Sunday, November 15, 2009

Passenger Briefings

I'm surprised at how little information is present in the usual student reference sources regarding the provision of passenger briefings.

I could not find anything in the AIM.

FTM has one paragraph, p.39:

  • Seat belts and shoulder harnesses,
  • Smoking limitations,
  • How the doors work,
  • What actions to take in the event of an emergency landing,
  • Location and use of emergency exits, the ELT, the fire extinguisher, the first aid kit, and any other emergency items that may be in the aircraft (survival kits, life vests, life rafts, etc).

FTGU has one line, on p.315

  • Brief passengers: door, seat belts, prop hazard, ELT.

The CARS has, of course, the definitive requirements. CARS 602.89:

  • Location and means of operation of normal and emergency exits,
  • Location and means of operation of seat belts, shoulder harnesses and restraint devices,
  • Position of seats, and securing of seat back and chair tables,
  • Stowage of carry-on baggage,
  • Use of oxygen, if flight is planned to an altitude where oxygen is required,
  • Any prohibition against smoking,
  • If an over-water flight, the location and use of flotation devices, before the over-water portion has commenced,
  • Location and use of first aid kits and survival equipment,
  • Location and use of the ELT.

And passenger briefings are detailed in one more spot - the flight test guide itself (TP13723E):

  • Use of seat belts,
  • The location and use of emergency exits (but regular exits are not mentioned),
  • ELT,
  • Fire extinguisher,
  • Passenger considerations for aircraft evacuation (which generally means "to the tail good, towards the engine bad"),
  • Action to take in the event of an emergency landing,
  • Smoking limitations,
  • Items specific to the airplane being used (the Diamond Eclipse had a pointy hammer which could be used to break the plastic canopy so it can be used as an emergency exit,
  • Other items for use in an emergency (first aid kit, life vests, etc).

Aircraft Documents

To be legal for flight in Canada, the following documents are required on a powered aircraft in Canada:

  • A - certificate of Airworthiness
  • R - certificate of Registration
  • R - Radio station license (not required for flights solely within Canada)
  • O - pilot Operating handbook
  • W - Weight and balance calculation

  • J - Journey log
  • I - Insurance
  • L - personal Licences (license, medical, radio operator certificate)
  • I - Intercept procedures

Certificate of Airworthiness

See CARS 507, AIM LRA 2.0, FTGU Ch. 5
  • Is issued by Transport Canada, certifying that the original design is airworthy,
  • Is issued when the aircraft is built, or imported into the country,
  • Remains with the aircraft until the aircraft is exported or destroyed
  • An Annual Airworthiness Information Report must be filed with Transport Canada on/before the anniversary date of the CofA. A copy of the AAIR does not need to be kept on board, but failure to file the AAIR will automatically expire the CofA.
For the CofA to be in force, the aircraft has to be airworthy at the time of the flight:
  • Periodic inspections must be up to date (annual for private aircraft, every 50 hours for commercial),
  • Airworthiness Directives must be up to date,
  • Defects which affect airworthiness must be repaired, or signed off as "deferred" by an AME,
  • The aircraft must be operated in compliance with the POH and with regulations, meaning that all equipment required for the planned flight must be installed and functioning, the weight and balance must be within the limits specified in the CofA, required emergency equipment is installed.

Certificate of Registration

See CARS 222, AIM LRA 1.0

Is issued by Transport Canada and is valid for the life of the aircraft and must be carried on board (CARS 202.26), unless:

  • There is a change of owner, in which case the seller must complete and mail the postcard section of the CofR within 7 days. The buyer must complete the Application for Registration form on the CofR to apply for a new CofR, mail the white copy and keep the pink copy. The pink copy is the interim CofR, for a maximum of 3 months after the transfer or until the permanent CofR is received (or unless the aircraft is subsequently sold again).
  • There is a change of address, in which case the owner must notify TC by completing and mailing the postcard section of the CofR.
  • There is a change of purpose (private to commercial, or vice-versa).
  • There is a change of nationality. An aircraft can be registered in only one country at a time.
  • The aircraft is destroyed (notify Transport Canada).

Radio Station License

A Radio Station License is issued to an aircraft by Transport Canada. However, carrying this licence on board the aircraft is not required provided the flight is carried our solely within Canada. It must be carried on board for International flights.

Pilot Operating Handbook

See CARS 605.04

The POH not only must be on board, but it also must:

  • Be available to the flight crew members at their duty stations (e.g. as a pilot I need to be able to reach it when I need it in flight, as opposed to having it buried in baggage compartment),
  • It must have all the required supplements and amendments.
Weight and Balance

See CARS Standard 571 Appendix C

Each aircraft is weight after manufacture, and after each modification which could change the weight and balance. The W&B printed in the POH is the manufacturer's standard for the fleet. The current W&B for the specific aircraft is contained in the journey log, and all previous W&B reports must be marked as "Amended" (which is the pilot's trigger to go look for something more current).

A W&B report for the specific flight (e.g. one which includes the actual fuel, human and baggage load) must be calculated and carried on board. This document will prove that the aircraft is being operated in compliance with it's CofA.

Journey Log

See CARS 605.94, 605 Schedule 1

The CARS are very specific about the requirement for the Journey Log, what needs to be entered, and when it needs to be entered. There are specific provisions for continuity in the Journey Log (knowing that there are no missing logs).

See CARS 605.95

The Journey Log needs to be carried on board the aircraft except when it is planned that the aircraft will not land and shut down at another aerodrome.


CARS 606.02 specifies how much liability insurance must be carried.

CARS 606.02 (9) states the the proof of insurance must be carried on board (unless it is a hot air balloon)

Personal Licenses (License, Medical, Radio Operator Certificate)

See CARS 401

"While acting as a member of a Flight Crew, the individual must be able to produce the appropriate permit, license or rating AND a valid and appropriate medical certificate." (CARS 401.03)

Pilot License

A pilot license in itself is not a time-limited document (though a student permit has a lifetime of 5 years). However, for the license to be valid the pilot also has to carry a valid medical certificate, and for the pilot to utilize the license (fly an aircraft) the individual has to meet the required recency and currency requirements (CARS 401.05).


Fixed-wing aeroplanes are operated on a pilot license under a Class 1 or Class 3 medical (pilot permits require only a class 4 medical). Medicals must be renewed every 6, 12, 24 or 60 months, depending on the permit, license or rating type, and the age of the individual - see CARS 404.04.

Radio Operator Certificate

If an individual will operate the aircraft radio, then the individual must be carrying a Radio Operator Certificate (which may be restricted to aviation operations). Radio Operator Certificates are issued by Industry Canada, not Transport Canada - they call it a "Restricted Operator Certificate with Aeronautical Qualification (ROC-A).

Intercept Orders

Not legally required to be carried on board, but a darn good idea in case an F-18 appears off your wing. A copy appears on the last pages of the CFS.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

After another layoff


Another month of no flying - some family time, some vacation time, lots of work, and a bit of weather and suddenly it has been a month.

Today I had the aircraft booked for a dual cross-country to Kingston and Brockville, however the low cloud base precluded the cross-country trip. We flew circuits instead, exercising the landing gear.

  • I have no issues or problems with normal and short-field take-offs, with and without obstacles, and we reviewed them and performed them.
  • Crosswind takeoffs require a crosswind, which we did not have today,
  • I have performed soft-field takeoffs in the Diamond Eclipse, but from a hard surface the high performance of that aircraft meant you were well airborne before you knew it -- and so my soft-field takeoff was under-practiced.

For each circuit I performed a normal landing - no sense trying the "specialty" landings unless you have the normal landings working smoothly.

After a few circuits demonstrating and practicing the short-field and normal take-offs, the instructor hopped out and I proceeded to grind out circuits. I got in a few short-field take-offs, but the airport was getting busy so stop&go landings would be very disruptive, so I reverted to normal touch&go landings.

Time: 0.8 dual, 0.7 solo
Landings: 3 dual, 9 solo

Summary: Landings improved significantly after the practice.



Today's objective was to get some in-aircraft instrument time, under the foggles.

Launch, and up to the practice area over Aylmer. I was under the foggles just north of the casino, just after we passed the Gatineau River (lots of southbound traffic from the practice area comes down the river, so it is a good thing to have two sets of non-distracted eyes outside the aircraft until we get past this point.

  • Flew eyes closed for about 4 minutes, using only my sense of balance and hearing to keep the aircraft straight and level. I surprisingly didn't go into a spiral dive or a descent, so the objective of the exercise did not work (it was supposed to teach me that human senses are entirely adequate for doing human things like walking or standing, but not adequate for operating non-human high-speed machinery). I had it easy - the air was absolutely smooth, and the aircraft was very well trimmed. However, I did manage to make an undetected 110 degree left turn, when I thought I was flying straight.
  • Under the foggles, did a number of climbs, descents, level turns, climbing and descending turns, and other basic aircraft movements.
  • Under the foggles, flew straight&level for 2-3 minutes, then did a shallow-banked 180-degree turn, then flew straight and level in the opposite direction. This is the standard procedure to follow when one has mistakenly flew into cloud, and is a flight test item.

Time: 1.0 Dual, 0.4 Instrument



New type of aircraft, new airspace, right-hand circuits, a layoff from flight... all of them combine to make landings a bit dodgy. One of the first things to do is to grind out some circuits and get the approach much happier.

Started with a new instructor (ML, who was to become my primary instructor), and we went up for a demonstration, then I flew four circuits.

My original struggles in performing a landing (touching down on the centre of the runway, landing with yaw) have disappeared, hopefully to never return.

However, I found that I was allowing myself to get rushed on the circuit and final, and so that nice long stabilization period that I should be experiencing on final was instead consumed by getting the aircraft down, managing the speed, and lining up with the centre line.

I had talked to several instructors about their speed management in the circuit, when they reduce throttle, put out flaps, and so forth, and they all vary BUT they all start early.

Clearly that's the key, and that's what I need to incorporate.

After four circuits with the instructor, he hopped out and I flew another 5 circuits solo. Getting better.

Time: 0.9 dual, 0.5 solo.
Landings: 9

Summary: Just work on it. The landings are safe but rushed - they will improve once I get into the groove of getting most of the work done before the final approach.

Mind the Gap

So my last post was July 15th, about flying activities on July 10th. Since then I have 21 entries in my logbook. Ooooops.

Quick status:
  • I'll get a short posting about each flight posted (members of my family follow this blog to understand what I have been up to),
  • I am very happy with Rockcliffe Flying Club, and have continued my training there,
  • I've flown five different C172 aircraft, as well as the simulator. Each aircraft is unique, either in their original configuration, or because of the variances in equipment and layout that have crept in over the years,
  • I have completed my solo cross-country hours. Flew the dual with my instructor to Kingston and an overflight of Brockville, then (on the seventh attempt, but that's another story) flew it solo with only a touch&go in Brockville. Subsequently flew the same circuit, again solo, adding the full stop in Brockville.
  • Wrote and passed the PPL written examination,
  • Spoke and passed the english proficiency test,
  • Am in the home stretch for the PPL flight test.

Posting to resume shortly, both as a summary of each flight (which will have to be short out of necessity), as well as the examination/skill items for the upcoming flight review and flight test.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Instrument Time


My instructor had some more time on Friday afternoon, so we booked the simulator, did the preparatory work for instrument flight and for unusual attitudes. I went home to study, eat, and do some domestic duties, then came back to the Club in the mid-afternoon.

Back to the Club at 3pm, and we did some instrument flying. It is a bit weird to be flying a dashboard with no tactile input (ears, balance, noise, or seat of the pants).

But the "flying" went reasonably well. We started with the tach and Attitude Indicator only, did some flying around, then added additional members of the six-pack to build up the scan.

Then I crashed. Turns out I had runaway trim because the trim rocker switch on the yoke had a 100% contact to set the trim nose-down. In a real airplane you could still fly but there would be significant muscular force involved. In the Sim the nose just kept going down, no matter what I did with the yoke. We turned off the electricity (which cost me the Turn Coordinator, and impacted the objectives of the lesson), but it killed the electric trim. The instructor set the trim to more-or-less the middle using the mouse and gave me control. More throttle nose-up, less throttle nose-down, so by changing power 100rpm at a time I could get back into straight&level trimmed flight, which was a good enough starting point for all the manoeuvres I was doing.

Instrument Simulated: 0.6
Landings: 1

Done well:
  • The scanning methods taught in the Flight Training Manual work very well.... I followed them in the Sim and had little difficulty.

Needs Improvement:
  • Lesson was too short to come to any conclusions here.

I suspect my Flight Simulator days will be of future use, but it is yet to be determined if the FS time will be of practical use beyond the introductory level.

Next Lessons (all are subject to the Wx Gods):
  • Next Friday: Cross-country dual
  • Next Saturday: Dual instrument time, hopefully some crosswinds
  • Next Sunday: Cross-country solo

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Language Proficiency


As a result of an ICAO requirement, pilots must now demonstrate English language proficiency. I think proficiency solely in another language (e.g. French, or Spanish, or whatever) is also acceptable but you restrict where you can fly. English is the universal language of aviation, and if you have English you can fly anywhere.

You might not be able to get a job at Air Canada if you don't have French, but you can fly the planes. But that's another rant.

It's a 20-minute exercise, over the phone, and while the context of the discussion is aviation, it is not required that you give a sensible aviation answer to the discussion.

Painless. Completed. On the assumption that I passed (the examiner is not permitted to inform you of your results), I should get that certificate in the mail from Transport Canada within 3 weeks.

Second First Solo


Bright and clear this morning, virtually no wind, very little cloud, and 1.5 hours booked on the airplane. Today's objective is to work on landings - and if all is OK, fly solo in preparation for next week's cross-country solo.

Preflight, load up, taxi out, and try a short-field take-off. Did well getting off the ground and a lower speed, but we accelerated quite nicely and didn't stay in ground effect for the acceleration. I need to go through the motions even if the aircraft wants to go flying.

My airspeed on the climb-outs is still not quite stable - I need to pick an outside attitude and hold it, rather than chase the airspeed needle.

First landing OK but a bit long - the source of the problem is that I'm not getting slow quickly enough at the end of the downwind leg, which causes me to be high during base, and I just keep catching up throughout the circuit until I finally get it down on the ground.

We did a stop&go, backtracked, and I had the instructor demonstrate a short-field take-off. Yep, I'm doing the short-field the same as he does, I thought it was OK, now it is confirmed.

Flaps up, full power, carb heat in, rotate, and fly.

Mid-left downwind the instructor pulled the power and said "simulated engine fire". This is a from-memory checklist:
  • Mixture to idle-cut-off (simulated, of course - touch the control but don't actually turn the engine off)
  • Fuel selector off
  • Master electrical off (but leave it on since this is simulated, and we need to communicate)
  • Cabin heat and air off, leave overhead vents on
  • Airspeed 100 kts to extinguish the fire. If not extinguished increase speed until it is out.
  • Conduct a forced landing
By this point we were past the mid-left downwind, and ready to do a forced landing:
  • Declare where you're going to land (the runway)
  • Point the aircraft at the landing point
  • Maintain straight and level flight, and slow to best glide speed (65kt in the C172 with no flaps)
  • Communicate (radio intentions to traffic)
  • Forward slip to get down, including a turn to runway heading. I could put in flaps, but it takes a while to deploy them, and more importantly, it takes a while to retract them - but a forward slip can be taken out very quickly if we need to preserve altitude to make the runway.
  • On short final I put in 20 degrees of flaps, and did a pretty good landing just past the numbers.
Full power, carb heat off, flaps up, rotate, fly away.

On the third circuit I pulled the power from 2300rpm to 1700rpm earlier, rather from 2300rpm to 1500rpm later. Maintaining altitude by progressive nose-up and adding in 20 degrees of flaps, all on the latter stages of the downwind, meant I was starting to descend at my target airspeed as I turned to base. Reducing the power to idle on base, and starting the turn to final earlier (so it would be a nice gently-banked turn), meant I was in a much better setup during short final. Remember to keep the nose down to maintain airspeed, add a touch of power for distance, eyes to the end of the runway to get a better perspective for the flare and for yaw control, and the landing was much much better.

The instructor told me to exit at Bravo, he hopped out, and I flew two circuits solo. Both landings were quite good, though the second final approach was a bit low. My first solo was October 5 2008 in the Eclipse, this was my second "first solo", this time in the Cessna 172.

Next steps: Instrument instruction, in preparation for the cross-country solo. I've booked two 4-hour flights, next Friday (for dual cross-country) and next Sunday (for solo cross-country)

Dual flight: 0.3
Dual landings: 3 (1 forced)
Solo flight: 0.3
Solo landings: 2

Thursday, July 09, 2009

S S S S S Stuff


Third lesson in three days - I'm loving it. Today's weather was sunny with a large number of Cumulus clouds and a high ceiling - the glider pilots were loving it as well.

The aircraft was back a little late, so RK and I briefed Emergency Procedures. I'm doing the emergency procedures OK, my approach to the procedures is logical and reasonable, but not exactly what the manufacturer has prescribed. Time for some more study.

Preflight was very thorough, since we were going to be doing utility-grade work today. Taxi, checklists, and a normal take-off all went well. We flew up to the practice area, staked out an area between Meech Lake and the Gatineau River, and started the upper-air work. Most of these activities I had not performed since the fall of 2006, so while I knew what I needed to do, I was apprehensive.

  • Several power-off stalls (the C172 is very gentle in a stall). I recovered at the first sign of a stall, rather than seeing if we could get a good clean break&drop.
  • Power-on stalls. The aircraft breaks a little harsher, but recovery is routine.
  • Climbing turning full-power stalls - I've not seen one before. These are really interesting - one second you're climbing to the left in a very nose-up attitude, and the next second you've tumbled down to the right. This was demonstrated only, I didn't recover one myself (time constraint). Must do that someday.

  • My last spin was in October 2006, so I had RK demonstrate spin entry and recovery. We lost 1,000 of altitude in the spin.
  • I tried twice to put the C172 into a spin, but was too cautious in kicking it in, or we were not quite stalled enough when I tried the entry, and achieved two spiral dives - which I recovered easily.

Spiral Dives
  • RK put the aircraft into a few spiral dives, which I recovered correctly and readily (in addition to the failed spin attempts).
  • As a quick demonstration, RK put the airplane into a steep spiral dive and recovered. It felt like we were going to launch a torpedo attack on an aircraft carrier. Impressive. And what I am likely to see on my flight test.

And I put in a few forward slips on the way home, to lose the required altitude when leaving the practice area. Still not slick.

RK quizzed emergency procedures as I made radio calls, scanned for traffic, switched from the practice area to the aerodrome frequency. Nothing like keeping your mind busy.

Circuit good, final approach good, and the touchdown was the best yet.

Overall, I was very pleased with today's lesson. We reviewed a lot of items, I handled all of them (except entering a spin) well. Good enough to move along. I'd like to go back and review all items again, sometime in the near future, just for the practice. I was apprehensive and now feel comfortable, however, I would appreciate some additional practice.

Dual: 1.1
Landings: 1

Circuits, Forced Landings


Yes, this is my third lesson in three days. I'm on holiday, and I want to get the rust off in a hurry. Frequent lessons are so much better than once-every-week-or-two. Retention is much better, and improvements are readily visible.

Another low-ceiling marginal weather day. First time with Instructor RK.

Preflight, taxi (good), checklist (no missed items), and a short-field takeoff from 09.

I received some really good instruction on getting to different items earlier, some mental flows around the cockpit during high-activity periods (after-takeoff checklist, for example).

We did nothing but circuits, trying different flap combinations, throttle, starting earlier or later on items.

On one circuit, just as I was about to turn from downwind to base (the furthest point from the runway), the instructor pulled the throttle and declared that we had an engine fire. Gaaaaack. I stumbled through the mental checklist while I more-or-less made a beeline in the general direction of the runway. I need to aim for the numbers, and I need to know the Emergency Checklists crisply and by heart.

Overall, a big improvement in the final approach, and the circuits. Flare and landing is sort-of OK, but not yet smooth.

Dual: 0.8
Landings: 5

Q & A & Precautionaries & Diversions


Another marginal weather day. We had hoped to do some upper-air work, but low ceilings meant low-altitude work. Precautionary landings are 1,000 and 500 feet AGL, so they were today's agenda.

I started with 10 minutes of questions, regarding techniques and suggestions that were not clear from the previous two flights. We briefed precautionary landings, and I headed to the apron.

Preflight is getting faster, taxi is smoother, and I was absolutely determined to not miss that same item on the checklist.

Take-off on 09, and rotation was at the correct speed. Just to do something different, I did a short-field takeoff.

Cleared to the west, we went and found a field in the practice area and performed a precautionary approach, aborting the landing at 500 feet AGL. I got most of the steps correct, but it didn't flow. Nothing that some study won't fix.

There was a good-sized rain-shower between ourselves and Rockcliffe, and no GPS in the aircraft, so SH called for a diversion to Rockcliffe. Out with the map, circle-circle-line etc, and I chose a course of 110 degrees and estimated 18nm, or 12 minutes. I still need to go back to the map with the protractor and ruler, and see if my estimates were accurate - they were close.

As we got to within 3-4 miles of the airport the rain shower was no longer between ourselves and the airport, we turned left 20 degrees so we would not fly over the Governor-General's house (even though we had enough altitude to clear the restricted airspace), and came in and landed on 27 (runway change while we were gone.

Done well:

  • Checklists, taxi, short-field takeoff, climbs, descents, turns, level flight.

Done, but dodgy:

  • Precautionary landing. The briefing was good, the airborne execution was so-so. I absolutely need to do better.

Getting better

  • Landing. Angle of bank is now consistently less than 20 degrees, but I'm starting the turns too late. Ground proximity judgement is improving.

Dual: 1.3
Landings: 1

Not Pretty, but Safe


Thursday's weather sucked. Low clouds, very broken so it could be raining one minute and sunny the next, intermittent rain showers, poor visibility. As a low-time student, this is weather I would not fly solo in. However, with the IFR-certified CFI in the right seat, in a capable airplane, with a GPS - no problem.

The lesson started with a quick discussion sitting on a bench in the sunshine. We'll go up, find out what we have to work with, and adapt from there. What a relaxing way to start a lesson!!!

Taxi was less wandering but not yet pretty. I missed the same item on the checklist during the run-up. Not much better at getting the nose wheel up at the rotation speed, but getting used to the C172 yoke being much heavier than the Eclipse's stick. Suggestion was to put in a bit more nose-up trim to assist in taking the weight off.

Takeoff on 09, climb out on the circuit, fly the downwind leg at 1,000 feet AGL, and then cleared to the west. We climbed up to around 2,000 feet, dodged a few clouds, flew through some rain, and decided that we were not going to be doing any upper-air work today.

We diverted to Gatineau ()the GPS made it easier to find), and performed three touch&go circuits using different flap combinations, exploring different speeds, and getting generally oriented to the handling of the aircraft.

Back to Rockcliffe, land, fuel, park.

His summary: "Not pretty, but safe". We'll keep working through to the cross-country.

My summary: Like last flight, my head was behind the aircraft most of the time. I could work on the important skills (attitude, speed, checklists, communications), but periodically forgot&caught certain steps. The landings were all on the mains, but not well timed. The circuit wasn't at 90 degree turns. Just banging around the sky, close, but not right. Overall, I know what I'm supposed to be doing, just not doing it very well.

Dual: 1.3
Landings: 4

Canada Day Celebrations - July 1

One of the attractions of flying from a club is the social aspect. Rockcliffe Flying Club is co-located with the Canadian Aviation Museum, and on every July 1 all the national museums are free entry. So a crowd of several thousand show up at the museum, and quite a few planes fly in for breakfast and a tour.

So Nancy (wife) and I spent most of the day at the Club. Nancy served breakfast from 9-11, we both did the clean-up from 11-1230. The airport was closed for a radio-controlled flight demonstration, and then the Snowbirds (Canadian Air Force demonstration team) did their airshow over Parliament Hill, then they did a turn or three over the field. Afterwards, the Snowbird pilots (and astronaut Chris Hadfield) came into the museum for autographs.

Nancy and I walked through the museum, then Nancy had a sightseeing tour - her first flight in a small aircraft.

Nancy went home for the afternoon, while I stayed at the field and marshaled the four aircraft that were giving sightseeing tours (three C172's belonging to the club, plus a Waco biplane). Overall, a great day for socializing and meeting people, looking at airplanes. And flying.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

RFC Flight 1


I was scheduled to take my first two flights with the CFI, as an assessment of where to put me into the "curriculum". Tomorrow is Canada Day, with a fly-in, breakfast, the SnowBirds fly-by, airplane rides and much more, so there were many too many last-minute details. A different instructor, SH, substituted.

We started with a briefing, especially managing the landing circuit (when to reduce throttle, drop flaps, etc). I was well-prepared with the V-speeds for RFC's aircraft, had reviewed the checklists and emergency procedures from the RFC website, and I have manuals from two other (different year, different model) C172s so I had a general awareness of the aircraft characteristics.

The pre-flight took the better part of a half hour, as I poked, prodded, looked into all the nooks and crevices, understood the inter-relationships of the different systems, and so forth.

The checklist has a section where different combinations of carb heat and throttle are used, to ensure the engine is not going to stall on a certain combination. I skipped a step, which was caught.

Taxi with a steerable nosewheel is again different. Being used to a castoring nosewheel I was not at all hesitant about punching the rudder to gain directional control, which is much more effective with a semi-steerable nosewheel. Once again, we meandered down the apron and taxiway like a drunken sailor as I over-controlled my way down the taxiway. Shades of the summer of 2006.

Takeoff was on 09, so we did the run-up at the start of taxiway C. Positioning was OK, checklists were slower to process due to unfamiliarity.

On the takeoff roll I found the elevators to be very heavy - we stayed on the nosewheel too long and rotated 15nmph late. Takeoff was fine, as was the climb out. We proceeded to the practice area east of the Gatineau River.

The air lesson was on the fundamental manoeuvres, including straight & level flight, turns to a heading, climbs, descents, climbing turns, descending turns. We spent quite a bit of time in 45-degree steep turns, I initially had difficulty maintaining altitude but eventually got working. The turns sometimes approached 60 degrees of bank, so I need to work on the smoothness. I spent quite a bit of time trying to keep my eyes outside, getting re-acquainted with the over-the-dashboard view from a different aircraft.

In preparation for the landing we spent some time getting used to slow flight - getting the flaps out, and handling the aircraft in a mushy and nose-up attitude.

Flew the approach into Rockcliffe, landing was with 20 degrees of flaps. Not pretty, but not too bad. No yaw, the flare was not a last-second panic but it wasn't a smooth flowing transition.

Filled the tanks, and pushed the aircraft to the parking spot.

Need to work on:

  • Flow with the checklists
  • Keeping my head ahead of the aircraft - I felt like I was struggling to keep up for most of the flight
  • Carb heat - the Eclipse was fuel injected and so carb heat is a new control I need to manage

Did well:

  • I can fly an airplane. After the layoff and with my low time I am quite rusty, and sometimes I need to think through things to figure out what I am doing... but I fundamentally have a clue.

Time: 1.2 Dual
Landings: 1
First flight in C172.

If all the instructors at RFC are cut from the same cloth as SH, I am going to have a very enjoyable time here. I have a very positive reaction to his laid-back, mellow, observant-as-a-hawk, teaching style.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


I pinged Tony, another blogging pilot from the Ottawa area, and he was very generous with his time as he discussed the flying community in Ottawa, and Rockcliffe Flying Club in particular. He's an instructor at RFC and so not totally impartial, but he's happy there. And after the discussion, for balanced and good reasons. Again, the social atmosphere kept coming through in the conversation.

I made an appointment with the CFI at Rockcliffe. After a discussion about the Club values, operating model, instructor pool, fleet, and more, I made the decision and joined.

My only concern is the limited size of the fleet, as they lost two aircraft to a tornado that went through earlier this year.

My PTR is in the rack.

As a bonus, I saw a yellow Husky parked on the apron, so I searched out Tony Hunt, a sometimes-follower of this blog, and a part-time instructor at RFC. We've emailed, blogged, and chatted on the phone, and this was the first face-to-face meeting. He loves to fly, so he offered (and I eagerly accepted) a spin in his Husky. We put 0.8 on the Hobbs up to the practice area and back, as he showed off his pride&joy.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Picking up the PTR

The Pilot Training Record is the document that has to be maintained as a student pilot - it records every flight, what you did on every flight, where you went, what you flew -- everything.

It belongs to the student, not the flying club or school. Alas, when you apply for your "real" license then it is sent in to Transport Canada, never to be seen again.

This morning, after dropping off my wife at the airport for her week-long vacation, I stopped in at the flying school and picked up my PTR. I'm changing schools. I had a brief chat with the Assistant CFI over the service counter, discussing the reasons. But ultimately, it comes down to the fact that I am going to commit a lot of time and money to finishing my PPL, and I am going to be happy doing it. And I didn't think I was going to be happy here.

My reasons:

  • They do not have an online booking system. I expect a web-based booking system, which is much faster when it comes to being opportunistic about making last-minute bookings. And I have had inconsistent results with them answering the phone, and even worse results in returning messages, so the absence of an online system is even more problematic.
  • They fly the Katana - which is a great little aircraft, easy to handle, but the useful load is minimal. With two adults (one of which is me!) and a full tank of gas, we're over-weight.
  • It will be more expensive - a good slice of the flying time is spent getting from the airfield to the practice area. It's a 20-minute flight (at least), not a 5-minute hop. And the Katana flies slowly because of the low power output of the engine.
  • The atmosphere - they are a business, operating on the GA apron at a major airport. The atmosphere is a bit sterile. I'm after a rather an additional factor, a casual, social, relaxed dimension to the environment, which a club-style organization can provide. In addition, I need to get my wife engaged in flying (starting with the social dimension), which I can get at Rockcliffe.
  • I was really pleased with my first lesson (with the ACFI) - we got along well, he's quit a cheerful guy, and in addition to being a good pilot he is also a good instructor. My second lesson - not so jolly.

So I picked up the PTR, and I'm switching. I'll write a thank-you email to the CFI, describing my reasons for changing.

Time to phone Rockcliffe.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Nobody expects the Spanish Inquistion

Date: Saturday May 30
Time: 1.5 Dual
Landings: 1

I showed up at the flight school 20 minutes before my lesson, my instructor was not there. I picked up the bag for the aircraft and went out and did the preflight. After one visit, I learned that checking the oil on the Rotax engine is a pain - it has a dry sump so you need to hand-prop the engine to pump out the oil which has seeped into the sump and then check the oil level. It was, of course, low so I asked a ramper to fill the oil (nobody but staff is supposed to add oil), and went inside and waited for my instructor.

At 2 minutes to lesson the instructor breezes in, introduces himself, and we go sit down and he proceeds to give me an inquisition for an hour, checking me on all the Gate 4 items. Ummmmm, OK. I wasn't expecting this, and because I download and read manuals I could handle more questions than I expected. But how much oil does the engine hold? Coolant? Hell, I dunno -- but I should (the answer is between 3.2 and 3.4 US quarts). I knew all of the v-speeds cold. I discovered I was rusty on other things I should know, such as aircraft documents.

Because the Katana is low-powered and very different from the Eclipse, or because this instructor insists on molding everyone to his way of doing things, he got quite pedantic about the exact right way to do everything. I believe it was well-intentioned (to get me up to a level-4 crispness), but no context was provided by either this instructor or by the previous one. Hence the title for this posting.

We went outside, did a pre-flight, pointed at all the parts and asked dozens of questions. There are five holes on the front of the Katana, which let in air for the oil cooler, coolant cooler (for the cylinder heads), cooling air for the cylinders, air to the carbs, and a little one-inch hole which lets in cooling air for the generator. Plus two more on each side, for the air vents for the human cargo.

We loaded up, worked the checklist, worked the radios, and went flying.

The Katana flies like a pregnant goose. We were getting maybe 300-400fpm, and we were climbing to 3,000'. ATC was patient.

My altitude holding sucked. The feedback from the elevator to the stick was minimal, so you need to watch the attitude and the altimeter like a hawk to maintain constant altitude, and setting the trim was guesswork.

My confidence sucked. The inquisition took it out of me.

The only specific exercise we flew was steep turns, 45 degrees of bank while maintaining altitude. In this aircraft you need to do it right, because if you lose 200 feet of altitude it took forever to get it back, and an eternity to get it back if banked at 45 degrees.

The practice area was stupid busy - there must have been 5-6 aircraft in there, and most of us were doing upper-air work. More distractions.

Finally we started flying home, doing a descending 360 degree turn down to 2,000 ft and flying under the area where another aircraft was practicing. Flying west over the river we coordinated with another aircraft who was headed north, and another aircraft from the same school came barrelling through with no radio calls.

We reconnected with Ottawa Terminal then Tower, flew a right base, and landed. My landing sucked - no bounces etc, but I didn't maintain airspeed through final approach. And I succombed to the desire to put in right yaw.

There was no post-flight debriefing. My instructor said I did well (huh?), and then set about chewing a new one for the pilot that came barrelling through unannounced.

While all of the actions of this school are well-intentioned - and I can see how they would be effective - the packging leaves something to be desired.

The other factor is that the Katana just doesn't have much MTOW (1609 pounds), and it is easily at maximum weight, or over, with two adult males aboard.

I left. I'm not sure I'll go back.

In all, the lesson was worthwhile. I learned that I need to pick up my game. I am admittedly rusty in my flying technique, and switching aircraft has been a learning experience. I have been doing lots of reading in the past 4 months. But if I want to be a pilot, I need a lot more crispness.

Appointment at RFC

I went flying again last Saturday... I'm not sure if I liked it or not (different instructor, different technique). I definitely learned that I am rusty on my finer techniques and that I will have to pick up my game.

However, I am also not the little lithe guy I was in my early teenage years, and so weight is a concern when flying the Katana especially with another (male) instructor and a full tank of gas.

So, I have an appointment with the CFI over at Rockland Flying Club at 3:30 this afternoon. Aside from flying different aircraft (172's and 152's), they are a club rather than a business, and so there apparently is a different culture around the place.

I don't know if I am going to switch, or not -- but my mind is open.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Date: Wednesday May 13
Dual: 1.1
Landings: 3

After not flying since January, on Tuesday I had enough of the absence. Time to get back at it.

So I phoned one of the local flying schools and booked a flight. I chose Ottawa Aviation Services, primarily because they fly the Katana, and I am so close to PPL that I did not want a drastic change of aircraft from the Eclipse. One of my instructors went to OAS, and others have had good words to say. I'll get my Cessna type-certification later.

This was a flight with several firsts:
  • First time flying an aircraft other than an Eclipse,
  • First time flying in a control zone (CZ),
  • First time flying to/from CYOW,
  • First time flying without a GPS,
  • First time flying with OSA,
  • First time flying with a carburetor instead of fuel injection,
  • First time flying an aircraft with a constant-speed propeller,
  • First time flying in 4 months.

Original plan for the flight was to depart Ottawa, fly to the practice area, do some upper air work, return. Along the way we decided to divert to CYRP to do some T&G, as I was still thinking about whether I want to fly this aircraft.

Flying went fine. W&B was done (we were at the max weight). Pre-flight was straight-forward. Checking the oil in a Rotax engine is a PITA, since you need to hand-rotate the prop to pump out the dry sump, to get an accurate reading on the dipstick. There is also coolant to check.

Phoned FSS to get a transponder code (they answered on the second ring), new checklist so I needed to be very methodical and not allow the checklist get corrupted by my memory, engine start was clean, taxi was easy. I had to think carefully about each radio call before making it, and stumbled the phonetic alphabet. I certainly didn't pick up the information from the controllers quickly. I also need to get a notebook and create some quick-reference sheets - the whole dynamic of receiving instructions from ATC is new, I will forget them. It was tough enough to be listening to every message to key on our call sign.

We briefed our departure. Rotate is 51kt in the Katana (Eclipse was 44). After take-off we turn right 30 degrees and increase pitch to drop the engine RPMs, because some folks who live at the end of the runway don't like the noise.

Over Bell's Corners we banked and headed north towards Constance Lake, then turned west and flew the approach into CYRP. The first time I landed the Katana I wanted it to be at a quiet airport. Good stabilized approach, decent rotation but I got the nose a little bit high (I wonder if it is because the engine is lighter, or because it is a lighter aircraft and so the control surfaces are more effective. Or if I am just rusty). Anyway, we ballooned, so I added a touch of power and got it on the ground. Not pretty, but not ugly.

Hit the throttle, retracted the flaps, got airborne and took a lap.

On the second approach I was high, so I carefully put in a forward slip (it has been 4 months, and we were low and slow - not a good place to stall), kept the speed at 60kt, straightened out at about 200 feet. Landing was OK except that I had to be reminded to remove the yaw - which I kicked out as we settled.

Throttle forward, flaps to take-off, get airborne, swing south, get ATIS, switch to Ottawa Terminal and say hello.

Orienting myself to CYOW from the air was different. I had only seen that airport from the ground as a passenger.

Final landing was not smooth, but I had the yaw corrected and I was doing fundamentally the right things.

Afterwards, we reviewed the OAS syllabus, determined where I would restart, and did the paperwork.

Now I need to book some vacation time, and get this thing finished.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bad Connections

Last week I spent a few days in Minneapolis, flying Ottawa-Philadelphia-Minneapolis there, and scheduled for the same routing to come home.

Wednesday I left the house late, since the pilot light on the furnace had gone out (scurry around and relight it), and then traffic sucked to the airport, and I missed the cutoff. Full marks to the agent at check-in for switching me to alternate flights and choosing to waive the change fee and difference in the ticket prices. With the resulting bad connections and wait for the first flight, it was 16 hours from leaving home to arriving at my hotel.

Friday, coming home, Philadelphia was in flow-control mode due to weather, resulting in a guaranteed missed connection in PHL US Air initiated re-booking of all the connecting passengers on alternate flights and airlines. The gate agent mistakenly put me on MSP-ORD-YUL (Montreal), and by the time I got back to the agent and got rescheduled on MSP-YYZ-YOW my baggage had efficiently been put on the now-departed United flight to Chicago.

From the time I arrived at the airport, to the time I got home, was 11 hours. My baggage is in one of MSP, ORD, PHL, YUL or YYZ but not YOW. My money is on ORD.

Complaints about US Air? No, I like flying them except that their schedule to Ottawa is not frequent enough. The cabin crew are great, the planes are new, the gate agents are helpful (though a bit-fat-fingered when rescheduling me). It would be great if their lounge had free drinks and food like Air Canada does.

But sheesh, let me get out the maps. For the price of the plane ticket (I booked this business trip on short notice) and for the length of time it took to get there, it would have been cheaper and faster in a Cessna.

I am re-motivated.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Posted from the US Air Club Lounge, Philadelphia

"I once spent a year in Philadelphia, I think it was on a Sunday." W.C. Fields

So I am stuck in the Philadelphia airport with a six-hour layover between flights.

It started when I got up this morning and the house seemed quite cold, so I checked the thermostat and it was displaying 12C. Not right. Checked the pilot light on the furnace, managed to get it re-lit, and then high-tailed it to the airport for this business trip.

Traffic was not pretty because I was a bit later than I wanted to be. And the net-net was that I got to the US Air counter 50 minutes before my flight, well after their requested 90 minutes. The agent phoned the gate, the gate said the flight was closed, and so we went to work to get me on a later flight.

No sense being abrasive (like I'm going to talk someone out of this?), so I just took my lumps and admitted fault. She put me on a later flight, and did not charge the difference in ticket prices or the at-airport change fee.

After the re-ticketing, and after clearing security (security for US destinations is as much of a theatre in Ottawa as it is in the USA), and after clearing US Customs & Immigration, I made it down to the boarding area - and they were doing the first boarding on the flight. Oh well.

And my stay in Philadelphia is six hours. It was a rotten connection between flights before, now it is a really rotten connection.

Oh well, they have a bar and a desk, so I am good. Though Air Canada lounges have free (albeit limited) food and a free bar.

Though I was musing that - for the price of this ticket and the time it will take me each way (the return flight has a better connection) - I could have rented a Cessna and got there in less time and money, weather permitting.

Except that I don't have my PPL yet.

And except that the weather on Friday is going to truly suck.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Getting the itch

I haven't flown since the diversions practice in early January. A combination of the school choosing to close, the poor weather on the weekends, early sunset on weekdays, and a huge business travel schedule (I've been on the road each week for the last 4 weeks, and will be traveling again this coming week) has precluded more lessons.

I've been filling up the time by studying for my PPL Transport Canada examination, so I have not been idle - but I have not been flying.

Tomorrow (February 23rd) is the 100th anniversary of heavier-than-air flight in Canada. My goal was to have my PPL by tomorrow, a goal for which I was on-track and likely would have achieved - except for the weather and the flight school.

Oh well - any time you over-rush things in aviation you increase the chances for a Bad Result. I still have my goal, only the timing has been deferred.

On the upside, there are rumours that one of the other schools in the Ottawa area is going to open a satellite operation at CYRP. That will make things logistically easier, but I am still going back to first principles in deciding the next steps.

In the meantime, I study and dream.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I need a new Flying School

Yesterday's email:

To All,

I am very sad that I have to announce that Carp Flying Academy Inc. is
ceasing operations immediately due to a number of factors. Business and economic
factors as well as weather have all contributed to this very difficult

I want to thank everyone for their patronage over the last three

I can be reached at to answer any questions you
may have.

For the students, your PTR's will be still be available in the FBO during
weekday hours.

Thank you,
Jennifer E. Putinski

Drat. I liked flying with them. Jenny's husband used to coach one of my daughters in soccer. These are real people, who cared about their business and their customers. They had Christmas potluck dinners in the hangar. I never worried about the maintenance or safety of the aircraft, and they didn't pull any surprises on me.

But the short days (early sunset) in November, December and January precludes most people from flying after work. Anyone available to fly during the day is either not working or retired, which usually means "not flush with cash". And the weather this year in December has been brutal, with non-VFR conditions on many days and, most importantly, many weekends. In aviation the expenses continue even if the income doesn't. It's a business where fuel is the major variable expense and the one that decreases if you don't fly.... but debt costs, salary, insurance, rent etc all continue even if the birds are not flying and generating revenue.

To Jenny and all the people I met and flew with at CFA: Thank you. May you rebound elsewhere. Tailwinds and clear skies.

And I need to go find a new place to fly.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Water Landing

The mystique of "Those Magnificent Flying Machines" is well-preserved. Only a few select people have a license to fly an aircraft, and fewer still get paid to do it. The idea of jet-setting all over the world isn't thought of as "living out of a suitcase, always away from home", but as "constantly visiting exotic locales". And most people have no idea how a huge vehicle weighing hundreds of thousands of pounds can fly through the sky, making the entire business even more magical.

And when something goes wrong, like a double-engine failure over a major city resulting in a water landing, and everyone lives to talk about it, it is major news.

I'm a student pilot, at the post-solo, pre-license stage. I have a wife. My wife is (fortunately) worried about my safety, as she recognizes that any activity increases risk to life and limb.

And so I got The Interrogation this morning. My wife is very talented, and I am very verbose, so all she needs to say is "So what do you think about this water landing?" Thanks for the invitation, here you are....

Engine-out flying is no big deal. From early in a pilot's training, we are taught to fly engine-out forced landings. Every glider pilot flies without an engine. Most landings, I have the engine at idle.

Planning a forced landing is, again, a basic training activity. Within gliding range, find a "suitable" landing area. Effectively, suitable means least-worst. If you are within gliding range of an airstrip then you have access to a very good alternative - in fact, landing on a runway is such an attractive alternative that part of our training is to land straight ahead if the engine fails shortly after takeoff, as you have neither enough kinetic energy (speed) or potential energy (height above ground) to execute a 180 degree turn and get back to the runway. Glider pilots have a different attitude to an off-field landing. A power pilot thinks of a off-field landing as an emergency, while a glider pilot considers it an opportunity to go make friends with a farmer.

This landing will likely change the attitudes about on-water landings, and I'm not sure this is a good thing. Landing on water is routine for float planes, of course, but they are built for it, and they meet the water at a very low angle of incidence - the same angle as wheels on a runway. As Swissair 111 unfortunately demonstrated, when you meet the water at a high angle of attack and at high speed, hitting water is like hitting concrete. At a low angle of incidence, you bounce (ask a water-skier). The picture on the seat-back cards, showing a plane floating in the water tail-down while everyone makes an orderly exit through the front doors is the desirable, but extremely unlikely, outcome. An airplane with fixed or extended landing gear will have the gear dig in, the sudden drag will likely flip you over, and the sudden whip-lash is likely more stress than the aircraft can handle. The Really Big Risk for an aircraft with under-wing engines is that one engine will dig in before the other and cartwheel the aircraft, like the 1996 Ethiopian Airlines hijacking that did a forced landing in the ocean when it ran out of fuel. On the whole, if you don't have floats strapped to the bottom of your aircraft, you are better landing on flat land of any description, rather than on water.

I'm glad the pilot decided to put the aircraft down on the river. A fully-laden A320 will slide for a long way on the ground, and there isn't a "long way" available in a dense urban area. That means they would have plowed through homes, shopping malls and businesses for a distance, spewing fuel from the near-full fuel tanks and inflicting carnage on anything in their path. Given the known risks of landing on water in an engine-under-wing aircraft, the pilot considered the aggregate welfare of the people on the ground and on the aircraft, and put the people on the ground ahead of the welfare of the people on the aircraft. Exceptional decision making. That he had a flyable aircraft (it wasn't powered, but otherwise fully controllable) was an asset that he used to full advantage.

The landing itself was beyond outstanding. The aircraft didn't cartwheel, it just plowed in, likely planed on the surface for some short distance, and then settled in. It doesn't get any more perfect than this.

I heard a news report yesterday that they were looking for the engines. Since they knew where the aircraft was (lashed to a jetty at the side of the river), that implies the engines were ripped off mid-river during the landing run (I doubt they fell off mid-air, but to be pedantically accurate, we don't know). Ripping an engine off a wing takes a huge amount of stress, meaning that there was a huge amount of drag from the engine digging into the water. The aircraft didn't cartwheel or ground loop (water loop?), so the drag must have been balanced, and the engines tore off at close to the same time. The flight recorder will have captured the deceleration, altitude and direction (including yaw), so what happened will be authoritatively established during the investigation. However, all of this would not have happened unless the pilot kept the wings very level - another demonstration of exceptional flying.

Non-aviators, and non-professional aviators, will not understand the underlying attitude that competent pilots must have towards situation management. When something goes wrong, you have to do something, you have a range of choices, you have to select something and then do it. The next part is critical - you evaluate the results of your choice, and then you keep making more choices. No matter how many things have gone wrong and how bad the situation might be, you always have to have the attitude that there is management to be done, and there is always something you can do to make the situation better. This might be described as a can-do attitude, or glamorized as "the right stuff", or described in a low-tech manner as "flying the airplane until the last part stops moving" - and it is a required skill for a pilot.

Initial media reports are that the engines failed due to bird strikes, and in particular, Canada Geese. A Canada Goose weighs between 6 and 14 pounds, and they fly in flocks, so plowing through a V-wedge of them would certainly inflict heavy damage on an aircraft. My wife asked if I had an encounters with birds. Sure have. I worry about bird strikes on take-off, when speed, altitude, visibility and options are low. We commonly see flocks of snow buntings come off the ground on final approach - when that happens I continue the landing since I'm gliding or at minimum power and not dependent on the engine, and set up for landing. A bad thing would be to reject the landing and switch to a take-off, hit the birds, lose the engine, be at full flaps in a nose-up attitude at a higher altitude and with not much runway ahead.

The one group that did meet my expectations throughout all of this was the electronic media. But I have very low expectations of the electronic media, and they delivered at the expected level of hoopla (high) and expertise (low).

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Diversions - Jan 11

Circle, circle, line,
Heading, distance, time,
MEF and fuel are great,
Tell someone you'll be late.

Today's lesson was diversions. Again, the weather was clear and cold, not a cloud in the sky, a wonderful day for flying. Especially since I was going to be busy in the cockpit, and turbulence doesn't help.

The Why:

A diversion is when you change your mind mid-way through a cross-country flight (or any flight from here to there) regarding your destination. Reasons might include weather (where did those clouds come from?), fuel issues (man, those are ugly headwinds), passenger illness, or maybe you just changed your mind (the burgers at xxx are yucky, let's go to yyy instead).

The Wrinkle:

When performing the diversion the pilot does not have the benefit of advance planning. Of course, before the flight alternative aerodromes are identified. However, the calculations (time, distance, headings, etc.) are not calculated before the flight. When the decision to divert is made, it's calculating and planning time.


Because the pilot has to fly the plane as well as plan the diversion, in the cramped confines of the cockpit, and plan under a time constraint, there isn't time to use rulers, protractors or calculators. The planning will be a "back-of-an-envelope" exercise using estimates, not tools.

Focus On:
  • Don't get lost - we're going to be flying a course based on the DG or the compass (magnetic north), but the map's grid lines are oriented on true north. Using a VOR compass rose, or making an estimate using the grid lines and the local magnetic variation, can be used to determine the magnetic heading.
  • Safety - In each grid of the map there is a number, the MEF or Maximum Elevation Figure, which is the ASL height of the highest terrain or obstruction (towers, antenna, etc) in that grid. To this figure must be added the required obstruction clearance, for safe flight through that grid. As a specific example, if the reason for the diversion is a descending cloud base, calculating a safe transit to the alternate destination requires priority in the planning.

Planning Procedure:

Circle, circle, line
  • Choose, and circle, a Set Heading Point for the start of the diversion.
  • Circle the destination
  • Draw a line between the SHP and the destination.
  • Circle any obstructions along the route.
  • Select way points along the route.
  • Mark the halfway point along the line.
Heading, Distance, Time
  • Estimate the magnetic heading to be flown.
  • Estimate the length of each segment. Since we can't use a ruler, use what is hand (my thumb is 6 nautical miles wide). Some books suggest using a tool such as a notched pencil - the Transport Canada won't allow them during the flight exam.
  • Using the current indicated airspeed, calculate the duration of the first flight segment, and the duration of the diversion.
MEF and Fuel are great
  • Check the MEF on the chart, and chose an altitude for the flight. If you can fly at altitude, remember to comply with the VFR altitude requirements (e.g. 4500' for westerly course, 3500' for easterly).
  • Knowing the estimated duration of the diversion, is there sufficient fuel. If you can look up the fuel burn in the POH good, otherwise use a conservative estimate. Remember to include the VFR 30 minute reserve (45 minutes for night).
Tell someone you'll be late.
  • Fly to the SHP. Record the time at the SHP, and calculate the ETA at the destination.
  • Call up FSS (126.7), and amend the flight plan.
At arrival at the Set Heading Pint, the following should be complete:
  • DG is aligned with the compass
  • The aircraft should be at the chosen altitude, selected power, and trimmed.
  • The aircraft should be on heading
  • A cockpit check (temperature, pressures, mixture, etc) is completed.

After the briefing, we launched and flew two diversions. We flew at low altitude, so there was limited opportunity to look far into the distance and say "we're going there" and then just point the airplane.

And I greased the landing when we went home. It happens.

Time: 0.8 dual

After refueling the aircraft and catching up with my instructor inside, he notified me that I had been signed off to fly the Pembroke cross-country route solo.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

First Cross-Country - Jan 10

After several cancellations, we finally flew cross-country.

A large high pressure area had settled over eastern Ontario, so the air was very stable and very cold. The high was passing Ottawa mid-afternoon, causing the upper winds to swing by as much as 90 degrees, depending on altitude and the time of the flight. Any planning based on the projected winds was going to result in recalculation.

My chosen route was from Carp airport to the town of Quyon, then westerly to Pembroke. Most of my flying to date has been low altitude, so I opted for 4500' westerly, and 5500' on the easterly return.

The results:
  • Flight planning was largely correctly done - considering it was my first time planning a cross-country flight. I transposed digits on one heading (325 instead of 235). Better desk-checking should have caught this.
  • The outbound chosen track was a good one - easy to follow as it was along the Ottawa River. The return route was harder to follow, but I managed to follow it using pilotage.
  • Filing the flight plan created a few errors. I used local time instead of Zulu, did some quick calculations when asked, compressed the time that I thought we would be airborne, and got behind the schedule. Lesson: Don't get rushed.
  • The take-offs and landings were good,
  • The cockpit for the Eclipse is cramped. I need to figure out how to "build my nest". When flying solo it will be much easier - I'll have an empty seat beside me on which to place things.
  • Little things count. I put the map on a clipboard, folded to show my route. The natural way to hold a clipboard is with the clip at the top. After stopping at Pembroke I should have switched the map around - every time I picked up the clipboard I had to spend time get oriented. It was interesting how a small detail was so disruptive.
  • Calculations on the outbound route went well.
  • Coming home, the winds were significantly different than plan. I twice had to reset onto my planned track using the "Visual Alteration" method, estimate a new heading, and try tracking home. In all, I adapted well, but there was too much scrambling. As a result, doing the ground speed calculations, and re-calculating the ETA for the final destination lapsed.

All in all, it was fun. The flying (RPM, heading and altitude management) was easy. Being up high made it easy to determine my location.

Time: 2.1 Dual

Landings: 2 (Pembroke was OK, the landing at Carp sucked)

Tomorrow's lesson: Diversions.

If all goes well, I'll be signed off to fly this cross-country route solo.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

XC Flight Planning, but no Flying

The weather in late December sucked. Either the clouds were too low, the winds were too high, it was snowing, it was raining. And when it looked like the Wx was going to come together, either the airplane wasn't available or the school was closed for the holidays.


However, I did complete two ground school lessons on cross-country flying. The first was a complete review of the Navigation 3 ground school lesson, working out the XC flight plan and the ICAO flight plan, flight criteria (hours remaining until maintenance, aircraft documents, etc), NOTAMs, GFA, METAR, takeoff and landing distances, W&B, etc -- all things you are supposed to do before lighting her up and launching into the blue.

I double-booked this weekend... Saturday is supposed to snow but that is 5 days away, Sunday is supposed to be clear but the available time period is quite compressed.

All the calculations did reveal one thing... using the Jepp CR-3 for density altitude and Wind Correction Angle is a pain... I ordered a CX-2 and a E6B. The circular slide rule is faster for some calculations such as recalculating ETE once the new ground speed is known, as opposed to bouncing from menu to menu on the CX-2, so I'll carry both.

But being grounded is a bugger.