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June 2013 Newsletter

Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

2013 Summer Party

Many of you remember or heard about our 2012 Summer Luau celebrating our 40th anniversary.  The feedback from the membership was very positive and many people suggested we make a summer party a regular event in our calendar.  So that’s what we’ve decided to do.  The 2013 Summer event, (Saturday August 17th) will be an old fashioned country faire event held at our Palo Alto location.  It is definitely a family oriented event, so plan to bring the kids along.  There will be something for everyone to do, even a dunk tank to soak your favorite WVFC staff member!  There will also be the usual great food, drinks, music, as well as games, activities, dance lessons, animals, and more.

We would like to derive much of the cost for these events from sponsorship to minimize the direct cost to the club.  As such, we are looking for corporate and personal sponsors to step up and help out.  We are expecting hundreds of people to attend, most of whom have a fervent interest in aviation and related businesses.  We are offering 3 levels of sponsorship, Gold, Silver, and Bronze. 

The Gold level sponsorship is $1000. For $1000, the sponsor will be provided with a 10ft x 10ft tent, table, and chairs. Either a classic country faire game can be hosted at the sponsor’s tent or we will work with the sponsor to design a game that specifically works in the product that is being promoted. Signage will be provided for the booth. Additionally, gold level sponsors will receive large size highlighted logos on all promotional materials developed for the event. This will include banners, posters, invitations, and electronic communications.

The Silver level sponsorship is $500. For $500, the sponsor will be able to pick one of the attractions at the faire and be the named sponsor. Examples of available attractions are the petting zoo, the dunk tank, the bounce house, the obstacle course, the BBQ food, the watering hole, and several more. Additionally, silver level sponsors will receive medium sized logos on all promotional materials developed for the event. This will include banners, posters, invitations, and electronic communications.

The Bronze level sponsorship is $250. For $250, the sponsor will receive name recognition at the entrance to the faire, as well as at the West Valley Flying club booth. Additionally, bronze level sponsors will receive small sized logos on all promotional materials developed for the event. This will include banners, posters, invitations, and electronic communications.

We look forward to seeing many of you at the event so that we can say hi to you and you can drop us into the dunk tank!

From the Desk of the Chief

Jesse Gamueda, Chief Pilot WVFC

San Carlos safety update!

The lazy days of summer are upon us.  The smell of BBQ abounds, the days are longer and as aviators, we are itching to get back in the air!

This is a more serious article where I am going to need to step away from pleasant summer thoughts and inform you of some serious matters surrounding our San Carlos club. 

Vehicle Pedestrian Deviations have become an issue with the club!  It appears that we have been involved in two of these incidents, which according to the FAA is two too many!

So to remediate our membership and flight instructor cadre, the staff at WVFC has had to take some steps so that these incidents never happen again.

This means changing our new membership forms and quizzes to include questions regarding “Positive Control of Guests” as well as sending out information to our flight instructor cadre.  Also, San Carlos airport operations would like us to send out basic information about what has occurred and how we as a club will move forward to change our policies.  The article this month is one of those steps that we are taking in helping to change our culture at the airport.

So to explain in detail what happened, the incidents involved members of our club losing control of their guests.  Meaning that guests of the WVFC members were allowed on the airport and crossed the line!  Literally!  The guests crossed into a movement area where no one is allowed to be.  This was pedestrian traffic.  And because they were guests of members, and unescorted this raises many red flags with the FAA, San Carlos Airport, and WVFC management.

To remedy this situation I’ve included a few charts and diagrams provided to us from San Carlos airport operations that detail exactly where these boundaries are and where we are allowed to be with our guests. 

But before I begin that explanation, I am going to regale you with some very important information regarding your guests.  WHENEVER you bring a guest onto the airport property, guests MUST REMAIN WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES!  This is nonnegotiable and if your guests are found without you, then your right to fly at WVFC may be suspended or revoked.  This is the main point that the FAA wants us to address.   Again, to reiterate, under no circumstances are your guests to be allowed on the airport unescorted!  This means they cannot be without you!  I am including airport diagrams that will be available to peruse at the San Carlos Club.

So that you know exactly where you can and cannot walk on the airport premises, I’ve included some diagrams to help you understand this.

On the diagram above, you will notice where WVFC is located and where we are allowed to walk as members with our guests escorted.  Under further scrutiny you’ll find that we are not allowed onto any taxiways as a pedestrian or with a car/vehicle.  This includes Juliet, Kilo, Lima and Mike taxiways or runways.

If you cannot see it in detail on this diagram, I’ve included another on the next page.  Movement into this area in an aircraft is not allowed without a clearance either.  That’s a given.  So before leaving the non movement area, just request a taxi clearance from KSQL ground.  Movement areas, so that we are clear, are those areas where we need permission to “move” to, I.E. taxiways and runways. 

Another issue that I am going to address is gate access codes.  These codes are for MEMBERS ONLY! Under no circumstances are you to share gate codes with your guests!  They are for you alone as a member. Both of these incidents would have been prevented if the guests would not have been given a gate code!

On the diagram above you will notice that taxiways Juliet, Kilo, Lima and Mike, you are not allowed any entry under any circumstance by foot, car or aircraft unless you have a clearance specifically from tower!  And clearance is only going to be allowed to aircraft.  Never are you allowed to cross these areas with a car or on foot!  Let’s make that clear!  No cars or pedestrian traffic on the taxiways or runways!  This includes the chevron areas at the end of the runway! 

All of the WVFC aircraft are located on the Juliet parking at the San Carlos airport.  My intent here is not to be a buzz kill, but rather to inform you of the areas of the airport that WVFC currently has access to, which is a segue into the next point.  Airport access is not a right for WVFC members and can be revoked at any time from numerous agencies including the FAA, San Carlos Airport Authority or WVFC management.  It is a privilege bestowed unto all the businesses at the airport. 

In closing, often times I am the bearer of bad news.  But this is not bad news, we are providing you with the tools that you need to make more informed and educated decisions when dealing with your guests at the San Carlos airport.  Empowerment is a huge gift in life.  When we are informed of those things that we are allowed to do and walk the line accordingly, we are blessed with a flying club that allows us all to proceed with our dream of flying and introducing others to this fantastic opportunity.  This article is being written so that you take your guests with confidence on a trip that most individuals just don’t get the chance to be part of. 


In recent news, one of our very own West Valley pilot's, Sam Cossman, has launched an adventure based start-up called Qwake .    The company provides a platform that helps bring to life new experiences.  Inspired by his passion for aviation, he has offered the Bay Area pilot community early access to the company's first exciting campaign – Parahawking.  It is an innovative hybrid sport that combines the ancient art of falconry with modern techniques of paragliding.  We're excited to share the unique tandem opportunity with our West Valley members, so be a pioneer, and help launch the country's first parahawking venture!  The parahawking video has received over 5 million hits on youtube so space will be limited,  For more information, please visit the following link: or visit  to stay in the loop with more exciting adventures coming soon. 

Lloyd Stephens, Aircraft Owner and Board Member WVFC  

Studies in Density Altitude Problems (Part 2)

The Mammoth Yosemite airport (MMH) is located about eight miles to the east of the town of Mammoth Lakes at an elevation of 7135 feet.  It has an east-west runway that is 7000 feet long.  Highway 395 runs parallel to the runway just to the south.  On the other side of the highway the mountains rise steeply to the crest of the Sierra.  Mammoth Mountain, which is clearly visible from the airport, sits at the head of the valley of the headwaters of the San Joaquin River.  This valley runs generally north-south and the terrain along the valley is much lower than that of the surrounding mountains. Frequently, when clouds form over the mountains, the lower terrain of the valley will be cloud free. Mammoth Mountain, at 11,030 feet, is the highest point between Mammoth and the central valley.  V-230, the federal airway that runs between the Friant VORTAC, 20 NM north of the Fresno International airport, and the Mina VORTAC in Nevada passes directly over the summit of Mammoth Mountain. 

As you look at the mountain from the Mammoth airport, Mammoth Pass is the low shoulder to the left of the mountain and Minaret Summit the shoulder to the right.  The low point in the ridges on both sides of the mountain is about 9,500 feet, and the terrain drops off considerably on both the north and the south side of these ridges.  Although the minimum IFR enroute altitude along V-230 in this area is 14,300’, you can fly VFR over the passes at a much lower altitude.  Because of this, the route over Mammoth Pass is used frequently by aircraft crossing the Sierra.

At about 4:15 p.m. on Wednesday, July 8, 2009, a Cessna 182P with two men aboard departed straight out from runway 27 at MMH and headed up toward Mammoth Pass.  The pilot (who was also an aircraft mechanic) and his friend were ferrying the aircraft to Oregon for the owner, who had just purchased it.  They had come from Phoenix and stopped for fuel at Mammoth before heading over the Sierra to Fresno, where they intended to spend the night.  There were gusty SW winds at the airport and the pilot had expressed some concern about these to the customer service manager at the FBO.  When they departed, she walked outside to watch them take off.  She thought it unusual that they headed straight out for the pass, because most planes circle to gain altitude before heading over the pass.  She also noted that the plane “didn’t seem to be gaining altitude very quickly.” 

The town of Mammoth Lakes is built more or less on a hill, so the town elevation varies from about 8,000 feet to about 8500 feet.  Just to the east of the town is the Snow Creek golf course.  Beyond the golf course, as you head toward the pass, the land becomes forested up to the lakes basin at about 9,000 feet, just to the east of the low point in the ridge that defines the pass.  The terrain is pretty open near the golf course but as you climb up toward the pass the mountains encroach on both sides, limiting the room available to turn around.  The plane continued the climb up into this area at a relatively low altitude.  It is likely that the plane encountered downdrafts as they neared the pass.  It must have become obvious to the pilot at some point that he was not going to make it over the pass but, by the time he realized this and tried to turn around, he had little room and very little altitude to do so.  As the airplane turned it lost altitude and, unable to recover, it descended into the trees.  A witness described the plane “coming up the draw” into the lakes basin, making a very low altitude turn, and then hitting trees.  The NTSB report indicates that there were multiple tree strikes starting about 1000 feet west of the main wreckage, which was located at an elevation of 8,575 feet.  There were no survivors. 

The NTSB report indicates that, at the time of the accident, the MMH AWOS reported winds at 240° at 14 knots gusting to 26 knots and a temperature of 24°C (75.2°F). No mechanical problems with the plane were found.  The density altitude at the accident site at that time was determined to be 11,300 feet.

It is difficult to tell what the pilot of this plane was thinking.  First of all, in this area, he had a choice of airports at which to obtain fuel, and MMH is perhaps not the best choice.  The Bishop airport would likely be a better choice.  Bishop is only 10 minutes flying time to the southeast of Mammoth and, if they had flown up the Owens Valley he would have passed over Bishop.  The fuel is considerably cheaper there, the airport elevation is only 4124 feet and, although there are high mountains on all sides, there are no high obstacles in the vicinity of the airport, giving you time to climb above the terrain even if it is hot.  Although we don’t know how much fuel he put in the plane, the weight of the fuel may have been a factor in reducing the climb capability of the aircraft (and it certainly would have been, if he had filled it up). 

Second, why did he choose not to circle to gain altitude like most planes do?  When you depart from runway 27, a 90° right turn takes you away from the mountains and out over fairly flat terrain that then drops off to a valley where you can climb safely to altitude before heading for the pass.  It is true also that the pass doesn’t look that high when viewed from the airport.  Eight miles away though, to fly through the pass at 10,000 feet would require a 375 foot per mile climb, easy to do at sea level, but much more difficult at altitude on a warm day.

Third, although he expressed some concern about the winds, the pilot didn’t seem to realize that it would likely be much windier with potentially significant downdrafts on the northeastern side of the pass with a strong southwest flow.  Wind flows like water, along the path of least resistance, in this case through the passes--up over the ridge and down the other side.  Given a plane flying anemically, add some downdrafts and a turn that probably caused a loss of lift, and the result was foreseeable.

As we discussed in the article last month, one of the most important things to realize about high density altitude is that it can seriously affect the airplane’s ability to climb.  It’s not just about getting the plane off the runway, it’s about clearing all obstacles once you are in the air.  Most of the accidents involving density altitude involve three distinct factors: HIGH, HOT, and HEAVY--a relatively high altitude airport, a relatively high temperature, and a relatively heavily loaded (or overloaded) plane.  Winds can also be a significant factor.  These are all things that need to be considered and managed in flying from a high altitude airport.   As we discussed also, most high altitude airports are located in mountainous areas, so obstacle clearance is a big issue.  You may not have a choice of which airport you are using, so let’s look at some of the other factors in this accident with a view toward how you can fly safely from these airports.

     At any altitude, the lighter the plane is loaded, the better it will climb.  Most light planes do not operate well at higher altitude airports when fully loaded, so you may want to limit the weight by reducing the number or weight of passengers, reducing the baggage, or reducing the amount of fuel carried.  Look at the graphs in the POH to determine not only the required runway length, but also the rate of climb given the plane’s weight and the temperature.

     This flight took off at 4:15 p.m. which, in July, is just about the hottest time of the day.  You will recall that density altitude is the field elevation corrected for temperature, i.e., the lower the temperature, the lower the density altitude.  In the mountains and the desert, the best time to fly is in the morning.  It’s cooler, and there is less turbulence and less wind.  If you can’t go in the morning, consider waiting for it to cool off in the early evening.  The temperature in mountain and high desert areas can vary significantly.  At Bishop it is not unusual in the summertime for the temperature to rise close to (or over) 100°F by mid afternoon, but then cool off into the high 40’s at night.

     Be aware of any obstacles, such as mountains or trees that you must clear and plan to cross them at an altitude that provides significant clearance, even if you have to circle to do so.  By doing so you maximize your options in case of downdrafts or other wind conditions.  Although I have seen pilots flying through Mammoth Pass only a few hundred feet above the ridge line, I usually do so at a minimum of 11,500’ and even higher if it is windy.  Mountain flying experts suggest that you cross ridge lines at a 45° angle so that you can turn away easily if you encounter downdrafts.  That may not be practical in cases such as Mammoth Pass.  Additional altitude gives you the ability to turn away more easily and the room to do so, or to continue ahead to fly out of the downdraft.

     Be aware of what the winds are doing, both on the surface and aloft.  Learn to visualize this and plan your flight accordingly.  Be aware that because of the slower rate of climb winds can have a greater effect on the plane.  Surface winds in the mountain areas generally are calm in the mornings and can pick up significantly in the afternoons.  Downdrafts and turbulence are to be expected on the downwind side of mountains and ridges, smooth air and updrafts on the upwind side.  When winds over Mammoth Mountain are from the northwest (as they frequently are after a frontal passage), flying over Minaret Summit, on the upwind side of Mammoth Mountain, is a better choice to avoid the more turbulent air over Mammoth Pass.

It is not my intention in looking at these density altitude problems to make you afraid to fly out of high altitude airports, but rather to make you aware of what you need to consider to fly safely from them.  I am not a flight instructor, but I have flown successfully out of both Mammoth and Bishop for a number of years in both a Piper Archer and a Piper Comanche, so I thought it might be useful to pass on a few tips to you. I hope this discussion will be helpful to you.

Fly safely!!

If you haven’t already seen these, you might also be interested in the following short videos depicting density altitude problems, each with a little instructional component, as well.  Note how, in both cases, the airplane doesn’t exhibit a classic stall but, when the pilot raises the nose to clear obstacles, instead of climbing, the airplane loses lift and descends.


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

VFR Flight Plan versus Flight Following?

Last month we discussed how to file, open and close a VFR flight plan. This month let’s explore the question that many pilots ask, “Which is best? … should I open a VFR flight plan OR request VFR flight following?”

The answer is simple. Yes to both. It is recommended to file/open/close a flight plan AND request flight following.  Below is a table which compares the features of VFR flight plans and VFR flight following. You can add your own comments too.


VFR Flight Plan

VFR Flight Following

Optional - Is an optional (but highly recommended) service, provided by Flight Service (FS), to trigger a search-and-rescue (SAR) operation if the pilot does not arrive at the expected time at their destination. The flight plan provides SAR information; aircraft departure/arrival airports, route, ETE, ETA, fuel onboard, souls onboard, home base, aircraft color/type, pilot contact info, etc.

Optional - Is an optional service, In-flight-traffic-advisories is provided by ATC on a workload available basis, only in radar coverage, and does not guarantee separation. ATC can provide other en-route flight information (i.e. significant weather).

File – The pilot files a flight plan with Flight Service (FS) before flight, but can also file en-route (less desirable) if Flight Service has time. Pilot MUST additionally open and close flight plan with FS.

Request – Flight following can be requested with ground/tower prior to takeoff OR requested from ATC after takeoff.

Search and Rescue (SAR) – Yes.

If the pilot does not arrive at the expect time, then SAR will be triggered.

Search and Rescue (SAR) – Not available.

However, ATC may have an approximate (last known) aircraft position if within radar coverage, and possibly the destination airport.

Availability – Always available.

Availability – Only within ATC radar coverage, and on an ATC workload available basis.

Traffic Advisories – Not available

Traffic Advisories – Yes.

Note: Traffic advisories are provided by ATC on a workload available basis, only within radar coverage, and does not guarantee separation.

Changes – The pilot can easily call FS during flight (or prior to flight) to amend their flight plan including route, time, stops, destination, etc.

Changes – The pilot can easily request a change to their flight route, altitude (not required, but best practice), and destination via ATC.

File, Open and Closing flight plan – The pilot must file, open and close their flight plan with Flight Service in-order to be provide the service.

Request and Terminate flight following – The pilot must request flight following in-order to be provide the service by ATC. The pilot must terminate (stop) ATC flight following when the pilot wishes to stop flight following.


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor

Discrimination and Prejudice

Lots of words have an emotional content that is as high as the logical content.  “Discrimination” is one of those words, and “prejudice” is another.  We hear these words and get tight-jawed if not downright angry.  Yet, one is misapplied, and the other is misunderstood.  That’s opinion, of course.

For most of our lives we’ve been told not to discriminate.  And yet …Let’s get back to basics – like the definition of the word.  “Discrimination” is the act of discriminating (well, duh!) or differentiating.  So, going even farther back to “discriminate”, the definition is “to make or constitute a distinction in or between, differentiate”.  Somehow this doesn’t seem as bad as politicians make discrimination sound.  And after all, aren’t differences how we get through the day?  If we didn’t discriminate between red and green lights (and take different actions based on those distinctions), for example, traffic would be even worse than it usually is.  And only a fool or a politician (but I repeat myself) would pretend there isn’t a difference between male and female.  Viva la difference!  Which, pretty much exhausts my knowledge of French, though it captures one of its most insightful thoughts.

So, what does all this have to do with aviation and aviation safety?  Two things come immediately to mind: discrimination helps the pilot determine the differences between the current situation and the one the pilot wants, and discrimination allows the pilot to diagnose problems when they occur, and the longer you fly, the more likely it is that the spaghetti will have hit the fan.  The differences between what you have and what you want is a topic for another newsletter, but this time I’d like to look at problems that occur, and how we deal with them.  And that’s done with discrimination.

With discrimination, you can differentiate between the myriad of parameters monitored and presented continually in the cockpit, and find the single indicator or the series of indications that will allow diagnosis of the real problem. 

Its prejudice that causes us problems, and it comes in a variety of forms.  We hear, of course of things like racial (and a variety of other) prejudice in political or social settings.  But I’d like to talk about a more subtle type that pervades the flying community, and to do that, I’m going to start with cars.

I can’t think of the number of times I’ve gone to the car fix-it store with a problem, which I describe accurately and in detail.  Whereupon the mechanic says something like, “You need a new (and he names a part). “  Coincidentally, it usually is the most expensive part in that system of the car.  At this point, things start getting loud as I insist that he find the problem before he starts buying expensive parts with my money, to say nothing of charging labor costs to my account before determining the real problem.  The mechanic, of course, insists that he’s right and it would be a waste of time doing additional diagnostics since its obvious what the problem is.  No surprise, the mechanic is just as certain on the next thing he names when the first one doesn’t actually solve the problem.  Nor does he offer a refund for his prejudice.

In the world of flying, this form of prejudice is the one that results in pilots landing at the wrong airport because they decided that it was the right one, and despite an abundance of information (distance and direction from the city, runway size, taxiway configuration, and so on) to the contrary, continued to approach and land at the wrong one.  On the positive side, it’s usually a very nice landing.  But doing the wrong thing really well isn’t nearly as good as doing the right thing even if it isn’t done nearly as well.

It also results in pilots solving the wrong problem when abnormal situations arise.  Either the pilot reacts automatically because of training, or makes a choice based on less than complete analysis (just like the mechanic wants to on my car).

So what’s wrong with reacting automatically?  Nothing, sometimes.  When the stall buffet begins, shoving the nose down isn’t a bad idea most of the time.  At two feet during a landing, maybe it’s not the best idea.  When you’re inverted doing acro, the results are interesting.

The cure for prejudice is education.  And in the case of most piloting situations, it’s analysis backed by education.  If you’ve examined the symptoms, analyzed them, and considered alternatives, it’s hard to make a decision or take an action based on a personal bias.

Education, analysis and planning will keep us out of trouble.  If you’ve thought about a situation, it’s more likely that you will react correctly.

Student and New Pilot Group

So you are interested in an Instrument Rating?

The Student and New Pilot group met at the West Valley Flying Club’s San Carlos club house on June 3rd. These meetings have been attracting various pilots from the Bay Area that meet to share information and experiences. The topic of this month’s meeting was the instrument rating– specifically why, when, who, how and more.  The group was treated to a round table consisting of CFIIs, current instrument students, and a recently rated instrument pilot.


The panel discussed some of the key reasons why you should get your instrument rating. One key benefit is that under an instrument flight rule (IFR) flight, airspace boundaries essentially disappear. This can be beneficial if you are flying in an unfamiliar and complex airspace such as in the Los Angeles area. Another benefit is the ability to depart the Bay Area on a timely basis when the low stratus rolls in. Without the instrument rating, you may need to delay your flight. All agreed that the training received obtaining your instrument rating makes you a better pilot.

The panel also discussed factors to consider when determining when to start an instrument rating. Often times a newly minted private pilot is interested in rolling right into the instrument rating. A factor to consider is that the instrument rating requires 50 hours of cross country PIC time; often times a new pilot does not yet have that many hours. In addition, it is beneficial to get additional flight experience prior to starting the instrument rating. Get comfortable with your VFR skill and exposure to other types of aircraft. One valuable suggestion was to plan to do some of your instrument training in the winter which will provide better opportunity for training in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC). The group had a lively discussion about the type of plane in which to do your training (e.g., ‘steam-gauge’ vs. G1000).  Having exposure to traditional types of navigation equipment such as basic VOR can develop a sense of situational awareness, but the group was unanimous in extolling the benefits of a G1000 equipped aircraft. The panel entertained questions from the group and, judging by the number of questions, it was clear there are some potential new instrument students in the making. The presentation is available on the Student and New Pilot Yahoo group site.

We next had a report from Eric Bartelink, who attended the Hollister Airshow. One of the key tips he shared about getting to the Hollister Airshow was to fly in to Frazier Lake Airpark.  There is an airshow shuttle that takes you to and from Hollister airport. Eric said it was very convenient both getting to and back from Hollister airport. If you consider this, check club regulations about restrictions since this airport has a grass runway - Eric flew his own plane to Frazier Lake Airpark.

Also, at the meeting was a kick off of the Bay Area Pilots Summer 2013 Bucket List Challenge. Bay Area pilots are invited to participate in this event during the period of June 1st to August 31st. Pilots earn points for landing at new airports based on the distance flown. More points can be earned for other related activities. Post you Bucket List accomplishments on the group Facebook page “Bay Area Pilots Summer 2013 Bucket List Challenge”.  At the end of the summer, there will be a group BBQ where the ‘winners’ will be awarded their very own Bucket List trophy! More details are available on the Facebook page.

A key benefit to this group is the opportunity to share information and meet other pilots.  We invite any interested pilot to attend our next meeting.  The group is going to start rotating meeting locations so please be aware that our next meeting on July 1st will be at 7:00 PM at the WVFC PAO location.

The topics of discussion will be:

·       Pre Flight Challenge –check your skills at finding airworthiness and other issues on aircraft in the WVFC MX hangar. Your challenge will be to see if your preflight routine can discover all the issues. David Vital, WVFC Director of Maintenance, will stage the aircraft for this unique and challenging event.

Everyone, whatever and wherever they fly, is welcome. In addition to some tasty pizza and soda, you will have a great chance to meet your fellow pilots in an informal setting.

To subscribe to this group, please email: The presentation from this session is posted on this group site.

Please contact or  if you would like additional information.

Free Simulator Time on G1000 Sim!

Max Trescott, WVFC CFI

Flight simulators can improve flying skills, especially if they closely approximate a real airplane. But many don’t, so when I teach clients in those devices I frequently say “In the real airplane it works differently from this.”  But finally there’s a device that so closely mirrors the real Garmin G1000 that I don’t need to make excuses for it. It’s the new GT Glass Trainer from Precision Flight Controls (PFC). As a WVFC member, you can get free time each month on one!

Technically, most devices found in flight schools are not flight simulators. The FAA reserves that term for the million dollar devices used to train pilots in turboprops and jets. Most systems found in flight schools are AATDs, or Advanced Aviation Training Devices. The GT Glass Trainer is an AATD.

In 2004, Garmin introduced the G1000 glass cockpit and by 2006, the first G1000 AATDs began to appear. Many of these resembled real aircraft, such as a Cessna 172 or 182. But the resemblance was only skin deep: while the hardware was sometimes identical, the software never was. Since Garmin didn’t make their software available, device manufacturers had to recreate every line of code from scratch to emulate G1000 functionality. While they got the basics right, G1000 instrument procedures and some Multifunction Display (MFD) screens were poorly emulated.

Enter the GT Glass Trainer. It is low cost compared to other AATDs, about $25,000, and I estimate it replicates the G1000 with 99.8% accuracy, vastly better than other devices I’ve seen. I’ll discuss why it’s so accurate in a moment.

System Details

Physically, the system consists of a Cirrus II Flight Console with an integrated yoke, realistic looking G1000 Primary Flight Display (PFD) and MFD displays, and one or more flat screen displays to show the view outside the airplane. Two computers, one Windows and one Linux, rudder pedals, and a flight instructor station complete the system. Accurate G1000 depictions for about a dozen aircraft, ranging from a Cessna 172 to a Cirrus Perspective SR20, can be selected for display on the PFD and MFD. The G1000 displays simulate all of the latest features and the database can be easily updated so that you’re flying with current airport and instrument approach data.

Two of these devices, with Cessna 172, 182 and 206 flight models, were installed in February 2013 at the West Valley Flying Club in Palo Alto and San Carlos, CA and I’ve used them for a few dozen hours. Teaching on them is a pleasure, since I no longer have to parrot multiple times “But in the real airplane it works differently from this.”

System start up takes about two minutes using an easy to follow, illustrated checklist. Following startup, an airplane appears at the beginning of a local runway, which can easily be changed from the instructor console. Start the engine, release the brakes, and off you go!

The flight dynamics and the flight instructor console are driven by the popular X-Plane program, which runs on the Linux computer. It lets you quickly position an aircraft at the end of any runway. You can also pre-position an aircraft on a 3 or 10 NM final to any runway, which is a fast way to get set up for an instrument approach. Of course the aircraft can also be dragged to any position on the map. The console also lets a flight instructor control the weather in exquisite detail and simulate the failure of dozens of aircraft and G1000 components.

The system includes a replica of the G1000 audio panel and the keys used to control the integrated Garmin GFC700 autopilot. The KAP 140 autopilot, found in pre-2007 G1000 aircraft, is not simulated.

The Secret Sauce

The secret to the high fidelity of the GT Glass Trainer is that it uses the G1000 PC Trainer software from Garmin to drive the displays. This saved PFC from having to reinvent every line of G1000 code. But it created a technical challenge. Since Garmin’s PC Trainer, which runs on a Windows desktop with a Nvidia graphics card, is driven by user mouse clicks, PFC needed to translate the knob turning and button pushing on their displays to the mouse clicks the PC Trainer software needs. Their solution works well, though occasionally a click gets dropped as a knob on the PFD or MFD is turned. Turning the knob an extra click solves the problem.

The Synthetic Vision (SVT) option, available in later version G1000 aircraft such as WVFC’s N186CS, is included and it provides a pseuo-3D depiction of terrain and obstacles up to 15 miles in front of the aircraft. In real aircraft, the SVT depiction of the runway centerline is so accurate it’s usually no more than a couple of feet left or right of the actual centerline. One thing I’ve learned from teaching in the GT Glass Trainer is that if the outside weather is set for zero visibility, pilots can still successfully land the simulator on a runway using only the PFD’s synthetic vision! That’s a handy piece of knowledge to have if someday your only option is to land in near zero visibility. Other advanced G1000 features like TAWS (terrain warning), updated IFR approach charts, and SAFETAXI diagrams are included.

I could find only a few minor discrepancies between the GT Glass Trainer and the actual G1000. One is that the selected COM frequency does not turn green when selected for transmit from the audio panel. No surprise here; the Garmin PC Trainer doesn’t simulate this either. Another is that when pressing the COM 1/MIC or COM 2/MIC keys on the audio panel, both COM 1 and COM 2 remain illuminated instead of just one of them. The last issue is very subtle: the VNV (vertical navigation) key on the autopilot cannot be armed in combination with the APR (approach mode) key. That’s because the Garmin PC Trainer software only permits one vertical autopilot mode at a time. Given that there may be at least two thousand G1000 keystroke combinations, having only a three or four minor discrepancies means it’s 99.8% accurate, which is excellent.

The GT Glass Trainers at PAO and SQL both rent for $50/hour plus the cost of your instructor.  In addition, members get one free hour of time each month on the GT Glass Trainer at PAO. If you fly it for more than one hour in one session, split the time into two entries in the Tach Book. The first entry should be for 1.0 hours and the word PROMO should be entered under the rate column. The second line entry, which you will be billed for, is for the remaining time you used the AATD.

There’s also a new PFC AATD at PAO that simulates round gauge aircraft. It include flight dynamics for a couple of dozen of the most popular planes and it includes a Garmin GNS 430W GPS. The Garmin 430 simulation is extremely accurate because it uses Garmin 430 simulator software. This system also rents for $50/hour…for every hour. Sorry, no free time on this AATD.

How to Use Your Free Hour

Typically flight schools use AATD’s mostly for instrument training, since up to 20 of the required 40 hours can be logged in these devices. But the fidelity of these devices, which is how closely they resemble a real airplane, was often poor, making the simulator time of questionable value. But the new GT Glass Trainer so closely represents the real G1000 that knowledge gained training in it should directly transfer to flying a G1000 or Perspective airplane. So don’t hesitate to start training for the instrument rating in this AATD.

I’ve given thousands of hours of instruction in G1000 aircraft since I wrote my Max Trescott’s G1000 and Perspective Glass Cockpit Handbook. What’s become clear to me is that unless a pilot flies a couple of times a month in a G1000 plane, he or she will benefit from some study between flights. Otherwise button-pushing skills degrade and pilots fall back to using the Direct-to key, the most rudimentary way to program the G1000’s GPS.

Self-study can take many forms. It can be reviewing a book between flights (and yes I can recommend a good one). It can be running Garmin’s PC Trainer software on your Windows PC at home (though it only works if you have a Nvidia graphics card installed in your desktop). Or it can be done in an AATD like the GT Glass Trainer. If you’re not flying frequently, supplement your flight time with time in the AATD.

Pilots transitioning into a G1000 airplane will also find the AATD a cost-effective way to begin the transition. In an airplane, pilots can spend 80% of their brain cycles trying to fly the plane, which reduces their capacity to absorb new information. By contrast, it’s easy to pause the GT Glass Trainer at any point and have an in-depth conversation about a feature or issue. As I watch pilots in the AATD, I can tell they are more relaxed and better able to listen and comprehend versus when they’re in an airplane.

Private training is a huge untapped opportunity for the use of AATDs like the GT Glass Trainer. Currently the FAA allows up to 2.5 hours of the required 40 hours of Private training to be conducted in an AATD. In my opinion, this number should be increased in the future, but in the meantime, AATD training time is valuable for student pilots getting their Private in a G1000 aircraft. Besides learning the intricacies of the G1000, it lets them practice and memorize the steps needed to perform many of the maneuvers required for the Private checkride.

If you haven’t tried one of the club’s new GT Glass Trainers yet, what are you waiting for? Schedule a WVFC CFI now to get checked out in these new AATDs. Happy Flying!