Flying - Page 23 Aviation Articles

12 Things You Didn’t Know About the Wright Brothers



Most of us know that Wright brothers Orville and Wilbur were smart guys who also had a thing for bicycles. But what else do we know about these two brothers that successfully launched America – and other countries – into the world of flying? Here are a few interesting facts about the fathers of modern aviation.
  1. Neither Wilbur nor Orville finished high school. A hockey accident left Wilbur badly injured and he fell into a depression, forgoing his plans to attend Yale. Instead, he stayed home and cared for his mother, who had tuberculosis. In the meantime, Wilbur’s younger brother Orville dropped out of high school his senior year to open a print shop.

  2. In 1889 Wilbur and Orville started their own newspaper. It was a West Dayton paper called West Side News, in which Wilbur was the editor and Orville the publisher.

  3. Orville and Wilbur’s father was a bishop who traveled a lot. Their mother was the parent they turned to for advice on their engineering and design pursuits. Being mechanically inclined, she would design and build small appliances and also built toys for the two boys and their siblings.

  4. Wilbur was mature for his age, and he preferred to hang out with his two older brothers. He was invited to join their social group called the "Ten Dayton Boys," where activities included annual meetings, drinking, eating and singing.

  5. Wilbur was quiet and studious. Orville was mischievous, but shy.

  6. Orville played the mandolin. His sister Katharine, whom he was very close to, is known to have said, "He sits around and picks that thing until I can hardly stay in the house."

  7. The brothers funded their airplane pursuits with bicycles. The pair went into business designing, building and repairing bicycles. They competed with many other bicycle shops, at first selling the popular brands and later designing and manufacturing their own.

  8. The Kitty Hawk location was chosen based on certain criteria that included a soft place to land, sustained winds, elevated areas to launch from and, of course, wide open spaces.

  9. The test gliders were left on the beaches of Kitty Hawk. After the test flights of the first three gliders, the aircraft were so beat up from their time at Kitty Hawk that the Wright brothers just left them behind on the beaches of Kitty Hawk. A wingtip was later recovered, and is the only piece found from the Wright brothers’ gliders.

  10. One wing was shorter than the other on the Wright Flyer On the Wright brother’s design of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the left wing was engineered to be four inches longer than the right wing in order to compensate for the engine placement on the right side of the pilot.

  11. The brothers tossed a coin to determine who would be flying the Wright Flyer during its first test flight. Wilbur won.

  12. Farmland was used for future flight testing in Ohio, as long as they moved the cows first. Tired of continuous flights to Kitty Hawk, the Wright brothers sought out the use of land from a nearby farmer in Ohio. They built a hangar there and began a mission to fly circular flights and make the aircraft more practical. The farmer requested nothing in return, except that they lead the cattle away before flying.

8 METAR Codes You’ve Always Wondered About

Aviation weather reports are pretty simple once you’ve been trained to read and interpret them, but the more often you fly, the more often you’ll see new and strange codes on METARs (aviation routine weather reports). Some of these are decoded below. A few of these are codes that you may have learned for your check ride but forgot about years later, and others are just plain rare or insignificant.

For more details on METAR codes and other aviation weather reports, check out the FAA advisory circular AC-0045-G, Aviation Weather Services. This particular advisory circular is very thorough, and even if you were previously educated on the codes below, you’re likely to learn a thing or two about Aviation Weather Services from this one.

Here are a few METAR codes that are commonly forgotten, misinterpreted, or never learned. How many do you know?

  1. BKN014 V OVC
    Most of us know that this means there’s a broken cloud layer at 1400 feet AGL. But what’s the ‘V’ mean? The ‘V’ here means that the cloud layer at 1400 feet is variable between broken and overcast. It’s a code that’s not that commonly seen.

  2. CIG 002 RWY11
    If you see the code above and there’s already a ceiling reported earlier in the METAR report, it means that there’s a second station on the field that’s also reporting visibility, and you’ll know this because the specific location will be included. This ceiling is only included if the ceiling at this second station is lower that otherwise reported in the METAR. Here, it means the ceiling is 200 feet at the ceilometer location near runway 11.

  3. SNINCR 2/10
    If the snowfall increases by one inch or more since the previous reported METAR, it’s indicated by ‘SNINCR’ followed by the amount. In the case above, the snow has increased by 2 inches in the past hour, and the total snowfall is 10 inches. This could be easily misinterpreted as a snow increase of 2/10 of an inch, so it's worth remembering.

  4. A01 and A02
    A01 and A02 are types of METAR stations. This code, which is often brushed aside as meaningless by some, distinguishes between a station with a precipitation discriminator (A02) and one without (A01).

  5. $
    The dollar sign at the end of a METAR indicates that the station has self-identified itself as needing maintenance. This one is pretty common, but not all pilots take the time to figure out what it means.
  6. TSB22RAB17GRB23
    This notation gives the time that special weather events began (noted by the ‘B’) and if they’ve ended, what time they ended (noted by an ‘E’). The text above means that thunderstorm began at 22 minutes past the hour, rain began at 17 minutes past the hour, and hail (GR) began at 23 minutes past the hour.

  7. PRESRR
    If the pressure rises or falls at a rate of 0.06 inches per hour, and the difference from the last reported pressure is 0.02 or greater, than the code PRESRR will be used, which stands for pressure rising rapidly, and the code PRESFR will be used to note pressure falling rapidly.

  8. PNO or CHINO LOC
    At the end of a METAR, you may often find an abbreviation ending with ‘NO’. These are most likely sensor status indicators. There are a few different possibilities for these sensor abbreviations. Above, PNO means that the "tipping bucket rain gauge" sensor isn’t working. ‘CHINO LOC’ means that the sensor for the secondary ceiling height indicator is not operating. As you can see, some of these aren’t necessarily intuitive, and will often require you to dig deeper to determine what they mean.

These are just a few of the commonly unknown METAR codes. There are many more, as you’ll discover by reading the advisory circular suggested above.

Which strange codes have you stumbled upon while checking the weather?

5 Winter Weather Hazards Pilots Should Pay Attention To


Photo: Scott Wright CCBY-SA 2.0

Winter has arrived early for some, with snow and ice abundant in northern parts of the country already! Cold-weather flying can bring smooth, calm air and great performance, but it can also bring ice and slick runways. If you’re an avid year-round flyer, then you’re probably familiar with the hazards associated with flying in the winter: cold engine starts, frost on the wings, structural icing, and slippery runways. Winter operations include preheating the aircraft, getting the frost off the wings before takeoff and avoiding icing conditions in aircraft that aren't approved for flight into known icing. There are even hazards involved with de-icing! Winter flying is enjoyable, as long as you stay ahead of these winter weather hazards:

  1. Cold engines
    If extremely cold temperatures, it’s wise to preheat the engine before flying. Besides sluggish oil, frost can build up on spark plugs and freezing cold temperatures can also cause instruments to freeze or be sluggish – all bad news for the airplane. Engine crankcases should also be inspected during the preflight to ensure there’s no icing due to vapors condensing.
  2. Frost
    Frost and ice found on your aircraft during the preflight can be removed. Frost and ice found during takeoff, not so much. Even a tiny bit of frost on the airframe can cause a significant loss of lift and the aircraft might stall at a lower-than-usual angle of attack. Never take off with frost on the aircraft!
  3. Icing

    As winter arrives and the freezing level gets lower and lower, pilots need to be prepared for structural icing. Without a properly equipped aircraft, pilots should stay out of areas where icing is forecast or likely. But sometimes icing occurs without notice, and it can occur rapidly. To stay out of trouble, make sure you always have an escape plan if flying in the clouds in cold weather. Ice build-up on the airframe causes loss of lift, increased drag and increased weight.

    If you enter icing conditions in an ill-equipped aircraft, your choices are to climb, descend or turn around. Much of the time, small aircraft will not have the performance to climb through a cloud layer, which is why it’s important to be able to gauge aircraft performance quickly if it’s reduced. It’s also very important to know where the cloud layers are. A pilot in a small airplane won’t want to try to climb if the cloud tops are at 30,000 feet. But if it’s a thin layer of clouds with, say, the base at 6,000 and the top at 7,000, you should be able to climb out of the icing conditions and get above the clouds.

    In most cases, you’ll want to turn around or descend below the clouds. And don’t forget that you can enlist the help of ATC and other weather services if you need assistance getting out of icing conditions.

  4. Runway condition
    During the winter, runways can be slick from frost or icy conditions, and they can also be wet from aircraft operating and winter vehicles removing snow. Know your aircraft’s performance and limitations with wet, snow-covered or icy runways, and make sure you give yourself plenty of extra landing space. Wet runways really do reduce landing performance.
  5. De-icing hazards
    It should go without saying that credit cards aren’t recommended for scraping ice off airplane windshields. But every year, I hear a story about this happening. Get the ice off the recommended way: A soft brush made for aircraft can get the snow off, and de-icing fluid can melt the rest. But de-icing procedures can be hazardous if you don’t know what you’re doing!

    Remember that melted ice can refreeze quickly, and you should always check flight controls and flaps, as well as hinges after de-icing, where water can drip and refreeze.

    De-icing fluid should always be handled with care. A quick check of wind direction before spraying will ensure you don't get Propylene Glycol in your eyes!

    Finally, make sure you’re using an appropriate chemical for your aircraft, and follow local airport procedures for de-icing areas and safety protocols.

Have your own winter flying tips to share? Let us know!

7 Reasons an Instrument Rating Will Make You a Better Pilot


Photo: N. Tackaberry/Flickr-CC BY-ND 2.0
Getting an instrument rating means you’ll be able to fly in the clouds and you won’t be stuck on the ground as much because of bad weather. But an IFR rating also comes with a few other advantages. Here’s why getting an instrument rating will make you a better pilot:

  1. You’ll become more accurate.
    There’s no doubt that accuracy improves with instrument flight. In order to remain safe while in the clouds, you have to stay on your altitude and heading. Deviations become much more of a safety hazard when you can’t see the ground below you or other aircraft flying around you. During your IFR training, you learn to fly more precisely, staying on your assigned altitude, heading and airspeed, or making exact pitch and power changes for, say, a precise 500 foot-per-minute climb. These skills will transfer over to your VFR flying, too.

  2. Your preflight planning will be better.
    Preflight planning is always important, but when you introduce low ceilings and fog into the equation, planning is done with a whole new outlook. IFR flight presents new challenges like icing hazards, holding procedures and traffic delays, and it’s more important than ever to be prepared for fuel stops, flight plan deviations and alternates.

  3. You’ll learn more about your airplane’s instruments and technology in general.
    In-depth familiarization with your aircraft’s instruments is one of the challenges of the IFR rating. You’ll not only need to know how these instruments work, but you’ll become familiar with what to do in case of instrument failure. The extra knowledge of autopilot systems and GPS technology will come in handy for flying in different environments, both VFR and IFR.

  4. You’ll always be ‘two steps ahead’.
    Any instrument student knows that part of IFR training is transforming your mindset from real-time flying to being at least two steps ahead of the airplane. Being ahead of the airplane is necessary for instrument flight, as there are numerous things going on and you’ll need to react quickly. Planning for the next two or three steps will become second-nature to you, and before you know it, you’ll be using this mental trick all the time – even for non-aviation tasks!

  5. You’ll be more prepared for inadvertent flight into IMC.
    Flying in the clouds is safe when it’s predictable, and when on an IFR flight plan. But there are times when you might find yourself in less-than-VFR conditions without intending to be, like at night, when the clouds roll in sooner than predicted, or if it’s tough to see the horizon in rain or hazy conditions. An instrument rating will greatly increase your chances of remaining in control of the aircraft should you encounter an inadvertent flight into IMC condition.

  6. You’ll be better at finding traffic in the area.
    As a VFR pilot unfamiliar with IFR operations, it’s difficult to know where exactly another aircraft is when the pilot reports "localizer inbound" or "on the 7 mile arc." With an instrument rating, you’ll finally be aware of the exact locations of all of these other aircraft in the local area, improving your situational awareness and collision avoidance capabilities.

  7. You’ll become more skilled at noticing and predicting the weather.
    IFR training gives pilots a really thorough look at weather theory and weather reports. As you gain experience flying in IFR conditions, you’ll get much better at recognizing hazardous weather like icing, thunderstorm activity and frontal passages. This proves to be valuable knowledge to have during any flight, of course, and as a bonus you might also become the go-to guy for weather reports and forecasts among your family and friends.

Chicago O'Hare gets first RNP approach

Chicago’s O’Hare airport recently implemented its first RNP (required navigation performance) instrument approach. The satellite-based precision approach is part of the new generation of GPS approaches popping up at airports around the nation and the world. Chris Baur, president and CEO of Hughes Aerospace, the company that developed the approach, told the Aviation Examiner David W. Thornton on Wednesday that the new approach is an environmentally friendly alternative to current land-based approaches.

Instrument approaches are the procedures used by pilots to locate the landing runway when the weather precludes a visual approach. At large airports like O’Hare (KORD), the typical method of tracking to the runway involves an ILS (instrument landing system) approach. ILS approaches use land-based transmitters to send signals to the pilots that bring the airplanes to the touchdown point on the runway both laterally (with a localizer) and vertically (with a glideslope). This requires two separate transmitter facilities for each runway that utilizes an ILS. This can be cost-prohibitive for small airports.

RNP approaches utilize satellite navigation technology instead of ground-based navigational facilities. The aircraft’s flight management computer is programmed to fly a predetermined course along a series of waypoints, locations on a map that do not have to coincide with any geographic feature, toward the runway. Because the airplane is following GPS waypoints, approaches can easily be planned to avoid terrain features or noise sensitive areas. They can also be developed over water where land-based facilities are impractical. At some airports, RNP approaches even follow a curved path to the runway using RF (radius to fix) segments, such as this approach at Atlanta’s Peachtree-DeKalb airport (KPDK).

Check out the rest of the David W. Thornton’s story here!

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