Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Some Tips On Landings And Take-Offs

Landings are something we do often.  If you have taken off, you are going to have to land somewhere.  The question is how to do it in the safest and most efficient manner.  A lot depends on what you are flying, how much experience you have and of course, the weather.  Landing a J-3 Cub is a lot different than a high speed single like a Bonanza.  

Factors to consider are of course the wind (speed and direction), type surface (grass or concrete), plane characteristics and of course, pilot skill.  I will go back awhile to landing and taking off at a small airport that had a runway made of asphalt.  Not only were there scattered stones on it, but it had a moderate slope and a tail wind.  Taking off was relatively easy, after you accounted for the stones/pebbles.  You just had not to use the entire runway, but taxi to where the runway became smoother and free of debris.

The take-off went well, just delay full power until clear of the debris.  Delaying full power and watching climb airspeed to be above stall were key.  All went well.  Now for the landing.  As there was a moderate cross wind of about ten knots a alignment was the main consideration.  Not being visually aligned with the runway take getting use to.  Depending on the runway length and the quality of your brakes, airspeed is an important factor to take into account.  

As all went well, there isn't much more to add.  So, adequate preparation before taking off and landing are mandatory for a safe flight.      

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Turbulent Flight I hope Never To Repeat

It's late in the month and I hate not to have written a blog. Reflecting on some of my past "challenging" flights brings back a flight from Albermarle, NC back to Rock Hill, SC. about a 60 mile flight. For a short while in 2000, I commuted to work at the hospital in Stanley County and back each evening to Charlotte and my hangar in Rock Hill SC. Normally, it should take about 25 minutes or so in the Bonanza, depending on the wind. It was the end of a workday, about 1800 hours, weather was VFR on departure. There was some frontal activity to the southwest, but nothing forecast on my route home.

Well things can change rapidly weather wise, and it sure did that day. Soon after departure I got into some widely scattered clouds and a moderate head wind but otherwise all was cool. Then suddenly it started to get a bit bouncy, light turbulence. I was at 3000 feet but getting jostled up and down a bit with my altitude starting to vary between 2500 and 3500 feet. The turbulence was so great at one time that I could barely read the instruments.  I called Charlotte approach but they didn't have much to say, just some complaints of light to moderate turbulence in the area.

Well that changed quickly as I hit some "moderate" turbulence that nearly flipped the plane 90 degrees over on a wing. This continued causing me concern and forcing me to throttle back to safe cruise speed just above stall. This lessened the severity of the turbulent flight but also meant I was in it longer. Contacting approach control again, no real help offered. As I was getting fairly close to Rock Hill, I kept on flying at just above stall.

Fortunately, everything stayed put. Nothing damaged by the horrific gusts and turbulence.  When I finally arrived at Rock Hill and parked in front of the hangar, and all shut down. I breathed a big sigh of relief. I don't remember ever having been in such turbulence for such a long time, and hope never to be again.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Oh No! I Forgot To Put The Gear Down

If you haven't yet had a "gear up" you are lucky, or maybe just well trained and careful. Although I have never had a gear up landing, I almost did.  Years back when I was doing some instrument flight training with an instructor in the right seat, I was on short final ready to touch down. The instructor said "have you forgotten something?"  I had not put the gear down.  That was a close call, but my only one, with over 4,000 hours of flying.  I offer a word of advice.  I have a routine which insures that the landing gear is down properly.  I look for the three green lights and think or say "three in the green."   In 2013 NASA reported an average of 60 gear up landings annually and in 2003 there were 96 reported by the NTSB. In addition, I don't know how many landing gear failures (LGF) occurred which may or may not be included under "gear up".

I just read an incidental study that landing gear ranks second after engines as systems prone to failure.
This is really a separate issue than routine gear ups. That is because the pilot at least tried to raise or lower the gear, but a mechanical situation prevented it from happening. Just to give you an idea of the more common causes of (LGF), I'll relate some given by DVI Aviation*.
          Improper rigging
          Improper repair or maintenance
          Improper installation of parts
          Parts worn beyond allowable service limits
          Failure or fatigue of parts
          Lack of lubrication and or hydraulic fluid

Finally, from a study by Canadian Aircraft Maintenance Management Information Systems**,
largely dealing with military planes, the following was found.  In surveying over 200 landing
gear structural component failures, the main mechanical problems involved: fatigue and corrosion.

So, in summary. Get your landing gear and related systems checked regularly, at least once a year.
During your landing approach, VFR or IFR say "three in the green" at least two or three times, after the gear has been deployed.  Happy, safe landings!

* DVI Aviation-Aviation Safety Experts
**Failure Analysis of Aircraft Landing Gear Components 1992

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

One Pilot's Path

I'm smiling as I look back at my first log book.  The first entry is on November 4, 1961.  Yes, I know that's going back some 56 years, that puts me at 21 year old.  I was taking my first flight lesson in a military Pa-18 at Felker Army Air Base located at Fort Eustis,Va. just west of Newport News. Back then I did a total of only 15 hours of flight time.  I just didn't feel comfortable flying then.  Mostly because I felt the instructor, a military pilot, was over bearing.  That pause lasted until May 9, 1965 some 4 1/2 years until I started again at Tew Mac a small airport in Massachusetts some 17 miles north of Boston.  The Piper J-3 I flew was owned by the flying club I joined while with the Avco Corp in Wilmington, Ma.

The point of all this, I guess, is to reflect on and pass on to prospective pilots how one can get started in aviation.  It seems important to me as now one hears so much of flying schools and various other programs.  I am glad I did it as an individual rather than as a member of some flight class at a flight school.  Somehow I developed a sense of independence and a progressive self reliance, rather than being led by the nose in a more structured program.

I persisted along this path for some 40+ years.  After getting my first license as a private pilot, which allowed me to take passengers, I kept on going.  Next, I obtained my instrument rating which allowed me to fly in bad weather.  I went soon after for my commercial rating which meant I could fly for hire. Finally, I went for a multi engine rating.  Mainly I did this so I could fly a company twin engine plane as a radiologist in upstate New York.

I would like to mention a couple of memorable flights that still stand out. The first, flying a J-3 Cub out of Tewksbury, Mass. north along a small river at about 500 ft. It was warm and I could leave the fold out windows open, really enhancing the feeling of being alone in the air. It felt so special to me, on one of my first solo flights. The other was years later out of Burlington Vermont. I was on call for emergency flights and I got a call at about 2330 hours. A skier at Lake Placid had taken a bad fall and needed high level medical help only available in the Burlington Vt, area at that time. So off I went in a Piper Navajo, a moderate sized 9 seater equipped with deicing etc., and made an instrument landing at Adirondack Regional airport. The weather was moderate IFR allowing for a safe approach and landing. The ambulance was waiting. We loaded the patient and his nurse aboard, took off IFR and were back in Burlington in 25 minutes. It was one of my most satisfying flights.  

Every pilot's flight path is different.  I thought I would share some of my experiences with you.