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2016 Q2 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

Diamond Aircraft

West Valley Flying Club is proud to announce a new strategic relationship with Diamond Aircraft.  Our new neighbor (in the space where the pilot shop used to be), Austro Aircraft, has been designated as the Authorized Diamond Dealer for Northern California and parts of Nevada.  They will be buying and selling new Diamond aircraft ranging from the single engine DA40, the twin-engine DA42, and the latest twin engine airplane from Diamond, the DA62.  They will be placing several Diamond airplanes on our flight line for members to rent.

Starting around mid-May we will be renting a brand new 2016, diesel (aka Jet-A) powered DA40NG (N125NG).  This is a state of the art single engine aircraft equipped with the latest technology including a G1000/GFC700 avionics suite.  It will rent for a very reasonable $199 per hour.  One of the reasons the rental rate can be kept low is because of the low fuel burn (approximately 5 gallons per hour of Jet-A, which generally costs a dollar less per gallon than 100LL).

Additionally, we will be adding a 2007 DA40XL (N732S).  This plane is powered by a traditional Lycoming engine, running on 100LL.  It also features a G1000/GFC700 avionics suite.  The rental rate on this plane is yet to be set, but it’s likely to be in the $175 range.

Around the July/August timeframe, we will be receiving a 2016 DA42NG.  This is a state of the art twin-engine aircraft that can also be used for primary twin training.  We haven’t had a twin trainer since our last 1980’s Duchess left the flight line a few years back.  We’ve been looking high and low for a replacement and continued to struggle to find something suitable.  Now we have a chance to leap frog other local clubs/FBOs.  This plane is also equipped with G1000/GFC700 and full WAAS capability.  At this time, the rental rate has not been set, but with two engines each burning only 5 gallons per hour of Jet-A, the operating costs are quite favorable for a light twin.

We hope both instructors and members see this new initiative as a way to broaden our fleet with a range of planes from a manufacturer who produces solid and reliable aircraft that are fun and easy to fly.  When you get a chance, stop by the office of Austro Aircraft and say hello to the founders Majid and Farhad.  They have remodeled the space and made it a welcoming place to go and talk about everything Diamond.

Safe Flying


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor


The Scoreboard

Back in what today seems to be the dark ages, I used to play basketball.  I’m using a couple of terms rather loosely there, as I was far more energetic than good.  Our team’s default strategy was that because I could out jump everyone else on the court, I jumped center for the tip off, and would then drop back to my normal guard position for the rest of the game.  It would frequently develop that I would also get the first shot for our team – a (no surprise) jumper, in which I’d be well over the defender.  That also got me on the scoreboard – usually for the only time in the game.  But it was always nice to check the scoreboard to see that we were actually on it.  Even if it didn’t show what our team wanted, it showed what was actually going on in the game.

There is a line on the G1000 and on many other Primary Flight Displays called by some, the scoreboard.  It’s the line that will tell you what the Flight Director (and therefore, the autopilot if it’s engaged) is doing.  Invariably, the thing that gets pilots into trouble when using an autopilot is when the pilot thinks the plane is doing one thing and the autopilot thinks the plane is doing another.  I may have been in that position once or twice (or more) in the past.

So, how does a pilot and an autopilot get out of sync?  I suppose there is a large number of ways in which it’s possible, but the fundamental is that the pilot takes some action with the autopilot controller and neglects to check what’s on the scoreboard.  Pro pilots deliberately look at the scoreboard immediately after taking an action on the autopilot controller.  Some watch the scoreboard as they take the autopilot action.  In either case, they have immediate feedback that the autopilot actually thinks it’s doing the same thing they think it’s doing.

That (in addition to the smoke) was my most recent indication of an autopilot problem.  I had pressed the Yaw Damper in a Pilatus but the YD indication didn’t appear on the scoreboard, so I pressed it again, at which point the autopilot flunked the smoke test.  Had I not watched the scoreboard, I might not have noticed the issue until after we got into the clouds, in which case things might have gotten more interesting than they actually did.

However, many of the club planes don’t have G1000s or any other kind of primary flight display.  So how does this concept apply to them?  Glad you asked.  Virtually every switch, knob or button on any airplane has a corresponding light, gauge, or other indication associated with it.  For example, when you put the flap lever down, the indicator shows the flap position and you can see whether the flaps actually moved as you selected.  Assuming you can’t see the flaps themselves.  And I’ve had that one happen, too.  I was flying with a student, who after a simulated engine failure, initiated a go-around including raising the flaps.  Well, she raised the flap handle, but neither the flap indicator nor the flaps moved.  Her first indication that something was amiss came when she noticed that it’s nearly impossible to climb in a 152.

The next time you’re in your favorite club (or other) plane give it a try.  Every time you push a button, flip a switch, turn a knob or push a lever, see if you can find an indicator that shows what you’ve done.  Then, every time in the future that you take those actions, look at the indicator to make certain that what you want is what you got.

Treat the plane like a science experiment – take an action, verify the results.

Get on the scoreboard.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Pilot Decisions - The Pressure is ON!

 “The NTSB could not determine why these experienced pilots made inappropriate decisions that led to the accidents, the pilots may have been subject to self-induced pressure to start or complete the flight....” from the NTSB reports. Sound familiar? Every year we hear reports or read about pilots making inappropriate decisions.

The quote above is from an NTSB report where the NTSB became “especially” concerned about four accidents, by experienced pilots in a one year period between 2007-2008, involving volunteer medical transportation flights. The NTSB recommended to the Air Care Alliance (ACA), a federation of organizations providing volunteer medical flights for patients, to create a pilot program to provide “....guidance, additional training, oversight regarding aeronautical decision making, focus on preflight planning, and risk awareness.”

Our flights may not be medical transportation flights, but all our flights are still voluntary. We can also easily become affected by the “pressure” to complete the flight. Examples... student pilot, I need to go on my cross country today because the weather will be bad for the next week... private pilot, I need to fly to Chico for a family wedding tomorrow... When the “pressure” is on, pilots (us) may be vulnerable to make poor decisions. Here are four examples mentioned in the NTSB reports detailing how other pilots made poor decisions (under pressure).

The first was a Beech 35 which crashed into a shopping center parking lot when the instrument rated pilot failed to maintain control during an instrument (ILS) approach. The pilot apparently had no recent record of instrument currency.

NTSB details

The second was a Beech A36 which crashed on takeoff after hitting the airport glideslope antennas. The pilot unfortunately decided to takeoff downwind and possibly on the last one-third of a 5,000 foot long runway. The 81 year old pilot was also recovering for prostate cancer and had recently undergone 21 external radiation treatments.

NTSB details

The third was a Socata TBM 700 which crashed after takeoff (during climb out). The private pilot with 5,688 hours had 58.4 hours in the last 30 days. Unfortunately the pilot decided to takeoff downwind with winds gusting 25-33 knots.

NTSB details

The fourth accident involved a Piper PA 32R which crashed after experiencing convective turbulence and became disoriented. The airplane was observed spinning out of the bottom of a cloud with part of a wing missing. Weather briefing information and GOES-12 satellite data showed cumulonimbus type clouds over northeast and southern Ohio where the accident occurred. Low-level dark gray clouds were observed in the area all morning, with darker clouds to the east at the time of the accident. The 57 year old instrument rated private pilot had 1,949 hours and had flown 52 hours in the last 90 days.

NTSB details

So why did these experienced pilots crash? They may have felt self-induced pressure to complete the flight because a patient was counting-on-them. As a result, they likely observed but decided to ignore critical flight risks during their preflight... instrument currency... downwind takeoff... poor weather conditions.

We can learn from their mistakes...)

WOW – Women of West Valley Flying Club

After weather playing a significant part in our decision making for the flyouts over the last four months, we finally made it to Nut Tree Airport.  Although there was morning overcast, 6 airplanes and 13 attendees showed up and had a great time at Fenton’s Creamery.  The food was delicious and to top it off we all sampled their famous ice cream.  Come join us for our next flyout to Columbia!

Upcoming Flyouts:

June 11  -  Columbia

July 16 - Oceano

August 20 - Petaluma

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


Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC

It's Your Flight Review

Early in flight training, we learn that one of the requirements to act as pilot-in-command is to complete a Flight Review or other specified activity every two years.  The other activities include passing a practical test for an additional rating or pilot or instructor certificate.  Certainly if you're in the stage of your flying career where you're still earning ratings and certificates, you're probably pretty proficient at the end of each check ride!

There are two other options for satisfying the Flight Review requirement.  The first is completing one or more phases of an FAA-approved Pilot Proficiency Program.  The current version of this program is WINGS.  Through the WINGS program, you complete a variety of approved activities.  At the Basic Level for Private Pilot, this requires three knowledge, or ground, activities and three flight activities.

There are many ways to complete the ground activities.  These include taking online courses offered by AOPA, FAA, and others, webinars, and seminars.  The FAA's search tool is a little clumsy to use, but a little time with it will eventually yield usable results.  Examples of activities are course on Mountain Flying, Winter Weather, Risk Management, and Aging Aircraft.

The three flight activities are also available via the search.  To complete a flight activity, a pilot completes a number of tasks to Practical Test Standards.  Examples include airwork (slow flight and stalls), take-offs and landings, and airport operations.  Any instructor can evaluate the completion of a flight activity.  All three flight activities may be completed in one flight or spread out over multiple flights.  There is no minimum time requirement for the flight activities, just the completion of the activity to the required standard.

The WINGS program offers a few advantages over a traditional flight review: the topics covered can be more varied and perhaps more interesting than the ground portion of a flight review, they are often free, and can be done in any location and at any time.  For the flight portion, it's a bit easier to determine if the standards of each of the flight activities are met than to discuss whether a flight review is satisfactory or not.  Because the flight activities are standardized, it may be less stress to complete a WINGS phase with a new instructor than to complete a traditional Flight Review with a new instructor.  On the other hand, the Flight Activities are prescribed and so are a bit more rigid than the flying portion of the Flight Review.  If you're interested in going the WINGS route, ask your flight instructor if they are familiar with it.  Most should be.

The final option for completing the Flight Review requirement is the more traditional route.  The FARs prescribe a minimum of one hour of ground instruction, including a review of Part 91, and a minimum of one hour of flight instruction reviewing the maneuvers deemed by the person giving the review necessary to demonstrate the safe exercise of the privileges of the certificate.  This means there is a great deal of flexibility in this method.  

You can certainly complete this requirement by showing up, going through a review of the FARs for an hour, going to do some airwork and landings and being set for another two years.  However, given that you're going to be paying for at least two hours (and probably more) of an instructor's time, a little preparation and discussion with the reviewing instructor can make the experience much more valuable.  First, when you contact your reviewing instructor, initiate a dialog about what you'd like to cover in the review.  If it's been two years since you've practiced engine out and other emergency procedures, mention that you'd like to cover that.  If you haven't practiced a partial panel instrument approach in four years or recovery from unusual attitudes, let your instructor know.  If you usually do Bay Tours with friends but are thinking of doing a trip down to Santa Barbara, use the review to discuss flight planning and arrival into unknown airports.

Spending some time structuring the review with the instructor will mean that you're deriving greater value than just going and doing some airwork.  Additionally, your instructor will probably appreciate the interest you're showing in the review and work with you to expand your capabilities.

Whichever route you go, make the most of your Flight Review.


Max Trescott, 2008 National CFI of the Year


Landing Technique in the Cessna 182

The Cessna 182 Skylane is a popular aircraft for good reason. It’s reasonably fast compared to a Cessna 172 or other trainer, it’s relatively inexpensive to operate, it hauls a decent amount of weight, and maintenance costs are low, especially compared to a retractable aircraft. So it’s little wonder that many pilots check out in one after they complete their Private.

The Cessna 182 does have one knock against it that’s undeserved. Many pilots say the Cessna 182 is “nose heavy,” making it difficult to land. I respectfully disagree. The Cessna 182 is not difficult to land, IF you know how to land it properly and remain proficient through practice. And while calling it “nose heavy,” seems to match what pilots experience when landing the aircraft, an aeronautical engineer would blanch at that description. The C182 balances at its center of gravity like any other aircraft; the front end is NOT heavier than the back end.

It is true that nose wheel damage and bent firewalls are common for C182s that have spent their lives as rental aircraft. So yes, it’s easier to make a bad landing in a C182 than in a C172. And those bad landings often involve the nose wheel hitting the runway before the main wheels touchdown. If you want to know three simple steps for better C182 landings, skip to the end of this article. If you want to know why those steps work so well, read on!

An article on [] states that in general “between one-third to as much as one-half of all accidents are what we call R-LOCs or runway loss of control. These are overshoots, undershoots, skids, slides, crosswind incidents, hard touchdowns and all sorts of runway mayhem related to the inability to just basically control the airplane. It's hand-eye stuff.” [AvWeb’s accident analysis of] the Cessna 182 revealed that 58 percent of all the accidents listed for this model are R-LOCs. Few other models come even close to this. A significant number of these were nose-first touchdowns or hard landings that damaged the nose gear and crimped the firewall, which is common damage for a Skylane.”

Why do pilots crunch the nose on C182s more often than on a C172? There are a couple of factors. First, let’s dispel the issue that it is a “nose heavy” aircraft. If it were nose heavy, it would be hard to lift the nose for takeoff. But it’s not. Yet takeoffs in a C182 are no more difficult than other aircraft. Many C182 pilots use 10 degrees of flaps for takeoffs, and in this configuration, a C182 floats off the runway with virtually no back pressure on the yoke.

To understand why the Cessna 182 seems nose heavy, I consulted with my friend Alan Brown, an aeronautical engineer who was the Chief Designer for the F-117 Stealth Fighter. My first theory was that the dimensions of a C182’s elevator, and its position relative to the wing, were different enough from a C172 that the backwash of air off the wing affects the elevator differently. But after measuring the elevator size of both planes, and their distances from the wing, I concluded that the differences were so minor as to make it unlikely that they account for differences in handling between the two planes.

After several rounds of discussion, Alan and I did find one major difference between the C172 and C182 that may account for the differences in handling between these planes. The mass balance of the elevator is significantly different between the C172 and the C182.

Control surfaces must be designed to reduce oscillation or flutter, and one way to minimize flutter is to design the elevator such that its center of gravity falls along its hinge line. This is known as mass balancing.

It’s easy to feel the difference in mass balancing while seated in these aircraft on the ground with the engine off. In this configuration, the elevator hangs down. If a pilot sits in a C172 and pulls back on the yoke to lift the elevator, he or she will see that it takes very little force to lift the elevator up from its resting position. Do the same thing in a C182, and a pilot will notice that it takes considerably more force to raise the elevator. That’s because their mass balancing is different.

In straight and level flight, the relative wind holds the elevator in a neutral position; it doesn’t hang down as it does when it’s parked with the control lock out. But when you pull off the power during landing, the wind generated from the prop decreases, and the elevator starts to drop, as it does when it is parked. In a C172, it takes very little backpressure on the yoke to keep the elevator from dropping. But in a C182, when you pull the power, it takes much more force to keep the elevator from dropping, just as it takes more force to raise the elevator when a C182 sitting on the ground.

When you’re in the flare in a C182 and pull the power, unless you apply a significant amount of backpressure, the elevator starts to drop. When it does, the aircraft pitches down. Unless a pilot is prepared to quickly pull back on the yoke, the pilot is headed for a nose wheel first landing and potential damage. But it’s not because the aircraft is nose heavy. It’s because of the poor mass balancing of the elevator.

Landing a Cessna C182 is simple if you do the following. 

1) Make sure you make a final adjustment to the elevator trim after you’ve slowed to your final approach speed. That will reduce the amount of muscle required for landing.
2) Leave some power on until you are in the flare. Avoid pulling the power completely off when you’re 20 feet high, as you might in a C172 over the pond landing on runway 31 in Palo Alto.

3) After you are level in the flare, simultaneously pull back on the throttle AND THE YOKE. Then land the C182 as you would any aircraft, in a nose high attitude so the main wheels touch down first.

Make your landings like this every time, and you’ll think the C182 is easy to land. Because it is, when you use proper technique!


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