Testing Tuesday: Instrument Interpretation (HSI)

Oh, the HSI.

This instrument, also known as the Horizontal Situation Indicator, is a nightmare if you haven't actually used it. From what I have heard, once you have used one and understand it, they are fantastic. I've talked to pilots who say they won't even fly an airplane that doesn't have one.

In the answer explanation we'll get into some tricks on answering the questions related to the HSI, but also some tricks on how to visualize the HSI and unserstand better what it is telling you - so that you don't need the "answering the question" tricks because you actually understand what the instrument is telling you!

Once again this week we have a question that I missed while studying for my FAA Instrument Rating knowledge test. And here it is:

(Refer to Figures 98 and 99, below) To which aircraft position does HSI presentation "B" correspond?

  1. 9
  2. 13
  3. 19

FAA Instrument Knowledge Test Figure 98

FAA Instrument Knowledge Test Figure 99

Click here to display the answer...

So there you have it! I hope this post has shed a little light on the mysterious HSI - I know I understand them better after trying to explain them here. Hopefully I won't miss this question the next time I see it on an FAA knowledge test!

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

Testing Tuesday is a regular installment, each Tuesday, on the Smart Flight Training Blog. I post these in the hopes that they will help you be more prepared the next time you meet with your flight instructor, since preparation will save you both time and money during your flight training. I also post these because - I'll be honest - it is helping me prepare for the CFII certificate, which I am currently working toward. Two birds, one stone, right?

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11 insane (but true) things about aviation

Aviation on my Mind

Image courtesy of Kittikun Atsawintarangkul / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For this month's Blogging in Formation post, we formation bloggers decided to write on the topic of "Truth is Stranger than Fiction."

Yikes - talk about wide open... and considering I talked about my most memorable (read: strangest) flight a couple of months ago (you remember - really boring, long flight gets exciting really quick when a meteorite nearly shoots us down?), I decided to take a bit of a departure from MY flights, and talk about some of aviation history's (and aviation TODAY'S) strangest facts.

What follows is a list of 11 insane (but true) things about aviation - and I've upped the ante by adding one (1) FALSE aviation "fact," for a total of 12.  And I'll be running a contest... leave your guess in the comments as to which one of the below "facts" is actually "fiction," and I'll select one person who answers correctly (random selection) to receive an issue of a vintage aviation magazine!

Now for the rules (not that I can enforce them) - please don't use Google or any of the other interweb searching technologies available to us in this fantastic day and age we live in. This will be on the honor system, so simply read the items below, and based on your knowledge of aviation trivia, pick out the one that is false (or make an educated guess as to which one you think is false). This will not be as easy as you may think. I'm giving one week to read and comment, so as this post went live on Sunday, August 4th, 2013 at 12:01am eastern time, you have until midnight eastern time on Saturday, August 10th, 2013 to comment. I will post a follow up giving the correct answer, as well as announcing the answer and winner on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, so click the links above (or below) to follow Smart Flight Training there so you don't miss the results! You can also subscribe to the Smart Flight Training blog in your favorite RSS reader (I suggest Feedly).

UPDATE: While the contest is over, please feel free to continue to comment and take your guess at the false item on the list.  If you are impatient and want to see the answers, they can be found on the post "And the Winner is..."

Now - on with the show!

11 Insane (but true) things about Aviation

1) Man files flight plan from New York, NY to Long Beach, CA - but ends up in Ireland!

In 1938, Douglas Corrigan flew from Long Beach to New York, and filed a flight plan to return to Long Beach, but instead flew to Ireland - earning him the nickname "Wrong Way" Corrigan. Corrigan had been denied permission to make a nonstop flight from New York to Ireland, and he blamed his directional "mistake" on a navigational error, caused by heavy cloud cover that obscured landmarks and low-light conditions, causing him to misread his compass.

2) The first pilot's license did not belong to one of the Wright brothers!

Pilot Certificate number 1 was actually issued to William P. MacCracken, Jr., the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aeronautics, and not until 1927 (even though the Wright Brothers' first flight was in 1903). The story goes that Mr. MacCracken offered the honor to Orville Wright, who declined since he was no longer flying.

3) The first aircraft to be intentionally shot down by another aircraft went down on October 5, 1914, when the observer in one plane shot the pilot in another plane with a hand gun.

Prior to this, military aviation was more a "gentleman's game" - with pilots on opposing sides waving and saluting each other as they passed.

4) The remains of Bert Hinkler’s glider CANNOT BE DESTROYED!

Alright - grab a piece of paper and a pencil for this one... it's a little convoluted: Bert Hinkler was the first person to fly solo from England to Australia, and to the first to fly solo across the southern Atlantic Ocean. He practiced flying in gliders he built himself. He died in 1933, crashing in a second England to Australia flight attempt. Now for the weird: a piece of wood from one of Hinkler's gliders was given to U.S. astronaut Don Lind as a token of appreciation for visiting Bundaberg, Queensland, Australia (where the Hinkler Hall of Aviation is). The piece of wood was in turn given to Dick Scobee, the captain of the space shuttle Challenger mission. The piece of wood was on the Challenger, in a plastic bag, in Scobee's locker when the Challenger exploded in 1986. The bag and the wood were recovered from the sea, identified, mounted, and later returned to the Hinkler Hall of Aviation in Bundaberg.

5) The deadliest accident in aviation history actually occurred on the ground!

On Sunday, March 27, 1977, two Boeing 747 aircraft collided on the ground, killing 583 people and destroying both aircraft. Due to low visibility and other factors, one 747 was attempting to take off while the other was still on the runway.

6) Inspiration can come from anywhere: My Little Pilot: Flying is Magic

Oklahoma's Vance Air Force Base has a pilot training unit that has adopted a pink, My Little Pony-inspired patch (as opposed to the typical scorpions, skulls, and other "manly" (and more typical) options. I guess the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" has also allowed the bronies in the military to come out of the closet, er, stable.

7) In the "Man Bites Dog" Category - Someone actually ATE a Cessna 150

It took him two years, but Michael Lotito literally ate a Cessna 150. Apparently Lotito was a french entertainer who deliberately ate indigestible objects, such as bicycles, beds, shopping carts, chandeliers, a coffin, and the aforementioned Cessna 150, among other things. He said these things were not a problem, but bananas and hard-boiled eggs gave him indigestion.

8) A Hopping Rocket?

SpaceX has created a rocket that is capable of launching straight up (as all good rockets should), and of returning to the ground - also straight up and right back to it's original position on the launchpad! Called the Grasshopper Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle, it's most recent test had the rocket take off, hover momentarily at about 820 feet, then return safely to the lauchpad, still in it's original upright position, allowing the rocket to be reused. Take THAT North Korea.

9) An over-under, makeshift four-engine biplane

In 1940, two Avro Anson airplanes from an air base in New South Wales, Australia were training together. During the training, they collided and stuck together, one on top of the other, killing the engines of the upper plane, and the controls of the lower. Both crew members bailed out of the lower aircraft, and the navigator bailed out of the upper aircraft. The pilot of the upper plane realized he still had control, so flew on for five more miles before making an emergency landing. The upper aircraft was actually fixed and flew again!

10) The Bungle Award - an award you DON'T want to win

Pilots are good at what they do, and generally take flying very seriously, but we are also fond of jokes and humor! In that vein, the Bungle Awards were created to "honor" the inexcusable, "dumb" mistakes that get made sometimes (like taxiing into a parked airplane, dragging your wing down the length of a hangar, or taking off with too little fuel and having to lang off airport out of gas). Some Air Force Bungle Awards can be seen in museums, though since they were unofficial, no one knows to whom they belonged, when they were given, or for what, exactly, they were awarded!

11) The Hughes H-4 Hercules - a.k.a. The Spruce Goose

Howard Hughes's H-4 Hercules is the largest flying boat ever built, and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history. Due to wartime restrictions on using aluminum, the aircraft was built out of wood, earning it the nickname "Spruce Goose" (even though it was actually made out of birch). It had 8 engines, each producing 3000 horsepower. It only flew one time, for about a mile and at about 70 feet above the water, on November 2, 1947.

12) Roads? Where we're going, we don't need "roads."

The elusive flying car we have all been waiting for is finally (nearly) here. A company founded by attendees of MIT called Terrafugia is flight testing and working on FAA (and DOT) approval for their "Transition" flying car (but don't call it that when they're around - they insist that the Transition is a "roadable aircraft," NOT a "flying car"). With two seats and folding wings, the Transition falls under the "light sport" category of aircraft. Terrafugia doesn't even have final approval on the Transition yet, but word is, they are already looking into the future at a vertical takeoff and landing, self-flying aircraft that would truly allow anyone to avoid the ground-bound traffic and commute above the fray. Does anyone else find that just a little frightening (yet awesome)?

Check out all the Blogging in Formation posts:
Saturday, August 3: Dan Pimentel (Airplanista)
Sunday, August 4: Andrew Hartley (Smart Flight Training)
Monday, August 5: Brent Owens (IFlyBlog)
Tuesday, August 6: Karlene Petitt (Flight to Success)
Wednesday, August 7: Eric Auxier (Adventures of Cap'n Aux)
Thursday, August 8: Ron Rapp (House of Rapp)

Thanks for reading the Smart Flight Training blog - I hope you enjoyed this post, and don't forget to leave your comment about which "fact" above you think is actually "fiction" for your chance to win an issue of a vintage aviation magazine! Tailwinds, and have a great week!

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

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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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Loss of Control (towers)?

Airport Control Tower at Sunset

Photo credit: NeallePage

Okay, so I may be a little late to this party, but mainly it was because I had my boots on the ground, actaully doing some politics about it instead of posting about it here, but I think I have mostly done all that I can on the subject for now, and can take a minute to post about the situation...Did you know that many airport control towers are not FAA-run control towers?  It's true.  Many control towers around the USA are "contract" control towers, meaning that the FAA does not run them, nor are the controllers FAA employees.

"So what?" you may ask.

Here's what - due to the "sequester" (and I'm not about to get into the politics of left vs. right, Democrat vs. Republican, conservative vs. liberal - all have had a hand in this SNAFU, thank you very much), the FAA is being asked (forced) to cut over $600 million (something like $637,000,000.00).  So as part of that mandate, they are planning on closing 149 contract towers across the country.

If you are a part of (or even just interested in) aviation, these control tower closures affect you - they are all over the US, including two airports in my neck of the woods - KOSU (Don Scott Field - Ohio State University Airport) and KTZR (Bolton Field).  Want to know which airports will be affected where you are?  Click here for a list of towers to be closed.

In a nutshell, airports in 38 states will be affected by the control tower closures.  Here's the breakdown by state:

  • Alabama - 2
  • Arkansas - 2
  • Arizona - 4
  • California - 11
  • Connecticut - 6
  • Florida - 14
  • Georgia - 5
  • Iowa - 1
  • Idaho - 4
  • Illinois - 5
  • Indiana - 2
  • Kansas - 5
  • Kentucky - 2
  • Louisiana - 1
  • Massachusetts - 5
  • Maryland - 5
  • Michigan - 3
  • Minnesota - 2
  • Missouri - 2
  • Mississippi - 5
  • Montana - 1
  • North Carolina - 5
  • New Hampshire - 1
  • New Jersey - 1
  • New Mexico - 2
  • New York - 2
  • Ohio - 3
  • Oklahoma - 4
  • Oregon - 4
  • Pennsylvania - 3
  • South Carolina - 3
  • Tennesee - 2
  • Texas - 13
  • Utah - 2
  • Virginia - 1
  • Washington - 5
  • Wisconsin - 8
  • West Virginia - 3

Let me give you the backstory:

In early March 2013, the FAA stated that they were going to close 173 contract towers across the country, and gave less than a month for airports and affected citizens to voice their opinions.  MANY of the airports on the list, and many pilots and other aviation aficianados submitted concerns - not only to the FAA, but also to their representatives in congress.  I, myself, emailed my own congressperson, and also the two who represent the OSU airport area, as they (and their constituents) would be directly affected by the control tower closures.

I got a response back from one of them, as of this writing.  It was pretty "form letter" and didn't say much.  Pretty much what I've come to expect from any of our "representatives."  So who knows whether it did any good, but I certainly felt better having done it.

These towers were scheduled to start closing on April 7th, 2013, and as that date drew closer, the number of towers scheduled to close started to shrink, and ultimately landed at 149 (which is where it still sits today).

On April 5th (the Friday before the closures were scheduled to start, the FAA announced that they would "delay" the closures until June 15th.

And welcome to the present day - in a little over a month, all of the airports above, which currently have control towers at least part-time, will no longer have control towers, making all of the airports "non-towered" fields.

Now, this sounds scary, but it isn't in general.  Many (if not most) of the airports on the above list are probably non-towered fields part of the time anyway (Bolton Field in Columbus, Ohio, for instance, only has tower service from 7:30am to 7:30pm).  Additionally, a large number of them are probably single-runway, making them easy to understand and use with no assistance from Air Traffic Control (again, Bolton comes to mind).  Pilots are trained to communicate, use staandard procedures, and be vigilant for other aircraft both on the ground and in the air at non-towered fields anyway.  We all know how to operate into and out of these kind of fields safely.

That said, many (if not all) of these airports are used as "relievers" for larger, busier airports (both Bolton and Don Scott (OSU) are relievers for Port Columbus, and Cuyahoga County is a reliver for Cleveland Hopkins).  Without  a control tower, some pilots may choose to go to the larger airport so that they can get ATC service all the way to the ground (and even on the ground from ground control). Some of this might be simply for convenience, but in other cases it may be that these airports will lose some instrument approaches due to the tower no longer providing service, meaning in inclement weather, pilots may HAVE to go to the busier airports - at best causing more congestion; at worst causing safety issues due to the mix of aircraft capability and pilot experience!

Additionally, I would guess that at least a few of these airports are just simply too complicated to safely be used as a non-towered airport - I'll point to OSU airport.  This airport has 4 runways (meaning aircraft can take off and land in as many as 8 different directions).  Pick any one of these runways, and it intersects with a minimum of two of the other runways (two of the runways intersect with all three of the others!).  I can't speak for other pilots, but given the choice of other airports, I would go elsewhere.  Unfortunately, as an instructor out of this airport, I may not have any choice in the matter!

So what can we do?  Just sit and wait for the FAA to shut these towers down?

Absolutely not!  If you are concerned about this, or are directly affected, or just want to make people aware, write your representative(s)!  Call your local news station (radio, TV, or both)!  Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper(s)!  Join (or get more directly involved in) an aviation interest group like EAA or AOPA (among others).  Make your voice heard!  Get more people involved in aviation - take a friend or a family member flying.  Not a pilot?  Start taking lessons, or go on an intro flight, or call up your pilot friend and give him/her a reason to go up with you!  Go get a $100 hamburger (maybe take a reporter with you, or your representative)!  There are a million ways to support aviation, not the least of which is to be active in the industry - even if it is just to take your kids to watch the planes take off and land.

Let Michael P. Huerta (the FAA Administrator) know how you feel about the tower closures.  Write him a letter personally:

FAA Headquarters
Federal Aviation Administration
800 Independence Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20591

I'm not a wild-eyed revolutionary by any means (at least not anymore), and I understand the concern about our spending here in the United States.  I know that there is a LOT of waste in the government.  But any kind of forced cutting of programs and departments without really looking at the consequences is a bad move, in my opinion.  It means knee-jerk reactions that will have unintended, possibly disastrous results.  And I'm not just talking about the FAA, but in all other aspects of our government as well - military, social, environmental, business, etc.  This kind of thing takes planning and research, and a "time-bomb" such as the sequester is completely the wrong way to go about it.  Unfortunately, reality doesn't win elections - exaggerated issues and posturing do.  Let's change THAT, right after we get this control tower thing figured out...

Andrew Hartley is a certificated flight instructor in Columbus, Ohio - and he WILL delete any strictly political comments that do not add value to the discussion. You've been warned.

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Weather Terminology: Winds

windsockHere's something dumb - "direction-erly" winds.

Have you ever heard someone say the winds are easterly today, and wondered what that meant? I always assumed that easterly winds meant that the winds were going towards the east (like an easterly facing wall, or a boat moving in an easterly direction).

But when it comes to winds, easterly actually means "from the east," - so the winds are actually moving from east to west.


I actually discovered this because of an aviation quiz question in a magazine - probably AOPA Pilot or Flying Magazine.

I got the answer wrong, so I googled the term so I would understand it if I heard it or saw it again.  Personally, I think it is dumb.  But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense.

Here's why:

Winds in aviation are always reported using the compass direction they are coming from and then their velocity, in knots.

An example of this is on a METAR:

KCMH 021551Z 33011KT 10SM BKN042 07/M03 A2995 RMK AO2 SLP147 T00671028

In bold, above, this METAR says that winds at Port Columbus airport in Columbus, Ohio, are from 330 degrees (from the northwest) at 11 knots.

Another example of this is when you listen to ATIS or get your departure clearance from the tower - they will almost always give you the current winds in degrees and speed, just like the METAR above does.

In summary, since all other aviation winds are reported as "from" some direction, it makes sense that "westerly" winds would be "from the west."

So, below, I offer a handy "key" to direction-erly winds:

easterly = from the east

westerly = from the west

northerly = from the north

southerly = from the south

You can apply this as well, if you like, for non-cardinal directions - like north-westerly winds in the METAR example above.

Just don't try to tell the tower or your instructor that the winds are 330 degreeserly.

Anybody else out there who struggled with this kind of seeming inconsistency? Tell us about it in the comments. Erly.

Andrew Hartley is a Certificated Flight Instructor in Columbus, Ohio.

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