Aviation Safety Aviation Articles

Three Tips for Avoiding Runway Confusion

Have you ever had runway confusion? This confusion could come from runway numbers closely aligned or even complex airport layouts. From one pilot to another, we’ve all had some confusion during one stage of training or another. Here are a few tips to equip you with better runway familiarity and ridding the chance of possible confusion.

Three major ways to avoid possible risks associated with runway confusion include:

I) Always remember ATC is there to help you, especially at unfamiliar airports. Make sure to request progressive taxi instructions. Progressive taxiing is essentially asking for step-by-step, turn-by-turn instructions to your destination runway or airport destination.

 

Current Airport Diagram

 II) Always carry a current airport diagram, trace or highlight your taxi route to the departure runway prior to leaving the ramp. This also applies to when you are in the air. If you are a distance out from the runway environment and are unsure how you will enter the pattern, draw out your aircrafts heading and position on your airport diagram to the runway of intended landing. Be sure to listen to the airport ATIS to anticipate the runway in use before ATC tells you. Stay ahead of the aircraft if you can!

 

PIT Airport Diagram

 

III) If departing on Runway 36, ensure that you set your aircraft heading “bug” to 360°, and align your aircraft to the runway heading to avoid departing from the incorrect runway.

Before adding power on the runway currently aligned, make one last instrument scan to ensure the aircraft heading and runway heading are centered.

 

Runway and Pressure Gauge

 

Airport Information

It is important to review the current data for your airport or airports of use. Make sure you have these three common sources to obtain airport information.

I) Aeronautical Charts

  • Map designated to assess navigation of aircraft. Make sure your charts are current!

Aeronautical Chart

II) Chart Supplement U.S. (formerly Airport/Facility Directory)

  • Contains information on airports, heliports, and seaplane bases that are open to the public.

FAA Chart Supplement

III) Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) 

  • NOTAMs are time-critical aeronautical information that include such information as taxiway and runway closures, construction, communications, changes in the status of navigational aids, and other information essential to planned en route, terminal, or landing operations.
  • Types include FDC, SAA, FICON, Pointer, D, and military. 
  • NOTAMs are super important to understand the condition of the airport environment around you and how it can affect your awareness/routing.

These are a few very useful tips to help you familiarize yourself with unfamiliar airports and reduce confusion. Do you have any other useful tips to avoid runway confusion? Leave a comment below! 

 

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! 

Understanding Aircraft Wake Turbulence

You are flying into a controlled airport with the intent to land and ATC states, “ Cessna N617WT winds 160 at 5, cleared to land Runway 18, caution Wake Turbulence”. What is ATC trying to tell you with the message “caution wake turbulence” and how do you avoid the hazard associated with it?


Wake Turbulence

 

First off, to avoid wake turbulence we have to know what it is and how it is created. Simply put, wake turbulence (also known as wing tip vortices) is the product of created lift from the wings. The creation of this wing vortex generation is made by the creation of a pressure differential over the wing surface. As we know from basic lift aerodynamics, the lowest pressure occurs over the upper wing surface and the highest pressure under the wing. Due to that pressure differential, the rollup of the airflow aft of the wing resulting in swirling air masses trailing downstream of the wingtips. 

 

Aircraft Counter Control

 

Okay now we know what it is, why is it so dangerous? 

Compared to our little Cessna, large aircrafts wake can impose rolling tendencies exceeding the roll-control authority of the encountering aircraft. A lot depends on the encountering aircrafts wingspan. The larger the wingspan the larger the vortices, therefore, greater rolling tendencies are imposed. The greatest vortex strength occurs when the generating aircraft is

o    Heavy

    More lift is required 

o    Slow 

    Higher AOA is required to counteract lack of airspeed

o    Clean 

    The extension of flaps and other wing surface devices will change the characteristics of flight vortex (dirty, indicates delayed vortices)

Now that we know what it is and why it’s so dangerous, how do we avoid it?

When landing behind a larger aircraft— stay at or above the larger aircraft’s approach flight path and land beyond its touchdown point.

When departing behind a large aircraft—rotate prior to the rotation point and climb above its climb path until turning clear of the wake. 

Next time ATC gives you a caution such as “wake turbulence” you will know what you’re working with and looking out for. Make sure you exercise the proper precautions and avoidance techniques! You never know when you could encounter another large aircraft on takeoff and/or landing. Fly safe!

Lesson Plans from a CFI for Steep Turns Part 2

Two weeks ago I shared the first half of my lesson plan for steep turns. Today I will continue to share the last part of that particular lesson plan covering Va (maneuvering speed), weight impact, load factor and accelerated stalls, lastly rate and radius of turn. So as promised, here you go!

Maneuvering-speed

Why do we maneuver at the Va speed?

Va or your designed maneuvering speed is the speed at which the airplane will stall before it exceeds its designed limit-load factor.

  • Full and abrupt aerodynamic control
  • Lower weight lower maneuvering speed
  • Heavier weight higher maneuvering speed
  • It permits an aircraft to preform maneuvering training (such as steep turns) at or below calculated airspeed. This will allow the aircraft to stall (exceed the critical angle of attack) before it develops structural damage.
  • The weight of the wings will exceed designed load limits when operating above Va resulting in structural damage.

The VA Formula

The Impact of Weight Changes

  • Heavier weight = greater AOA to produce sufficient lift to weight ratio
  • Lighter weight = less AOA needed to produce sufficient lift to weight ratio
  • Note* due to higher AOA of heavier aircraft it is closer to the C-AOA (Critical Angle of Attack)

Angle of Attack
Load Factor and Accelerated Stalls

  • Load factor has a proportional relationship between lift and weight. The measurement for load factor is Gs—acceleration of gravity.
  • Gs is a unit of measurement that is equal to the force exerted by gravity on a object at rest and indicates the force to which a object is subjected when it is accelerated. In other words, any force that is applied to an aircraft to change its flight path from a straight line produces some sort of stress on its structure. The resulting force that is created is the load factor.
  • A 60 degree bank pulls 2 Gs— the weight of the aircraft is doubled.
  • By increasing your load factor you also increase the stalling speed and make stalls possible at seemingly safe speeds.
  • We use the normal category— limit load factor 3.8 to -1.5 Gs.
  • The total lift has to increase substantially to balance the load factor or Gs
  • As load factor increases, so does stall speed exponentially. An aircraft’s stalling speed increases at the square root of the load factor. Accelerated stall!

Rate and radius of turn

Rate of Turn

  • The rate of turn (ROT) is measured in the number of degrees (expressed in degrees per second) of heading change by the aircraft.
  • Airspeed increase = ROT decreases unless bank is added
  • Bank angle increases = ROT increases unless airspeed is added
  • “It is found that the horizontal component of lift is proportional to the angle of bank—that is, it increases or decreases respectively as the angle of bank increases or decreases. As the angle of bank is increased, the horizontal component of lift increases, thereby increasing the rate of turn (ROT).” (PHAK Ch. 5)

Radius of Turn

  • The radius of a turn is directly proportional to the ROT as it is a function effected by both bank angle and airspeed.
  • Airspeed increases = radius of turn increase
  • “As the airspeed is increased in a constant-rate level turn, the radius of the turn increases. This increase in the radius of turn causes an increase in the centrifugal force, which must be balanced by an increase in the horizontal component of lift, which can only be increased by increasing the angle of bank.” (PHAK Ch. 5)

Completion Standards

Student is able to maintain the entry altitude ±100 feet, airspeed ±10 knots, bank ±5°, and roll out on the entry heading ±10° of steep turn preformed.

Whenever you create a lesson plan, don’t forget to give credit and cite your sources!

References:

PHAK Ch. 9 & 5

Private pilot Airmen Certification Standards

Airplane Flying Handbook

Commercial Pilot Practical Test Standards

If you have any questions or suggestions for improvement I’d love to read them in the comments below. 

Question for current or previous CFI’s: What advice would you give a pre-CFI regarding creating lesson plans or preparation to becoming a CFI that you wish you knew before you started instructing?

Lesson Plans from a CFI for Steep Turns

I am on a new yet exhausting journey of writing lesson plans for my CFI binder. It is very exciting to think that by the end of this year I will be able to teach other people how to fly an airplane. I have learned so much over the past 2 and a half years of flying and soon I will take that knowledge and share it with others. Someone told me once that being a CFI means that you are simply a certified learner. In the pursuit of creating lesson plans, I can say I have expanded my understanding exponentially. I mean think about it, for you to teach someone and answer the unfiltered questions and different levels of learning you have to continually learn the material for yourself to provide a deep understanding to your students.

One of my very first lesson plans is over steep turns and what better way to start sharing my newly acquired knowledge than to share it with you all? Feel free at any point to leave advice and comments to improve my lesson plan. This is not the full version as it turned out to be roughly 10 pages of material. This post will be one of a two-part series to provide that information. This first post will cover coordinated turns, uncoordinated turns, and over banking tendencies. Enjoy and let me know what you think!

Steep Turns

Purpose of Steep Turn

The purpose of this maneuver is to develop the pilot’s smoothness, coordination, orientation, control technique, and division of attention by executing maximum performance turns.

Set-up of Maneuver

CLEARING TURN

To ensure that the immediate practice area is free of conflicting air traffic and obstacles and to select an emergency landing site.

PRE-MANEUVER FLOW 

Single engine PA28-161

  1. Area Clear
  2. Fuel Selector Proper Tank
  3. Mixture Full Rich
  4. Fuel Pump On
  5. Carb Heat Off
  6. Power Set for Va, (Specific to aircraft determined Va for specific weight)

Memory Aid: GUMP

  • Gas (Fuel selector & fuel pump)
  • Under carriage (Gear up/down)
  • Mixture (Full rich/ lean)
  • Power (Va)

PA28-161 Piper Warrior III SOP (Standard Operating Procedure)

  1. Enter the maneuver on a cardinal heading at least 1,500 AGL  at Va.
  2. Execute a coordinated turn, using a 45-degree bank (50-degree bank for advanced students).
  3. As the bank angle approaches 30 degrees, simultaneously increase back elevator pressure to maintain level flight and add approximately 100 to 200 RPM as necessary to maintain entry airspeed, and apply trim to support the desired flight attitude and airspeed.
  4. Execute a steep turn in the opposite direction (advanced students must immediately execute a steep turn in the opposite direction).
  5. Begin rollout approximately one-half the bank angle in degrees before the entry heading, e.g. in a 45-degree bank, begin rollout while passing through a heading approximately 20-degrees before entry heading.
  6. Roll out of the turn at entry heading and altitude, while simultaneously relaxing back elevator pressure and reducing power to a normal cruise setting.
  7. Fuel pump off if no more maneuvers are to be practiced on that flight.

Forces in Turns
Coordinated and Uncoordinated Flight

Coordinated Flight

Centrifugal force is equal to the horizontal component of lift.

Basics of a Turn

In a turn, the lift component is broken into vertical and horizontal components.

The horizontal component of lift is a force involved with turning the aircraft to either side.

Centrifugal force is the “equal and opposite reaction” of the aircraft to the change in direction during a turn and acts equal and opposite to the horizontal component of lift.

 The vertical component of lift acts opposite to weight (gravity acting downward). “Since the lift during the bank is divided into vertical and horizontal components, the amount of lift opposing gravity and supporting the aircraft’s weight is reduced.” (PHAK Ch. 5) Consequently, more lift needs to be generated by increasing the coefficient of lift requiring back pressure on the elevator to maintain a higher A.O.A.

It is important to note that the AOA must be progressively increased to produce sufficient vertical lift to support the aircraft’s weight due to the vertical component of lift decreasing as the bank angle increases. The pilot should keep in mind that when making constant altitude turns, the vertical component of lift must be equal to the weight to maintain altitude.

Also during the turn, since the drag of the airfoil is directly proportional to its AOA, the airplane will lose airspeed proportional to the angle of bank executed. To maintain the required 45 degree (50 degrees for advanced), Va, and altitude rolling past 30 degrees added power is required to compensate added drag due to increased AOA.

 Uncoordinated Flight

Slip

Slipping Turns

The horizontal lift component is greater than the centrifugal force

  • Aircraft yaws to the outside of turn
  • Bank angle too much for the rate of turn
  • The outside wing has a higher A.O.A, stalls first, drops and levels the wings

Recovery: decrease the bank angle, increasing the Rate of Turn, or a combination of the two changes.

Note* Slips may result in inaccurate airspeed due to the pitot tube/ mass not being Skidding Turnsaligned with the relative wind.

Skid

 

An excess of centrifugal force over the horizontal lift component

  • Turning too fast for bank angle
  • Fuselage blankets lower wing, lower wing stalls, spin is created

Recovery: reduce the rate of turn, increase bank angle or a combination of the two changes.

Over banking tendencies

  • During a steep turn maneuver, the outer wing of the aircraft moves slightly faster through the air than the inner wing. This lack of symmetrical lift between both wings, causing the aircraft to steepen its bank angle in the initial direction. To counteract this over banking tendency, apply opposite aileron as necessary to maintain your bank angle.
  • Negative static stability about the longitudinal axis.

Okay, that’s just the first portion of this lesson plan. Stay tuned for my next post that will go into Va (maneuvering speed), weight impact, load factor, and accelerated stalls, and rate and radius of turns. Your critics make me a better learner therefore a better teacher so feel free to leave any thoughts!

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