Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A little high and fast

I always check the winds before going out to the airport. My personal limit is 18kts for students or pleasure flying. I may make an exception for a cross country flight if I'm flying into improving weather, but 24kts is always a firm "No Go". So when the reported winds were light and variable I was anxious to go out for some landing practice.

I routinely teach "power off" approaches. The throttle is pulled to idle abeam the numbers and the airplane is allowed to slow below 75kts when the full flaps are lowered. Speed continues to slow to 60-65kts while maintaining pattern altitude.  That transition is usually sufficient to provide interval for the base leg. I like to stabilize the approach trimmed hands off for 60kts by the mid point on the base leg. This is a good point to evaluate the glideslope and make a power adjustment if low. I want to be fully stabilized following the base to final turn. Raising the nose to slow to 55kts over the fence followed by minor power adjustment to control the rate of descent is done until the field is made, then power off into the round out and flare. Usually two turns in the pattern is enough for me to calibrate my pattern to adjust for winds such that I can keep the power at idle for the entire approach. Not today.

"Light and variable", is not to be confused with "no wind". I listened to the AWOS then to other pilots already in the pattern and the preferred runway this morning was RWY5. The windsock hung limp on its post on the other side of the runway. Two C172s landed as I did the runup, each landed a bit long which is normal in light wind situations. All systems were good so I took the runway once the last plane cleared at the end. Temperature was in the mid 80°F but the climb out was very good. I reached pattern altitude before turning downwind. The wind vector arrow on the SkyView showed a 5kt westerly crosswind and I adjusted my heading to fly parallel to the runway on the downwind leg. I hit my point "abeam" just right, made the transition but turned in a bit early. At the mid point on base I was high and when I stabilized on final I was high and fast. So I raised the nose to get my airspeed and found my touch down point would take me far beyond the numbers. I could settle for that, or I could go around. But I had a third option: Slip.
A slip is an aerodynamic state where an aircraft is moving somewhat sideways as well as forward relative to the oncoming airflow or relative wind. In other words, for a conventional aircraft, the nose will be pointing in the opposite direction to the bank of the wing(s). Reference: Mastering the forward Slip
I default to full right rudder, but in practice you should bank into the wind and use full opposite rudder. Today, with light winds, it didn't make mush difference. (However I did land right of centerline.)  Some cautions must be noted:
  • A slip is not a skid. A skid is an uncoordinated turn in the direction of bank. Here's a common scenario: You're turning left base to final, but you're going to overshoot the runway. What do you do? Here's what you absolutely shouldn't do: You add left rudder to tighten the turn, but you don't keep the bank and rudder coordinated - putting the airplane into a skid. As the inside wing exceeds the critical angle of attack, it stalls and drops. The deflected aileron on the low wing is still generating drag, which pulls the aircraft's nose further into the turn. And, the aircraft is still yawing into the turn from the rudder, which accelerates the roll. The result is a quick roll into the turn, and your entry into an incipient spin. That is why CFI's get nervous  during the base-to-final turn.
  • Speed is key. You changed the speed "vector" (from normal glide path) to increase vertical speed. When you take the slip out be very cautious that vertical speed doesn't translate into excess approach speed.
  • Always be ready to go around. Neutralized the controls BEFORE applying power.
In this case I landed a little long and had to take the second taxiway. Time to try another. But I was disappointed once again. Too high, too fast. This time I executed a "go around" (wave off). The wind vector on the SkyView showed "LT". I extended my transition deeper but when I turned final I was still too high. My speed was right on so I continued with the approach and allowed myself to land long. What the heck was going on?!?

I checked the sock. I had been landing with a tailwind. Not much, but with a Light Sport Airplane it doesn't take much. I switched to RWY 23.

The next two circuits made more sense. With the light winds I still landed a bit long but both were acceptable. I can always use more practice and felt this session was very valuable. Always respect the winds, even the little ones.

Video Notes: Comparison

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer Morning

The early appointment got me out of the house just as the sun was rising. Fortunately the sun's rays glimmered off the newly built spider's web that hung across the entrance to the front porch and I was able to avoid the mess. I took a few minutes to brush it away before it surprised Kathy.
Sally and me.

Step brother?
Tropical Storm Cindy passed us by, taking a western track out in the gulf before slamming the Florida panhandle and flooding low country as it moved inland. The eastern edge created very unstable air over Tampa. Fog and mist in the morning with low overcast throughout much of the day. Then very active thunderstorms in the afternoon and early evening. I think this ended the water restrictions in Hillsborough County. It wasn't good for VFR Flying. So when I found the spider's web early Friday morning I was at least glad to see the sun shining. It would finally be a good day to fly. My appointment was finished early so I headed out to the airport. A pink flamingo flew by as I parked the car behind Sally. We had a new neighbor, a Piper Tomahawk.

I think an airplane should be exercised at least twice a month. Obviously I would like to do it more often but any longer than every other week risks damage to any of the moving parts. The same rule applies to me. If I go longer than two weeks without flying I feel rusty. The training is still there, the procedures are still good, but my finesse is affected, I'm no longer smooth and I feel it.

The beauty of the world around us.
More spiders. I pulled the canopy cover off onto the right wing and a few little spiders scurried off the edges. There was a web around the pitot tube cover. A little spider got washed out of the right fuel vent when I sumped the tank. And as I taxied out, one dropped from the glare shield onto my D120. He didn't survive to make the flight.

We took off on RWY18 and departed to the east. The clear blue sky was starting to get spotted with little puffy white clouds. Friendly now, they could easily turn into monsters when fed by the hot humid Florida air. I stayed below them at 2000'. We practiced some basic air work maneuvers, I tested all of the navigation systems and Sally's autopilot modes, then we headed over to Plant City for a landing. They were using RWY10 and another Light Sport was getting ready to depart. A Caravan was in the pattern already but by the time I entered on a 45° he was on final, no factor. I made a nice landing, 4 stars out of 5, we turned off on the first taxiway and I went through the takeoff checklist for departure. I use 10° of flaps for take off, especially on a high density altitude kind of day. (OAT 30°C)

I wanted to get above the clouds, so we wove our way through the layer on a rough heading of south. Sometimes we forget about this part of aviation. Experiencing the pure beauty of flight. We were above the tops by 5000' and we had fun in the smooth air by making easy turns and watching the cloud shadows on the earth beneath us.

It was a great day to start the summer flying season.

Video Notes: Summer Morning

Tuesday, June 20, 2017


Sport Pilot rules do not require the pilot to carry a 3rd Class Medical. Medical certificates, or "medicals" for short, are required for anyone other than a sport pilot who is acting as pilot in command. Usually the medical certificate and student pilot certificate are combined on one form, FAA Form 8420-2, and are issued by a doctor, called an aviation medical examiner (AME), who has been approved by the FAA to administer the medical exam. Some pilots looked at the sport pilot rule as an option to return to flying after some medical condition had sidelined them from using the local Aviation Medical Examiner. However sometimes overlooked was the additional requirement that the PIC: "Not know or have reason to know of any medical condition that would make that person unable to operate a light-sport aircraft in a safe manner." The "Driver's License Rule" is not valid if you know you have something wrong that could inhibit your ability to fly an airplane.

My normal practice has been to get a 2nd class medical every other year to take advantage of potential commercial privileges. After a year my medical would default to 3rd class allowing me to continue to perform the duties of a Certified Flight Instructor. Then I read this:
"John King confirmed to Flying a personal issue that has been rumored for many months: the FAA has denied the well-known aviation educator’s medical certificate, leaving him unable to act as co-captain aboard the Dassault Falcon 10 he and his wife, Martha, fly. John King is, of course, half of the legendary John and Martha King duo who founded the King Schools, known for online and video education courses responsible for thousands of pilots successfully navigating the FAA’s pilot knowledge exams (the couple also write a regular column for Flying).

King was officially denied his third-class medical certificate in November 2015, based on a seizure he’d experienced while on a family trip to Indiana earlier the previous year. He said a trip to the hospital following the seizure episode in early 2014 led doctors, as well as both him and his wife, to believe there was no cause for alarm, so he continued to fly. At his regular aviation medical exam later that year, the FAA cited safety of the public, as well as of the airman himself, for the denial.

Since John was turned down for his medical 18 months ago, the Kings have engaged a number of aeromedical professionals and attorneys, spending tens of thousands of dollars along the way, attempting to convince the FAA that he is healthy enough to warrant reissuing his medical. King told Flying the agency has denied every appeal route they’ve tried."
His career was over. The FAA bureaucracy had dictated that he was medically unfit to fly even though Doctors specializing in his condition said he was good to go. There was a happy ending for John.
"King Schools co-owner John King confirmed to AVweb Thursday the FAA has restored his medical certification without explanation after the well-publicized appeal of his suspension. “Amazingly enough, I have my medical certificate in my pocket,” he said in an email. “I had written an email to the FAA Associate Administrator for Safety urging them to employ the core values that created the compliance philosophy in the medical certification of pilots. That letter along with the publicity that you helped create might have made the difference.” As we reported last week, King was denied his medical because of a seizure he experienced in 2014.

King told AVweb he consulted top neurologists but their assessment that the seizure was an explainable one-time thing was rejected all the way to top by the Federal Air Surgeon. That’s when he wrote his letter to the top floor of the FAA and went public with his concerns. With the restored medical he will be able to share pilot duties with his wife Martha in their Falcon 10 rather than continue to hire a second pilot or buy a new aircraft with single-pilot capability." Reference: here
Thousands of dollars spend to restore his flight status. Pilots are taught to avoid risk when possible. There is a potential risk using the AME that I no longer wanted to take. Something new was available to me this year: BasicMed.

How do I take advantage of BasicMed? At least every 48 months, visit a state licensed physician where he or she will perform an examination and affirm the absence of any medical condition that could interfere with the safe operation of an aircraft. Every 24 calendar months, take a free, online medical education course. AOPA’s online medical education course will be available to all individuals, free of charge. AOPA recommends taking the following steps, in order:

1. Complete the pilot information and medical history portion of the FAA Medical Examination Checklist prior to your examination;
2. Schedule and attend an examination with a state-licensed physician who will complete the FAA Medical Examination Checklist;
3. Successfully complete the AOPA Medical Self-Assessment Course;
4. Print the certificate of completion following the online course and keep it in your logbook or in an accurate and legible electronic format, along with the completed Medical Examination Checklist;
5. Ensure that you meet the flight review requirements of FAR 61.56 and any other applicable flight or instrument proficiency requirements, as necessary for you to act as pilot in command.

Why is this important to me? I don't have to fear the situation John King experienced. I can go to my own physician, one who already knows my medical history and works with me to cure my ailments, recommends specialists when required, and helps me asses my fitness to fly.
Can I fly under these rules as a CFI? Yes, the FAA final rule for BasicMed does apply to the person acting as PIC, including flight instructors. As an example, the FAA has noted that flight instructors meeting the requirements of the new rule may act as PIC while giving flight training without holding a medical certificate, regardless of whether the person receiving flight training holds a medical certificate
Where can I find the FAA’s BasicMed form? You can find the form at

My own PCP signed me off yesterday. I'm fit to fly. I meet the requirements of 14 CFR 61.23(c)(2). Remember, use IMSAFE prior to every flight.

Reference: Faa Brief

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Saturday, June 3, 2017

Working with Sally

The student contacted me asking if we could spend the Memorial Day weekend flying. I was excited with the opportunity but cautioned that an accelerated program was difficult and I would only go as fast as he could absorb the material. I put together a curriculum of five flights focused on high work but including some ground reference maneuvers and if we were comfortable, introduction to the landing pattern. An aggressive schedule to be sure, but again customized to the student's ability to learn.

He arrived on Friday and that evening we met to go over the plan. He was very well prepared and had obviously studied for the weekend. After the brief we went over to Sally and did the preflight. The first preflight takes time. Each line item on the checklist must not only be done, but often a detailed explanation is required as to WHY it is done.  Next task is getting into the airplane the proper way (yes, there is an improper way), getting the seatbelts secured, adjusting the pedals and headset and generally getting accustomed to the cockpit. Finally, we did the start. The rest of the lesson was devoted to taxi practice and the use of brakes and typical ground procedures. It all went well.

We were lucky to have great weather on Saturday and got two flights in. Sunday we woke to fog, so I delayed our takeoff for an hour. When the fog lifted we were left low thin scattered ceiling and mist. I elected to spend time in the landing pattern. It went well. After landing we scheduled some time for Sunday afternoon. When I arrived at the airport for that flight, winds had picked up with gusts too high for a new student. We canceled the flight and ended the session. It was very successful and I would offer this type of accelerated training again, depending on the student.

...AND I was especially glad to be able to work with Sally again. She is a great training platform, fun to fly and very forgiving. Stalls are almost a non-event. The visibility for doing all of the basic airwork exercises is super. And teaching a glass panel is fun for the student (as well as the instructor).

Video Notes:

Welcome home Sally.