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2016 Q1 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC


I am excited to announce the newest “simulator” to arrive at the club.   In January 2016 we installed the TouchTrainer by FlyThisSim, a San Luis Obispo based simulation company.  They have put together a remarkable device that is capable of simulating multiple cockpit configurations through the use of reconfigurable touch screens.  While the tactile feel of switches and knobs is missing, it is more than made up for by the richness of the graphics and accuracy of the cockpits.  The device supports every Cirrus make and model, and every Cessna make and model.  As an avid Cirrus pilot, I was keen to try out the Cirrus SR20 Avidyne configuration and put it through it’s’ paces.  I was impressed.  It is a remarkably accurate simulation both in terms of the cockpit layout, avionics functionality, autopilot performance and characteristics, and the power/performance settings match the real plane.  In the real SR20, set the power to 55% and the plane will slow to 120K.  At that speed, one can deploy the first notch of flaps and the speed will slow to about 110K. I tried the same configuration in the SIM and got almost exactly the same results.  They’ve done a great job.  And you can even pull the parachute and see what happens!

The SIM will be treated the same way as our other training devices.  All regular members are eligible for 1 free hour per month.  This is in addition to a free hour on both of our PAO and SQL PFC G1000 devices.  Play your cards right and now regular members can get up to 3 free hours per month across the various devices. 

The number of SIM hours has steadily increased over the past 12 months as more and more instructors and members appreciate the true value of these devices.  They can learn the sophisticated avionics at reduced or free rates as supposed to spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the real plane.  Since we acquired the Palo Alto G1000 SIM in early 2013, it has logged more than 1000 hours of flight time and it’s still going strong.

The new SIM has so-called wrap around visuals and provides superb XPlane 10 graphics of the environment you are flying.  You can even fly around the Bay Area and familiarize yourself with landmarks, airports, reservoirs, water ways, the Bay and so on.

We will spend the next few weeks checking out instructors on the device.  You are welcome to get checked out yourself as soon as possible.  We don’t require any paperwork to complete the checkout, just an email from your CFI stating that you understand the start-up and shutdown procedures and we’ll go ahead and enter you into the system for scheduling privileges.  I think many of you will get a lot of good experience from the SIM, so please make good use of it.


Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC

Safety Office Update

As we begin 2016, the Safety Office has a few projects that we intend to complete this year, and that are designed to make the member experience better while enhancing safety.  Using member survey data to help us identify areas that members feel need improvement, we have created specific goals and are working with our staff and CFI’s to achieve them.

The first and largest project we will be undertaking is an update of our current Phase Check program. While the overall feedback of the Phase Check program is overwhelmingly positive, there are some specific areas that members, CFI’s, and staff have indicated are in need of attention. This is by far the largest project that we will work on this year, and it will encompass all aspects of the program. We expect to have this update completed by the end of June, and when it’s finished it will result in a more user-friendly experience while maintaining the safety and training benefits that it currently provides the club and its members.

Not far behind the Phase Check update will be an update to our club Member Regulations and our associated checkout forms. New members, student pilots, and existing members that complete new aircraft checkouts will notice these changes the most. Like the Phase Check program, our goal is to create a more member-friendly experience when completing an aircraft checkout or joining the club. Some of our forms reference outdated material (who remembers CASSi?) and will be updated. While we’re updating forms, we will be looking at reducing or eliminating certain forms to make our paperwork easier to work through.

Finally, our focus on maintaining our safety culture will continue. As I have written about previously, a safety culture is not an easy thing to either create or maintain, so we must continue to strive to keep the positive safety culture that the club currently enjoys. The club maintains an excellent safety record and this will continue to be our number one priority. Working with the staff, CFI’s, and membership we are continuing to ensure that WVFC maintains the highest safety standards.

Looking ahead to 2016, I’m excited for the improvements that we expect to complete this year. As always, your feedback is strongly encouraged. Member surveys, emails, and meetings all contributed to the improvements currently underway. We will be looking forward to your feedback, good and bad, so that we can continue to improve.


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pilots

(With Apologies to Stephen Covey)

Just like effective people, there are actually more than seven things that pilots do as part of being effective, but here are the ones that came to mind by the time I got to seven.

1.  Highly effective pilots make the most important decisions before getting to the aircraft

We don’t often think about it, but when you’re opening the door to an airplane, you’ve already made the explicit or implicit assumption that everything is fine, and you’re going to fly.  And at the very least, a thorough check of the IMSAFE checklist, followed by an examination of the weather and the aircraft performance/weight and balance is in order.  It can save the time and expense of a trip to the airport.  A partial list of things that can easily be avoided include:

Flying into icing conditions

Flying when physically limited – things that seem of no consequence make a lot of difference when there is significantly less oxygen around

Flying outside the CG envelope – whether because of lack of planning, or because of overly optimistic passengers

Flying into embedded thunderstorms

Flying into TFRs

Remember, you’re far better off being on the ground wishing you were in the air than the other way around.

2.  Highly effective pilots stay ahead of the aircraft

I’m sure you all remember at least one time when (for whatever reason) you got behind the airplane and had to play catch up.  For most of us, it happened early in our flying careers or early in the process of learning a new (to us) faster or more complex airplane.  For the less fortunate among us, it happened (or will happen at some future point) when something bad happened in or with the airplane, and suddenly things are happening faster than we can react.

Something that frustrates me is the supposedly knowledgeable analysis on television or radio that talks about the Law of Unintended Consequences.  For the uninitiated, the Law states: “Every action has at least three unintended consequences, at least one of which is bad”.   HOWEVER, just because a particular consequence is unintended doesn’t mean it can’t be ANTICIPATED.  Simple example:  As you fly along on a cross country, you notice you’re covering ground at a slower rate than you planned.  Wanting to arrive on time, you goose the gas a bit and start flying faster.  The intended consequence is that you’re going faster, and you’ve achieved that, but what about the unintended consequences?  Some are easy; since you’re going faster, the plane will generate more lift and try to climb.  It will also mean resetting the trim to hold altitude.  Going faster may also put you into the yellow area on the airspeed indicator, and depending on the conditions, that may be less than a brilliant idea.  Going faster also boosts your fuel burn and reduces your range, and that may mean a fuel stop, making you even later than you would have been.  Being ahead of the airplane among other things consists of anticipating these unintended consequences and including them in your planning.

On another level completely, there are the unexpected events such as engine problems, system failures, passengers that get ill, …   These are things that don’t necessarily result from a particular action, but could happen anyway.  In these cases, there may be a brief moment when the pilot isn’t ahead of the plane, but highly effective ones get there rapidly by prioritizing and flying the plane first and worrying about other things later.  “Aviate, Navigate, Communicate” – it’s a great place to start.  Sometimes it’s as basic as “Dirty side down, pointy end forward.”

3.  Highly effective pilots are always learning

As Toffler pointed out things are changing, and the rate of change is increasing.  Just look at the things that have changed since the 1960s – Engines have fuel injections, turbocharging, and FADEC.  Turbine engines are available in general aviation.  GPS was barely a dream back then, now it’s available in any airplane, iPad and phone.  XM weather, NOTAMS, TFRs, METARs and TAFs are available in the cockpit.  Pilots that haven’t learned new technology as it becomes available get left behind.

In addition, no matter what you know about the airplane you fly, there is more to learn, more situations to explore, more emergency scenarios to master.  Any new thing you learn can help you master something you THINK you know already.

4.  Highly effective pilots understand their aircraft

There is a lot to understand in even the simplest aircraft.  There’s even more to understand in more complex ones.  Every one of them has memory items and limitations.  Sometimes when things go south, they can even be solved by the procedures in the POH.  Sometimes the Emergency procs don’t seem to address the problem you face.  When that happens, there is no substitute for understanding the aircraft.

Understanding, however, isn’t just an academic exercise.  It also includes an intuitive feel for “if I do this, here’s what happens.”  In some of the fun cases, the pilot, for example flies power off in an engine fire scenario, trying to get to the ground as quickly as possible, and (because of a high level of understanding) is able to touch down lightly within a few feet of the objective.  This only works by understanding the plane – or sheer dumb luck, which counts, but you can’t count on it.

5.  Highly effective pilots are proficient

As anyone that flies on instruments will tell you, there is a huge difference between knowledge and proficiency.  Just because you know HOW to do something doesn’t mean you can actually do it.  It takes practice.  Look at what is required of airline and charter pilots.  Every year (or more often), they get placed into simulators and are faced with situations you don’t really want to do in real airplanes.  Not all of them happen often, and some have NEVER happened in that particular type of plane, but being able to handle those situations means the ability to handle others.

Nobody trained to land an airplane in the Hudson after eating a flock of geese, but Sullenberger was able to do so in his own words because “…for 42 years, I've been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15 the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal."

6.  Highly effective pilots mitigate risks

The first step in risk mitigation is knowing what the risks are.  Acquisition of the habits leading up to this one is a great place to start.  However, it also requires a deliberate effort to identify what the risks are.  As outlined in Chapter 17 of the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical knowledge, it is an on-going process of being aware of what is happening around and to you, considering alternatives, and executing the plan that mitigates the risk.  It’s a chapter that’s worth reviewing from time to time.

7.  Highly effective pilots have professional attitudes

From time to time, I re-read some of my favorite books.  I always find something I didn’t see the previous times, or more often as I get older, didn’t REMEMBER from the previous times.  This is why professional pilots re-read the POH once per year, and with what seems an entire ream of paper devoted just to the systems section, that can be a bit of reading.  Re-reading the Airplane Flying Handbook and the Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge is also a common practice, as is re-reading Aviation Weather, Instrument Flying Handbook, and Instrument Procedures Handbook.

Highly effective pilots also fly in a professional manner, and have the skills to adapt to the situation.  When sharing expenses with friends on a weekend flight, the professional pilot will fly as close to the center of the envelope as possible, making things so smooth that those friends will come back and share expenses on future flights.  When demonstrating spins (as instructors do from time to time), the effective pilot explains what’s going to happen and why, then demonstrates the maneuver after taking the appropriate safety precautions.  Granted, this case is a bit closer to the edge of the envelope, but the pilot is still professional and safe.

Even in the extreme case of a test pilot, the professional attitude is shown when PAST the edge of the envelope.  For a great example, watch the NASA tailplane icing video, in which the pilot calmly reports loss of aircraft control and control forces exceeding 75 pounds and reverse airflow along the elevator.

As mentioned at the beginning, there are probably a lot more habits of highly effective pilots, and each of these topics could be expanded into entire articles, but these are the thoughts that came first to my mind.  I’d love to have conversations on the topic.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Pilot Decisions - Weather

This time of the year, aviation weather is a major concern. As pilots, we use the fall/winter season to refresh our weather related skills and develop a new understanding of aviation weather. 

The FAA has an excellent publication "General Aviation Pilot's Weather Guide", which uses the "Perceive, Process and Perform" framework to gather, evaluate and take action on aviation weather information during the three phases of flight: Pre-flight, In-flight, and Post-flight.


First, "Perceive" by gathering weather information about the flight from sources such as TV, Internet, Direct User Access Terminal, Flight Service Station, and others. A good strategy is to gather and evaluate weather information starting from a Big Picture summary (ex. TV and internet), then drill-down to the weather details including current and forecast weather for the departure airport, route, and arrival airport.

Second, "Process" the weather information by looking for temperature/wind/pressure/moisture changes and their possible effects on reducing ceiling/visibility, creating turbulence, and reducing aircraft performance.

Third, "Perform" by evaluating Pre-Flight information from Perceive and Process steps, then create plans for Alternates/Escape Options, Fuel requirements (to arrival airport plus alternate plus 30 or 45 minute reserve... I always use one hour), Route for best weather/terrain avoidance, and Passenger plan/contingencies (i.e. brief passengers on weather situation and alternate flight options, ex. wait or drive).


Perceive, by visually looking at the in-flight conditions and compare them (better or worse) to the forecast. Utilize ATIS/AWOS/ASOS/Flight Service for weather updates along your route. Real time in-flight weather events and locations may be available from ATC (as workload permits). In addition, many GA aircraft are now equipped with data links for satellite weather, METARS, TAFS, and NEXRAD radar.

Process, recognize and evaluate the current in-flight weather situation, especially small changes in light/color/motion/temperature/pressure.

Perform, by evaluating real time in-flight weather information, then take appropriate action for un-forecast or deteriorating weather conditions. Ask ATC for help or turn back if necessary!


After each flight is a great time to reflect on the good/bad/ugly (Clint Eastwood style) of the aviation weather and other flight information. Here are some questions to ask...

- Compare the Forecast(s) versus the Actual Weather - Consider ceilings/visibility, turbulence, aircraft performance, fuel burn/availability, temperatures, and winds?

- Which sources of weather information were useful/accurate, which were out-dated / not-relevant?

- Other questions... passenger/pilot issues (food, hydration, rest-stops, nausea, etc.)?

Below is a good Never-Again weather story from a 100 hour pilot. His Dad's words-of-wisdom may have saved the day.

"When Weather Closes In" by Jerry Spiller (AOPA Never Again, March 2005)

"My (Jerry Spiller) particular never-again brought back words of wisdom from my dad: The only thing you can't teach is experience." ....

"I learned much in that short trip. Never trust the weather, and from now on, my wife and I have agreed, no trip anywhere is worth risking that again. If either one of us feels uncomfortable, we turn for clearer skies well before it's too late. A new personal minimum for me: If I can't see the mountaintops, I don't fly near them. No more trusting that the valleys will be clear. I believe I've had a whole career's worth of luck in that one trip and I do not intend to push it again."


The weather Gods gave us a break, and we had another great flyout to Watts Woodland for lunch on Saturday Dec 5th.  Yolo Flyers Country Club was friendly and hospitable as usual providing a variety of delicious entrees for our lunch.  Be sure to join us next December.

Upcoming Flyouts:

March 12 -  Clear Lake/Lampson

April 9 – Santa Maria

May 14 – Nut Tree

(Dates and locations subject to change.  Contact Sue Ballew for further information:


Bob Lenox, Vice President – PAAA (Palo Alto Airport Assoc)


Palo Alto Airport Association and YOU

If you’ve been around a couple of years, you’ve noticed that the airport is slowly improving; the runway smoothed out and potholes filled.  The City took back operation of the airport from Santa Clara County, and has been very proactive in making small improvements, as budget allows.  If you’ve been here longer, you know that the County really did treat PAO as a stepchild.  The County owns and runs South County (E16) and Reid-Hillview (RHV), but only operated PAO under a lease arrangement.

For many years (over a decade, really) the Airport Association worked tirelessly to convince the City to take back the Airport earlier than the lease termination date of 2017.   Due to the County’s management and accounting practices that allowed the infrastructure to deteriorate, even while maximizing profit-taking from our users, the airport’s condition was shameful, and in some cases, downright dangerous.

Over time, the airport has had an (please pardon the too obvious pun) up and down relationship with the City Council and the residents.  The recent Council has been the most favorable one in memory.  With help from the City Manager’s office, the Public Works Department and our Airport Staff, there has not been a better relationship in over a generation.  However, it doesn’t take a historian to remember that there have been groups of residents, with allies on the City Council, who have wanted the airport closed for many different reasons – Noise, “dangerous little planes”, returning the land Tidal Basin, or to build Soccer fields or a Park, or even to build Anaerobic Digesters on the property.

There are currently some troubling developments among the populous.  A group called Sky Posse Palo Alto has formed, mostly concerned with airline traffic into SFO and SJC.  However, they have spawned and egged on the membership to complain about PAO operations, low flying little planes, leaded fuel and any and all other concerns they can think of.  Sky Posse has gotten the ear of several Council members, as well as Congressional members.  They have aligned with other groups in the area, in Southern California and the nation.  They are well organized and vocal.

Some of their members have done their homework, and are asking the City Council to stop accepting Federal grants.  This of course, would mean an end to airport improvements, and could eventually lead to closure.  Now, I’m not suggesting that the Council will do any of that soon, but the Council is constituent driven, and if all they hear from are anti-aviation interests, I can assure you that, in the long-run, things will not go well.

The Palo Alto Airport Association (PAAA) has been at the forefront of advocating on behalf of the Aviation community, and relies on those interested in promoting, protecting and defending the airport for volunteers.  At the very least, a membership shows interest; there is strength in numbers when we speak to the Council.  We need you, too, to volunteer for Airport Day, our annual open house when the Community is invited out the airport for a day of education and information.  Please join the Association and help us as we continue to move forward with the vision of PAO as a world-class local airport.


Thank You,

Bob Lenox


AOPA Airport Support Network Volunteer