Tuesday, 21 February 2017

EIGHT LIFE LESSONS YOU LEARN AS A PILOT

Acknowledgements: AIR FACTS (John Zimmerman) 

Becoming a pilot changes who you are, even if you don’t realise it at first. Sure, there are the practical lessons about maths, physics, and engineering you don’t encounter in everyday life. But as a recent trip through my logbook proved, aviation offers courses in the humanities as well as the hard sciences. For over five years now, I’ve been logging all of my flights on my iPad. I started doing it because I’m lazy, and logbook apps make it easy to fill out the annual insurance form. I quickly discovered there are other benefits, though, including the ability to save detailed information about every flight. I log the basics, but now I add much more, from pictures and GPS track logs to Fore-Flight screenshots and even a “lessons learned” area in the notes section. The result is a sort of aviation scrapbook, and a great reminder of how much airplanes have helped me grow. A few themes emerged after reading through five years of entries. Some are obvious but were reinforced in memorable ways. Others were new to me. All of them were made real by the emotions and sensations of being in the air.

1. Memories are often better than the actual event. .
I’ve learned this countless times in aviation – indeed, that description above applies to many first solo flights in addition to weddings. It was thrilling for sure, but it was over in a matter of minutes. The true enjoyment comes from the sense of accomplishment and the time you spend reflecting on it, even decades later.
2. You can do it if you keep working. 
Just about every pilot I know, no matter how good, has struggled at one point in his or her flying career. Whether it was crosswind landings or VOR approaches that caused the speed bump, the answer is almost always to re-dedicate yourself and push on through. This comes as a shock for some pilots, especially for older adults who learn to fly and are used to being successful at everything. The reality check can be tough, but it’s a valuable reminder that we are all students. That’s the word that appeared frequently in my logbook as I learned to fly helicopters after 15 years of flying fixed wing aircraft. One entry simply says, “I am a student again and I feel like it!” Part of me doubted whether I could actually master all the skills required for the check ride. Mastery and confidence eventually came, but not before I spent a lot of late nights studying the textbooks and a lot of sweltering days practising my hovering skills. No one is born knowing how to become and remain a pilot – it takes practice.
3. Keep calm and carry on. When something abnormal happens, whether it’s a flashing red light in the cockpit or a sudden life event, some people can’t help but panic. This “fight or flight” response was helpful 50,000 years ago on the Savannah of Africa, but it’s ill-suited to most modern scenarios. In the cockpit, it might be the difference between tragedy and a good story at the bar. Perhaps the single most valuable skill aviation has taught me is how to manage my emotions and remain focused in the face of serious situations. On one flight the air was so rough that I attached the upper air analysis charts and PIREP screenshots to my logbook entry, as if to prove that it really was that bad. Miserable is about the only word that fits, but I can clearly remember a sort of calm that came over me. The only option was to slow down and focus on keeping the wings level. Everything else was pushed out of my brain, which felt strangely comforting. Besides, panic would have done no good in this situation.
4. Most people are the same at heart. If you spend any time reading the news or checking social media, it’s easy to feel like humans have very little in common. Differences these days are very real, but I think they’re overblown in many cases. Most aviation people like to share the joy of flying with others who are receptive. The FBO owner at a small grass strip in Indiana who left his dying father’s bedside to pump some gas for me, then tried to refuse payment for it – he simply loved meeting new pilots and showing off his airport. The same could be said about the hundreds of meetings at Oshkosh, when strangers who probably disagree about a lot of issues find ways to connect about their shared passion. I think the real answer is that when human beings meet face to face – not hidden behind the almighty veil of social media – they are a lot nicer to each other.
5. There’s always someone better than you. Feeling great in that Cirrus? Be patient – you’ll probably park next to a gleaming new King Air 350 and suddenly feel inadequate. Love that turbocharged twin you just bought because it can take you to 18,000 feet? One day you’ll be slamming through the summertime build-ups, dreaming about the jet jockeys at FL390 who are above all the weather. No matter how far up the food chain you climb – in houses, job titles, airplanes or pilot ratings – there will always be someone higher. While pilots aren’t generally known for humility, aviation has a lot of important lessons to teach here. The best advice is to fly because it makes your life better (in whatever way matters to you), not because of the signals it sends to others.
6. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. This law applies to almost everything in life. That “free” service is hardly free; you’re simply paying for it in some other way. Aviation practically wrote the book on this topic, especially when it comes to airplane designs. In the race for speed, payload and fuel efficiency, you can pick two but never all three. Or consider performance: you can climb, but only by paying for it with airspeed. Airplanes, like life, are all about trade-offs.
7. Life is not fair. Flying has reminded me of it many times. On one long cross-country a few years ago, a 20-knot tailwind on the eastbound leg somehow turned into a 55-knot headwind on the return leg, just two hours later. Not exactly life-altering, but frustrating. I can’t remember a time when the tailwind was stronger than the headwind, in fact. More seriously, one of the finest and most thoughtful pilots I know crashed his airplane some years ago after a fluke mechanical failure. Meanwhile, a marginal pilot I have flown with once before (but never again) somehow manages to escape disaster year after year, even while pushing a lot of boundaries. This isn’t a reason to break the rules or give up hope, just a reminder that you can do everything right and still end up on the wrong side of things.
8. Tomorrow is another day. Pilots should take it to heart. In particular, I’ve learned time and again that it’s the right attitude when it comes to making the go/no-go decision. One of my more colourful logbook entries shows how much I struggled to admit reality one day in 2015: I saved all the weather maps I was looking at when I made the decision to delay my family’s trip home from vacation. I really wanted to get back Sunday night for all the usual reasons, and we almost certainly would have made it home in one piece. But the weather was ugly, and I was concerned about how unpleasant the flight would be for my passengers. After a lot of stress and deliberations, I decided to delay take-off until Monday morning. Guess what? Life did not end because we came home 18 hours later. In 50/50 decisions, it’s worth remembering that a new day often brings a change, even if it’s just in perspective. That’s true for flying, but also for career decisions, kids, and so much more.

Does your logbook hold any life lessons?


FLY SAFE!

Thursday, 26 January 2017

HAND PROPPING

Acknowledgemts: EAA Chapter 1000

Hand-propping is like stalls and spins - you don't learn much by simply talking about it ... PROP-SWINGING is a manual skill, and it should be learned by actually doing it, under the guidance of an already qualified and experienced person - it can't be learned by reading this thread. All we can do is to give some pointers which might help.

The main thing with swinging, is that it’s DANGEROUS. Propellers KILL, so the procedure you use must be designed to minimise exposure to risk as much as possible. But the risk can NOT be eliminated. The golden rule is the same as for anything else to do with flying - if in doubt, chicken out. There are basically 2 ways to do it - from the front or from the back.

Preference is front, but whichever you choose:
·    AVOID propping alone whenever possible. Whilst there may be nothing forbidding it, it is inherently unsafe. The last thing you want is your airplane without a pilot and with the throttle open too wide tooling across the airport!
·    ENSURE that the airplane is CHOCKED and BRAKED. The chocks are essential to saving the life of the ‘swinger’, as they stop the airplane chasing him!
·    AVOID using more than idle throttle settings while hand-propping. Even flooded airplanes will start eventually with the throttle at idle.
·    ENSURE good signals from cockpit to ground. Do not turn the prop unless you are both absolutely clear about what is happening. The 'swinger' is the boss! Your helper should keep their hands in plain sight of you before you go near the prop. Their instructions should include not touching ANYTHING while you are holding the prop!
·    ENSURE that you stand close enough to the prop. Stand close and pull your body away as you swing. This moves your whole body in the right direction. Standing away causes you to lean in and finish with your head low leaning into the prop!
·    AVOID wrapping your whole fingers around the blade. Wrap to the first knuckle only - you will need that one knuckle's worth of grip to do anything useful. Do not wrap your thumb around the blade at all. This is to allow the blade to fly out of your hands if the engine backfires.
·    ENSURE that no part of your body can ever enter the path of the prop blade at any time - not an arm, not a leg, NOTHING except the tips of your fingers - one knuckles worth.
·    AVOID turning the blade through to loosen the engine. If you must loosen a very cold engine, treat everything as though the mags are hot and the engine has fuel. Go through EXACTLY the same motions as when you really intend to start the airplane.
·    ENSURE that you stand about a foot back from the prop, with your left leg forward, and pull down with both hands. Don't pull hard - it's very unlikely you'll be able to raise enough momentum to get through more than one compression stroke, which is all you need anyhow. Pulling too hard will upset your balance.
·    ENSURE follow-through on your downward pull by letting your arms continue down and slightly to the right, to get your arms and the rest of your body headed away from the prop.
·    ENSURE that you call “mags off” after a failed start and get a response before moving the blade to the ready position.
·    ENSURE that you move quickly to the side and out of the plane of rotation when the engine starts, so that your helper can see you, and so that you do not accidentally walk into the prop.

Much of the procedure is reliant upon inter-person communication, strictly laid down so that each person knows what the other is doing. It DOES require trust, especially on the part of the ‘swinger’, but with that trust, knowledge and training you should succeed in the objective of minimising the risk.


FLY SAFE!

WHAT DO I DO AFTER I SAY "Oh, *@#%!!"?

Acknowledgements: Russ Erb/EAA Chapter1000

Remember those fun times while learning to fly when you sadistic instructor reached over, pulled the throttle to idle, and waited to see what you would do? And of course, just pushing the throttle back up where it was, slapping your instructor's hand, and telling him "Don't you ever do that again!" was not an acceptable solution. The point was to force you to practice your response to a simulated "emergency." Usually these types of emergencies are covered in the Pilot's Operating Handbook, so I won't rehash them here. Other minor failures are covered in your flight training, such as what to when your radio fails. In fact, most aircraft (if not all) can be safely landed in VMC with a total avionics failure.

Learning to fly is a process of learning to manipulate various controls in the cockpit. We assume that these controls will always work as expected, but what do you do when they don't? The following thoughts have not been endorsed by the FAA or your airplane manufacturer, and are presented without prejudice to help you determine your own procedures in the comfort of wherever you are now, rather than when you're plunging earthward with no clue what to do.
·         Broken Mixture Control
You will probably notice this problem when you try to lean the engine for cruise and the mixture lever gets all the way back to idle cut-off with no increase in EGT and no decrease in RPM. This could be caused by a break in the cable. If the break is in the middle of the cable, you may be able to move the mixture to full rich by pushing in on the control, but not to lean the engine. This is okay, since most aircraft land at full rich anyway. If the break is at the cockpit end of the cable, you may be able to grab the cable and move it without the lever. By the time you find out about this problem, you will probably not know where the mixture control at the carburettor is set. There are three likely possibilities, which could change from one to another at any point:
1) The mixture control has leaned to idle cut-off. The sudden quiet and the propeller logo should be your first clue on this one! Institute engine-out procedures
2) The mixture control is at full rich. This is not a big problem, since this is where you normally want it for landing, but remember that you will have a higher than normal cruise fuel flow, and there may also be a reduction of power to compensate for.
3) The mixture control is still where you last leaned to. OK as long as you stay at or above the altitude where you last leaned the engine, but when you descend there is a chance that your engine will become over-leaned by the increasing air density, possibly causing over-heating or engine stoppage. So, plan a higher than normal approach, such that you will still be able to make the runway even if the engine quits at any point. Applying full carburettor heat will also enrichen the mixture.
After a successful landing, you can stop the engine by turning off the mags, but remember that the engine may continue to run for a while, and there will still be fuel in the engine.
·           Broken Propeller Control
If you have a fixed pitch propeller, skip this section. If your flight manual has a recommended procedure for this emergency, follow it. The cause of this problem could be a broken cable,  or a malfunction in the propeller. Either way, the result to you is the same - you have no control over propeller RPM. Again, if this happens one of three situations are likely, and can change at any time:
1) Runaway Prop (Over-speed). The blades have decreased in pitch, and may have gone all the way to flat pitch, and thus cannot produce the blade drag to offset the engine torque. The immediate action required is to retard the throttle until the RPM is back within limits. If the over-speed continues, the prop may shed a blade, followed shortly by the engine and its unbalanced propeller. This is real BAD, since you will now have a severe un-recoverable aft CG problem. Once you have the RPM within limits, and if you can still maintain level flight, decide whether to make for the next airport on your plan or the nearest airport. Be alert, because your situation might get worse and you may have to make a power off landing anyway. As before, make a high approach, ready at all times to totally lose all thrust.
2) The prop is stuck at its last setting. This is OK as long as the RPM doesn't change. Try to increase the RPM to the landing RPM, as the push-pull cable may still push but not pull. If you cannot increase the RPM, you can fly the approach at cruise RPM, but remember you may not be able to go-around, so avoid as much as possible any need to. Plan the high approach, alert for engine failure at any time.
3) The prop feathers or partially feathers. The blades have increased in pitch, and the RPM drops. If prop RPM cannot be increased, check if there is enough thrust for level flight. If not, look around for that landing spot and follow your loss of engine power emergency procedures. If you can maintain level flight, follow the same approach procedures detailed above.
·           Broken Throttle Control                         
Another possible case of a broken cable. You may be able to increase the throttle but not retard it if your push-pull cable has become just a push cable. If the engine goes to idle, it's engine out landing time. If the engine stays at cruise power or higher, you should be okay until time to make the approach. Of course, it could change to idle at any time, so be ready for that engine out landing. For the approach, you can descend at higher than normal speed, but be careful you don't exceed your aircraft's speed restrictions.
Eventually you will need to slow down. You can by over-leaning with the mixture control, but this is pretty much an all or nothing proposition. Don't pull it all the way back to idle cut-off, or you'll be staring at that propeller logo! Don't cut off the mags if you don't have to, because once the engine stops, you may never get it going again. The engine may start to overheat if leaned for too long, but this will probably be the least of your worries at this point.
·           Broken Elevator Control
The cable to the elevators snaps, or the push-pull rod breaks. As long as the elevator doesn't get stuck in a hard over position, you have a decent chance of getting down in one piece. If the pitch trim still works, make small inputs and think well ahead, since this method of pitch control is not as responsive as the yoke. If the pitch trim isn't working, you may be able to control your pitch trim with the flaps. The throttle can also be used to an extent to control pitch, but the drawback is that if this is your only method, you probably won't be able to slow to landing speed. You'll be stuck with a Navy landing of flying the airplane into the ground (hopefully at a very shallow angle)! In any case, plan a shallow, stabilised straight-in approach, with minimal manoeuvring required. Remember that the pitch change to flare is significant, so be ready for it but be careful not to over-flare. If you do, go-around and try it again.
·           Rudder or Aileron Failure
This is not really a big problem, as long as one or the other is still functional. If the ailerons are working, ignore the ball and make uncoordinated turns. If the rudder is working, simply roll with the rudder (rudder turns). Look for a runway with little to no crosswind, since you won't be able to slip (wing-low method) without both controls. Consider flying in a crab all the way to the runway if necessary. Also look for a straight-in approach with minimal manoeuvring.
·         Flap Failure
Total loss of flap control is not too serious. Simply make a no flap landing, which will no doubt be faster and shallower than normal. Split flaps (one flap lowered more than the other) can be very bad, as you may not have enough aileron control to overcome the rolling moment. If, while moving the flaps, you notice an un-commanded roll, stop the roll if possible with the ailerons, and move the flaps back to their original position before the problem. If they were up, put them up. If they were down, put them down. Leave the flaps there, and proceed with the landing as appropriate for the flap position.

This article is intended to get you thinking about possible failure modes in your aircraft that are not covered in your Pilot's Operating Handbook. Consider each system on your aircraft and ask yourself "What would I do if this failed." These areas should be checked regularly to minimize the risk of such a thing happening. It's better to think about it while safely on the ground rather than after the failure occurs. At that point, it may be too late.

FLY SAFE!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

PILOTING

Editor’s note:
To start 2017 we quote below a selection of observations and comments from renowned aviators well-qualified to offer them, for you to think on

The quality of the box matters little. Success depends upon the man who sits in it.
— Baron Manfred von Richthofen

One can get a proper insight into the practice of flying only by actual flying experiments….. the manner in which we have to meet the irregularities of the wind, when soaring in the air, can only be learnt by being in the air itself….. the only way which leads us to a quick development in human flight is a systematic and energetic practice in actual flying experiments.
— Otto Lilienthal, 1896.

There are two ways of learning to ride a fractious horse: one is to get on him and learn by actual practice how each motion and trick may be best met; the other is to sit on a fence and watch the beast a while and then retire to the house and at leisure figure out the best way of overcoming his jumps and kicks. The latter system is the safer, but the former, on the whole, turns out the larger proportion of good riders. It is very much the same thing in learning to ride a flying machine.
— Wilbur Wright, 18 September 1901.

I know him well …. he is apparently without fear, and what he sets out to do he generally accomplishes. This recklessness makes him anything but a good aviator, however, for he lacks entirely the element of caution.
— Wilbur Wright, speaking about Bleriot.

It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.
— Wilbur Wright

In an imperfect world perfection is not instantly available ….  safety for instance cannot be secured by mechanical devices alone. It is primarily a resultant of care and discipline.
— Ivy Lee, 8 December 1913

In the air transport business the human element is everything. That plane in front of the hangar is only as good as the man who flies it, and he is only as good as the people on the ground who work with him.
— W. A. (Pat) Patterson, President United Airlines, 1944.

Accuracy means something to me. It's vital to my sense of values. I've learned not to trust people who are inaccurate. Every aviator knows that if mechanics are inaccurate, aircraft crash. If pilots are inaccurate, they get lost — sometimes killed. In my profession life itself depends on accuracy.
— Charles A. Lindbergh, 1953.

Every flying machine has its own unique characteristics, some good, some not so good. Pilots naturally fly the craft in such a manner as to take advantage of the good, and avoid the areas where it is not so good.
— Neil Armstrong, June 2009.

The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939.

Do not let yourself be forced into doing anything before you are ready.
— Wilbur Wright

It is hard enough for anyone to map out a course of action and stick to it, particularly in the face of the desires of one's friends; but it is doubly hard for an aviator to stay on the ground waiting for just the right moment to go into the air.
— Glenn Curtiss, 1909.

Hours and hours passed ….. nothing to do but keep the compass on its course and the plane on a level keel …. its very simplicity becomes a danger when your head keeps nodding with weariness and boredom and your eyes everlastingly try to shut out the confusing rows of figures in front of you …. tired of trying to sort them out, you relax for a second ….  your head drops and you sit up with a jerk, Where are you? What are you doing here? Oh yes, you are somewhere in the middle of the North Atlantic, with hungry waves below you like vultures impatiently waiting for the end.
— Amy Johnson

….  It was fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.
— General Chuck Yeager

I've learned that it is what I do not know that I fear, and I strive, outwardly from pride, inwardly from the knowledge that the unknown is what will finally kill me, to know all there is to be known about my airplane.
— Richard Bach, 1963.

You've got to expect things are going to go wrong. And we always need to prepare ourselves for handling the unexpected.
— Neil Armstrong, 2005.

The best safety device is the pilot who, deep down and regardless of the aircraft, retains a sense of fallibility and vulnerability. No system can ever substitute for that.
— Arnold Reiner, former director of flight safety at Pan Am, 16 December 2009.

Mistakes are inevitable in aviation, especially when one is still learning new things. The trick is to not make the mistake that will kill you.
— Stephen Coonts

Experience is that marvellous thing that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.
— Franklin P. Jones

When you're in an airplane, despite what might be happening in your personal life or things with your job, or things on the ground, you really have to focus on what you're doing right now.
— Scott Kelly, former Navy test pilot.

What is it in fact, this learning to fly? To be precise, it is 'to learn NOT to fly wrong. To learn to become a pilot is to learn not to let oneself fly too slowly. Not to let oneself turn without accelerating. Not to cross the controls. Not to do this, and not to do that .…  
— Henri Mignoet, 1934.

Get rid at the outset of the idea that the airplane is only an air-going sort of automobile. It isn't. It may sound like one and smell like one, and it may have been interior decorated to look like one; but the difference is — it goes on wings.
— Wolfgang Langewiesche, 1944.

Any young boy can nowadays explain human flight  mechanistically: " … and to climb you shove the throttle all the way forward and pull back just a little on the stick… . " One might as well explain music by saying that the further over to the right you hit the piano the higher it will sound. The makings of a flight are not in the levers, wheels, and pedals but in the nervous system of the pilot: physical sensations, bits of textbook, deep-rooted instincts, burnt-child memories of trouble aloft, hangar talk.
— Wolfgang Langewiesche

Nine-tenths confidence and one-tenth common sense equals a successful aviator.
— John B. Moisant, 1917.

I think there is something exhilarating in flying amongst clouds, and always get a feeling of wanting to pit my aeroplane against them, charge at them, climb over them to show them you have them beat, circle round them, and generally play with them; but clouds can on occasion hold their own against the aviator, and many a pilot has found himself emerging from a cloud not on a level keel. Cloud-flying requires practice, even if you have every modern instrument, and unless you keep calm and collected you will get into trouble after you have been inside a really thick one for a few minutes. In the very early days of aviation, 1912 to be correct, I emerged from a cloud upside down, much to my discomfort, as I didn't know how to get right way up again. I found out somehow, or I wouldn't be writing this.
— Charles Rumney Samson, 1931.

The only time an aircraft has too much fuel on board is when it is on fire.
— Anon

Keep thy airspeed up, less the earth come from below and smite thee.
— William Kershner

Don't ever let an airplane take you someplace where your brain hasn't arrived at least a couple of minutes earlier.
— Anon.

They will pressure you into doing things that may be unsafe, so use your good judgment and remember, 'I would rather be laughed at, than cried for.'
— George MacDonald

When a prang seems inevitable, endeavour to strike the softest, cheapest object in the vicinity, as slowly and gently as possible.
— advice given to RAF pilots during WWII

The thing is, helicopters are different from planes. An airplane by its nature wants to fly, and if not interfered with too strongly by unusual events or by a deliberately incompetent pilot, it will fly. A helicopter does not want to fly. It is maintained in the air by a variety of forces and controls working in opposition to each other, and if there is any disturbance in this delicate balance the helicopter stops flying; immediately and disastrously. There is no such thing as a gliding helicopter. This is why being a helicopter pilot is so different from being an airplane pilot, and why in generality, airplane pilots are open, clear-eyed, buoyant extroverts and helicopter pilots are brooding introspective anticipators of trouble. They know if something bad has not happened it is about to.
— Harry Reasoner, 1971.

Don't believe other people, prove it for yourself. Stick to what you have proved believable. Don't be overawed by other more senior people. Don't ignore the feelings in your bones.
— David P. Davies, former Chief Test Pilot CAA

I don't think I possess any skill that anyone else doesn't have. I've just had perhaps more of an opportunity, more of an exposure, and been fortunate to survive a lot of situations that many other weren't so lucky to make it. It's not how close can you get to the ground, but how precise can you fly the airplane. If you feel so careless with your life that you want to be the world's lowest flying aviator you might do it for a while. But there are a great many former friends of mine who are no longer with us simply because they cut their margins to close.
— R. A. 'Bob' Hoover

If you're faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible.
— R. A. 'Bob' Hoover

I sometimes still go out hunting for bad weather, flying low in simple airplanes to explore the inner reaches of the clouds. Less experienced pilots occasionally join me, not to learn formal lessons about weather flying, but with a more advanced purpose in mind — to accompany me in the slow accumulation of experience through circumstances that never repeat in a place that defies mastery.
— William Langeweische

Better to hit the far fence at ten knots than the close fence at VRef.
— Rick Davies, Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia

If you want to grow old as a pilot, you’ve got to know when to push it, and when to back off.
— Chuck Yeager.

I just made a balls of it, old boy. That's all there was to it.
— Douglas Bader, about the take-off crash that led to the loss of both legs.

Harmony comes gradually to a pilot and his plane. The wing does not want so much to fly true as to tug at the hands that guide it; the ship would rather hunt the wind than lay her nose to the horizon far ahead. She has a derelict quality in her character; she toys with freedom and hints at liberation, but yields her own desires gently.
— Beryl Markham, 1942.

Don't be a show-off. Never be too proud to turn back. There are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old, bold pilots.
— E. Hamilton Lee, 1949

Navigating by the compass in a sea of clouds over Spain is all very well; it is very dashing, but you want to remember that below the sea of clouds lies eternity.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, 1939

FLY SAFE!