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Pilots Thought of the Week

Archived Pilot "Thoughts of the Week"

23-Jan-2023 #28 Clearing for Birds

From Fellow Check Pilot, Capt Timothy Smith:

Attached is a photo of my personal antiaircraft battery just south of 2F7.

Be kind to my buzzards. They don't like mid airs any more than you do.

On climb out, lower the nose to level every 45 seconds or so to clear the airspace ahead of birds and traffic. There is enough non ADS-B planes out there to be a hazard also. You won’t see them with your head buried in the electronic gizmos and the front of the plane blocking the view.

Buzzards are gliders, their escape route is to glide faster or dive. You can out climb them, zoom climb and turn away from an imminent collision, but only if you see them in time!

 

9-Jan-2023  Checking the Tires

Tires get worn.  In fact, tires, over time, are supposed to get worn – they are a life limited part.  The guidance I’ve always been given (and give out) is that a tire should be replaced after the rubber grinds down to the groove, such that you can’t see a groove at some point on the tire.

The issue though, is that if you just look at a tire, you are seeing, at most 60% of so of the tire.  You have to roll the plane, even if it is just half a tire rotation, so you can truly see all parts of that tire.  ROLL THE PLANE.

I see many safety incidents come through the system, and we DO have blown tires on landing.  It is a thing.  It does happen.  Don’t stack the deck against you.  ROLL THE PLANE A TINY BIT and look at all parts of the tire.

 

21-Nov-2022  Pick One Thing

Each time you go flying, pick one item from your flight that you plan to improve for your next flight.

It doesn’t matter how great of a flight you’ve had, there is always one thing you can pick out to “intentionally focus” on for your next flight to improve.  It can be anything, from something during pre-flight, how your brief, your take off, landing, or even the way you manage your leaning procedure.  Just pick something where you say “hmmm, I could have done that one thing even better.”

The point is that, if after each flight, you think about one thing to focus on for your next flight, then you will be continuously improving yourself….and that is who we are in CAP.

 

7-Nov-2022  Cycling the Prop

From Maj Rafael Paiva:

My pilots (myself included) originally learned to cycle the propeller 3 times during the run up.  When I was taught, it was explained that you are checking 3 things (MP increase, RPM decrease, Oil Pressure constant), so you should cycle 3 times.  Over many years, I’ve heard countless analyses arguing one thing or another, but based on my research, I’ve largely concluded:

The only purposes of cycling the prop during run up are to 1) ensure warm oil is available in the governor, and 2) ensure the mechanism works.  You can do this typically with one cycle of the propeller unless it is incredibly cold outside.  Exercising the propeller additional times only introduces additional wear & tear on the mechanism without sufficient benefit.  Although, this is true of our C182 / 206, GA8 aircraft, as other aircraft might have different prop management systems.

I currently teach and evaluate folks to evaluate the propeller once.

Next time you are in the midst of a run up, checking your propeller (right after you used the engine analytics to verify mag integrity of course), consider why you would be exercising it more than once, if that is your habit.

As always, happy to hear alternate feedback, if I’m missing something that justifies doing more that “one pull” of the prop.

 

24-Oct-2022  Emergency Mnemonics

One issue I often see on flight evaluations (and practices) is a lack of structure during an emergency engine out demonstration.  Often, after I reduce the throttle, I’ll get someone who gets me to best glide and looks for a place to land.  If they find a good place to land, they stop running the emergency.  This is really prominent if they are near an airport or think they can make a runway.  It drives me bonkers and when I ask why they didn’t try to restart the engine (even if you can make a runway – wouldn’t it be better if you can get the engine restarted).  Meanwhile, they never (simulated) communicated with anyone or prepared for emergency landing or anything else, short of saying “oh—there is a runway”.

Typically this goes back to lack of training an entire emergency procedure for every emergency and I really stress an emergency mnemonic.  That way, you work the ENTIRE emergency…. Beyond just finding a place to land.  There are many of them out there.  Here are 2 that I like.  If you don’t have one that you use, commit, THIS WEEK, to learning one of them:

ABCCS (pronounced a,b,cees)

A – airspeed – pitch for best airspeed
B – best field – find a place to land
C – checklist – run memorized restart and checklist items for restart
C – communicate – tell someone something
S – secure for landing – run checklist to prepare for emergency landing (usually includes things like turning off master and fuel right before landing)

PANICS

P – Pull carb heat (most common reason for a carb heat plane to lose engine is carb ice)
A – aviate – aviate for best glide speed
N – navigate – find a place to land
I – Inspect – run checklists and inspect the aircraft systems to try and restart
C – communicate – tell someone something
S – secure for landing – run checklist to prepare for emergency landing

I don’t really care what mnemonic is used….but practice EVERY SINGLE EMERGENCY by running the ENTIRE emergency procedure including talking to someone and simulate running the emergency landing checklist.  If the emergency hits one day, you will be so thankful that you ran the ENTIRE procedure every time because it will become like clockwork.  I even encourage my commercial candidates on the 180 degree spot landing to simulate going through all the steps.

 

17-Oct-2022  Airbag Seatbelts

This week’s “thought of the week” comes from Stuart Hagedorn. 

Some of our aircraft have seatbelts with built in airbags (AmSafe style or others).  This includes some of our G-1000 aircraft, but also other aircraft with retrofitted systems.  If you fly one of these aircraft, please remember to NOT leave the seatbelt buckled in as part of the postflight / clean up.  We all applaud the pilots that leave planes neatly tucked away after their flight.  Often this includes folding seatbelts, and bucking the lap belts across the seat.  HOWEVER, the airbag based seatbelts actually make an electrical connection when buckled in that draws from the aircraft power.  Therefore, you do not want to leave those plugged in after you shut down.

 

3-Oct-2022  EZWings.net

All pilots should know (by now) that an FAA Wings Phase is incredibly valuable:

  • It counts as your flight review requirement

  • It documents your commitment to continued safety education

  • It can bring insurance discounts

  • It can be seen by the FAA as a positive item if you are ever in a situation with them that requires investigation

  • and more

Remember that a CAPF 70-5 counts for almost ALL of a Wings Phase, except for one ground item….it also counts a big chunk of the CAPF 70-91.  The biggest excuse we get from folks that don’t make use of it is the complexity of the FAA Wings Website.

CAP has partnered with a NEW vendor that aims to fix that problem:  EZWings.net

I have used it and it is AWESOME.

  1. Goto EZWings.net

  2. Login to your FAA account

  3. Click “REQUEST CREDIT” -> ORGANIZATIONS -> CIVIL AIR PATROL

That’s it.  Click what you did (F5 or F91) and to what level and it will automatically enter the stuff into FAASafety’s website.  It will help request credit from your CFI.  There is really no reason that someone should ask for a flight review inside CAP anymore, especially with the ease of this new website.

 

19-Sep-2022  Preflighting Flaps

Everyone knows that checking flaps is part of the preflight routine.  When lowering the flaps to preflight them, I make a habit of lowering them ONLY to 10 degrees, not to a full deflection.  There are several reasons:

  • Especially in colder weather, any bit to save some of the battery to reserve it for the starter can be key

  • There are mechanical stops when “full down”.  Therefore, if you put the flaps “full down”, you actually won’t know if they stopped because the motor properly stopped or because it just hit the mechanical stop

  • Even at 10 degrees, you will be able to confirm they both work, are symmetrical (important) and be able to access the actuator to confirm it is secure

Next time you preflight, give a thought about putting flaps “full down” versus partly down.

 

12-Sep-2022  Remarks section

When you file a flight plan, know that the first 15 or 20 characters of the REMARKS section make it to your ATC Flight Strip.  All those other personal fields (like name, phone number, etc) do NOT actually get transmitted to the ATC facility.  Your controllers can’t see that.  From more than 1 controller, the advice I’ve heard is to please put a cell phone number in the “remarks” field, because this will allow ATC to call you if you forget to close your flight plan, have an issue, or any other reason they’d need to reach out to you.  It is a pain in the tushy for them to track you down otherwise.  I’ve started including my 10-digit number in that field, regardless of any other fields that already have my name or number.

By the way, if I’m doing instrument practice, I also list the approaches I want to do in that field which saves tons of radio comms…for example: VOR26, ILS22, GPS26 ph: 5555555555.  Your controller will love you for it 😊

 

28-Aug-2022  Foreflight license changes

As we all know, Civil Air Patrol, through the Air Force, was able to secure Foreflight licenses for all pilots.  The number of licenses purchased, however, were a fixed number.  In the earlier days of the program, pilots were allowed to have multiple devices logged into Foreflight because there was sufficient number of licenses available.

However, as additional CAP members have gained pilot status, the number of licenses being used has increased.

As a result, National has reduced the number of devices with which you can be logged into your account.  The current license structure allows each pilot to have:

  • ONE Ipad

  • ONE Iphone

If you have additional devices logged in, the second device will no longer have access to your CAP account (unless you log out of the primary device).  I know that many folks have a second device ready as a backup device in the plane.  Make sure you know that the second device won’t work until a full login, and reload of the account profile occurs (which might be challenging while you are in flight).

I am thankful for the Foreflight subscription, and like many other folks, use it often.  But, just not the limitations that come with the CAP license.    In addition to the device limitation, know there are other limits, such as the use of Jeppesen chart subscriptions that some members have through other jobs. 

The license limitation should be explored BEFORE your next flight as I don’t want you to grab for a backup during an emergency, only to discover your backup doesn’t work either.

 

15-Aug-2022  Seat Lock

For engineering reasons I don’t fully understand, one ongoing issue with aircraft seats are their ability to move during flight, even if you think they are locked into position.  There are myriad airworthiness directives for this problem and for some aircraft, even secondary stops are required.  I kind of thought this was just a Cessna issue and then read a report about a Cirrus SR22 that had a seat move on takeoff.  Yes….even brand new engineering from Cirrus seems to have not solved this issue….and Cessna engineering is infinitely older than that.

I have more recently gotten into a habit of not just “wiggling” in the seat to make sure it is locked, but I physically press the seat adjustment bar downwards to make sure it is fully down and locked.  If the seat moved on me during rotation, I don’t think I would be able to withstand pulling on the yoke (or in any way continue to control the aircraft).

The 60 second thought for this week is about your seat locking.   After you move your seat, wiggle it AND physically ensure the adjustment bar is pressed downward and engaged.  This is such a SIMPLE technique and can really avert disaster.

BTW, here is a link to one of the Cirrus stories:

Pilot loses control when his seat slides back during takeoff — General Aviation News

 

1-Aug-2022  Personal Minimums

Every single pilot I’ve flown with always vehemently claims they have personal minimums.  I think most of us have “thought” about personal minimums, but often they are a bit wishy-washy.  The BEST way to establish and hold to personal minimums is the write them down.  When they are written, they become your law, and they are much more challenging to break.  And, here’s an additional comment: don’t ever change your minimums on the day of a flight.  As you gain experience, you can change them on non-flight days as skills grow…but never cheat yourself by tweaking a minimum just so you can make a flight.


When I ask the follow-on question “Have you written down your personal minimums, not just thought of them in your head”, the compliance goes from 99% to 5%.

So here is your thought of the week (and the challenge to you).  Take out 2 short minutes and write them on paper.  AOPA’s Air Safety Institute has some GREAT templates for doing just.  You can also make your own also, but just commit them, somehow, to paper.

http://www.airsafetyinstitute.org/vfrcontract

http://www.airsafetyinstitute.org/ifrcontract

 

11-Jul-2022  Nosewheel

Today’s 60 second thought is about ensuring your nosewheel is straight during run-up.  Typically when we go to run-up, there is a turn required to position the nose into the wind, to get out of the taxiway, or to be able to see landing traffic.  Often I’ll see a pilot make whatever turn is necessary and then just stop, with the nosewheel remaining in a “turn” instead of straightening it up.

Next time you head out and run up, take an opportunity to position your plane AND ensure your nosewheel is pointing straight.  The nosewheel and linkages take enough abuse as it is.  Putting the engine run-up force on a turned nosewheel isn’t helpful.  As professionals, this is an easy task (as long as we think about it).

 

27-Jun-2022  Rudder Coordination Practice

I get many comments from instructors & evaluators about the often “lazy” feet tricycle aircraft pilots have in flight, especially compared to tail wheel aircraft pilots.  Next time you are up flying, contemplate where your feet are--  are they resting on the floor?  are they on the pedals?  are they applying enough (or too much) rudder?

You likely have practiced steep turns, stalls, slow flight, and more….but you can practice just rudder usage, both coordination and anti-coordination techniques.  Here are two nice SHORT write-ups on something you can for 90 seconds while flying to practice:

Rudder Coordination Exercise - PilotWorkshops

Cessna 182 Dutchroll Exercise - YouTube

There are plenty more out there.  I often will teach someone to “quickly” enter a turn using ailerons only while strongly focusing on the nose.  Watch the nose.  I’ll then have them do the same thing, but with excess rudder and watch the nose move too quickly.  It is a visual practice maneuver to really focus on the nose with a distant object.

While you are up flying a an instructor pilot, a proficiency flight, or even a transport or other flight, just take 90 seconds out to practice some rudder coordination exercises.  It will make you a better pilot and more cognizant of the adverse yaw induced by your aileron positioning during a turn.  For bonus points, go back and read for a moment on WHY you get adverse yaw, have to use the rudder at all, and why the “down” aileron matters.

 

19-Jun-2022  JOG charts

Joint Operations Graphic (JOG) charts are 1:250,000 scale charts available to CAP ForeFlight users. These charts are the same scale as the FAA Terminal Area Charts but cover the entire country (and much of the world) instead of just the major metropolitan areas covered by TACs. As with the TACs, JOGs provide much greater detail than the 1:500,000 scale sectionals, which is particularly helpful in mountainous areas.  

To download JOG charts, select the DOD section of the ForeFlight Download menu and then select the JOG menu. You will then be able to select your areas of interest on the JOG catalog map. After selecting the charts, go back to the main Download page and begin downloading the charts. 

Using the JOG charts is easy: Just select JOG Charts in the left column of the Map Layers menu. 

If you use the Aviation layer that Foreflight provides on top of the JOG charts, you get incredibly detailed topographical / aviation data charts at the Terminal level across the entire nation.

 

13-Jun-2022  G-1000 Electrical Simulator

This week’s though of the week is G-1000 specific.

Thank you to Carl Keil who provided a link to the following electrical simulator.  It is awesome and I’ve used it to teach some folks about what would happen if certain circuit breakers / switches are activated or moved.  On this simulator, you can click on every switch and button as well as circuit breaker and see the flow of electricity to see what happens.

See what happens if you turn of Avionics 2 but leave Avionics 1 on.  See what Battery powers vs Alternator.  You should know this stuff by what is labeled on the panel, but this simulator gave me a new appreciation for what is happening behind the scenes:

C172S Electrical System (und.edu)

 

6-Jun-2022  Podcasts

This week’s thought is around Podcasts.  There are some really great podcasts out there that I have learned much from, just by listening while I’m driving about.  I’m going to offer my TWO suggestions on podcasts that I think offer the *most* educational value for general aviation pilots like us in the Civil Air Patrol.  It is free to listen to some of this great content and I have really learned form these.  That isn’t to say others aren’t also great, but per unit of time measured of value, these are my recommendations:

1) Aviation New Talk by Max Trescott -  Aviation News Talk – General Aviation Podcast

Max Trescott is an award winning CFI that puts together an amazing podcast.  It usually starts with a few news stories and then he delves into a weekly topic of interest.  He finishes with reader questions.  His topics of interest almost always are relevant and you can search his various shows for topics that resonate with you.  I just listen on a weekly basis and take what he gives.  I have used content from this podcast in several CAP Safety Seminars (including his sterling analysis of the Kobe Bryant accident).  His topics are almost always relevant to our type of flying and I often learn something. 

2) Opposing Bases Air Traffic Talk - Opposing Bases Air Traffic Talk

This is hosted by two gregarious and fun TRACON air traffic controllers (R.H. and A.G.).  The show usually starts with some mildly entertaining non-aviation stuff (projects they are working at on their houses, etc), but after the intro, they dive into 100% listener submitted questions about ATC.  Both hosts are pilots and controllers, so they get both sides of the picture and field questions across a wide spectrum:  instrument procedures, VFR activities, coordinating with facilities, why controllers sometimes do what they do, and even how to fill out Foreflight in such a way that ATC has better info about you.  They are great and I’ve learned much about how to interact with ATC (some thoughts of the week will be coming from them).

There are TONS of others out there… Airplane Geeks, Airline Pilot Guy, AOPA, The Finer Points (Jason Miller), and others…but for pure education and improvement of myself as a pilot, those are my short list.

 

29-May-2022  After Landing Checklist

Run the “after landing checklist” after you are actually finished landing.

With very specific exceptions, there is no need to touch any item in the plane during your landing roll out.  It seems a very common habit for folks to raise their flaps, or play with carb heat or cowl flaps, or who knows what else while the plane is still on the landing roll.  Please work on the habit of running an “after landing checklist” after your landing is complete, which means you have exited the runway and stopped across a hold short line.  Land and don’t touch anything.  Then exit the runway.  Then stop and run the after landing checklist in an orderly and precise manner.   FOCUS ON LANDING.  Focus on maintaining control inputs, and inserting wind correction techniques (and while I see many people play with flaps after landing, I hardly ever see immediate proper execution of ground wind correction control inputs).

Yes, I know in some places Ground controllers want you to key up and start taxiing, but they can wait 10 seconds.  Unless you are executing a true “short field” or perhaps a “touch & go”, there really is zero reason to mess with anything on landing roll except putting in wind control inputs.  It helps nothing and only bad things can come from it.    

So the tip of this week is, *intentionally* stop yourself from touching anything while on the runway.  Exit the runway.  THEN run your after landing checklist.

 

16-May-2022  Where to Grab

After we seat ourselves in the plane, most of us (except the REALLY tall) need to adjust the seat forward.  Invariably, that involves one hand on the adjustment bar under the seat…. And a second hand grabbing somewhere for leverage to help pull yourself forward.

Where do you grab for that leverage?

Many folks grab the top of instrument panel (the glareshield).  That is largely a plastic, non structural component that will crack over time.  Repeatedly grabbing that glareshield will damage the plane over time.  You are hurting the plane.

A better place to grab is underneath the panel (kind of near the brake handle), but the BEST place to grab is the door frame.  That is a structural part of the plane and can support you pulling yourself forward.  It can feel a bit “awkward” at first, but no more so than anything that is different than habit.

A few weeks ago, I talked about not slamming doors because of the damage that can do.  Repeatedly pulling on the glareshield can have a similar effect.

Next time you are in the plane, pay attention to where you grab to help move your seat.

 

8-May-2022  The "Turnback Altitude"

A pre-brief question I always ask folks prior to takeoff is what they would do if they had an engine failure after takeoff.  Usually that leads to a conversation about landing straight ahead somewhere until we have enough altitude that would allow a safe turnback.  That is a GREAT answer, and good preplanning.

But….my follow up question is always “what is that magical altitude that marks the distinction between landing straight ahead somewhere vs. turning back”.  I want to know the *exact* altitude ahead of time, because after the engine failure is not the time to try and figure out if you are high enough.  You need to know that altitude ahead of time.  That often leads to a muddled guess.

That is this week’s thought of the week---- what IS the threshold altitude for you?  To be clear, it is going to be different based on aircraft type, configuration of the airport (a cross wind runway gives you more options than a single runway airport), length of your runway, winds, and a whole host of other factors.  So, I can’t give you the answer.  But do you have an answer for yourself?  When an instructor / evaluator asks you what altitude marks the minimum to turn back, what will you answer.

Next time you go flying about (great thing on a proficiency flight), go up to some altitude, put yourself in a Vy takeoff configuration,  and then pull your engine.  Give yourself a few seconds to account for reaction and disbelief time.  Then, start a turn.  Remember you need 225 degrees of total turn (180 to return, but you will be offset from the runway….you need to turn a bit more to angle back to runway and then turn back to realign).    If you have a crossing runway, then figure out how much turning you need as it could be less. 

See how much altitude you lose.  That is your MINIMUM threshold and probably need to add a margin more.

You are going on an A12 flight anyway…use this as something new to try and learn from.  Just remember that as you change airports, wind conditions, or other factors, you should think about how those affect your minimum altitude and BRIEF it before takeoff.

Here is a nice article on the topic:  Your Engine Failed After Takeoff. Should You Return To The Runway? | Boldmethod

 

2-May-2022  "Two" many pilots

Very often in CAP, we are in situations where two pilots will be sitting up front:

  • instructing & learning pilot

  • CAPF 70-5 candidate and evaluator

  • mission training pilot and mission student pilot

  • mission pilot and an observer (where the observer happens to be a pilot also)

  • transport mission pilot and a passenger, but the passenger happens to be a pilot also

Lots of scenarios where we just end up with two pilots up front.

One briefing item I do (and encourage you to do) is a pre-takeoff briefing of who will do what in case of an ACTUAL emergency.  The last thing you want to be doing during an actual emergency is fighting over who is doing which steps….and it isn’t always obvious.  It sometimes changes flight to flight and person to person.  Although I might be evaluating someone for a CAPF 70-5, and I might have more hours than they do, it might be a candidate I’ve flown with multiple times and I know they fly well.  In a real emergency, it wouldn’t make sense to  take the controls in the right seat in an aircraft where I have no immediate airspeed / altitude gauges on the right side.  However, I might pre-arrange that I would take the controls if it is a G-1000 where I have gauges. 

It might be that I’m traveling to a unit and the person I’m flying with knows the characteristics better than I do…they should fly.   Or, sometimes, I’m flying with someone who just seems to be “too cocky” when they talk to me and if we had a real emergency, I would want it to be clear that I *WILL* be taking over controls and they *must* relinquish. 

One pilot should be designated to FLY THE PLANE.  The other pilot should be designated to run help find a place to land, run checklists, run communications, and everything else.

It is GREAT to have two pilots in the plane, but have a 10 second conversation before you take off that goes something like this:   “If we have an actual emergency, we both agree that John will immediately manipulate the controls, regardless of who was flying….and Sue will run checklists and comms”…..or whatever.  Every situation might have a tweaked solution on who will do what, but don’t start having the conversation to figure it out AFTER the engine has quit.

 

25-Apr-2022  Tire Pumps

We should all be cognizant of the increased effort CAP is making to ensure we check & fill our tires.  It is now even part of the AIF flight log.  But, are you equipped to deal with it?  Aside from a gauge, are you prepared to deal with an underinflated tire?  What happens if you aren’t at home base (like 10 others plans were this weekend at Conroe) without air service?  Or frankly, the frustration of waiting 30 minutes for a guy from the FBO to bring over an air compressor while you are waiting to go?  This week’s “thought” is that we have such an easy solution to this, but I really don’t see any folks or planes with a solution.  A gauge is USELESS without a way to deliver air.

Buy a pump and put it in the plane or carry on your person. 

None of these are that fancy and aren’t going to fill up tons of tires permanently….but these are all cheap, easy, and satisfactory solutions for “on the spot” needing to add a bit of air to a tire.  If your squadron manages an aircraft, splurge on the $8 and carry it in the cargo area.

 

18-Apr-2022  Guard

We have nearly 200 pilots in Texas Wing.  I’ve flown with many of you, and the number of pilots that tune their second radio to 121.5 (Guard) when flying I could count on one hand.  So here is this week’s “thought of the week”.  For those that don’t monitor 121.5, why don’t you?

There is actually a DOUBLE regulatory requirement for us to do so: 

1) The FAA’s FDC NOTAM (4/4386) legally requires all aircraft, “if capable, *SHALL* maintain a listening watching on VHF Guard 121.5”….(emphasis mine) and

2) While flying in CAP aircraft, CAP Regulation 70-1, para 9.11.9.2: “if capable, maintain a listening watch on 121.5”

Tuning in the second radio isn’t really that difficult, so my guess is that for most folks, it is just habit.  I don’t think we have a good habit for doing it.   On your next flight, make a mental note to do it.  Then, on the flight after that, mentally make yourself do it again.  And, after 4 or 5 flights of tuning in 121.5, it will become just a habit for you.  It’s a good practice.  It’s the law.  It’s our CAP regulations.  And, frankly, as a CAP member, it is our duty to always be listening on that emergency frequency.

 

11-Apr-2022  Engine Monitoring, G1000

I promised a G-1000 thought for this week, although it will apply to ANY aircraft that has an engine monitor in it.

We are all used to doing a standard run up where we increase the RPMs and then watch (and feel) for the RPM drop to remain within limits when evaluating each Mag independently.  However, when I do a run up in a G-1000, I FIRST pull up the Lean Assist page (Engine -> Lean). 

Watching the EGT & CHT of the cylinders on the “Lean” page gives you tons more information, is far more sensitive, and way more accurate than simply watching for an ### of RPM drop.  An RPM drop out-of-tolerance during the mag check will only indicate the most severe mag failures.  If won’t tell you if you have a bad spark plug, induction leak, or other more serious issues like pre-ignition or detonation.

GOOD RESULT: 

When you go to one mag and stop one set of spark plugs from sparking (one in each cylinder), all EGTs should go up and all CHTs should go down very slightly.  With only one spark plug firing in the cylinder, the flame front is still progressing across the cylinder when the exhaust valve opens, which means still-burning fuel is going past the EGT probe.  EGT goes up (usually 50-100 deg F, but as long as rising, it doesn’t matter how much) and since less combustion is taking place inside the cylinder, CHT goes down very slightly (although it may take a minute to see it).  

BAD SPARK PLUG:

If you have a bad spark plug, the EGT in that cylinder will drop off immediately.  You can tell immediately which cylinder it is, and, as you try to run it up to try and bring it back to life (burn off deposits), you can see if you are being successful.

INDUCTION LEAK:

If you have an induction leak, that cylinder is already lean so you won’t see much EGT rise

DETONATION:

If detonation starts to happen (maybe that mag is mis-timed), you’ll see a spike in CHT.

For those that follow Mike Busch out there, this is what he preaches also.  In fact, he goes so far as to say to ignore the RPM gauge if you have an engine monitor because that is a much better test (although I think you can do both).  And, again, many of our non G-1000 aircraft have actual engine monitors, so you can use the same technique.

The next time you do a run up, make sure to watch that engine analyzer and see how it responds.  After a few times of seeing it do “normal”, you will immediately be able to spot anything abnormal.

Special thanks to Matt Martin who assisted with some of the content this week.

 

4-Apr-2022  Engine Monitoring on Run-up

This week:  a quick thought on carb heat on run up.  Now, G-1000 pilots, don’t immediately ignore this email, because you are also qualified to fly carb heat equipped planes, even if you don’t often do it.

There is a difference between a required procedure and a technique.  A procedure implies a specific way you must complete a task.  A technique is your own method of accomplishing a required task.  I have slightly different technique for the run-up check involving carb heat.

The standard order involving carb heat check typically is:

- Run up
- Carb heat on (verify RPM drop) -> Carb heat off
- Power idle

The order I use is:

- Run up
- Carb heat on (verify RPM drop)
- Power idle
- Carb heat off

I wait until after “power idle” to turn carb heat back off.  Why?  Remember a major point of the “idle power” check is to ensure you still have a smooth running engine at idle power.  You are ensuring the idle wasn’t set too low and that you still have sufficient, but not overly rich gas flow.  *BUT*….the “idlest” you can get the plane is with carb heat ON.  If you test idle with carb heat already off, you’ve never actually checked the lowest idle.  More importantly, your landing configuration is with throttle idle AND carb heat on.  That is the configuration you want to ensure doesn’t kill the engine, so I test that configuration at run up.

Next time you do your run up, consider leaving the carb heat out until power-idle check (or do a second carb heat on/off check at power idle).

 

28-Mar-2022  CAP Regulations for Pilots

When we fly, in general, we must follow the Federal Aviation Regulations.  If we choose to volunteer within CAP, then we must, in addition, follow CAP’s operating procedures.  This is true whether we “agree” with a regulation or not.  It is our choice on whether to fly in CAP, but like any operating specification (typically seen in 135 operations), it is mandatory we follow them.

CAPR 70-1, paragraph 9.11.2.2 is an example of one of these regulations.  It is the regulation that specifies NHQ or Manufacturer’s checklists are mandatory and can not be replaced by another checklist.  This regulation is neither new nor ambiguous.

This past week, while one of the Texas Wing Aircraft was being used in an US Air Force training event, a “non-standard” checklist was found.  Thank goodness it wasn’t found by the USAF, because that could be something the grounds our ENTIRE WING.  The USAF doesn’t take kindly to homemade checklists.

Pilots, you are free to use any personal checklist to help supplement an approved checklist, but you can not substitute your homemade checklist for a CAP approved checklist.  Doing so demonstrates an intentional disregard for our published regulations.  Doing so subjects our ENTIRE organization, that thrives on standardization, with significant repercussions.

As a result, it appears the unit that allowed this to occur will face some significant consequences, including grounding or the possible loss of their aircraft.

I look forward to sending out positive tidbits during the weekly “thoughts.”  But, sometimes, we all need a moment to take a step back and remember that we are part of a larger organization here.  We, collectively, make up the largest pilot group of single engine planes and do amazing things as an organization.  But, we have standards and operating procedures which require us to act in a uniform way.  We are pilots in CAP’s organization.

Next time you sit for a CAPF 70-5, take that as an opportunity to refresh the operating procedures we subscribe to.  Use it as a touch point to remember what is and isn’t authorized.  And, for goodness sakes, if you have unauthorized items in a CAP plane, please get them out ASAP.

 

21-Mar-2022  FAA WINGS Program

I don’t know why any single CAP pilot requests a flight review endorsement.  You are doing extra work for less benefit.  Our yearly CAPF 70-5 meets an entire FAA Wings phase (except for one quick online ground topic).  WINGS already counts as a flight review.  Every single time you take an annual CAPF 70-5, you’ve basically completed the equivalent of a flight review.  I’m going to encourage every pilot to take advantage of the Wings program INSTEAD of a flight review endorsement because it is better.

Here’s why:

  1. Instead of documenting a flight review every 2 years, you are documenting one annually which better represents what is actually happening.

  2. If you ever happen to get into trouble with the FAA, compliance with the FAA Wings Safety Program *can* be viewed by the FAA as demonstrating your commitment to safety and compliance which is helpful

  3. Link your FAASafety account with your CAP account and you will automatically get “safety” credit inside of CAP without any extra work

  4. It is something you can put on your aviation resume (the listing of “advanced” or “master” Wings tells something about your commitment to safety).

  5. The one online course you’ll need to do is an added bonus in knowledge

  6. If you have your own insurance for owning a plane or renting planes outside CAP, many carriers will offer you a discount based on Wings participation

  7. You get a nifty certificate & pin which is much nicer than a logbook endorsement

At the end of your CAPF 70-5, just tell your check pilot that you are going to submit it for Wings Validation.  He/She will give you a high-five and happily validate it.  It’s all online and super easy.

 

14-Mar-2022  Practicing Engine Outs

I’ve had no less than 4 people send me this link below.  It is a harrowing “dead engine” landing where someone actually had a camera recording when he had a catastrophic engine failure.  Spoiler alert: He lands safely.

I enjoyed watching it to see his calmness, professional response, and *most importantly* his long term planning to descend and hit the runway properly.

https://youtu.be/CEMlny_ExuU

We all practice engine outs.  It is required on the CAPF 70-5.  But the simulation is usually short lived.  Someone pulls the power, and you pick out a spot to try and land on while hitting airspeeds and running your emergency flows.  Occasionally, the engine out might be to an actual runway while you are in/near the traffic pattern.

HOWEVER, here is the thought of the week for you:  How many times have you practiced an engine out when you are 5+ miles away from an airport, at cruise altitude.  You have to plan a complete dead engine flight to the airport, and set yourself up to land perfectly on a runway.  We’re not talking 1,000 or 3,000 feet of altitude.  I’m talking about cruising at something like 7,000+ feet above the ground and 5 miles (or whatever is appropriate) and still hit your mark….because I think the data shows if you lose your engine in cruise, that will be the real test.

We don’t always practice THAT emergency.  You will need to plan this exercise and you must occasionally “clear” your engine and have multiple outs.  But, next time you are tooling around on an A-12 proficiency or practicing for a CAPF 70-5 (especially with an instructor aboard), practice the *energy management* of handling an aircraft from cruise to landing with a simulated engine out.  Practice hitting a “key” spot.  Practice hitting the runway.  Go see what you real long term glide ratio is.  Plan for the winds. 

Just make sure you are using an airport suitable for this (not 20 people in the pattern) with good runways and have an instructor with you.

 

6-Mar-2022  Aircraft Doors

Our aircraft fleet, in Texas, spans near 50 years of age, 5 aircraft types, myriad types of avionics, and who knows how many types of seat coverings.  But one thing they all have in common:  none of them have “car doors”.

That’s right.  As surprising as it is, airplanes have light weight, generally hollow or thin metal doors.  Car doors take lots of inertia and force to pull closed and many of us translate that to airplane doors.  Please don’t.  They just don’t need the level of force most people are using. 

Especially in our newer planes, the slamming of the doors is what causes them, over time, to misalign or break.  Those newer planes definitely don’t need a slam.  But, even in our older planes, the amount of force that I see some people use causes me to cringe.  I know some of the older planes might need a little jiggering, but that is a far cry from a big slam.  Worst of all are those that let the latch handle down and then slam the door shut, causing the latch pin to bang the outside of the plane.

Next time you get ready to close the door before engine start, please pause for a second to think about how little force is likely really needed… or make it a game with yourself or co-pilot to see how little force you can use.

 

28-Feb-2022  Will your iPad make it back to you?

I had multiple flights last Friday: one was a CAPF 70-5 and then had a x-country from El Paso to Ft Worth.  I don’t always fly with my iPad on short local flights (like a CAPF 70-5), but usually do on long flights.  When setting up for my second flight, I couldn’t find my iPad anywhere (thanks to Patrick Mulvey who lent me his for the long flight).  About 48 hours later, I got a phone call from an El Paso FBO employee who found my iPad lying on the ramp near the usual run-up area.  Short story is, when I loaded my bags in the cargo hold, I set up iPad on top of the plane and forgotten it there (kind of like leaving a cup of coffee on top of your car).  When we did the run up, it must have gotten blown off onto the ramp.  When I did my final “30-second walkaround”, I must have missed it because I’m usually looking for gas caps, chocks removed, no tow-bar, etc. 

BUT, the point of this week’s “thought” is the reason I got it back.  About 3 weeks ago, I stuck a 2-cent label on the face of my iPad with just my name and phone number.   It was my wife’s idea.  So many iPads out there.  They all look the same.  The line guy that picked it up saw my name & number and called me.  I don’t think I would have gotten it back any other way.  Yes, I know about “find my iPad” and digital screens, etc.  But, if it isn’t connecting to a network or data…. Or battery is dead…. Or someone doesn’t care to turn it on, then the 2-cent label is worth its weight in gold.

Picture attached. 

The line guy admitted to finding tons of stuff out there with usually no way to find the owner.

Thoughts for the week:

  1. Consider the 2-cent label on stuff like your iPad, headsets, and other valuable items where it can EASILY be found

  2. Do that final “30-second walk around”.  Make sure the tow bar isn’t attached, chocks are gone, fuel caps are on….and that you’ve left nothing on the aircraft exterior.

  3. I’m exchanging my corporate-looking black colored iPad cover for a bright red one.  I know it might not look sexy, but it will make it much easier to spot.

 

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