to the public and feature speakers or activities that are of interest to aviators. These events are great for meeting other friendly pilots, and enjoying a relaxing summer’s Saturday.

I have recently come across a couple of truly unique fly-ins that would be unforgettable to attend. The International Seaplane Fly-In in Greenville, Maine is designed specifically for those with an interest in seaplane operations. Beautiful Moosehead Lake is the setting for the graceful seaplanes and visitors are close enough to town to explore the unique shops and restaurants of Maine. The Cessna 150-152 Fly-In in Iowa celebrates the most loved basic training aircraft. The small Cessna has been the starting point of a life in aviation for nearly 60 years. Over 100 of the aircraft will be flying into the heartland of America for this event.

Conferences

If the weather gets too hot for you, there are plenty of indoor conferences going on this summer. The Ninety-Nines are hosting their annual conference in New Orleans, Louisiana during the month of June. The Great Alaska Aviation Gathering is happening the first week in May. If there is an area of aviation that you find particularly interesting, there’s very likely a conference happening which covers it. There is even a NBAA Business Aviation Taxes Seminar happening in May. These seminars and conferences offer the perfect environment to learn new skills, network within your industry, and have a great time.

Other Happenings

In addition to all of the fun events already covered, there are plenty of unique activities going on if you know where to look. The 6th Annual 1940’s WWII Era Ball is happening June 14th in Colorado. Visiting this amazing ball has always been on my bucket list. For pilots who want a good challenge this summer, the Arizona Rumble in the Desert is a self-proclaimed “back country Olympics.” Competitions include short field landing, short field takeoff, power off approach, spot landing, and flour bombing.

Last but not least, there are always aviation summer camps. Many are available for all ages, but I cannot think of a more perfect way to introduce today’s youth to aerospace than a fun week of learning. These can get a little expensive, but there are scholarship opportunities available for most. AOPA has compiled a good list, but doing some quick Google searches around your area may help find one that is not listed.

Hopefully this quick list has helped you get excited for all the events happening this summer. It’s almost time to shake the ice off, pack some snacks, and enjoy beautiful summer weather!

Military Operations Areas: What You Need to Know


Ah, the controversial military operations area. Military operations areas (MOAs) can be a point of debate for pilots and flight instructors. Some pilots recommend you avoid them completely, no matter how inconvenient. Others have no problem flying through them without a care in the world.

An MOA is a military operations area that the FAA has designated as special use airspace due to a high density of military aircraft in the vicinity. The MOA has a designated ceiling and floor, and is depicted on sectional charts as a maroon hatched area. MOAs are "caution" areas for pilots and the FAA urges pilots to use extreme caution when operating in these areas, and also recommends speaking to the local controlling agency when flying in an MOA.

Military flying includes low-levels, formation and high-speed maneuvers. While military pilots are trained to clear the area before maneuvers, the maneuvers are fast and cover a lot of ground. When two fighter pilots are flying in formation, they're paying more attention to their wingman and their training mission than they are to potential intruders.

As a private pilot, I flew through a few active MOAs, because after all, it's totally legal and there was nothing stopping me. But as a CFI flying in and out of a local airport near a military base, I learned more about what goes on in MOAs and quickly changed tactics. Now, I constantly urge students to avoid MOAs whenever possible. But sometimes it's really inconvenient to fly around and impossible to fly above or below, so pilots still need to know how to fly though an MOA safely. Here are a few need-to-know items about military operations areas:

  • During active times, MOAs often have different types of aircraft performing maneuvers at different airspeeds.
  • MOAs are often divided into sections for various types of training, and many MOAs have a "high" and "low" area.
  • MOAs have active and inactive hours, also known as "hot" and "cold" times. Check with a flight service specialist before you fly to find out whether the MOA is active or not.
  • MOAs are sometimes granted permission to fly "lights out" training missions in which the exterior lighting on the aircraft is turned OFF during night training flights in order to simulate night vision technology and practice night-related maneuvers. The lack of position lights or strobes will obviously make aircraft in MOAs nearly impossible to see, so it's especially important to avoid these areas at night. Again, checking NOTAMs and knowing about specific military operations are in your area will help you determine your options.
  • Military aircraft do not necessarily have airspeed restrictions within MOA limits. The 250-knot restriction, for example, does not apply to military aircraft in MOAs.

If you can't avoid a military operations area, there are a few precautions you can take to minimize the risk of encountering a military jet:

  • Always know the locations of active MOAs and corresponding altitudes, limitations and frequencies.
  • File a flight plan and utilize flight following services.
  • Make sure you turn your aircraft's transponder ON. Some military aircraft have traffic collision avoidance technology.
  • Always use extreme caution when flying through an MOA. Because of the high speed of some military aircraft, the necessary reaction time will be substantially less if you need to get out of a situation.

To find out which MOAs are active, what the hours are, or to learn about lights out activity, you'll first want to check the NOTAMs. If you check NOTAMs through the use of 1-800-WX-BRIEF, you'll need to specifically ask for operating hours of local MOAs, including a specific request for information on lights out operations.

You can also get updates via the military installation directly. Most (if not all) military installations will have flyers and information readily available to general aviation pilots, local airports and the general public about specific local military operations. This information can often be located on the installation's website or by calling the installation's safety office or public affairs office.

Military operations areas are high-risk, and general aviation pilots should seriously consider other options before flying through an active MOA. At the very least, it's imperative for pilots to be on a flight plan and talking to the controlling agency when flying through an active MOA.

For more information on military operations areas, military airports and military training routes, visit seeandavoid.org.

Music and Aviation: A Match Made in the Sky

Dee Welch, a member of the Seaplane Pilots Association (FMA Corporate Member), has donated a guitar to be raffled off to support the Seaplane Pilots Association's New Headquarters project and the Flying Musicians Association. This is just one example of the projects the FMA is involved in.

"Many people don’t have a passion; we are fortunate enough to have two!"

This is the driving force behind the Flying Musicians Association – a non-profit 501c3 organization that is bringing aviation and music together – according to co-founder John Zapp. Formed in 2008 and incorporated a year later, Zapp and Aileen Hummel formed the company to aid pilots who are musicians to share their passions in order to inspire, educate, and encourage others by creating enthusiasm and promoting personal growth in both fields.

The FMA has an extensive list of goals – the first of which is to encourage youth to embrace STEAM power (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) through the use of aviation and music. Zapp and Hummel noticed much discussion for the need to grow the pilot population, and have identified musicians and music students as the most likely demographic to succeed. The musically-inclined have an aptitude for listening, scanning, multi-tasking and their pursuit of perfection – all skills and practices needed for piloting aircraft. The US Air Force completed a study of students in their flight training program to see which academic fields were the most successful in completing flight training. It wasn't the engineers who had the highest percentage of completion or any other discipline, it was the music students.

The FMA has already established chapters at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, the University of Texas at Arlington, and the Western Michigan University in an effort to extend their goals into learning institutions, and continue to seek expansion into other colleges, high schools, and aviation communities. They have also received a partial grant from the Wolf Aviation Fund to help FMA spearhead the "Focus on the Future" program held at the FAPA.aero Global Pilot Career Conference & Job Fairs and the Regional Airline Pilot Job Fairs.

Zapp attributes much of their success so far to their own promotion, as well as their corporate members, which include organizations such as the AOPA, Sky-Tec, That Other Label, Barmstorming the Movie, Bose," Zapp listed as an example.

You can show your support for their cause as well – it’s only $25/year to become a member ($15 for students), and special rates for Life and Corporate Members as well. Funding, grants and sponsorships are their greatest need to continue the growth they’re experienced for the last five years.

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