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2016 Q3 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

Safety is #1

Many organizations talk about safety as a priority.  I believe that WVFC not only talks about it, but actually lives it.  We have just completed a full year of insurance and not made a single insurance claim!   That’s quite an achievement.  To put things in perspective, the club flew over 15,000 flight hours during the year.  With an average of about 2-3 landings per hour, that equates to approximately 30 to 40,000 takes-off and landings.  Pretty incredible if you think we’re talking about almost 50 planes, 40 instructors, and 600 regular flying members.

I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the things we have done as a club to promote and live a “positive safety culture”.

The phase check process.   Often viewed as somewhat of a “burden” because it involves extra flights with different instructors, the club has shown a dramatic improvement in safety since the program was first initiated.  It provides second opinions, keeps primary instructors “honest” in terms of preparing clients for the phase check. It provides feedback to the Safety Office on the quality of the primary instruction, and sets the bar high enough that someone who doesn’t feel the need or see the value of the phase check process drops out before finishing (or maybe before even starting).

Extended Rental Agreements.  It’s apparent that not all members are aware of this, so let’s take the time to refresh.  If you want to take a club plane for an overnight (or more) AND out of state, the club requires that you fill out an Extended Rental Agreement (ERA).  The form asks where and when you are going, in what plane, and has a CFI been involved the planning.  The Safety Office (and maintenance) will review the request and get back with an OK or perhaps some suggestions to modify the trip to improve the likelihood of a safe outcome.  Case in point.  Recently a member, who knew about the ERA, submitted one for a trip from Palo Alto to Las Vegas (as in the main airport KLAS) in a Cessna Skycatcher.  While doable, the club considered that a less than ideal combo of an LSA going over the mountains and attempting to join the fray with all the heavy equipment arriving into Las Vegas.  It also gets really windy over there and the Skycatcher doesn’t do that well in strong winds.   The Safety Office reached out to the member and the member agreed with the assessment, no hard feelings, and one less “marginal” flight avoided.

Maintenance.  There are a LOT of gray areas in maintenance.  Many judgment calls have to be made everyday as to the airworthiness and usability of thousands of different parts on dozens of different makes and models.  We always err on the side of safety, but we have to do that in a practical way.  If a part or system is deemed not airworthy then the plane is grounded until it is fixed.  Case in point, our squawk and observation process.  If a member writes a squawk the plane is grounded regardless.  Even if the squawk is “silly” (e.g. trash found on rear seats), the plane is grounded. The ONLY department that can un-ground the plane is maintenance.  No amount of whining from CFIs, members, staff, etc. can un-ground the plane.  We have stuck firm to this policy to avoid the inevitable slippery slope of people other than maintenance un-grounding planes.  One can only imagine where that could lead.

Safety Office.  Consisting of three people, Mike May, Don Styles, and Ashley Porath, this team provides the backbone behind our decision making process as to who does and doesn’t get privileges.  Beyond basic checkouts, the Safety Office deals with a constant stream of “exception requests” where a member is looking for a currency override (it does happen) or a phase check exemption (it does happen).  The Safety Office also handles each and every Flight Feedback Form where a member or CFI makes an observation about some other member/CFI that they deem as unsafe.  While this may appear to be tattling, it’s a big part of a positive safety culture where the club can follow-up and try to make things better, both for the person involved but also the club at large.

It isn’t any one of these things that makes the difference but all of them combined.  We’ll continue to try to further improve the safety culture at the club without adding more burdens to the flying members.  So, please continue to do your part to maintain our safety culture and resulting safety record.  It is indeed something worth celebrating. 

Safe Flying


Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC

Children of the Magenta (with apologies to American Airlines)

Since Garmin introduced the G1000 over 12 years ago, technically advanced aircraft have appeared in ever increasing numbers. It’s difficult to quantify the changes that TAA equipped aircraft have precipitated, but there is no doubt that they have changed the game, and that they are here to stay. Of the 10 most recent additions to the WVFC fleet, 9 of them are G1000 equipped. 6 of our 15 Cessna 172SP’s are now G1000 airplanes, compared to 3 at this time last year. Considering that Cessna ceased production of its 6-pack SP’s back in 2007, we expect this trend to continue.

The G1000 and similar systems provide an undeniable enhancement to situational awareness and overall safety compared to previous generation avionics, but like most major technological advancements, they come with their own set of drawbacks. The airline industry recognized the side-effects of all-glass, highly automated flight deck systems decades ago, and mitigating the risks that these systems inherently come with has been a major focus of their training programs ever since. Which brings me to the title of this article. Back in 1997, American Airlines videotaped a training presentation given to its pilots on this topic, and it is now available for the world to see thanks to the technological wonder of the internet and You Tube, (here’s the link to anyone interested The specifics are more relevant to air carriers, but the overall message translates well to general aviation: Advanced systems can lead to bad habits and complacency as we become increasingly reliant on their capabilities. To quote the American Airlines instructor, “we must guard against becoming children of the magenta”.

Consider all the tasks that a G1000 or similar system will complete for you when you use it for the relatively simple task of flying a planned route on a cross country flight. Once you’ve input the waypoints, it will give you very precise information on distance, time, fuel consumption, groundspeed, airspeed, nearest airport lists that updates in real time, airport information, airspace information, and radio frequencies along your route. In short, it does all your flight planning for you. With a datalink such as XM or ADS-B it will also give you weather, traffic alerts, and TFR’s. Sounds great, right? It is, as long as everything works as advertised and you’ve programmed it correctly. If either of these conditions were not met, you might be in for a surprise if you weren’t paying close attention.

Small errors leading to big mistakes are so common that there is an entire list of phrases to describe them. Is the system telling you that you have 5,000nm and 48:30 to destination? You may have hit direct to PAO instead of KPAO, which is an NDB in Greece (garbage in, garbage out). Have you ever had an autopilot that didn’t do what you expected it to? If you weren’t paying close attention you won’t be anywhere near where you want to be when you check your position (“What’s it doing now?” Or, “Why is it doing that again?” depending on how many times this has happened to you). Do you know which systems and features will be affected if the GPS signal is lost? It’s a lot more than some people realize (In written form, as a maintenance squawk: MFD failed in flight, screen locked up and there were multiple caution messages. Fixed itself after 15 minutes and worked normally for the rest of the flight). For all the instrument pilots out there, how about that time you flew a practice ILS while the CDI was still in GPS mode? (“This is the best ILS I’ve ever flown in my life!” followed by “aw, crap”). There are many, many more examples.

The solution to these sorts of errors is both obvious and elusive. Part of it is developing procedures and habits to catch errors, such as cross-checking inputs, following checklists, and maintaining a good instrument scan. The other part is, to put it bluntly, not becoming lazy and dependent on these systems to do everything for you. That’s much easier said than done, and the aviation industry as a whole has struggled to combat this because of the simple truth that it’s human nature. Being aware of the risk that comes with these advanced systems is a good first step, and making sure you understand the capabilities and limitations of the equipment you’re using can further mitigate the risk. As a WVFC member, you have access to our fleet of simulators (and you get a free hour per month, per simulator) to hone your skills on Garmin and Avidyne avionics systems. Our CFI’s are also available to help and they have a wealth of knowledge and experience – one of them literally wrote the book on the G1000.

As our fleet continues to evolve and grow, advanced avionics will become even more prevalent than they are today. In the hands of a proficient user, they offer vastly improved situational awareness, accuracy, and reliability. Like any other machine though, it’s important to have a good understanding of how they operate, what their limitations are, and how to operate them. These systems get more capable every day, and having this knowledge will enable you to safely take full advantage of them.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Decision Making – Hope for the best, but expect the worst

Much of our flying safety is dependent on anticipating and recognizing problems, and on the quality of the decisions we make. We hope for the best, but expect the worst.

We have all certainly read stories about aviation accidents and wondered how the pilot found themselves in that situation? Could this happen to me?

As pilots, we must anticipate potential problems, recognize problem signs, then make decisions and act to remedy the problem. Many pilot caused accidents can be traced back to one of the following;

1)       Pilot not recognizing potential hazard(s) and/or not taking timely action to avoid the hazard(s).

2)       Attempting to push the aircraft limits; overloading, fuel, and weather.

3)       Attempting to push the limits of the pilot; fatigue, nutrition, stress, skills, and proficiency.

So, where are some common decision points that we could use to help to improve the safety of our flights? Some possible decision points are;

1)       Pre-flight planning (IM SAFE, personal minimums, weather, aircraft equipment/performance)

2)       Preflight inspection (is the aircraft ready for the flight)

3)       Takeoff climb (weather still ok, plan is working)

4)       Enroute (weather changes, winds, checkpoints as expected)

5)       Pre-landing (checklist, ATIS, winds, pattern entry)

6)       Landing (checklist, GUMP check, wind, runway)

I found this true story article in the Modesto Bee newspaper about “classic” bad pilot decision making.

“The pilot was flying a Piper Tri-Pacer from the Modesto airport with a passenger on her first airplane flight. Shortly after takeoff the pilot returned to the airport and made an emergency landing due to smoke coming out of the engine.

After landing, the pilot apparently found a broken exhaust hose clamp and went to the nearby Wal-Mart to get a new clamp. The pilot fixed the problem himself (no mechanic) then decided to take off again. The cockpit filled with smoke a second time, so the pilot declared a second emergency and landed.

The pilot found a small break (cut) in the exhaust hose and apparently replaced the hose. He took off a third time but this time the engine caught fire and he made a third emergency landing. His passenger (who was shaken), jumped from the aircraft on the runway and ended up in the hospital. The third landing caused damage to the aircraft (bounced landing), and the ensuing fire burned the aircraft

Ian Gregor of the FAA indicated that officials were surprised that the 52-year-old pilot would try to take off a third time after having been forced to land twice because of smoke in the cockpit. We’re going to have a long talk with the pilot.”


Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC

“Exciting Regulatory Updates”

The Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) Airventure (Oshkosh) was a few weeks ago at the end of July.  This convention/fly-in/airshow is also a culmination of many press releases and legislative and rule-making activity.  As always when I get back from Oshkosh, I am super-excited about flying and aviation.  I wanted to recap two significant events that have taken place in the past few months that will have a positive impact on aviation over the next several years.

FAA Medical Reform

On July 15, President Obama signed the FAA Authorization Extension which included third class medical reform.  Most WVFC members are flying under part 91, which requires a third class medical and a trip to the Airman Medical Examiner's (AME's) office either every five years (for pilots under age 40) or every two years (for pilots over 40).  A wide variety of conditions can delay or prevent issuance of a medical certificate.  Under the new process, a pilot will go through the medical certification process once.  Thereafter, a pilot needs to complete an online course once every two years and visit a physician (not necessarily an AME) once every four years.  The FAA has until July 15 2017 to get the rule in place, so for now a third-class medical certificate is still required.

The impact of this law should mean that more pilots can keep flying, safely, as they age. Additionally, those flying under special issuances will not need to continue to submit paperwork to show that conditions haven't changed.  One of the bases for the reform was the experience with the Sport Pilot License.  Pilots flying under a Sport Pilot certificate only need to meet the medical standards of a driver license.  In ten years, there have been no accidents attributable to the driver license medical standards versus the third class medical standards.  Thus, the new reforms should increase the flying pilot population without reducing safety.  This is great for generation aviation.

STC Approval for Experimental Avionics

WVFC pilots flying some of the older aircraft on the flight line are familiar with GPS devices and other avionics that are decades old.  iPads, mobile phones, and 'experimental' avionics are vastly superior in their computing power and capability to these devices.  However, certifying new avionics is cripplingly expensive, meaning that new technology is either very expensive or just not available for certificated aircraft.  The FAA has realized that safety can be enhanced by allowing newer technology into older aircraft cockpits.

Shortly before Airventure, Dynon and Garmin, two avionics manufacturers, announced that they had received STC approval to allow the installation of some of their experimental avionics in some of the more popular certificated airplanes in the general aviation fleet.  A supplemental type certificate (STC) allows a certificated airplane to receiver an approved alteration.  In this case, the alteration is to install an Electronic Flight Information System (EFIS) in place of or in addition to the original attitude indicator.  What is an EFIS?  The Dynon EFIS shows attitude, airspeed, altitude and other flight data in one display.  Not a big deal to those already flying glass cockpits, but the difference here is the price.  The entry level Dynon costs $2600.  This is only slightly more expensive than a certified vacuum-driven attitude indicator.  The Garmin G5 has fewer features than the Dynon but comes in at $2150.

These two STCs are likely to be just the beginning of allowing safety-enhancing, proven 'experimental' aircraft technology into certificated aircraft.  For example, TruTrak is seeking STC approval for its autopilot.  The experimental TruTrak auotpilot sells for $2100.  The least expensive S-Tec autopilot goes for around $8000.  While the autopilot STC is very far from a done-deal, it is at least conceivable with other STCs having been issued.

So, what does this mean?  On a 1979 Archer with a value of under $60,000, it's hard to conceive of installing even a "basic" glass panel for $40,000.  However, the safety and utility to be gained by replacing the attitude indicator with a solid state EFIS, either proactively or when the existing one fails is astounding.

These are the two July announcements that I expect will have the largest impact in the years to come.


Max Trescott, 2008 National CFI of the Year

Three Fun & Sporty DA40s for Rent

There are now three DiamondStar DA40 aircraft online at WVFC for rent! With summer here, it’s now the perfect time to check out in and fly these fun, sporty aircraft. Each of the three planes is slightly different, but all have the same excellent flying characteristics that make the DA40 so popular. Remarkably, one rents for less than a Cessna 172/G1000, but flies faster; the other two are priced within a few dollars of a 172/G1000.

The DA40’s sleek, composite structure is reminiscent of the Cirrus, and its center-mounted control stick makes it fun to fly. In addition, the G1000 glass cockpit is cutting edge technology that has the potential for increased safety if used properly. If you’re unfamiliar with the Diamond line you’re not alone, since they are not as readily available for rent as the ubiquitous Cessna 172. However, the DA40 is a proven aircraft that’s been available for over fifteen years, and it has a fatal accident rate that’s significantly lower than the overall General Aviation accident rate!

This state of the art, four place aircraft is IFR certified and is all electric. That means there’s no vacuum pump to fail. Should the electrical system fail, there’s a conventional attitude indicator (AI) at top center of the panel, along with a backup airspeed indicator and altimeter. A separate battery powers the AI for about 45 minutes if the alternator fails and the main battery discharges.

Visibility in the DA40 is exceptional. The glass canopy wraps around you for a full 180°, making it easy to spot traffic or just enjoy the view. You may want to bring along a baseball hat though, particularly early or late in the day when the sun is low, to reduce the brightness.

In the air, the most unusual thing you’ll notice is its docile stall characteristics. Hold the stick back continuously deep into the stall and you’ll just descend 800-1000 feet per minute with light buffeting. When landing, touch down in a nose high attitude, but don’t exceed 10 degrees of pitch, since its long tail offers some possibility of a tail strike if it’s pitched too high at touchdown.

All three of the club’s DA40s feature the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit. One of the key advantages of the G1000 is that you can aviate, navigate and communicate all from one display. While there are some functions that can only be accessed from the multifunction display (MFD) in front of the co-pilot, the pilot can see all primary instruments, view an inset map, view and update a flight plan and tune and monitor radios all from the primary flight display or PFD on the left side of the cockpit. All three of the club’s DA40s include traffic systems, so you’ll have the 8 aircraft closest to you displayed on the MFD and the inset map of the PFD.

With all of the automation, it’s easy to have your eyes glued inside the cockpit when they should be outside. So checkouts include a focus on using the autopilot and other automation to simplify pilot workload and give you more time for sitting back and watching the world slide by. Naturally, emergency procedures are also emphasized, since you need to know what to do if one of the systems decides to hiccup.

The speeds of the three aircraft on the line vary slightly. All are roughly comparable to the speed of a Cessna 182. Two use 180-hp Lycoming engines, and one uses a 168-hp, turbocharged diesel engine that uses Jet A fuel. If you fly that one, ALWAYS make sure you stay with the aircraft when it’s fueled to verify that it’s fueled with Jet A and not accidently misfueled with avgas, which would immediately destroy the engine.

The three aircraft on the line at West Valley are:

·       N566DS is a 2006 DA40 with a 180-hp engine, constant speed prop, a non-WAAS G1000, and a KAP140 autopilot. This aircraft currently rents for $165/hour with a checkout rate of $155/hour. That’s the same price N566DS rented for when it first came onto West Valley’s flight line in 2006!

·       N732DS, is a 2007 DA40XL with a 180-hp engine, Power Flow System tuned exhaust (which adds about 20-hp), a WAAS-capable G1000, and the Garmin GFC700 integrated autopilot. It rents for $179/hour

·       N125NG is a 2016 DA40NG with the 168-hp, turbocharged Austro diesel engine. This engine is buttery smooth and eliminates the cockpit vibration sometimes felt in the other DA40s at engine startup and/or shut down. Its engine controls are completely different from an avgas powered aircraft, so it requires a separate checkout from the other DA40s. In the air it flies the same, though if you need to add some power to arrest a high sink rate during landing, you’ll need to move the throttle MUCH more than you would in the other DA40s to cushion the landing and avoid dropping in for a hard landing. It has a WAAS-capable G1000, and the Garmin GFC700 integrated autopilot. It rents for $199/hour.

Here’s the review AOPA did in 2004 of the DA40, the same model as N566DS.

Have fun flying these amazing aircraft! And, if you have any interest in buying a Diamond, consider buying N566DS, which is currently for sale. Of if you’re interested in buying a new Diamond DA40 or DA42 from the local Diamond dealer, walk into the new offices of Austro Aircraft, which are located just to the left of the main entrance to West Valley’s Palo Alto location.


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


Our flyout to Columbia on June 11th was a success with about 10 people flying in.  Someone blew a tire on landing while we were approaching and some of us had to do an unexpected landing on the grass strip.  If you have never tried that, grab an instructor and go work on your soft field landings – for real!


Another great flyout to San Luis Obispo and The Spirit of San Luis for lunch on July 16th.  We almost made it to Oceano, but of course the clouds were still lingering.  Maybe next year…

Upcoming Flyouts:

September 17 - Quincy

October - Santa Barbara

November - Napa

December - Watts-Woodland

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