Flying - Page 3 Aviation Articles

Flight Training — Same Fleet Avionics or Multiple Avionics Systems?

Aircraft Avionics

What type of avionics did you use during your flight training? One aspect that I have found to be very difficult for many students during their flight training is the use of avionics and automation management. Personally, the automation in our fleet at BGSU consists of Warriors with G500 Garmin 650, Avidyne with Garmin 430, Steam gauge with Garmin 430, Archers with Glass panel G1000, and Seminoles with Glass panel G1000 with autopilot. It is the university's plan to consolidate their fleet to an all Archer G1000 and Seminole G1000 fleet. So the question at hand is this: is fleet variation a benefit or disadvantage?

Hazard Consideration

  • Challenges (variation consistency and understanding)
  • Technical knowledge
  • Proficiency across avionics
  • Mode awareness
  • Expectation Bias
  • Pilot & Aircraft Experience level
  • Depth of knowledge/ familiarity
  • Situational awareness
  • Environment
  • Conditions of flight: Dual/Solo, Day/Night, IFR/VFR

Garmin 430’s are not WAAS equipped. Therefore, during instrument training, you can only use non-precision approach minima (Ex. LNAV). Garmin 650’s are WAAS equipped therefore during instrument training, you can use precision approach minima (Ex. LPV). For your Garmin avionics (650’s and 430’s) with dual GPS you can disconnect the “Cross-Fill” option and overlay two approaches. G1000 you are not given the option to disconnect the “Cross-Fill” option, therefore dual GPS overlaying isn’t an option. Different avionics have sometimes very different functions as well as ways to program.

Solution Consideration

  • Fleet continuity
  • Differences training
  • Aircraft equipment guide
  • Avionics supplements and online simulation tools
  • Initial and recurrent instructor Standardization
  • Flight simulator training
  • Emergency procedures training

Piston in Flight

I have always personally loved the challenge posed by learning different avionics. With some of the steam gauges, you can practice NDB approaches and learn firsthand compass errors. These are all things G1000’s don’t have. But I do actively see possible risks and importance to mitigation. As you all know, safety first is a must!

 Anthony Foxx, the U.S. Transportation Secretary stated in an FAA compliance policy that “Aviation is incredibly safe, but continued growth means that we must be proactive and smart... to detect and mitigate risk.” Establishing “proactive behavior” is about controlling a situation through progressive mitigation rather than responding after something undesirable has happened. Proactivity is not just for pilot risk mitigation but for community wellbeing. As for pilots in all levels of training, safety is a decision and a shared mindset that must be trained and maintained. 

Here are a couple of takeaways to think about.

  1. Fly the airplane… Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, then and only then automation. How can automation assist me? Do not let it degrade performance further.
  2. Make sure your habit formation in your training environment, is constantly improving and growing stronger.
  3. Maintain a high level of proficiency. You will get out of it what you put into it. Challenge yourself to understand the avionics and automation you are using.
  4. Lastly, Be the PIC! You are the final authority and the keeper of safety for that flight. Prepare and gain understanding accordingly for safe operation.

What do you think? Should there be the same fleet avionics or multiple avionics systems in a flight training environment?

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. 

Ready to File a Flight Plan? Here’s What You Need to Know!

              Flight Planning

What is a flight plan? A flight plan is pretty much the product of thorough flight planning that the pilot is responsible to do before every flight. There are certain flight plans though that require you to file them to FSS so that ARTCC can process the information for route sequencing. This precise planning, in other words, provides written intentions to ATC outlining their (the pilots) intended plan of flight.

There are five types of flight plans—VFR flight plan, IFR flight plan, composite flight plan, defense VFR flight plan, and International flight plan. Today, we will be discussing the two flight plans primarily used—VFR and IFR flight plans. If you are interested in learning more about composite flight plans, defense VFR flight plans, and International flight plans, check out AIM 5-1-6 through 5-1-9.

Even though filing VFR is not necessary unless you plan to fly through an Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), there are still benefits to it. It’s purpose is to activate search and rescue procedures in the event that your flight plan is not closed 30 minutes after your proposed time of arrival. This is why it is very important to remember to always close your flight plan as soon as it is safe to do so!

         Filing Flight Plan

Your IFR flight plan works a little bit differently. Before you enter into IMC conditions that lower visibility below VFR (1000 ft ceilings and 3SM) or entering Class A airspace you must file a flight plan to FSS. It is recommended that the pilot file their IFR flight plan at least 30 minutes prior to estimated time of departure to preclude possible delay in clearance received from ATC. If nonscheduled operators are conducting an IFR flight above Flight Level (FL 230) they are asked to voluntarily file their IFR flight plan 4 hours prior to Estimated Time of Departure (ETD) to allow the FAA to provide traffic management and routing strategy. Be sure to pay close attention to the clearance you are given! If you are on the ground at your controlled departure airport contact clearance deliveries frequency to receive your clearance. (REMEMBER the acronym CRAFT)

  • Clearance Limit
  • Route (Via route, via direct…, via radar vectors)
  • Altitude 
  • Frequency
  • Transponder Code

In the event that your airport is uncontrolled, there’s still a way to open it before you get into IFR conditions. Take note that the methods in which you can open your flight plan, are similar to the ways you can close your flight plan.

OPEN FLIGHT PLAN                                                                               

  • Contact Clearance Delivery via frequency on the ground
  • Call FSS via 1-800-WX-BRIEF or radio frequency (On the ground or in the air)
  • Call your local tower controller (On the ground or in the air)
  • Open with Electronic Devices (ForeFlight, FLTPlan Go, etc.) 

CLOSE FLIGHT PLAN 

  • If your at a controlled field, the tower will close it upon your landing
  • As long as you can guarantee you are in VFR conditions, can maintain VFR altitudes for involved airspace, and can remain in VFR conditions all the way to landing, you can close your flight plan in the air (Via approach controller or FSS).
  • Once we land at a uncontrolled field, you can close your flight plan via FSS or controlled tower of local region.
  • Close with Electronic Devices (ForeFlight, FLTPlan Go, etc.)

  Flight Plan

Which way do you prefer to open and close your flight plans?

 

 

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!

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