Addi Hemphill Aviation Articles

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!

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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