April 1998Commentary

Flight Forum

Crosswind Contention

I must disagree with the February "Flight Forum" letter that said cross-controls for crosswind correction on final is uncomfortable, and frightening for passengers. I slip 300 to 600 passengers a week down final, and there is no discomfort. My generation (Vietnam era) of pilots sometimes refer to the two crosswind techniques as Air Force (cross-control stabilized on final), or Navy (rudder during the flare).

The danger in the Navy technique is not being stabilized. Sometimes the pilot puts in the rudder too late, which causes the airplane to touch down with a side-load on the gear. Built to slam into a carrier's deck, Navy airplanes can withstand this, but as the MD-11 accident at Newark illustrates, other airplane's gear can only hold up to just so much side-load. Also, drift correction in "crab" is opposite of drift correction in "slip." Making that change-over during the flare is awkward and I have seen it cause many cases of touchdown with side-loads.

My company's policy is a stabilized final, including cross-controls. As far as I know, the other major carriers are the same. I've used stabilized cross-control in crosswinds for 14,000 hours in airplanes ranging from my CriCri (the world's smallest twin) through Cherokees, 172s, the supersonic T-38, the C141, Boeing 707, 727, 737, 757, 767, and the MD11. It has been neither uncomfortable nor frightening in any of these airplanes. I believe that putting crosswind rudder in during the flare is taking an unnecessary risk, and flying doesn't need any more risk.

W. David Doiron
Tempe, Arizona

Another Way To Get The Picture

In February's "Are You Ground Shy?" the author brings out a good point, and I have found it to be common that low-time students have trouble getting the round-out to flare sight picture. The sense of speed increases as the altitude decreases and so does the student's level of apprehension as we get closer to the ground.

Getting the student to "see" the correct sight picture of when to flare is curable by making repeated low passes (at flare height above the runway) as Amy suggests. I have found another method that works as well.

I teach in the Cessna 152, and a student of average height has an eye level height above the ground of approximately five feet. If the student stands on a chair, his (or her) eye level height is approximately seven feet, or the same as being in the 152 when its wheels are around two feet off the ground. The ideal height to begin to flare!

Rather than make repeated low passes, I have the student stand on the chair and look down a long taxiway, "burning in" that mental sight picture without any distractions. Then we fly the pattern and, if necessary, make a low pass to get the feel. Standing on a chair at the end of a straight taxiway (out of the flow of traffic, of course) may appear odd to onlookers, but I have had much success with this technique, and my students will attest that it works!

Mike Berlin, CFI
Willimantic, Connecticut

Finish What You Start

December's "Flight Forum" letter from Wesley Alan Taylor, which encouraged pilots to finish the training they started, caused me to chuckle. Not because Mr. Taylor endured three starts over nine years before he achieved his dream of being a pilot, but because it took me nearly 25 years!

My father was a commercial pilot who gave me airplane rides as a little boy. I joined the Civil Air Patrol at age 13, and older cadets who had solo wings on their chests inspired me. One day I dreamed of having wings on my chest, too.

I began flight training one month after my 16th birthday in August 1971. Over the next eight months I made 11 dual training flights in five different aircraft and with five different instructors. Still, I managed to solo on April 27, 1972 after logging just 10-and-a-half hours. I logged another 30 hours over the following year. Then, for all practical purposes, I stopped flying because of growing family, professional, and financial obligations. Over the next 22 years I logged only 2.9 hours.

Some 45 hours of flying time served as an irritating needle over the years, a constant reminder that I never finished something I started. Late in 1996 I planned to finally finish it, and I started again on February 1, 1997. In April I earned my private ticket, in August I got my high-performance endorsement, and in October I re-joined the Civil Air Patrol. At the risk of sounding like a little kid at age 42, those wings on my uniform are a big kick to me! Who says you can't ever finish what you started 25 years earlier?

Mark Ransom, Private Pilot
Santa Clara, California

Taxi Impediment

In December's "Taxi Flight," I really appreciated your comment (along with the entire article) that "Before you start the engine, don't forget to remove all chocks and tiedowns. etc."

I laughed a belly full because it reminded me about taking a friend from Westminister, Maryland, to Akron/Canton, Ohio, several years ago. It was his first cross-country flight in a light aircraft and my first flight to Akron/Canton. My friend, who has the resources to learn to fly, was thrilled for the opportunity to make this trip.

My usual habit was to undo the tiedown ropes as I reached them during my preflight walk-around. As I rounded the tail, checking the stabilator, etc., I was preparing to untie the tail. My friend interrupted me by asking what kind of airplane was parked next to mine. We walked over to the beautifully restored Cessna 190, admired it, talked about how he would not mind owning such a fine craft, and headed back to the my Cherokee to complete the preflight. As you may have already guessed, we forgot to untie the tail.

After engine start, I applied power gently to move forward, then realized that something was still in place - the rear tiedown. I shut down everything, had my friend get out, then I climbed out to do the task. After I reboarded the craft, I heard my friend say to some bystanders, "We'll be leaving this time, without trying to take the airport with us." The thumbs of the bystanders of course came up along with their smiles.

Two lessons were learned - stick with the checklist, and start over if you're distracted; and learn to laugh at yourself. Have fun, it is a great life!

The Rev. Bernie Ward
Warrior's Mark, Pennsylvania

Strong Medicine

As I read Budd Davisson's February article, "Risk Management," it dawned on me that you were making a bold foray into some sensitive emotional territory within the flying psyche. Initially I was taken aback by the article's somewhat admonitional tone, but my feeling is that this kind of a wake up call, while strong medicine, will do more to avoid a real midnight wake up call to someone whose picture - and phone number - is in a fallen pilot's wallet. Instead of someone's inspirational address on safety issues, I know I'd be likely to think of "that phone call." So here's another toast to Flight Training and its realistic and effective approach to every facet of flying.

Jeff Pardo
via the Internet

CFI Employment Questions

In Patti Arthur's January 1998 article, "CFI Contracts," she brings out many important points a job hunting CFI and budding pro pilot must think about. Five years ago I'd just passed the 1,000-hour mark at my local field in Florida and was looking for a busy Part 141 flight school to help me build that must-have multiengine time. After what appeared to be a promising "offer" from a busy metropolitan Atlanta flight school, I packed my bags and relocated.

When I got there I was overwhelmingly disappointed to learn that the pay and working conditions of my "employment" were grossly slanted to the advantage of the school and the more senior instructors. I was devastated, and after dedicating time and money to this move, I quit after two weeks. I have since found a career where I use my CFI skills, but it's not flying. Best advice - ask a lot of questions, especially those that Patti Arthur recommends regarding compensation, status, and work rules. Follow your dreams, but remember - this is still a business.

Jonathan Warner, CFII
Marietta, Georgia

Carb Heat Mixture

Regarding January's letter, "Carb Heat Plus," written by Dr. Robinson on leaning with carb heat, the idea that carb ice always produces a rich mixture is subject to debate. Carburetor design for most common aircraft engines is based on the principle of air being drawn through a venturi, and the resultant pressure drop in the venturi then drawing fuel from the float chamber to mix and vaporize with the air. The air flow, controlled by the throttle valve, thus determines the basic fuel-air ratio. This ratio is further modified by the mixture control.

Carb icing is frequently manifested by an ice build-up on the throttle valve, which decreases the flow of air and may also impede the action of the venturi. When this occurs the amount of fuel being drawn should decrease and not necessarily enrichen the mixture.

Certainly, the addition of heated air will enrichen the mixture as we all know from the standard carb heat check. However, with the ice-induced flow deviations, I question the benefit of immediate leaning. Any of the bouts that I've had with carb ice, were remedied by simply adding full carb heat. The initial effects were never instantaneous and sometimes the engine sounded worse for a time instead of better. But no engine ever stopped on me. The only time that I've found leaning to be necessary was during prolonged use of partial heat, (with the benefit of a CHT gauge), or with full heat due to induction icing.

I don't think the situation is as simple as that stated by Dr. Robinson and would like to hear some other views on this.

D.S. Cowan
Hendersonville, North Carolina