All posts tagged 'flying'

Your 2021 Guide to Flying Into Aspen, CO

A lot of pilots will tell you flying into Aspen, Colorado (KASE) isn't really that bad. But if this is your first time going into that airport, especially if you're single pilot, it can be a little intimidating. 

The best way to stay safe going into KASE is to be prepared. Do your homework and have a plan in your head of how you'll fly the approach inbound! Have no worry, we're here to help give advice and links to the best information the internet has to offer!

1) Youtube

One of the best inventions of the 21st century, Youtube has a lot of aviation videos ranging from general aviation discussions for student pilots, accident reviews, and then how-to guides for difficult approaches such as Aspen. From researching the internet and asking pilots their opinions, I found two helpful links:

Aspen Missed Approach - that shows two pilots coming in and having to go missed on the actual approach back in 2010. They get set up early, stay ahead of the airplane, keep talking through the approach the entire time, then make a decision to go missed and head into Eagle (KEGE) which most use as their alternate. 

Aspen LOC DME-E and Visual Approach - this is more from the single pilot standpoint to show the workload and is just another good video showing what it's like setting up for everything from a Phenom 300

Coming in on the visual it's going to look like you're gliding on top of a mountain (pictured above), then it drops off and it seems like you're way too high above the airport (1st picture). As you keep following the approach in it'll transition to looking like you're too low. Trust the approach even if your visual cues disagree and continue to stay stable. 

2) Simulator

If you can get in a full motion sim before your trip this is a great idea. If you're going to training anytime soon, ask to do a trip into there. The simulator going into Aspen is very realistic, not to mention this is the safest way to make mistakes and have an instructor with you giving you all the best tips and tricks. 

In the simulator you an also adjust temperatures and other weather factors. This can give you a chance to see how performance changes and what it feels like gaining less performance from your aircraft. High density altitude, high temperature, add a tailwind in there and it makes for a "fun" day....if you can even take the runway. 

3) Familiarization Course

Something that you can heavily review before your trip or even better review in addition to your simulator training is a familiarization course. A great presentation is one published by Code 7700: ASE Familiarization Training that also includes the departure procedures. It includes pictures, approach charts, even landmarks to help you locate the airport and an arrival training video.

4) Phone a Friend

Along with reviewing these, I also took advantage of more experienced pilots and asked for their stories before flying in! Of course it helps to ask pilots flying the same type aircraft as you so maybe they can say which power setting or airspeed works best. 

Text an instructor from training if you have their number, ask a friend if you know one, or find a forum (like a Facebook group) to start a discussion on. 

There are lots of resources out there nowadays that can help keep you safe and confident. And if you still feel uncomfortable, trust your gut and have a different crew fly it. Or fly into Eagle instead! 

Thanks for checking out this article, wishing you the best on your trips! If you have any great links or advice to add comment below!

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!

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. 

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. 

Do You Know Your Runway Markings?

Runway Markings

Flight training magazine and AOPA discussed runway markings recently because after your private, and maybe a few times in instrument training, it's not really discussed in depth again. Sometimes if you didn't get the best luck of the draw with your instructor it may not be discussed well at all.

Whatever the case is, let's talk about runway markings!

Displaced Threshold

I think this one is most often missed in training. The basic information taught about a displaced is "you can taxi and takeoff there but don't land." BUT WHY?!?! 

The short unprofessional answer for this is because you'll hit something. The better answer is it's there to protect you. If you aim for it as a landing spot, your glide path will become too low and again...you'll hit something. This could be power lines, trees, hills, etc. depending on the airport environment so it is designed specifically to avoid the dangers. Don't aim to touchdown until the threshold to be safe.

Threshold

As previously mentioned, the threshold now marks the beginning of available landing distance on the runway. Thresholds also have a coding system to tell you how wide the runway is. I think the coding system for the threshold is pretty neat. Here's a picture as it's described in the AIM of how the width is depicted:

Threshold Stripes

When it comes to instrument flying, the threshold can also tell you what type of approach the runway has: visual, precision, or nonprecision. On a visual runway with no approaches, it will just start at the beginning of the paved area, but for approaches, you'll see long, bold white stripes between the start of the runway and the edge of the numbers called your threshold markings. 

Designation Markings

Believe it or not, this is the official term used for runway numbers. They indicate the approximate magnetic orientation of that runway. Over time as the earth's magnetic fields change, however, the number has to be changed. A runway might be 17 for 10 years and then have to be changed to say 18 (this blew my mind as a private student!).

Side note: make a good habit as early as you can of saying "runway verified" or "I see 17 (insert correct runway number)" whenever you enter a runway and see the designation markings. It'll save you on that one leg in the middle of the night where you're exhausted and accidentally enter the wrong runway. You never know!

Touchdown Zone 

500 feet down the first stripe of runways with a precision approach is what is known as the touchdown zone. This is the line where football players must reach to score a goal against their opponent.

Just checking to see if you're still reading! These stripes are most useful in helping you know how much runway you've already eaten up in case you're pushing landing distance factors. 

Aiming Point

You might recognize these as they're most commonly called: the 1000 foot markers or captains bars! Similar to the purpose of the touchdown zone, these also help to show how much runway you've used. And if you're a commercial student, these are much better to use to aim for on power off 180's than the numbers!

Side-stripe Markings

These are the solid continuous white stripes that signify the edge of the runway to help provide a visual contrast from the terrain off the side of the pavement. Something similar to this is the yellow runway shoulder marking, cueing a non-taxi area. 

Centerline

Lastly demonstrated on the picture is centerline, perhaps one of the most important! One of its functions is keeping you on the center of the runway, protecting the wings from hazards off the side of the runway like windsocks, terrain, and worst of all aviation YouTubers.

The stripes also help mark the distance you've used. According to the AIM, each stripe is 120 feet long with 80 feet in between each of them. The stripes can be between one and three feet wide depending on the size of the runway. 

Hopefully this was a good refresher for runway markings for you! Remember to work for centerline and don't forget to flare!

Questions or comments? Let us know below!

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