Tuesday, August 4, 2015

My Experiment

A Scientific Method

The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge. To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry is commonly based on empirical or measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning. 

  • The steps of the scientific method are to:
    1. Ask a Question
    2. Do Background Research
    3. Construct a Hypothesis
    4. Test Your Hypothesis by Doing an Experiment
    5. Analyze Your Data and Draw a Conclusion
    6. Communicate Your Results
  • It is important for your experiment to be a fair test. A "fair test" occurs when you change only one factor (variable) and keep all other conditions the same.
Open for Business
  1. Question: Can flight training be fun and affordable? Does new technology enhance the flight training experience? Can an LSA be a platform that can survive the training environment? Will students see value in the Sport Pilot Rating?
  2. Research: I went to visit my Mentor, Dr Paul up in Lock Haven. He had successfully started AvSport a few years earlier and was a font of information. I can not thank him enough for the encouragement he provided. However his talents extend beyond my own. He has the ability to perform his own maintenance, which I am not prepared to do. My enterprise would have to be different. I looked at a variety of business models and subscribed to many on line forums for insight and ideas. Patrick was especially helpful sharing business information from the company he runs at US Sport Aircraft. Of utmost importance was Kathy's ability to ask questions about the unforeseen circumstance.
  3. Hypothesis: A one plane/one instructor flight school can be financially successful if based upon modern LSA technologies and will be attractive to students otherwise turned off by older, standard category aircraft. Furthermore, students will have fun learning to fly in this type of aircraft.
  4. Test: The Light Sport Adventure was started in April 2013 when I got my CFI/CFII Certificate from the FAA. I was still based at Butter Valley (7N8) which was not particularly attractive for new flight students, nor convenient to a population center. Harry was very helpful getting the word out, and his help generated some Flight Reviews. It was a start. However, it wasn't until the Airport Manager at Quakertown asked me to move to his airport that the school got busy. Without Mike's help this experiment would have failed.
  5. Conclusion: Its been 1 year and 1 month since I moved Sally to Quakertown. We have prospered. We survived a very long difficult winter. Many weeks I canceled more flights than I flew, but we continued to reschedule and to see students make progress. Everyone leaned from the experience. We had fun and we grew the number of students learning to fly. ...and Sally survived. My experiment was successful.
Departing Runway 29er to the South
One of the many, many things we learned is that the flying season in Pennsylvania is too short.  So we have decided to correct that. It's time to "change a variable". This month we will cease our Pennsylvania operations and move south to Florida to start A New Adventure.

I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A Week in Review

Summertime in Pennsylvania means warm fronts and cold fronts and fronts that really don't know what they are. The mix of weather makes for a challenging topic for new flight students and really disrupts a flight schedule.

Speed, Speed, Speed
Tuesday, after a sunny afternoon with light winds I made the decision to cancel an evening flight. Usually one of the best times to fly, a cold front was coming trough like a freight train bringing thunderstorms and heavy rain along with it. Estimated time of arrival was our take off time. Sometimes the forecasters get it wrong, not this time. I made a good decision.

"S" Turns and Turns Around a Point
Turning Around a Point
Wednesday, after the storm had passed we experienced a calm cool morning. Great flying weather, but by the time the student was available to fly the winds had started gusting up. We canceled the afternoon flight with winds gusting to 14 knots and trending higher. This meant the late afternoon flight was also canceled. (Nearby airports were reporting: 28010G18KT, 31010G18KT, 32014G20KT)

Thursday was much, much better. The afternoon flight was an introduction to landings. The evening flight was Ground Reference Maneuvers.
Both students are progressing well and more importantly seem to be enjoying the lessons. I know I am.

The week finished up on Saturday with a Discovery Flight. We had canceled the flight at least a half dozen times due to poor weather, but Saturday was near perfect. The family met us at the terminal building at KDYL. The airport was busy on a beautiful Saturday morning. The gentleman had wanted to fly in a small plane for years and this flight would be a gift from his son. When I pushed the throttle in I knew he was excited and he had fun finding familiar landmarks as we traveled south toward Philadelphia, which we could clearly see on the horizon. The next challenge was to find his house near some stone quarries close to the Delaware River. "There it is, I see it!" Then I let him take the controls and make some basic maneuvers before returning to Doylestown. We had a blast.

Hangar #2
After a short debrief. Kathy and I jumped in the plane and headed back to Quakertown. The Airport Manager had asked us to change hangars, stating it would be an improvement for us since it was south facing and wouldn't suffer the ice dams blocking the door like we had this past year. So after a few hours of lugging gear, Sally has a new home at Hangar #2. 

Although I lost my Mic Muff and had to buy a new one from Sporty's ($5.50 + shipping for a tiny piece of foam), it was still a pretty good week.

Video Notes: Weekly Review

Friday, July 17, 2015

Exhaust Gas Temperature

Flying might not be all plain sailing,
but the fun of it is worth the price. 
~ Amelia Earhart ~

Ceiling and visibility unlimited. Finally, a good weather day. Two training flights scheduled and the weather would be perfect. The briefing and preflight went well. The engine run-up was normal and the static ground check just before take-off had the shaft spinning just over 4900RPM. Winds were light and out of the east. We departed to the south heading toward Pottstown Muni (N47) for some landing practice.

As I prepared the student for his entry procedures I noticed the left EGT* was high. Oil pressure & temperature normal, CHT normal, no abnormal noise or shuttering, just an occasional yellow blip on the instrument.  I elected to proceed. 

As we descended it cooled off but leveling at pattern altitude it started to rise again. We did a low pass and departed to fly north up the Lehigh Valley. Level flight, power at about 5000RPM the temperature started to rise again. Time to go home.

I added maximum power and raised the nose. The temperature dropped. Leveled off in cruise, it rose. Descended at at idle power it dropped. No other indications.

I did an uneventful straight in approach at Quakertown. With the engine running at idle on the ramp we had no abnormal indications.  I was stumped.

Until I turned the key to shut her down. Only two clicks, not three.

When the student had performed the magneto check during the engine run-up he had returned the switch to the Left, not Both position.

I should have thought of that. 

*An exhaust gas temperature gauge (EGT gauge) is a meter used to monitor the exhaust gas temperature of an internal combustion engine in conjunction with a thermocouple-type pyrometer. EGT is an indication of how hot the combustion process is in the cylinders, and the amount of "afterburning" that is occurring in the exhaust manifold. EGT is also directly related to the air/fuel ratio. The excess fuel will act as a coolant. The richer the air/fuel ratio, the higher lower the EGT will be. Reference: http://www.scflier.com/

Saturday, July 11, 2015


The slow moving cold front was still west of State College but due to arrive in our area about 2:00pm. I decided that we could go if I altered our lesson plan and skipped ahead to introduce landings. I thought we could stay at the airport and do 3 or 4 landings before the bad weather arrived. There was no defined ceiling but there were layers of scattered clouds at 2000' and above. Visibility was good. When the student arrived he mentioned that he was surprised I said "Go".

The preflight went well and as we finished the Run-Up it started to rain. Just a local shower. A small cell. We launched.

During the crosswind leg I looked over my left shoulder toward Quakertown. The rain shower was beautiful, but we weren't going to practice landings there for awhile. Instead we headed for the relatively clear air out east toward Lake Nockamixon. I took advantage of the situation by describing the weather functions on the 696, pressed the nearest button to display the closest alternate airports  and discussed the dangers of getting too close to rain showers that you can't see through.

Eventually the cell moved to the south and provided a window for us to get back in. We didn't follow the lesson plan but hopefully the student gained much more from the real life experience.

Video Notes: Rain


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Post Flight Debrief

WingX Replay File
Google Earth .gpx File
"And even taking it to the extreme, Wally. I don't know that many people realize this, but the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels - the best of the best - videotape every single performance they do and debrief in detail what they did right, what they did wrong - every single event."

"Right. I believe the Navy pilots do the same thing with their carrier landings. They're videotaped and later debriefed. So that's probably the most important thing a good airman does - is they really analyze their flight and they're self-critical.

If you found that you were surprised during a flight by something, don't just say gee that surprised me. Go back and see if you can analyze why you were surprised. Did you miss an item on your checklist? Did you fail to get a good weather briefing? What was it that surprised you?

Some pilots I know keep a diary and they talk about the good things and the bad things that happened during their flight. And that gives them a focus for their next training event or their next study event." ~ pilotworkshops.com
Analyzing a Steep Turn
I only recently started using video as Post Flight Debrief tool. I always felt that the debrief was one of the most important aspects of the flight, but most students were exhausted by that time and unable to accept any additional input.  The video alleviates that problem. By posting the video on a secure website, the student can view it at his convenience, and "the camera doesn't lie". I had two cases this week when the student pointed out how helpful the video replay was for them.

A good video replay takes effort, often times more effort then it is worth. WingX Pro7 includes a replay function on its moving map. This takes nothing more than a button push to record and another to send the .gpx file to the student. The GPS track can then be opened in Google Earth and gps derived flight data analyzed. While not actual airspeed and altitude it can still be used as a tool to point out when corrections are needed. This track is especially useful in pointing out consistencies in the landing pattern.

For some, flight comes easily—others have to work at it. In teaching people the science and art of aviation, the instructor often guides someone grappling with something far different than normal life challenges. ~ June 24, 2015 by Bruce Landsberg
Video Notes: Learning to Land

 Have Fun, Be Safe, Train Well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Software Update

Usually it comes as a message when you open your current version: "A Software Update is available." I anticipate new functionality and fixes to old problems, a good thing. Unfortunately this is not always the case. (Have you tried Windows 8?)

Recently Garmin released a new version ( of the Virb Edit software. This is the utility that enables the transfer of video files from the Virb camera to the computer. The most interesting feature allows the creation of "Overlays" which allows GPS data captured with the video to be displayed as part of the video. I usually include groundspeed, GPS derived altitude, bearing, the GPS track, and cockpit temperature. The new version uses the camera's accelerometer to capture "G-Metrix", Garmin's term for movement like pitch and roll, etc.

I updated one computer with the new version but fortunately hesitated to do the second machine. (see the Virb Edit Forum). The major change that hit my normal workflow was the inability to export video greater than 4gb. Since I record the whole flight, then export and edit in Camtasia, the ability to export larger files is critical. Right now Garmin believes it is a Windows 7 problem. But Microsoft isn't alone. Apple recently updated their software and forgot to support a number of external GPS devices.

So "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts". You may be wise to let the newest version mature for awhile before you install it on your machine.

Video Notes: Clouds

...so I got this little icon that appeared on my toolbar that says "Get Windows 10"...hmmm

Saturday, June 20, 2015


A sport pilot may not act as pilot in command of a light-sport aircraft:
  • When the flight or surface visibility is less than 3 statute miles.
  • Without visual reference to the surface. 
Cloud Clearance - Class E - Less than 10,000 feet msl:
  • 3 statute miles
  • 500 feet below
  • 1,000 feet above
  • 2,000 feet horizontal
MVFR means Minimum or Marginal Visual Flight Rules. MVFR criteria means a ceiling between 1,000 and 3,000 feet and/or 3 to 5 miles visibility.

Max. Demonstrated Headwind:
  • 24 KTS
Max. Demonstrated Crosswind:
  • 12 KTS
For most training flights my personal limits are 3000', 8 statute miles visibility and gusting winds less than 12 Kts. There are of course exceptions and that's what makes it interesting.

I stared at the computer. 0700 was time for my daily weather brief. There were a mix of red, blue and green dots sprinkled across the local area. The METARs ranged from 500' overcast to 1500' scattered to clear skies. Visibility was less than 6 miles in most cases. A few isolated showers were present. The winds were not a factor yet, but could be later in the day. A slow moving cold front was making its way across western Pennsylvania bringing unstable air along with it. Airports in the middle of the state were reporting gust up to 14kts, but it was calm here.

Its the marginal decisions that are the tough ones. We could go but not do all of the lesson plan. We could accomplish something but would it be enough to be a valuable lesson?  At this stage of training I wanted a clear horizon to practice basic airwork and although experiencing marginal conditions would be useful it was just too early for this student to struggle with poor conditions. In end, I cancelled. (...and then I questioned my decision for the rest of the day.)

I went out to the airport anyway. Sally hadn't been cleaned in awhile so I took this opportunity to work on her. Belly wash and wheel pants first. Extra time spent on the canopy inside and and out. Then my attention went to all of the leading surfaces to remove the squashed bugs. Its still early in the season so that part really wasn't too bad. I noticed that the gas caps had some brownish stains around the edges. Meguiar's Clear Plastic Polish cleaned off about 90% of the stains.

It only took a few hours and Sally looked great. We were ready for the Discovery flight scheduled for the following day.

I stared at the computer. 0700 was time for my daily weather brief. Marginal (at best). Canc-Wx.