Friday, December 30, 2011

Demystifying The Killer Turn

Everyone gets the big scare speech early on in their flight training: "If you lose power on takeoff," say our trusty CFIs, with the requisite sobering tone of voice, "DO NOT try to return to the airport if you are below X feet above ground...always find an emergency landing area somewhere ahead."
Everyone has their favorite altitude number for "X", which is a factor of many variables, including aircraft engine off glide ratio and density altitude.  Usually it's a comfortably conservative number, say 1000 feet minimum AGL.

There's a good reason for that cautionary buffer zone of course: many pilots - and passengers - have died trying to make the killer turn back to the airport from too low an altitude.
In an attempt to demystify the infamous "Impossible turn", AOPA online managing editor Alyssa J. Miller goes about the worthy business of investigating firsthand just how high one should be above launch airport altitude to feel safe about turning back for that oasis of engine-out safety: the runway.

It's all based on aviation journalist Barry Schiff's Impossible Turn Maneuver Checklist, also replicated in the article.  Miller's goal is to "find out how much altitude you need to turn around safely—not to try to turn the aircraft around in a pre-set amount of altitude."
It's an important distinction, that difference between knowing the absolute minimum altitude you'll need vs. having a mindset of "must turn in 500 feet" to wrestle with.
And she does a service thereby for all of us by accumulating some real world numbers.
Taking wing, she climbed to a safe altitude with CFI Sandy Geer, then recorded several repetitions of:
<> simulated engine failure on takeoff
<> stabilizing to best glide speed
<> turning 270 degrees (a turn left or right dictates you will need more than just 180 degrees to line back up with the runway)
<> flaring, as if performing a landing
<> then recording the total altitude lost from pulling the power.
Miller's best altitude loss number was 300 feet in a Cessna 172!  The average altitude lost for the entire group of simulations was between 300 and 500 feet.  I'm itching to try this in an LSA...especially a motorglider.
After discussing their efforts, they each settle on a minimum above ground comfort altitude: CFI Reed's is 1000 feet AGL, while Miller says she might consider 750 feet her personal minimum.
Both note that in a true emergency situation any number of distractions will lead to greater altitude loss, or as we say Webside: YRMV (Your Results May Vary).  
It's a thought-provoking read, with a helpful accompanying video.  
At Sebring next month, I'm going to add this maneuver to my pilot report flight list, which should also give me some interesting comparison figures between different models of LSA, since all flights will take place from the same airport. 
Meanwhile, you can check out the article here.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

FAA Amends Sport Pilot Examiner Medical Rule

Getting into the New Year garage cleanup spirit, the FAA has amended its Part 61 flight training rule, finalized in 2009, with some needed clarifications and corrections.
photo courtesy Aviation Advertiser
The stated purpose is to "revise the training, qualification, certification, and operating requirements for pilots, flight instructors, ground instructors, and pilot schools."
The primary change as it relates to our corner of the aviation universe: Flight examiners giving the checkride for the Sport Pilot ticket do not need a medical certificate as long as they have a U.S. driver's license: i.e. the same self-certification of competence to fly requirement that governs the Sport Pilot license qualification.

Friday, December 23, 2011

LSA Bits

photo courtesy Remos Aircraft
In 36 hours or so, Chief Pilot S. Claus will be on final for a few billion chimneys worldwide.  Here's what's popping up in one of my last looks at LSA news webwide for 2011.  Meanwhile, my best wishes for a Merry Flying Christmas and new flight horizons for all in 2012!

Cubcrafters flexes its market success muscle with a new manufacturing facility and the hiring - yes, hiring - of new personnel to build its popular LSA Piper Cub clones. 
photo courtesy CubCrafters
A newly leased 15,000-square-foot building near the Yakima, Washington airport boosts existing capacity by almost 40% and is already in operation.  Congrats to CubCrafters and we wish you continued success.
Included are a new welding shop and CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) machine shop.
The new space will make room in the main plant for an R&D facility and an updated, more centralized parts department.  
Owner Jim Richmond says, "Our planes are selling well, and if we get even a little help from the economy, we will need to increase our production rate." 
Check out those job openings here.

SportAirUSA, that broadbased purveyor of several LSA models and instrument panel goodies, adds to its avionics offerings with the Adventure Pilot iFly GPS, a 7-inch touch-screen moving map based on FAA sectional charts (I own and myself - very cool unit).

The company also reports the iFly will be standard equipment on the Snap! singleseater and an installable   option for its Sting, Sirius, Savage Cub, and SeaRey LSA. Starting price is $549.  The iFly comes loaded with the U.S. sectionals, IFR low en route charts, geo-referenced approach plates, airport diagrams, and more. 

JUSTNET, the Justice Technology Information Network and an arm of the Office of Justice, posts a  summary of the aircraft considered so far here, and more detailed looks at each aircraft evaluated here.
photo courtesy Rans Aircraft
The page is part of the Aviation Technology Program, which looks at a broad range of low-cost aviation technologies as alternatives to conventional GA aircraft in law enforcement aviation units -  typically helicopters and FAA certified aircraft. 
Some familiar SLSA models evaluated: Rans Coyote, Tecnam Eaglet, Sky Arrow.  Powered parachutes and autogyros are also considered.
The overview cites the high cost of acquiring and maintaining these aircraft (new Cessna 172: $300,000) and serves up the economic viability of various types of LSA as a dramatic alternative to  for maintaining  the long arm of the law skyward.
In particular, the report calls out Light Sport Aircraft as well as small unmanned aircraft systems (“sUAS” - how institutions love acronyms!) and moored balloons...moored balloons?  

Remos Aircraft keeps growing its dealer/service center network.  Latest addition is Light Sport West of Sacramento, California. A Remos GX was added to the GA training fleet based at Sacramento Executive Airport (KSAC).  
Light Sport West joins a growing number of FBOs nationwide who are realizing LSA offer appeal, economy and fun flying to flight students.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Knocking Around The InfoVerse

Today's Word

photo courtesy Pipistrel 
News travels fast these days: Just ask Herman Cain. New tech net scraper Gizmag just ran a blurb on the Pipistrel Alpha I highlighted here a couple weeks back. The focus of the highlight is on the low cost, which as they note is under 60K Euro.  
Now consider this: if the Euro continues to go through its troubles and drops further against the dollar, imagine a quality SLSA, like the Alpha promises to be (it's based on a years-proven design - the Vinus/Sinus - with hundreds now delivered), priced at, say, $70K.  For all of us who've decried the high costs of LSA, might  this be the price point/airplane that would help break the LSA sales logjam?

Catching Up With Dan The Man

My blogosphere bro Dan Johnson has a piece in this month's Light Aviation eZine that updates LSA manufacturers now - at last - finding some markets overseas.  
photo courtesy Dan Johnson
He details foreign sales by Arion (Lightning), Flight Design, Remos and Piper Sport/Sport Cruiser.  ASTM and type certificate approvals are being won country by country, and products are beginning to move, over thar. 
One cool story:  U. S. Sport Aircraft, the U.S. distributor that reps the Sport Cruiser, has sold what Dan believes is the first LSA in Brazil...and the company flew the airplane from Florida all 4,300 miles to deliver it!  
Aviation is booming in that country...let's hope more American companies find success in the southern hemisphere while we're waiting for the global economy to work through its identity  crisis.

Dynon SkyView Hands-On Training at Sebring

Who among us hasn't sat for the first time in a new LSA and felt brain overload when confronted with an unfamiliar EFIS display?
One of my initial - and most stressful - challenges during my Sport Pilot training was figuring out where to look and how to work those info-jammed screens while also getting to know the airplane.
photo courtesy Dynon Avionics
Helping out with that comes a promising and much needed program, to debut at next month's Sebring Light Sport Expo (that's right, kids, Sebring is just around the corner...more on that below).
Dynon Avionics will offer free courses on how to wrangle the SkyView, its runaway hit EFIS display.  
The 3.5-hour classes will be held all four mornings and the first three afternoons at Sebring.  Working SkyViews will be set up so people can get some real hands-on tutoring without having to RTFM (Read The Freakin' Manual, which apparently only 1.4% of the U.S. population can abide).
Class size will be limited to the first 15 people who sign up here.  The classes will be held at the nearby (like, walking distance from the show) Chateau Elan Hotel and Conference Center.
Kirk Kleinholz, CFII and SkyView expert, will handle the professorial duties.  This first set of classes will be free: ongoing  classes will have a fee, so get in there, pilots, and sign up!

Sebring Expo Looms!

Yes chilluns, the big winter LSA show is truly stepping it up this year, with a much-ballyhooed new presence and a much bigger feel, judging by the number of promo emails I've gotten for months now.
photo courtesy Sebring Expo
Rather than rehash the 2012 offerings, just go here and check it out for yourself.
Alright, just a couple teasers, I can't resist (and I can't wait to get down there myself!):
<> "Exotic" vacation packages will be auctioned
<> Registered exhibitors include Flight Design, which will bring its CTLE law enforcement special, NASA Green Flight Challenge winner Pipistrel with several models (alas, not the winning electric one-off Taurus Electro G4), and the EAA Piper Cub J3 Sweepstakes contest airplane.  Y'all get your tickets now, hear?
Flight Design CTLE     photo courtesy Flight Design

<> EAA's new head man Rod Hightower will give a presentation at the annual LAMA dinner.
<> Tons of events, factory and general demo flights and lots more to look forward.
Did I say I can't wait?  Now if only winter would truly arrive in the northeast (it's 58 degrees again today!) I'll have even more motivation to jet southward...not that Sebring leaves any need for that...this is simply the biggest all-LSA event in the country.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Oldest Living LSA Pilot?

Here's a story to give us all some cheer as we slide into final on the Holiday Season.
An article in Martinsburg, West Virginia's The Journal newspaper chronicles the exploits of one T. Guy Reynolds Jr. , a local pilot who just celebrated his birthday by spreading his wings in his Evektor SportStar.
"No big deal", you say?  Ah, but this gentleman is one year shy of being a centenarian...that's right, he just turned 99 years old!
J. Guy Reynolds about to do his thing.  photo courtesy The Journal
That makes him, says the article penned by John McVey, likely the oldest pilot in the state.
And we have to ask...maybe the nation?
"I wanted to fly on my 99th birthday," he said. "I enjoy it, and my airplane is very nice to fly."
The SportStar model was the first to win ASTM approval back in 2005 as a legal S-LSA and continues in its latest iteration as the flight report is due out in the next issue of the magazine.
Evektor's airplanes appeal to pilots like Mr. Reynolds with long aviation backgrounds, since it's a familiar, mostly-metal airframe with good long range legs and comfortable interior to back it up...these things get more important as we get older!  I've logged around 30 hours in the Evektor Max and its successor Harmony so I'm more expert on this subject than's an excellent long-leg airplane for the posterior regions.
The article goes on to report that Mr. Reynolds began flying, in a Ford Tri-Motor, before most of us were even glints in our parent's eyes: in 1929!  He founded Martinsburg's Civil Air Patrol squadron and was its first commander in 1943.
Evektor SportStarphoto courtesy
Taking on challenges late in life seem to be a habit...Reynolds had in fact laid off flying in the mid-50s in order to raise a family and didn't resume until age 92.
He made his first parachute jump on the day he turned 93.  What a Guy!
"I keep very positive - that's how I've lived so long. I'm still happy and thank God for that every day."
Happy Birthday to you sir!