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2017 Q3 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

45 Years!

On Friday, September 22 we will be celebrating our 45th anniversary with a fun filled party at our Palo Alto location.  We’ll send out more reminders before the event, but we ask that you join us that evening to celebrate with friends, instructors, and fellow members.  There will, of course, be good food, music, and beverages of varying strengths.

So, 45 years.  It’s on occasions like this that it’s worth taking some time to look back and reflect on where we have come from, where we stand, and where we are heading.  Formed as a not for profit 501c7 corporation in 1972, the club has never been about “making money”.   Rather, there has been a bigger focus on creating a safe and fun flying environment rather than maximizing profits.  In the past 10 years, we believe that we’ve improved on the original vision.  How so?  Well, historically the club was run on a shoestring and it didn’t have the funds to save for a rainy day. While the focus was always safety, the safety record could always be better – there simply weren’t enough checks and balances when it came to members flying club planes.  Starting about 10 years ago, we embarked on a mission with a dual purpose.  That’s what has driven the plan for our middle age years of 35-45.

The first and most important goal was to improve our safety record.  We introduced several new safety initiatives including enhanced check-out procedures, phase checks, accident education, and instructor training.  Combined these have had a significant positive effect on our safety record.  Moving forward, we plan to continue this path and make more incremental improvements over the next 5 years.

Financially speaking, we need to be better prepared for the next downturn.  As shocking as it sounds, the current Bay Area economy “bubble” will pop and, just like previous technology recessions, the club will likely take a financial hit as people dial down their flying hobby to save money.  We need to be better prepared for this than in previous similar events.  The club does have the mechanism to raise money through “assessments” and has done so a handful of times in its’ past.  But each time we do that it causes a shock to the system and members leave the club because they either don’t want to pay the assessment or, believe the club won’t survive.  That was certainly the case in 2011 when almost one third of the membership left, convinced that the club couldn’t survive.  And that’s what makes WVFC such a unique entity.  Run by a board of 7 elected directors, the club simply refused to die.  We scraped our way out of a huge financial hole and then focused on running a tighter budget. We have since had some good years and have set aside a rainy-day fund to get us through the next recession. There are no guarantees, but we feel better about where things stand now than when we were 35.

In addition to safety and our finances, there is the important matter of club culture. Let me spend a little bit of time talking about this. First and foremost, we’re a full- service club. We’re open 7 days a week from 9AM to 5PM at two locations. We have real people (and they’re great by the way) to answer the phones, emails, and walk-ins as they come in. How many businesses can say that anymore?  We plan to stay this way. Since our 40th birthday we have started 7 day a week maintenance service. There are very few clubs (or even for-profit FBOs) who can claim this. But probably most important of all is what I call the “Fairness” factor. As a club, we take huge pride in leveling the playing field for everyone.  Sometimes an aircraft owner, CFI, member, or even staff member might ask for a “favor”.  We simply look at the “fairness scale” and have an answer for that request.  If we give person A the deal/favor, are we willing to give it to every other person in that group?  The answer is usually no, and when asked to explain or defend our position we can simply refer to “fairness”.  It’s the right thing to do and I think the club should continue on this path to not only its’ 50th birthday but all the way to 100!

We look forward to seeing many of you on Friday September 22nd at 7PM.  Bring friends and family to celebrate what has been an amazing 45-year journey.

Fly Safe.


Michael May, Standards Officer WVFC

Three ways to impress your CFI

One of the many responsibilities of a Certified Flight Instructor is to conduct aircraft checkouts and Biennial Flight Reviews. These flights can be one of the most challenging aspects of the job. Instructors must assess, in a fairly short amount of time spent with the client, what the client’s skill level is, if he/she is competent and safe, and whether additional training is needed. At WVFC we have a clearly defined process for this, but the process only can do so much to help the instructor. Ultimately it is up to them to make the call, and they must rely on their training and experience to make the correct one.

CFI’s can often tell right away if someone is “ready” or will require some additional training to bring their skill level up to standards. Many fellow instructors have told me that they know within the first ten minutes if someone is going to need additional training or not, and their instincts are almost always proven correct during the subsequent training flight. To put it bluntly, it’s usually pretty obvious to a professional if someone that’s being evaluated knows what they’re doing or not. In this quarterly article, I’m going to pull back the curtain on some of the “tells” that we notice, both good and bad.

First, be organized and prepared. This should go without saying, but whenever a client shows up with well-organized logbooks, paperwork, and has studied any required material it makes the instructors job a lot easier right from the start, and it will make their day as a bonus. The “tell” is that it shows us that the training event is being taken seriously. Even when being done recreationally, flying is serious business that demands our respect and full attention. Putting the time and effort into a training event is indicative of one’s overall attitude toward flying, and it’s easily spotted by any experienced pilot.

Second, use your checklist whenever possible. Just about everyone I fly with uses their checklist for the pre-departure runup, but if that phase of flight is taken away the level of checklist usage is wildly inconsistent. Someone that consistently uses their checklist is both easily noticeable and a very good sign – I literally get excited when I see someone that has maintained this habit and always make sure to include it as a compliment in a debrief. This also applies to most inflight emergencies, time permitting. Even in an engine failure scenario, checklist usage is expected if time permits and the required items have already been done from memory. If the alternator fails there is no reason why a checklist should not be the first thing that the pilot reaches for. Professional pilots use a checklist religiously, and so should everyone else. It really is as simple as that.

Third, know how to use your POH. The Pilots Operating Handbook is one of the most important, and most overlooked, sources of information about an airplane. Knowing where in the POH to find information about the airplane’s systems, performance, emergency procedures, and limitations shows that the client has actually spent some time looking at it instead of just having the information spoon-fed to them by their instructor. Even if the information given by the CFI is retained, it will not help the client know how to quickly find the Emergency Procedures section when needed, or how to calculate takeoff performance and fuel burn if they don’t know how to look up the information for themselves. Similar to the first “tell,” this shows the instructor that the client is taking their training seriously.

Other CFI’s no doubt have many other little things that they use as evaluation tools, but these habits (or lack of them) are not going to be missed by any CFI. Like the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression, and arriving to your next flight with a CFI well prepared, having familiarized yourself with your airplane, and making a real effort to use a checklist will serve you well. Not only will your instructor be impressed by your good habits, it may save you some time and hard-earned money by making his/her decision an easier one. 


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor

Of Simulators, Pigs, Saunas and Punching Bags

Early in June I went to FlightSafety in Texas to get recurrent in two different types of Citations.  There are a couple of points in the previous sentence that might cause someone to question my sanity.

Texas in the summer?  Yes, it’s warm, but there is air conditioning in the hotel, the restaurants, and in the FlightSafety building.  Not that it makes a material difference when you’re in the simulator sweating like a pig in a sauna.

Double recurrent?  Isn’t one enough?  When you fly multiple types of jets, the choice is one airfare, or two, and as much as I love flying, I only like it when I have the wheel – something the airlines won’t let me do.  OK, so pilots have control issues – a world class understatement, in my experience.

Sanity issues aside, I find it amazing that many pilots sigh and wish they didn’t have to go to recurrent training.  Well, I’ve had training experiences that were so scripted and identical to the previous year that even a person with less than perfect recall would be able to finish the sentences of the instructor, and pull the condition lever on the second engine start, because that’s the one with the “hot start”.

That has definitely not been my experience at FlightSafety, San Antonio.  The instructors are much more creative with their scenarios.  Granted, there are some things that are required in the process of getting a Part 61.58 endorsement – you pretty much do an ATP check ride in the jet you go there to train in.  So, you WILL do steep turns (45 degrees of bank on instruments, not visual), stall recoveries, unusual attitude recoveries, and a variety of autopilot and hand-flown precision and non-precision approaches, missed approaches, holds, and circles to landing.  Some of them are done with two operating engines, some with only one.  You also have to experience a variety of system failures, fires, blown tires at takeoff speed, and the occasional thrust-reverser deployment (in the planes that have them).  Now put all of those together in a seemingly random distribution, and I’m really glad that my medical examiner doesn’t get to see a record of my pulse rate or blood pressure whilst (as my British friends say) all this is going on. 

As most of you have figured out, a pre-requisite for being a flight instructor is a degree of mental telepathy (how else would you know when a student isn’t ready for something?), and these guys have it in spades.  As an example, my classmate in the CE-500 recurrent course was using the course to get his type rating (he’d had a lot of previous experience in the plane, but wasn’t type rated in it – an aggressive and optimistic way of doing things).  The two of us (with no instructor present) had an interesting discussion about why it’s SO important to look for the verification of EVERY action you take in the cockpit.  See an earlier article called “The Scoreboard” for more on that subject.  At any rate, as part of that discussion, I pointed out the importance of watching the ITT (Inter Turbine Temperature) on engine shut-down, because sometimes, things don’t go the way you want, and you get a bunch of fuel into the engine, causing a hot shut down.

Oddly enough, we got one of those in the next sim session, and despite my warning, my classmate wasn’t watching for it, but I was.  Now I’ve been to recurrent training in a variety of planes, on the order of 40 times, and this was only the second time I’d seen this scenario, and for the second time, I pressed (in this case, I called for him to press) the engine start button on that side to keep from running the temp well past the red line, thus (in a real airplane) saving the owner somewhere between $500,000 and $1,000,000 – which, BTW, isn’t covered by insurance.  I think telepathy is as reasonable an explanation as any.

Now, here’s the point at which the student becomes what seems to be a punching bag.  When you do something really well (significantly fewer than one out of 100 victims – uh, students – in the sim will catch that hot shut down) the instructor starts taking it as a challenge.  I guess it’s appropriate, the instructor is there to TEACH something, and if you demonstrate that you know what he was trying to teach, he’ll just find something else you either don’t know, or haven’t seen in a sim; instructors DO so enjoy a challenge.  Plus, as the victim – uh, student – you’ve paid for a certain amount of sim time, and if you’ve completed all the required maneuvers and have lots of time left, the instructors (mandated, I’m sure by the Center Director), feel obliged to make sure you get your money’s worth.  I suspect they also enjoy the challenge of doing something other than the scripted stuff.

So, the things I saw over the next couple of days in addition to the standard stuff (I won’t say that the instructors compared notes, but I won’t rule it out, either) included the Air France total-pitot-system-failure scenario, but instead of having it occur in cruise, my instructor lead me down that path on an instrument approach on the runway side of the final approach fix.  There was a blown tire after V1, but before Vr, resulting in loss of directional control (but since it was after V1, I still had to take off), an aborted takeoff, and a tire fire on one of the main tires, and a double engine failure at 10,000 feet and 30 miles from the runway – no restart, just make the runway.  Now, I have a commercial glider rating, but I don’t have a twin-engine glider rating, so it was, well let’s say “interesting”.  We also did unusual attitude recoveries from situations so extreme that the gyro tumbled, and that’s a trick in a ProLine 21.

I figure I was punch-drunk, because I actually enjoyed it.   I can’t wait to see what they throw at me next year.

I’ll probably go in June, again.  OK, so I restricted my learning to the classroom and the simulator, and didn’t learn anything about the weather.  I can be slow sometimes.  Or just of questionable sanity.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Pilot Decisions - The Right Stuff or Not?

Pilot decision-making is often casually associated with the “right stuff” and discussed in various articles such as “never again”.  Pilot decision-making is serious business and the FAA estimates that 80% of all aviation accidents are related to human factors. In addition, many researchers believe that traditional Analytical models for decision-making are not always optimum for pilots where stress and/or time-critical decisions must be made. So, what is the best decision-making model?  Let’s explore several different decision-making models to answer that question.

Decision-making models range from simple to complex. Several examples include the simple OODA, Automatic/Naturalistic, and the more complex Analytical decision process models. 

The OODA loop (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action) by John Boyd, USAF retired, is a simple process, easy for pilots to remember, and can be quickly used to determine the necessary actions.

The Automatic/Naturalistic model is of medium complexity, and is believed by many researchers to be the most natural human decision model. This model uses the DECIDE six step process; Detect, Estimate, Choose a course of action, Identify solutions, Do the necessary actions, and Evaluate the effects of the action. The Automatic/Naturalistic model leverages both pilot training and experience during the Identify solutions step.

The Analytical model is more complex. It uses the same DECIDE six step process, BUT the Analytical model requires the consideration of several alternative solutions to determine the best course of action. Research has shown that it is unlikely that people can Evaluate and apply Analytical strategies in less than a minute. Therefore, while the Analytical model could be effective during preflight planning for example, it may not be effective during in-flight situations where stress and/or time constrains are present.

So, which is the best decision-making model for pilots? The answer is… it depends on the situation. 
Here are two examples of “what not to do” where pilots failed to effectively use both the Analytical model during preflight, and the OODA loop (Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action) during the flight. Source NTSB Safety Alert, SA-23 March 2013.

1)     A private pilot (not instrument rated) and his three passengers were killed after the pilot experienced spatial disorientation and lost control of a Cirrus SR20 in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The pilot had attempted a descent toward an airport that was reporting IMC, but he could not find it and told the air traffic controller that he was flying “in and out” of clouds. After the controller learned that the pilot was not qualified for flight in IMC, another controller advised the pilot of several nearby airports that were reporting visual weather conditions. The pilot initially indicated that he would divert to one of those airports but then changed his mind. Shortly after the pilots last communication with controllers, the airplane entered a right turn that tightened abruptly before the airplane descended to the ground in a steep, nose-down attitude.

2)     A pilot and his three sons were killed when he lost control of his Mooney M20J airplane, which collided with mountainous terrain in a rapid descent. Before the flight, the pilot had obtained weather briefings that included advisories for mountain obscuration, turbulence, and icing. The pilot had previously canceled his plans to fly the trip (the purpose of which was to return home from vacation) due to adverse weather conditions, and he had made alternate arrangements for himself and his sons to travel home on a commercial airline. However, when the airline flight was canceled (for non-weather reasons), the pilot decided to depart on the accident flight. The pilot’s decision to depart into known adverse weather was a cause of the accident. The investigation identified several safety issues, including evidence that the pilot’s self-imposed time pressure adversely affected several safety aspects.

WOW – Women of West Valley Flying Club

Harris Ranch (3O8) June 2017

We had a fun flyout to Harris Ranch with 7 airplanes and 16 people flying in.  Reservations really worked with our own large table in a quiet room in a popular restaurant.  About an hour from the Bay Area, it was a great get away for a Saturday!

WOW – More Women of West Valley Flying Club

Auburn (KAUN) July 2017

Another great flyout to Auburn with 14 joining us for lunch.  Nesstled in the Sierra foothills, Auburn is a quick flight with the convenient restaurant, Wings Grill, on the field.

Upcoming Flyouts:

Sept. 16th – KCIC

Oct.  21st – L52

Nov. 18th – KPTV

Dec. 02 – O41

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


Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC

EAA Airventure - Oshkosh - Planes, Plane Stuff, and Plane People

I love to write the August newsletter article.  I get to recall the fun of being in Wisconsin in July, seeing planes, cool aviation stuff, and being around thousands of people who love aviation. 

First, let's talk about the cool planes that were at Oshkosh this year.  Airventure has themes for each day, each part of the airshows, the week itself.  This year one of the themes was Bombers, as in military aircraft bombers.  This was no doubt inspired by the return of Doc, a B-29 that last flew in 1956.  After over 16 years of restoration efforts, Doc joined Fifi as one of only two B-29s flying today.  Airventure featured the B-1, B-2, B-52, B-17, B-25, and A-20.  The Doolittle Raid was honored throughout the week.  The Bombers were on static display during the week and also flew in both formation and demonstration flights.  Airventure and air shows often feature some of these incredible aircraft, but it's rare to see both so many models as well as so many instances of each aircraft, especially in the air.

One of my favorite parts of Airventure is just walking among the rows and rows of aircraft flown in for the show.  One of my favorites from the week was a homebuilt Pietenpol Air Camper.  While the designs date back to the 1930s, this Air Camper was built in 2010.  It has a Ford Model A engine, the radiator of which sticks up pretty well in the pilot's vision.  The inside had beautiful wood inlays and the super-simple controls of the original design.  What a neat aircraft.  It is not built for speed, but is capable of doing a low and slow cross-country.

Another design that has been around for a while and was on display at the Fun Fly Zone is the Air Cam.  The Fun Fly Zone is a short grass strip with bleachers on the side for folks to watch as ultralights, powered parachutes, and light sport aircraft do patterns.  The Air Cam is a twin-engine kit built plane designed for National Geographic.  The design puts a passenger way out in front of the wing with the twin pusher engines well behind.  It gives unparalleled visibility.  The twin-engine design improved reliability while flying over the Congo.  While I'd seen the plane on the ground before, it was doing laps around the field.  It would be a blast to fly!

Every year, GA manufacturers announce innovative products at Airventure.  Last year debuted several products released under the STC process, designed to enhance safety and reduce regulatory burden.  This year featured three autopilots.  Prior to these newly approved products, an autopilot would usually cost around $20,000 plus installation.  The new autopilots available under the STC process range from $5000 to $9000.  The functionality varies substantially between the $5000 and $9000 product.  But, the $9000 product is pretty close to the top-of-the-line $20,000.  While this is still a pretty big chunk of change, it's at least now worth considering replacing the original 1975 autopilots in some aging aircraft with more modern equipment.

The first year I visited Airventure was 2009, when I flew myself out there, met my father-in-law at the event, then another buddy flew in commercially and we flew back to California together.  Since then, I meet up with a few WVFC folks each year for dinner, lunch, to take in an airshow or what not.  This year, I went with a friend, student pilot, and fellow WVFC member.  It was fun to take in the show from the perspective of someone seeing it for the first time.  We also went to dinner with several WVFC pilots one evening.  Three hours later, as things were beginning to wind down, my friend said, "Hey, this is Hangar Flying, isn't it!"  Sharing the show and unabashedly talking about aviation for the evening and the week were definitely highlights of the event.


Darryl Kalthof, WVFC CFI


“I do windows - the right way”

 “What is wrong with this window?”

It has been cleaned with a window towel that became co-mingled with some oil in the WVFC aircraft preflight supply bin.

– “This is how it happens”


The club has tried using plastic bags to keep window towels (microfiber) separate from oil in the bins, but this has not worked.  I have bought and cut some small plastic containers to go into the bins – that I hope will hold the window towels and keep them free of oil. 

“Window towel left outside of plastic holding container after use on preflight by WVFC member.”

It is OK to place a window towel into its plastic holding container, even if it is wet.  I cut the holes so they can still dry before the next use.

Also: Never use the course orange/yellow terry cloth oil rags for cleaning the windows.  They have oil and can be very dirty.

If a window towel is very dirty WVFC can exchange it.  If your window spray is empty – please observe it in the key-book.  You can use water to clean the window, but it is not as easy as the spray.