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2017 Q1 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

WVFC Monthly “Highlights”

For 2017, WVFC will be rolling out a new program called WVFC Monthly Highlights.  The program will leverage not only our traditional communication channels like the website, emails, newsletter, and bulletin but will introduce a whole series of events/news/highlights on Social Media like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Each month, the club will pick a theme and run with it.  The program will launch on March 1, and the first monthly theme will be “Ratings”.  Each day of the week will have its’ own identity and we’ll utilize much of the established themes from Social Media – Throwback Thursday (TBT) being a good example. 

Each week, we’ll feature one of the club planes and run a promotion to encourage members to fly the plane more or, even better, for the first time.  For example, we might feature an Acro week during the tailwheel month and run a flat rate “first time Acro” lesson in the Super Decathlon.  We will also feature different CFIs during the month so that the membership gets to know the CFI at a deeper level than they might be able to find from the standard website bio.

We’ll have some fun with questions, quizzes, and each week we’ll put out a “Did you Know” fact about the club and what it offers you and the aviation community.  This hopefully helps address the significant challenge of keeping the membership appraised of everything that the club offers.

The program is designed to be interactive.  Its’ success will be dependent on the membership getting involved in the dialog and even straightening us out when we’ve got our facts wrong (shockingly that does happen from time to time).

You’ll start to see monthly theme banners in the club lobbies each month and hopefully they’ll trigger some good conversations about the theme of the month.  I look forward to talking to many of you throughout the year as we continue our journey together.  Thanks again for being a great membership and fly safe.


Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC

2017 Safety Office Update 

At this time last year, I wrote about the 2016 Safety Office goals. The higher level objective was to improve our membership experience while enhancing safety, and our goals included updating our Member Regulations Quiz and checkout forms, our Phase Check Program, and continuing to work to enhance the club safety culture. A year later, I’m pleased to report that we made significant progress in these areas.

The Member Regulations were rolled out on Jan 1 of this year and include some significant updates. Among the changes were several things that came as a direct result of member feedback (see the paragraph on our Safety Culture below), and others that we hope will clarify existing best practices that are already in use at the club. For anyone interested in reviewing it, you can locate it in the Member Docs section of the club website.

Our Phase Check program has had two significant changes to it. In collaboration with our CFI’s, we’ve eliminated several phase checks that everyone agreed were unnecessary for club safety. Second, we now will assign up to three Phase Check CFI’s instead of one when a Phase Check is required. The member and primary CFI are free to choose any of the three names we provide based on price, availability, or personal preference. This should help reduce the training disruption that can occur when the assigned Phase Check CFI doesn’t have a schedule that’s compatible with the member, and it gives the member the ability to select their Phase Check CFI from a list rather than have one assigned to them.

Finally, the club continues to enjoy a strong safety culture. While we suffered one landing incident that resulted in an insurance claim (thankfully there were no injuries), this was the only blemish on an otherwise stellar year safety-wise. In years prior we had several incidents that concerned us but either didn’t reach the level of an insurance claim or resulted in little or no aircraft damage. For example, in 2014 we had three incidents in which a propeller struck a cone while taxiing. In two of these incidents the airplane was then flown after the respective pilots checked for visible damage and found none. These prop-strikes resulted in one engine overhaul, two propeller overhauls, and two engine teardowns once the club became aware of them. When the Safety Office investigated these we discovered that this is a subject that many of our members have never received guidance on. The short version of this guidance is to never, ever fly an airplane if you suspect anything has struck the propeller, even if there is no visible damage (Lycoming and Continental both have Service Bulletins that describe in detail the inspection process following a prop-strike that can be easily found online for anyone interested in learning more about it). Since this is a safety-critical issue, we added it to our Member Regulations in the revision that we just completed. Getting back to the safety record in 2016, we had a very quiet year, and we continued to see increasing use of our flight feedback system to bring safety issues to our attention.

Looking ahead to 2017, we intend to continue our work on all three goals. The Member Regulations will need another update this year to account for the pending changes to 3rd Class medical reform, and our goal is to update the Regulations at least once a year looking farther down the road. Our checkout forms will continue to be updated this year, and we will continue to strive to maintain our safety culture. In addition to these goals, we intend to focus on improving the member experience at the club by adding a few more CFI’s to our ranks to help meet increasing demand. I look forward to reporting our progress to you again this time next year, and in the meantime we welcome your comments and feedback. 


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor

And Yet More Spaghetti

Good pasta is right at the top of my list of vices.  I don’t much care if it comes with a simple marinara sauce, or shrimp, lemon zest, and fennel, chicken curry and fresh broccoli, or any of a hundred other sauces.  Spaghetti, ziti, farfalle, gemmeli, cellentani, rotini, bucatini, fettuccini, linguini, fusilli, lasagna, penne, radiatori, rigatoni, vermicelli or macaroni – I’m into all of them.  Or if done right, they’re into me.

However, there is one kind I’m less than fond of, and that’s the kind that sometimes hits the fan while you’re flying.  The longer you fly, the more likely you are to sample some of the more exotic and rare varieties that seem to occur in airplanes.  And the more complex the plane and the more complex the systems, the more likely they are to go wrong from time to time.  I mean, take something simple like an anvil, very little is going to go wrong.  The same thing with hammers and screwdrivers.  But as soon as you start adding moving parts, complex systems, or even worse, computers, an entire universe of potential spaghetti sources opens up.

Here’s an example.

I was flying a Citation M2 back from Austin, Texas and through careful planning, I had another type-rated pilot, Wes Irish, in the cockpit.

As often happens in aviation, it was a somewhat longer day than we had planned.  The original plan was to leave Austin at 1600, fly to Rocky Mountain Metro (between Denver and Boulder) to pick up another passenger, then fly back to San Jose, where we would drop off all five pax and continue on to Hayward to put the plane to bed.  We actually departed Austin a bit after 1900, but the good news was that we were flying back to San Jose without the stop in Colorado, and without some of the passengers – Yippee, more fuel!  But we still had to stop once on the way home., and both legs of the flight were night flights.

Two hours out of Albuquerque, we were cruising at flight level 360, when the spaghetti began to hit the fan.  It started with an Amber Caution that we had lost our ADS-B capability.  While this doesn’t qualify as a “non-event”, most of us have seen worse.  In this case, a quick trip into the Emergency Procedures checklist informed us that we should switch transponders, which wasn’t exactly a surprise, so we proceeded to do so.

At this point, I should probably say a thing or two about how one does CRM in a two-crew environment.  It is specifically briefed during the pre-takeoff crew briefing, but the normal procedure is that when the spaghetti (or other substances) hits the fan, the Pilot Flying (PF) flies the plane and the Pilot Not Flying (PNF) handles the radios and reads the checklists.  This isn’t to say that the PF isn’t involved in the process.  What happens is that the PNF finds the correct checklist, does a quick review of the procedure, and either tells the PF about it or reads it directly to the PF.  When both pilots have agreed on the checklist and the course of action one of them carries out the checklist procedure.

In this case, the procedure was simple - switch to the other transponder, which we did.  And it solved the problem for about 10 seconds (just long enough for us to congratulate ourselves on successfully handling the problem) at which point, we got the message again, indicating that ADS-B had rolled over and died on both sides.  Unfortunately, the messages we had dealt with at this point weren’t the real problem; they were only symptoms of something worse.   The next message told us that we had lost our Terrain warning capability.  Now, the good news is that at 36,000 feet there really isn’t a lot of terrain that is going to cause the pilot concern.  The bad news is that as you descend, which you WILL do at some point, more and more of the local terrain begins to become a factor.  I had an entire course on such things in grad school – boundary value problems, and the ground is the ultimate boundary. 

But wait, sports fans, there’s more.  After referring to the checklist again and discovering there was nothing we could do about the Terrain system, another Amber Caution came up advising that both Attitude and Heading Reference Systems (AHRS) were using GPS 1.  It’s just advisory, since there’s nothing the pilot can do about it aside from checking the appropriate circuit breakers, which we did, only to find that none had popped.  Good news, again, the plane can fly just fine on a single GPS.

Of course, it doesn’t do so well when it’s trying to navigate with no GPS guidance, which was the next message – GPS NOT USED.  Normally, when there is a loss of GPS signal, there will be red Xs at various points on the PFD, but we didn’t have that.  Remembering that aviation is a team sport, we reported the loss of GPS guidance to ATC, which accommodated the issue by giving us vectors all the way from the Sierras to the downwind for San Jose.  I wondered at the time how accommodating they would have been if we’d had the problems during rush hour instead of at 10 PM.

During all of this Wes had both the presence of mind and the cycles to take a bunch of pictures of the various panels showing the Cautions and the Messages.  They helped immeasurably during the conversations I had with Cessna and Garmin over the next couple of days.

The funny thing is that after 10 or 15 minutes of this, the process reversed itself and we ended the flight with a fully capable airplane and no Amber Cautions.  We were still left with a CONFIG ERROR, which we were unable to clear.  I felt marginally better when the factory guy was also unable to clear the problem.  Well, maybe “vindicated” is a better term, since we apparently hadn’t missed anything obvious in our procedures.  On the other hand, the plane was still a sick puppy in need of a good veterinarian.

Now, let’s step back and look at the big picture.  This kind of stuff (or similar or worse) can happen at any time.  Heck, we’ve even had engine problems in club planes, and have had (at one time or another) every system on our planes quit.  Sometimes these things happen when the pilot isn’t busy, sometimes when the pilot is swamped.  If you KNEW something like this was going to happen on a particular flight, what would you do – aside from letting someone else take the plane?  I know what I’d do; I’d make sure I had a qualified pilot along with me.  Of course, I’d train specifically for as many of the gotchas as I could at least once a year.  And since I don’t know when something like this will happen (but I know that WILL happen at some point), I have a qualified pilot along with me whenever the passenger load allows.  I’d be crazy not to.  If you want to extrapolate that to infer that ANY jet pilot would be crazy not to have a qualified pilot along on every flight – well, I didn’t SAY that.

I will say, though, most pasta dishes are better when they’re shared.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Decision Making – Things We Forget

Have you ever noticed someone hop out of an aircraft to remove the chocks or tie downs that they apparently forgot to remove during preflight? Maybe it has even happened to you. There are plenty of things to forget, pitot covers, engine cowl plugs, tow bars, baggage doors, oil access doors, etc.

One day while watching aircraft on the ramp at San Jose airport, I noticed a Mitsubishi MU-2 load up with several passengers and two pilots. After the aircraft started both engines, I noticed that the chocks were still on the right main wheel. Oops. The crew quickly shut down both engines and a crew member hopped out of the aircraft to remove the chocks. I told myself that I would never let that happen to me…)

Several years later, I was doing a preflight while waiting for the fuel truck to arrive.  My preflight walk-around checklist was interrupted when the fuel track arrived. After the fuel truck finished, I stowed some baggage and completed my preflight checklist. Only problem was, I skipped to the next item on the checklist, but actually had not completed removing the right main wheel chocks. Luckily, my observant passenger noticed the wheel chocks and pointed out my error. Embarrassing!

Interrupting the flow on a checklist can lead to many pilot errors, on the ground, or in the air. Question, if our checklist is interrupted, how can we reduce the risk of missing/forgetting something? One simple method that the airlines and military use is… “If the checklist is interrupted, the crew MUST re-start the interrupted checklist section from the beginning”.

The checklist "re-start" significantly reduces the risk of missing/forgetting something on the checklist.


The WV flyout group actually completed 2 out of 4 flyouts this winter in spite of the unusually high rainfall. With perfect wx, on Dec 3rd about 20 of us took off from several airports and converged on Watts-Woodland for  delicious food. and good company.

Then on January 14th, again we had fabulous weather for our Whale Watching Flyout.  Several of us were talking on the air-to-air frequency for traffic safety while spotting gigantic whales off of Pebble Beach down to Point Sur.  Over 20 of us then convened at Ella’s at the Airport at Watsonville for a tasty lunch.

These flyouts are excellent opportunities to meet other pilots, bring student pilots, do some great sightseeing, and just get out and shake the rust off and fly.

Upcoming Flyouts:

February 25th - HAF

March 25th - KAPC

April 22nd - PRB

May 20th - 3O1

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


Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC

Stratux ADS-B In Receiver Build Report

Whenever I start to write about ADS-B, it's hard to know if my audience is fairly knowledgeable on the topic or if the acronym is meaningless.  This article won't be another "what is ADS-B and why is it important to me" article, but I'll do a brief introduction then move into my experience putting together a relatively inexpensive receiver.

ADS-B (automated dependent surveillance-broadcast) is a key component of FAA's NextGen upgrade to air traffic control.  ADS-B Out transponders must be installed in aircraft by January 2020 in order to operate in places where a Mode C transponder is required today.  Current transponders respond to ground-based radar interrogation signals with the squawk code.  ADS-B transponders transmit much more information autonomously.  The information transmitted includes GPS-based position and velocity and a unique aircraft identifier.  Other aircraft can receive this information as well as ground-based air traffic control facilities.

To encourage the more willing adoption of this technology, ground facilities transmit traffic and weather information that can be received by ADS-B In receivers.  This information can be displayed on in-panel GPS equipment and many popular tablets.  ADS-B In capability is not required by the 2020 mandate, but most ADS-B Out equipment includes the In receiver as well.  Note that there is no cost for a subscription, as opposed to XM weather services.

While the ADS-B Out transmitter must be installed in the panel by an A&P, there are several portable ADS-B In receivers available today.  These cost between $550 and $1200, with the more expensive units also including attitude information.  An open-source project called Stratux makes it relatively easy to build your own ADS-B In receiver that is compatible with many tablet applications.  Over the holidays, I ordered the parts for a Stratux and had it up and running with pleasantly little trouble in about an hour of work.

There are several different routes to go if you'd like to build your own receiver.  The first stop is the Stratux web site,  After an introductory paragraph, the site lists several different options for how much do-it-yourself you care to do.  Each list includes links to Amazon so that you can prepare a shopping list and have the parts on their way to your door in a few minutes.  I chose the full-featured (dual-band), most DIY option, with a price of around $130.  As an Amazon Prime member, I had the parts two days later.

The most difficult part of the build process was determining which set of directions to follow.  The web site has one set of directions, several of the parts come with links to directions, and there are directions in the articles linked at the bottom of the web site.  In the end, I went with a combination of the directions that were linked from the case I ordered and the EAA article.  The assembly comprises mounting the small computer in the case, mounting the cooling fan on the case, attaching two heat sinks to components on the computer, attaching the antennas to the computer and mounting them on the case, inserting the flash card containing the software into the computer, and connecting the battery and optional GPS to the computer.  The only tools required are screwdrivers and a small wrench.  There is no soldering and no software installation nor configuration.

After completing these steps, the newly-constructed ADS-B receiver powers on and a few LEDs on the computer begin to blink.  To confirm operation of the device, you connect to the WiFi access point presented by the computer and open a web page.  Doing this successfully indicates the device is operational.  The diagnostic web page includes information about the peripherals connected to the computer (the radios and GPS).  You can also view the raw data received by the ADS-B receiver if there are aircraft nearby.

I was pleasantly surprised to get to this step with so little trouble and no debugger needed.  In reality, given the nature of the project, any debugging and repairs would probably have been limited to sending a defective part back to the manufacturer and ordering a new one.  There are not many "user-serviceable" components.

After verifying correct operation of the receiver, it's time to connect it to a compatible tablet app.  The website lists the many apps with which it's compatible.  I use ForeFlight.  To connect the receiver to the tablet, you connect the tablet to the device's WiFi access point.  This does mean that you cannot both have the tablet connected to an Internet WiFi access point and the ADS-B receiver.  For most applications, this should not be a problem, as you're not usually flying a small GA aircraft and connected to an Internet WiFi access point.  After connecting the tablet to the receiver, the application should indicate that it's receiving ADS-B information.  If you choose to get the GPS receiver, the tablet will also use GPS data from the receiver.  This can be both more accurate than the tablet's GPS and help save tablet battery life.

I now use my Stratux on most flights out of the traffic pattern.  It is incredibly useful in finding traffic even when in contact with ATC and receiving Flight Following.  I have not used the weather functions much yet, other than to verify that I do receive up-to-date METARs.  The battery lasts for several hours, longer than a full tank of avgas.  Due to the limitations of ADS-B In, there are occasionally false negatives (where traffic does not appear on the display even though it is there), but there are no false positives.  Given that the cost of the project was less than an hour of flying time and was enjoyable to put together, I recommend this to anyone who does not already own one of the manufactured ADS-B receivers, is at least a little bit handy, and would prefer to save a few hundred bucks over having a supported product in a more polished case and form factor.

I'll be hosting a seminar on ADS-B followed by a Stratux Build Session on Wednesday, April 12 at 7:30pm at Palo Alto.  If you'd like to join the build session, go to the Stratux web site ( and purchase either the Dual-band or Single-band shopping list.  Bring your parts to the seminar and we'll go through the build steps together.  I'll be able to answer any questions about the build.  We can all help each other complete the project so that people walk away with working ADS-B receivers (or know which component was DOA and can order a replacement).  E-mail me with any questions about the Build Session.


Max Trescott, 2008 National CFI of the Year

Unstabilized Approaches Cost Two Pilots Big Bucks

You may have heard of a stabilized approach and know that you should be established on one prior to landing. But you might not know all of the elements of a stabilized approach, or the potential consequences of an unstable approach. Last year, two West Valley pilots had to dig deep into their wallets to pay for damage resulting from landing after unstable approaches. Both considered going around, but didn’t. Here are their stories and details on how to fly a stabilized approach.

The first incident occurred with a pilot I had recently checked out in a Diamond DA40.  Soon after, he flew the plane to Southern California on a flight lasting several hours. When he finally arrived late in the afternoon, he was tired and very ready to be done flying. On final, he was high and fast and realized he would be landing on the second half of the runway. However, he felt he could still make the landing work. After landing long, he applied the brakes very hard, and he was able to bring the aircraft to a safe stop before the end of the runway.

That might have been the end of the story, except I was the next person to fly the plane with a client after the plane returned to Palo Alto. As is our custom before climbing into the plane, we rolled the plane forward while inspecting the main tires for flat spots. Because of a bright sun and shadow, I couldn’t see if there were any flat spots, so I got on the ground in front of a tire to watch it as the client pushed the plane. I’m glad I took the extra time to check, as I discovered the biggest flat spot I had ever seen in my long flying career! The other tire had an equally large flat spot. The pilot paid $800 for new tires and labor to change them.

The second pilot didn’t get off so easily. After a month of not flying, he took a Cessna 182 to Half Moon Bay to practice landings. After four or five good landings at Half Moon Bay, he returned to Palo Alto. Approaching the field, he relaxed as he was returning to his “home field,” with which he was very familiar. Ironically, relaxing is the wrong thing to do at Palo Alto, as the runway is among the shortest ones that most pilots encounter.

Like our first pilot, this pilot ended up high and fast, and never really considered going around because he felt he could save the landing. He landed long and hard, resulting in a large bounce. When he touched down the second time, his nose was low, the nose gear collapsed, and the prop was destroyed as the airplane skidded to a stop in a nose-low attitude. The damage, which included replacing a near TBO engine, propeller, wing tip and the bottom of the engine compartment, is estimated to require over a $100,000 in repairs. Like the first incident, this one could have been avoided by a timely go around.

So what is a stabilized approach, and why does it matter? Cirrus Aircraft’s Flight Operations Manual gives a good description. It says: “A stabilized approach is characterized by a constant angle and constant rate of descent approach profile ending near the touch-down point. Stabilized approach criteria apply to all approaches including practice power-off approaches.“

It goes on to say that for VFR landings, an “approach is considered stabilized when all of the following criteria are achieved by 500' AGL: 

• Proper airspeed, 

• Correct flight path, 

• Correct aircraft configuration for phase of flight, 

• Appropriate power setting for aircraft configuration, 

• Normal angle and rate of descent, 

• Only minor corrections are required to correct deviations. A go-around must be executed if the above conditions are not met and the aircraft is not stabilized by 500' AGL.”


In both incidents cited, the aircraft was not on a proper flight path, as it wasn’t aimed at the first third of the runway.  And since they were high on final, neither pilot was able to use a normal descent angle or a normal rate of descent.

But why were both aircraft too high? This often occurs during a normal pattern when an aircraft is too high as it turns onto base. It also is likely to occur on a long, straight-in approach, as pilots are often late to slow to approach speed on straight-in approaches.

The FAA Airplane Flying Handbook says: “The placement of the base leg is one of the more important judgments made by the pilot in any landing approach. The pilot must accurately judge the altitude and distance from which a gradual, stabilized descent results in landing at the desired spot. The distance depends on the altitude of the base leg, the effect of wind, and the amount of wing flaps used. When there is a strong wind on final approach or the flaps are used to produce a steep angle of descent, the base leg must be positioned closer to the approach end of the runway than would be required with a light wind or no flaps.” 

To prevent being high on final, I check my altitude throughout the pattern, to see if it’s close to what I think it should be. For example, before turning base, I check to see that I’ve descended about 100 feet below traffic pattern altitude in an 800-foot pattern, or about 200 feet below traffic pattern altitude for a 1000-foot pattern. In addition, if I’m not already descending at about 500 fpm, I correct my descent rate as I prepare to turn base. If I haven’t lost this much altitude before the base turn, or have a low descent rate, I often end up high on final, increasing the chances of an unstable approach.

Many pilots relax when doing a long, straight-in approach, since it should be easier than flying the traffic pattern, but they often end up high and fast. To avoid this, I mentally unwrap the traffic pattern and imagine I’m still flying it as I’m flying a straight-in approach. To keep it simple, let’s estimate that the downwind (after you pass the numbers), base, and final legs are each one-mile long. Then when flying a straight-in approach, imagine when you’re three miles out that you’ve just passed the numbers on a downwind leg, and make sure your aircraft is configured for a downwind leg, and is at the proper altitude and speed for that leg. At two miles out, configure the aircraft and fly it at the speed you would use if you were on base. Finally at one mile out, fly the aircraft in the configuration and speed you would use if you had just rolled out onto final.

Another helpful number to remember is 320 feet per nautical mile. That’s how much altitude you need to lose every mile when descending on a 3-degree glide slope. So when you’re three miles out on a straight-in approach, you should be at about 1,000 feet.

A handy reference when landing on runway 31 at Palo Alto is that the Amphitheater is about 2.5 nautical miles from the runway. So for a 3-degree descent path, you would cross the amphitheater at 800 feet. But actually the VASI at Palo Alto is set for a nonstandard 4-degree angle. So to descend on the VASI into Palo Alto on a straight-in approach, cross the Amphitheater at 1100 feet.

Use these tips, and avoid being high and fast on final. But if you do end up on an unstabilized approach, just GO-AROUND! Failing to do so can have a serious impact upon your wallet.

Stabilized Approach Definition 

A stabilized approach is critical to a safe, successful landing. A stabilized approach is characterized by a constant angle and constant rate of descent approach profile ending near the touch-down point. Stabilized approach criteria apply to all approaches including practice power-off approaches.

VFR Stabilized Approach Definition 

All briefings and appropriate checklists should be completed by 500' AGL in visual conditions. A VFR approach is considered stabilized when all of the following criteria are achieved by 500' AGL: 

• Proper airspeed, 

• Correct flight path, 

• Correct aircraft configuration for phase of flight, 

• Appropriate power setting for aircraft configuration, 

• Normal angle and rate of descent, 

• Only minor corrections are required to correct deviations. A go-around must be executed if the above conditions are not met and the aircraft is not stabilized by 500' AGL.

FAA Airplane Flying Handbook

The placement of the base leg is one of the more important judgments made by the pilot in any landing approach. [Figure 8-1] The pilot must accurately judge the altitude and distance from which a gradual, stabilized descent results in landing at the desired spot. The distance depends on the altitude of the base leg, the effect of wind, and the amount of wing flaps used. When there is a strong wind on final approach or the flaps are used to produce a steep angle of descent, the base leg must be positioned closer to the approach end of the runway than would be required with a light wind or no flaps

A stabilized descent angle is controlled throughout the approach so that the airplane lands in the center of the first third of the runway. The descent angle is affected by all four fundamental forces that act on an airplane (lift, drag, thrust, and weight). If all the forces are constant, the descent angle is constant in a no-wind condition. The pilot controls these forces by adjusting the airspeed, attitude, power, and drag (flaps or forward slip). The wind also plays a prominent part in the gliding distance over the ground [Figure 8-2]; the pilot does not have control over the wind but corrects for its effect on the airplane’s descent by appropriate pitch and power adjustments. Considering the factors that affect the descent angle on the final approach, for all practical purposes at a given pitch attitude there is only one power setting for one airspeed, one flap setting, and one wind condition. A change in any one of these variables requires an appropriate coordinated change in the other controllable variables. For example, if the pitch attitude is raised too high without an increase of power, the airplane settles very rapidly and touches down short of the desired spot. For this reason, never try to stretch a glide by applying back-elevator pressure alone to reach the desired landing spot. This shortens the gliding distance if power is not added simultaneously. The proper angle of descent and airspeed is maintained by coordinating pitch attitude changes and power changes. The objective of a good, stabilized final approach is to descend at an angle and airspeed that permits the airplane to reach the desired touchdown point at an airspeed that results in minimum floating just before touchdown; in essence, a semi-stalled condition. To accomplish this, it is essential that both the descent angle and the airspeed be accurately controlled. Since on a normal approach the power setting is not fixed as in a power-off approach, the power and pitch attitude are adjusted simultaneously as necessary to control the airspeed and the descent angle, or to attain the desired altitudes along the approach path. By lowering the nose and reducing power to keep approach airspeed constant, a descent at a higher rate can be made to correct for being too high in the approach. This is one reason for performing approaches with partial power; if the approach is too high, merely lower the nose and reduce the power. When the approach is too low, add power and raise the nose.


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