Dec 29, 2006

1920 Regulations For Operation Of Aircraft

The more things change, the more they stay the same... I always get a chuckle when I come across this list of flying rules from 1920. I don't know how authentic it is, but it certainly does reflect an earlier era of aviation. Most of the rules would still apply just as well today, if not in letter, at least in spirit. The funniest one to me is number 21. I presume that many aviators came from the calvary? I wonder how a list of current 'airmanship rules' will look to aviators 80+ years from now?...


Dept. of the Army Regulations For Operation Of Aircraft Commencing January 1920

1. Don't take the machine into the air unless you are satisfied it will fly.

2. Never leave the ground with the motor leaking.

3. Don't turn sharply when taxiing. Instead of turning sharp, have someone lift the tail around.

4. In taking off, look at the ground and the air.

5. Never get out of the machine with the motor running until the pilot relieving you can reach the motor controls.

6. Pilots should carry hankies in a handy place to wipe off goggles.

7. Riding on the steps, wings, or rail of the machine is prohibited.

8. In case the engine fails on takeoff, land straight ahead regardless of obstacles.

9. No machine must taxi faster than a man can walk.

10. Never run motor so that blast will blow on other machines.

11. Learn to gauge altitude, especially on landing.

12. If you see another machine near you, get out of the way.

13. No two cadets should ever ride together in the same machine.

14. Do not trust altitude instruments.

15. Before you begin a landing glide, see that no machines are under you.

16. Hedge-hopping will not be tolerated.

17. No spins on back or tail sides will be indulged in as they unnecessarily strain the machines.

18. If flying against the wind and you wish to fly with the wind, don't make a sharp turn near the ground. You may crash.

19. Motors have been known to stop during a long glide. If pilot wishes to use motor for landing, he should open the throttle.

20. Don't attempt to force the machine onto the ground with more than flying speed. The result is bounding and ricocheting.

21. Pilots will not wear spurs while flying.

22. Do not use aeronautical gasoline in cars or motorcycles.

23. You must not take off or land closer than 50 feet to the hanger.

24. Never take a machine into the air until you are familiar with it's controls and instruments.

25. If an emergency occurs while flying, land as soon as possible.

Dec 13, 2006

Mis-fit pilots...

Some people probably think that a pilot is a pilot -- that all flying is the same. Another misconception is that a pilot's skill can be equated to the size of his airplane. But not so. Flying is one more pursuit where size doesn't matter.

In truth, pilots are as specialized as physicians. I wouldn't want an oral surgeon replacing my heart valve and I won't consult a rheumatologist for eye problems. Likewise, an airline pilot who specializes in managing multi-engined jet transports across the North Atlantic, is not interchangeable with an F-18 fighter jock who's conversant with such adventures as formation flying and carrier landings. And an air-taxi pilot who specializes in operating a twin engined turbo-prop in northern Canada in winter blizzards is not a good choice to pilot a Cessna 185 on floats into the jungle rivers of South America. Each specialty involves a wealth of skills, training, ability and tricks of the trade that are acquired over many hours of experience and hard work.

Of course with training and supervision and practice, we carbon-based units are highly adaptable. Consequently, airlines hire away experienced pilots from many different backgrounds. They entice us with things like nice uniforms and bigger paychecks and better working conditions and bigger paychecks and exotic destinations -- and did I mention bigger paychecks?

But it shouldn't be assumed that all those other pilots out there are inferior in their skills, motivation and professionalism. Some people are just not attracted to the airlines for a variety of reasons. Happy is the individual who finds a niche that suits, where they not only make a living, but also enjoy the satisfaction that comes from excelling in a job they love.

Sometimes the allure of the airlines -- did I mention the big paychecks? -- draws candidates who'd really rather be doing something else. And it soon shows. Over the years I've flown with pilots who would rather be lawyers, and probably should have been. I've flown with a few pilots who discovered they preferred offices to airplanes. They moved on to become airline managers and afterwards spending little time in the flight deck.

A particular type of mis-fit pilot is the one who is ultimately and always a solo operator. Despite all the Crew Resource Management (CRM) training in the world they will never learn to play well with others. As first officers, the captains hate flying with them, and when they finally upgrade to the left seat, they make the first officer's job a misery. What a shame.

The modern airline environment demands good team players and this kind of lone eagle is no longer welcome. But there was a time when he was king of the roost ... (more about this later...)

Dec 11, 2006

The Sudbury Four-Footed Shuffle

One of my favorite aviation blogs recently discussed things we control in the cockpit. It reminded me of the ultimate control question: “Who’s driving this thing?”

Log Entry 1979 - DC9 F/O - CYQT to CYSB

Captain Blue* was a gentleman and an excellent hands-and-feet pilot. His military career culminated with a tour as the solo performer for the nation's air demonstration team. They don’t let just anyone do that. But when he moved from single seat fighter jets to airliners Blue never seemed comfortable with sharing the cockpit. Oh, he would follow the convention of giving the first officer alternate legs to fly. But he'd never involve us much in the flight-management decisions such as which runway to use or which flap and thrust settings might work best. And, where other captains would allow us to finish the landing roll and slow the airplane to taxi speed, he would resume control immediately after touchdown. I came to think of it as "landus interruptus." Unfinished business.

Here's the way the normal after-landing flight-deck ballet played out at our company (other airlines may differ):

The first officer flies from the right seat so immediately after touchdown he ensures the throttles are at idle, calls "Reverse," and gets his left hand out of the way so the captain can take care of reverser deployment. Once done the captain calls, “Spoilers Up," (confirming the 'lift dump' system has activated) and "Reverse Deployed." That signals the FO to re-take the levers, apply as much reverse thrust as necessary and then return them to idle power. While all this is going on the first officer also continues working the flight controls to balance any crosswinds, keep appropriate weight on the nose wheel, and apply braking as needed to slow the aircraft. The brake pedals are an extension of the the rudder pedals so braking involves sliding both feet up and applying pressure as evenly as possible. At some point, usually just before turning off the runway, control is passed back to the captain, because in the manufacturer's wisdom, only the captain has a tiller for steering the airplane at taxi speeds.

Soon after getting checked out in the DC9 I'd flown several days with Capt. Blue. His after-landing procedure went something like this: I’d land the aircraft, close the thrust levers and call, “Reverse.” Capt. Blue would pull up the reverse levers call “Spoilers Up, Reverse Deployed, I Have Control...” all in one quick sentence. That was my signal to release the control column and slide my feet off the rudder pedals while he finished the landing. My job was basically done for that leg.

So, this morning, I'm flying with Capt. Leroy* and he doesn't realize he's been set up. I’d flown with him once before and it had gone well. He wasn't expecting any bad surprises when he lined up for takeoff at Thunder Bay and then indicated I should take over the aircraft, using the standard phrase: "You have control." And when Captain Leroy said you have control he really meant it. He expected me to manage the flight profile efficiently as well as just fly the plane. And this morning the flight over to Sudbury has gone well. My descent planning was accurate resulting in a smooth, power-off descent down to the final approach for runway 04 at CYSB. I'd told Leroy that I planned to use the full 50 degrees of landing flaps because the runway is not very long and the best turnoff is at an intersection about two-thirds the way down. His silence means he concurs. I seem to know what I am doing. I am unknowingly lulling him into a false sense of security.

We touched down nicely within the first 500 feet of runway. I pulled the throttles back to the idle stop, calling “Reverse,” and Captain Leroy reached up and did the usual yanking and made the usual calls; “Spoilers up; Reverse deployed” ... I failed to note that he did not call. He did not call, I have control. Important oversight on my part because I am now busy doing what I've become accustomed to doing - nothing! For several seconds we both sit waiting for the other to apply the brakes. And the runway continues to roll by at a great rate. Reverse thrust and spoilers will not stop a DC9 within the confines of the Sudbury 6,600 foot runway. Ask me how I know.

As the turnoff point approaches, then speeds by, and the end of the runway is getting large in the windshield we both suddenly snap into action. “Brakes!” And we both simultaneously stomp the pedals with our size twelves. Now Leroy calls “I have control.” but of course it is too late to avoid that one long second or two when the brakes grab fiercely causing a frightening lurch and dive of the nose. “Sorry!” I call, “You have control!” as I pull my feet back from the pedals.

We decelerate rapidly and do a one-hundred and eighty degree turn near the end of the runway to come back to our missed exit. No real harm done, except for a shattered ego on my part and sudden, but only temporary cardiac arrest on Captain Leroy’s part. And he'll look even more distinguished with that new gray hair. But who knows what damage the sudden lurch may have caused to any nervous passenger's undergarments? I apologize profusely feeling confused and embarrassed -- just when I thought I was getting the hang of this DC9 flying. It was only later that I realized why I had fallen asleep at the wheel - why I had stopped controlling the airplane before Leroy had taken over.

I don’t recall if Leroy invoked the standard Captain’s slap-on-the-wrist of not sharing the subsequent legs with me that day. But I’m pretty sure the next time he did pass me control he included some slightly sardonic reminder about braking; "Ah, perhaps you'll recall that the brake pedals are located coincidentally with the tops of the rudder pedals on this DC9 aircraft."

I do remember clearly that he assigned me to stand at the flight deck door that chilly morning in Sudbury, to say 'goodbye' to our passengers. I smiled at them reassuringly while mumbling something about "a small braking miscue... I hope it didn't alarm you." At least not as much as it did me!

Interestingly, in the last decade or so, there has been increasing emphasis by airlines and regulators on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and proper crew briefings during each flight. These briefings are expected to cover many items -- including the point at which the captain will take back control of the aircraft after landing. Good idea.


Excerpt from a modern flight standards document: "Briefings: using clear and concise briefings through the various phases of flight the crew will be informed of the course of action to be taken. Standard briefings are followed and all required information is discussed".

Dec 3, 2006

A laugh or two...

Airline Humour - some of these are actually new to me...

Dec 2, 2006

February 'Freedom' Ferry Flight

Log Entry Feb. 2005 - CH601XL - CYKF to K1H0 - Ferrying my friend, Art's Zenair 601XL from Kitchener-Waterloo (CYKF) down to the Creve Couer airport (1H0) just west of St. Louis, Mo..

The airplane accelerated briskly down the runway and like my own 601HDS, it required a definite pull to get the nose up. I'd say it's like a Mazda Miata with wings, but I've never driven a Miata. The 'Woodcomp' constant speed prop settled in at 2350 rpm, holding the Rotax 912S just below redline rpm. The climb at 80 mph buried the horizon and the rate of climb was over 1,000 feet per minute, so I eased the nose down a little and let the speed build rapidly towards 100 mph.

I noted the off time (11:30 EST)., climbed to 2,500 asl, and thanks to GPS, I was soon heading 260 degrees with my first waypoint on the nose. Passing London, Ontario I called the Aeradio operator and requested that they pass on a corrected ETA to U.S. customs. Their initial response was "we don't provide that service anymore..." Then after a short discussion of other possibilities, the operator asked, "What's your ETA, I can send over a message for you." I was grateful as I didn't want to have to call Art and tell him that his aircraft was being impounded by the U.S. authorities! As I cut across the edge of lake Erie, towards Pelee Island, I climbed to 4,500 asl and scooted down the edge of the small chain of islands that leads toward Sandusky (KSKY), my airport of entry into the States. The water below looked very cold.

Everyone at Sandusky, from the customs officials to the FBO people were friendly and helpful. By 1400 EST I was airborn again. For the next hour I had to fly at about 1,000 agl to maintain comfortable VFR below as I tracked around a few areas of virga and snow showers. Once clear of this line of weather, I settled into cruise mode and began doing some calculations. I began to wonder if I might arrive at Greensville and find the local FBO closed for the day. I didn't want to fly into the STL terminal area on fumes so I scanned the GPS, and the VFR nav charts, and decided that a visit to Marionville, Indiana was in order (KMZZ). I punched up the 'nearest/goto' button on the Garmin, and a few minutes later was gently touching down on runway 22. After a quick comfort stop, fuel top-up, weather briefing, and a chat with the local folks, I was airborne again by 1600.

I couldn't help but ponder on the amazing freedom I have to fly around the U.S. even as a guest in the country, with no need to file a flight plan or in any other way report to the authorities. This is a wonderful privilege and I hope it is never lost in the 'war on terror.' If so, then maybe the terrorists will have won? In Canada we have a slightly more stringent requirement to leave an itinerary with 'a responsible person' for flights away from home base. This is due to search and rescue requirements. It's a big country with a lot of places to get lost.

The rest of the flight to KGRE was routine (well, I may have stumbled through a restricted zone around a munitions factory that wasn't on my Garmin database. But no F-16s appeared on my wingtip and no shells exploded around me, so maybe I was far enough away ;-). At GRE the local FBO manager was literally on his way home when he heard me call on the unicom that I was inbound. He apparently made the 180 to come back and opened the office for me. What great service! Using his phone, I called the ATC shift supervisor at St. Louis TRACON for permission to fly into the mode C veil without a transponder. He had me confirm that I would be remaining clear of Class B airspace, then basically said 'Come on down!' -- what a country. I've always experienced excellent service from American ATC.

By 1815 EST I was airborne again for the 45 minute flight to Creve Couer airport which is on the west side of St. Louis. The sky was dark and overcast, but visibility was excellent. I maneuvered around and under the Class B 'inverted wedding cake' of airspace as I followed the recommended VFR route along the winding Missouri/Mississippi rivers. All around me the evening lights were coming on.

As I was turning down the west side of STL, I suddenly began to feel a vibration in the rudder pedals. I wondered if I was having rudder problems, but the aircraft showed no signs of yaw. I carefully pushed the pedals a little to one side, then the other and then as abruptly as it had begun, the vibration stopped. I had't noticed any change in pitch so I hoped it wasn't the nosewheel departing the aircraft! Meanwhile I was still scanning outside for traffic, most of which was just above me inside 'B' airspace and evidently on approach for KSTL. And I was straining to follow the visual waypoints in the growing darkness. This was getting to be too much like work!

Finally, I spotted the Creve Couer runway lights exactly where Mr. Garmin said they should be and eased the nose down for another rapid arrival. I carefully bled off the airspeed before letting down the nosewheel and the rollout was completely normal. Touchdown was at 1800 CST (1 hour time zone change). I made it with just 15 minutes of official 'day VFR' flying time left.

The new owner waved me into a parking spot, and I could see he was a little puzzled by something to do with the nose gear. I climbed out to find that the rear half of the fiberglass fairing had lost both screws on one side. The wind must have swung it out into the airstream like a billowing spinniker. When I moved the rudder pedals it somehow flipped into a more stable position jammed in behind the fork. It showed very little damage and I was able to pull it back into place, needing just the 2 missing screws to make it good again.

Total flight time on GOXL worked out to 5H50 over a GPS distance of 570 nautical miles. Average fuel burn was 5.25 US gph, using 24 to 25 inches M.P. and 5000 engine RPM / 2,000 propellor RPM at 2,500 ft asl, more or less. (I don't know what % of power this represents). I was cruising at 135 mph (indicated) and getting ground speeds varying between 110 and 130 mph, (i.e. 25 mph headwind at the north end to almost calm as I went south). That works out to over 27 airmiles per U.S. gallon - pretty efficient travelling!