A Safety Journal for General Aviation
by Max Trescott, Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
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So much to write about, so little time! Now that our new Max Trescott's WAAS and GPS CD-ROM Course has started shipping, I'm playing catchup on many things, such as getting this newsletter out. I'm also just about to leave for Oshkosh. If you're going to be there, come look for me in the NAFI tent or at one of my presentations on Friday or Saturday. One of those presentations is on WAAS, which lets instrument pilots use GPS to fly approaches with ILS-like precision. If you fly with a Garmin 430 or 530, it's inexpensive to upgrade these systems to WAAS. You can learn more about WAAS here.
Of course, as we report on events from a few months ago (Sun-N-Fun report in this issue), great new stories continue to pour in. For example, today, I see that Cessna has released final data on the new Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), a prototype of which was on display at Oshkosh a year ago. If there was ever any doubt about the legitimacy about the light sport market, it's gone, now that Cessna has stepped into the market.
Here are the details. $109,000 will buy you this new 2-seat "Skycatcher" aircraft. The engine is a 100 hp Continental O-200D, which should be more reliable than the Rotax engine found in many LSA. Not only that, it's available with a glass cockpit! It features the new Garmin G300 PFD and MFD. Never heard of that? Me neither. But it looks similar to the G600 glass cockpit displays that Garmin will start shipping later this year for retrofitting into existing aircraft. I imagine this will become a hot seller and that you'll find a lot of them at flight schools replacing the many tired looking Cessna 152s now in use.
I fully expect that Cessna will sell out their production for the first year very quickly. So, if you're in California and are interested in purchasing one of these aircraft, contact me immediately and I'll put you in touch with a dealer who can get your name on the list now. You'll find full details about this airplane at www.CessnaSkycatcher.com.
In this issue, we talk about a recent accident at Livermore, CA, where a pilot once again tried to do the Impossible turn after having an engine failure after takeoff. The results were predictable and two people who could have walked away from this accident are no longer with us.
We'll also give you an update on Airline Hiring and the difficulties that flight schools are having in finding and retaining CFIs. I also couldn't resist talking about the Arctic Air, which is a new product you can bring along to keep cool while you're flying
Oshkosh starts tomorrow. If you have never been, you owe it to yourself to go at least once in your life--so why not this year? If you do go, wander by the National Association of Flight Instructors tent, which is where I like to hang out. I'll also be speaking several times on Night Flying and on WAAS, the Wide Area Augmentation System that's bringing ILS-like performance to GPS instrument approaches. Go to the Events Calendar for a list of speaking times and other events.
Finally, in our Heard on the Air department, we'll pass along an amusing exchange that one of readers heard on the radio.
Have fun and fly safely!
Max Trescott, Master CFI
The Impossible Turn
Another Pilot Learns too late Not to Turn Back to the Airport
Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time writing these newsletters when pilots continue to kill themselves doing stupid things that are well known in the aviation world to be bad practices. Of course not everyone gets this newsletter or reads it, but for those who do, let me tell you again why You should not turn back to the airport if your engine fails shortly after takeoff. Because you may end up dead.
For those of you who live in Northern California, you may have heard about a recent accident that killed a pilot and his passenger shortly after they took off in an experimental aircraft from the
Resist the Siren’s Call to the Runway
Why is the beckoning of the sirens from the runway so powerful that it can lure otherwise rational pilots to their deaths? Perhaps it’s because that for 99.9% of your flying career, you actively work to avoid any damage to your aircraft, to avoid paying for repairs to the aircraft and to your ego. That powerful motivating force is what makes you diligent about avoiding running out of gas and salvaging landings gone awry (hopefully by going around). The runway symbolizes a safe haven, particularly compared to an open field that may be hiding groundhog holes and other unknown hazards. Thus when the engine quits—unless you’ve planned your response in advance—the natural instinct is to turn toward the runway, which symbolizes a safe haven 99.9% of the time. And that natural instinct leads to death in many cases.
The accident at
What was heart rendering is not that the pilot got so close to the runway before stalling. It’s that when the engine failed, he was over an empty field that extended for almost 2 miles straight ahead and was adjacent to a golf course. Had he landed straight ahead or on the gold course, he would have walked away from the accident and damage to the aircraft would probably have been minor. Instead, he threw away his life, holding out for the chance that he could reach the runway so that damage to the aircraft might be zero. What a lousy tradeoff. Is your life worth a few thousand dollars of damage to an aircraft???
The Impossible Turn
The FAA has an excellent brochure that describes why, after an engine failure, you don’t want to attempt this impossible turn back to the runway. To the casual thinker, only a simple 180° is required to return the runway. However, they forget that after a 180° turn, you’ll now be about a half mile laterally away from the runway and not lined up with the runway. Thus you really need about a 270° turn followed by a 90° turn in the opposite direction. And you also need a really long runway, because at best, you’ll be just making it to the departure end of the runway. And that’s if you had a really strong headwind AND did everything right.
If you think that you can perfect this maneuver by practicing it at low altitude, think again. In
One thing you should practice however, is pitching forward when the engine quits. I did this recently with a student and it’s instructive to see how much forward motion of the yoke is required and how quickly you’ll need to do this after the engine fails. After you pitch forward to best glide speed, then you need to choose a place to land that straight ahead or perhaps no more than 30° to the left or right. Do Not turn back toward the airport.
We simulated this maneuver while up at 4500 feet AGL just before doing stall practice. We pitched the aircraft for climb, added full power and climbed at Vy, which was 74 knots for the Cessna 172SP/G1000 we were flying. I then pulled the power and we left the controls unchanged as we watched the airspeed bleed away. We used those few seconds to simulate denial, by blurting out “What happened? This couldn’t be happening to us,” etc. It only took about five seconds for the aircraft to slow well below best glide speed and start approaching a stall. To reach best glide, the yoke needed to be pushed forward a couple of inches. Unless you try it, you’ll be surprised at how soon you’ll need to start pitching forward and the distance that you’ll need to move the yoke or stick.
In conclusion, we all make mistakes, but there are few mistakes you don’t want to make. Of altitude, airspeed and brains you always need at least two out of three. Plan ahead for that day when your engine fails after takeoff. Practice at altitude pitching forward after pulling the power during a climb. Examine possible landing locations off the departure end of the runways at airports at which you fly frequently. I’ve actually driven over to and carefully walked and inspected two fields off the departure end of one local airport. I’ve already made a plan for exactly which fields I’ll head to depending upon what altitude I’m at when the engine fails. During the climbout, I consciously monitor my ability to reach each field and tell myself one I’ll use at any given point in the climb.
Safety is no accident. Make a plan for the day when the expensive fan on the front of your airplane goes silent you need to glide to the ground safely. And don’t even listen to the siren’s call to the runway behind you. The runway is history. Any wishful thinking about trying to reach it can kill you. Remember to save yourself and not the airplane. That piece of junk just quit on you and you don’t owe it a thing!
If you’ve never been to one of the two big air shows—
Surprisingly, Sun-N-Fun is a very large show—about 160,000 attendees last year according to their media office—and yet it doesn’t feel the least bit crowded. The advantage of Sun-N-Fun versus
The hot topic at Sun-N-Fun was user fees—and the FAA knows it. Apparently in one internal document used to brief FAA management prior to the show, it was stated that there are three hot issues that the FAA would face at Sun-N-Fun: “User Fees, user fees, and user fees.” Well said.
The biggest symbol of this was the billboard size banner that more than 15,000 pilots signed at Sun-F-Fun protesting proposed user fees. If you ever see it, you’ll find my signature near the lower right corner. If there’s anything that can send scuttle general aviation as we know it today, it’s user fees.
In every example I’ve heard thus far, the introduction of user fees in other countries has increased the costs to pilots, promoted dysfunctional flying practices among pilots, and lead to a shrinkage of general aviation activity. I hear some sages say “Oh there will be user fees, but they’ll be small.” That may indeed be the case initially, but I’m willing to bet that the user fees will grow, and at a rate that far exceeds inflation. Here’s what’s likely to happen.
If user fees are introduced, pilots will reduce whatever activity has a fee. In
Likewise, if pilots are forced to pay for every ILS approach, they will be more inclined to scud run in marginal VFR conditions to avoid a fee. An increase in the number of VFR into IMC and controlled flight into terrain accidents is inevitable.
Once pilots reduce the number of landings they make or the number of ILS approaches they practices, the revenues reaped by the FAA will fall. The obvious answer will be to increase the fees to recoup the shortfall in revenue. Higher user fees will lead to more pilots giving up flying as the costs rise in a vicious cycle. The first round of user fees may have a negligible effect. However, the end game of the inevitable cycle of revenue shortfalls and fee increases Will have a devastating effect upon general aviation as we know it today.
Now is the time to write your congressman or senator. If you live in
Sun-N-Fun is also a great meeting location for members of different organizations to meet. One example is COPA, the Cirrus Owner Pilots Association. This vibrant organization has a robust level of communication among it members throughout the year via the organizations website, member forums at www.cirruspilots.org and monthly magazine. But there’s nothing so satisfying as meeting like minded pilots face-to-face for dinner in a large tent (and I mean a really large tent) like COPA does each year at Sun-N-Fun. These kinds of meetings go on everywhere for all kinds of industry groups, joint FAA/industry groups and vendor/customer meetings. If there’s anyone you want to talk to in aviation, this is one of the few places where you can be fairly sure to find them during the year.
NAFI—National Association of Flight Instructors
Speaking of social networking, my favorite place to hang my hat at Sun-N-Fun is at the National Association of Flight Instructors tent. If you’re a certified flight instructor, you’re probably familiar with NAFI, as they are the national professional organization for CFI’s. Before I tell you about NAFI, let me tell you why I enjoy spending time at this tent. You'll notice from the picture that the tent also has a great view of the airshow going on in the background.
Last year, my friend Rod Machado said it best in the October, 2006 issue of AOPA Pilot magazine. “On the second day of the show, I walked into the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) tent and couldn’t help but be in awe of the experience within its borders. Within the tent’s perimeters sat some of aviation’s most knowledgeable flight instructors….This tent has to be the biggest secret…..
“If I was a pilot looking for training advice, walking into the NAFI tent would be like a Catholic being given a key to the
For those CFI’s that really care about the quality of instruction they give, NAFI membership is a must. No where else will you find an organization dedicated solely to helping CFI’s stay at the top of their game. A major member benefit is their monthly
The Master CFI designation is conveyed to CFI’s that submit a portfolio summarizing at least eight aviation activities performed in four different categories of service. Most credit is obtained in the education category, and is earned for a variety of activities including signing off pilots for checkrides, flight reviews and teaching ground schools. Another example is the media category, which includes activities such as writing a published article or creating a presentation.
Lest you think the FAA has no involvement in the Master CFI program—they do. For example, receiving the Master designation qualifies for an FAA renewal of your CFI certificate and is a great alternative to taking a weekend long renewal clinic. Masters are also now automatically granted the FAA’s Gold Seal CFI certificate, if they have a ground instructor certificate. Perhaps the best recognition comes from the FAA Administrator. For the last few years, she’s been the keynote speaker at the NAFI Master’s breakfast at
Sun-N-Fun is not a part of the Experimental Aircraft Association that runs
Cost of this sleek aircraft is $149,000 for the kit plus the cost of engine and avionics. Total cost is estimated to be about $300,000. There's also a builder assist option for $49,000.
The gentlemen exhibiting the aircraft had a sample wing on display. They explained that they could pull the standard parts off the shelf, put them together with a glue gun and have subsections of the wing ready completed in two hours.
Here's the kicker. If you want to know more about this aircraft, you're going to have to do some research. I just spent several minutes googling and I couldn't find a website for this company. I guess because the name "Phoenix" has been used before.
The one clue I can give you is that these gentleman were from Ft. Pierce, Florida. If anyone finds a website, please send it to me and I'll update this article.
Light Sport Aircraft
Light Sport fever continues to spread, with no signs of it stopping, and that was true at Sun-N-Fun as well. My favorite new light Sport Aircraft was the SeaMax seaplane. This seaplane is built in
The plane uses a Rotax 912S 100 hp engine as do many light sport aircraft. Cruising speed is said to be 115 mph, and the specifications say that it will take off from water in about 500 feet. Of course it's limited to two seats as are all light sport aircraft.
Avionics in this aircraft on display were all glass! A Dynon Avionics EFIS D100 displays the primary flight instruments, and a panel mounted Garmin 496 provides the moving map. Interestingly, the front panel of this aircraft included a placard that the "minimum pilot weight" was 140 pounds. My guess is that's to offset the weight of the engine, which is mounted on a pylon above and behind the pilot.
For this one, we were able to find a website to which to refer you. You can find the U.S. distributor at www.seamaxusa.com.
Don't forget to bring along your fishing rod!
That's it for Sun-N-Fun. If you never been to this show or to Oshkosh, you owe it to yourself to go to either of them at least once in your lifetime.
Update on Airline Hiring
Good news for pilots; Bad news for flight schools
One of the things I learned from talking to the many people passing through the tent at Sun-N-Fun was that there’s an emerging shortage of CFI’s, at least in
This is great news for anyone interested in working for the airlines, but bad news for flight schools trying to find CFI’s and to some extent for pilots trying to find a CFI for instruction. The dilemma for the top flight schools is that there are many people with CFI ratings looking for jobs, but relatively few of them have the writing and communication skills required to be effective educators. One large flight school manager told me that for every 200 resumes, he’ll interview two people and often won’t hire them. Another manager told essentially the same story, but that he interviews about one out of every 25 resumes he receives.
People always ask whether it helps to have a college degree when going to the airlines. There are two sides to the story. Success at the airlines has always been a seniority game, meaning that the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll have the seniority to move up to fly the heavy iron with its commensurate higher pay. In that case, if you skip college and can get a job at age 19, you may have an edge over the person who attended college.
The flip side is that all things being equal, at least some airlines (and I’m guessing most) would prefer to hire college graduates. One flight school Chief CFI told me that when one hiring manager for a regional airline visits, he places all of the resumes in two piles, and starts with the pile of college graduates first. If he can’t get all of the interviewees he needs from that pile, then he will look at the resumes of the non-college graduates. The Chief also confided that the airline hiring manager would never admit publicly that they screen candidates in such a fashion, but this was the reality of how it was done.
The way the numbers are working now, the typical retention time for a CFI at a busy flight school in now six months or less. A new minted CFI will arrive at the school with perhaps 250 to 300 total hours of flight experience. They may fly about 80 hours a month, which means in six months, they’ll have accumulated another four to five hundred hours. And then they’re gone. Is it any wonder that that many student pilots get frustrated when they have to change instructors multiple times while trying to obtain their private pilot license?
Here’s a Product that helps you keep your cool
Cheap alternative to air conditioning for any airplane
OK, I admit it, my airplane didn’t have an air conditioner for a variety of reasons. The primary reason was weight, since it added about 70 pounds and I needed every ounce when I flew volunteer doctors and dentists to
I first saw this product more than six months ago and loved the concept the moment I saw it. Why pay a huge price and weight penalty to have an air conditioner in your aircraft when you only need it some of the time? The beauty of this solution is that you can put it in the aircraft only when you need it, so you won’t be hauling around a heavy air conditioner all of the time. Not only that, if you’re a renter pilot, you can take your cooler with you in any airplane you rent. That’s really attractive, since most of the rental aircraft I’ve seen don’t have air conditioning.
Using the product is easy. Just fill it up with ice shortly before you leave and turn on the fan. Evaporative cooling does the rest. The fan draws warm air over the ice and cools it. The cool air is then blown out of the cooler and into the airplane. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. No installation required by your mechanic and no FAA 337 forms to be filled out.
In the name of full disclosure, I haven’t actually tried this product, so I cannot tell you firsthand how well it works. However, the same principle was used to stay cool in the South long before air conditioning was invented so I imagine it works fine. So if the heat cause you to lose your cool, take a clue from this cool dude and order this cool product.
July 23-29 The World's Largest Aviation Event - Airventure 2007 Oshkosh, WI
July 27 8:30 AM Max Trescott - Night Flying Safety - What Your CFI Forgot to Tell You Oshkosh, WI
July 28 11:30 AM Max Trescott - Flying Instrument Approaches with WAAS and GPS Oshkosh, WI
Tower: "Cessna 4139G, be advised, other aircraft in the pattern has callsign 7239G, use full callsign."
4139G: "Use full callsign, 39G."
Pilot Safety News
© 2007 by Max Trescott
Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
Please contact me with your feedback or if I can be of service to you.
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