Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Aircraft Structure Lift and Basic Aerodynamics

In order to understand the operation of the major components and subcomponents of an aircraft, it is important to understand basic aerodynamic concepts. This chapter briefly introduces aerodynamics; a more detailed explanation can be found in Chapter 4, Aerodynamics of Flight.

Four forces act upon an aircraft in relation to straight-and-level, un-accelerated flight. These forces are thrust, lift, weight, and drag. [Figure 2-1]

Thrust is the forward force produced by the power plant/propeller. It opposes or overcomes the force of drag. As a general rule, it is said to act parallel to the longitudinal axis. This is not always the case as explained later.

Weight is the combined load of the airplane itself, the crew, the fuel, and the cargo or baggage. Weight pulls the airplane downward because of the force of gravity. It opposes lift, and acts vertically downward through the airplane’s center of gravity (CG).

Lift opposes the downward force of weight, is produced by the dynamic effect of the air acting on the wing, and acts perpendicular to the flightpath through the wing’s center of lift.

An aircraft moves in three dimensions and is controlled by moving it about one or more of its axes. The longitudinal or roll axis extends through the aircraft from nose to tail, with the line passing through the CG. The lateral or pitch axis extends across the aircraft on a line through the wing tips, again passing through the CG. The vertical, or yaw, axis passes through the aircraft vertically, intersecting the CG. All control movements cause the aircraft to move around one or more of these axes, and allows for the control of the airplane in flight. [Figure 2-2]

One of the most significant components of aircraft design is CG. It is the specific point where the mass or weight of an aircraft may be said to center; that is, a point around which, if the aircraft could be suspended or balanced, the aircraft would remain relatively level. The position of the CG of an aircraft determines the stability of the aircraft in flight. As the CG moves rearward (towards the tail) the aircraft becomes more and more dynamically unstable. In aircraft with fuel tanks situated in front of the CG, it is important that the CG is set with the fuel tank empty. Otherwise, as the fuel is used, the

Drag is a rearward, retarding force, and is caused by disruption of airflow by the wing, fuselage, and other protruding objects. Drag opposes thrust, and acts rearward parallel to the relative wind. Aircraft becomes unstable. [Figure 2-3] The CG is computed during initial design and construction, and is further affected by the installation of onboard equipment, aircraft loading, and other factors.

Introduction to Aircraft Structure

An aircraft is a device that is used, or intended to be used, for flight, according to the current Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 1, Definitions and Abbreviations. Categories of aircraft for certification of airmen include airplane, rotorcraft, glider, lighter-than-air, powered-lift, powered parachute, and weight-shift control. 14 CFR part 1 also defines airplane as an engine-driven, fixed-wing aircraft that is supported in flight by the dynamic reaction of air against its wings. Another term, not yet codified in 14 CFR part 1, is advanced avionics aircraft, which refers to an aircraft that contains a global positioning system (GPS) navigation system with a moving map display, in conjunction with another system, such as an autopilot. This chapter provides a brief introduction to the structure of aircraft and uses an airplane for most illustrations. Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), such as weight-shift control, balloon, glider, powered parachute, and gyroplane have their own handbooks to include detailed information regarding aerodynamics and control.

Cockpit Management

After entering the airplane, the pilot should first ensure that all necessary equipment, documents, checklists, and navigation charts appropriate for the flight are on board. If a portable intercom, headsets, or a hand-held global positioning system (GPS) is used, the pilot is responsible for ensuring that the routing of wires and cables does not interfere with the motion or the operation of any control.

Regardless of what materials are to be used, they should be neatly arranged and organized in a manner that makes them readily available. The cockpit and cabin should be checked for articles that might be tossed about if turbulence is encountered. Loose items should be properly secured. All pilots should form the habit of good housekeeping.

The pilot must be able to see inside and outside references. If the range of motion of an adjustable seat is inadequate, cushions should be used to provide the proper seating position.

When the pilot is comfortably seated, the safety belt and shoulder harness (if installed) should be fastened and adjusted to a comfortably snug fit. The shoulder harness must be worn at least for the takeoff and landing, unless the pilot cannot reach or operate the controls with it fastened. The safety belt must be worn at all times when the pilot is seated at the controls.

If the seats are adjustable, it is important to ensure that the seat is locked in position. Accidents have occurred as the result of seat movement during acceleration or pitch attitude changes during takeoffs or landings. When the seat suddenly moves too close or too far away from the controls, the pilot may be unable to maintain control of the airplane.

14 CFR part 91 requires the pilot to ensure that each person on board is briefed on how to fasten and unfasten his/her safety belt and, if installed, shoulder harness. This should be accomplished before starting the engine, along with a passenger briefing on the proper use of safety equipment and exit information. Airplane manufacturers have printed briefing cards available, similar to those used by airlines, to supplement the pilot’s briefing.

FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam)

The FAA is dedicated to improving the safety of United States civilian aviation by conveying safety principles and practices through training, outreach, and education. The FAA Safety Team (FAASTeam) exemplifies this commitment. The FAASTeam has replaced the Aviation Safety Program (ASP), whose education of airmen on all types of safety subjects successfully reduced accidents. Its success led to its demise because the easy-to-fly accident causes have been addressed. To take aviation safety one step further, Flight Standards Service created the FAASTeam, which is devoted to reducing aircraft accidents by using a coordinated effort to focus resources on elusive accident causes.

Each of the FAA’s nine regions has a Regional FAASTeam Office dedicated to this new safety program and managed by the Regional FAASTeam Manager (RFM). The FAASTeam is “teaming” up with individuals and the aviation industry to create a unified effort against accidents and “tip” the safety culture in the right direction. To learn more about this effort to improve aviation safety, to take a course at their online learning center, or to join the FAASTeam, visit their web site at

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Engine and Propeller

The pilot should make note of the condition of the engine cowling. [Figure 2-8] If the cowling rivet heads reveal aluminum oxide residue, and chipped paint surrounding and radiating away from the cowling rivet heads, it is a sign that the rivets have been rotating until the holes have been elongated. If allowed to continue, the cowling may eventually separate from the airplane in flight.

Certain engine/propeller combinations require installation of a prop spinner for proper engine cooling. In these cases, the engine should not be operated unless the spinner is present and properly installed. The pilot should inspect the propeller spinner and spinner mounting plate for security of attachment, any signs of chafing of propeller blades, and defects such as cracking. A cracked spinner is unairworthy.

The propeller should be checked for nicks, cracks, pitting, corrosion, and security. The propeller hub should be checked for oil leaks, and the alternator/ generator drive belt should be checked for proper tension and signs of wear.

When inspecting inside the cowling, the pilot should look for signs of fuel dye which may indicate a fuel leak. The pilot should check for oil leaks, deterioration of oil lines, and to make certain that the oil cap, filter, oil cooler and drain plug are secure. The exhaust system should be checked for white stains caused by exhaust leaks at the cylinder head or cracks in the stacks. The heat muffs should also be checked for general condition and signs of cracks or leaks.

The air filter should be checked for condition and secure fit, as well as hydraulic lines for deterioration and/or leaks. The pilot should also check for loose or foreign objects inside the cowling such as bird nests, shop rags, and/or tools. All visible wires and lines should be checked for security and condition. And lastly, when the cowling is closed, the cowling fasteners should be checked for security.

Aviation Safety Inspector (ASI)

The Aviation Safety Inspectors (ASIs) administer and enforce safety regulations and standards for the production, operation, maintenance, and/or modification of aircraft used in civil aviation. They also specialize in conducting inspections of various aspects of the aviation system, such as aircraft and parts manufacturing, aircraft operation, aircraft airworthiness, and cabin safety. ASIs must complete a training program at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, which includes airman evaluation, and pilot testing techniques and procedures. ASIs also receive extensive on-the-job training and recurrent training on a regular basis. The FAA has approximately 3,700 inspectors located in its FSDO offices. All questions concerning pilot certification (and/or requests for other aviation information or services) should be directed to the local FSDO.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Landing Gear, Tires, and Brakes

Tires should be inspected for proper inflation, as well as cuts, bruises, wear, bulges, imbedded foreign object, and deterioration. As a general rule, tires with cord showing, and those with cracked sidewalls are considered unairworthy.

Brakes and brake systems should be checked for rust and corrosion, loose nuts/bolts, alignment, brake pad wear/cracks, signs of hydraulic fluid leakage, and hydraulic line security/abrasion.

An examination of the nose gear should include the shimmy damper, which is painted white, and the torque link, which is painted red, for proper servicing and general condition. All landing gear shock struts should also be checked for proper inflation.

Primary Locations of the FAA

The FAA headquarters are in Washington, D.C., and there are nine regional offices strategically located across the United States. The agency’s two largest field facilities are the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center (MMAC) in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and the William J. Hughes Technical Center (WJHTC) in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Home to FAA training and logistics services, the MMAC provides a number of aviation safety-related and business support services. The WJHTC is the premier aviation research and development and test and evaluation facility in the country. The center’s programs include testing and evaluation in ATC, communication, navigation, airports, aircraft safety, and security. Furthermore, the WJHTC is active in long-range development of innovative aviation systems and concepts, development of new ATC equipment and software, and modification of existing systems and procedures.

Field Offices

Flight Standards Service

Within the FAA, the Flight Standards Service promotes safe air transportation by setting the standards for certification and oversight of airmen, air operators, air agencies, and designees. It also promotes safety of flight of civil aircraft and air commerce by:

• Accomplishing certification, inspection, surveillance, investigation, and enforcement.
• Setting regulations and standards.
• Managing the system for registration of civil aircraft and all airmen records.

The focus of interaction between Flight Standards Service and the aviation community/general public is the Flight Standards District Office (FSDO).

Flight Standards District Office (FSDO)

The FAA has approximately 130 FSDOs. [Figure 1-13] These offices provide information and services for the aviation community. FSDO phone numbers are listed in the telephone directory under Government Offices, DOT, and FAA. Another convenient method of finding a local office is to use the FSDO locator available at:

In addition to accident investigation and the enforcement of aviation regulations, the FSDO is also responsible for the certification and surveillance of air carriers, air operators; flight schools/training centers, and airmen including pilots and flight instructors. Each FSDO is staffed by Aviation Safety Inspectors (ASIs) who play a key role in making the nation’s aviation system safe.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Fuel and Oil

Particular attention should be paid to the fuel quantity, type and grade, and quality. [Figure 2-7] Many fuel tanks are very sensitive to airplane attitude when attempting to fuel for maximum capacity. Nosewheel strut extension, both high as well as low, can significantly alter the attitude, and therefore the fuel capacity. The airplane attitude can also be affected laterally by a ramp that slopes, leaving one wing slightly higher than another. Always confirm the fuel quantity indicated on the fuel gauges by visually inspecting the level of each tank.

The type, grade, and color of fuel are critical to safe operation. The only widely available aviation gasoline (AVGAS) grade in the United States is low-lead 100-octane, or 100LL. AVGAS is dyed for easy recognition of its grade and has a familiar gasoline scent. Jet-A, or jet fuel, is a kerosene-based fuel for turbine powered airplanes. It has disastrous consequences when inadvertently introduced into reciprocating airplane engines. The piston engine operating on jet fuel may start, run, and power the airplane, but will fail because the engine has been destroyed from detonation.

Jet fuel has a distinctive kerosene scent and is oily to the touch when rubbed between fingers. Jet fuel is clear or straw colored, although it may appear dyed when mixed in a tank containing AVGAS. When a few drops of AVGAS are placed upon white paper, they evaporate quickly and leave just a trace of dye. In comparison, jet fuel is slower to evaporate and leaves an oily smudge. Jet fuel refueling trucks and dispensing equipment are marked with JET-A placards in white letters on a black background. Prudent pilots will supervise fueling to ensure that the correct tanks are filled with the right quantity, type, and grade of fuel. The pilot should always ensure that the fuel caps have been securely replaced following each fueling.

Engines certificated for grades 80/87 or 91/96 AVGAS will run satisfactorily on 100LL. The reverse is not true. Fuel of a lower grade/octane, if found, should never be substituted for a required higher grade. Detonation will severely damage the engine in a very short period of time.

Automotive gasoline is sometimes used as a substitute fuel in certain airplanes. Its use is acceptable only when the particular airplane has been issued a supplemental type certificate (STC) to both the airframe and engine allowing its use.

Checking for water and other sediment contamination is a key preflight element. Water tends to accumulate in fuel tanks from condensation, particularly in partially filled tanks. Because water is heavier than fuel, it tends to collect in the low points of the fuel system. Water can also be introduced into the fuel system from deteriorated gas cap seals exposed to rain, or from the supplier’s storage tanks and delivery vehicles. Sediment contamination can arise from dust and dirt entering the tanks during refueling, or from deteriorating rubber fuel tanks or tank sealant.

The best preventive measure is to minimize the opportunity for water to condense in the tanks. If possible, the fuel tanks should be completely filled with the proper grade of fuel after each flight, or at least filled after the last flight of the day. The more fuel there is in the tanks, the less opportunity for condensation to occur. Keeping fuel tanks filled is also the best way to slow the aging of rubber fuel tanks and tank sealant.

Sufficient fuel should be drained from the fuel strainer quick drain and from each fuel tank sump to check for fuel grade/color, water, dirt, and smell. If water is present, it will usually be in bead-like droplets, different in color (usually clear, sometimes muddy), in the bottom of the sample. In extreme cases, do not overlook the possibility that the entire sample, particularly a small sample, is water. If water is found in the first fuel sample, further samples should be taken until no water appears. Significant and/or consistent water or sediment contamination are grounds for further investigation by qualified maintenance personnel. Each fuel tank sump should be drained during preflight and after refueling.

The fuel tank vent is an important part of a preflight inspection. Unless outside air is able to enter the tank as fuel is drawn out, the eventual result will be fuel gauge malfunction and/or fuel starvation. During the preflight inspection, the pilot should be alert for any signs of vent tubing damage, as well as vent blockage. A functional check of the fuel vent system can be done simply by opening the fuel cap. If there is a rush of air when the fuel tank cap is cracked, there could be a serious problem with the vent system.

The oil level should be checked during each preflight and rechecked with each refueling. Reciprocating airplane engines can be expected to consume a small amount of oil during normal operation. If the consumption grows or suddenly changes, qualified maintenance personnel should investigate. If line service personnel add oil to the engine, the pilot should ensure that the oil cap has been securely replaced.

The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)

The FAA is empowered by regulations to promote aviation safety and establish safety standards for civil aviation. The FAA achieves these objectives under the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), which is the codification of the general and permanent rules published by the executive departments and agencies of the United States Government. The regulations are divided into 50 different codes, called Titles that represent broad areas subject to Federal regulation. FAA regulations are listed under Title 14, Aeronautics and Space, which encompasses all aspects of civil aviation from how to earn a pilot’s certificate to maintenance of an aircraft.

Title 14 CFR Chapter 1, Federal Aviation Administration, is broken down into subchapters A through N as illustrated in Figure 1-12.

For the pilot, certain parts of 14 CFR are more relevant than others. During flight training, it is helpful for the pilot to become familiar with the parts and subparts that relate to flight training and pilot certification. For instance, 14 CFR part 61 pertains to the certification of pilots, flight instructors, and ground instructors. It also defines the eligibility, aeronautical knowledge, flight proficiency, as well as training and testing requirements for each type of pilot certificate issued. 14 CFR part 91 provides guidance in the areas of general flight rules, visual flight rules (VFR), and instrument flight rules (IFR), while 14 CFR part 43 covers aircraft maintenance, preventive maintenance, rebuilding, and alterations.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Outer Wing Surfaces and Tail Section

The pilot should inspect for any signs of deterioration, distortion, and loose or missing rivets or screws, especially in the area where the outer skin attaches to the airplane structure. [Figure 2-6] The pilot should look along the wing spar rivet line—from the wingtip to the fuselage—for skin distortion. Any ripples and/or waves may be an indication of internal damage or failure.

Loose or sheared aluminum rivets may be identified by the presence of black oxide which forms rapidly when the rivet works free in its hole. Pressure applied to the skin adjacent to the rivet head will help verify the loosened condition of the rivet.

When examining the outer wing surface, it should be remembered that any damage, distortion, or malformation of the wing leading edge renders the airplane unairworthy. Serious dents in the leading edge, and disrepair of items such as stall strips, and deicer boots can cause the airplane to be aerodynamically unsound. Also, special care should be taken when examining the wingtips. Airplane wingtips are usually fiberglass. They are easily damaged and subject to cracking. The pilot should look at stop drilled cracks for evidence of crack progression, which can, under some circumstances, lead to in-flight failure of the wingtip.
The pilot should remember that fuel stains anywhere on the wing warrant further investigation—no matter how old the stains appear to be. Fuel stains are a sign of probable fuel leakage. On airplanes equipped with integral fuel tanks, evidence of fuel leakage can be found along rivet lines along the underside of the wing.

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978

Until 1978, the CAB regulated many areas of commercial aviation such as fares, routes, and schedules. The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, however, removed many of these controls, thus changing the face of civil aviation in the United States. After deregulation, unfettered free competition ushered in a new era in passenger air travel.

The CAB had three main functions: to award routes to airlines, to limit the entry of air carriers into new markets, and to regulate fares for passengers. Much of the established practices of commercial passenger travel within the United States went back to the policies of Walter Folger Brown, the United States Postmaster General during the administration of President Herbert Hoover. Brown had changed the mail payments system to encourage the manufacture of passenger aircraft instead of mail-carrying aircraft. His influence was crucial in awarding contracts and helped create four major domestic airlines: United, American, Eastern, and Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA). Similarly, Brown had also helped give Pan American a monopoly on international routes.

The push to deregulate, or at least to reform the existing laws governing passenger carriers, was accelerated by President Jimmy Carter, who appointed economist and former professor Alfred Kahn, a vocal supporter of deregulation, to head the CAB. A second force to deregulate emerged from abroad. In 1977, Freddie Laker, a British entrepreneur who owned Laker Airways, created the Sky train service, which offered extraordinarily cheap fares for transatlantic flights. Larker’s offerings coincided with a boom in low-cost domestic flights as the CAB eased some limitations on charter flights, i.e., flights offered by companies that do not actually own planes but leased them from the major airlines. The big air carriers responded by proposing their own lower fares. For example, American Airlines, the country’s second largest airline, obtained CAB approval for “SuperSaver” tickets.
All of these events proved to be favorable for large-scale deregulation. In November 1977, Congress formally deregulated air cargo. In late 1978, Congress passed the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978, legislation that had been principally authored by Senators Edward Kennedy and Howard Cannon. [Figure 1-11] There was stiff opposition to the bill—from the major airlines who feared free competition, from labor unions who feared nonunion employees, and from safety advocates who feared that safety would be sacrificed. Public support was, however, strong enough to pass the act. The act appeased the major airlines by offering generous subsidies and it pleased workers by offering high unemployment benefits if they lost their jobs as a result. The most important effect of the act, whose laws were slowly phased in, was on the passenger market. For the first time in 40 years, airlines could enter the market or (from 1981) expand their routes as they saw it. Airlines (from 1982) also had full freedom to set their fares. In 1984, the CAB was finally abolished since its primary duty of regulating the airline industry was no longer necessary.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Inside the Cockpit

The inspection should start with the cabin door. If the door is hard to open or close, or if the carpeting or seats are wet from a recent rain, there is a good chance that the door, fuselage, or both are misaligned. This may be a sign of structural damage.

The windshield and side windows should be examined for cracks and/or crazing. Crazing is the first stage of delamination of the plastic. Crazing decreases visibility, and a severely crazed window can result in near zero visibility due to light refraction at certain angles to the sun.
The pilot should check the seats, seat rails, and seat belt attach points for wear, cracks, and serviceability. The seat rail holes where the seat lock pins fit should also be inspected. The holes should be round and not oval. The pin and seat rail grips should also be checked for wear and serviceability.
Inside the cockpit, three key items to be checked are: (1) battery and ignition switches—off, (2) control column locks—removed, (3) landing gear control— down and locked. [Figure 2-3]

The fuel selectors should be checked for proper operation in all positions—including the OFF position. Stiff selectors, or ones where the tank position is hard to find, are unacceptable. The primer should also be exercised. The pilot should feel resistance when the primer is both pulled out and pushed in. The primer should also lock securely. Faulty primers can interfere with proper engine operation. [Figure 2-4] The engine controls should also be manipulated by slowly moving each through its full range to check for binding or stiffness.

The airspeed indicator should be properly marked, and the indicator needle should read zero. If it does not, the instrument may not be calibrated correctly. Similarly, the vertical speed indicator (VSI) should also read zero when the airplane is on the ground. If it does not, a small screwdriver can be used to zero the instrument. The VSI is the only flight instrument that a pilot has the prerogative to adjust. All others must be adjusted by an FAA certificated repairman or mechanic.

The magnetic compass is a required instrument for both VFR and IFR flight. It must be securely mounted, with a correction card in place. The instrument face must be clear and the instrument case full of fluid. A cloudy instrument face, bubbles in the fluid, or a partially filled case renders the instrument unusable. [Figure 2-5]

The gyro driven attitude indicator should be checked before being powered. A white haze on the inside of the glass face may be a sign that the seal has been breached, allowing moisture and dirt to be sucked into the instrument.

The altimeter should be checked against the ramp or field elevation after setting in the barometric pressure. If the variation between the known field elevation and the altimeter indication is more than 75 feet, its accuracy is questionable.

The pilot should turn on the battery master switch and make note of the fuel quantity gauge indications for comparison with an actual visual inspection of the fuel tanks during the exterior inspection.

The Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) Strike

While preparing the NAS Plan, the FAA faced a strike by key members of its workforce. An earlier period of discord between management and the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization (PATCO) culminated in a 1970 “sickout” by 3,000 controllers. Although controllers subsequently gained additional wage and retirement benefits, another period of tension led to an illegal strike in August 1981. The government dismissed over 11,000 strike participants and decertified PATCO. By the spring of 1984, the FAA ended the last of the special restrictions imposed to keep the airspace system operating safely during the strike.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Visual Inspection

The accomplishment of a safe flight begins with a careful visual inspection of the airplane. The purpose of the preflight visual inspection is twofold: to determine that the airplane is legally airworthy, and that it is in condition for safe flight. The airworthiness of the airplane is determined, in part, by the following certificates and documents, which must be on board the airplane when operated. [Figure 2-1]  
  • Airworthiness certificate.
  • Registration certificate.
  • FCC radio station license, if required by the type of operation.
  • Airplane operating limitations, which may be in the form of an FAA-approved Airplane Flight Manual and/or Pilot’s Operating Handbook (AFM/POH), placards, instrument markings, or any combination thereof.

Airplane logbooks are not required to be kept in the airplane when it is operated. However, they should be inspected prior to flight to show that the airplane has had required tests and inspections. Maintenance records for the airframe and engine are required to be kept. There may also be additional propeller records.

At a minimum, there should be an annual inspection within the preceding 12-calendar months. In addition, the airplane may also be required to have a 100-hour inspection in accordance with Title14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 91, section 91.409(b).

If a transponder is to be used, it is required to be inspected within the preceding 24-calendar months. If the airplane is operated under instrument flight rules (IFR) in controlled airspace, the pitot-static system is also required to be inspected within the preceding 24-calendar months.

The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) should also be checked. The ELT is battery powered, and the battery replacement or recharge date should not be exceeded.

Airworthiness Directives (ADs) have varying compliance intervals and are usually tracked in a separate area of the appropriate airframe, engine, or propeller record.

The determination of whether the airplane is in a condition for safe flight is made by a preflight inspection of the airplane and its components. [Figure 2-2] The preflight inspection should be performed in accordance with a printed checklist provided by the airplane manufacturer for the specific make and model airplane. However, the following general areas are applicable to all airplanes.

The preflight inspection of the airplane should begin while approaching the airplane on the ramp. The pilot should make note of the general appearance of the airplane, looking for obvious discrepancies such as a landing gear out of alignment, structural distortion, skin damage, and dripping fuel or oil leaks. Upon reaching the airplane, all tiedowns, control locks, and chocks should be removed.

Air Traffic Control (ATC) Automation

By the mid-1970s, the FAA had achieved a semi-automated ATC system based on a marriage of radar and computer technology. By automating certain routine tasks, the system allowed controllers to concentrate more efficiently on the vital task of providing aircraft separation. Data appearing directly on the controllers’ scopes provided the identity, altitude, and groundspeed of aircraft carrying radar beacons. Despite its effectiveness, this system required enhancement to keep pace with the increased air traffic of the late 1970s. The increase was due in part to the competitive environment created by the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978. This law phased out CAB’s economic regulation of the airlines, and CAB ceased to exist at the end of 1984.

To meet the challenge of traffic growth, the FAA unveiled the National Airspace System (NAS) Plan in January 1982. The new plan called for more advanced systems for en route and terminal ATC, modernized flight service stations, and improvements in ground-to-air surveillance and communication.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Positive Transfer of Controls

During flight training, there must always be a clear understanding between the student and flight instructor of who has control of the aircraft. Prior to any dual training flight, a briefing should be conducted that includes the procedure for the exchange of flight controls. The following three-step process for the exchange of flight controls is highly recommended.

When a flight instructor wishes the student to take control of the aircraft, he/she should say to the student, “You have the flight controls.” The student should acknowledge immediately by saying, “I have the flight controls.” The flight instructor confirms by again saying, “You have the flight controls.” Part of the procedure should be a visual check to ensure that the other person actually has the flight controls. When returning the controls to the flight instructor, the student should follow the same procedure the instructor used when giving control to the student. The student should stay on the controls until the instructor says: “I have the flight controls.” There should never be any doubt as to who is flying the airplane at any one time. Numerous accidents have occurred due to a lack of communication or misunderstanding as to who actually had control of the aircraft, particularly between students and flight instructors. Establishing the above procedure during initial training will ensure the formation of a very beneficial habit pattern.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

On October 15, 1966, Congress established the Department of Transportation (DOT), which was given oversight of the transportation industry within the United States. The result was a combination of both air and surface transportation. Its mission was and is to serve the United States by ensuring a fast, safe, efficient, accessible, and convenient transportation system meeting vital national interests and enhancing the quality of life of the American people, then, now, and into the future. At this same time, the Federal Aviation Agency was renamed to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The DOT began operation on April 1, 1967.

The role of the CAB was assumed by the newly created National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which was charged with the investigation of all transportation accidents within the United States.

As aviation continued to grow, the FAA took on additional duties and responsibilities. With the high jacking epidemic of the 1960s, the FAA was responsible for increasing the security duties of aviation both on the ground and in the air. After September 11, 2001, the duties were transferred to a newly created body called the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

With numerous aircraft flying in and out of larger cities, the FAA began to concentrate on the environmental aspect of aviation by establishing and regulating the noise standards of aircraft. Additionally in the 1960s and 1970s, the FAA began to regulate high altitude (over 500 feet) kite and balloon flying. 1970 brought more duties to the FAA by adding the management of a new federal airport aid program and increased responsibility for airport safety.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Use of Checklist

Checklists have been the foundation of pilot standardization and cockpit safety for years. The checklist is an aid to the memory and helps to ensure that critical items necessary for the safe operation of aircraft are not overlooked or forgotten. However, checklists are of no value if the pilot is not committed to its use. Without discipline and dedication to using the checklist at the appropriate times, the odds are on the side of error. Pilots who fail to take the checklist seriously become complacent and the only thing they can rely on is memory.

The importance of consistent use of checklists cannot be overstated in pilot training. A major objective in primary flight training is to establish habit patterns that will serve pilots well throughout their entire flying career. The flight instructor must promote a positive attitude toward the use of checklists, and the student pilot must realize its importance. At a minimum, prepared checklists should be used for the following phases of flight.
  • Preflight Inspection.
  • Before Engine Start.
  • Engine Starting.
  • Before Taxiing.
  • Before Takeoff.
  • After Takeoff.
  • Cruise.
  • Descent.
  • Before Landing.
  • After Landing.
  • Engine Shutdown and Securing.

The Federal Aviation Act of 1958

By mid-century, air traffic had increased and jet aircraft had been introduced into the civil aviation arena. A series of mid-air collisions underlined the need for more regulation of the aviation industry. Aircraft were not only increasing in numbers, but were now streaking across the skies at much higher speeds. The Federal Aviation Act of 1958 established a new independent body that assumed the roles of the CAA and transferred the rule making authority of the CAB to the newly created Federal Aviation Agency (FAA). In addition, the FAA was given complete control of the common civil-military system of air navigation and ATC. The man who was given the honor of being the first administrator of the FAA was former Air Force General Elwood Richard “Pete” Quesada. He served as the administrator from 1959–1961. [Figure 1-10]

Monday, September 21, 2009

Stall Awareness

14 CFR part 61 requires that a student pilot receive and log flight training in stalls and stall recoveries prior to solo flight. During this training, the flight instructor should emphasize that the direct cause of every stall is an excessive angle of attack. The student pilot should fully understand that there are any number of flight maneuvers which may produce an increase in the wing’s angle of attack, but the stall does not occur until the angle of attack becomes excessive. This “critical” angle of attack varies from 16 to 20° depending on the airplane design.

The flight instructor must emphasize that low speed is not necessary to produce a stall. The wing can be brought to an excessive angle of attack at any speed. High pitch attitude is not an absolute indication of proximity to a stall. Some airplanes are capable of vertical flight with a corresponding low angle of attack. Most airplanes are quite capable of stalling at a level or near level pitch attitude.

The key to stall awareness is the pilot’s ability to visualize the wing’s angle of attack in any particular circumstance, and thereby be able to estimate his/her margin of safety above stall. This is a learned skill that must be acquired early in flight training and carried through the pilot’s entire flying career. The pilot must understand and appreciate factors such as airspeed, pitch attitude, load factor, relative wind, power setting, and aircraft configuration in order to develop a reasonably accurate mental picture of the wing’s angle of attack at any particular time. It is essential to flight safety that a pilot take into consideration this visualization of the wing’s angle of attack prior to entering any flight maneuver.

The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938

In 1938, the Civil Aeronautics Act transferred the civil aviation responsibilities to a newly created, independent body, named the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA). This Act empowered the CAA to regulate airfares and establish new routes for the airlines to service.

President Franklin Roosevelt split the CAA into two agencies, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) and the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB). Both agencies were still part of the Department of Commerce but the CAB functioned independently of the Secretary of Commerce. The role of the CAA was to facilitate ATC, certification of airmen and aircraft, rule enforcement, and the development of new airways. The CAB was charged with rule making to enhance safety, accident investigation, and the economic regulation of the airlines. Then in 1946, Congress gave the CAA the responsibility of administering the Federal Aid Airport Program. This program was designed to promote the establishment of civil airports throughout the country.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Runway Incursion Avoidance

A runway incursion is any occurrence at an airport involving an aircraft, vehicle, person, or object on the ground that creates a collision hazard or results in a loss of separation with an aircraft taking off, landing, or intending to land. The three major areas contributing to runway incursions are: 
  • Communications,
  • Airport knowledge, and
  • Cockpit procedures for maintaining orientation.

Taxi operations require constant vigilance by the entire flight crew, not just the pilot taxiing the airplane. This is especially true during flight training operations. Both the student pilot and the flight instructor need to be continually aware of the movement and location of other aircraft and ground vehicles on the airport movement area. Many flight training activities are conducted at non-tower controlled airports. The absence of an operating airport control tower creates a need for increased vigilance on the part of pilots operating at those airports.

Planning, clear communications, and enhanced situational awareness during airport surface operations will reduce the potential for surface incidents. Safe aircraft operations can be accomplished and incidents eliminated if the pilot is properly trained early on and, throughout his/her flying career, accomplishes standard taxi operating procedures and practices. This requires the development of the formalized teaching of safe operating practices during taxi operations. The flight instructor is the key to this teaching. The flight instructor should instill in the student an awareness of the potential for runway incursion, and should emphasize the runway incursion avoidance procedures contained in Advisory Circular (AC) 91-73, Part 91 Pilot and Flightcrew Procedures During Taxi Operations and Part 135 Single-Pilot Operations.

Federal Certification of Pilots and Mechanics

The Aeronautics Branch of the Department of Commerce began pilot certification with the first license issued on April 6, 1927. The recipient was the chief of the Aeronautics Branch, William P. McCracken, Jr. [Figure 1-8] (Orville Wright, who was no longer an active flier, had declined the honor.) McCracken’s license was the first issued to a pilot by a civilian agency of the Federal Government. Some 3 months later, the Aeronautics Branch issued the first Federal aircraft mechanic license.

Equally important for safety was the establishment of a system of certification for aircraft. On March 29, 1927, the Aeronautics Branch issued the first airworthiness type certificate to the Buhl Airster CA-3, a three-place open biplane.
In 1934, to recognize the tremendous strides made in aviation and to display the enhanced status within the department, the Aeronautics Branch was renamed the Bureau of Air Commerce. [Figure 1-9] Within this time frame, the Bureau of Air Commerce brought together a group of airlines and encouraged them to form the first three Air Traffic Control (ATC) facilities along the established air routes. Then in 1936, the Bureau of Air Commerce took over the responsibilities of operating the centers and continued to advance the ATC facilities. ATC has come a long way from the early controllers using maps, chalkboards, and performing mental math calculations in order to separate aircraft along flight routes.
Figure 1-6. The transcontinental airmail route ran from New York to San Francisco. Intermediate stops were: 2) Bellefonte, 3) Cleveland, 4) Bryan, 5) Chicago, 6) Iowa City, 7) Omaha, 8) North Platte, 9) Cheyenne, 10) Rawlins, 11) Rock Springs, 12) Salt Lake City, 13) Elko, and 14) Reno.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Flight Safety Practices and Collision Avoidance

In the interest of safety and good habit pattern formation, there are certain basic flight safety practices and procedures that must be emphasized by the flight instructor, and adhered to by both instructor and student, beginning with the very first dual instruction flight. These include, but are not limited to, collision avoidance procedures including proper scanning techniques and clearing procedures, runway incursion avoidance, stall awareness, positive transfer of controls, and cockpit workload management.

All pilots must be alert to the potential for midair collision and near midair collisions. The general operating and flight rules in 14 CFR part 91 set forth the concept of “See and Avoid.” This concept requires that vigilance shall be maintained at all times, by each person operating an aircraft regardless of whether the operation is conducted under instrument flight rules (IFR) or visual flight rules (VFR). Pilots should also keep in mind their responsibility for continuously maintaining a vigilant lookout regardless of the type of aircraft being flown and the purpose of the flight. Most midair collision accidents and reported near midair collision incidents occur in good VFR weather conditions and during the hours of daylight. Most of these accident/incidents occur within 5 miles of an airport and/or near navigation aids.

The “See and Avoid” concept relies on knowledge of the limitations of the human eye, and the use of proper visual scanning techniques to help compensate for these limitations. The importance of, and the proper techniques for, visual scanning should be taught to a student pilot at the very beginning of flight training. The competent flight instructor should be familiar with the visual scanning and collision avoidance information contained in Advisory Circular (AC) 90-48, Pilots’ Role in Collision Avoidance, and the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM).

There are many different types of clearing procedures. Most are centered around the use of clearing turns. The essential idea of the clearing turn is to be certain that the next maneuver is not going to proceed into another airplane’s flightpath. Some pilot training programs have hard and fast rules, such as requiring two 90° turns in opposite directions before executing any training maneuver. Other types of clearing procedures may be developed by individual flight instructors. Whatever the preferred method, the flight instructor should teach the beginning student an effective clearing procedure and insist on its use. The student pilot should execute the appropriate clearing procedure before all turns and before executing any training maneuver. Proper clearing procedures, combined with proper visual scanning techniques, are the most effective strategy for collision avoidance.

Transcontinental Air Mail Route

Airmail routes continued to expand until the Transcontinental Mail Route was inaugurated. [Figure 1-5] This route spanned from San Francisco to New York for a total distance of 2,612 miles with 13 intermediate stops along the way. [Figure 1-6]

On May 20, 1926, Congress passed the Air Commerce Act, which served as the cornerstone for aviation within the United States. This legislation was supported by leaders in the aviation industry who felt that the airplane could not reach its full potential without assistance from the Federal Government in improving safety.
The Air Commerce Act charged the Secretary of Commerce with fostering air commerce, issuing and enforcing air traffics rules, licensing pilots, certificating aircraft, establishing airways, and operating and maintaining aids to air navigation. The Department of Commerce created a new Aeronautics Branch whose primary mission was to provide oversight for the aviation industry. In addition, the Aeronautics Branch took over the construction and operation of the nation’s system of lighted airways. The Postal Service, as part of the Transcontinental Air Mail Route system, had initiated this system. The Department of Commerce made great advances in aviation communications, as well as introducing radio beacons as an effective means of navigation.
Built at intervals of approximately 10 miles, the standard beacon tower was 51 feet high, topped with a powerful rotating light. Below the rotating light, two course lights pointed forward and back along the airway. The course lights flashed a code to identify the beacon’s number. The tower usually stood in the center of a concrete arrow 70 feet long. A generator shed, where required, stood at the “feather” end of the arrow. [Figure 1-7]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Practical Test Standards

Practical tests for FAA pilot certificates and associated ratings are administered by FAA inspectors and designated pilot examiners in accordance with FAA-developed practical test standards (PTS). [Figure 1-3] 14 CFR part 61 specifies the areas of operation in which knowledge and skill must be demonstrated by the applicant. The CFRs provide the flexibility to permit the FAA to publish practical test standards containing the areas of operation and specific tasks in which competence must be demonstrated. The FAA requires that all practical tests be conducted in accordance with the appropriate practical test standards and the policies set forth in the Introduction section of the practical test standard book.

It must be emphasized that the practical test standards book is a testing document rather than a teaching document. An appropriately rated flight instructor is responsible for training a pilot applicant to acceptable standards in all subject matter areas, procedures, and maneuvers included in the tasks within each area of operation in the appropriate practical test standard. The pilot applicant should be familiar with this book and refer to the standards it contains during training. However, the practical test standard book is not intended to be used as a training syllabus. It contains the standards to which maneuvers/procedures on FAA practical tests must be performed and the FAApolicies governing the administration of practical tests. Descriptions of tasks, and information on how to perform maneuvers and procedures are contained in reference and teaching documents such as this handbook. A list of reference documents is contained in the Introduction section of each practical test standard book.

Practical test standards may be downloaded from the Regulatory Support Division’s, AFS-600, Web site at Printed copies of practical test standards can be purchased from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402. The official online bookstore Web site for the U.S. Government Printing Office is

History of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

During the early years of manned flight, aviation was a free for all because no government body was in place to establish policies or regulate and enforce safety standards. Individuals were free to conduct flights and operate aircraft with no government oversight. Most of the early flights were conducted for sport. Aviation was expensive and became the playground of the wealthy. Since these early airplanes were small, many people doubted their commercial value. One group of individuals believed otherwise and they became the genesis for modern airline travel.

P. E. Fansler, a Florida businessman living in St. Petersburg approached Tom Benoist of the Benoist Aircraft Company in St. Louis, Missouri, about starting a flight route from St. Petersburg across the waterway to Tampa. Benoist suggested using his “Safety First” airboat and the two men signed an agreement for what would become the first scheduled airline in the United States. The first aircraft was delivered to St. Petersburg and made the first test flight on December 31, 1913. [Figure 1-4]

A public auction decided who would win the honor of becoming the first paying airline customer. The former mayor of St. Petersburg, A. C. Pheil made the winning bid of $400.00 which secured his place in history as the first paying airline passenger.

On January 1, 1914, the first scheduled airline flight was conducted. The flight length was 21 miles and lasted 23 minutes due to a headwind. The return trip took 20 minutes. The line, which was subsidized by Florida businessmen, continued for 4 months and offered regular passage for $5.00 per person or $5.00 per 100 pounds of cargo. Shortly after the opening of the line, Benoist added a new airboat that afforded more protection from spray during takeoff and landing. The routes were also extended to Manatee, Bradenton, and Sarasota giving further credence to the idea of a profitable commercial airline.

The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line continued throughout the winter months with flights finally being suspended when the winter tourist industry began to dry up. The airline operated only for 4 months, but 1,205 passengers were carried without injury. This experiment proved commercial passenger airline travel was viable.

The advent of World War I offered the airplane a chance to demonstrate its varied capabilities. It began the war as a reconnaissance platform, but by 1918, airplanes were being mass produced to serve as fighters, bombers, trainers, as well as reconnaissance platforms.

Aviation advocates continued to look for ways to use airplanes. Airmail service was a popular idea, but the war prevented the Postal Service from having access to airplanes. The War Department and Postal Service reached an agreement in 1918. The Army would use the mail service to train its pilots in cross-country flying. The first airmail flight was conducted on May 15, 1918, between New York and Washington, DC. The flight was not considered spectacular; the pilot became lost and landed at the wrong airfield. In August of 1918, the United States Postal Service took control of the airmail routes and brought the existing Army airmail pilots and their planes into the program as postal employees.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sources of Flight Training

The major sources of flight training in the United States include FAA-approved pilot schools and training centers, non-certificated (14 CFR part 61) flying schools, and independent flight instructors. FAA “approved” schools are those flight schools certificated by the FAA as pilot schools under 14 CFR part 141. [Figure 1-2] Application for certification is voluntary, and the school must meet stringent requirements for personnel, equipment, maintenance, and facilities. The school must operate in accordance with an established curriculum, which includes a training course outline (TCO) approved by the FAA. The TCO must contain student enrollment prerequisites, detailed description of each lesson including standards and objectives, expected accomplishments and standards for each stage of training, and a description of the checks and tests used to measure a student’s accomplishments. FAA-approved pilot school certificates must be renewed every 2 years. Renewal is contingent upon proof of continued high quality instruction and a minimum level of instructional activity. Training at an FAA certificated pilot school is structured. Because of this structured environment, the CFRs allow graduates of these pilot schools to meet the certification experience requirements of 14 CFR part 61 with less flight time. Many FAA certificated pilot schools have designated pilot examiners (DPEs) on their staff to administer FAA practical tests. Some schools have been granted examining authority by the FAA. A school with examining authority for a particular course or courses has the authority to recommend its graduates for pilot certificates or ratings without further testing by the FAA. A list of FAA certificated pilot schools and their training courses can be found in Advisory Circular (AC) 140-2, FAA Certificated Pilot School Directory.

FAA-approved training centers are certificated under 14 CFR part 142. Training centers, like certificated pilot schools, operate in a structured environment with approved courses and curricula, and stringent standards for personnel, equipment, facilities, operating procedures and record keeping. Training centers certificated under 14 CFR part 142, however, specialize in the use of flight simulation (flight simulators and flight training devices) in their training courses.

The overwhelming majority of flying schools in the United States are not certificated by the FAA. These schools operate under the provisions of 14 CFR part 61. Many of these non-certificated flying schools offer excellent training, and meet or exceed the standards required of FAA-approved pilot schools. Flight instructors employed by non-certificated flying schools, as well as independent flight instructors, must meet the same basic 14 CFR part 61 flight instructor requirements for certification and renewal as those flight instructors employed by FAA certificated pilot schools. In the end, any training program is dependent upon the quality of the ground and flight instruction a student pilot receives.

Pilot Knowledge Examination

The knowledge test is the computer portion of the exams taken to obtain pilot certification. The test contains questions of the objective, multiple-choice type. This testing method conserves the applicant’s time, eliminates any element of individual judgment in determining grades, and saves time in scoring.

If pursuing a recreational pilot or private pilot certificate, it is important to become familiar with 14 CFR part 61, section 61.23, Medical Certificates: Requirements and Duration; 14 CFR section 61.35, Knowledge Test: Prerequisites and Passing Grades; and 14 CFR section 61.83, Eligibility Requirements for Student Pilot, for detailed information pertaining to prerequisites and eligibility.

If pursuing a recreational pilot certificate, it is important to review 14 CFR section 61.96, Applicability and Eligibility Requirements: General, for additional detailed information pertaining to eligibility; and if pursuing a private pilot certificate, 14 CFR section 61.103, Eligibility Requirements: General, contains additional detailed information pertaining to eligibility. Sample test questions can be downloaded from Airmen Knowledge Test Questions:

Each applicant must register to take the test, and provide proper identification and authorization proving eligibility to take a particular FAA test. The option to take an un-timed sample test will be offered. The actual test is time limited, but most applicants have sufficient time to complete and review the test. Upon completion of the knowledge test, the applicant receives an Airman Knowledge Test Report that reflects the score and is embossed with the testing center’s seal. To pass, a minimum score of 70 must be attained.

History of Flight

From prehistoric times, humans have watched the flight of birds, longed to imitate them, but lacked the power to do so. Logic dictated that if the small muscles of birds can lift them into the air and sustain them, then the larger muscles of humans should be able to duplicate the feat. No one knew about the intricate mesh of muscles, sinew, heart, breathing system, and devices not unlike wing flaps, variable-camber and spoilers of the modern airplane that enabled a bird to fly. Still, thousands of years and countless lives were lost in attempts to fly like birds.

The identity of the first “bird-men” who flitted themselves with wings and leapt off a cliff in an effort to fly are lost in time, but each failure gave those who wished to fly questions that needed answering. Where the wing flapper had’s gone wrong? Philosophers, scientists, and inventors offered solutions, but no one could add wings to the human body and soar like a bird. During the 1500s, Leonardo da Vinci filled pages of his notebooks with sketches of proposed flying machines, but most of his ideas were flawed because he clung to the idea of birdlike wings. [Figure 1-1] By 1655, mathematician, physicist, and inventor Robert Hooke concluded the human body does not possess the strength to power artificial wings. He believed human flight would require some form of artificial propulsion.

The quest for human flight led some practitioners in another direction. In 1783, the first manned hot air balloon, crafted by Joseph and Etienne Montgoflier, flew for 23 minutes. Ten days later, Professor Jacques Charles flew the first gas balloon. Madness for balloon flight captivated the public’s imagination and for a time flying enthusiasts turned their expertise to the promise of lighter-than-air flight. But for all its majesty in the air, the balloon was little more than a billowing heap of cloth capable of no more than a one-way, downwind journey.
Balloons solved the problem of lift, but that was only one of the problems of human flight. The ability to control speed and direction eluded balloonists. The solution to that problem lay in a child’s toy familiar to the East for 2,000 years, but not introduced to the West until the 13th century. The kite, used by the Chinese manned for aerial observation and to test winds for sailing and unmanned as a signaling device and as a toy, held many of the answers to lifting a heavier-than-air device into the air.

One of the men who believed the study of kites unlocked the secrets of winged flight was Sir George Cayley. Born in England 10 years before the Mongol’er balloon flight, Cayley spent his 84 years seeking to develop a heavier-than-air vehicle supported by kite-shaped wings. [Figure 1-2] The “Father of Aerial Navigation,” Cayley discovered the basic principles on which the modern science of aeronautics is founded, built what is recognized as the first successful flying model, and tested the first full-size man-carrying airplane.

For the half-century after Cayley’s death, countless scientists, flying enthusiasts, and inventors worked toward building a powered flying machine. Men, such as William Samuel Henson, who designed a huge monoplane that was propelled by a steam engine housed inside the fuselage, and Otto Lilienthal, who proved human flight in aircraft heavier than air was practical, worked toward the dream of powered flight. A dream turned into reality by Wilbur and Orville Wright at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.
The bicycle-building Wright brothers of Dayton, Ohio, had experimented for 4 years with kites, their own homemade wind tunnel, and different engines to power their biplane. One of their great achievements was proving the value of the scientific, rather than build-it-and-see approach to flight. Their biplane, The Flyer, combined inspired design and engineering with superior craftsmanship. [Figure 1-3] By the afternoon of December 17th, the Wright brothers had flown a total of 98 seconds on four flights. The age of flight had arrived.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Role of the Flight Instructor

The flight instructor is the cornerstone of aviation safety. The FAA has adopted an operational training concept that places the full responsibility for student training on the authorized flight instructor. In this role, the instructor assumes the total responsibility for training the student pilot in all the knowledge areas and skills necessary to operate safely and competently as a certificated pilot in the National Airspace System. This training will include airmanship skills, pilot judgment and decision making, and accepted good operating practices.

An FAA certificated flight instructor has to meet broad flying experience requirements, pass rigid knowledge and practical tests, and demonstrate the ability to apply recommended teaching techniques before being certificated. In addition, the flight instructor’s certificate must be renewed every 24 months by showing continued success in training pilots, or by satisfactorily completing a flight instructor’s refresher course or a practical test designed to upgrade aeronautical knowledge, pilot proficiency, and teaching techniques.

A pilot training program is dependent on the quality of the ground and flight instruction the student pilot receives. A good flight instructor will have a thorough understanding of the learning process, knowledge of the fundamentals of teaching, and the ability to communicate effectively with the student pilot.

A good flight instructor will use a syllabus and insist on correct techniques and procedures from the beginning of training so that the student will develop proper habit patterns. The syllabus should embody the “building block” method of instruction, in which the student progresses from the known to the unknown. The course of instruction should be laid out so that each new maneuver embodies the principles involved in the performance of those previously undertaken. Consequently, through each new subject introduced, the student not only learns a new principle or technique, but broadens his/her application of those previously learned and has his/her deficiencies in the previous maneuvers emphasized and made obvious.

The flying habits of the flight instructor, both during flight instruction and as observed by students when conducting other pilot operations, have a vital effect on safety. Students consider their flight instructor to be a paragon of flying proficiency whose flying habits they, consciously or unconsciously, attempt to imitate. For this reason, a good flight instructor will meticulously observe the safety practices taught the students. Additionally, a good flight instructor will carefully observe all regulations and recognized safety practices during all flight operations.

Generally, the student pilot who enrolls in a pilot training program is prepared to commit considerable time, effort, and expense in pursuit of a pilot certificate. The student may tend to judge the effectiveness of the flight instructor, and the overall success of the pilot training program, solely in terms of being able to pass the requisite FAA practical test. A good flight instructor, however, will be able to communicate to the student that evaluation through practical tests is a mere sampling of pilot ability that is compressed into a short period of time. The flight instructor’s role, however, is to train the “total” pilot.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Before Takeoff Check

The before takeoff check is the systematic procedure for making a check of the engine, controls, systems, instruments, and avionics prior to flight. Normally, it is performed after taxiing to a position near the takeoff end of the runway. Taxiing to that position usually allows sufficient time for the engine to warm up to at least minimum operating temperatures. This ensures adequate lubrication and internal engine clearances before being operated at high power settings. Many engines require that the oil temperature reach a minimum value as stated in the AFM/POH before high power is applied.

Air-cooled engines generally are closely cowled and equipped with pressure baffles that direct the flow of air to the engine in sufficient quantities for cooling in flight. On the ground, however, much less air is forced through the cowling and around the baffling. Prolonged ground operations may cause cylinder overheating long before there is an indication of rising oil temperature. Cowl flaps, if available, should be set according to the AFM/POH.

Before beginning the before takeoff check, the airplane should be positioned clear of other aircraft. There should not be anything behind the airplane that might be damaged by the prop blast. To minimize overheating during engine runup, it is recommended that the airplane be headed as nearly as possible into the wind. After the airplane is properly positioned for the runup, it should be allowed to roll forward slightly so that the nosewheel or tailwheel will be aligned fore and aft.

During the engine runup, the surface under the airplane should be firm (a smooth, paved, or turf surface if possible) and free of debris. Otherwise, the propeller may pick up pebbles, dirt, mud, sand, or other loose objects and hurl them backwards. This damages the propeller and may damage the tail of the airplane. Small chips in the leading edge of the propeller form stress risers, or lines of concentrated high stress. These are highly undesirable and may lead to cracks and possible propeller blade failure.

While performing the engine runup, the pilot must divide attention inside and outside the airplane. If the parking brake slips, or if application of the toe brakes is inadequate for the amount of power applied, the airplane could move forward unnoticed if attention is fixed inside the airplane.

Each airplane has different features and equipment, and the before takeoff checklist provided by the airplane manufacturer or operator should be used to perform the runup.

Role of the Pilot Examiner

Pilot and flight instructor certificates are issued by the FAA upon satisfactory completion of required knowledge and practical tests. The administration of these tests is an FAA responsibility normally carried out at the FSDO level by FSDO inspectors. The FAA, however, being a U.S. government agency, has limited resources and must prioritize its responsibilities. The agency’s highest priority is the surveillance of certificated air carriers, with the certification of airmen (including pilots and flight instructors) having a lower priority.

In order to satisfy the public need for pilot testing and certification services, the FAAdelegates certain of these responsibilities, as the need arises, to private individuals who are not FAA employees. A designated pilot examiner (DPE) is a private citizen who is designated as a representative of the FAAAdministrator to perform specific (but limited) pilot certification tasks on behalf of the FAA, and may charge a reasonable fee for doing so. Generally, a DPE’s authority is limited to accepting applications and conducting practical tests leading to the issuance of specific pilot certificates and/or ratings. A DPE operates under the direct supervision of the FSDO that holds the examiner’s designation file. A FSDO inspector is assigned to monitor the DPE’s certification activities. Normally, the DPE is authorized to conduct these activities only within the designating FSDO’s jurisdictional area.

The FAA selects only highly qualified individuals to be designated pilot examiners. These individuals must have good industry reputations for professionalism, high integrity, a demonstrated willingness to serve the public, and adhere to FAA policies and procedures in certification matters. A designated pilot examiner is expected to administer practical tests with the same degree of professionalism, using the same methods, procedures, and standards as an FAA aviation safety inspector. It should be remembered, however, that a DPE is not an FAA aviation safety inspector. A DPE cannot initiate enforcement action, investigate accidents, or perform surveillance activities on behalf of the FAA. However, the majority of FAApractical tests at the recreational, private, and commercial pilot level Figure 1-1. FAA FSDO. are administered by FAA designated pilot examiners.

Role of the FAA

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is empowered by the U.S. Congress to promote aviation safety by prescribing safety standards for civil aviation. This is accomplished through the Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) formerly referred to as Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs).

Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 61 pertains to the certification of pilots, flight instructors, and ground instructors. 14 CFR part 61 prescribes the eligibility, aeronautical knowledge, flight proficiency, and training and testing requirements for each type of pilot certificate issued.

14 CFR part 67 prescribes the medical standards and certification procedures for issuing medical certificates for airmen and for remaining eligible for a medical certificate.

14 CFR part 91 contains general operating and flight rules. The section is broad in scope and provides general guidance in the areas of general flight rules, visual flight rules (VFR), instrument flight rules (IFR), aircraft maintenance, and preventive maintenance and alterations.

Within the FAA, the Flight Standards Service sets the aviation standards for airmen and aircraft operations in the United States and for American airmen and aircraft around the world. The FAAFlight Standards Service is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is broadly organized into divisions based on work function (Air Transportation, Aircraft Maintenance, Technical Programs, a Regulatory Support Division based in Oklahoma City, OK, and a General Aviation and Commercial Division). Regional Flight Standards division managers, one at each of the FAA’s nine regional offices, coordinate Flight Standards activities within their respective regions.

Within the FAA, the Flight Standards Service sets the aviation standards for airmen and aircraft operations in the United States and for American airmen and aircraft around the world. The FAAFlight Standards Service is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and is broadly organized into divisions based on work function (Air Transportation, Aircraft Maintenance, Technical Programs, a Regulatory Support Division based in Oklahoma City, OK, and a General Aviation and Commercial Division). Regional Flight Standards division managers, one at each of the FAA’s nine regional offices, coordinate Flight Standards activities within their respective regions.

Each FSDO is staffed by aviation safety inspectors whose specialties include operations, maintenance, and avionics. General aviation operations inspectors are highly qualified and experienced aviators. Once accepted for the position, an inspector must satisfactorily complete a course of indoctrination training conducted at the FAA Academy, which includes airman evaluation and pilot testing techniques and procedures. Thereafter, the inspector must complete recurrent training on a regular basis. Among other duties, the FSDO inspector is responsible for administering FAA practical tests for pilot and flight instructor certificates and associated ratings. All questions concerning pilot certification (and/or requests for other aviation information or services) should be directed to the FSDO having jurisdiction in the particular geographic area. FSDO telephone numbers are listed in the blue pages of the telephone directory under United States Government offices, Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration.

Purpose of Flight Training

The overall purpose of primary and intermediate flight training, as outlined in this handbook, is the acquisition and honing of basic airmanship skills. Airmanship can be defined as:

  • Asound acquaintance with the principles of flight,
  • The ability to operate an airplane with competence and precision both on the ground and in the air, and
  • The exercise of sound judgment that results in optimal operational safety and efficiency.

Learning to fly an airplane has often been likened to learning to drive an automobile. This analogy is misleading. Since an airplane operates in a different environment, three dimensional, it requires a type of motor skill development that is more sensitive to this situation such as:

  • Coordination—The ability to use the hands and feet together subconsciously and in the proper relationship to produce desired results in the airplane.
  • Timing—The application of muscular coordination at the proper instant to make flight, and all maneuvers incident thereto, a constant smooth process.
  • Control touch—The ability to sense the action of the airplane and its probable actions in the immediate future, with regard to attitude and speed variations, by the sensing and evaluation of varying pressures and resistance of the control surfaces transmitted through the cockpit flight controls.
  • Speed sense—The ability to sense instantly and react to any reasonable variation of airspeed.

An airman becomes one with the airplane rather than a machine operator. An accomplished airman demonstrates the ability to assess a situation quickly and accurately and deduce the correct procedure to be followed under the circumstance; to analyze accurately the probable results of a given set of circumstances or of a proposed procedure; to exercise care and due regard for safety; to gauge accurately the performance of the airplane; and to recognize personal limitations and limitations of the airplane and avoid approaching the critical points of each. The development of airmanship skills requires effort and dedication on the part of both the student pilot and the flight instructor, beginning with the very first training flight where proper habit formation begins with the student being introduced to good operating practices.

Every airplane has its own particular flight characteristics. The purpose of primary and intermediate flight training, however, is not to learn how to fly a particular make and model airplane. The underlying purpose of flight training is to develop skills and safe habits that are transferable to any airplane. Basic airmanship skills serve as a firm foundation for this. The pilot who has acquired necessary airmanship skills during training, and demonstrates these skills by flying training-type airplanes with precision and safe flying habits, will be able to easily transition to more complex and higher performance airplanes. It should also be remembered that the goal of flight training is a safe and competent pilot, and that passing required practical tests for pilot certification is only incidental to this goal.