Thursday, March 29, 2018


What is the Difference Between ATIS, ASOS and AWOS?

This question confuses even the most experienced pilots. You are not alone.
Why do some airports have ATIS and others only have ASOS? How do you know if an airport has ASOS or AWOS? What are the different levels of ASOS and AWOS? These are all important question.
More importantly, though, how do the differences between ATIS, ASOS, and AWOS affect us as pilots?
Let’s start with the basics. I’ll explain each, then I’ll get into what it means to you.
I’m not gonna get technical because it’s not important to every day flying.
The bottom line is each of the three weather reporting systems does the same thing: they let you know what the weather is like at the airport.
The main differences are:
  • whether a human is involved
  • if it’s automated
  • how often the reports are taken (on the hour or by the minute)
  • what they report
  • whether they can provide extra information like NOTAMs
  • who is responsible for the systems (ie. FAA or National Weather Services)
Remember, though, all of them only report what’s going on at the airport.
If you get too far away from the reporting station you are on your own, which is why you should always check the satellite imagery between your departure and arrival airports. I’ve been caught making that mistake before and it’s not fun dealing with unexpected clouds.

What is Automated Terminal Information Service (ATIS)?

This is the gold standard because it requires a human to monitor the system. They’re more expensive you will only see these at the towered airports. When the tower closes at night, so too will the ATIS (it will revert to ASOS most likely).
To further complicate things, airports with ATIS get their information from the ASOS system. So, an airport can technically have an ATIS and an ASOS (like KPDX).
An ATIS system becomes more than just an ASOS broadcast when it adds additional information provided by a human in the tower.
Which is where the ATIS gets its name: “terminal information system.”
The ATIS is published hourly at 55 minutes past the hour unless the weather is changing rapidly and the tower deems it necessary to provide updated information.
Most US airports change at 55 past.
It’s important you note the time when the ATIS changes, because you may want to wait a few minutes and get the most updated weather. Ground and/or tower will ask you if you have the latest ATIS.
Sometimes, on approach to the airport, the timing is such that you have to get the old ATIS knowing full well you will have to get it again. Just pick up the new ATIS when the workload decreases. Sometimes ATC will read you the info and save you from having to get it yourself.
Also, if the time on the ATIS is anything other than the standard 55 minutes past, you know the weather is changing rapidly enough the tower needed to update the weather (this is both for good and bad weather).
It doesn’t happen very often, but when I hear a report given at 2335Z, but, sometimes, a change in ATIS merely a runway change. No big deal.
Every ATIS will broadcast the time in Zulu.

What does the ATIS report?

You will find ATIS at the larger more established airports (Class B and C airports and some Class D airports).
It will always give you the following information:
  • Phonetic Alphabet Letter
  • Time of the report in Zulu
  • Landing Runway
  • Wind speed and direction
  • Visibility
  • Cloud cover
  • Temperature
  • Dew Point
  • Barometric pressure
  • Other information (which is what makes the ATIS more thorough than a simple ASOS broadcast)
The “other information” could include information like taxiway closures, tower frequencies or anything else the tower thinks is important.
Each airport is different. For example, KPDX likes to broadcast the different frequencies for each runway even though it’s published on the approach chart.
Do not assume all of the airport’s NOTAMs are on the ATIS. Getting NOTAMs through ATIS is a terrible idea.
If an airport chooses to add NOTAMs to the ATIS, they won’t add all of them, and some airports don’t put NOTAMs in the ATIS at all.

What is Automated Surface Observing System (ASOS)?

The ASOS systems are mostly operated and controlled by the NWS, DOD and sometimes the FAA. They help the national weather system compile data on the entire United States, not just for aviation purposes.
They almost always have a basic level comparable to AWOS-III which means they can tell barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, DA, visibility, sky condition, ceiling height, and precipitation.
In other words, they are fairly robust systems and should give you enough information to make a solid choice on whether to fly.

What is Automated Weather Observing System (AWOS)?

Almost all AWOS stations are operated and controlled by the FAA. Some local state agencies will take care of them, but the DOD and NWS have no role in their operation.
These stations are automated and will report the weather every minute. This is probably the main difference between AWOS and the ASOS systems.

What are the different levels of AWOS?

Focus on the different AWOS-3 levels because AWOS A, 1, 2 and IV stations are uncommon.

How do you know if the airport has ATIS, ASOS or AWOS?

The airport diagram and approach plates will tell you which system is in use. It’s hard to tell from the METAR report as an “AUTO” in the METAR doesn’t automatically mean it’s an AWOS airport.
Just know, however, that when the tower closes ATIS is not available. Most airports will revert to an automated system, either ASOS or AWOS.
Are the ATIS or ASOS or AWOS the same as the METAR?
Yes, and no. It depends.
First: Yes, the first part of the ATIS broadcast will look exactly like the METAR. But, the METAR leaves off the information you will find on the ATIS broadcast.
The ATIS has more information than just the METAR, so while the ceiling, wind and temperature information will look the same, the ATIS will include active runways, approaches and other important information the METAR omits.
If you call the number under ASOS you will get a computer voice which reads the data identical to the METAR, however, when you call the “digital ATIS” the computer voice will carry on after the basic data and tell you what runway is in use and which approach to expect.
I can’t tell you how valuable it is to call this “digital ATIS” when you are doing flight planning (if it’s available). When you know what runway to expect, you can plan your approach into the airport.
If you struggle with figuring out how to enter the traffic pattern at an unfamiliar airport, calling the digital ATIS will let you plan it before you ever take off.
Unfortunately, not all airports have a digital ATIS phone number. I hope this changes in the future!
Second: The AWOS is not the same as the METAR.
The METAR is updated every hour while the AWOS is updated every minute.
How do you tell ATC you have the weather if there is no ATIS?
The AWOS and ASOS systems don’t come with a convenient phonetic letter so you can’t let ATC know you have the weather by using a letter.
Instead, you can say: “I have the one-minute weather,” or “I have the weather at KXXX (insert your airport).”
I personally say I have the “one-minute weather.” It really doesn’t matter, they just want to know you did your homework so they don’t have to give it to you.
Some areas of the country don’t use the “one-minute weather” terminology. Just listen to what other pilots are saying and stick to that format.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Women in Aviation Workforce Act of 2017


More than half the nation’s workforce is female, but only six percent of pilots are women. Legislation introduced in the Senate seeks to improve on those numbers by encouraging the aviation industry to help women pursue aviation careers.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is among many veterans who have pursued training in general aviation after leaving the military. Photo by Chris Rose.
The bipartisan bill, titled the Promoting Women in the Aviation Workforce Act of 2017, is sponsored by Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
It would “express the sense of Congress that the aviation industry should explore all opportunities to encourage and support women to pursue a career in aviation.”
Other provisions include directing the FAA to establish a Women in Aviation Advisory Board “to promote organizations and programs that provide education, training, mentorship, outreach, and recruitment of women in the aviation industry,” directing the FAA to report to Congress on trends that discourage women from pursuing aviation careers; expanding existing scholarship opportunities for women in aviation; and coordinating professional training and recruitment programs, according to a news release announcing the measure.
“Our bipartisan legislation encourages the aviation industry to offer opportunities, such as pilot training, STEM education, and mentorship programs that would help women to pursue and succeed in aviation-related careers. Senator Duckworth and I urge our colleagues to join this effort to improve and increase the educational opportunities for women in aviation,” Collins said.
In a statement, Women in Aviation International President Dr. Peggy Chabrian noted that the bill cites WAI’s Girls in Aviation Day “as a program that helps ‘young women be introduced to the different opportunities that are open to women in the aviation and aerospace industry.’”
She also noted the recent passage by the House of Representatives of the Women in Aerospace Education Act, which was “designed to engage girls at a young age” to set their sights on fields with low participation by women.
Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Associate Editor Web
Associate Editor Web Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 30-year AOPA member.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The newest addition to S Aero. A gleaming 1968 Cessna 150H. This aircraft is equipped for VFR flight and will be available for flight training and rental for $65.00 an hour dry. The Continental 100hp engine burns approximately 5.5 gallons an hour (5.5 X $4.32=$24.00). At approximately $90.00 and hour total cost, this a very affordable aircraft for training. The aircraft will undergo a 100 hour/ conditional inspection and be ready for rental in about a week. Call Aaron or Jim at 502 210-7789 / 502 759-9419 for additional information.

Monday, March 6, 2017

New upgrade

Hello All, Upgraded the panel to include VOR Localizer and glideslope ability. The aircraft is now capable of VOR, Localizer, LNAV/RNAV and ILS Approaches. Enjoy!

My Grandson, Xander, helping me 
In the hangar, doing the work.
The finished panel
See you at the airport!

Friday, March 11, 2016

Flying a Tailwheel or Conventional Gear Aircraft

Here is a short document I produced years ago for my tailwheel students. This document does not include extreme detail of the fine art of flying tail-draggers, rather an outline.


Jim Skibinski

FAR 61.31 No person may operate a tail wheel aircraft unless that pilot has received instruction in normal and crosswind takeoffs and landings, wheel landings. This endorsement is not required if the pilot has logged PIC flight time in a tail wheel aircraft prior to April 15, 1991.

Stability of tail wheel and tricycle gear aircraft

1. TW Center of gravity located behind the gear which is the stabilizing force
            a. Due to basic physics, stability is based upon C of G leading stabilizing force. 
            b. Landing with side drift can initiate a loss of control called a “Ground Loop”
            c. Landing w/ crosswinds compounds the instability due to weather vaning
            d. Tri-gear are stable due to C of G located forward of mains.
            e. Tri-gear landing with side drift will correct itself (to a degree)
            b. Tri-gear landing w/ drift cancels out any weather vaning

3. Rotating slipstream
    Torque (difference in models)
    P Factor
    Gyroscopic precession
            a. Adversely affects TW when tail is raised

4. Runway surfaces
            a. Grass, wet or dry
            b. Gravel or other “soft” surface
            c. Pavement
            d. Length, width, obstructions

5. Aircraft differences
            a. Gear spread
            b. Tail length
            c. Forward visibility
            d. Gear shock absorber design (steel, bungee)
            e. Weather vaning tendency – surface area aft of C of G
            d. Angular momentum (amount of mass fwd of gear)
                Heavy engine or long nose
f. Nose over tendency
    C of G located near mains helps improve control but increases
    Nose over tendency


1. Tire pressure (low pressure can increase nose over tendency)
2. Tail wheel condition and orientation
3. Examine tail surfaces carefully, (proximity to ground)
4. Examine brake condition – wear, leaks, ice, mud etc.

Engine Start

1. Brakes held
2. Hand on starter, hand on throttle, hold elevator back
    Obviously this could be a handful


1. Brake Check – must be performed
2. Taxi speed – SLOW
            a. Slow speeds allow more positive control
            b. Heavy braking at slow speeds will not likely end in a nose over
            c. S turns may be required
            d. Use only min pwr to taxi – prevent excessive use of brakes resulting in a
                Locked brake during the take-off roll
3.  Flight control positioning in any amount of wind
            a. Yoke back – taxi into the wind
            b. Yoke forward – taxi with the wind
            c. Crosswind or into quartering wind – ailerons turn into
            d. Crosswind or Away from a quartering wind – ailerons turn away
                                “Dive away - Climb into”
4. Rudder use and authority
            a. Recovery from a turn must be initiated sooner than a tricycle gear
            b. Avoid over control due to excessive brake use
            c. Small radius turns can be accomplished by applying brake and allowing the
                tailwheel to unlock and swivel. To engage steering again is a matter of stepping
                on the opposite brake and applying opposite rudder.
            d. Do not lock brake and pivot around main gear, imposes much strain on gear
            e. Small radius turns can also be produced by applying full rudder, a small burst
                of power and moving the elevator slightly forward to unload the tailwheel.

Normal Take-off

1. Elevator back, advance throttle slowly. As speed increases, move yoke forward
    transferring steering from the tailwheel solely to the rudder.
    a. As power is brought up, the P-factor, torque and slipstream forces take effect.
    b. As the tail comes up, gyroscopic force takes effect, P-factor neutralizes,
        torque and slipstream are still present.
    c. Torque is less prevalent with the tail down because the plane of orientation
        is not perpendicular to the ground. Torque loads the left main. (more friction)
2. Tail up, speed increasing, elevator control moves to neutral as speed increases.
3. Maintain directional control by correcting deviations and maintaining centerline by
    quick, positive application of rudder. Apply rudder and then get off of it. This is a
    good technique beginners can use. Over time rudder control will be smoother
    and more controlled.
4. When flying speed is attained – simply apply slight aft elevator pressure and fly off.

Short Field Take-off 

1. Line up the airplane on the runway and let it roll forward just enough to center
    the tailwheel
2. Hold the airplane with the brakes, and with the stick back, gradually apply full power.
3. Release the brakes and as speed picks up let the elevator control streamline itself.
    Steer the airplane to hold it straight.
4. If necessary, apply slight forward elevator control to raise the tail 4 to 6 inches. In
    some airplanes, the tail may rise of its own accord without control input.
5. Allow the aircraft to fly itself off in this attitude.

Soft Field Take-off

NOTE:  In departing a soft field, it is important that the tail not be raised in order to
Prevent the airplane from nosing over. The tail should be held down until lift off.
Be careful of using excessive elevator resulting in leaving the ground is an excessive
nose high attitude, possibly resulting in a stall close to the ground.

1. Lower the flaps (if equipped) as recommended by flight manual
2. Gradually apply full power and insure take-off is straight.
3. Maintain the elevator control slightly aft of neutral to keep the tail down. Should
    both mains bog down, it may be necessary to apply full aft elevator control. During
    taxi if both mains get bogged down or taxiing is impossible, rapid alternating   
    application of the rudder may loosen the wheels.
4.  As the airplane approaches flying speed, back elevator pressure should be relaxed
     in preparation for take-off.
5. When the airplane leaves the ground, it is leveled of until it accelerates to the best
    rate of climb or best angle speed (Vy) (Vx).

Crosswind Take-off 

1. Use aileron to keep the windward wing down.
2. Delay raising the tail to ensure enough airspeed for positive rudder control and to
    overcome weather cocking caused by the crosswind.
3. Make the departure from the ground a positive one by raising the tail slightly
    higher (prevents pre-mature lift off) and allowing acceleration to a higher than
    than normal speed before lift-off.

Three Point Landing 

1. The approach is no different than a tricycle geared aircraft
2. The airplane is gradually flared out close to the ground
3. Keep the aircraft flying as long as possible. Continually increasing back elevator.
4. Aircraft will finally stall, hopefully only a foot or two above the ground.
5. The stick must be held full back during roll-out.
6. Brakes should not be applied unless needed, and then only sparingly and with a
    pumping motion.

Wheel Landing 

1. Normal approach profile and airspeeds
2. In the early part of the flare-out, let the main wheels contact the ground with minimum
    downward velocity. It may be advisable to carry some power to the touchdown point.
3. Unload the wing by applying just enough forward elevator to keep the tail up during
    the landing roll. Continue until full forward elevator is achieved… the tail will descend
    upon its own accord.
4. Once the tail has lowered to the ground, apply full back elevator to keep the tail wheel
    on the ground.

Short Field Landings 

Specified airspeed is the key to this approach – Keep it in check. The approach speed is typically slower than normal approach speed resulting in higher drag associated with a higher angle of attack. Therefore, in most cases this will be a power-on approach. The landing will be a three point since it ensures the lowest possible speed at touchdown. As soon as the aircraft is rolling on the ground, full back elevator is applied and brakes can be pumped using an alternating sequence. Should the plane show signs of wanting to nose over, a blast of throttle will prevent it. If equipped with flaps, raise them as soon as the aircraft is on the ground transferring more weight to the wheels.  

Soft Field Landings 

The soft field landing is performed like the short field version except that the application
Of brakes is omitted. Some power is generally carried because it allows the airplane to be flown at its slowest speed. Also, flaps should stay extended until the aircraft comes to a
stop. Once again, if the nose wants to go over, don’t hesitate to use a blast of throttle to
force the tail down.

The Bounce 

A bounce can result when an aircraft is dropped in with excessive airspeed. A bounce can also result from attempting a three point landing and not continuing to increase elevator back pressure through the landing sequence. As the aircraft touches down on the mains, due to the C of G behind the mains, the tail will rotate downward effectively increasing the angle of attack. With excessive speed and increased AOA (more lift) the aircraft will rise up into the air with a high angle of attack and decreasing airspeed. Effectively the aircraft will be at a much higher altitude in a stalled condition. Doing nothing at this point is VERY bad… the ensuing drop from this event will get your attention. Most bounces are mild and can be solved by holding the elevator back and riding through the bounce.

Recovery from a severe bounce is a follows:
1. Application of full throttle for an immediate go-around
2. Let the airplane descend and flare again when close to the ground. This will be   
    accomplished safely only if sufficient air speed exists, probably because the original
    approach and flare were attempted at excessive speed.
3. If insufficient air speed exists for item 2. above, the pilot may apply sufficient power
    to prevent a stall, allow the airplane to descend and flare again for a landing.

Crosswind Landings  

For better control of drift during touchdown, use the wing down method while performing a wheel landing. Same procedures apply for drift control… windward wing down using opposite rudder to maintain course. Also, use the same procedure for wheel landings. At touchdown, forward elevator to unload wing while maintaining aileron into the wind. Aileron increases as airspeed decreases. As the tail is coming down, the aileron control will be full into the wind and elevator control full forward. As the tail settles, keep aileron into the wind and apply full aft elevator.

For lighter wind conditions, a three point landing can be used. 

Short and Soft Field Take Offs, great reprint from Mike Hart

Short-field landings are all about using excellent technique to get your airplane into a tight spot. That same technique, however, can put you in an even tighter spot when it's time to leave.
Most general aviation aircraft land shorter than they leave. This performance disparity can be subtle at sea level, where the two numbers might be equal. As altitude and temperature increase, however, the gulf between them grows and it often can take twice as much runway to depart than it does to land. Airspeed control gets you into a short field, but horsepower is what gets you out, and available horsepower drops as altitude increases.
From a risk-management perspective, takeoffs have significantly greater consequences than landings. While you are much more likely to have an accident during the landing phase of flight, you also are much more likely to walk away from it. According to the AOPA Air Safety Institute's 22nd Nall Report on general aviation accidents in 2010, there were more than twice as many GA accidents during the landing phase than takeoff, 361 versus 142. However, there were less than a third as many fatalities during landing than takeoff, eight versus 28. The higher fatality rate for takeoffs should get any pilot's attention, particularly when considering a challenging short or soft field.
The reason for the disparity can almost entirely be explained in two words: stall/spin. It doesn't happen on landings as frequently as it does on takeoffs. For short- and soft-field takeoff accidents, it is one of the single most common factors linking fatalities.


The worst accidents to read about are the ones that stand out as obviously preventable. This is what makes reading short- and soft-field accident reports so painful. The one thing they seem to have in common is the fact that the majority seem to be obviously preventable.
Given the constraints associated with short and/or soft fields takeoff, good aeronautical decisions are paramount. That means you need to know with 100 percent certainty that your proposed takeoff is within the performance envelope of the aircraft, given the conditions. It's not difficult; you simply run the numbers. But it is shocking how often this is not done, with predictable results. Many short-field accidents could have been easily avoided by actually checking the POH and asking the obvious questions about the factors affecting takeoff performance. There is a reason we are taught this stuff.
The basic questions you need to ask and answer: How long is the field? What is the wind? What is the temperature? What is the altitude? How much weight is in the plane? Your POH should give you some convenient tables or a graph allowing you to determine the theoretical distance needed for takeoff. If the calculated length of the field is less than the number calculated from the POH, don't even think about turning your prop. An obvious accident is avoided.

Double-Check Assumptions

If the calculated theoretical takeoff distance is at all close to the runway length, you definitely want to check both your math and the generosity of your assumptions. Little things—like errors in math—matter a lot when you are shaving the runway length close to the limits of aircraft performance.
For example, the FAA's Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (PHAK, FAA-H-8083-25A, dated 2008) contains errors (errata items 36 and 37, updated November 19, 2013) that in the real world could have been fatal: "Wind component (knots) column; the red line is incorrect…. Change the ground roll distance to be 700 feet, not 600 feet. Change the total distance over a 50-foot obstacle to be 1400 feet, not 1200 feet." If the calculation was being done for a 1300-foot runway, the outcome might not be pretty.
This FAA mistake was only about the effect of wind components, but a lot of other factors can become links in the accident chain when the runway is short. And, as the sidebar above explains, these factors can add up.

Acceleration Thieves

Of course, not every factor affecting takeoff performance will have a table in the POH. According to the PHAK, "In addition to the important factors of proper procedures, many other variables affect the takeoff performance of an aircraft. Any item that alters the takeoff speed or acceleration rate during the takeoff roll will affect the takeoff distance." I try to think of short- and soft-field conditions together because this is where the next round of preventable short-field departure accidents come from: failure to adequately consider runway conditions that reduce acceleration.
There are a myriad of highly variable factors that can extend your takeoff ground roll. You won't find a convenient table giving calculations for snow depth, amount of sand or height of grass, but some rules of thumb are provided. These are collected in the table above. Keep in mind, however, that there is such a thing as an impossible surface, one that has more friction than your airplane has horsepower.

Another significant acceleration thief is runway slope. If you can see one end of the runway is higher than the other, you will likely want to make depart downhill unless there is a significant wind. Some POHs will include slope in takeoff performance calculations; others don't.
A good rule of thumb is to add 10 percent to your takeoff distance for each percentage of slope (a one-foot rise over 100 feet of runway results in a one-percent slope). The runway at Challis, Idaho (KLLJ), for example, has an elevation of 5000 feet at the north end and 5072 feet at the south. That 72-foot rise over the 4600-foot runway yields a 1.6-percent uphill slope to the south. Think about that: To depart uphill, you are asking your plane to climb a seven-story building beginning at an altitude of roughly a mile above sea level. A lot of pilots wouldn't want to do that. Unless you have a stiff tailwind, you are going to want to depart to the north, which is why the FAA's Airport/Facility Directory suggests it.

Hybrid Technique

One of the shortcomings of the PTS and most aircraft POHs is they contain a discreet technique for short-field takeoffs and a different one for a soft-field takeoff. The differences often can include have different lift-off and climb speeds and flap settings.
In my experience, short fields tend to be soft, and soft fields tend to be short. If my experience holds for others, you will need to improvise a blended technique that combines elements of each. While there may be good tribal knowledge in the community of people who fly a particular type of plane, for the most part, this knowledge is experiential.
If you are cutting it close to the aircraft performance envelope, you need to pick your abort point and an abort speed. The rule of thumb is to have 70 percent of liftoff speed by the runway's midpoint. Identify the spot and know the speed. You can't execute a planned abort without a plan.
It is shockingly common to read accident reports where the pilot needed maximum short-field performance and chose an inappropriate flap setting. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if it's a check box item for the NTSB investigators arriving at a short-field mishap.
Don't conflate the full-flap setting you need to get into a short field with the setting required to get out: Chances are, it won't be full flaps. It's common for planes to require some flaps for best short-field performance. My 180 likes 20 degrees, and so did the 182 I owned before it. (My Cub doesn't have flaps, so that is a no-brainer.) The key is to follow the short-field technique in the POH.

For a truly short-field takeoff, VX always will return the greatest altitude in the shortest distance. If your short/soft-field procedure calls for some flaps, you may consider putting required flaps in part way through the ground roll in order to minimize drag and gain needed acceleration.
How your flaps are controlled is an issue, also. If yours are electric or hydraulic, they require some amount of time to extend, and may also demand attention to achieve the desired setting. Meanwhile, the Johnson Bar of my old 182 allowed me to pull in 20 degrees of flaps all at once with a single motion. Doing this after the plane had accelerated to near its flying speed literally lifts the plane into ground effect. Once you have the plane in the air, use ground effect by staying close to the ground (no more than half the wing span). It is free energy that will add to your acceleration. For a high-performance, short-field takeoff, you will want to hit VX and hold it while in ground effect. You may need to nose over a bit once the wheels leave the surface to remain in ground effect and accelerate, so be ready.

Keep Your Energy, Don't Stall

The great thing about ground effect is that you can use it for acceleration, but eventually you will need to trade that energy and every bit of power your engine can muster for a VX climb. The problem with VX is that the next lowest V number is typically one with an "s" for "stall" in it. The best angle of climb speed always is a relatively slow one and can require an uncomfortably aggressive pitch. It also can be an uncomfortable place to be while very near the ground because it is at the edge of your plane's performance envelope.
Too often, short-field accidents involve gutless planes that seem to be able to accelerate in ground effect, but once they climb beyond this free energy source, they falter and settle back to the ground. When this happens once, an abort is a smart move. If it happens twice, an abort is a really smart move. A settling airplane is one that isn't flying—it's quitting. It's better to settle back to the ground and quit than proceed beyond the airplane's ability or willingness to fly. Continuing forward is the beginning of the two words that lead to fatalities: "stall" and "spin."
If you choose to press on with an anemic climb, maintain airspeed. As the end of the runway looms closer and closer along with any attendant obstacles, it is still not too late to abort. It may result in a forward crash at VX, but that's almost always better than a stall/spin. Let me repeat that: A forward crash at VX or faster is better than a stall/spin.
Of course, VX is not a good place to be when encountering an engine issue. If you lose power, you will need to push the nose down—aggressively. That does not come naturally when you are running out of runway or the obstacle is approaching, but if you can't hold VX, put the nose down or risk that stall/spin.

What Not to Do

That make-or-break moment where the airplane isn't really wanting to fly and collision with an object is inevitable is the one when many (perhaps most) pilots make the worst possible wrong choice. The unfortunate tendency is to pull up.

Chances are you can feel pressure on the yoke or stick while holding VX. That feel of wing loading may give you the illusion that you can "pop" it over the fence or tree top. Unfortunately, that one last yank to clear the fence, tree, rock or other obstacle may put you irrecoverably behind the power curve. It is the reason why the fatality rate is so high for takeoffs when compared with landing.
Unloading the wing and dropping below VX may give you a temporary bit of energy to clear the obstacle immediately in front of you, but the next part of this Faustian deal with the aerodynamic gods is definitely going to be an ugly amount of down. There is no Bernoulli Viagra: There is no place physics can bootstrap energy to get you back up. In the words of the rapper Ice-T, "You played your self." It won't end well.
What struck me during researching this article was how preventable most short-field takeoff accidents are. In nearly every investigation I read, the contributing factors were obvious, in many cases embarrassingly so. Sure, hindsight offers great clarity, but when a simple calculation shows you need 2000 feet of good pavement and no wind, it might not be a good idea to try taking off uphill and with a tailwind from a 1500-foot grass strip.
This article originally appeared in the March 2014 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Colt flight with hand control

The Piper PA22-108 equipped with the hand operated rudder control is an excellent training platform for those with spinal cord injury and lower limb disability.
Once seated in the pilots seat, all systems and flight controls can be operated with left and right hands. For example: the left hand can manipulate the fuel selector, yoke, electrical systems, window and setting of instruments. The right hand: The control yoke, rudder control, wheel brakes, throttle, mixture, carb heat, radio tuning and stabilizer trim. Yes, the right hand is busy but with training and practice, air/ground operations become second nature. Myself and pilot Aaron Skibinski, were able to transition easily to flying the aircraft using the handicap control.
The control is unique in its simplicity. The rudder bar attaches with a shear pin and retaining clip. Installation takes no more than two minutes.
As for flying the aircraft, there is only one limitation when using the hand operated rudder control. Operations are limited to a maximum crosswind component of 10 knots. This limitation also requires the installation and use of shoulder harnesses. Original Colts were delivered from the factory without these but can easily be installed with aftermarket parts and an STC. One more item about the crosswind limitation... This is imposed because the normal human leg can push with approximately 150 pounds of force and the arm only 75-80 pounds.
Also, I can produce a hand control and install it with the appropriate FAA paperwork should they own a Piper PA22 series aircraft.