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2019 Q1 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

“Simulators” (well actually ATDs)


2018 was the first year that we surpassed 1000 hours of usage on our two G1000 “simulators”.  I put simulators in quotes because the club doesn’t have simulators but Aviation Training Devices (ATD).  There are two levels of Aviation Training Devices, the so-called AATD (A for Advanced) and BATD (B for Basic).  Our G1000 devices are AATD level and as such can be used for up to 20 hours of training towards the instrument rating. A BATD can be used for 10 hours towards the rating.


A big change occurred in 2018 when the FAA changed the rules to allow pilots to use ATDs to maintain instrument currency withoutan instructor present.  That is a big deal both in terms of convenience and cost.  Soon after the change came, we saw the usage on our ATDs increase significantly. Some days the devices at both Palo Alto and San Carlos are in use almost continuously.  That’s a good thing to see, especially when the weather outside is lousy.  We can still get good training inside (where it’s warm, dry, and there’s a pause button to go to the bathroom or get a coffee).


The economics of obtaining an instrument rating have shifted significantly since the advent of these G1000 ATDs. I don’t know the exact math but my gut tells me it’s now cheaper (or even significantly cheaper) to get an instrument rating in the G1000 platform than in a 6-pack platform. This is a result of three things. One is the lower cost and efficiency of using ATDs instead of an actual aircraft.  Two, our members get a free hour each month in the ATDs.  And three, there is so much better situational awareness in a G1000 equipped plane than a 6-pack plane.  A big part of mastering instrument flight is conquering situational awareness.


In recognition of the growing importance of ATDs to our club and membership, the club has decided to acquire another G1000 AATD. It will be a later generation version of our existing Precision Flight Controls GT1000 desktop AATDs.  It will be called SIM4G1 and will be located at our Palo Alto location. It should arrive towards the end of the first quarter. It will rent for $60 per hour, though regular members will receive 1 free hour per month on the new device.  SIM3G1 (our TouchSim BATD) will be moving to our San Carlos location.


We hope that many more of you can and will take advantage of our ATDs and that we can keep all 3 of them busy much of the time.


Safe Flying


Jim Higgins, Director of Flight Operations & Safety WVFC


Winter Weather Operations


Winter is upon us and it presents great opportunities and challenges.  While this article is not likely to be relevant at KSQL or KPAO, it’s definitely worth considering should you venture very far North or East. 

Following a big cold front that has dumped tons of precipitation the skies are frequently very clear.  Visibility can be at it’s greatest when all of the “contaminants” are done clouding the air and are now messing up the ground instead.  Also cold temperatures give greatly improved aircraft performance.  Freezing temps “lower” sea level airports to almost 2000 feet below sea level from a density altitude perspective.  

However, it’s not all good news.  Aside from the well know lift-depriving characteristics of snow and frost, frozen water in whatever form is very difficult to deal with on the ground.  So it’s not wise to taxi through snow and slush because it really plays havoc with the landing gear.  Plan ahead even more than normally.  Snow can close an airport instantly and reopening frequently depends on groundbound people to be able to get to work.  Also don’t forget that days are shorter and cold night comes quickly. Dress for the location you’re in, not where you’re from.  When I was living up at Lake Tahoe I remember seeing people coming out of a plane dressed for Palo Alto (light jackets, etc) not the Sierras.  This becomes obviously more of an issue when preflighting in the tundra the next morning.  A basic tenet of all mountain flying is to carry warmth, but make sure to double or triple it in the winter.  However the most significant point I can make about winter flying is:  Don’t fly a frozen airplane.  The best thing is to prevent it from freezing by storing it in a heated hangar.  If that’s not an option, then you’ll need to warm it up berfore you start it.  Heated hangars are best again for this, but you can also use a forced air heater which can be rented from most cold-weather FBOs.  But whatever you do, don’t try to start the engine until is has properly warmed up.  A single start of a cold engine can wear internal parts more than hundreds of hours of normal operations.  

This is not meant to I be a manual for winter flying—I’m just bringing up some of the things to think about and look into before you actually need them.  


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor


Arrogance and Confidence, Belief and Knowledge


In the political arena, each of us can point to a person with a lot of arrogance.  Well, perhaps more than one.  Depending upon your political persuasion that may or may not be the person that comes first to my mind.  Still, if we look at one of the primary differences between arrogance and confidence (“confidence” has the skill to support the attitude), we could clearly call nearly all politicians arrogant.


In pilots, confidence is a wonderful thing. Fighter pilots wouldn’t be able to get out of the house without it.  They KNOW they are the best.  They KNOW that nothing can happen that they can’t handle.  And to a great extent, they are right.  They are the result of an extensive selection process – if you’re not good enough, if you don’t have the drive, the desire, and most of all the skill, you don’t become a fighter pilot.  Equally important, fighter pilots TRAIN.


On the other hand, in pilots, confidence can be a disastrous thing.  An unfortunate trait of some pilots is that there is a difference between their level of confidence and their level of skill.  Depending upon the direction of the disparity, the greater the difference, the greater the risk they take when they fly, and worse, the greater the risk for their passengers and the people sharing the sky with them.  I can think of only a couple of cases over my 40 years of instructing in which the pilot had more skill than confidence.  And that, I told each of them, showed a shocking lack of faith in the judgment of their instructor.


Virtually all instructors can tell stories of people that can’t (or don’t) follow ATC instructions and miss radio calls aimed at them, and think it’s OK, because it’s normal for them.  Or routinely come in five to ten knots below the published approach speed, and don’t even wonder if it’s unsafe.  Or ten knots fast in a slippery plane landing at a short runway. I even had a student that, while in actual IFR had slowed below the approach speed and was sinking below the minimum altitude for that segment of the approach, and didn’t even notice we were doing anything wrong – and this was an instrument pilot current and fully qualified in the plane we were flying.


The fundamental problem is that however much we want to improve our flying skills by practicing by ourselves, we never see our performance with a resolution of someone better than we are.  And that first of all means honestly believing that someone IS better than we are (a very tough thing for fighter pilots – but that’s why the Navy has Top Gun, and the Air Force has Red Flag and William Tell competitions), then, finding that person.  To my knowledge, there isn’t a single pilot that is better than EVERY other pilot in all aspects of flying.  For example, while I will (modestly or otherwise) admit I’m pretty good at landings, and at keeping my cool when the spaghetti is being dumped into the fan in industrial quantities, I know there are LOTS of people, including several in this club, from whom I could learn a lot about aerobatics. Assuming I had a desire to reexamine my most recent meal.


Worse, every pilot’s skill level is a variable. I had a recent conversation with an airplane manager that, upon finding that I am Part 61.58 current in the Pro Line 21 version of the CJ3, asked if I would feel comfortable flying an approach to minimums into Teterboro.  I replied, “No.  I haven’t flown the Pro Line in over 8 months.  Even though I’m legal, I know I’m not at the top of my game in the Pro Line. Put me into a G-3000 CJ, and I’m your guy.  Or catch me a day or two after I do a recurrent in the Pro Line at FlightSafety, and I’d be comfortable.”  And even that makes a bunch of assumptions.  An approach to minimums is not to be taken lightly even in a plane in which one is really familiar.  Even when we’re current, we all have good days and bad days.


In addition to the arrogance factor, we have the difference between belief and knowledge.  Belief is something that may or may not have any factual basis in reality. Knowledge is something that has been tried, tested and found to be true.  Any pilot can believe himself or herself to be a truly Sierra Hotel (the polite version) pilot, but when those skills are examined by a better pilot, there are usually a sizeable number of improvements that could be suggested. This is not to say that the pilot is BAD, just that there is room for improvement.


So, if you want to get better, and KNOW that you have the skill to back your attitude, if you want confidence, not arrogance, find and fly with someone better than you are.


If your prospect’s car has a “DAMN I’M GOOD” bumper sticker, you may want to re-think your evaluation.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Decision Making –   Go-Around, When and How


During a recent online pilot discussion focused on go-arounds, several pilots posed questions including “When and How” to perform a go-around. The pilots generally agreed that a go-around should be performed anytime a safe (low risk) landing cannot be made. A pilot’s decision to go-around might be the result of a non-stabilized approach (fast, slow, high, low), wind, runway obstruction, or other aircraft on the runway. The online discussion quickly focused on “what-if” an aircraft taxis onto the runway as you are on final approach? 


The Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM note1) describes many situations “When” a go-around should be initiated, but the AIM provides few details on “How” to maneuver in the pattern during a VFR go-around. In addition, most aircraft POHs include an aircraft operational checklist for the go-round (power, pitch, airspeed, gear, flaps, etc), but again nothing regarding maneuvering in the pattern.


The Airplane Flying Handbook (note2) specifically describes a go-around maneuver as a result of another aircraft on the runway conflict. “… If the go-around was initiated due to conflicting traffic on the ground or aloft, the pilot should maneuver to the side, so as to keep the conflicting traffic in sight. This may involve a shallow bank turn to offset and then parallel the runway/landing area…”. Reading between the lines, a side step to the right of the runway centerline will provide a left seat pilot a great view of the runway environment below and the conflicting aircraft.


The Pilot/Controller Glossary (note3) mentions the go-around and how to rejoin the traffic pattern. "GO AROUND- Instructions for a pilot to abandon his/her approach to landing. Additional instructions may follow. Unless otherwise advised by ATC, a VFR aircraft or an aircraft conducting visual approach should overfly the runway while climbing to traffic pattern altitude and enter the traffic pattern via the crosswind leg…." Additional information on traffic patterns can be found in Advisory Circular AC 90-66B (note4) titled Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices for non-tower airports. 


Now go practice your go-arounds.







Upcoming Flyouts:


Mar 23 Westover

Apr. 13 Columbia

May 18 Red Bluff


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


Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC


Experimental Avionics for Certified Aircraft


Over the past few years, I've been slowly upgrading avionics in my 1976 Cessna 182 and 1979 Piper Archer II.  These planes are forty-plus years old.  While there areplenty of articles in AOPA Pilot and others about doing Glass Panel installs in planes of this age, I don't have the resources to spend as much or more than the planes are worth on upgrading their panels.  Fortunately, a kinder-gentler FAA policy and its results means that I can get the great functionality of modern avionics at lower prices than a few years ago.


Avionics installed in certified aircraft have been subject to strict certification requirements.  The process of certifying these avionics is expensive and time-consuming.  This has ledto a relatively slow pace of available innovation in avionics.  A manufacturer must recoup the cost of certifying each generation of avionics, as well as earn their profit, before it makes sense to release a new generation.  Additionally, the high cost of these certified avionics narrows the number of aircraft in which it makes financial sense to install them.  


The experimental aircraft avionics world has a large set of manufacturers that have been off-limits to the certified aircraft world.  Experimental aircraft have wide latitude in the avionics they install.  Because these avionics are not subject to the costly, strict certification requirements, the time it takes to recoup the cost of a generation of avionics is lower.  Additionally, incremental changes can be made on an existing model without having to go through the expense of re-certifying them.


A few years ago, the FAA in collaboration with various industry groups, approved an addition to its set of accepted standards for certification.  Under the old rules, avionics with software were required to have the software certified line-by-line.  The new standards generally involve demonstrating that the complete device performs to a set of requirements.  That change - to demonstrating performance instead of strict certification of each line of code - has reduced the cost of certification.  It has also enabled entities to obtain certifications for experimental avionics by demonstrating they perform to acceptable standards.


The approval process results in a Parts Manufacturing Approval (PMA) being issuedto the avionics manufacturer.  A Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) permits the installation of the avionics in a particular make and model of an aircraft.  In some cases, the entity obtaining the approval for certified aircraft is not the manufacturer.  For example, EAA STC owns the STC for the Dynon Avionics Electronic Flight Instrument System.


The upshot of all of this is that there are now many devices available through this alternative certification process that meet or exceed the performance of products certified under the previous system for much lower prices.


The Dynon D10A EFIS (Electronic Flight Instrument System) and Garmin G5 are both replacements for a vacuum-powered attitude indicator.  A separate G5 can also be used as a replacement heading indicator.  While the D10A and G5 are only certified to replace the attitude and/or heading indicators, they both also include indications for airspeed, altitude, vertical speed, heading and a variety of other flight data.  In other words, they contain all the flight instruments in one display in the center of the instrument scan.  The instruments are powered by solid-state sensors instead of spinning gyros.  These solid-state devices are more reliable than the vacuum pump and spinning gyros thatform the basis of the previous generation of attitude and heading indicator.  The electronic systems also contain standby batteries that will last for at least two hours.  This functionality is available for $2500 plus installation cost.  To me, that is a great deal.  As a point of reference, a new vacuum-driven attitude indicator will cost at least $1000.


Another set of products being certified under this new model are autopilots.  Garmin's GFC 500, TruTrak's Vizion, and Trio Avionics' ProPilot are all full-featured autopilots.  These two-axis auto-pilots include modern features such as auto-level from unusual attitudes, altitude pre-select, and the ability to fly coupled approaches and other maneuvers controlled by GPS steering.  However, they're priced in the $4000 to $7000 range.  The "low-price" autopilot from S-TEC is over $16,000.


Innovation in this area will surely continue.  Aspen Avionics has released a single EFIS that combines the attitude indicator and an HSI.  It also interfaces with the TruTrak Autopilot.  Its cost is $5000.


The new certification path is a game-changer for older aircraft constrained by a budget.  Upgrading to solid state flight instruments and a fully capable autopilot can be accomplished for a sane amount of money.  The cost of the avionics plus their installation no longer exceeds the value of the aircraft.  This makes the plane a much more capable aircraft and substantially increases safety.  The FAA's shift has helped it fulfill its mission of providing the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.


Charlie Rothschild, WVFC aircraft owner


Simulator, Simulator, Simulator


Today was a very interesting day for me, as I flew a beautiful 737–800NG, taking off from San Francisco, and shooting an ILS approach back into San Francisco, and then taking off again and shooting the ILS at San Jose. Sounds pretty fanciful right? Doing such a thing in a real plane would probably have cost me north of $20,000, if I could find anyone that would allow me that option.

But instead, I flew a 737 simulator out of a small strip mall near the Toronto, Ontario airport. This wasn’t a “home use desktop” simulator, it was a custom-built machine, that started with a retired United 737 (N911UA – look it up) flight deck forward, including the original flight controls, and even the original United paint scheme. A custom simulator company then installed an exact replica of a 737 NG flight deck, with all of the instruments, all of the FMS systems, everything, fully functional. The only thing this simulator didn’t do was fly. It also didn’t have motion, but more on that later.

Besides the instruments, there are three video projectors outside the windows (the original windows) such that when you look outside, you think you are seeing the real thing. If you move your head to get a different perspective out the window, you see the different view (it isn’t like looking at a TV monitor), as the projectors are covering a 220° arc and quite a bit up and down. For my takeoffs and landings, I really couldn’t tell the difference between the real thing.

Now here’s the amazing part – the cost for 1 ½ hours, with a knowledgeable instructor (one of the co-owners), was approximately US$150. Two hours would’ve been US$200. That is half the price of flying my Cessna 182T, and that is without the instructor, who acted as the copilot, and programed all the automation (which I never could’ve done).

Is it real? The owner told me that one of their largest group of clienteles are aspiring airline pilots who are preparing for a simulator ride as part of their airline interview. They first practice the maneuvers in this simulator. Is it real? While I’ve never flown a 737, it acted in every way like a real airplane, including the load forces, use of trim, stability, etc. etc. the simulation portion is very realistic, and given that the guts are in fact a real 737, I suspect this is very real.

Back to my comments on real motion – there is no motion, but there are vibration transducers, such that when you add power or do other things you feel it in the cockpit. After some banks and turns, and the landing, I turned to the owner and said “I thought there was no motion?” He laughed and said that’s the typical response he gets, because of the real cabin, and the amazing projection view out the windows, all of the visual cues make you think there is motion, which tricks your brain.

So, for a very reasonable fee, and a couple hours while I was visiting Toronto, I was able to experience the real “Walter Mitty” in me. If that daydream, I have (and every other pilot I know has), about the crew becoming incapacitated and me having to land the plane were to ever happen, today I learned that I could actually do it. I made two good approaches, and two good landings (the first was okay, but the second was really good). The auto throttles, automatic breaks, and a few other pieces of technology helped, but I never once turned the autopilot on – I hand flew the entire time.

Given that I have grandchildren in Toronto, and I get there several times a year, you can be sure this will not be a one-time event. Next time I will bring a friend of mine, a retired Air Canada captain, who now is a simulator instructor. My only fear is he will put me through some of the stuff his students experience (engine outs, fires, etc. etc.). 

The next time you find yourself in the Toronto airport, Threshold Aviation is just five minutes away by cab and the experience of a lifetime. I can’t say enough positive things about it. I also can’t say enough positive things about the people there, including the co-owner, Mickey Bodog, who was my patient instructor and copilot, and tried very hard to make me feel like I almost knew what I was doing.

All in all, an experience I will remember for a very long time.