Posts Tagged ‘Cessna’

When is 200 feet not 200 feet?

Monday, October 1st, 2012

This is probably something that you have not given a lot of thought, but think about this: When you fly a Cessna 172 at pattern altitude, say 1,000 feet, how high are you? What if you were flying in a Boeing 747? How high would you be if your altimeter in a 747 read 1,000 feet? Clearly, the entire airplane is not at that altitude, especially considering that the tail alone sits more than 60 feet off the ground when the airplane is parked.

If you are an instrument-rated pilot, or thinking about becoming one, one of the topics you will become familiar with is decision height or minimum descent altitude on an instrument approach. Considering that a standard ILS uses a published DH of 200 feet agl, which part of the airplane are they referring to? Does the pilot of one airplane have an advantage “over” another?

In transport category aircraft—that is, airliners—as well as most business aircraft, there is a radio altimeter that is essentially a radar for determining the height of the airplane over the ground. The crew needs to know exactly what is being referenced so that they can make an informed decision about executing a go-around.

The fact is that in larger airplanes, the radio altimeter computes the height above ground with reference to the wheels. This makes sense. Even on narrow-body airliners like the B-737 or the A-320, the crew might be sitting such that their heads—eyes—are 16 feet or so over the ground, which means that they are well over 200 feet agl at the lowest published altitude of the approach. For a 747, the pilot flying would be sitting even higher.

It only makes sense that all the required measurements are based on the height of the wheels. After all, it is the wheels that ultimately must cross the airport fence in order to assure a safe arrival of the plane. If you don’t believe me, just watch any one of the videos on YouTube of 747s crossing the beach and fence in St. Maarten (in fact, there is a great YouTube video that is filmed from the cockpit of a KLM 747 landing at St. Maarten).

As for who has the advantage? I’d say the 172 pilot does, for the simple reason that when a 172 pilot breaks out of a low cloud ceiling, the airplane does too. A 747 crew might well be still enveloped in a cloud while the wheels or even the lower row of passengers is in the clear. In reality, this will rarely matter if the airplane has a working auto-land system. But if it doesn’t, and the crew is forced to fly a standard Category I ILS, they might not see the runway, whereas the CRJ or even the 172 behind them does.

How about that…one-upping a Whale! Who’d a thunk it?—Chip Wright

Photo of the Day: Go around!

Friday, August 24th, 2012

 

We asked our Facebook friends, “When was the last time you did a go-around?” Answers ranged from “Today!” to “Never.” (Really? Never?) The discussion was enthusiastic as pilots shared the reasons behind the go-around: an animal on the runway; an aircraft that trundled out onto the runway; or some instances in which the pilot in command decided that the approach wasn’t working out. Interestingly, a side discussion developed on exactly what’s going on in this photo. Some folks seem to think we happened to be in the air when this happened. Bear in mind that Flight Training often stages situations to illustrate our articles—it’s rare when one of our highly skilled photographers “just happens” to be around—in an airplane—when a go-around occurs. Why is the airplane on short-short-short final so off-center? I’m guessing this photo didn’t make the cut precisely because the airplane was so far off the center line. And why was the airplane on the runway skewed to the right? Again, it’s not clear. Maybe the pilot taxied out so fast he spun out?—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Cessnas in formation

Friday, July 20th, 2012

The very first Cessna 172 (blue aircraft in foreground) to come out of the factory in 1956 went to an Oregon flight school, as Al Marsh explained in “Queen of the Fleet,” April 2006 AOPA Pilot. This photo shoot captures the first 172 in formation with a more modern counterpart. Today’s 172 is very much a presence on the ramp at flight schools, but a careful inspection reveals it has very few similarities to its forebear. Read Pete Bedell’s “The Skyhawk Turns 50″ for an extensive side-by-side comparison.–Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Cessna 206T

Wednesday, July 18th, 2012

 

If you fly into Possum Kingdom, Texas, be advised that this beautiful part of the state has an airport–but the airport has no FBO, fuel, or phone. (There are restrooms.) Al Marsh spent a day at Possum Kingdom in 2008 for AOPA Pilot’s A Day in the Life of America’s Airports series. He recommends bringing a folding bike or scooter if you wish to go off the airport.—Jill W. Tallman

Photo of the Day: Sunset patrol

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

A pilot friend likes nothing better than getting up at oh-dark-thirty for a morning flight before he has to don a suit and go to his regular job. He alternates between calling these flights “dawn patrol” and “sunrise service.” This photo was taken at sunset, but I think the sentiments hold. Mike Fizer captured this Cessna 172 Skyhawk in Benton, Kan.–Jill W. Tallman

Catching up with…True Course Flight School

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

Just about 18 months ago, I interviewed Jeff Vandeyacht, the proud new owner of True Course Flight School at Oswego County Airport in Fulton, N.Y., for a brief article in the March 2011 issue of Flight Training. At a time when flight training seemed to be hemorraghing student pilots (and we’re not in the clear yet), Jeff had decided to purchase the flight school at his home airport when he found out that the owner was planning to shut it down and retire to Texas.

How’s the flight school doing? I checked in with Jeff this week on a whim, and he quickly got back to me. “We’re doing pretty well,” he reports. True Course has a Cessna 150 and a 172 on the line, as well as a Socata Trinidad on leaseback, which is used for commercial and complex/high-performance training. A tailwheel aircraft is the next planned acquisition.

Jeff hired a retired military pilot who is a part-time instructor, and he has been looking for a full-time CFI for months. “We’re busy enough that a person could make a fair living,” he says. (So, CFIs, if you’re looking for a change of venue, please give Jeff a call. Click here for the website.) Four or five students are preparing to take their private pilot checkrides in the next month.

Jeff went into this with the desire to provide quality training as well as a learning atmosphere where students can feel connected and excited about their progress. He regularly posts students’ accomplishments on a Facebook page, along with photos like the one you see here of Kevin Todd earlier this month. And yes, solo students get their very own T-shirt to commemorate the great day.

Shortly after Jeff got back to me, a prospect came in to True Course Flight School. After a tour, a review of the aircraft and the syllabus, “he’s all in and he starts his training tomorrow,” Jeff reported. “I think you’re bringing me luck!” Maybe, but the more likely explanation is that the prospect liked what he saw–a flight school whose owner is knowledgeable about business and good customer service, as well as someone who can help him make his aviation dream a reality.—Jill W. Tallman

The best instrument there is

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

When I first started flying, I used to hear a lot of old timers tell stories about navigating with NDBs and the four-course range. VORs were the sexy new toy of the future. I still didn’t understand how one could safely navigate across the ocean, since VORs didn’t exist on water. I knew that the concept of taking star sightings existed, but I also knew that it was premised on a clear night. Conceptually, I think I knew that the speed of jets would make such triangulation difficult, but not impossible. It also didn’t dawn on me that not every nation in the world could just lay out VORs willy-nilly the way the United States did.

I also heard a lot of stories about the development of the flight instruments. Early versions of attitude indicators and directional gyros were primitive by the standards I was used to. The radios themselves were not always very good. It seemed like there were two classes: top-of-the-line Bendix-King…and everybody else. The Cessna radios were pretty good, but they didn’t have any of the “cool” features like flip-flop windows, DME, and the like. DME, by the way, was some kind of cool. Garmin rules the radio world now, it seems.

It wasn’t long before I began to follow in earnest the homebuilt movement. Kitplanes were just beginning to spread in great numbers—early RVs, Glasair, Lancair, and Kitfox dominated the advertising—and they also spawned a great deal of innovation that we now take for granted. A lot of the modern avionics that cost truckloads of money got started in the experimental arena. Certification wasn’t nearly as stringent, and the rapidly improving computer technologies (both hardware and software) invited a great deal of experimentation. A lot of the inspiration was drawn from airline and military “stuff,” but much of it was simply new. The cost was much lower than it would have been had everything been put through the gamut of FAA testing. It was clear that the homebuilders were leading the way. Nowadays, new airplanes with “glass” technology are taken for granted.

GPS, of course, has changed everything. I personally miss the days when pilots learned the intricacies of aerial navigation not just to pass a written test, but because their lives depended on it. But GPS simply makes a mockery of pencil-and-paper travel. With GPS, you don’t need to call Flight Watch for winds aloft; the heading for the nearest airport is a button push away; and the moving map makes a paper sectional seem quaint…but I still like the paper chart.

NDBs are relatively rare, and the GPS overlay approach can provide lower minimums. Other things long on a pilot’s wish list were an RMI, an autopilot, loran, weather radar, and better “orange juice cans” for the Cessna series. Today, such items have either been leap-frogged or accomplished.

But the most important instrument in the plane doesn’t get much attention. It isn’t fancy or sexy or sold by women in bikinis. It is, however, the cheapest in terms of bang for the buck, and it doesn’t let you down.

As fast as computers are, and as nifty as Nexrad weather is; as efficient and reliable as a moving map is; as handy and helpful as a TCAS display is; the fact is that nothing on an aircraft—or even a spacecraft—can hold a candle to the value and utility of…the windows.—By Chip Wright

Your first airplane

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Your first airplane and your first kiss. Good or bad, you’ll remember them always.

You may be in the throes of primary training and quite possibly sick to death of yanking and banking your 172, or your Champ, or your Cherokee. But one day you’ll think of that trusty steed and be nostalgic for those days when you were bumping around the pattern trying to nail a perfect landing. That first airplane is the one that opens all the doors for you–the one that shows you what you’re capable of doing as a pilot.

You might even get to revisit those days, as I did last week.

When I started on the road to a pilot certificate, the local flight school had the standard Cessna 172s and Piper PA-28-180s, but it also had a small fleet of Socata Tampico TB9s–low-wing 160-hp four-seat trainers manufactured in France. The TB9s came by the nickname “Slow-Pico” honestly, but they were stable and fairly easy to fly. And they had cool gull-wing doors on both sides. They looked like sports cars–like something John DeLorean would have designed if he’d been an aeronautical engineer. They looked fast, even if they weren’t.

I got my ticket in a TB9 and continued to fly them until 2005, when the flight school decided to update its fleet with glass-cockpit 172s. I estimate that around 300 of my 700 or so hours are in TB9s, and I have around 10 hours in the TB9′s big sister, the Trinidad TB20. When they went away, I missed them for awhile, but I moved on to the Piper Archer and, eventually, to the Cherokee 140 I own today.

Last week I climbed back into the left seat of a TB9 to take a flight for a story that will appear in an upcoming issue of our sister publication, AOPA Pilot. N28216 is actually one that I flew quite a bit in primary training. It’s still based here at KFDK, although my other love, 5557J, has since moved on.

Sitting in 216′s left seat was both alien and familiar, all at once. On the takeoff roll, I was a little heavy-handed on rotation and got a blip of the stall horn (shades of my student days!). The power-off stall was as gentle as I remembered; the power-on stall everybit as jaw-clenching. (The airplane doesn’t want to stall, and you seem to hang vertically for long moments until the break finally happens.) Coming back into the pattern, I again reverted to the good old days and was too high on the final approach. I wondered if I’d thump it on to make my trip down memory lane complete, but thankfully I did not.

That flight triggered a lot of memories. My checkride…my first flight with passengers…a trip to Ocean City, Maryland, with my two children…all in a TB9. The little gull-winged airplane started me on a wonderful journey. So treat your trainer kindly. You’re gonna miss it when it’s gone.–Jill W. Tallman