Flight Training Aviation Articles

Nailing Your 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! 

 

 

 

Popular Topics on the Multi Engine Oral Exam

Whether you're going for a multi add-on to a previous certificate or doing a "fresh" multi certificate so to speak, you'll need to know these popular topics that almost every examiner will ask. They're the most important factors about multi flying and knowing them also keeps you safe.

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a. What's the difference between a single engine and multi engine plane? Well the most obvious answer here is one has one engine and the other has 2 or more. Tell that to your DPE and see if you can get a laugh out of them (and then follow with this elaboration). On a single engine plane when you lose an engine, you can no longer climb. You pitch for airspeed, find a spot to land, run through your checklist to diagnose the problem and then try to restart the engine. The danger here is stalling if you lose too much airspeed. In multi engine planes, the danger is the yaw that becomes uncontrollable until it rolls the plane over. You very quickly have to bring pitch to Vyse, manage your power settings, clean up any drag (like landing gear and flaps) and then the famous identify, verify and feather. These are life saving procedures that prevent you from becoming an accident statistic. You're preventing the yaw and stopping the plane from going below Vmc.

b. Describe Vmc. The definition for Vmc is that it is "the minimum control speed with the critical engine inoperative" and is marked by a red line on most airspeed indicators. You can find this on page 12-2 of the Airplane Flying Handbook along with all other V speed definitions. This goes back to what I previously wrote, that if you get below this speed you likely won't be able to recover from the aircraft yaw in the event of an engine loss. This also relates to Vsse, the safe intentional OEI speed. This is on the same page as Vmc in the AFH where it states it's the "minimum speed to intentionally render the critical engine inoperative." So when an MEI is demonstrating engine loss during flight, they don't go below this speed. It gives the pilot a safe margin to keep away from going below Vmc during the demonstration. 

c. How is Vmc determined? This is something that's set by the manufacturer. To memorize how, use the COMBATS acronym.

Critical engine inoperative

Operating engine full power

Max takeoff weight

Aft CG

Takeoff configuration (gear and flaps down)

Standard day: standard temp and standard pressure

To add onto this, WHY does the manufacturer do this? All of these conditions are set for the worst scenario. The critical engine is obviously the worst to lose because of airplane controllability, and with full power on the good engine the airplane is now hardest to control. Max takeoff weight and an aft CG can make the airplane unstable and hardest to recover from. As for the takeoff configuration, with gear and flaps down this exhibits the most drag. 

d. Know your plane. By this I mean know what type engines you have (horsepower, which one is a critical engine if there is one and why), propellers, max takeoff and landing weights, service/absolute ceilings etc. When you go through these items in the operating handbook, pretend you're teaching it to someone else. This will help you understand it better and point out weak spots that you wouldn't be able to explain to a DPE. For example, the multi plane I fly has constant speed, hydraulically actuated, full feathering props. When an engine is lost, I'm still able to feather the plane without oil pressure (which keeps the prop at a low pitch) from the propellor governor. Without oil pressure the propellers go back to feathered position, and to fully feather them is where dry nitrogen kicks into place. Here's the best photo I could find to help illustrate the propeller system: 

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If you're like me and taking a multi check ride soon, then study study study ALL of this and be ready to explain it to a DPE! Stay calm, ask questions to clarify anything you don't understand, and most of all believe in yourself.

After your check ride if you're in the market to buy a multi engine, then you know where to go! Head over to our main page on Globalair.com and click the "aircraft for sale" drop down arrow and start searching. 

Any other tips you'd like to add on from your check ride experience? Comment below!

 

Remembering my first soft field landing

In flying, as with anything else, when you have a goal, it helps to stay laser-focused. It helps to avoid distractions.

This is especially true when you're working on earning a new rating or trying to learn a new skill.

Take soft field landings, for instance.

I did my first soft field landing in April 2018. It was several months before I would get my private pilot ticket, and my instructor at the time, Justin, was intent on teaching me soft field landings on actual SOFT FIELDS.

That's the only way to learn it if you want my opinion. Simulated soft field landings might get you checkride-ready, but there's nothing like having some actual grass and hard dirt under the wheels to show you what it's really like.

The field in question was Lee Bottom Airport (64I), a gorgeous 4,000-foot-long nicely kept grass strip tucked away among trees in Hanover, Indiana. While it made some instructors nervous, Justin loved that field, and would often be happy for any excuse to touch down there, as long as the grass wasn't wet.

I still have video of my first landing there. With my Go-Pro pointed out the window – slightly crooked, as always seemed to be the case – I swung the plane onto final, at Justin's direction. Nervously, I could see the tops of the 60-foot trees passing below me as our aircraft glided closer to the airstrip's threshold, the branches seemingly reaching up trying to snatch our little Cessna in their clutches.

I was always nervous at this point -- particularly on days when there was a strong headwind and the airplane appeared to be moving slowly over those trees. On days like this, I was tempted to add power and come in too fast, floating down the length of the airstrip.

"I just feel soooo slow coming in over those trees," I once quipped.

"That's because we've got the headwind," Justin replied. "Don't worry about your groundspeed. Your airspeed is what is important."

But invariably I would glide over the trees and come down beyond them, landing just past the white cones of the airstrip's threshold. I'd try to add just a little bit of power just before the wheels would touch down on the grass.

The rough feeling of the grassy strip just rushing by under the wheels was so alien to a student pilot like me, who was so used to the smooth concrete of runways at controlled airports.

But I thoroughly enjoyed applying full back pressure to the yoke as I held the nose up and gently pumped the throttle so as not to lose momentum before turning the plane around near the end of the grass strip. Using no brakes, to avoid getting stuck in the grass, I'd taxi back to the threshold, set the flaps at 10 degrees and take off again.

We did this over and over again, in all types of winds, lesson after lesson. Because I was determined. I wanted to get my soft field landings down perfectly. I had a goal. I had a checkride. And I wasn't going to let anything distract me.

But one evening was different.

It was June 16 of 2018. It was sometime around 7 o'clock in the evening, and Justin and I were once again returning to Lee Bottom Airport to do some soft field landings. It was supposed to be a short lesson, and after one or two landings, we were going to fly back to the flight school and head for home.

But as we were gliding down on final, something caught our eye. A small plane was parked midway down the field, off to the side of the airstrip. We couldn't tell what it was. As we drifted closer, we could begin to make it out.

"It's a Pietenpol!" Justin said.

As we touched down on the grass strip and rolled passed the airplane, it grabbed my attention.Pitenpol

"You wanna stop?" I asked.

"You wanna?" Justin replied.

Thankfully, no one else was scheduled to rent the plane after us that evening, so there was no need to get back to the flight school right away. Sure, I had a lesson, but we could get back to that later. Right now, I wanted to check out the classic plane. After landing, we pulled our plane over into the grass on the side of the strip and climbed out.

The kind owner of the aircraft -- I don't recall his name, unfortunately -- had flown in from the north that afternoon and was more than happy to show us his plane. It was bright yellow taildragger with an open-air cockpit, with two big front wheels that reminded me of oversized wheels that came from a child's wagon.

On the side of the aircraft was mounted a device we could tell was the pilot’s pride and joy. It was labeled the "Bacon Savor" -- a simple pointer that warned the pilot when he was about to exceed the critical angle of attack and stall out.

On the ground next to the airplane was a simple blue mat. The pilot had actually flown in and planned to camp out that night under the stars – perhaps making use of the fire pit near the airfield to cook some grub.

It seemed like the perfect life.

Of course, we had to get going. I had a lesson to finish -- more stuff to learn -- I had to get ready for that checkride. But just as we were about to head back to our plane, we spotted another aircraft about to land on the field.

It turned out it was Elijah -- another pilot who flew out of our flight school. Cheerfully, he landed and taxied over to where we stood.
Quickly joining the conversation, the four of us found ourselves laughing about the things pilots and student pilots often joke about: Eccentric flight instructors, strange airplanes, predicaments we shouldn't have gotten ourselves into but did anyway, upcoming checkrides, stupid oral exam questions, etc.

Before we knew it, two more hours had elapsed.

By the time Justin and I climbed back into the plane and took off, the sun was setting -- and we were way later than we planned. As we flew west, we followed the Ohio River with the burning horizon in front of us. Behind us in his airplane, Elijah tried to race us back. He lost, but to be fair, we had a pretty big head start.

So much for avoiding distractions. Truth be told, I wasn’t very focused that night. We didn’t spend a whole lot of time practicing landings or doing maneuvers like I originally planned.

But we did have a whole lot of fun. And in the final analysis, I guess those are the lessons you remember most.

Travis K. Kircher is a private pilot based out of Louisville, Kentucky.

 

How to Manually Extend Your Gear in an Emergency

Complex airplanes can be a large variety of different types of planes. Federal Aviation Regulations in the Airplane Flying Handbook define a complex aircraft to be "an airplane that has a retractable landing gear, flaps, and a controllable pitch propeller." So, this can be different types of jets and especially general aviation planes.

Most commonly, we see general aviation planes such as a Piper Cherokee featured here on the GlobalAir.com Aircraft for Sale area. Planes like these are usually the roots of most pilots when they were working towards a complex endorsement. Nonetheless, every pilot should be ready for a gear extension failure regardless of the plane they're flying. 

The first step to realizing you've had a gear extension failure is after vocalizing gear in transition, checking to see that the gear is fully down. There will be an absence of a light on the indicator (in most cases it's green). Some planes may have 3 green lights for each wheel, and some may just have one. Regardless, if any of the required indicator lights are absent, you've got an issue.

Here, you want to do a quick check to see if it's the lightbulb that's the issue and not the gear itself. Ensure your master and alternator switches are on, and if able pull the outer cover of the light off to see the lightbulb. You can easily touch it or lightly twist it and if it comes on, then it's the lightbulb that's malfunctioning. Always check your circuit breakers as well. If the gear circuit is out, push it back in one time. If the light comes on, again it's an electrical issue there and not the gear. However, if the circuit pops back out again leave it alone. It's popping out for a reason, so don't push it in again and especially don't hold it in. 

If you've ran through these first steps and have diagnosed it's not the landing gear position indicators that are out, now it's time for a manual gear extension. Let ATC know (if you're talking to them) what's going on and what you're about to do, and if you're coming in to land (which you most likely are) that you'll be going ahead with a go around. It doesn't matter if you get the gear down safely in time for touchdown, take another lap in the pattern. This reverts back to safe decision making.

Next, follow your emergency checklist according to your POH here to start emergency gear extension. Check airspeed is below what's published-because the gear may not be able to drop down without hydraulic power if you're too fast-and hit the landing gear selector down. Now grab your emergency gear extension lever and drop it down. Here you should feel the gear drop down, as you'll feel the drag and airspeed will slow.

You're not done yet. Now, you have to make sure the gear is locked in place. The last thing you'd want is to have followed a good emergency gear extension checklist, then touchdown and have a wheel collapse. You can ensure this by checking your landing gear lights are all lighted. 

But what if you have an electrical problem (reverting back to earlier) and can't see a light, or it still isn't lighted? That means you have to "wiggle the plane" so to speak and push the gear into place. Yaw the aircraft with rudder to both sides, and this should push the sides into locking. The nosewheel should have locked into place given that you let the gear down below airspeed. 

Now, you're ready to land. Again, let ATC now know what is going on. On a VFR day at a controlled airport, tower can even help you out by spotting you and letting you know if they see all your gear is down. This also goes at an uncontrolled field if someone else is in the vicinity and talking on the CTAF. Think of out of the box ideas like this to help you, it's all about managing the resources available and making safety a priority. 

In the worst case scenario that gear still isn't down, go then to your gear up landing checklist. If you haven't already, now it's time to officially declare an emergency.

Now matter what follow your checklists, use your available resources, revert back to your training, and most of all stay calm. Panicking is the worst thing to do in any emergency because you can't think straight and can now easily stray away from your procedures. 

Have any stories about doing a manual gear extension or any emergency scenario stories in general? Comment below and stay tuned for more posts!

Effects of Summer Flying and How to Overcome It

First and foremost, let's state the most obvious effect of summer flying: it. is. hot.

Being a pilot from Texas, I can personally say you should check on your southern friends. There's a good chance we're dehydrated and .2 seconds away from passing out due to heat exhaustion. 

Okay, maybe a little overdramatic....but it is hot. 

When flying in the summer, whether as a student, flight instructor, or any type of general aviation pilot we need to understand the effects of the weather changes. 

Rule number 1: Always carry water. Even if you just hydrated before your flight and don't think you need it, grab water anyways (and by the way, try to go green and make it a reusable water bottle while you're at it). From first-hand experience, dehydration and heat exhaustion can have a bigger impact on flying than you'd think. Your decision-making skills and effectiveness on hand-flying the plane start to deteriorate. If ignored, dizziness and a headache can start to occur. This becomes even more important on long haul flights. Don't be the newest accident statistic due to poor flight preparation.  Even if you're in a rush, take 2 extra minutes and grab that water. 

Rule number 2: Take into account the changes it can have on aircraft performance. If you're taking off from an airport with a short runway, even if a ground roll is normally adequate, double check it. The hotter it is, the longer ground roll you need. That point you're used to rotating at or obstacle you're used to clearing might not be your friend today, especially as the heat rises continuing into August. A great tool to help gauge the temperatures at the surface and at altitude is the GlobalAir Aviation Weather Temperatures Tool. Just click the "national weather" tab, then click "temperature" and see it all illustrated on an analysis chart. A quick tip: if you're using it to plan a flight for later in the future (and not 30 minutes from now) make sure you click for the right time frame! left

Rule number 3: Still on the weather subject, check your winds before heading out. You're most likely to encounter gusts of wind on a hot summer day with calm winds at the surface. I've also experienced this firsthand, so it became a learning experience. As soon as I reached 1500 ft the wind picked up, and it didn't stop. The turbulence actually reached moderate for me that day, so I cut my flight short and went back. No sense in taking chances to keep going and fighting the plane the entire time! For any situation with undesirable weather or even maintenance issues remember this: it's better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground. The GlobalAir Winds Aloft Tool is also a great resource in planning for this. Be sure to check this and local METAR/TAF for each upcoming flight to ensure you don't get in a situation making you wish you were on the ground.