GlobalAir.com 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!

Why Aircraft Engines Thrive in Colder Temperatures

Since day one of flight training, we have all heard pilots say that aircraft perform better when it's colder outside. 

You may have heard the term density that has to do with this factor but may have not have seen it actually broken down and explained before. So here's why:

Temperature and Density

When air is entering an aircraft engine to be mixed with fuel, it goes through the 4 phase process of "intake, compress, combust and exhaust" in order to generate power. This is the same for both jet and piston engines. 

But how much air can actually enter the air inlet in order to enter the 4 step process?

Well, the slightly better question is how many air molecules

jet engine design

As explained by BoldMethod.com, "cold air molecules move slower and collide with less energy than hot molecules, causing cold air to become denser. As temperature drops, more air molecules enter an engine, and as temperature rises, fewer air molecules enter an engine."

The more air molecules that can enter an engine, the more power/performance that can be generated, therefore cooler temperatures are more preferred. 

Density Altitude & Performance 

Since we're discussing the density of air in relation to temperature, density altitude goes hand in hand with the topic. Density altitude is altitude relative to standard atmospheric conditions at which the air density would be equal to the indicated air density at the place of observation.

Or for better terms, simply put it is the density of the air given as a height above mean sea level (MSL). 

The higher you are above sea level, the less dense the air becomes, posing the same problem: fewer air molecules entering the engine, therefore, less fuel is mixed with it and lesser power is generated. 

So if you're flying somewhere with a high field elevation such as Jackson Hole, Wyoming for example, and you're taking off in the afternoon where temperatures are at their hottest, you may want to double-check performance numbers. High altitude and high temperature is the worst combination for your aircraft. 

This can even potentially stop you from being able to take off, where your only option is to wait out the temperature until the sun goes down and air cools off again. 

So, if you've been flying and curious why your plane seems more sluggish than a few months ago, now you know! Airplanes like the cold!

questions or comments? Write us below. 

Your 2021 Guide to Flying Into Aspen, CO

A lot of pilots will tell you flying into Aspen, Colorado (KASE) isn't really that bad. But if this is your first time going into that airport, especially if you're single pilot, it can be a little intimidating. 

The best way to stay safe going into KASE is to be prepared. Do your homework and have a plan in your head of how you'll fly the approach inbound! Have no worry, we're here to help give advice and links to the best information the internet has to offer!

1) Youtube

One of the best inventions of the 21st century, Youtube has a lot of aviation videos ranging from general aviation discussions for student pilots, accident reviews, and then how-to guides for difficult approaches such as Aspen. From researching the internet and asking pilots their opinions, I found two helpful links:

Aspen Missed Approach - that shows two pilots coming in and having to go missed on the actual approach back in 2010. They get set up early, stay ahead of the airplane, keep talking through the approach the entire time, then make a decision to go missed and head into Eagle (KEGE) which most use as their alternate. 

Aspen LOC DME-E and Visual Approach - this is more from the single pilot standpoint to show the workload and is just another good video showing what it's like setting up for everything from a Phenom 300

Coming in on the visual it's going to look like you're gliding on top of a mountain (pictured above), then it drops off and it seems like you're way too high above the airport (1st picture). As you keep following the approach in it'll transition to looking like you're too low. Trust the approach even if your visual cues disagree and continue to stay stable. 

2) Simulator

If you can get in a full motion sim before your trip this is a great idea. If you're going to training anytime soon, ask to do a trip into there. The simulator going into Aspen is very realistic, not to mention this is the safest way to make mistakes and have an instructor with you giving you all the best tips and tricks. 

In the simulator you an also adjust temperatures and other weather factors. This can give you a chance to see how performance changes and what it feels like gaining less performance from your aircraft. High density altitude, high temperature, add a tailwind in there and it makes for a "fun" day....if you can even take the runway. 

3) Familiarization Course

Something that you can heavily review before your trip or even better review in addition to your simulator training is a familiarization course. A great presentation is one published by Code 7700: ASE Familiarization Training that also includes the departure procedures. It includes pictures, approach charts, even landmarks to help you locate the airport and an arrival training video.

4) Phone a Friend

Along with reviewing these, I also took advantage of more experienced pilots and asked for their stories before flying in! Of course it helps to ask pilots flying the same type aircraft as you so maybe they can say which power setting or airspeed works best. 

Text an instructor from training if you have their number, ask a friend if you know one, or find a forum (like a Facebook group) to start a discussion on. 

There are lots of resources out there nowadays that can help keep you safe and confident. And if you still feel uncomfortable, trust your gut and have a different crew fly it. Or fly into Eagle instead! 

Thanks for checking out this article, wishing you the best on your trips! If you have any great links or advice to add comment below!

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