All posts tagged 'general aviation'

Reviewing The Basics of Flying an Emergency Descent

Aircraft Propeller

If you're flying a high powered aircraft, then you probably have a flash card with 'Emergency Descent' on it.

If you're flying a normal piston aircraft, then you likely have the muscle memory down from practicing an emergency descent.

Let's do a quick review of an emergency descent because this emergency scenario actually tends to happen more often than others. 

1) Decreasing Lift

Bring the power back and, if needed, start rolling in bank ranging from 30 to 45 degrees. Remember the basics of aerodynamics! If you increase bank without increasing back pressure, you'll increase horizontal lift and decrease vertical lift. Therefore, losing altitude and beginning the descent. 

2) Increasing Drag

If you have spoilers, extend them. If you're flying a constant speed propeller then you'll need to place the prop in low pitch and high rpm to make it LESS aerodynamic. You want to get the aircraft down as soon as possible without overspeeding.

As speed allows, start bringing gear and flaps down. 

3) Decide Your Level Off and Advise

Now you're configured and in the descent but when will you level off? Well, it depends on why you're flying an emergency descent. If you started down because you lost pressurization, then you just need a level off low enough to safely breathe without getting hypoxia (around 10,000 feet) then go from there. If you're doing so because you've lost a critical system or have a sick passenger, the question then becomes which airport are you going to?

Airport Runway

Consider factors when choosing an airport such as:

-runway length (most important if you're flying a larger aircraft)

-maintenance facility on the field so you can get your plane fixed

-emergency crews that can reach you quickly

Whatever you decide, let ATC know as soon as possible then start thinking ahead to getting your checklist completed and ready for approach/landing. 

Lastly is don't forget during all of this that if you're flying a pressurized cabin you need to first get your oxygen mask on and during the descent ensure the passenger masks have deployed!

An emergency descent is a rather simple memory item, but a good review of the basics of each item never hurts!

Questions or comments? Feedback below! 

5 More Things ATC Wants You to Know

2 weeks ago we discussed the topic of tips from ATC. After surveying some air traffic controllers, they provided advice for talking on the radios and things they really dislike that pilots do.

Well, the feedback on this was so good I mentioned doing part two. So here it is! 

cockpit

1) Emergency

If you're ever in distress for any reason, tell your controller. They can't help if they don't know what's going on. Maybe you have an electrical issue and are having to pop some circuit breakers before you get to the next assigned task or it's as drastic as losing an engine. But whatever the reason, even if it's not yet a full-blown emergency and you need some assistance from ATC, don't be afraid to just let them know.

Sky

2) Pop Up IFR

If you need a pop-up IFR, also sometimes referred to as a local IFR request, just ask for it. Some pilots will advise never to do that because it adds extra workload to controllers having to take that information from you, put it in the system then give you clearance. Sure, it does take a little extra time to do that work, but if you think it'll jeopardize safety, then do it. ATC would rather take the time to give you that clearance than you try and stay VFR and get into trouble. It truly only takes a few extra steps and if they aren't busy it isn't that big of a deal. Just have required information ready to read off such as name, phone number, the color of your aircraft, souls on board, fuel remaining, etc.

3) Request on Check In

When you're en-route and have a switch off between frequencies, most pilots' first instinct is to check in and advise of any requests they want then and there. "Center N224JW flight level 320 requesting direct destination."

Believe it or not, in most cases on that first initial check in with the new frequency, you're likely still in the last sector's airspace. This means for your new controller, most requests have to be called in and coordinated before authorizing it. So if you check in, it's busy, and you want to help ATC out, wait a minute or two before calling back if the request isn't urgent and you're more likely to get it off the bat.

4) Approach Check In

Another check in tip! When you're checking in with approach, try and give them all the required information you know they'll ask for so they don't have to play 20 questions. "Approach, N10JM 17,000 descending via the GESSNER4 arrival, information foxtrot for ILS 13R." 

Here they don't need to ask if you've gotten the ATIS and they know what approach you're wanting so they can be ready for it. 

5) Expedite

If a controller asks you to expedite through an altitude and report your current level, they actually needed that like 5 seconds ago. Don't delay on the expedite or reading it back to them. Seems simple but the issue occurs pretty commonly and this is where both teams need to work together.

This concludes just about all of the main talking points that were sent in. If you have any questions for ATC, things you as a controller would like to add, or questions/comments in general, comment below or send it in to us! 

 

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!

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!

Tips Your Instructor Wish You Knew

Line of Piston Aircraft

Flying Tigers at KEFD

 

Writing this for all the frustrated instructors out there who want better for their students and wish they would listen when you give advice- you're welcome.

As a student, flight training is expensive, time consuming, and sometimes stressful. You want to be a good student for your benefit and for the benefit of others, but it just doesn't always work out that way.

What if I told you I can help? What if I said instructors secretly hang out outside of the flight school and share all the wisdom they wish their students knew? Would you believe me? Well, pull out your pen and paper because I have some super top secret advice to give. Some of it is obvious, some of it you may not have thought about. 

1) Flight Training & Personal Life Shouldn't Mix

For clarification, I do not mean to not become friends with your instructor. In fact, getting along with and liking your instructor is really important. Having a bond with who you're flying with makes it fun and you retain a higher quality of learning.

Girls Jumping In Front of Airplane

But don't get in the plane to start the prop and begin crying about how you and your spouse had a fight that morning. Your instructor has skills in flying and teaching, but hardly any skills in being a therapist. So don't make them be one! Especially during a flight lesson, because now you're just paying to not learn how to fly. 

When you walk into the flight school, leave your emotions behind and just be ready to learn and dominate your lesson(s). If you can't do that, think of I'M SAFE. Are you really good to fly that day then?

This also goes for ground lessons - try not to interrupt with too many personal stories or get off-topic talking about yourself. Yes, you are paying for that time but is it really getting you somewhere at that point? Not every minute will be spent learning and discussing aviation but there's a fine line between learning a topic and wasting time.

2) Stop Cancelling

Go back and read that again. Okay, now one more time. Did you get it yet? This is so important! There are so many reasons why you shouldn't do this. Will you have canceled lessons due to weather and maintenance? Absolutely. Are there some days your instructor has to take off work for something important too? Absolutely. But DO NOT be the student that cancels half their lessons each week.

- If you have something going on in your personal life, it is best to take care of it and fly again when you're ready.

- If finances are an issue, stop and save up so you can pay for multiple lessons at a time rather than having just enough to pay for each lesson. If you schedule 4 lessons a week then always cancel 2 because you can only afford the other 2, your instructor is not going to be happy with you and in fact, you may face cancellation charges which would make canceling pointless then. Remember too that there are lots of scholarships out there for this, and the ones that are less than $5,000 usually have the least amount of applicants so you have a better chance at receiving these. Winning multiple small scholarships adds up! We even offer a Globalair.com Scholarship for $1,000 to 4 students each year and are always happy to see more people apply. 

3) Be Prepared for Your Lesson

You should almost never show up to a ground or flight lesson without knowing what you're doing. So be ready by knowing what's coming (asking your instructor or, if able, refer to the syllabus), study for it, and if you need to chair fly it! Even seasoned airline pilots will say chair flying is a valuable technique to learn a new maneuver and use it towards mastering it for a check ride. 

4) Don't Blame Mistakes on Your Instructor

Unless you have an awful instructor who has no business teaching, don't blame all of your mistakes on the fact that you weren't taught something. Each instructor has different techniques for how they do things, so if you fly with different people, just expect it. Don't be upset when they show you something new - usually, it's not to you're wrong, but instead to just give you multiple ways to do things so you develop your own style of flying.

If you're on a stage check or something similar and mess something up, don't sweat it, just ask to do it again. Try to always avoid "I messed up because that's how I was taught to do it." Remember instructors are in the right seat for a reason, and we've just about seen it all! We can tell the difference between having been taught something completely wrong and just messing up and trying to cover it up. Read this: it is okay to make mistakes. Everyone does. We are human. Breathe!

5) Right Rudder

That's it. That's all I have to say about that. You know what I'm talking about. So don't forget it!

6) Speak the Native Language Fluently

This truly goes for flight training in all countries, wherever you decide to do yours. English is the international language of aviation but that does not mean everyone truly speaks it fluently. Common phrases might be the bare minimum they know. So just because you may be fluent in English does not mean you are set up for success. So, the best advice is to just learn the native language to where you're at, which may be English but it may not be.

You need to be able to ask questions and have detailed conversations on things like debriefing after a flight, and if there's a language barrier that is a HUGE stump to your training. More time, more money, and lots of frustration will make it a not so fun experience anymore. 

7) Relax and Have Fun

Lastly, don't forget to breathe. Whether you're in a strict academy, military program, private part 61 instructor, etc. flying should put a smile on your face, otherwise, you need to question whether being a pilot is right for you. So remember to work hard but have fun doing it. Flying is a blast, so let it be.

Breathe, let your shoulders down, add more right rudder and keep on keepin' on. 

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