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." ~
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 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.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Country Club Style

I was at an outlying airport preparing to take a student up for a lesson. As I did my walk around I heard a voice from behind: "I've never seen a PiperSport before." So as the student strapped in I gave my "elevator speech" on the airplane, LSA and Sport Pilot requirements. I always finish with a smile on my face and stress how much fun she is to fly. When he left we got back to business. The lesson went well, and upon return I opted to debrief while sitting in the airplane. As I reviewed the simulated in flight emergency a voice came from outside the airplane: "What kind of airspeed do you get out of this?" Once again I spoke to Sally's attributes for a few minutes, smiled then excused us and went back to the debrief. "She sure is a pretty plane". And so it goes.

Plane & Pilot has a great article this month about the company that imports SportCruisers into the USA.
  • Patrick Arnzen, the 34-year-old president of US Sport Aircraft, says, "It's all about knowing your customers, providing them what they want and keeping it fun in the process.
  • Wes Wynne, a new private pilot, said, "I started my training at another school. I was frustrated by maintenance issues with their 40-year-old planes when I happened to drive by US Sport's ramp and saw the cool planes they were flying. I went in the office and was impressed by the friendly people. But when I found out that it cost less to rent a brand-new SportCruiser than a 1970s 172, I was hooked. "
  • The success US Sport has experienced can be traced back to their energetic president. A former airline pilot, and one of the youngest designated pilot examiners (DPE) in the country, Arnzen has run several aviation businesses prior to launching an Addison, Texas, location for US Sport Aircraft. Starting with a dirt-floor hangar and one aircraft, Arnzen quickly grew the business to a 10,000-square-foot facility, 20 or more planes and 20 staff members. "I could not have done this by myself. My biggest talent is probably being picky and only bringing on team members who share our vision and passion."
  • "The SportCruiser is everything we could have hoped for in a modern, well-equipped and economical cross-country airplane, and the friendships we've formed with the personnel at US Sport Aircraft will last long after we stop our flying adventures." -Gary Cordell

Have fun, be safe, train well.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


It was supposed to have been a busy week and I was looking forward to it. Either a Discovery Flight or Flight Lesson scheduled everyday, I was anxious to get back in the saddle and do some CFI work. It was not to be. Each morning weather check read the same way: low clouds and poor visibility. So each day I got up, checked and sent out an email saying Flight Canceled - Wx. Until Thursday. The weather was not great but was good enough to get in a couple of Discovery Flights.

I got to the airport well before the first student to preflight and position the airplane. She took some effort to start, but after a few extra cranks she ran smoothly. I taxied around the hangar to park in front of the FBO to give a better presentation to the prospective new client. Sally does have good ramp appeal.

After a good preflight brief we taxied to Runway 11 and departed over Quakertown, went by Pennridge and out over Lake Nockamixon. It was calm and the visibility was good under the 3500' overcast. The student did some climbs, descents and turns getting accustomed to the light feel of the control stick. He did well. It was a good flight and Sally really showed the positive aspects of flying a modern LSA. I floated a bit on the landing (RWY11 has a slight down hill grade) but recovered to make a nice landing. After the debrief I sat in the office munching on a Kind bar to wait for the next event.

A text message informed me that the afternoon flight was canceled. The student had some business that couldn't be postponed and would have to reschedule our flight for some other time. RATS!

I had a plane. I had gas. She was already preflighted, so...

Video Notes: Kutztown

When I was a student pilot, Kutztown was one the airports my instructor insisted I conquer before I could solo. Less than 25 miles from Slatington, with East Texas VOR for a Navaid, the flight would end at the busy airport with glider traffic. It had an hump in the middle of the paved runway which made the landing interesting. A Notice To Airmen was published for Kutztown Airport in December 2008 that the airport would be closed to transient aircraft. It was announced that the airport would close all operation on January 31, 2009. The Diner is still open.