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2019 Q4 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

501(c)7 Flying Club

Most members know that we’re organized under an IRS rule called 501(c)7 social club.  The idea is that we’re a social club with a shared common interest – and that’s obviously aviation.  The word “social” can be liberally interpreted. At WVFC, we spend quite a bit of time and energy organizing events and for 2019 we raised the event “bar” in a host of ways.  As we feel this is a critical part of the club’s mission statement, we plan to continue these efforts into 2020. Here are some of the highlights from 2019.

·       Fly outs. We continue to organize a different fly out each month. They are advertised on the web site and posted in the calendar.  Any member is invited to join any of these fly outs.  They tend to be relatively short events (half a day) and focus on flying to nearby airports.  There’s usually a restaurant and lunch waiting at the destination.

·       Kids Camp.  In memory of longtime CFI Bill Hightower, the club organizes a day camp for kids (middle and high school) in March.  This was the second year we held the camp.  It’s a great immersion experience for the kids who get some ground school, visit the control tower, fly the G1000 simulators, and receive an actual flight in a Cessna 172S. Look for this event again in 2020.

·       Summer Party. While the club has always held a holiday party, beginning on our 45thbirthday we started a themed summer party to enjoy our outside space and fellow members each August. This year the theme was a Mexican Fiesta and if you missed the chocolate filled Churros for dessert then your life is not complete! Look for two more themed parties before our 50thbirthday party in August 2022.

·       Poker Run.  We started the Poker Run idea in 2018.  The idea is to fly to 5 pre-selected airports and at each stop collect a virtual poker card and the best hand wins.  This year we selected several of the larger “international” airports and members had fun figuring out how to handle landing, taxiing, and FBOs at airports like Sacramento International, San Jose International, and Oakland International. Stay tuned for the theme for 2020.

·       Camp Out. In 2019 we organized the first annual camp out at Columbia Airport in the Sierra Foothills. A low-key event where members can fly in to the campground, enjoy a BBQ, a movie, and stroll into the historic State Park.  We’ll be repeating this event again in 2020.

·       Halloween Event.  Another first for 2019, the club put on a Halloween Event for the kids, though the adults apparently enjoyed the movie, snacks, and beverages just as much as the kids!

·       Holiday Party 2019.   With just a few weeks to go, the 2019 Holiday Party will be held at the La Honda winery in Redwood City on Friday December 6that 7:00PM.  Join us for great food, beverages, and your chance to blend your own wine. Ever done that before?

The club has put on monthly new member orientation sessions and quarterly ownership seminars for the past few years. Starting in the second half of this year we began putting on the new member orientation every week, and increased the ownership seminars to monthly.  Overall participation at these events has increased due to these changes. We plan to continue this arrangement into 2020.

If the bigger events aren’t your thing or you aren’t able to make them, then please join us for BBQ or Pizza before the monthly Board Meetings (third Wednesday of the month at 5PM at Palo Alto) or at San Carlos on the second Sunday of the month at Noon.  And there’s Friday breakfast treats each week at both locations.

So, if you were wondering about what we do as a club to be “social”, then this is the latest “things to do” list.  We hope to see you at some/many/all of the events in the remainder of 2019 and into 2020.

Fly Safe.


Jim Higgins, Director of Flight Operations & Safety WVFC


What would you have done?


I recently found an amazing monthly publication from NASA called CALLBACK.  Some of you may know of it, but if you haven't seen it yet or recently, it really is worth a good look.  They have a number of different features and all of them are great, but one which I really like is the series "What Would You Have Done?"  


This is a great series that presents the ASRS reports in 2 parts, all in the words of the reporting pilots. Part 1 has the setup and presentation of the problem or issue.  With a break, you get to ask yourself what would you have done?  All of the different cases (3 or 4 per issue) are presented together in Part 1, and then have all the outcomes and conclusions separately in Part 2. 


It's great because instead of just second guessing the pilots, you can actually first guess them!  You can determine what your course of action would be and compare it to the pilot reporting.  I think this has great value if you can transplant yourself into that situation and force yourself to make a quick on the spot decision.  Then think about it for a few minutes relaxed with no rush and see if you come up with a different thought. 


Lastly, read Part 2 and see how it ends.  It's a great opportunity to analyze and evaluate your own thought process.  The link is below.  Read a few and reach back out to me at the club and let me "what would you have done?"


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

Decision Making - Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4)    En-route (weather changes, winds, checkpoints as expected)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WOW - Flyout Group

We had a great turnout for our flyout to Minden, NV in September with air as smooth as silk. The airport was quite busy with the YAA Minden-Tahoe Squadron Fall program going on. Girls and boys were able to learn about aviation by visiting 10 different aviation stations while earning their scouting badges.
 It was a great day to be in the mountains.

Upcoming Flyouts:


Dec:  Watts Woodland

Jan:  WVI – Whale watching


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


Greg Savidge, WVFC CFI 


Bang! What Was That Noise? 

Reacting and responding in milliseconds is almost impossible, but it’s what we try and teach our students every day.


In training a lot of time is focused on developing our reactions.  For example, during stall practice, when a stall of the wing is recognized, we train ourselves to react by lowering the angle of attack of the wing by releasing pressure on the elevator.


Not all situations are as simple as lowering pitch to regain control of the wing.  Many situations that may arise have an initial reaction phase, but then need a broader response to succeed.  The FAA proposes the “DECIDE” model, which stands for detect, estimate, choose, identify, do, and evaluate.  This model is the staple of pilot training and is one that we should all know.  If you haven’t heard of it, shame on you! Here it is:  (it’s currently under page 2-18 in the PHAK).


A similar model is the “OODA Loop”.   While it has only four steps, it covers all the key areas of problem solving that the DECIDE model details.  Let us see how we can apply the OODA Loop.


On a warm summer's day, you are happily flying when, Bang!  What was that noise?  Breathe.  Try and stay calm.  Panic and you will narrow your vision and hearing.  Studies have shown that the brain actually limits the amount of attention it gives to hearing in order to focus on sight in stressful situations. Next, remember the gospel:  Aviate, Navigate, and Communicate.  Keep flying, don’t hit anything, and if you decide you need help, say something.  Now you are ready for your OODA Loop.


Observe:  Take in everything around you. Start with a flow check, noting the position of switches and levers. Look at the gauges to see if they can tell you if anything is amiss.  What can you see?  Perhaps you notice the temperatures on the engine or instruments are too high.


Orient:What does this tell me?  A primary factor that can slow or even halt this step is denial. Just because you don’t want something to be happening doesn’t mean it won’t.  You are in a climb, on a hot day, at a relatively high-density altitude and your engines may not be getting the airflow they need for the power you are demanding.


Decide:What should I do to reach my objective, which as we all know is usually a safe landing.  Remember, sometimes it is better to do nothing at all. In this scenario though, I should start by trying to cool the engine by lowering the pitch, opening cowl flaps, increase the mixture and reduce the throttle.


Act:  Do what you decided.


Observe:  How did that change what I am seeing?  Are the temperatures decreasing?  Are they continuing to climb?  Are my other gauges still where they were before?


Rinse and repeat


The bottom line is we need to give ourselves space to think in stressful situations.  If we don’t have a structured approach to solving problems and allow our actions to be tightly coupled to our reactions, we will often create a negative feedback loop of reaction-action that will narrow our ability to process information.  This may be good for dealing with the proverbial tiger in the jungle, but should not be applied to complex and often ambiguous situations that may arise while flying an airplane, such as a rough running engine.  Unchecked anxiety leading to hasty and panicked actions often leads to tragic outcomes.


In the scenario given above high engine temperatures left uncorrected can result in dangerous conditions (detonation, pre-ignition, burned exhaust valves, etc..). But, using a structured approach to problem solving throughout the entire flight, preventatively, we can help to keep situations from developing. Not just at high density altitudes, hot outside air temperatures, and in a climb are the temperature gauges in my scan, information which I will use to help orient my observations, but also during cruise, descent, and landing as well.  If we constantly observe, orient, decide, and act we can intervene before a problem arises so that we have a safe and enjoyable flight. 


Dru Babcock, WVFC CFI


Should I file a NASA report? 


Ummm, seriously: YES!

When I was new to aviation, I had heard of this but I was skeptical; I didn’t actually file a report until years later, when I realized the amazing value of this system: it may have saved my tail and prevented the scenario from happening to someone else! 


What is a NASA Report?


If you think that you may have potentially violated airspace… Or if you followed (what you thought was) ATC instructions only to find that they actually asked for something different… Or the controller asked you to do something that you feel was incorrect or unsafe…Or, if a little voice in your head is saying: “Oops, maybe I shouldn’t have done that” or “That wasn’t safe” (or some version of these thoughts), then the answer is: Yes, file a NASA Report. 


You have ten days from the occurrence to submit it. Otherwise, you are potentially leaving yourself wide open for enforcement. Also, if you see or hear of someone else doing something that was a close call, then you can report this occurrence anonymously. 


The benefits: If you goof up or get caught off guard (we all do this occasionally), it need not cost you a Civil Penalty or your hard-earned pilot certificate. You get immunity from enforcement (if you were not clearly acting with malice). Some people call this a “Get out of jail free card”; I don’t recommend thinking of this system as this, but it’s a great way to communicate blind spots and errors in the system. 


Your protection (the amazing value to you): immunity to FAA (and all other organizations’) enforcement. Your report is anonymous once it is processed by the ASRS (Aviation Safety Reporting System) at NASA; your name and all contact info is removed before it gets to anyone who would implement enforcement.


Service to our system: You are giving direct feedback to the people who need it. Contributing a NASA report will allow someone to fix the problem. Your report is sent to an independent, third party organization (ASRS) and your identity information is removed before it is analyzed and organized into a useable report.


Where to find the blank report to file: do an Internet search for “NASA reports” and it will show up. Submit it instantly online. It’s also in the AIM. Sign up for their newsletter and go read the database of other reports, which have been analyzed, put into useable format and organized by subjects. See some of the funny (and hazardous) situations that others have found themselves in. I have learned quite a lot from grazing the database of close calls (accidents that didn’t happen). It’s a great reality check and you will see that everyone, from newly-minted pilots through career Airline Transport Pilots make these reports (and goof up or get caught off guard occasionally). See how these people get themselves into hazardous situations and identify a scenario before you find yourself in the same place! 


Ask your flight instructor about this! 


Make a report and find out more:

ASRS - Aviation Safety Reporting System - Electronic Report Submission


Kelly O’Dea, WVFC CFI


Night Flying

I had dinner recently with another CFI and the topic of night flying came up. He said he absolutely avoids it unless it was to complete the necessary requirements for a private pilot student’s aeronautical experience. This was not the first time I heard these remarks from a well-seasoned veteran pilot. It is apparent within the GA community that there are those who do, those who don’t, and those who avoid it whenever possible. I’ve concluded it’s probably because of the fact that accidents at night are generally fatal. Full time flight instructors are certainly at a higher risk for catastrophe, so it’s understandable that the majority would like to mitigate the risk.

The vast majority of GA flying is done during the daytime and data concludes that less than 5% of GA hours are flown at night.

Flying at night presents a great list of challenges that every pilot should be ready for. First and foremost, would be the human factors which should be considered in the night flying process. The concept of ADM and risk management go hand in hand. They are systematic approaches that require fore-thought of the pilot in command. Physiological effects, however, can be potentially hazardous, especially when misunderstood.

The focus of this article is to re visit these human factors in order to prepare you for some of the affects you may encounter.

Night Vision:
We know through studying for the PPL that the rods are responsible for night vision and it is necessary to allow at least 30 minutes in low light conditions for those rods to work effectively. A secondary consideration is that the rods are peripherally stronger and the center of the eye which is normally used for focusing on targets during the day becomes weak and even blinded so the rods need time to adjust for off center focusing. The older the pilot, the longer time may be needed for this process to be complete and effective enough for clear vision. Whenever possible, try to conduct your preflight in natural light and give yourself some time on the ramp or in the dark cockpit to allow the eyes to adapt.

This occurs when a pilot stares at a fixed light source and the light appears to move about. This is more common in areas where there are few other lights in the vicinity. Be aware that the brain is attempting to make sense of this single light source. Don’t stress. The illusion is disconcerting, but is generally inconsequential. Blink your eyes and look away from the light, then try to re-focus on the area around the light instead of staring right at it.

Night Central Blind Spot:
Mentioned earlier here, the rods are responsible for periphery vision and the cones are inefficient at night. If you stare at a dim light source for too long, the source will disappear from view so it is important to keep the scan moving and don’t fixate on one light for too long.

Empty Field Myopia:
EFM happens when the eye is not encouraged to re-focus. This can happen when flying on cross country flights out of controlled airspace where there is little to no stimulation for the eyes to focus on. The most tragic scenario is CFIT. Keep your eyes re focusing on near and distant terrain features, highways, and inside the aircraft, to the wingtips, and back to the instruments. Don’t get lazy with the scan.

Black Hole Effect:
A common situation that develops when there is a long straight in approach over water or unlit terrain. All pilots need to be very aware of this hazard. The judging of one’s height on the final approach path can be exacerbated when lighting and terrain exists beyond the runway itself.  This causes the pilot to think they are high on the approach and therefore to steepen their descent and approach which can lead to potentially impacting terrain. Fly a normal distance traffic pattern and use the VASI or PAPI lights for reference to a safe glide path approach.

Most GA pilots will conduct their night flying after a normal business day. It is important to be aware of your personal requirements for sleep and rest, as well as nourishment. Flying after work adds an element of fatigue that should heed awareness and self-evaluation of whether a flight should commence. If you’re hungry as well, you may be setting yourself up for a less than successful flight. It is important to perform the IMSAFE checklist and confirm you are fit to fly. My personal minimum for night flight training is a full night’s sleep and no more than 2 flights on that day. I want to be sharp and ready for a successful mission.

The FAA has concluded that hypoxic effects can be noticeable at 5000ft at night. In the average individual, night vision will be blurred and narrowed and dark adaptation will be affected. At 8000ft, studies have shown night vision to decrease by as much as 25% without supplemental oxygen. Few or no effects will be noticed during the day. You can purchase portable aviation oxygen canisters to carry for night flight and larger oxygen tanks for extended higher altitude flights and is always a good idea.

Without the warmth of the sun, it gets cold very quickly. Being too cold affects a person’s decision-making process and can bring on dangerous attitudes like “get there-itis” Ensure you are packed for comfort for the duration of your flight.

Night can be a wonderful time to fly. The air is typically calm, aircraft performance is better, and traffic is generally easier to see. Safe flights are of course possible with careful planning. Remember, currency does not mean proficiency, and legal does not necessarily mean safe. Reach out to your CFI for some refresher night training so you can feel confident flying at night.



Prepaid Dues for 2020 are here!  $600 for Regular Members, $240 for Family Regular Members, this is a $5/month discount, no refunds.


Michelle Parsons


West Valley Flying Club

650-856-2030 x56