Archive for the 'Safety' Category

Private Pilot Ground School


March/April 2012 issue of FAA Safety Briefing

The articles in the March/April 2012 issue complement the Safety Standdown’s three central themes: Loss of Control, Aeronautical Decision-making, and Advanced Preflight. Articles on each of these critical areas provide important insight, tips and resources for improving general aviation safety.

Other articles include an overview of this year’s FAA Safety Forums at Sun ‘n Fun (pg. 4), a review of how allergy medications may impact your flying (pg. 7), and a look at “smart” autopilots for general aviation use (pg. 14).

online edition is:

Medical Issues

Sept. 14th the Petaluma Area Pilots Association had a very informative speaker at their monthly meeting. The AME (aviation medical examiner) gave a good description of his side of the equation on obtaining and keeping our medicals. The subject is especially germain since none of us are getting any younger and loosing one’s medical must be a very sad event.

Basically the doc can pass, suspend or defer our medicals when health issues or medications get in the way of what the FAA will accept. The very best place to look up medications and or health issues is on the AOPA web site. They define what meds can fly and which can’t. If something comes up (like a cataract) and you do not pass your medical your medical will be suspended. After surgery you will need a letter from your eye doctor stating what your new vision is and that you are able to go back to flying. You must obtain these papers. The papers will be sent to Oklahoma where they will give the seal of approval.

If something comes up between medicals and you voluntarily suspend your flying, get treat- ment/cure, you still must obtain papers from your medical provider stating what happened, how it was treated and that you are safe to fly. Take these papers to your AME to back up any questions.

AGAIN- if something comes up, check the AOPA web site for medication questions. You can go back to your medical provider and insist on a different (acceptable) med to keep you airborne.
IF the unfortunate happens you can still fly ‘light sport aircraft’ as long as you don’t fail a medical. (meaning you never go back to fail a medical) ‘Light sport’ aviating only requires a drivers license. But in saying that it is all our responsibility fly safely. Options are having another pilot fly as ‘pic’ with you or flying with an instructor. The very best option, of course, is staying healthy!

Watch out for long flights, do some isometrics or stretch! Pulmonary edema is so common in long cross country flights.

Math Myths


Usually the AOPA magazine migrates to my side of the bed where it languishes in the dust until recycling day. Lately I’ve had time to peruse the glossy and one item in particular caught my attention. ‘Math Myths’ by Bruce Landsberg, president of AOPA Foundation has great, basic, numbers we can retain. Math was always my weakest arena and his words resonate. I’ve cut and stitched so if you’d like to read the entire article it’s in the January 2011 AOPA, page 30. These winter months are a great time to dust off the POH and tweak the memory banks.

Math Myths

There is a myth among many in aviation and education that advanced math is essential to fly with any degree of safety and skill. Unfortunately my father did not pass along his genetic gift for advanced mathematics, but that was little detriment to my becoming a pilot. With the basics of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, safe flight operation is well within the grasp of math illiterates.

Pilots do need basic math for practical estimates and to read charts and graphs – all within the capability of liberal arts majors. When should we begin descent from cruise flight? In a piston-engine aircraft where cooling is a consideration, use five miles per thousand feet. To descend 7,000 feet to the airport, start down about 35 miles out.

Taking the Naval Aviators percentage, if the landing distance based on the POH (the best the manufacturer’s test pilot can do on a good day with a new aircraft) is 2,000 feet over a 50-foot obstacle and you’re having a bad day by being a bit fast, 2,400 feet is the approximation. From an operational perspective, the Air Safety Institute recommends adding 50 percent to the POH number, so that works out to 3,000 feet. It provides some margin for runway slope, some clearance over a taller obstacle and less than perfect technique.

Climb gradient per nautical mile is required for many departures. The standard gradient is 200 feet per nautical mile. If the ground speed is 120knots, that’s two nautical miles per minute. Two hundred times two means 400 fpm is needed to comply with the gradient. Tailwind? Be a bit more conservative. Headwind? Fat city!

For pilots it’s important to know that with 24 gallons of fuel on board and a fuel burn of eight gallons an hour, about 3 hours after takeoff a collision is a distinct possibility. There are still about two fuel mismanagement accidents weekly, so the basic math bone isn’t working for some pilots- or maybe it has nothing to do with math at all.

Basic math used in conjunction with conceptual understanding will keep one alive much longer than computational algebra. As we rebuild the pilot population there’s no need to throw up a high math barrier to aspiring pilots.


You all have seen those red sleeves that snug over the pitot tube. I never thought a bug or piece of grit would want to call that tube home. Au contraire!

After 20 years a mud dauber wasp filed homestead papers on 89P’s pitot tube. The Comanche had been sitting outside for 6 weeks. The way the morning light was in my eyes during pre-flight, I never saw the muddy cap over the orifice. After pushing the throttle forward for take off, noting a lack of airspeed indication, I still rotated. The plane flies great. Just another good reason to know your power settings. Next time, when the plane sits out on the ramp the sleeve goes on.