All posts tagged 'tricks and tips' - Page 2

Aircraft Maintenance Costs Can Sting!

A friend was recently stung by a wasp. He was doing some yard work and apparently disturbed the wasp who took umbrage at his summer nap being interrupted. The sting hurt and caused several days of uncomfortable swelling. I was joking with him that aircraft operating costs can be like that. They seem small at first compared to the big amount of the aircraft acquisition, but ignoring them can sting and cause you discomfort.

We find this in two areas when we review costs with operators. The first is failing to understand the cyclical nature of maintenance costs. Things like fuel are very stable and predictable. The more you fly the more your annual fuel cost grows. Maintenance tends to come in chunks. Yes, brakes and tires come at a predictable pace, but those inspections and component replacement/overhauls do not. A heavy maintenance inspection that occurs at infrequent intervals can have a high cost. [more]

If you last did a “C Inspection” at a time when you had plenty of cash, then all was OK. But what if that "C" is coming due soon, like maybe this year? You may be cutting back your flight hours to save money but that darn “C” still comes due, on time or on the calendar! You may have been very successful in 2009 at reducing your budget only to have to ask/explain the 50% increase for 2010.

A second sting to non-aviation financial folks is the magnitude of these heavy inspections and overhauls. Reminding them that it took six years and 4,200 hours to get to this cost doesn’t remove the pained look they get when they see the price quotes.

I think a big reason aircraft maintenance costs come as shocks to these folks is their point of reference is the family automobile. Oil changes are $40, a set of tires can run to $400, and then the 100,000 mile check runs to $800. All those numbers are the frame of reference they may use when looking over the aircraft costs. None of those prepare them for the magnitude of a major airframe check or overhaul.

Life Cycle Costing out for at least several years is a help. An even bigger help is the (constant) process of educating non-aviators as to the nature of the costs to own and operate such complex, critical equipment. And yes, if there is a major cost item coming due; provide as much advance notice as you can. Lastly, guaranteed maintenance programs can help with smoothing out these costs – fodder for another article.

No pilot wants to be escorted by fighter jets: What to know about TFRs

Current TFR for Martha's Vineyard. Courtesy

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the level of security among aviation operations and presidential visits has increased sizably, and understandably so. In turn, the actions from time to time have affected the general aviation community.

Following the terror attacks that day, the FAA grounded all air traffic. Four hijacked commercial aircraft forever changed the way we look at our nation’s security and the way we regulate our sky.

These security measures sometimes present new problems for private pilots. Whereas a TFR was mostly a bowl of unknown alphabet soup to many who stayed close to home and flew VFR a decade ago, it now can lead to serious consequences in any corner of the country if you fly at the wrong place at the wrong time.

No pilot wants to end up in the same situation as Charles “Lee” Daily.

Daily piloted the Cessna 180 floatplane this week that entered a presidential TFR. NORAD scrambled a pair of F-15s from the 142nd Fighter Wing Division of the Oregon Air National Guard, near Portland, to respond the Seattle area, where President Obama was visiting. [more]

The two planes broke the sound barrier, and thousands of residents heard the resulting two loud booms that registered on the Richter scale in western Washington. Phone lines jammed as scores of concerned citizens called 911 dispatchers to report what sounded to them like an explosion.

Those who didn’t hear the sonic boom immediately were later treated to another sort of noise: Widespread coverage of the mishap on local news broadcasts, where the pilot called the incident “a simple, stupid mistake” on his part.

NORAD spokesman Lt. Desmond James said more than 3,000 jets responded to possible air threats in the continental United States since Sept. 11, 2001. Aircraft have flown more than 57,000 sorties supporting domestic defense initiatives during the same timeframe.

The commanding officer of the responding Air National Guard unit told local reporters that the sonic boom resulted as the F-15s flew over a less populated area, after the pilots received clearance for supersonic speed to deliver “the fastest response possible.”

As far as how or why the jets received clearance for a response that included supersonic speeds, James said NORAD cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. Some things that personnel consider when making such decisions include the type of aircraft voilating restricted airspace, the elevation, location, speed and direction of travel, and whether or not the pilot is in contact with aviation authorities.

So what is the best way to avoid being this situation? 

As of now, it is ultimately up to an individual pilot not to end up like the Seattle floatplane pilot, stuck unknowingly in the 10-mile no-fly zone for general aviation at the center of a TFR. The AOPA issued a statement this week noting the work amongst the GA community to ensure private pilots avoid such mishaps.

“This incident demonstrates how a careless mistake can have far-reaching consequences,” said Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of operations and international affairs. “When one pilot makes the news for violating a TFR, it can set back progress we’ve made on improving access for the hundreds of thousands who haven’t.”

We, as well, do our best here at to provide the best information to aviators in the most accessible way possible.

Avoid TFRs by frequently checking this link to get up-to-date listings from the FAA. Also search for local airport information and check current NOTAMs by clicking on the appropriate tab in our Airport Resource Center.

Those in the Martha’s Vineyard area of the Massachusetts peninsula currently are under a TFR, as the president and his family vacation there this week. Last year marked the first presidential vacation in the area since Sept. 11, 2001. Some aviation businesses, such as that of a scenic biplane tour operator, expected large economic losses during that period last year. Strengthening security by restricting airspace can sometimes leave unhappy people at smaller airports.

Throughout the past three decades, TFRs generally have become more frequent and, certainly in the last decade, more restrictive. Yet it is something with which we all must comply. In order not to see that fighter jet on your wing, we highly recommend looking out for TFRs well before completing your pre-flight checklist.

Presidential TFRs, for the sake of security, ofen do not get posted until 24 to 48 hours before they take affect.  

Let us know what you thought of the situation in Seattle. What do you think can be done better to ensure every private pilot is aware of what is going on around his or her home airport? At what point in the flight-planning process do you check for TFRs? Weigh in by posting a comment below.

Vital Information regarding your FAA Registered Aircraft

I am writing to inform you of a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rule that establishes a ‘three-year life-limit’ for an Aircraft Registration. This means that starting in October of this year, you will be required to renew your aircraft registration every three years.  It is estimated that one third of the 357,000 aircraft registrations in the FAA’s database are inaccurate, therefore the FAA’s goal is to increase its accuracy to over 95%. This information is then going to be more useful to safety and security agencies throughout the U.S. government, and of course individual U.S. States, that will get a windfall from new-found State Tax Evaders.


To implement the rule, the FAA has established a schedule according to which Aircraft Registrations issued prior to October 1, 2010, will expire no later than December 31, 2013.  You should receive a notice in the mail from the FAA six months prior to the expiration of your current registration notifying you of when you should submit an application to re-register your airplane.  That notice will be sent to the address in the FAA database.  You may wish to verify that the address is correct by looking up your N# for free on here

If there are no changes required to your contact information, there will be an online process available to comply with the rule.  Unfortunately, the FAA has not made this online process available yet and it has not released the application form required to re-register your airplane.


I will monitor developments as the FAA’s new rule is implemented and I would of course be very happy to provide you with any additional information or assistance to comply with this rule.


Okay let’s review what this rule is actually all-about (sorry for repeating myself, but this is Vital Information regarding your FAA Registered Aircraft.)


My great friend, and colleague, Tim Keeney, wrote the following piece that explains this rule, very nicely indeed, and will be printed in the JetBrokers Market Up-Date Newsletter, which is in-work as you read this.. All credit for the brevity of this nice piece, goes to him:


All N#’s Set to Expire by December 31, 2013


Your aircraft Registration (your N#) will expire in the next three years; possibly as early as March 31, 2011.  The FAA has issued a final rule that will take effect on October 1, 2010, that requires you to renew your registration by December 31, 2013 and then re-register every three years thereafter.  The purpose of the rule is to maintain an accurate aircraft registry database; a goal not achieved by the Triennial Aircraft Registration Report.  The FAA estimates that one third of the 357,000 aircraft registrations currently on file are inaccurate.  The FAA uses the database for ownership determination and response to an overdue flight or downed aircraft report.  Law enforcement and other government agencies use the database for their own purposes.  The Federal Register’s summary of the rule mentions inclusion of registry information and status on a display depicting each flight operating on a flight plan in the National Airspace System.


So, how will you know when your registration expires, when to re-register your airplane and how to do it?  For aircraft registered before October 1, 2010, consult the following chart for your scheduled expiration:


If the certificate was issued in:                   The certificate expires on:               Application window:

March of any year                                      March 31, 2011                               11/1/2010 – 1/31/2011

April of any year                                         June 30, 2011                                   2/1/2011 – 4/30/2011

May of any year                                         September 30, 2011                         5/1/2011 – 7/31/2011

June of any year                                          December 31, 2011                          8/1/2011 – 10/31/2011

July of any year                                           March 31, 2012                                11/1/2011 – 1/31/2012

August of any year                                      June 30, 2012                                   2/1/2012 – 4/30/2012

September of any year                                September 30, 2012                        5/1/2012 – 7/31/2012

October of any year                                    December 31, 2012                          8/1/2012 – 10/31/2012

November of any year                                March 31, 2013                                11/1/2012 – 1/31/2013

December of any year                                 June 30, 2013                                    2/1/2013 – 4/30/2013

January of any year                                    September 30, 2013                          5/1/2013 – 7/31/2013

February of any year                                  December 31, 2013                           8/1/2013 – 10/31/2013


Aircraft registered after October 1, 2010, will have an expiration date on their registration document.   Also, the FAA will mail you an expiration reminder six months prior to your current registration’s expiration so it would behove you to check that the FAA has your correct address.  You may do this by looking up your N# for free on here
You must submit an application form (coming to the web site soon) during the proper filing window to ensure that your new registration arrives prior to the expiration of your current document which would result in your airplane being grounded.  Re-registrations that do not require changing information (i.e. names, addresses) may be completed online via a system not yet implemented.  The cost identified in the rule is $5.00 but there is concern among some groups that there is nothing to prevent the FAA increasing the renewal fee to raise revenue for the agency.  Finally, be advised that obtaining a replacement registration does not satisfy the requirement to re-register your airplane.


Tim Keeney, VP-Sales, JetBrokers, Inc.

[email protected]


Aircraft Technical Analysis Tips

When evaluating aircraft, we tend to focus in on the things we know best. Once we get a feel for those, we then hope the other information we turn up is OK as well. When I’m working with a financial type, she’s interested not in how fast the aircraft flies, but in the costs, how we account for major maintenance, what we show for the acquisition price, etc. With the pilots, we focus in on the specs and performance, the technical analysis.
With the pilot, we focus in on size, features, range, and performance. The mission drives these requirements. Many of the aircraft acquisition plans we do focus on requirements such as passenger seating, cabin size and range. The general way we approach this is to:
* Determine the most (likely) demanding payload, range, cabin size and/or passenger seating requirement as defined by your key mission.
* Compare those mandatory requirements against the capabilities of a range of aircraft from the sources of information you have gathered.
* Eliminate all those that do not meet the requirements.
* Eliminate those aircraft that are vastly more capable than required. The cost of acquisition and ownership does up dramatically as size, range and speed increase.
Here is where it can get tough. Just how are the numbers derived? I’ve had pilots distrust our data initially until we’ve discussed the ground rules used.
If you need a range of 1,450 nautical miles (NM) with four passengers, what exactly do you mean? For the range, do you mean VFR range? IFR range? IFR range with what sort of alternate airport? 100 NM alternate, 200 NM alternate, something else? In general, literature on turboprops and very light and light jets refer to ranges with a 100 NM alternate that follows the NBAA IFR Fuel Reserve format. Somewhere in the light jet category, the 200 NM alternate becomes “standard.”  Our numbers for an aircraft such as the PC 12 are with a 200 NM NBAA IFR Fuel Reserves. Very different than IFR 45-minutes that an owner-pilot may be thinking about.
Passengers are passengers, right? No. Most published data assumes each passenger (with bags) weights 200 lbs. But some data may refer to 170 lb passengers, while the FAA and airline data suggest the average American airline passenger with bags runs well over 200 lbs. So when we discuss how far with how many passengers, I like to make sure that we are talking about 800 lbs instead of four passengers.
The same passenger weight comment applies to the Basic Operating Weight (BOW) of the aircraft as well. BOW includes crew. Is your aircraft to be flown single pilot or with two pilots? That 200 lb difference in weight can, when carrying near full loads, mean 200 lbs plus or minus on the fuel load, or almost 30 gallons. If your aircraft burns 120 gallons/hour at 240 knots, 30 gallons is 20 minutes or 80 NM. That may be enough to move the aircraft from acceptable to not acceptable due to its range.
The last area where things can be confusing is that much of the published data on aircraft are “maximums” and may not be achievable under most conditions. As an example, the Certified Ceiling is the maximum ceiling the aircraft is certified to be able to operate safety. That does not mean that the aircraft can climb that high on an everyday basis. Just because the aircraft has a Service Ceiling of 51,000 feet does not mean that the aircraft routinely flies there.
We look at Service Ceiling at max take-off weight. How high can the aircraft initially climb? The 51,000 certified jet may initially climb to 43,000 feet, where it sits until it can step climb the FL450, then FL470. That initial figure is a good basis for comparison, one I favor over an absolute maximum.
When evaluating aircraft performance and technical specifications, you need to understand the assumptions that went into the number. Especially as they relate to your aircraft requirements. When comparing data for different aircraft, you need to have the data based on the same assumptions – the old “apples-to-apples” comparison.

New Garmin glass panel for helicopters, plus GPS tricks


The above video comes from AvWeb and IFR Magazine. It gives some GPS Tricks for VOR Clearances.

Elsewhere in the sky, the FAA granted a supplemental-type certificate just before the Memorial Day holiday for a Garmin glass panel for helicopters. The G500H displays airspeed, attitude and vertical speed in addition to moving maps and terrain, with the option of having PFD on the left or right.


The certificate covers the Bell 206 and Bell 407. Garmin says the G500H takes the best features of the G600 and G500. It is compatible with the GNS 430W/530W series.

You can pick one up for just under $25 grand, including  the GDU 620 display/control unit, GRS 77H AHRS, GDC 74H digital air data computer, GMU 44 tri-axial magnetometer, and GTP 59 temp probe. The Garmin HSVT also is has a G500H option for around $8,000. 

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