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May 2013 Newsletter


Steve Blonstein, General Manager WVFC

Groups West Valley Flying Club Rewards Program

West Valley Flying Club is excited to announce that, on June 1, we will be the first flying club in the area to offer a loyalty and rewards program .   

WVFC will be issuing points for various member “goals” and providing “rewards” when members reach certain point levels.  To keep things really simple, we’re starting with 3 goals and 3 rewards.  Here is the scheme:


For  Goals:

Attend a West Valley Flying Club Event e.g. BBQ, safety seminar, WVFC meeting  = 1 point.

Reserve and fly a WVFC plane = 2 points

Achievements e.g. Pass an FAA written exam or flight test, checkout in a new airplane = 3 points.


For Rewards:

At 12 points, receive a $10 iTunes gift card

At 25 points, receive a $20 Armadillo Willy’s gift card (It’s a great local BBQ restaurant)

At 75 points, receive a $100 Harris Ranch gift card (It’s a really great, not so local, steak restaurant)


You get to choose when to redeem points, but we highly encourage members to go for the biggest reward, as the steaks at the Harris Ranch restaurant are fantastic, and it’s also a great destination to fly to.

So how does it work?  It is well known that people can only carry so many loyalty cards before wallets and purses become stuffed with them.  So we’ve partnered with a company offering a universal loyalty card that can be used at hundreds of different businesses, now including West Valley Flying Club, and the card keeps track of what points you’ve earned and where.  The card comes in two formats, the standard credit card size and a mini-sized version.   The cards use NFC (Near Field Communication) so it only has to be held near the scanner rather than being swiped.  All members are eligible to receive a card for free.   The only requirement is to provide a phone number to link to the card, so that in the event you don’t have your card with you then a phone number can be used to add points.  After achieving each goal listed above, stop by one of the front desk locations and ask to add points to your account based on what you just did.  Simply bringing the card near the scanner brings up a menu on the staff computer and quickly allows them to add the appropriate amount of points.  A database keeps track of your points, when you’re getting close to a reward, and when you’ve redeemed points for a reward.

So on or after June 1, stop by the club, and be one of the first to join the program and start accumulating points towards your first reward.  Enjoy, and fly safe.

From the Desk of the Chief

Jesse Gamueda, Chief Pilot WVFC


One of the biggest issues that I face at West Valley Flying Club is the checkout process and the rules that govern them.  And I believe for the first time I have finally figured it out!

So for most of you it comes as no surprise that when you get checked out at the club you can possibly have the right to fly any of the aircraft in that line or lower.  Let me give you an example.  If you come to the flight club, get checked out in a Cessna 182, then you are checked out in the 172, 162, 152, etc…

And if you ask most of the flight instructors, they in turn may give you a different story based on the information provided in the checkout.  Let me try and make this issue as clear as mud.

I’ve been taught the secret!  Given the keys to the kingdom!  Alas, Clarity!

It all has to do with time in the model of aircraft.  I’ll give two examples of pilots with different experience.  Both have 50 hours of flight time in Cessna 182’s. 

Pilot A:  30 hours experience in a 172, 22 hours in a 152 and 250 total time.

Pilot B:  Type rated in a 747 with 1500 hours of PIC in the 747 and 25,000 hours total time.

In the example of Pilot A, when you fill out your Aircraft Checkout form, your instructor will check off in each box the aircraft that you have experience in. If you show your instructor your logbook noting the 172 and 152 time, the instructor now has the opportunity to fill out the boxes next to 172 and 152 without you needing to get anymore flight time in the aircraft, providing you’ve filled out the ground review form and had the discussion about specifics on both a/c with your instructor, and your instructor deems you “qualified.”

If pilot B shows up at WVFC and only has Cessna 182 experience; he may not get checked out in the 172, 162, or 152.  Even though he has Captain Experience on a 747 and 10 times the amount of total time, without the experience in the 172, 162 or 152 he will most likely be unable fly these aircraft, because of the fact that he has no prior experience in the aircraft.  What reasonable instructor is going to want to put their signature on a form that doesn’t support that experience?

This is easily understandable if one takes into account that an administrator only enters into the computer what an individual has filled out on a form.

Moving forward, there will be no more confusion for me regarding this topic.  I will simply look into our members records.  See what the instructor checked the member out for and if that member has the appropriate supporting documentation.  I.E. GRF’s, and experience that meet our minimums, then I will inform them of what aircraft they are checked out in! 

I hope that this doesn’t add any confusion to the process with what you already know to be “true” here at West Valley Flying Club.  My only desire is to make it simpler to understand and easier for the member to figure out which aircraft they are checked out in.

In closing, if you feel at any time you’re unsure of what the requirements are, please bring it to our attention and we’ll do our best to “clarify”!

Thank you once again for enduring this article and my door is always open!

Lloyd Stephens, Aircraft Owner WVFC  

Studies in Density Altitude Problems (part 1)

It was a warm, but not overly hot, afternoon in early summer when the pilot of a Piper Saratoga and his three passengers departed from Runway 10 at Truckee-Tahoe airport for the flight back to San Jose.  The Saratoga was a fixed gear model with a 300 hp Lycoming IO-540 engine, so plenty of power.  The field elevation at the Truckee airport is 5900 feet MSL and Runway 10 is 7000 feet long.   The pilot had flown into Truckee a number of times previously in the Saratoga, mostly to go skiing, and felt pretty comfortable that he would be able to get the plane off the runway within that distance.

Runway 10 points more or less toward Lake Tahoe.  There is an overrun at the end of the runway and, within a short distance thereafter, Martis Creek Road angles across the departure corridor.  The terrain the other side of the road drops down slightly to a treeless meadow that extends for about a mile and then becomes heavily forested as the terrain rises to a high ridge before dropping off toward the lake.  The pilot had selected Runway 10 for the departure because it is the preferred no wind runway for noise abatement reasons, there was only a little wind, and because the meadow provided an opportunity to climb to a safe altitude before encountering the trees.

The pilot expected that the take-off roll would be fairly long, so he wasn’t surprised that the plane wasn’t off the ground by about halfway down the runway, but what happened when he rotated and the plane did leave the ground was entirely unexpected.  The plane climbed to about 15 feet above the ground and would go no higher.  He didn’t have enough runway left at that point to put the plane back on the ground, so he kept pulling back on the controls, trying to get the plane to go higher, with no effect.  As the plane went over the end of the runway, then the road, and finally dropped down over the meadow at about 15 feet, he realized that he had to lower the nose to gain more speed, but mentally that was a very difficult thing for him to do at such a low altitude.  By lowering the nose though, he finally gained enough speed to get out of ground effect and, only a few feet above the trees at the other end of the meadow, he made a shallow turn back toward the airport and they were on their way to San Jose, in one piece and considerably wiser. 

He rather sheepishly related this story to me and said that when this incident happened it really scared him.  As he said: “the pucker factor was extremely high.”  He said he realized later, when he had time to think about it, that he had thought at the time that, because the plane had used so much runway, it should be ready to fly, and pulled it off before it had gained enough speed to fly out of ground effect.  And then he had made the situation worse by keeping the nose up and trying to climb instead of lowering it to gain more speed.  He said that the fact that most of his other flights to Truckee had been for skiing had caused him to feel that the plane should be flying at the point when he rotated, even though the plane apparently didn’t think so.

The concept of density altitude is pretty simple, but it is sometimes hard to grasp.  Basically, it is the altitude the airplane “thinks” it’s at.  With reference to airports, density altitude is the airport elevation corrected for temperature.  The higher the temperature, the higher your plane thinks the airport is.  This doesn’t make much difference to you at low altitude airports (if the airport is at sea level and it’s 104° F, the DA is only 2816 feet), but it can make a lot of difference at higher altitude airports.  I don’t know what the actual temperature was in the above scenario but, assuming the temperature at Truckee was 80-85° F, the DA would have been between about 8500-8900 feet.  That means that the plane “thought” it was taking off from a field that was almost 9000 feet high, not one that was at 5900 feet.  Many aircraft take off performance charts don’t even go that high.  On the other hand, in the wintertime, assuming a temperature of 32° F, the DA would be about 5500 feet--quite a difference.  It’s no wonder that the pilot in this case thought he should be off the runway sooner. 

Most folks seem to think of density altitude as affecting only the take off from an airport.  That is, if you can get it off of the ground while you are still on the runway, you’re OK.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  The most dangerous thing about density altitude is that it can considerably reduce your ability to climb.  If you expect the same climb rate that you would get at lower altitude airports, or even at higher altitude ones, and rotate to the attitude that you would under those circumstances, you may be surprised, as this pilot was, that the plane will not respond the same way.

This paragraph is going to get a bit technical and you can skip it if you want, but for those of you who want to follow along, let’s look at the performance charts for the Saratoga as applied to this situation.  The airplane flight manual for the Saratoga indicates that the maximum take-off weight is 3600 lbs.  I don’t know what the actual loading of this aircraft was, so just for purposes of discussion I am going to make some relatively conservative assumptions about the loading.  The empty weight of this particular plane was 2197.5 lbs.   Assuming 4 persons on board (at 170 lbs. each), only 100 lbs. of baggage (maximum is 200), and 80 gallons of fuel (maximum is 102 gals.), that comes to 1260 pounds.  Added up, that’s 3457.5 lbs.  Let’s assume also that the temperature was 82.4° F (28° C).  This temperature is off of the Normal Procedure Takeoff Ground Roll chart, but we can extrapolate the 6000 foot line to that temperature and weight and we get a no wind ground roll of about 4800 feet, with a takeoff speed of 79 knots.  That figure includes full throttle before brake release, and is based on a three blade prop.  (With a two blade prop the distance would be more like 5500 feet.)  This distance could be shortened to about 3800 feet with 25° of flaps and a takeoff speed of 64 knots.  In either case, the climb rate after takeoff would be about 500 ft/min, just about half of the sea level climb rate.

Considering that the Saratoga is a fairly high performance aircraft, if you are flying a lower performance aircraft the climb performance will be even less.  In my Archer, at maximum gross weight under similar circumstances, the climb rate would be more like 300 ft/min.  Most high altitude airports are located in mountainous areas and this low climb rate in warm weather can create considerable problems.  We’ll discuss this issue more in next month’s newsletter.

So we can take away several things from this incident:

     At a high altitude airport when it is warm and the density altitude is high you should expect a longer takeoff distance than usual.  To minimize that distance it is important not only to lean the fuel mixture, but also to consider the configuration of the aircraft--such as use of partial flaps (as recommended in the Pilot’s Operating Handbook), and using full throttle before brake release.  Taking off into the wind can also considerably reduce the takeoff distance.  (It is rarely advisable to take off downwind at a high altitude airport, even if that is the direction you want to go.)

     Don’t try to pull the plane off of the runway before it is ready to fly.  Although the plane will actually be going faster than usual, the indicated airspeed you will use to determine rotation will be the same at altitude as at sea level.  Unless you have obstacles to clear at the end of the runway, gaining a little extra airspeed won’t hurt.

     Don’t over-rotate.  Since the rate of climb will not be as great as you are used to, you won’t be raising the nose as high as you are used to either.  So be cautious as you rotate.  Climb based on your indicated airspeed, not nose angle.  Remember that your best rate of climb (Vy) will decrease at higher altitudes and your best angle of climb (Vx) will increase. 


Lindell Wilson, WVFC CFI

VFR Flight Plan - Open/Update/Close

Last month we briefly discussed how to file a flight plan with a live (via phone) briefer. You can also get a weather briefing and file a VFR flight plan via DUAT/DUATS or by using flight planning software. This month we will look at How-To examples for opening, updating, and closing a flight plan. First, let’s start with a basic question. Why file and open a flight plan? One possible answer is… although the FAA does not require a VFR flight plan, it is a recommended practice for cross country flights greater than 50 nautical miles between departure and arrival airports. You can actually file a flight plan for any flight, even to the airport next door. The flight plan (when opened) provides the pilot a search-and-rescue safety net in the event he/she does not arrive at the destination. Someone will start looking for the aircraft using the information provided in the flight plan. The flight plan service is available free to pilots. 

Flight Plan Open/Update/Close – pilots are sometimes confused with the flight plan procedures. Below are several possible how-to examples;

1)     Pilot is departing SQL, destination RNO (Reno/Tahoe)

a.     Option 1 – (without VFR flight following, not recommended)

                                               i.     Open – after takeoff and exiting SQL class D (and frequency change is approved by SQL tower) contact Oakland Radio (122.5 or 122.2). Say “Oakland Radio, Skyhawk 1234, seven miles south-east of Hayward on 122.5, request open VFR flight plan from SQL to RNO at 1000 Zulu”. Oakland Radio will respond, “Skyhawk 1234, Oakland Radio, flight plan open, appreciate PIREPs on flight watch 122.0, have a nice flight”. This example assumes the aircraft is approximately over Coyote Hills and not inside any of the adjacent Class B, C, or D airspace.

                                             ii.     En-route – without VFR flight following (not recommended), pilot will likely not communicate with any ATC between the Bay Area and the Reno Area.

                                            iii.     Close - with Reno Radio (122.5 or 122.2) before entering Reno Class C, and approximately 25 miles from RNO, say “Reno Radio, Skyhawk N1234, twenty-five miles south-east of RNO on 122.5, request close my VFR flight plan from SQL to RNO”.  Reno Radio responds, “Skyhawk 1234, Reno Radio, flight plan is closed”. Next, the pilot should contact NorCal (Reno) on 119.2 for Class C transition and landing at RNO.

                                            iv.     Close – (if not closed in the air with Reno Radio) after landing RNO, phone Flight Service Station (FSS) at 800-WX-BRIEF and close the flight plan.

b.     Option 2 – (with VFR flight following, recommended)

                                               i.     Contact SQL ground when ready to taxi. Request taxi to SQL runway (normal taxi request) AND “Request VFR flight following to RNO”.  SQL ground will provide taxi instructions AND a departure (NorCal) frequency and squawk code.

                                             ii.     After takeoff at SQL, tower should provide a communications handoff (upon leaving SQL class D) to NorCal.

                                            iii.     Stay with NorCal until north-east (outside) of Oakland class C … and/or Hayward class D. Then ask NorCal (example) “NorCal, Skyhawk 1234, Request a temporary frequency change to Oakland Radio to open my VFR flight plan”. NorCal will say, “Skyhawk 1234, NorCal, frequency change approved, report back on my frequency 125.35”.

                                            iv.     Open – change frequency to Oakland Radio (122.5 or 122.2) and say (example) “Oakland Radio, Skyhawk 1234, ten miles east of Hayward on 122.5, request open my VFR flight plan from SQL to RNO at 1000 zulu”. Oakland Radio will respond with “Skyhawk 1234, Oakland Radio, flight plan open, appreciate PIREPs on flight watch 122.0, have a nice flight”. Switch the frequency back to NorCal and say “NorCal, Skyhawk 1234, back with you”.

                                              v.     En-route - stay with NorCal (near Bay Area) / Oakland Center / NorCal (near Reno) until approximately 25 miles from RNO.

                                            vi.     Close – say to (Reno) NorCal, “NorCal, Skyhawk 1234, Request a temporary frequency change to Reno Radio to close my VFR flight plan”. NorCal will say, “Skyhawk 1234, NorCal, frequency change approved, report back on my frequency 119.2”.

                                           vii.     Close - with Reno Radio (122.5 or 122.2) say, “Reno Radio, Skyhawk N1234, twenty-five miles south-east of RNO on 122.5, request close my VFR flight plan from SQL to RNO”. Reno Radio responds, “Skyhawk 1234, Reno Radio, flight plan is closed”. Then re-contact NorCal (Reno) on 119.2 for Class C transition and landing at RNO.

                                         viii.     Close – (if not closed in the air with Reno Radio) after landing RNO, phone Flight Service Station (FSS) at 800-WX-BRIEF and close the flight plan.

2)     Update to Flight Plan –

a.     Before the flight –

                                               i.     Updates can be easily made to a flight plan including; departure time, flight plan duration (ex. adding/subtracting time),  aircraft N#, new route, en-route stops (i.e. fuel, food, etc.) simply by phoning FSS (800-WX-BRIEF) and request to amend your previously filed VFR flight plan.

                                             ii.     Pilots can also request updates to their weather briefing information for departure, en-route, and destination.

b.     In flight – Updates can be easily made by calling (via radio) the nearest FSS (ex. Oakland or Reno Radio) and request the same information as in 2)a.i. above. Pilots can request updates to their weather information for en-route and destination and/or provide PIREPs by contacting Flight Watch on 122.0.

Next month we will compare the benefits of VFR Flight Plans versus VFR Flight Following.  Happy Spring Flying.


Dave Fry, WVFC CFI and Aviation Safety Counselor  

The Potato Rhythm

Before reading this article, please check out the YouTube video -, or Google Beaver Ballad. 

Every time you fly something new, you add to your own flying database, and learn things that apply to other aircraft, and things that you’ve learned in other aircraft help you learn the new one – and provide (in some cases) negative knowledge transfer.  As you may have guessed, the previous statement can be used to justify spending the money to fly something that has no practical purpose for the pilot (me, in this case).  I can talk myself into almost anything, or as my wife says, “It’s not willpower you lack, it’s won’t power.”  Oscar Wilde (I believe) captured it with, “I can resist anything but temptation.”  I digress, again.

This week I flew a Pilatus with a couple of owners up to Seattle, home of Kenmore Air, the world’s largest seaplane operation, so the question of what to do while my clients were off taking care of business kind of answered itself. 

As soon as I knew I had a flight to Seattle, I arranged to fly a Beaver on floats with a Kenmore instructor, and already having a Single Engine Sea rating, I knew something about floatplanes.  In fact, I finished my Commercial Single Engine Sea rating at Kenmore back in the days when one could rent a seaplane after getting the rating.  I flew there a few times after the rating, but even though I’ve flown a variety of seaplanes, I’d never flown the Beaver – the quintessential floatplane.

There are any number of differences between land planes and seaplanes in general without even considering the differences that make the Beaver unique.  A couple of the obvious things that come to mind include: 

- A preflight that involves pumping out the floats

- A preflight that often means turning the plane around while making sure it doesn’t blow into another


- Performing the run up and moving at the same time (no brakes in the water)

- A takeoff that starts with holding the wheel all the way back, then at the right time pushing forward to pitch the plane down to the takeoff attitude

- Landings that (most of the time) can be directly into the wind, since there aren’t runways in the water (mostly)

- Using the direction ducks takeoff to indicate wind direction instead of non-existent windsocks.  However stupid you think ducks are, they are smart enough to know not to takeoff downwind.

- Landing without being able to tell your height above the landing surface – when the water is glassy, especially when there are high clouds, you look down and don’t see the surface, you see the sky, and in extreme cases, you can’t tell within the nearest 100 feet how high above the water you are.

- Taxiing power-off into the dock, and jumping out while the plane is still moving (the only time I jump out of a moving airplane) to bring it to a stop alongside the dock.

The list is actually a lot longer, but you should get the idea.  And each model of seaplane has its own idiosyncrasies. 

My instructor, Jeremy Schultz started by briefing me on the differences between the Beaver and the previous seaplanes I’d flown, and we discussed power settings and procedures.  Pretty much the same thing you’d expect during a checkout in any new airplane.

The first really different thing I noticed during our flight was that the flight controls were extremely light, even with no airflow across the control surfaces.  Jeremy told me that the control feel would remain very light – fingertip light – throughout the flight.  In addition, the oil fill tube and dipstick is actually in the cockpit, and the acceptable oil range is 4.5 to 6 – GALLONS!  We started the engine, and that isn’t done the normal way, either.  Prime, as usual (though the primer is on the doorsill to the pilot’s left), master on, pump the throttle a couple of times and then BARELY crack it open, propeller to high RPM, and mixture rich.  Sounds pretty normal up to this point, then you lift the starter switch and after four or five blades go by, switch the mags to both – which is a little different, but pretty normal for a radial engine.  Then things start getting weird.  It takes a LONG time to warm up 6 gallons of oil, so the standard procedure (the plane is tied down, remember) is to leave the plane idling for about 10 minutes and come back to find the oil temp at 100 or higher.  Don’t do this with a West Valley plane!! 

Setting the power for the run up isn’t completely scientific, but it’s way cool.  At low power settings, (mixture brutally leaned, and carb heat on) the engine doesn’t idle smoothly, but makes a rhythmic sound that Jeremy described as, “potato”.  Or perhaps “potatoe” if you’re Dan Quayle, oops, another digression.  At any rate, when idle is set correctly, the engine will call out “potato” about once per second.  And of course, it changes a bit as the engine warms up, but the sound was so cool, that I stayed with the plane while it warmed up – radials sound great!  For ten minutes, I listened to the “potato rhythm”.  Love it!

Finally warmed up, we turned the engine off, untied the plane, shoved off, and fired up the plane to taxi away from the dock.  With the water rudders down (it takes two hands to lower them), the plane taxies about the same as a 206, but the conditions were calm, so things might have been a bit different had there been more wind – this thing has a lot of surface area to get pushed around.  The mag check with wheel all the way aft results in a nose up attitude and needs a bit of right rudder to keep from drifting off to the left. 

We did a 360 turn at low power to clear the area for takeoff, and then brought the power in for a step taxi to kind of explore the feel on the step – important for both takeoff and landing.  The controls were still amazingly light, even the push to bring the nose down for the step taxi.  The Beaver has a HUGE sweet spot – the pitch attitude at which the plane accelerates best to takeoff speed.  Some planes have very tight sweet spots, but not the Beaver.

The weather was nice by Seattle standards, which means it wasn’t raining, but the skies were overcast at about 300 ft – plenty of altitude for a floatplane.  I mean, we weren’t going to do stalls, but we could takeoff, climb to “altitude”, turn, and land back on the water – what more could I want?  Most landings were glassy water landings, which means you establish the landing attitude and set up a 100 foot per minute descent, then when you see spray out to the side, you know you’re on the water, and you reduce power if you want to come to a stop, or add power if you want to stay up and step taxi. 

I had a complete and total blast, and will try to do it again the next time I find myself in Seattle.

Maybe someday we’ll get a seaplane in our club.


David Vital, Director of Maintenance

Adjusting Fuel Systems

Aircraft engines need a lot of adjustments to run properly.  One area that doesn’t get a lot of attention is how an engine is set to idle properly.  The numbers quoted in this article are “typical” and definitely do not apply to all airplanes, so please take this into consideration when listening to the engine idle on your next flight. These adjustments are made seasonally. Planes run richer in the summer and leaner in the winter. Most planes need minor adjustments as the season changes.  

There are several variables that can and should be set when setting up an engine idle.  First is the actual idle speed of the engine.  Typical idle speeds are in the 500-800 RPM range depending upon a whole range of individual circumstances.  Ideally the idle speed is set as low as practical such that the engine will tick over smoothly and not cough and stop. 

Next, the idle mixture can be set.  The idle mixture should be with the mixture control full forward rich. After making a setting, the mixture control should be smoothly pulled back towards lean and the engine should pick up about 50 RPM before dropping back down.  While doing the mixture pullback if the engine picks up more than 50 RPM it means that the mixture is too rich at the idle setting.  If the engine speed simply drops off when pulling the mixture back then the idle mixture setting is probably too lean.  Another test at this point is to test the throttle responsiveness.  With the mixture set to full rich, “poking” the throttle gently forward should produce an instant and smooth increase in engine speed i.e. good responsiveness to the throttle.  If there is a hesitation, it means that the idle mixture needs further adjustment.  The other thing that will happen when fiddling with the idle mixture is that it will affect the idle speed so that variable might need a subsequent adjustment.

Finally, in some cases it is appropriate and possible to adjust the fuel pressure at idle.  Typical idle fuel pressures are in the order of 7-10 psi, whereas fuel pressure at higher powers might be 20-25 psi.  This adjustment requires the temporary addition of a fuel pressure gauge to the engine while making this engine adjustment.  Setting the fuel pressure is also likely to affect the mixture and also the idle speed.  And so the adjustments go on until the idle fuel pressure is correct, the idle speed is good, the idle mixture is correct, and the throttle responsiveness is appropriate from idle to a higher power setting. 

Student and New Pilot Group

San Carlos Airport Operations

The Student and New Pilot group met at the San Carlos Airport Office this past week. These meetings have been attracting various pilots from the Bay Area that meet to share information and experiences. One of the topics of this month’s meeting was airport operations – specifically at San Carlos.  The group was treated to a guest speaker, Debra Jean Cullen otherwise known as ‘DJ’.  ‘DJ’ is an airport operations specialist for San Mateo County’s two airports, KSQL and KHAF.  She has worked throughout the aviation industry as a flight attendant for America West, City Manager for Western Pacific and Frontier airlines, and in airport operations for the city of San Jose.

‘DJ’ explained to our group a bit about her background as well as her daily roles and responsibilities. She included a number of other interesting facts including the important role the San Carlos Airport plays in our community and that the San Carlos airport staff rotates between the two airports on a regular basis.   DJ’s activities are numerous from performing runway inspections, repairing runway and taxi lights, and even   to cutting the huge tracts of grass at Half Moon Bay airport.  She wears a handheld and monitors the tower frequency so that she able to respond at a moment’s notice if required.  ‘DJ’ shared with us that one of her favorite jobs at the airport is to change the light bulb in the airport rotating beacon - she likes to climb up the tower. Sadly, as ‘DJ’ informed us, the bulb only needs replacing once every two to three years.  DJ emphasized that customer service is a top priority for the airport staff, be it assisting pilots or responding to nearby residents who have noise complaints.  After DJ’s discussion she entertained a number of questions. The group would like to thank ‘DJ’ for coming to speak to our group. Please give her and her colleagues a wave whenever you see them out and about the airport - they are doing us all a great service!

Our next topic of discussion was when you should pay a visit to your AME when you experience any changes to your general health. The group also discussed some advanced planning you might wish to consider to make the visit go more smoothly and so that you do not experience any unexpected ‘turbulence’.   Members of the group shared their individual experiences of what happened when they were diagnosed with ailments such as hypertension.

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 rotates meeting locations so check the announcement for the location of our next meeting on June 3rd at 7:00 PM.

Future topics of discussion will include:

·       Pre-flight challenge – a fun event to test you preflight observations skills with an aircraft with some issues – can you find them?

·       Private Pilot Checkride – what to expect

·       Instrument rating – why, when, who and what – discussion from current instrument students and recent instrument rated pilots

·       Angel Flights – what they are and how to get involved

·       Pilot gadgets

·       Trip report; KAVX, O86

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:

Please contact or  if you would like additional information.

WOW – Women of West Valley Flying Club 

Flyout to Quincy - Gansner (2O1), June 22 at noon

Please join the WOW group for a flyout to Gansner, with a mile walk into the quaint town of Quincy for a wonderful lunch at Morning Thunder.  The runway is 4105’ but the field elevation is 3419’.  If you are flying a West Valley aircraft, you will either need a mountain checkout, or bring your CFI along.  Look for more information to be posted at the club soon.  All are welcome!

Matt Debsky, Aircraft Owner WVFC

Landing Energy

At some point in our flying careers, most of us have been told or have thought about energy management in flying. There are constant transformations between potential energy (altitude and chemical being most prominent types) and kinetic energy.  That is, at the same power setting and over short periods of time, if you pull back on the yoke you will gain altitude at the expense of airspeed.  Or, you can maintain the same airspeed and increase altitude by increasing the throttle, converting the stored energy in the fuel to altitude.  (These ideas and many more are expounded upon in the web site "See How It Flies."

One of the places where this transformation is most crucial is during landing.  The Pilots Operating Handbook or Approved Flight Manual for the model of an airplane gives a speed or range of speeds at which to fly the final approach.  In the absence of this, the FAA recommends 1.3 * Vso (the power-off stall speed in landing configuration).  Where does this number come from?  Since we want the airplane to stop flying just before we touchdown, why don't we come in at a slower speed, so that there's less airspeed to "bleed off" and we don't use up as much of the runway?  The reason for this is the energy conversion taking place during the roundout and flare.

On final approach, the airplane is descending at a few hundred feet per minute.  Given the weight of the airplane, the airplane has a lot of kinetic energy, moving toward the ground.  As the airplane nears the ground, the movement toward the ground needs to be stopped.  The energy that will be used to stop the airplane from descending is its forward kinetic energy.  As the angle of attack is increased in the roundout and flare without adding power, the airplane gives up some of its airspeed to induced drag in producing the lift to stop the airplane from descending.  If all goes well, the airplane rounds out a foot or two above the runway with a vertical speed of 0 feet per minute.  Airspeed continues to be lost and the airplane eventually stops flying.

So, what happens if the airspeed is too low?  If airspeed is too low when the roundout begins, the airplane does not have enough total energy to arrest the descent.  As the roundout continues, the plane ends up in a stall (or very near a stall) before the vertical speed is zero.  Without steps to mitigate this, the result is a very hard landing or a bounce.  At this point, the best option is to go around, lest the plane begin to porpoise.

If the lower airspeed is noticed on final, lowering the nose will restore the airspeed to the desired value.  If the plane was flying the correct glideslope at the too-slow airspeed, an addition of power will be necessary.  If the pilot had set a correct power but was flying too slowly, the airplane may be above the glideslope and lowering the nose will increase airspeed and restore the correct downward path.  There is no way to increase airspeed and not increase the rate of descent without converting some other source of potential energy; that is, adding power.

As I mentioned last month in my article on learning to fly tailwheels, this energy management comes to the forefront when doing wheel landings.  As the airplane nears the runway, the desire is to keep the same flight attitude yet arrest the descent.  The only way to do this is by adding power.  In this case, instead of converting airspeed to stop the descent, power is added and the airspeed remains the same.  Then, airspeed is bled off during the rollout and the lowering of the tailwheel.

When you're wondering why it's important to be going faster on final and it's not enough just to be flying above stall speed, remember the reason for that extra speed.  It's energy that will be used to stop your descent and make the squeaker of a landing that will impress your passengers.