Saturday, 30 September 2017


Acknowledgements: Thomas P. Turner, Mastery Flight Training, Inc.

This most commonly results from fuel mismanagement as the result of either fuel starvation (failure to switch tanks in time) or total fuel exhaustion. In other words, a great many engine-related crashes result from pilot-induced engine failures, which are easy to explain. However, there is a need to look at the remaining engine failures that are not the result of fuel starvation or exhaustion.

Surviving an engine failure
This involves meeting three objectives:
1.       Maintaining control of the aircraft during the engine-failure in flight
2.       Restarting the engine if possible
3.       Landing under control at the slowest safe speed

There’s an axiom in flying:

The pitch attitude determines the airspeed the airplane will fly at for a given amount of power and a given airplane configuration (flap position; gear position in retractable gear airplanes; propeller position in propeller aircraft with controllable pitch propellers).

If a given level of PERFORMANCE results from a POWER setting at a given ATTITUDE and CONFIGURATION, then it stands to reason that a given level of PERFORMANCE is the result of ATTITUDE and CONFIGURATION even when the POWER setting is zero. So, if an engine quits, there is a specific ATTITUDE that will result in best glide PERFORMANCE.

You can test this with a simple experiment in flight.

In clear, traffic-free skies at a safe altitude, gradually reduce power to simulate an engine failure from cruise flight:
·     As the airplane decelerates, ensure the flaps and landing gear (as applicable) are up.
·    When the airplane reaches its published best glide speed, adjust the attitude to maintain that speed in a descent.
·   Look at the attitude that results in best glide performance - both by reference to the attitude indicator and by visual reference outside.
·   Adjust attitude up and down to vary the indicated airspeed by five knots. Compare the vertical speed which results. Remember the “best” attitude: it is the primary reference for attaining the first objective of surviving an engine failure, maintaining control of the aircraft.  At speeds below maximum gross weight, the best glide speed may be slower than published, but the best attitude will be about the same regardless of weight.
·    If your aircraft has controllable pitch and/or a featherable propeller, during your descent pull the propeller control fully aft. If you actually feather, do so over an airport in case you can’t get a restart later! Adjust the pitch attitude to remain at best glide speed. Remember this attitude also: this is the primary reference for obtaining maximum engine- out performance in the airplane, that is to say the least rate of descent depending on airplane weight and environmental factors.

Best available performance comes with the wings level in rudder-coordinated flight, so during your exercise:
·         Establish best glide speed and note the vertical speed.
·         Then begin a standard-rate turn (about 15 degrees of bank at typical glide speed).
·         Note the change in vertical speed.
·         Increase the bank angle to 30 degrees and note the even greater vertical speed.
·         Try a 45-degree bank and note the result.

This exercise shows you the detrimental performance effect of turns in an engine-out scenario, even at the “best” performance airspeed. It will reinforce the need to maintain straight- ahead, wings-level and coordinated flight in order to obtain best glide performance in the event of an engine failure, with turns only as altitude permits to get to a suitable landing site. This is a great exercise to cover in your next Flight Review, flown with an instructor. A Flight Review is supposed to be instruction, not a check-ride, and doesn’t this sound like an interesting, fun and important thing to learn?

Now that you have established control, the next objective is to restart the engine if possible. An engine needs three things to develop power: fuel, air, and a source of ignition. But is there anything else you can do to affect the fuel flow to an engine?
·     Ensure the fuel selector is ON!
There are documented cases of pilots and passengers who have inadvertently moved fuel selectors to the OFF position by bumping them or pulling a flight bag or purse strap across the selector in flight.
·    Turn the auxiliary fuel pump or boost pump ON (if one is installed)
The proper use of auxiliary or boost pumps varies from one airplane type to the next. Even among different versions of the same make and model of airplane the design and use can differ - what works in a Piper doesn’t necessarily work in a Cessna, so read your POH, study its Limitations, the Emergency Procedures and Normal Procedures checklists, and the Systems Description section, and review the corresponding information in the POH Supplement for any engine or fuel system modifications to that airframe. Seek out expert instruction in your airplane type and for its modifications, through the airplane owners’ group that supports the model you fly or instructors or programs you’ll find advertising in type club communications.
·   How about air flow? Replacement sources of induction air flow range from carburettor heat, to automatic induction air, to manually activated air filter bypass systems. Again, review the POH and any Supplements, and seek out the advice of experts in the type.
·   Ignition, too, may be confirmed or altered by the pilot - confirming the ignition switch is ON (or BOTH, in magneto-driven systems that apply to most piston airplanes), and individually selecting magneto positions as applicable to see if smooth, albeit less-than-optimal, power may result by shutting off one of the redundant systems.

The final objective to surviving an engine failure is to “land like a WUSS!”:
Wings level, Under control, at the Slowest safe Speed.

Common engine-out crash scenarios after the pilot has maintained control to near a landing zone include:
·   A stall resulting from trying to “stretch” the glide to a landing spot, after selecting a runway or field too far from the aircraft, or by not manoeuvring the airplane correctly to arrive at the selected zone.
·   Otherwise getting too slow on the approach, entering a high sink rate with descent into obstacles.
·   Failing to maintain wings-level flight through the touchdown and for as long as possible during the roll-out or impact slide, resulting in impact forces injurious or fatal to the airplane’s occupants.

Common to off-airport landings and runway excursions or overruns:
·  Serious head injuries and head-trauma deaths from otherwise survivable impacts, often with surprisingly little damage to the airframe, when the pilot and other front-seat occupants do not have or choose not to use shoulder harnesses. Shoulder harnesses are not required to be installed in most general aviation airplanes, but if they are they must be worn by all airplane occupants at least for ground movement, take-off and landing. And since it would be unlikely the pilot or passengers would have time to fasten a shoulder harness after an engine failure but before impact, there really is no reason to avoid wearing them in all phases of flight. And if you have a say in the airplane’s installed equipment, put shoulder harnesses at the very top of your updates list.


Wednesday, 6 September 2017


Acknowledgements: Spidertracks

Flying cross-country can be a pretty daunting experience, especially in busy airspace areas – but with the right planning and preparation, anyone can do it. In 2015 Spidertracks’ US Sales Manager Jerry Lee completed a one-million-square-mile air tour across the United States in a Cessna 182, and in January 2016, Spidertracks’ Marketing Manager Todd O’Hara flew the length of New Zealand in a Sirius Light Sport.  Here are some of the things we picked up along the way.

1. Plan
Planning is the most essential part of any cross-country flight. Work out where you need to be and how you need to get there. Take into account airfields along the route, as well as different frequencies. Build a list of legs, and populate as much information about them as you can. It can be helpful to write each leg’s information on different pages and carry them with you during the flight.
  •  Does your track take you over water for extended periods of time?
  • What is the single-engine performance of your aircraft?
  •  Is there a similar route that keeps you within gliding range of land?
  • Does your track take you over terrain for which your aircraft is suited?
  • If flying over high terrain, is your aircraft capable of operating at the altitudes required?
  • What’s your comfortable endurance for each leg?
  • How much fuel can you carry?
  • How much is the fuel price en-route?
  • How long can your passengers sit in the aircraft comfortably?
‘Fly’ the leg in your head before departure. Imagine what you expect to happen based on the maps. Who should you talk to, and what should you say?

2. Weather
A comprehensive weather briefing is one of the most important tools in your planning and decision- making kit. But it’s more than just downloading a copy of the weather brief for your area. It’s essential that you actually understand it and build a mental picture of what it means for your flight. Weather-related pilot error accounted for 18% of aircraft accidents from 2000-2010.

There are four steps to weather and flying:
  • gather
  • understand
  • think ahead
  • review
Set your personal limits before you depart, and review your situation as you go. Ask yourself, “If this was a local pleasure trip with friends, would I be flying in these conditions?” Use the most reliable weather forecast system – your eyes – and look at the weather around you before leaving.
  •  Does what you see match what your forecasts and METARs are saying?
  •  Do you feel comfortable flying in the conditions you see?
  •  Do your passengers feel comfortable?
  • Check the weather along the route, and know what to expect. Always have options to divert to if the weather closes in.
  •  Where is the wind coming from, and how will that affect your flight?
  •  Do you have to cross terrain or fly beside it?
  •  Should you be in the leeward or windward side of the feature?
  •  If you’re thinking about climbing on top of low-level cloud, are you sure you’re able to get back down? Don’t get caught above the cloud trying to find a gap back through.
3. Yourself
With everything else you’re thinking about before the flight, it’s easy to overlook the most critical part of flying – yourself.
  •  Plan to stay engaged during the flight, and think about your mental welfare.
  • Keep hydrated. Carry a water bottle in the aircraft – or even better, a camelback-type device – and make sure to keep drinking at regular intervals.
  • Keep important things where you can reach them: maps, airport information, cell phone, pen and paper, etc.
  • Know where you are at all times, and stay “un-lost.” Ask yourself constantly to prove where you are. Look outside first, and build an image of what you’re looking at. Match the features outside to what you see on the map. Ensure you use a couple of features so you’re not just moulding what you see to fit where you hope you are.
  • Keep entertained. Does your aircraft have a system you can play music through safely? Engage with your passengers if you’re able to. It can be hard on a long flight to keep mentally switched on.
4. Destination
There are approximately over 500 airports/airfields in the UK alone, and in the United States around 15,000. Make sure you’re at the right one!
  •  Do the runway markings match the plate?
  •  Is the airport where you expect it to be?
  • Know the traffic patterns in advance, and anticipate joining instructions or circuit direction based on your weather briefing.
  • Where are you going to go after you land?
  • Is there parking available?
  • Is there a landing fee?
5. Aircraft
Remember that not all aircraft are the same; even different models of the same type can vary greatly. Know your aircraft and its traits before you leave.
  • Understand which instruments are fitted, where they are, and how they work.
  • Are your steam gauges where you’re used to, or can you work the new G1000?
  • Know what feels right for the aircraft. Is a shimmy in the nose wheel normal?
  • How much play do you have in the flaps on the pre-flight?
  • How does your engine normally sound?
  • What kind of equipment do you have on board? Devices like iPads can greatly increase your situational awareness in flight, but do you know how to use them?
  • Is it mounted securely?
  • Do you have a back-up in case they’re not working?
  • Are there any other specific tricks that you may not have come across during near-field flying?
6. Hope for the best, plan for the worst
  • What safety equipment do you have on board? ELT/PLB/FTD?
  • Where is the fire extinguisher and the axe?
  • If you’re flying over water, do you have a life jacket on board?
  • Should you wear the life jacket?
  • Are you dressed for the environment you will be flying over? Could you survive 24 hours in what you’re wearing?
  • Plan on not being able to take anything with you if you have to leave the aircraft in a hurry.
  • Keep your emergency kit attached to you or at least within easy reach.
  • Who else knows where you are? Before you leave, coordinate with a safety person on the ground, letting them know what time you expect to arrive at your next location.
  • What happens if you’re overdue? Form a plan with hard stops along the way and what steps to take if you are overdue.
  • Do you have a flight follower on the ground?
  • Is your aircraft equipped with a fixed or portable flight tracking device so your position is known at all times? Knowing that someone’s got your back no matter where you are is a huge relief when flying across remote areas without any cell-phone reception.
7. Look outside
Flying is one of the most exciting things humans can do. Flying cross-country often gives you the ability to see things in a way that most people never will. So, for enjoyment just take a moment to look around while you’re up there. But for safety employ the 80/20 rule (80% scanning outside/20% attending to things inside the cockpit)