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2018 Q2 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

Rental Minimums – A New Approach


One of the most “disliked” features of flying clubs are the so-called daily minimum flight time requirements.  West Valley, like most other clubs, has a daily minimum policy.  The policy is a minimum of 2 hours Hobbs for each 24-hour weekday period and 3 hours Hobbs for each 24-hour weekend period.  We often get feedback that the minimums can make the cost of a trip unattractive because of “wasted” flight hours that can’t or won’t be used.  Let’s say you take a Cessna 172 to Disneyland for 4 days, 2 of which are weekend days.  The minimums for this trip would be 10 hours.  The actual flight time, however, is probably more like 6 hours roundtrip.  There are essentially 4 unused and wasted hours.  At $160 per hour, that’s $640 which could buy a lot of gifts on Main Street.


Enter the “non-flying” rate.  Starting May 1, 2018, each aircraft will have a non-flying rate.  Like the regular rate, these new rates are set by the owner.   You can find the non-flying rate listed at the bottom of each aircraft page on the web site.  Some non-flying rates are already available and listed on their respective pages. They are typically around 50% of the regular rate.  In our example, the $640 “extra” charge above would be reduced to $320.   The total cost of the rental would now be 6 x $160 plus 4 x $80 for a total of $1280.  Assuming you’re two adults and two kids (this is Disneyland after all), I shopped Southwest Airlines from San Jose to Orange County (two weeks out) for two adults and two children flying at sensible times of the day.  The total fare came in at $1168 for the four people.  And that’s the non-refundable fare.   It’s $1783 if you want a refundable fare.  Flying GA makes a lot of sense both from a practical/convenience sense and an economic sense, especially when a feature like the non-flying rate is utilized.


This non-flying rate is a win for both the renting member and the owner who still recognizes revenue from a flight that might not have happened had the original full-price minimums been enforced.


It will take some time for all the owners to decide and set their non-flying rate, so please be patient.  Feel free to reach out to owners, through the owner list, and ask them to set a non-flying rate if they haven’t already done so.  You might be the member who tips the balance by making the request in the first place.


This is another first for West Valley Flying Club. We hope that this will become another way to encourage more members to fly more often.  Please let us know what you think.


Fly Safe.


Jim Higgins, Standards Officer WVFC


How Do You Unlearn Something?


Cessna's Skyhawks and Skylanes are very similar.  The larger sibling is a very common and fairly straightforward step up from the smaller.  After learning in a 172, flying a 182 is not a radical new way of thinking.  But there are some significant handling differences—especially down close to the runway after closing the throttle and while flaring for touchdown.  


Due to its larger engine the 182 is nose heavy in the flare, which makes it easy to land flat (or worse, nose-first).  Also, the heavier total weight and wing loading makes it drop out of the sky after closing the throttle.  While that’s great for short field performance, it poses an issue for the unprepared pilot after cutting power over the threshold like is typical in the 172.  The result can be a hard landing due to the unexpected drop after closing the throttle.  Accompanied by the nose heaviness, those hard landings are often NOT on the main gear only, the way all landings should be—especially the hard ones.


Accordingly, we’ve had a few incidents recently where hard, flat landings have caused significant damage to our Skylane fleet.  There is a bracket that secures the nose strut to the airframe that WVFC pilots have bent and broken 4 times recently from hard flat landings.  The bracket itself doesn’t look like much, but it’s a $4000 part and is typically backordered by a month.  So, while the DWP or insurance may cover the cost, the plane still ends up being grounded for over a month.  For any of you frustrated by our 182 availability lately, this is a large part of the problem.  


Back to the title of this article… I personally believe that most of these 182 landing problems are a direct result of how easy it can be to land a 172!  One of the things that makes the 172 great and so popular is how forgiving it can be.  And for new students trying to get the hang of it, that can be awesome. 


Unfortunately, though, for 182 pilots, a 172 can make you lazy and accepting of poor landing technique.  Almost every airplane should be landed softly, and on the mains, but the 182 demands it and is unforgiving of poor technique.  During the initial a/c checkout with a CFI watching every move, pilots learn the landing discipline required to handle the Skylane.  And all of the pilot’s subsequent 182 landings reinforce that discipline.  The problem happens when we go back to a 172 for local flights that are cheaper, easier, and more common.  Bad landings don’t typically hurt the 172, but they can hurt the pilot’s skill by allowing and reinforcing poor technique.  Then when it’s time for a longer trip or mountain flight in a 182, that pilot’s deteriorated landing skill can hurt the airplane and possibly themselves and their passengers.  I’m not saying to limit your flying diversity, but please remember the differences in the aircraft you fly and don’t lose what you fought so hard to gain!


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor


Rust and Full-down Autorotations


For most of us rust is something we don’t want. Whether it’s in the form of Fe2O3or the kind that appears on the leaves of your favorite rose, it’s not good.  Depending upon what the rust appears on and the depth of the rust, it can be even worse – it can affect the strength or even the life of the “host”.


When flying accumulates rust, it’s Not Good. It can result in sloppy performance, poor muscle memory, questionable judgment, and a reduced ability even to see the differences between what you want and what you have, to say nothing of the ability to perform at your previous level.


Having not flown a helicopter for about four years, I decided that a systematic way to remove that thick layer of rust was to start working on Helicopter CFI.  Some might call the decision itself a demonstration of questionable judgment. And, from time to time, I’m not all that sure I could argue with them.


That aside, what do you suppose is the thing upon which the most rust accumulates?  As an exercise aimed at understanding the rust removal process, I got to thinking about that before diving in.  Since skill (learning), among other things is a function of exercise (how often you’ve done something), and recency (how long it’s been since you’ve done it), I figured the things that helicopter flight won’t let you practice solo might be high on the list.


I was partly right.  I figured that autorotation, which is the helicopter equivalent of the airplane’s power off glide (if you were to perform it in a grand piano or a safe) would be at the top of the list, and I was partially right. I was right in the sense that the autorotation is the culmination of so many of the foundational skills of helicopter flight, and to my knowledge, no flight school will let pilots practice autorotations without an instructor aboard.  There is a long and gruesome list of ways an autorotation can go wrong. What I forgot (and it’s kind of foolish, since I gave it all away in the previous sentence) is that if the fundamental skills are rusty, the autorotation procedure is going to be RUSTY.


My instructor, perhaps having some experience with rusty helicopter pilots, was wise enough not even to suggest autorotations on the first rust-removal flight.  His decision was justified as I began the flight with an attempt to hover that was only slightly less ham-fisted than an orangutan.  By the end of the flight, I was just sloppy.  The name Foucault came to mind several times during the attempt to hover.


SEVERAL lessons later, with a vast quantity of rust on the floor of the helicopter, we did an entire lesson of full down autorotations (in which the autorotation is performed all the way to a landing – non-trivial, to say the least), which I had never done before.  Believe it or not, it’s not required at either the Private Pilot or Commercial Pilot level.  It IS required for CFI-H.


Going into this exercise, I had the impression that a full-down autorotation was procedurally like combining a normal autorotation to a hover with a hover power-failure induced autorotation.  Not so.  In a hover auto, the helicopter is mostly level, stationary, and stable, from which the power is cut (relatively slowly if you’re wise, quickly if not), and the collective is lifted at a rate that allows a (mostly) smooth touchdown. In the full-down hover auto, the helicopter never reaches the stationary stage, the pilot simply takes it straight from whatever configuration falls out of the autorotation, pitches to level, and waits FAR longer than anyone would feel comfortable, then lifts the collective to put the helo on the centerline and on target.


So, what does this have to do with West Valley and our planes?  First of all, there are parallels as often happen in aviation.  In airplanes, our maneuvers are built on more fundamental skills, techniques, and knowledge, and rust can accumulate on any (or all) of those things.  There’s a reason, for example, that there is a “memory items” test at every recurrent training session that I’ve been to over the last, well let’s say 20 as a number, of years.  Another point is that rust starts accumulating as soon as you stop doing something – you don’t have to wait four years as I did.  That minutely reduced shine on your flying skills that comes after not flying a particular type of plane, a particular maneuver, or even at a particular airport is not a patina, it’s rust.


You can get your rust removed by trying something new that uses the same skills, by practicing the things that it’s been a while since you’ve used them, or by a formal recurrent training program.


My favorite is by doing something new.


There is still a long way to go to get to the CFI-H level, but I’m getting the basics back and building up.


And remember, sometimes rust is useful.  If it weren’t for rust, we wouldn’t have thermite.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Keep It Simple, Keep It Honest

Can we make Pilot Decision Making simple? After reading numerous articles about how pilots make decisions, I found several articles that suggested simple and easy to remember decision making steps. Many authors also stated that “even the best decision-making process can be circumvented” if the pilot is not honest with themselves about interpreting each decision step result. 

The AOPA Safety Advisor article on Decision Making suggests a simple three step process: Anticipate, Recognize, and Act.  

Anticipate– The pilot thinks ahead about what could go wrong, then considers possible responses in advance.

Recognize– The pilot recognizes a real or potential problem and considers the appropriate response.

Act– The Pilot considers the seriousness of the problem and available alternatives, then acts to mitigate the problem. 

Let’s consider a real example of an experienced Pilot who apparently did not utilize or misinterpreted (was not honest) the decision-making process. 

NALL Report 2008. McMurray, Washington. Three fatalities. A Cessna 172N pilot and two passengers departed VFR for an airport 85 nm to the southeast. No flight plan was filed. Marginal VFR and IFR conditions prevailed over a wide area including the entire planned route. The pilot received VFR traffic advisories during the first 15 minutes of the flight, maintaining a southeasterly track at altitudes between 2400 and 2500 msl from most of that time. Shortly before the radar service was terminated, the airplane began a gradual descent to 900 msl, followed by a series of turning climbs and descents between 1500 and 2200 msl. The last three radar returns indicated a descending right turn to 2200 msl, where the airplane crashed into a heavily wooded hillside. The 14,200-hour pilot, age 47, had an airplane multi-engine ATP rating, airplane single-engine commercial rating, turbojet powered rating, and various type ratings in transport category aircraft. 

Let’s look at the accident using the simple (and honest) decision making process.

1)    Anticipate – Poor preflight planning. VFR flight into marginal VFR and IFR conditions for the entire route. 

2)    Recognize – Poor preflight weather hazard recognition. During the flight, poor weather recognition, and scud-running up/down/around deteriorating weather.

3)    Act – Pilot failed to act to mitigate risks associated with deteriorating weather.

This sums it up… “Even the most expert pilots can’t count on avoiding obstacles they can’t see. The only safe way to fly in poor visibility is at altitudes where there’s nothing to hit. This pilot’s catastrophic decision to try to slip between descending weather and rising terrain is all the more surprising in light of her evident qualifications to make an instrument flight instead” (From the NALL Report 2008, ASF Comments).

So, how can I use Pilot Decision Making to make my flights safe? 

Answer: Anticipate, Recognize, and Act, plus be honest!

Additional Reading:   NALL Report 2008


Lampson April 2018: 23 Attendees - another great turnout.

Upcoming Flyouts:
June - Castle (KMER)
July - Chandler, Fresno (KFCH)
August - Sac Exec (SAC)
September - Napa (KAPC)

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


Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC


There and Back Again


My family had been planning to go to San Diego for spring break for about six months.  Legoland, the Safari Park, and warm beaches all beckoned.  My wife and I talked wistfully about the breweries.  Of course, San Diego is also one of those perfect destinations for a general aviation flight.  It's 377 nm direct from San Carlos, a bit over 400nm via a reasonable route, or about 3 hours 30 minutes by Cessna 182.


During the first week in April, we were still enjoying the rainy season here in the Bay Area.  Our plan was to depart on Saturday morning, April 7 and return the following Saturday, April 14.  I start to obsess about the weather about a week before departing on a trip like this.  For this trip, rain predictions moved in and out of when we were hoping to leave.  As the weekend approached, it looked pretty certain that if we were departing on Saturday, it would be an IFR flight.


While the flight would be IFR, the ceilings in the Bay Area, in San Diego, and along the route all looked as if they would be substantially higher than minimums.  So, the next thing to look at was the freezing level and icing potential.  The mountains near Los Angeles and enroute to San Diego get pretty high and the enroute altitudes are up in the 8000 to 10,000-foot range.  As I went to bed on Friday night, the freezing level forecast was well above the enroute altitudes until later in the afternoon.


On Saturday morning, the weather was as predicted: 2500 overcast and 3500 broken in the Bay Area, clear at departure time at San Diego but becoming overcast at 2500 before we arrived.  My family drove out to the airport, loaded up, and launched.  After the usual San Carlos downwind departure, we were in the clouds for about five to ten minutes before popping out on top.  From there it was a beautiful, uneventful flight until getting near San Luis Obispo.  As predicted, there was line of moderate precipitation that extended from the coast to half way across the Central Valley.  The tops for the precipitation reached pretty high.  However, there wasn't any convective activity.  As we got closer to the clouds, ATC advised that we'd be in the precipitation for twenty to thirty miles.  The NEXRAD from ADS-B agreed.


For the next twenty minutes, I had to work to keep the plane at the assigned altitude.  Our family 182 does not have an autopilot.  We were brushed up and down a bit.  I learned later that my family hadn't really even noticed the slight but repeated changes in pitch and power that I was certain would make them uncomfortable.


After getting through the precipitation, we were back on top of the clouds again.  By now, the undercast topped out around 4000 to 5000 feet.  As we approached San Diego, it was clear that an instrument approach would be necessary.  I briefed the ILS and we were sequenced and vectored among several other planes headed for Montgomery Field.  After about three minutes in the clouds, we popped out just inside the final approach fix for an easy landing.


I watched the weather at Montgomery Field for the rest of the day and into the next.  It didn't clear up until noon on Sunday.  So, having the instrument rating and keeping current and proficient enabled us to arrive as planned for our vacation.  Had the conditions been worse -- lower ceilings or icing potential -- we could have delayed until Sunday.  Still, it was nice to start off as scheduled and meet everyone's expectations.


The trip home the following week was substantially different.  On Saturday morning, April 14, the route was clear from takeoff to landing.  We obtained VFR Flight Following from takeoff in order to have an extra set of eyes and help navigating the busy airspace in southern California.  However, instead of staring at a sea of white for most of the trip, my family enjoyed the suburban sprawl of southern California, the Rose Bowl, and carpets of California poppies coming over the Grapevine.  We flew parallel to another Cessna for a while before they headed off to Bakersfield and we continued to San Carlos.


One surprising note from the flight home: I'd planned the route to remain clear of LAX Class Bravo.  It didn't require any substantial course bends and it just seemed easier to avoid it.  As we got close to an 8000-foot shelf, the controller instructed us to descend to 7000 feet to remain clear of Bravo.  The chart pretty clearly showed that Bravo only went down to 8000 feet.  I began to comply with the instruction, but also asked for clarification.  The controller said that we had to remain clear of Bravo.  He must have been a trainee, because another voice came on and said the instruction to descend was to avoid the wake turbulence of jets going into LAX.  I was happy to comply, despite not seeing any jets.


These two flights demonstrated the variety of weather that can arise in California in the spring and fall.  While the weather pattern was such that we could have continued on our vacation plans a day late without an instrument rating, the weather could have been such that VFR flight down to San Diego would not have been possible for several days.  Freezing levels could also have been low enough for a few days that we would have been forced to drive!  The instrument rating in California doesn't guarantee that a flight can be completed according to plan, but it does mean that the frequent coastal stratus or marine layer is more of a nuisance or opportunity to log some actual instead of a deal breaker.