All posts tagged 'general aviation'

Tips for Noting the Wind on Ground Reference Maneuvers

Here's a short scenario:

You've just taken off from your home airport. You fly about 25 nautical miles out from where you took off and go find an area to do ground reference maneuvers.

Once you find an area you like you begin to get yourself set up to do your first maneuver: rectangular course for example. For rectangular course you have to enter it with a tailwind just like you would enter a typical traffic pattern. So now it's time to note the wind.

First rule: don't just use the direction the winds were at back at your home airport.

But it's just 25nm away, they should be the same right?

Wrong!

The winds can actually be blowing a completely opposite direction than they were back at the airport. This can be due to surface friction, the terrain of the area you're in, and of course what the weather is like for the day. If one area has thunderstorms blowing in the winds can be gusty and shifting, while 20nm away they're calm and skies are clear.

Remember this, especially on a check ride, when it comes to noting the winds. 

So, if you're just over an area with a bunch of fields and no airport to report the weather how do you find the wind direction?

Very simply: look outside.

Now, obviously you cannot truly see wind. But, you can see objects that it's blowing and the direction they're facing.

A great example would be the references that I use since I fly in Houston: refineries. The stacks are almost always blowing steam from the top and it's very easy just to glance at them and see which way the wind is blowing it.

Some other outside visual references would be trees, water, smoke if there is any fires out etc.

If there isn't any references to use and you have an avionics system on board, bring up the groundspeed display. You can always look at this and fly a 360 degree turn to set up for the maneuver and check where you groundspeed is fastest and where it is slowest.

This will tell you exactly where your tailwind is and where you have a headwind, so you can calculate from there how to enter the maneuver.

Using groundspeed also tells you a rough estimate of how strong the wind is blowing, so you can have an idea of how much correction you'll need during the ground reference maneuvers to hold your track. The bigger a difference between your slowest and fastest groundspeeds, the stronger the wind likely is.

Have any other tips you've found for your maneuvers? Drop them below!

We hope you're getting in the Christmas spirit this month, head over to Globalair.com to check out our cool Santa hat on the logo and see what's available on our website!

 

How to Determine Your Pivotal Altitude

Whether you're working on your commercial certificate now, going to be, or already have then you'll find this useful.

As part of the Commercial ACS, we as pilots have to learn Eight's-on-Pylons. This is a maneuver in which the plane flies around two pylons maintaining a visual sight reference with each one in relation to the lateral axis of the airplane. Drawing the plane's ground track, it looks like a figure 8, thus the term Eight's-on-Pylons. 

Picture from the Airplane Flying Handbook

One of the most important concepts to take from this maneuver is pivotal altitude.

So what is it?

Pivotal altitude is the altitude at which, for a given groundspeed, the projection of the visual reference line to the pylon appears to pivot. Simply put, it's what the plane keeps coming back to each time you're able to maintain the pylon off the wingtip and hold it. 

This is also something that is calculated before the maneuver is begun using the airplane's groundspeed. It's the groundspeed squared divided by either 15 for miles per hour or 11.3 for knots. 

Some things to note about pivotal altitude is it does not change with the angle of bank, given that it is not steep enough to affect the groundspeed (but if you do the maneuver and correct for wind properly you shouldn't have to over-steepen the bank where this happens). 

Pivotal altitude can be noted very easily while flying around the pylons. All you have to do is get the plane stabilized where you're holding the pylon off the wingtip with no pitch up or down correction, then look at your altimeter and note the altitude! This is what the plane will keep coming back to. 

You should also enter and exit the maneuver at the pivotal altitude; how close or far you are from it when exiting can exhibit how well the maneuver was performed. 

If you're needing help with commercial maneuvers, or just want to pursue a commercial certificate, take a look at our Aviation Training Directory to find somewhere near you to train.

Best of luck with your Eight's-on-Pylons and happy landings!

-Addi

 

Nailing Your Glide Slope on Final

Flying - Nailing the 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! 

 

 

 

It’s Not You, It’s Your Instructor: Are You a Victim of Bad Flight Instruction?


Did you start flight training and not finish? Or maybe you started, took a long hiatus, and then returned to it in a better place at a better time.

There are many reasons people quit flight training. They get busy, start families, run out of money. Life happens. These are acceptable setbacks. But there are many other setbacks and challenges during flight training that, in my opinion, are unacceptable, and the most frustrating of these is poor instruction.

I recently had a conversation with a medical professional about flying. The conversation started out like many of them often do - we discussed our respective professions, and he mentioned that he began flight training when he was younger but never finished. When I asked him why, he described a myriad of flight training problems and challenges not uncommon to new students, but that he accepted as his own problems. He just wasn’t a good pilot, he said.

At first, it would seem that this particular person might have given up too quickly or too easily, but further into our discussion, I began to see a bigger story - a relatively common story that as a flight instructor, I really despise hearing.

Here’s a perfectly capable person- a medical professional and a seemingly well-respected business owner in the community - who is led to believe he can’t fly. "Some people just have the natural ability to fly, I guess, and I’m not one of them," he said. In discussing the topic further, though, it was clear that whatever instruction he had accomplished with his instructors in the first few hours wasn’t productive, wasn’t positive, and gave him a bad perception of flying.

Throughout our conversation, I discovered that he had been physically uncomfortable in the airplane (an airplane not really ideal for flight training, to begin with). I learned that he was unable to reach the rudder pedals, that he was all but reprimanded when he lost sight of the airport and was unable to navigate back to it on the first lesson. He said he wasn’t offered ground training and didn’t feel like he progressed.

Have you heard similar complaints before? Me, too. Is it possible that he was a student who showed up unprepared or didn’t make his instructor aware of his inability to reach the rudder pedals? Sure. But a bad pilot after only a few hours? Nah. There are outliers, to be sure, but the majority of flight students who walk into a flight school are eager to learn and capable of learning. We need to do better.

In a short conversation, I couldn’t convince him that he’s wrong, that he was likely (and unfortunately) the product of terrible instruction, and that it’s not like that everywhere. But I tried. I tried to reassure him that there are more professional instructors out there, more comfortable aircraft, simpler aircraft, and something called ground school, all of which would help alleviate many of his challenges, misconceptions and insecurities.

It might be too late for this person - I hope not - but if we’re serious about saving general aviation, if we want flight training to be a robust and successful industry within general aviation, we have to do better. Flight training is a serious venture, and one we need to approach cautiously, with safety in mind. But after ensuring safety - rather, along with the assurance of safety - flying should be fun. As instructors, we should be teaching students, encouraging students, and making aviation safe and enjoyable for students.

When it’s not fun, students quit. When they’re belittled, students quit. When they don’t feel safe, students quit.

I wonder how many other prospective pilots are out there with similar stories about initial flight training? How many of you started flight training and were faced with similar challenges and problems? How many of you quit and maybe found your way back somehow, eventually, after moving to a new flight school or befriending a new instructor? How many of you haven’t yet found your way back?

If you’ve had a bad experience with initial flight training, I urge you to find a new place to fly, or a new instructor to fly with. It’s not like that everywhere.

Oshkosh: It's Not About the Airplanes


Okay, so maybe it's a little bit about the airplanes. (Did you see the Mosquito? The GoodYear Blimp?!) But for most people, Oshkosh is about so much more than airplanes. If you follow Oshkosh on social media then you've heard the buzz of engines during the airshow and you've seen your friends posting selfies in front of amazing airplanes. But what you can't see from the photos is something else that's deeper, more elusive, that only exists at Oshkosh. Maybe it's a feeling, or maybe it's just something in the air. It's probably different for everyone, but whatever it is, it's general aviation at its absolute best. Airplanes are just the backdrop. A friend (who I happened to meet at Oshkosh) said it best in this video when he said, "It feels like coming home."

So what is it that makes Oshkosh special? What is it that keeps thousands of aviation fanatics returning each year to a place that's not even easy to get to? It's about the people, the encouragement, the mentorship, the conversation and the camaraderie. It's about an industry that welcomes you into it without pause and allows you to consider it your home without even a hint of reservation. It's an immediate family where every single one of your sisters and brothers just "gets" you.

Over fifteen years ago, I entered the world of aviation by walking into a sleepy airport terminal in my hometown, completely on my own. I had been on a single plane ride before, and I knew I wanted to fly. There was just one problem: I didn't know how. I didn't have a mentor. I didn't have a family member to show me the ropes. I didn't know anyone in aviation. I didn't know where to go or what it would take to become a pilot.

I remember walking into that terminal, a nervous teenage girl, to ask about flight lessons. With a comforting smile and a gleam in his eye, the airport manager sent me across the field to the sleepy little flight school. The owner of the flight school, without asking me why a girl like me would possibly want to fly, without hesitating or commenting on my five-foot-nothing height, hired me on the spot as a secretary. I could answer the phones, he said, and he'd pay me six dollars per hour and let me sit in on the ground school for free. "It's a deal," I said.

What I didn't realize was that this deal would go far beyond six dollars per hour and free ground school. I didn't realize I was gaining an instant family. The flight instructors took me seriously, treated me with respect, and introduced me to the world of flying with enthusiasm and encouragement. Beyond that, each one of them shared their worlds with me outside of our flight lessons. They told me about air shows and scholarships and what airline life would be like. They taught me about the bigger, Part 135 aircraft they flew during their off time. On their days off, they came to the airport with their wives and kids. It felt like home.

Fast forward a few years, and I made another solo trek, this time to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I'd heard the stories, but wondered how it could be more than just another air show with expensive food. I'd seen enough air shows. I'd seen Tora! Tora! Tora! and P-51s and Sean Tucker and Kirby Chambliss. What would be different about AirVenture? I had to find out. I showed up at my room that year - a small bedroom in a lady's house that I booked on a referral from a journalist friend - and found a group of people who had been coming to Oshkosh for years together. But instead of sticking to their own group, they immediately took me in, inviting me to ride the bus with them and inviting me to their nightly dinners. And then I showed up to the media tent, once again by myself, and immediately found friendly faces there, too. I walked the grounds, and while running into old friends, I made even more new friends. One introduction led to another and before I knew it, I had new aviation family members all over the place. It felt like a family reunion - with a pretty spectacular air show on the side.

Last year, I made a few friends at Camp Scholler who have been camping together as a group for years. This year, I was invited to camp alongside them at what they lovingly refer to as "Camp Bacon." I showed up with my kids, but otherwise alone, without really knowing any of these folks beyond social media. As if on cue, they welcomed me - and my children - into their aviation family immediately. They offered good conversation, interesting aviation stories, hot coffee, and even wine. They invited me to the nightly campfire, and to join them during their yearly "Dawn Patrol" walk to the warbirds at five a.m. They shared their stories with me and I learned about their aviation work. By the end of the trip, there were hugs, with the sound of P-51 Merlin engines in the background. It felt like coming home.

This is my family.

This is Oshkosh.

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