Archives for June 2013

Blogging in Formation – The Future of Aviation in the USA

Fortune Teller

Image Credit: Vjeran Lisjak

Each month, a visionary group of six formation bloggers blogs about something aviation related, each from their own perspective, for six days straight.  Our first series was about how we got into flying.  In month two, we discussed our most memorable flights.

As a series, we generally all post the first full week of each month, but this month we are changing it up just a little due to the American Independence Day holiday on July 4th.  This month, we are starting a little earlier than usual and changing up the order of bloggers, all so that we can focus on a topic near and dear to all of our hearts - our freedom to fly and it's future in the US.  See what we did there?  FREEDOM to fly?  INDEPENDENCE Day (a celebration of American FREEDOM)?

Okay - so enough with the obvious.

Let's talk about this month's topic - the future of US aviation.

There are so many directions to go on a topic of this magnitude, and I'll start by saying how much I hate predictions.  Not because I hate being wrong (that happens CONSTANTLY), but because people make predictions all the time, but rarely revisit their predictions to talk about whether or not they actually happened (and why or why not - which is the more important part, in my opinion).  Think New Year's predictions or the stock market financial talking heads.  Blech.

That said, I CAN say with relative confidence that the future of aviation is the present.  Aviation generally changes SO SLOWLY (dreadfully so), that the things making news today can be confidently predicted to be making news tomorrow.  On the negative side - think user fees.  We've been fighting user fees pretty much every year and under every president since at least Clinton (and probably before).  It's a fight we will continue to have in the future in the US, and it is not a small issue (look at general aviation in many other countries (such as the Netherlands - where the loss of business far outweighed the gain in revenue) and the UK, Germany, etc.) and you'll see that this issue is no small potatoes for us here in the US if we want to maintain our freedom to fly (relatively) affordably.

BBJ Head Up Display (HUD)On the positive side, let's talk technology.  Technology has been advancing faster and faster for all of recorded history, and its velocity today is nearly unimaginable.  One of the issues US aviation has had (and still has) is safety - how can we continue to improve our safety record?  One of the ways this is happening is with "synthetic vision" technology - something like "Head Up Displays" or HUDs, which have been the sole domain of fighter jets for years, but are now making their way into business jets.  It's only a matter of time before they become available (and even standard) on GA airplanes.  There are already even synthetic vision apps for your phone or tablet!

But now let's focus on something I personally think is inevitable: the greening of US aviation (and aviation in general worldwide).  I'm one of those rare birds who is a pilot and an environmentalist (sue me).  I've been following with interest the "unleaded avgas" research and experimentation with "mogas" and biofuels, and this is one issue that is not going to go away, no matter how much the industry and alphabet groups (such as AOPA, NBAA, etc.) try to push it off for as many reasons as they can come up with.

For one thing, as the holder of an MBA in entrepreneurship (yet another of my many onion-like layers), I know that business and industry tend to fight change like a cornered animal when that change is being discussed and contemplated (the fighting gets fiercer the closer it is to happening), but I also know that those same businesses and entrepreneurs are the most creative when it comes to ultimately figuring it all out when the change is actually upon them.  Regulation for the public good is usually a good thing overall - and business has always (and will always) be the best placed and most motivated to make it work for them - no matter how much they gripe about it.

Solar Impulse Solar AirplaneThere are many examples today of ways people are trying to make flying greener - not the least of which is a number of electric aircraft currently traversing the country and the world!  Pilot Chip Yates is planning on becoming an electric Charles Lindbergh by flying an electric aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean.  Pilots Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg have been flying the Solar Impulse around the world (albeit very slowly), having recently flown from Cincinnati, Ohio to Washington, D.C. (at a whopping 39 knots or so at 10,000 feet). One of Borschberg's statements from the above-linked article struck me, since it speaks to multiple aspects of the greening of aviation in the US:

...Borschberg acknowledged that 100 percent solar-powered airplanes are not normal in day-to-day aviation, he said some of the ideas behind the Solar Impulse could find its [sic] way into general aviation aircraft. “I will see the first [general aviation] electric propulsion coming soon,” he predicted. A plus with that: Fewer noise complaints at airports. “This airplane doesn’t make any noise,” he said.

Electric, nearly noiseless flight is happening now, and will only get better and find its way into our day-to-day flying.  But another green idea (that pilots will readily admit, whether they are granola-crunchy or not), is simply increasing the efficiency of aircraft.  This can range from "lean-of-peak" operations (sound off in the comments, those of you on both sides of the LoP debate) to new aircraft designs that fly on less than 3 gallons per hour of fuel (that's better than most cars on the road)!  Talk about a great way to make less impact on the environment (and less impact on your pocketbook, with avgas reaching into the $6s and higher per gallon)!

So on top of higher efficiency and different power generation, which directly impact the earth and our environment, pilots today (and tomorrow) can also indirectly impact the world both environmentally & socially by flying for non-profits such as Pilots N Paws (pet rescue), Angel Flight (flying medical patients to care), LightHawk (environmental protection through flight), Civil Air Patrol (search & rescue, among other things), Kids in Flight (giving seriously ill children a chance to experience aviation), Angel Flight ( free air transportation for any legitimate, charitable, medically related need), and even mission trip flying (if you're a religious person).  This list barely scratches the surface of what good aviation can do in the world, environmentally and socially.  I personally think that the above FAR outweighs any bad aviation may do socially or environmentally...

My Daughter, Wynnie, on a rocking plane!

My Daughter, Wynnie, on a rocking plane!

So with that, I'll leave off with with one final prediction about the future of US aviation - and this one is more certain than anything else I've discussed above: that what we do right now to get and keep the next generation interested in aviation is more critical than anything else we can do as pilots and enthusiasts to secure the future of general aviation in the US.  One of the upcoming Formation Bloggers - Karlene Pettit - recently wrote a couple of posts speaking to this very thing - one about the upcoming movie Planes, and a more recent one about the upcoming kid's TV show "Airpark" - and this is one of the ways that we can ensure that there will even be pilots in the next generation... popularization of flight has declined ever since its peak with Top Gun, and it's time we bring it back and ensure that US aviation (and aviation across the world) even HAS a future - if the kids don't care, our dwindling population will continue to shrink.

And that would be a great loss of freedom, don't you think?


Please check out all the “Formation Bloggers”

Saturday, June 29: Dan Pimentel (Airplanista - The Future of U.S. Aviation: Again, the Resiliency of the GA Family Will be Tested)
Sunday, June 30: Andrew Hartley (Smart Flight Training - The Future of Aviation in the USA)
Monday, July 1: Brent Owens (iFlyBlog - The Future of Aviation in the U.S.)
Tuesday, July 2: Karlene Petitt (Flight to Success)
Wednesday, July 3: Eric Auxier (Adventures of Cap'n Aux)
Thursday, July 4: Ron Rapp (House of Rapp)

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor in Columbus, Ohio.

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My Most Memorable Flight

BarnstormingLast month, a pioneering group of formation bloggers launched an ambitious plan to blog monthly about something aviation related, each from their own perspective, for six days straight.  Our first series was about how we got into flying.

The first series was really an experiment to see whether it was something that we enjoyed and was worthwhile to all of our readers.  We decided that both the above were true.  So we made it a monthly series - we all post the first full week of each month on an aviation topic we all agree on.

The agreement part of the process is easier said than done, as there are many ideas of what to write about.  So after a little bit of back-and-forth, we decided that our second series should be about our most memorable flight.

Now, I have to admit, once this was decided, I started to run through my memory banks to try to pick one out, and I realized that with my 450 hours of total time, my inventory is smaller than all the rest of my venerable associates, who have thousands (or tens of thousands) of flight hours.

This is a little intimidating.

But the more I thought about my flying career, the more flights came to mind that are so vivid as to seem as if I am actually experiencing them again when I think about them.

Should I write about my first solo cross-country, or maybe my long solo cross country for my private?

Nah, personal solo memories are far too common.

What about my flight from Bolton Field (KTZR) in Columbus, Ohio to Peachtree-Dekalb (KPDK) in Atlanta, Georgia to go to a friend's 40th birthday party?  Or my commercial checkride, which I passed and then ironically got stuck on my way back home because the weather dropped and I was not instrument current?

Nope. Memorable, certainly. But not "most" memorable.

Finally, I landed (pun intended) on two flights that I recall most vividly - one in which I was piloting, and the other in which I was - interestingly - neither the pilot nor a passenger.  I hope when the rest of the formation bloggers read this that they don't bar me from the group for breaking the rules (I think they'll understand).

My most memorable flight as a pilot happened over a decade ago, while I was in college.  It starts slow, and actually seemed completely normal - just like any other flight - until "it" happened...

A fellow aviation management student (Greg*) and I flew out to Independence, Kansas to pick up a brand new Cessna 172SP from the factory and bring it back to Oakland/Troy Executive Airport (7D2 at the time; now KVLL).  A friend of the owners of the FBO on the field was buying a couple of them to lease back to the FBO as trainers, and the three of us flew out in his Beech Bonanza, stayed the night in a hotel, and flew back the next day.  He flew his bonanza back himself, and Greg and I flew the C172.  I was a recently minted private pilot, and Greg had recently obtained his instrument rating.

We planned the flight from Independence to Springfield, IL for fuel, then home to Troy, MI.  We did a quick acceptance flight around the pattern, signed a few papers, and then took off for Springfield, leaving a little (okay a lot) later than we had planned because we were offered a factory tour that we could not pass up (obviously).

I flew the first leg from Independence to Springfield, and we stayed low (like 500-feet AGL low) for the first hour or two.  Why, you ask?  Because we were college students, relatively new pilots, and we were in the (arguably) flattest area in the country (maybe world).  And did I mention we were college students (meaning we just didn't know any better)?  So, dodging towers and buzzing grazing cows, we made our way to Springfield, were cleared to land 30 miles out (it was a slow day, apparently), and got fuel and a bite to eat.

It was dusk by the time we got back in the plane, and Greg filed an instrument flight plan to Troy, even though it was a beautiful day and was forecast to remain so (and there was absolutely no reason to think that it would change for the worse).  So off we went into the darkening sky, talking to Chicago Center... we were at five or seven-thousand feet.  All was uneventful until the instrument panel lit up - like there was a 747 getting ready to land on top of us!  The top of the panel truly looked like someone was shining a 10 million candle-power spotlight from above us into the cockpit.  Greg and I immediately started looking for traffic above us, and as we scanned (frantically) to find the other aircraft we knew was about to make a perfect landing on our wings, we saw a fireball rip through the sky above us, going the same direction we were.  It looked as if it were only 1000 feet above us, and maybe a mile to our right.  Who knows whether it was actually that close (doubtful), but it sure seemed that way.  We watched it go all the way to the horizon and fizzle out.

We both looked at each other and said "Holy Sh*t!"

Greg later said he was glad I came along (I skipped classes to go and wasn't sure I was going to come until the last minute), because otherwise no one would ever believe that he actually saw what we saw.  I'm not convinced my testimony has ever helped - we know pilots are all crazy anyway, so what should you believe when any of us open our mouths - but we called Center and asked if anyone else had reported seeing anything like it.  They just responded that they were getting a few reports of meteor showers.

That flaming ball of, well, flame is not something I will ever forget.  I have to say that it is my most memorable flight, if only because it honestly seemed like if we had been only slightly higher and a little off course to the right, that meteorite would have had to put a C172 stencil under its canopy, because it would have shot us down.  I know that there is no way it was actually that low or that close, but try seeing it like we did and convince yourself of that at the time.


Now for the flight that is etched in my memory where I was not the pilot (nor a passenger) - this one is far more recent:

My first solo of a student!  Just a few weekends ago, I soloed my first student. We had been practicing landings for a long time, and for the last two lessons she had been nailing them.  The winds were perfect - light and right down the runway.  I got to watch her solo from the control tower of KOSU airport.

This story (and some of the others above) merits its own post, but suffice it to say that my first first solo student is ALSO a flight I'll never forget.  Even if I wasn't on the plane at all.

*Names changed to protect the innocent - though "Greg" probably wouldn't mind if I used his real name, I am writing this on procrastinator's time and can't confirm this before I post.  Greg, if you read this in the future, please accept my apologies.

Please check out the other five "Formation Bloggers"

Karlene Petitt - Flight to Success - karlenepetitt.blogspot.com
Eric Auxier 
- The Adventures of Cap'n Aux - capnaux.blogspot.com
Ron Rapp - House of Rapp - www.rapp.org
Dan Pimentel - Airplanista  - av8rdan.com
Brent Owens - Iflyblog - iflyblog.com

What is your most memorable flight? Remember it in perpetuity by telling us about it in the comments, and add to the blog formation with your own story!

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor in Columbus, Ohio. Follow Smart Flight Training on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!

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Ground reference maneuvers – rectangular course

Rectangular Course














Today on Smart Flight Training we'll discuss the final Private level ground reference maneuver - The Rectangular Course.

Previously, we've discussed the other two Private Pilot level ground reference maneuvers - turns around a point and s-turns.

The Rectangular Course is meant to simulate the legs of a traffic pattern: crosswind, downwind, base, and final/upwind, as well as the entry into the pattern: a 45-degree leg to downwind.

As with the other ground reference maneuvers, this one can be broken down into a number of important points.

You'll need to find an appropriate location to do this maneuver, which often will be a field, but can be anything that gives you a good, visible rectangle to fly around.  Make sure you have a good option for a place to land in case it becomes necessary (this is actually part of the evaluation of your performance of the maneuvers on your checkride).

As with all flight training maneuvers (stalls, steep turns, slow flight, anything), before entering this maneuver, clear the area using clearing turns, then enter the downwind at a 45-degree angle (point 1 on the above image).

You will start this maneuver a certain distance from the field you have chosen (or the quarry, or the pattern of roads, really anything that creates a rectangle large enough to fly around that allows you to have a period of level flight between the turns).  The distance you should be is generally between 1/2 a mile and 1-mile, depending on the strength of the wind.  Your goal is to remain the same distance from all sides of the field, correcting for the wind's effect on the airplane's course over the ground.

Below are descriptions of each point in a good rectangular course:

Point 1) Entry to the maneuver - a 45-degree entry to the downwind

Point 2) Turn from downwind to crosswind - because your groundspeed is highest on downwind, you will start this turn with the steepest bank (not a "steep turn," just the steepest turn compared to all the other turns you will do during the maneuver).  You will then slowly reduce the bank to a medium bank.  Additionally, you will turn more than 90-degrees, because you need to set up a crab angle into the wind so your ground track parallels the edge of the field on the "base" leg.

Point 3) Base Leg - here you are maintaining the distance from the field by crabbing the aircraft into the wind.  Adjust the crab angle if you find that you are getting closer or further away from the edge of the field.

Point 4) Turn from base to "final / upwind" - start this turn at a medium bank, and reduce the bank to shallow to maintain your distance from the field.  You'll turn less than 90-degrees, because you are already crabbed into the wind.  You bank becomes shallower during this turn because your groundspeed is slowing to it's slowest speed of the maneuver during the upwind leg.

Point 5) Upwind Leg - this is the leg with the slowest groundspeed, as you are flying directly into the wind. There is also no need for a crab since your nose is pointed directly into the wind; however, small corrections can be made to maintain your distance from the field if your turn into this leg was not perfect.

Point 6) Turn from upwind to crosswind - Due to your slow groundspeed on upwind, this turn starts shallow and gradually increases to a medium bank as you reach a parallel ground course.  Don't forget about the wind!  The turn will be less than 90-degrees, because you need to crab into the wind.

Point 7) Crosswind Leg - Your nose will be pointed away from the field so your ground track remains parallel to the edge of the field.  Again, adjust your crab angle if you find that you are getting further away or closer to the edge of the field.

Point 8) Turn from crosswind to downwind - This turn starts at a medium bank and increases to a relatively steep bank as your groundspeed increases, again so that you maintain the correct distance from the field for the downwind leg.

Point 9) Downwind Leg - because the wind is now directly behind you, your groundspeed is the fastest it will be during this leg of the maneuver.  No crab angle is needed.

You will be expected to be able to perform this maneuver (and all ground reference maneuvers) making both left turns and right turns, so you'll practice both directions.

Also, keep in mind that these maneuvers are not about perfection, but about recognition and correction of deviation.  In other words, if you find that you need to change your crab angle or steepen or lessen your bank to maintain your distance from the field, do it!  Your examiner will prefer that you correct any issues as soon as possible rather then let them continue and hope s/he doesn't notice.  Trust me, s/he will!

The other criteria for this maneuver, just like the other ground reference maneuvers, is to maintain a constant airspeed and altitude as well.  Your altitude should be between 600 to 1000 feet above ground level (AGL), and should be held within 150 feet.  Airspeed should be appropriate for your aircraft (shoot for a safe airspeed at or below maneuvering speed (Va)), and be held within 10 knots indicated airspeed (IAS).

If it has not been obvious from the above discussion, this maneuver is getting you ready to fly airport traffic patterns safely and consistently.  Practice makes perfect, and this is a maneuver that you will want to get right, because the ability to correct for the wind and fly a good pattern will directly affect your landings - which is generally what you will work on immediately after learning these maneuvers!


Please comment and tell us about your experience learning to fly the rectangular course. Do you have any tips or tricks to make it simple and consistent? Do you have any horror stories about it?

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor in Columbus, Ohio. Follow Smart Flight Training on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+!

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