Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Start of the Journey

Departing Tampa Executive to the East
I sat in the FBO waiting for my next student to arrive. Sally was out on the ramp as a King Air taxied in and parked right next to her. After the passengers deplaned the pilots came out to do a walk around, each taking their own side. After checking the port outboard wing, the pilot looked over at Sally and did a walk around her. Ramp appeal.

They come from different backgrounds and experiences. Usually, they have some aviation knowledge. I have to guard myself against boring them with too much basic information. For some, this is the first time in a small General Aviation airplane. "Small" was considered to be the twin-engine commuter they took on one leg of a long commercial flight. They have never flown RC models as kids or watched "Twelve O'clock High" on TV. I have to guard against throwing too many acronyms or make assumptions when using common terminology.

The Discovery Flight is the start of the journey to getting a pilot's license. I brief each client that it is their opportunity to see if they like it. If they like Sally, if they like me and if they can see themselves doing this. It is also their opportunity to walk away. So far, no one has walked away.

Last month I got a call from Ira. He is on a mission to fly as many different aircraft types as possible and wanted to know if I could help him. I said sure and asked if he had a C R U Z in his logbook. He said no, so I boasted that it would go to the top of his list. He paused for just an instant and explained that he had flown a P51. OK. So I explained that we would call it a Discovery Flight and it would cost $50. "...and how much to rent the plane?" he asked. I said no charge, that it was my way to entice people to get into General Aviation. "Should I charge more?" I asked. "Not until after you've flown with me," he said.

He was a "snowbird" and the wet weather continued until it was time for him to travel back north. Maybe next season.

Video Notes: Sonja
Leo

Friday, June 1, 2018

Unusual Florida Weather


Alberto: a subtropical system that spawned in the Gulf of Mexico and traveled north staying about 100 miles off the Tampa coast. Winds reached about 65 mph. Not much of an event except for one thing: RAIN. The eastern side of this system sucked warm moist air from the gulf and deposited rain all across the Florida peninsula. It must have triggered a weather pattern. We were grounded for 3 solid weeks. Lakeland reported the wettest month of May in history.

While waiting I decided to have some maintenance done on my LightSpeed Zulu headset. I like this headset but after 7 years it was starting to show age. I learned that for a very reasonable fee the company would refurbish the unit. If I had a Zulu 2 they would upgrade to a Zulu 3, but mine was older than that so I just got it reconditioned. GREAT! customer service, I would advise anyone to get this done.

I got a call from a prospective client about starting his training for his Sport Pilot Certificate. We waited for the weather to change. When I checked the maps yesterday it was marginal. Foggy mist in the early morning followed by a 60% chance of strong convective rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon. But there was a gap, a small possibility of mid-morning fair weather that might work. I asked him to meet me at the FBO at 9:00am EDT.

I did a thorough preflight on Sally the day before, noting that she could use a good cleaning. Mechanically she was sound, cosmetically she had killed a lot of lovebugs on the previous flight and needed the remains to be cleaned off the leading surfaces. She would go "as is". I burped her again for this flight and sumped the fuel. Next, I pulled her out of the hangar and attached the cameras. I enjoyed the brief taxi over to the FBO. Bruce was waiting for me.

We discussed what a Discovery Flight is, what he should expect and some basic instructions for the flight. I told him just a bit about Sally as we walked to the airplane, then instructed him how to get in and adjust the straps. I adjusted the rudder pedals and made sure he was comfortable before I got in. I suggested his polarized sunglasses might now work with the LCD displays. After a basic brief, we taxied out to RWY23 for takeoff.


The flight went well. We had to avoid some scud and a few scattered clouds at 1,000ft but the air was smooth. We accomplished what we needed and returned home. We are both ready for the next flight, weather permitting.

June 1st is the start of Hurricane season.

Video Notes: Discovery Flight


Thursday, May 10, 2018

Prepare for Emergencies

We have been enjoying great weather in Florida. Unusually low humidity with temperatures starting in the mid-60s before reaching 90 in the hot part of the afternoon. Wonderful flying weather (except for the "Lovebugs").

After the preflight, I asked Bruce to program the GPS with a short round robin to include KPCM - KZPH then back to KVDF. He asked to substitute X39 for Zephyrhills due to the traffic we've encountered there. I told him not to worry as we would never get there.


  1. IMC: After take-off, I asked him to climb to 2,500' and engage the autopilot. I simulated Tampa Departure for him to get Flight Following. At Plant City, Sally turned to a track of 007 to go to KZPH. I told him that we would simulate inadvertent flight into IMC and asked him to put on the "Foggles". He then pressed and held the autopilot button to have Sally execute a 180 to escape the clouds. Next, we disconnected the autopilot so that he could perform basic airwork maneuvers "under the hood".
  2. PPEL: After removing the "Foggles" we resumed our trip to KZPH. At 2500' I simulated fluctuating oil pressure and told him I felt engine vibration. He maneuvered the airplane to hit "High Key" over RWY10 at Plant City. "Low Key" was a little tight in and he carried too much energy onto final but we agreed we could have made the landing.
  3. Fire: We departed KPCM to the north climbing back up to 2,500' en route to KZPH. Once settled in I said I smelled simulated smoke and then complained about simulate heat on my legs. As he started the procedures I said I saw simulated flames and that we had a simulated engine fire. Aviate, Navigate, Communicate, Checklist. We would have made that field.
  4. Diversion: Back up to 2,500' again going to KZPH. I told him there was a simulated emergency at our destination and we had to divert. He used the 696 to pick the airport (X39) and set up the autopilot to go direct.
  5. Loss of power in the pattern: Once comfortable, I said let's go home. As we approached abeam the numbers I told him we had a simulated engine failure. (Sally was having a simulated bad day.) We would have made the landing but I had him execute a "go around".
  6. Normal Landing: I told him I was done "simulating" and that this would be a normal landing.  We were number 2 behind a Cessna but didn't spot him. The other plane called base, still no joy. Finally, way out in front, we saw him. Good headwork and corrections for a very long final. I guess there is just no such thing as a normal landing.




Friday, May 4, 2018

Turf - Airport Manatee

Xctry - 2: PRACTICE CROSS COUNTRY FLIGHT

•REVIEW LESSON ITEMS: Obtaining a weather briefing; planning a cross-country flight; preparing a flight log; airspace review; pilotage; dead reckoning; emergency procedures; lost procedures; communication procedures.
•NEW LESSON ITEMS: GPS/Radio Navigation; Diversions; Short/Soft field takeoffs and landings; FSS/Flight Watch; Flight Following.
•COMPLETION STANDARDS: The lesson will have been successfully completed when the student: can successfully plan and fly a cross country flight using pilotage, ded reckoning, and GPS/Radio Navigation; recognizes the need for, and makes timely course corrections; recognizes deteriorating weather, and/or weather forecasts not holding true; demonstrates awareness of the need for timely diversions if necessary; demonstrates awareness of proper emergency procedures, to include a landing after a simulated engine failure; demonstrates proper lost procedures; demonstrates short and soft field take off and landings; demonstrates knowledge of how to contact FSS/Flight Watch; demonstrates how to obtain flight following; uses appropriate radio communication techniques.

What did we Accomplish?


  1. Review sectional chart. Review soft field/short field takeoff procedures.
  2. Discuss cross-country planning.
  3. Preflight airplane.
  4. Ground procedures, taxi, run-up, discuss CHT and cooling options, takeoff and departure procedures.
  5. Use of checklists.
  6. Ground reference navigation.
  7. GPS setup and Direct To procedures. Using the GPS as a database for airport information. Tuning radio while flying airplane in light turbulence.
  8. Entry procedures.
  9. Set up at an airport without customary ground reference markings.
  10. Landing on grass.
  11. Soft field takeoff technique.
  12. Discuss stabilized approach and use of "Go Around".
  13. Departure, checklists, and navigation.
  14. Demonstration and use of the autopilot. Discussion of modes, use of heading bug. Use of altitude bug. Annunciations.
  15. Entry options at home field.
  16. Short field takeoff technique.
  17. No flap landing.
  18. Return to hangar, postflight, debrief.
It was a beautiful day to fly. We took off before the summer heat started to rise and the afternoon cumulous clouds had formed. But the air was bumpy. We wanted to stay low, below the 1200' shelf of the Tampa Class B, so we put up with the ground convection of the rising warm air. It gave Bruce a challenge tuning the radios. Sally was busy squawking "Obstacle" as we flew past the dozen cell phone towers along the route.

I love landing on grass. 48x sits on the southeastern edge of Tampa Bay and I enjoyed looking at the Sunshine Skyway bridge as we made our turns in the pattern. We took our time and enjoyed the day.

When you're lined up with the runway, you want to smoothly add full power, as well as back pressure on the yoke (many airplanes suggest full back pressure initially, but again, it depends on your plane). This does two things: 1) it reduces the weight on your nosewheel, and the stress it receives from the soft/rough field, and 2) it allows you to lift off as soon as possible. 
During the takeoff roll, your nose wheel will lift of first. As it comes off the ground, you want to start reducing back pressure slightly on the yoke to prevent your plane from lifting off too aggressively. As you slowly reduce back-pressure, you want to try to maintain the same nose-high attitude throughout the takeoff roll, and let the airplane fly itself off the runway.
 As you lift off the runway, you need to keep in mind one very important thing:
Ground Effect.


The trip home was uneventful.

Video Notes: Softy

Thursday, April 19, 2018

After the Solo, Now what?

With a couple of solo flights completed in the landing pattern, it is time to move on to more advanced topics. I prefer to have the written test completed by now so that the student can apply all of the topics learned in ground school. The curriculum changes it's focus to cross-country flying. My lesson plan looks like this:


 Xctry - 1: INTRODUCTION TO CROSS COUNTRY FLIGHT
NEW LESSON ITEMS: Obtaining a weather briefing; planning a cross-country flight; preparing a flight log; airspace review; pilotage; ded reckoning; emergency procedures to include loss of oil, electrical failure, vacuum failure, engine failure at altitude; lost procedures; communication procedures.  
COMPLETION STANDARDS: The lesson will have been successfully completed when the student: demonstrates understanding of the procedures to use in obtaining a weather briefing; is able to prepare a flight log with instructor assistance; is able to fly the planned flight making off-course corrections with instructor assistance as necessary; demonstrates understanding of the need to divert, if necessary; demonstrates understanding of the possible emergency situations that might arise during a cross-country flight; demonstrates an understanding of appropriate lost procedures; demonstrates an understanding of proper communication techniques. 

What did we actually cover?

  1. Complete preflight. Burp the engine.
  2. Starting the engine with the choke.
  3. Ground procedures including passenger brief and radio calls.
  4. Run up.
  5. Aborted take off.
  6. Normal take-off/departure and use of checklists.
  7. Clearing turns.
  8. Power on stall/recovery.
  9. Simulated fluctuating oil pressure. Determine the nearest airport.
  10. Use of GPS navigation including setup, split scan, direct to, and use of CDI.
  11. Divert to another airport.
  12. Entry procedures, use of checklists, calling out traffic and landing pattern procedures.
  13. Demonstrate the use of a slip. Compare the rates of descent with/without slip. Discuss skid.
  14. Entry procedures, use of checklists, calling out traffic and landing pattern procedures at home airport.
  15. Power loss in the pattern. Use of slip for landing.
  16. Ground procedures including radio calls.
  17. Engine shutdown using fuel cutoff valve. Discussion of engine fire procedures.
  18. Put airplane in the hangar, complete post-flight.
Homework assignment: What are the Sport Pilot and Private Pilot cross-country requirements? Plan a cross-country flight and be prepared to discuss why the route was chosen.

It was a beautiful day to fly. Wispy clouds wrapped the earth in a woven sweater. Beautiful.




Monday, April 2, 2018

Back in the Saddle

The lyrics of "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)" contain the famous Lennon quote "Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans."  That is especially true during the pursuit of a pilot's certificate. Priorities change. Many times its financial, but changes in work schedule, moving to a new home, an additional child or personal medical problems can all force a change in priorities.
(A good summation is here.)
But all of those reasons do not necessarily force a change in GOALS. So, take a break. Settle your situation and get back in the saddle.

Video Notes: Back in the Saddle

Monday, March 26, 2018

Cruiser Aircraft Open House

A review of the ADS air traffic control (ATC) recording revealed that at 1642 the pilot called ATC for a departure clearance while holding short of runway 15. At 1643 ATC instructed the pilot to line up and wait on runway 15. At 1644 ATC cleared the airplane for takeoff. At 1646 the pilot stated to ATC "we're having vapor lock, we need to come back and land." There were no further communications from the pilot.  ~ National Transportation Safety Board Aviation Accident Preliminary Report
 It was a PiperSport. One of Sally's older sisters. Same configuration, same engine, and while the final conclusion isn't yet available, the early indicators point to a fuel malfunction. Using MOGAS instead of 100LL may have been a contributing factor. I have learned that refineries change the "blend" of gas from summer to winter to make it easier to start cold engines. In the spring, the blend changes back, but if you are still using winter blend on a hot spring day it could cause some of the liquid fuel to turn into a vapor. To solve that problem, the engineers have added a vapor return line (on new models) that relieves the vapor pressure. Sally has that line installed but it is still unclear if her older sister did. Florida doesn't use winter blended fuels, so my risk is low.  On Friday I had the FBO add 10 gallons of AVGAS just in case. (10 gals of 100LL for $52.10. 10 gals of Mogas for $28.80.)

The Open House was scheduled from 10:00 to 2:00EDT. Saturday morning Kathy and I stopped at Chic-Fil-A for a quick breakfast and then headed out to the airport. My normal route was blocked by construction as the county worked with the railroad to improve a number of deteriorating crossings. Fortunately, traffic was still light and we arrived at the hangar by 9:30. I pushed the heavy doors open and got the cockpit ready as Kathy worked on preflighting the engine including the required "burp"(20 pulls).

The weather forecast was perfect for the 100nm trip. I planned to cross the peninsula at 3500' and get there in just under an hour. NOTAMs said one of the runways at X26 was closed due to construction, and an airport (KMLB) just north had a TFR for an airshow. We took off on RWY5 into light northerly winds and smooth air. Tampa ATC was busy, very busy, but we checked in and got Flight Following. When we were handed over to Miami Center we learned what "busy" really means. It seemed that everyone in Florida wanted to take advantage of this beautiful spring weather. It was an easy flight over and we really enjoyed seeing the Atlantic Ocean as we made our turn to land. Parachutes were busy in the area so we had some extra traffic that required attention.


Izzy had some inventory out on the ramp in front of the Cruiser Aircraft hangar, so it took us a bit of searching to find a parking spot. There were many different types of planes other than LSA, and we ended up parking next to a Cirrus. (Sally looked pretty good there.)

Part of the fun of going to an event like this is to meet, in person, those folks that you have only corresponded with online. Another is meeting some "celebrities".
LAKELAND, Fla., Sun 'n Fun, April 13, 2010 — Piper Aircraft President and CEO Kevin J. Gould handed over the keys to the very first PiperSport, light-sport aircraft to three veteran pilots here today.
"The PiperSport is an amazing entry-level aircraft that will bring new customers to Piper," Gould said. "It fits perfectly into our overall mission of delivering the very best airplanes. It will lead the way for customers to step up into more sophisticated and higher performance aircraft within our line over time." 
The three co-owners -- all from Miami, Fla. -- are Charlie Carlon (ATP/CFI/CFII), 62, a 20,000+ hour, former Delta Airlines Pilot who works for Airbus North America teaching pilots how to fly the Airbus via simulation; Brian Garhammer (ATP/CFI/CFII), 52, a 16,000+ hour, former ATA pilot, who also works for Airbus North America teaching pilots how to fly the Airbus via simulation; and Dr. Mike Morduant, 62, a veterinarian and a pilot for 42 years.
We met Charlie and Mike who are still flying PiperSport #1. Pretty cool. Charlie and I may have been in the same Navy training squadron (VT27) at the same time! We also had a chance to talk with Steve, a fellow member of the SCFlier Forum and chatted briefly with Lukas, Josh, and Izzy our hosts. While we ate a great barbeque lunch we chatted with some local folks, non-pilots, that were aviation enthusiasts that just wanted to enjoy a beautiful Saturday afternoon with some airplanes. Finally, we talked with Kirk about what I might be able to do to upgrade my legacy Dynon system for ADSB-out. There are some new possibilities to consider.

The winds were picking up, it was time to go.

Video Notes: Open House