Tuesday, 29 November 2016


For those who haven’t had the opportunity to read the whole thing, here’s a summary:

      Stay out of icing conditions for which the aircraft has NOT been cleared.

    Note freezing level in the aviation weather forecast. Don’t go unless the aircraft is equipped for the conditions.

    Have warm clothing available for pre-flight and in case of heater failure or forced landing.

    Mud, snow and slush will lengthen take-off and landing runs. Work out your distances in advance.

     Remove all frost, ice and snow from the aircraft – there is no such thing as a little ice!

      Check carefully that all essential electrical services, especially pitot heat, are working properly.

    Check that the heater and demister are effective. Watch out for any signs of carbon monoxide poisoning.

        Be extra vigilant for carb ice.

      If ice does start to form, act promptly, get out of the conditions by descending (beware of high ground), climbing or diverting.

       If you encounter ice, tell ATC so that others can be warned.

      During the approach if you suspect tail-plane ice, or suffer a severe pitch down, RETRACT THE FLAPS.

   If you have to land with an iced-up aeroplane, add at least 20% to the approach speed.

      Snow-covered, icy or muddy runways will make crosswinds harder to handle.



Airspace infringements continue to be one of the UK’s main aviation safety risks. The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), through its Airspace Infringements Working Group, is currently working with industry to tackle the issue. The Group has issued a list of top ten tips to avoid an infringement:

1. Navigation is a skill which needs to be practised regularly, both in planning a flight and conducting it. Safety Sense Leaflet 5 (available on the CAA website and in the LASORS publication) contains good advice on VFR navigation, but it only works if you read and apply it!

2. If you plan a route through controlled airspace, remember that a crossing clearance may not always be possible and consider that route as your ‘secondary’ plan. Your primary plan should avoid controlled airspace - and don’t forget to make your overall time and fuel calculations using the longer, primary route!

3. Where possible, avoid planning to fly close to controlled airspace boundaries. If you do need to do so, be very careful. A small navigational error or distraction of any sort can lead to an infringement – and it doesn’t take much to ruin your day!

4. Pilot workloads rise rapidly in less than ideal weather - and so do infringements. If the weather starts to deteriorate, consider your options early and if necessary divert or turn back in good time.

5. If you wish to transit controlled airspace, think about what you need to ask for in advance and call the appropriate Air Traffic Control (ATC) unit at least 10 nautical miles or five minutes flying time from the airspace boundary. This gives the controller time to plan ahead.

6. Thinking before you press the transmit switch and using the correct radio phraseology helps air traffic control to help you - and sounds more professional!

7. Be aware that ATC may be busy when you call them – just because the frequency doesn’t sound busy doesn’t mean that the controller isn’t busy on another frequency or on landlines.

8. Remember - the instruction ‘Standby’ means just that; it is not an ATC clearance and not even a precursor to a clearance. The controller is probably busy, so continue to plan to fly around the airspace. Only fly across the airspace if the controller issues a crossing clearance.

9. Your planned route through controlled airspace may appear simple on your chart but the traffic patterns within that airspace may make it unrealistic in practice. Be prepared for a crossing clearance which does not exactly match your planned route but which will allow you to transit safely.

10. Don’t be afraid to call ATC and use the transponder when lost or uncertain of your position - overcoming your embarrassment may prevent an infringement which may in turn prevent an Airprox (or worse).



It’s that time of year again, so a summary of the CAA’s advice on the above ….

      Icing forms stealthily.
      Some aircraft/engine combinations are more susceptible than others.
      Icing may occur in warm humid conditions and is a possibility at any time of the year in the UK.
      MOGAS makes carb icing more likely.
      Low power settings, such as in a descent or in the circuit, are more likely to produce carb icing.
      Warming up the engine before take-off improves the effectiveness of any carb body heat.
      Use full carb hot air frequently when flying in conditions where carb icing is likely.
      Remember the RPM gauge is the primary indication for a fixed pitch propeller; manifold pressure for variable pitch.
      Treat the carb hot air as an ON/OFF control – either full hot or full cold.
      It takes time for the heat to work and the engine may run roughly while ice is clearing.
      Timely use of appropriate procedures can PREVENT THIS PROBLEM.

Finally, In the event of carb heat system failure in flight:

      Avoid likely carb icing conditions.
      Maintain high throttle settings – full throttle if possible.
      Weaken the mixture slightly.

      Land as soon as reasonably possible.


Wednesday, 16 November 2016


Acknowledgements:  FAA GA Joint Steering Committee Safety Enhancement Topic

Maintenance-related problems are one of the most deadly causes of accidents in general aviation. Contributing to this is a pilot’s failure to identify maintenance discrepancies because of a lack of knowledge and improper techniques used during the pre-flight of the aircraft.

In July 2014, the pilot of a Piper PA-12 Super Cruiser airplane was fatally injured after his airplane pitched up steeply during take-off and crashed. The investigation found that the elevator control cables were installed incorrectly such that the elevator moved in the direction opposite to that commanded. The pre-flight checklist for the airplane required the pilot to verify that the flight controls were free and correct. HE DIDN'T!

What the FAA Regulations Say …
·    The pilot in command of a civil aircraft is responsible for determining whether that aircraft is in condition for safe flight
·    No person may operate any aircraft that has undergone maintenance unless it has been approved for return to service and is logged as such in the aircraft records
·    An operational check flight is required for any maintenance that may appreciably change the aircraft’s flight characteristics or substantially affect its operation in flight

Advanced Pre-Flight …
This refers to the conducting of a pre-flight that goes beyond the normal pre-flight checklist. This is accomplished by obtaining a valuable maintenance history of the aircraft and developing an additional items checklist. While this requires some time, once you have developed the additional items checklist it can be used in conjunction with the aircraft’s pre-flight checklist for all future pre-flight inspections.

Some Tips for Advanced Checks …
  •      Become familiar with flight controls or systems prior to maintenance. It is easier to determine what becomes “abnormal” if you are familiar with how it should operate
  •      Locate and review all of the aircraft’s records, including additional documents such as receipts, work orders, Major Repair and Alteration forms, and approval for return to service tags
  •      Also locate any Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) data, including data on items no longer installed on or in the aircraft
  •      Coordinate with your mechanic before flying aircraft that have recently been maintained to get a clear determination as to what has been accomplished
  •      After maintenance, check all systems more thoroughly than the normal pre-flight checklist implies
  •      Pay particular attention to aircraft components that may have been affected by recent maintenance
  •      Avoid becoming distracted or being interrupted in the middle of the pre-flight to ensure you do not accidentally miss or skip a step
  •      Be prepared to abort take-off if something goes wrong or just doesn’t feel right

                                                   FLY SAFE!


Acknowledgements: FAA GA Joint Steering Committee Safety Enhancement Topic

Accident investigations have discovered causal factors resulting from unreasonable expectations of aircraft performance – especially when operating at the edges of the aircraft weight and balance envelope. That’s why the Loss of Control Work Group suggests improvement in pilots’ understanding and calculation of aircraft performance. When we speak of aircraft performance we’re usually answering three basic questions:
·            How much can I carry?
·            How far can I go?
·            How long will it take me?
It sounds simple, but a specific set of interdependent variables must be considered in order to answer each of these questions. Most of these variables have to do with aircraft performance, but the greatest variable does not.

Weight and Balance
·    Decide how much weight you want to carry to what destination. If crew, passengers and cargo alone exceed your aircraft’s capability, make multiple trips or get a bigger aircraft.
·   Once you know your payload, you will know how much fuel you can take and that, together with your weather information, will tell you how far you can go. If you have enough to get to the destination plus alternate and reserve, great. If not, pre-plan an en-route fuel stop.

Take-off and Landing Distance
·  Consider your departure and arrival airports’ runway lengths, obstructions, and expected density altitude. If the field is short and/or obstructed you may not be able to safely fly with a full load.
·     Just because the book says the aircraft can do it doesn’t mean you can do it. Pilot skill and experience count for a lot, so be conservative when you calculate your performance. Some pilots add 50% to their take-off and landing calculations for safety.

The Greatest Variable … the pilot!
The POH figures and all of our calculations don’t mean much if we can’t duplicate them in our flying. That’s why it’s important to document your performance capability at least yearly with an Instructor.
·   In order to know what performance you and your flying machine are (or are not) capable of you’ll need to establish a baseline which co-relates pilot and aircraft performance under a given set of environmental circumstances on a given day.
·    Human factors such as fatigue and environmental factors such as higher density altitudes will result in performance below the baseline,
·    Proficiency training and lighter loading will likely result in above baseline performance.
·   The key point to remember is that for any given flight you need to pre-determine how you and your aircraft will perform.
·  To establish your baseline, load your aircraft with a typical mix of fuel, cargo, and passengers. (We recommend that one of those passengers be your Instructor.) Calculate your test weight and note runway condition, elevation, density altitude, wind direction and speed.
·   Also note what rotation and climb speeds you intend to use and calculate 70 % of the rotation speed. More on that later.
·    Fly several take-offs and landings noting your performance on each trial. When you’re done you can average your performance figures and complete your baseline chart.

Rules of Thumb for Take-off Distance
·   For a fixed pitch prop, add 15% to your calculated take-off distance for each 1,000 feet increase in density altitude up to 8,000 feet (12% per 1,000 feet up to 6,000 feet for constant speed prop).
·   When planning take-off from short unobstructed runways, establish a landmark at 50% of your calculated take-off distance. On the take-off roll you should have 70% of your rotation speed at that point. If you don’t, the safest thing to do is to abort the take-off.
·    If your plan can’t meet the above requirement, reduce weight or wait for more favourable wind and temperature conditions.
·    If you need to clear obstructions on take-off, you’ll need to have 70% of your rotation speed by the time you’ve travelled 30% of your available take-off distance.

Approach and Landing
You’ll want to be stabilised on final approach with full flaps at 1.3 times the stalling speed in landing configuration. Don’t cut your final short. Make it long enough to be stable and go around if you’re unstable.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016



Blog Editor’s Note: Safety in the air is paramount but we sometimes need to be reminded of things with the potential to cause harm at ground level, so here are a few thoughts provided by AOPA. I make no apologies to our experienced pilot readers for re-stating the obvious!

In the USA over a ten-year period 350 aircraft accidents occurred in the ramp area. Only a few proved fatal, but over 80% caused damage to other aircraft and property on the ground. In 18% of the accidents, death or serious injury resulted from people walking into moving propellers. 62% of all ramp accidents occurred during taxi, and most accidents were the result of carelessness and/or lack of awareness.

Hazards on the ramp can come from many directions, so here are a few pointers to help you anticipate danger and manage the risks.

Get the big picture: At an unfamiliar airport, research traffic flows around the taxi and tie-down areas, and always keep a lookout for aircraft in motion. On arrival, if you’re not sure where to park, radio the tower and ask. After shutdown be careful walking in the ramp area, as there may be more traffic than you’re used to.

Don’t rely on your ears: Ramp noise can mask danger. The sounds of aircraft in the pattern, jets idling on the ramp, and noisy fuel trucks can be distracting, and can keep you from hearing someone yell “clear!” or other warnings of impending danger.

Look out below (and above): On the ramp tripping hazards abound, and the consequences can be much worse than a skinned knee. But don’t fixate on the ground. Most of us don’t expect to encounter many hazards at eye level and above, so it’s all too easy to walk straight into aircraft wing or tail surfaces when not paying attention.

Don’t be a litterbug: Foreign objects can damage aircraft, propellers, or jet engines. Eating or drinking on the ramp are distractions, and often result in leftover wrappers or cups which can be sucked into engines, or blown around by jet or prop blast. Leave all trash in the building, and if you see something lying around on the ramp, pick it up and throw it away.

Be careful in the car: If allowed to drive any vehicle on the ramp, remember that road rules do not necessarily apply. On taxiways, drive along the centre-line to remain visible and clear of parked aircraft. Drive slowly, and stop and look before pulling out from buildings and other blind spots. Aircraft ALWAYS have the right-of-way over vehicles except when the Tower has specifically instructed an aircraft to give way to vehicle(s) on a runway or taxiway.

Pre-flight check: Distractions can impact safety both on the ramp and during your upcoming flight. Unless you’re giving a flight lesson, conduct the pre-flight without discussion or interruption: You can explain things to passengers after you’ve finished.

Propellers: Avoid walking through the prop rotation area  except when checking the blades, spinner, and air inlets. With piston aircraft, do not rotate the prop by hand unless you are prepared for the engine to start. Numerous deaths and serious injuries have resulted from hand-propping gone awry. Treat all propellers as though the engine magnetos are HOT. Approach only after the ignition is OFF and the keys are in your pocket. Hot magnetos happen when the P-lead breaks and the magneto becomes ungrounded. This can cause an engine to start just from having the propeller pulled through. To check for a hot magneto you should:
1. Just prior to shutdown, reduce power to idle
2. Slowly move the key through the Left, Right, and then OFF positions. The RPM should drop at each magneto position and stop in the OFF position
3. After the engine has shut down, pull the mixture to idle cut-off.
If the engine continues to run in the OFF position, shut the engine down with the mixture and mark the aircraft as having a hot magneto.
Jets and Helicopters: Never walk behind a running jet aircraft, no matter how small the engines look. At high power settings, exhaust from the engines on even the smallest jets can reach speeds near 200 mph. Jets have also been known to suck in loose clothing, hats, and even unsuspecting humans from the front! Helicopter rotor blades hang dangerously low when the aircraft is parked. Unless properly trained or under the supervision of the flight crew, never approach a running helicopter for any reason.

Passenger Safety: Every year, there are accidents where passengers are seriously or fatally injured by walking into a prop. Remind passengers to stay clear of any aircraft with a running engine, or with its strobe or beacon lights on. It is a good idea to steer clear of aircraft anytime pilots are in the cockpit, as there’s a good chance that the engine will be starting soon. Once in the aircraft with the engine running, make sure that nobody enters or leaves the aircraft without first shutting down the engine.
Look down, look up, and look out!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016


Acknowledgements: AIR FACTS/Richard Collins

It wouldn’t take three guesses to come up with the one word most often heard just before a crash. But more important than that last word is the thought process that led to it. Some famous last thoughts have stood out over the years.

This probably precedes serious trouble more than any other thought. The definition of pilot-in-command defines absolute responsibility and given that, a pilot should be able to know that what he is about to do is reasonable and proper. Let’s look at this in relation to weather. The relationship between the VFR pilot and marginal weather is one of the most complex relationships in flying. Not only are there no black and white answers, there are hundreds of shades of grey. If a VFR pilot starts flying out of VFR the only option might be a 180 and return to better weather, but a study of accidents suggests that a real hazard is flying into the ground during the 180, or if visual reference is lost, losing control of the airplane.

Maybe the IFR approach version of “I think I can make it” becomes “I’ll see if I can make it”. The IFR version can be even more deadly than the VFR version, especially if it is done in the dark or if repeat approaches are flown after a missed approach. The strong urge is to continue onward and downward, and the resultant accident history is pretty grim. When there is doubt, leave it alone or confirm the possibility of getting there VFR or of completing an instrument approach. Then never go below minimums unless you can really see. A PIC has to make good decisions all the way to the hangar or tie-down.

A clear example of the relationship between airplanes, pilots and thunderstorms comes when you compare the airline record with the private flying record in piston airplanes. In 50 years I know of only two jet airliners that crashed after a tussle with thunderstorms in the U.S. Listing the private piston airplanes lost over that period would take pages. We don’t lose airplanes in thunderstorms because they have weak wings. In fact, the G-tolerance of our airplanes is generally greater than that of most jetliners. Weight and size though count big time when an airplane is flown into a thunderstorm. Our lighter airplanes are more difficult to control in a storm, and once control is lost the airspeed goes off the chart and then the airframe fails.

When using private airplanes for transportation, pilots have almost absolute flexibility. If we take a look and don’t like it, there’s often an airport close by where a new plan can be made. I have written before about drawing lines in the sky and not crossing those lines unless it looks okay to continue. Piston airplanes don’t go that fast, so weather can vary greatly from a forecast in the time it takes to fly just a short distance. If that happens, you do want to be thinking “continue?” instead of “go”.

Overloading airplanes is not unheard of, but it is not a good idea. Every little bit above the maximum certified weight takes away a corresponding amount of margin. The stalling speed goes up and the G-tolerance goes down to say nothing of the soggy rate of climb and reduced cruising speed and range. Best just fly an airplane that meets your weight needs.

The runway length POH numbers are for new airplanes flown by test pilots. Just using these provides absolutely no margin. There are several rules of thumb for a takeoff or landing on a runway that is shorter than usual. For a minimum runway length for take-off, use the distance required to take off and clear a 50-foot obstacle. Or add the required takeoff run to the required landing roll to give room for take-off and a safe stop if things don’t seem to be developing well. For landing, adding 60-percent to the distances shown in the POH is the way to go.

Reading the last words of a pilot or crew is unpleasant. What I have learned is that in most cases the pilot didn’t know what was wrong, so was unable to think through the situation and arrive at a solution, or even a reason for his plight. When instructing or flying with other pilots I would often ask: “What are you thinking about?” when they were getting farther and farther “behind the airplane”. The two common answers were “Nothing” and “I don’t know”. Bad thinking or simply no thinking? When a pilot flies an airplane into a low-speed loss of control accident, his thought process has failed. Nobody is going to stall an airplane at low altitude intentionally, so it is apparent that rational thinking ended and the pilot became a passenger. To combat this, talk to yourself about what you are doing, as describing actions and conditions keeps the mind active. Power problems often lead to low speed loss of control and if, as a pilot flies into such a situation, he is thinking that this is an excellent opportunity to bust the old butt if the airspeed and angle of attack are not managed properly, then the chances of survival go up.