Ice & snow – it just could kill you!

It’s getting to that time of year again when you can be sure that a pilot somewhere will be caught out by lack of  Winter Wisdom. Always respect ice and snow, it doesn’t take much of either to turn your ignorance into a very serious accident. Over the years many experienced professionals have been caught out by ice and snow by taking a chance when they should have known much better.

‘Tests have shown that frost, ice or snow with the thickness and surface roughness of medium or course sandpaper reduces lift by as much as 30% and increases drag by 40%. Even a small area can significantly affect the airflow, particularly on a laminar flow wing.’

The above is from one of the CAA’s excellent Safety Sense leaflets which sadly many pilots never seem to read.

Here is the link

From the US

Baby, it’s cold outside

BY ROBERT N. ROSSIER (From AOPA Flight Training, November 1994.)

It was a calm day in early December, 9,000 scattered and visibility 10, when the pilot and two passengers departed from Fort Collins, Colo., in a Grumman AA-5B Tiger. According to the pilot, the aircraft used more than twice the normal runway for takeoff.

Soon after takeoff, the stall warning horn sounded continuously and the pilot could no longer maintain altitude. The aircraft struck a road sign .5 miles from the runway as the pilot attempted a forced landing on a highway median. The Grumman finally came to rest on a highway exit.

The accident investigator noted that the entire surface of the wings and horizontal stabilizer were covered with rough ice. According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report, the 1,100-hour pilot said the ice on the surface of the airfoils had no bearing on the accident. For most pilots, the sight of ice on the wings sends shivers down their spines. Somehow, this unfortunate pilot had missed the cue.

With the onset of winter, pilots are reminded of the need to clean the wings and control surfaces of any accumulations of ice and snow because they can dramatically alter the airfoil and affect the ability to develop lift. Even something as seemingly innocuous as frost will spoil aerodynamic lift as sure as a thick coating of rough ice. Particularly on cold evenings, frost can form quickly, and disaster can strike suddenly.

It was a clear night when the pilot of a Mooney M20C and his three passengers prepared for departure from St. Marys, Pa. The pilot wanted to have the aircraft deiced, but the driver of the fuel truck told him the airport had no deicing fluid. Using credit cards and paper towels, the pilot and passengers tried to remove the frost. According to one witness, the frost reformed on the wings as quickly as they scraped it off.

The pilot attempted to take off just after 9 p.m. A witness said the takeoff roll was very long. Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft entered a steep bank and descent. It crashed into the trees near the airport and burst into flames. All aboard were killed.

Flight Control Problems

Ice, snow, and frost don’t just affect the ability of airfoils to generate lift. The additional weight can unbalance control surfaces, which leads to a dangerous aerodynamic condition called flutter. Such was probably the case in the following accident.

A lone pilot on a personal flight to Columbia, Tenn., took off from Nashville in his Cessna 206 at approximately 4:20 p.m. on a February afternoon. According to a line worker, the pilot took off with a half-inch of solid ice on the top surfaces of the wings.

The pilot experienced a severe vibration that shook the entire aircraft soon after departure. He reduced power and the vibration subsided. Then he noticed an aileron control problem and saw that the left wing tip was moving up and down. Fearing imminent disaster, he made an emergency landing in a nearby field.

An investigation of the aircraft found that both ailerons had traveled beyond their limits and were bent, and the left wing main structure was fractured. Fortunately, it had held together long enough to get the pilot safely on the ground.

Although there are no specific regulations in Federal Aviation Regulation (FAR) Part 91 regarding aircraft operation with ice, snow, or frost on the aircraft, FAR Part 135, which regulates air taxi and commercial operators, does provide specific guidance that pilots operating under Part 91 should consider.

The pilot of a Lake amphibian departed Avon, N.Y., on a clear day in late March. During the preflight, he noted that the elevator would not move, but it seemed to function normally after the pilot applied some external heat. Somewhere enroute to Swanton, Vt., the pilot found that he was again unable to move the elevator. Fortunately, the elevator trim control was functional, and he was able to control the aircraft.

On final approach, the aircraft caught a gust of wind and the nose pitched down. The pilot was unable to regain control and the Lake crashed short of the runway. When the investigator examined the wreckage, he found that solid ice had formed in the hull, encasing the elevator control push-pull rod, making it immovable. The aircraft was destroyed in the crash, and the pilot was seriously injured.

This type of problem is not as uncommon as you might think. The pilot of the Lake amphibian probably figured that after the heating during preflight, the control problem was solved. But remember that unless all the water and moisture is removed in the process, the problem can recur as soon as the aircraft is operated again in freezing temperatures.

Enroute Icing Problems

Ice, snow, and frost are not just a problem to be considered during preflight inspections. Pilots are required to operate aircraft only in the conditions for which the aircraft is certificated. And even if an aircraft is approved for flight in known icing conditions, it’s generally a good idea to avoid such situations.

There are several excellent reasons to avoid flight in icing conditions. Ice can form on the pitot tube and static vent, rendering the airspeed indicator, altimeter, and vertical speed indicator (VSI) inoperative. It can build up on antennas, distort radio signals, and result in loss of navigational and communication capabilities.

When ice accumulates on the wings, it alters the shape of the airfoil, reduces the amount of lift produced, and increases the stall speed. Combine this with the increased weight of the aircraft and the reduced efficiency of an ice-covered propeller, and an aircraft can quickly become a block of ice hurtling toward the ground.

Even when operating aircraft equipped with deice or anti-ice equipment, pilots must understand the limitations of the equipment. Most systems only remove ice from specific, critical locations, such as the leading edges of the wings, windshield, and propellers. That leaves plenty of airframe and appendages, including the vertical and horizontal stabilizers, upon which ice can form. Although deice boots may remove ice from the leading edges, ice can still accumulate on other portions of the wing. This can be a problem, particularly during departure and approach phases of flight, when the aircraft is operating at a low airspeed and a high angle of attack.

Take, for example, the Cessna 310 making an ASR (airport surveillance radar) instrument approach into Lubbock, Texas, one foggy December afternoon. The ceiling was partially obscured, 400 feet broken, and the pilot was flying from the right seat. His passenger, a rated private pilot, was in the left seat.

The twin-engine Cessna began accumulating ice during the approach, and the pilot activated the deicing equipment several times, removing ice from the wing leading edges and props. The aircraft broke out of the clouds at 400 feet and, due to the heavy ice accumulation, continued a high rate of descent.

As is typical with many deicing systems, only the left side of the windshield had a window heater, so the pilot’s visibility through the right windshield was restricted during the final approach. The pilot made a hard landing, lost directional control, and crashed into a concrete wall. Fortunately, neither the pilot nor the passenger were injured.

According to the Airman’s Information Manual, the most severe in-flight structural icing conditions occur when it’s 0?C and colder. Although it can occur in clear skies, icing is most prevalent in conditions of visible moisture, such as in clouds.

A thorough evaluation of cloud bases and tops along with temperatures aloft can be an important preflight consideration. But remember that multiple icing levels are possible, and even if you can safely fly above icing conditions, you may be required to make an approach through them. The consequences of even a short exposure to icing conditions can be disastrous, to say nothing of what could accumulate during a lengthy hold or a missed approach procedure.

All clouds at subfreezing temperatures have the potential for ice formation, but the type of ice formed depends on several factors, including water droplet size and distribution, and the aerodynamic effects of the aircraft. There are no hard-and-fast rules that determine whether ice will or will not form in specific conditions.

Ice comes basically in three varieties: rime ice, clear ice, and a mixture of the two. Rime ice is brittle and frost-like. It usually forms in conditions where the droplet sizes are small, such as in stratus clouds and light drizzle. Air is trapped within the ice as it forms, giving it a white or milky appearance. It primarily accumulates on wing leading edges and the front of anything projecting into the airstream, such as landing gear, antennas, and horizontal and vertical stabilizers. Its rough shape is particularly effective in reducing aerodynamic efficiency, but due to its brittle nature, it is more easily removed than clear ice.

Clear ice forms when water droplets spread out on the surface before freezing. The result is a clear, hard ice that adheres to all areas of the airframe and is very difficult to remove. It generally forms in rain and cumuliform clouds, and it can accumulate quite rapidly.

If icing conditions are encountered in flight, take action immediately. A 180-degree turn, climb, descent, or some combination of these maneuvers is recommended. If you’re flying under instrument flight rules (IFR), don’t let ATC push you into continuing on or waiting before taking evasive action. If necessary, declare an emergency and do what you must to get out of the ice. Icing can build tremendously fast, disabling aircraft in minutes, or in some cases, just seconds.

Compounding the errors

The pilot of a Piper Saratoga took off IFR with two passengers from Lima, Ohio, one dark night in February. Visibility was 4 miles in fog, the ceiling was 800 feet broken, and a heavy wet snow was falling. The pilot said he cleared the snow off the wings, but not off the top of the T-tail.

Slush from the runway was thrown up and over the aircraft during the takeoff roll, but he continued and climbed to 1,100 feet mean sea level (MSL). At this point, the airspeed decayed to about 60 knots and the landing gear automatically extended. The pilot maintained control of the aircraft by instrument references and crashed in a nearby field. Miraculously, nobody was injured.

Winter flying poses a number of hazards to pilots, and the problems of ice, snow, and frost are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. But with proper training, knowledge, and judgment, pilots can avoid the perils and pitfalls and effectively deal with the demons of winter.

Bob Rossier holds a single and multi-engine land ATP certificate, commercial single-engine seaplane certificate, and instrument and multi-engine instructor certificates. He’s an active flight instructor and an FAA accident prevention counselor.

Ex 18 Cross Country Flying – Exit & Entry Point Navigation

Exercise 18 Exit & Entry Point Navigation

AIM To establish exit and entry points to and from departure and destination airfields.

To minimise the workload during an airfield exit and an airfield entry making the task simpler and safer

The chosen route is Sleap to Wolverhampton (Halfpenny Green). It  would be very easy to just draw a straight line on the chart and fly directly to both airfields. Many years ago  I developed what I call:

Exit  & Entry point cross country flying

This enables students to fly a more accurate and relaxing cross country with more attention given to lookout and airfield procedures.


In the 70s and 80s I developed a style of navigating I called ‘exit and entry point naviagtion’, mainly because of problems I noticed students having in the Elstree and Shobdon areas. Shobdon in particular seemed to be difficult for students to find due to the position it is sited in and its narrow footprint with only one runway and its clubhouse, tower and hangar being situated together and blending into the surroundings extremely well. I also felt that the old Tiger Moth instructor habit of climbing into the overhead to set course was so wasteful of fuel, created a extra traffic hazard and was just plain unessecarry and outdated (like many other procedures and myth’s that are relics from the 50s).

My students were briefed to use Leominster as an exit & entry point mainly because they could all find Leominster every time and if they couldn’t it was time to give up! All of a sudden all my students had no trouble at all in locating the field and even I found it easier! The basis of this is that the closer together your last known accurate fix of position is to the next one, the more accurate your going to be at the next fix, its just common sense really!

So my routing will be,  Sleap – Shrewsbury (exit point)  to Bridgnorth (entry point) – Halfpenny Green

Having an exit point means after take off means all we have to do is fly to that exit point, it doesn’t matter what runway we take off on or how we change our routing in the ATZ, our cross country starts at the exit point. Hopefully you will have used this exit point several times before so will know it and how to get to it by this stage anyway. So many students forget to start their watches at airborne too (not something you really want to be doing on take off anyway) but with an exit point you start the watch there and that makes it so much easier! You also know you are starting your cross country bang on track.

An exit or entry point ideally is a prominent point (town etc) about 6 nautical miles away from the airfield. By the time you get to your exit point you should be at your selected en route altitude too. Some instructors teach climbing to overhead the airfield and then set course. I think this is rather out of date and a pointless exercise which is also a waste of time and money. Of course at some airfields this is not possible anyway so what are you going to do then? Getting away from the area of where you are most likely to conflict with other traffic, Eg the circuit and ATZ, makes sense too, so why spend  5 minutes pointlessly climbing in it? There you are you see, I’ve just saved you £10 to £15 at each airfield!

OK, now entry points. When you fly Sleap – Halfpenny Green you’re goal will be getting to Halfpenny Green, my goal will be getting to Bridgnorth and the next goal is then getting to HG.  I know if I can find Bridgnorth Ive cracked it! Nothing is as worse as to be still map reading and sailing through the ATZ amongst other circuit traffic, which I have seen happen many times. Its far more relaxing to get to a known point away from the circuit, put the map down and just point and fly to the airfield. Having an entry point means our cross country has ended there and you’re going to be very unlucky if you cannot fly to or even see the airfield from 6 miles away! We also have a good point to announce our arrival from over the radio.

You can also, if you are not sure of something, orbit your entry point. Perhaps you couldn’t get a radio call in on time. perhaps you just want to orientate yourself in regard to which runway you will land on and how you will approach. Use your entry point like a hold, to buy time. Again its far better to hold and circle rather than arriving into the middle of a busy ATZ still requesting joining instructions or trying to complete your joining checks! It also helps if you ever get that dreaded call from ATC, ” remain clear of the ATZ at this time”.

There is of course nothing to stop you routing from the entry point to overhead the airfield. I have no problem with that, indeed if you feel unsure about an airfield, perhaps it has a complicated array of runways, or a very busy circuit, by all means join overhead and take your time, nothing to stop you orbiting in the overhead till you are ready to commence descent but remember all turns in the direction of circuit and keep a very good lookout. Of course sometimes ATC may instruct you to join overhead (AFIS or A/G cannot instruct you to do anything).

Also be aware that many airfields do not permit overhead joins, check the AIP before flight!

Just one final point, even if its ATC, you are VFR and that means you are responsible for separating yourself from other traffic so keep a very good LOOKOUT!

All in all exit and entry point navigation makes cross country safer and easier I believe-give it a try!

Pressure Altimeters – Part 1

For Sophie

Let’s talk altimeters, I am assuming you already understand altimeter settings such as QNH, QNE, QFE & Regional QNH.

The pressure altimeter is a just an aneroid capsule (as found in a weather barometer) inside an air tight box. The capsule is connected to levers which present the pilot with an indication of height or altitude.

Most altimeters are 3 lever instruments although most students never seem to be taught about the 3rd lever which indicates tens of thousands.

Most 3 lever altimeters have a 10,00 feet window which shews hatching when the aircraft is below 10,000 feet.

Although the altimeter box is airtight it has a tapping which takes a pipe (two in some aircraft) to the static vent or port(s) which is normally located on the side of the fuselage although it can sometimes form part of the pitot tube assembly as in the Piper Cherokees.Pitot tubes are dealt with under airspeed indicators.

The static vent also provides static air pressure to the other two pressure instruments, the VSI & ASI. The static vent is positioned at a point on the side of the aircraft which will give static pressure even though the aircraft is in the air flying at speed. To work correctly, the hole (static vent), must be clear and the area immediately around it must be smooth (no paint peeling or surface roughness).

Ice blockage is very serious and a major hazard to a static vent and a pressure altimeter.

Any total blockage will render the altimeter useless as the rest of the system is pressure tight. If a system blockage occurs at 2000 feet the altimeter will continue to read 2000 feet despite whatever altitude the aircraft  climbs or descends to.

This is a three point altimeter shewing 10,180 with the 10,000ft hatching INCORRECTLY shewing. This should not be visible above 10,000 feet.

Some systems are fitted with what is called an alternative static source, in the Piper Aztec for instance it is below and underneath the instrument panel. An alternate static source, if fitted, must be in the cockpit so the pilot can reach it. In the absence of an alternate  static source the glass on the VSI can be levered out with a screwdriver or even broken. This allows static cockpit pressure into the static system containing the altimeter, VSI and ASI. This action would only normally be a last resource when flying in IMC, you would be very unpopular at the flying school if you did this while flying circuits!

Notice on the altimeter on the right that its barometric subscale is in INCHES this is the setting that all American aircraft use. In the UK and Europe we use millibars although after the 17th November 2011 millibars with be replaced by HECTOPASCAL (hPa). As 1 millibar = 1 hectopascal it is only a word replacement.


During the preflight inspection any covers over the pitot tube and static vent should be removed and the orifices checked as far as possible for blockage. Remember insects can get into these holes and as I write this there is a mysterious case of sabotage being alleged at an airfield where a pitot tube has been found with glue in it!

Inside the cockpit we check the glasses of all the instruments and their faces for obvious damage.


Obtain the latest QNH from ATC and check the altimeter against the published altimeter checking point, which hopefully you will be sitting on! This point is normally the apron but information of where it is and how high it is is found in the IAIP AGA 2 – 8 or what in simple days of old was called the UK Air Pilot. You can access this information via the NATS website.

The National Air Traffic website is living proof of how to make a website as user unfriendly as possible. It’s little wonder guides published by Pooleys etc. are so popular as trying to navigate this site takes quite a lot of practice. Still persevere because this is the definitive document and you need to be familiar with it if you take aviation seriously!

You need the aerodrome information-specific page then select your aerodrome = SHOREHAM. Then go to AGA 2.8 and you will see the elevation of the altimeter check point and its position. It is the apron and it is 6 feet amsl. Note, for smaller airfields like  Shobdon & Sleap there is no designated altimeter checkpoint you just have to base it on the aerodrome reference point (usually the highest point on the manoevring area) and that is the elevation shewn on your aeronautical chart.

Your altimeter should be within tolerance. Various organisations have different ideas of what these tolerances should be. The FAA says that a pressure altimeter should be within + or – 75 feet, although I have also seen figures of 25 feet and 85 feet used too. 75 feet is what we use. Your flying school, if it’s a decent one, should have the limits they wish to use published somewhere but my guess is if you ask 3 different instructors you will probably get three different answers!

For a first flight of the day check which is called a  CHECK A we would also check:


Say it as you do it.

Then set your altimeter to zero and note the reading off the barometric scale, lets say it’s  1000 hPa, then move it to 10 hPa higher to 1010 hPa and your altimeter should now read between 270 and 300 feet.
The reason for that is that in the standard atmosphere at sea level a hPa is = to approximately 27 feet. 30 feet is usually used for calculations in examinations. You do need to understand that relationship, so learn it!

If none of this has been pointed out to you at this stage of your flying instruction in the circuit you can be assured that you school is not doing its job properly.

In part two I will discuss altimeter errors

Cross country planning – part 1

One of the easiest parts of the PPL is the cross country, after all you only have sit there, fat, dumb and happy and look out of the window! Strange then that students, and even instructors, tie themselves up in knots with this very simple exercise.

Lets start at the beginning.

Planning on the ground is everything with cross country flying – a cockpit in a light aircraft is not the best place to have to completely plan a new route or make a major adjustment to an existing one.

We need to consider some important planning aspects before flight, let’s start with 3 essential items:





Obtaining the latest aerodrome forecasts (TAF) and actual reports (METAR), together with en-route weather information are essential for any cross country flight. Always ensure the information you obtain is current. On one particular internet site the TAF and METAR for Birmingham was for a long time 9 months out of date!  I have also seen people mistakenly plan cross countries with yesterdays weather!

I always work on the premise that forecast Wx is valid for 3 hours only.

I sacked an instructor once for trying to send a student on a qualifying cross country with just a Metar for the two destinations, no forecast at all, ( the forecast in fact was out of limits) incredulous!  A year later an instructor on the same airfield sent a student on a QXC and he spun in on the approach in an 8/8th cloud base at 200 feet and was killed.

For student solo cross country our minima is virtually CAVOK – max wind speed 15kts, max crosswind 10 kts and no cloud below enroute safety altitude. All flights must be planned to land 1 hour 30 minutes before sunset.

Make sure you take enroute weather into consideration too.


It’s embarrassing on a student cross country to find out that your destination airfield has an air display with you arriving centre stage! And oh yes, it has been done, several times! I can also remember a student flying to an airfield where it had closed for the day for motorcycle racing! You must check the notams before flight, not only the destination but your alternates too and enroute – flying through the national gliding championships can really spoil you day!


Get away from this ‘half tanks’, ‘full tanks’ and ‘Christ the fuel is the low’ type of fuel planning, be professional. Making off the cuff statements like, “well you only need xyz amount of fuel to go to Clipton Shagsbury and back” isn’t professional planning, it’s sloppy planning. By all means load full tanks (if it doesn’t have a weight penalty) but don’t just plan a flight on full tanks its a very bad habit to get into!

Work backwards! Consider this, you’ve just had the worst cross country experience of your life and you are sitting at the diversion airfield with 30 minutes fuel left in the tanks,  having a coffee in the airfield cafe complimenting yourself on your PRE FLIGHT PLANNING.

Now isn’t that a lot better than being in a farmer’s field up the road with the local fire brigade trying to cut you out of the wreckage! Always think about how much absolute minimum fuel you would really like to end up with in the tanks, on the ground after an emergency diversion and then work backwards to get to that point and that’s how much fuel you need!

Running out of fuel, you think I am making it up? I can remember one very experienced PPL taking a Cessna 150 aircraft with long range tanks from Coventry to Liverpool and back. Except he never made in back, he ran out of fuel and landed on the roof of a factory at night on the approach to runway 15 at Birmingham. Great picture of the fire brigade trying to get him down on the front page of the local paper!

Even airliners run out  fuel, in 1953 an Aer Lingus DC3 from Dublin to Birmingham landed in a farmers field near Alcester after it ran out of fuel in the descent for Birmingham.

An Alidair Vickers Viscount ran out of fuel on the approach to Exeter and again landed in a field.

A BMI Argonaut on the approach to Manchester crashed short of the runway in Stockport after running out of fuel.

The moral of all these stories is very simple: You need to load enough fuel for the flight and diversion and manage that fuel.

So again going back to sitting in that cafe, how much fuel would you like to know are in your tanks now as an absolute minimum to land. My choice is 30 minutes – I never ever want to be in the air with 25 minutes fuel left in a light aircraft. I want to be landing with a GUARANTEED 30 minutes fuel left as an absolute minimum and  that is AFTER an emergency diversion. For a normal flight I would always expect to land with at least 45 minutes fuel minimum ( we say 1 hour for students)

So we now need to consider this for an aircraft that burns five gallons per hour at normal cruise power setting, mixture full rich, at a speed of IAS 90 kts (still air)

Taxy fuel  1 gall

Flight fuel Sleap- Halfpenny Green – 20 minutes =  2 galls

10 % contingency = 1 gallon

Circuit & land = 1 gallon

Diversion fuel, either back to Sleap or Wellesbourne = 2 gallons

Circuit & land = 1 gallon

Plus min 30 mins fuel left or 1 hour for students 3 galls or 5 gallon.

Total minimum fuel on board for engine start = 13 gallons

Also consider that you need the same amount of fuel to go back from Halfpenny Green. So working backwards if you do not refuel at HG you need to add the total forecast fuel burn to your 13 gallons making 18 galls(inc cont). So if we set off with 18 galls from Sleap all should be well! Unless of course you get lost enroute, yes trust me to spoil it for you but you know some people do get lost and that’s why I always add an extra 30 minutes fuel to a student cross country!

OK you have got the fuel, really?  How do you know how much fuel is in those tanks. Remember my adage, never trust one man, one instrument, one gauge or one engine. In the technical log there should be a fuel log which is crossed checked against aircraft time in the air and fuel loaded. For instance if you have a 20 gallon tank(useable) and an aircraft that burns on average 5 gph after 3 hours flying you expect to load 15 gallons back into that tank to bring it to full tanks (if you started with full tanks). If you load say, 19 gallons into it-you have an error or a problem! Without some form of reconciliation like this you cannot cross check fuel contents-so you are back to ‘one gauge’ territory and I don’t like it! Every aircraft should have a properly calibrated dip stick as this is the most reliable way of checking fuel contents. Do not fly aircraft with faulty fuel gauges, your life could literally depend on those gauges. Landing on a factory roof at night is definitely not the way to end a flight although it makes for a very interesting log book entry!

Route & airfields next

Changes in flying instruction over the last 30 years

Changes in flying instruction over the last 30 years.

A question posed by Dick in the USA via Sporty’s.

It is a very good question Dick! I have worked in 10 flying schools and have owned one and been CFI in three of them in that period.

Apart from the use of headsets and intercoms, the only real change is in the standard of training material available to learn to fly with, the books, the CDs etc.. The same poor PPL instructional teaching standards in the UK still exist as existed when I started instructing in 1974.

Teaching is a vocation and the best teachers are always vocational. If you do not have that vocation you are never going to be a top instructor producing top students but with adequate supervision and mentoring you can still be a good instructor. In my experience too many flying instructors are merely minders, commentators and  supervisors, the main source of progress originates from the students genetic ability to learn new tasks, something we should praise mankind for, rather than individual instructors!

For us in the UK I would like to see the establishment of the high standard dedicated CFI (that’s our Chief Flying Instructor-the main man in charge of the school!) These CFIs should be above average instructors and have a 24 or 12 monthly dedicated CFI flight and ground checks with a government examiner, not one of their choice either, done on what we call ‘The Old Boy Network’ in the UK! The school the CFI is attached to should be checked thoroughly at the same time including at least one sample pupil.

The CFI sets the standard and should be fully accountable and responsible for the schools standards. The only way to drive up standards is to inspect and check independently!

(please note in the UK a CFI is the person in charge of a flying school)

Ask Captain Jon

Are you struggling to understand Coriolis?

Many students have problems understanding the Coriolis effect when studying meteorology. It’s really quite simple but consider two things:

It is not a force, it is an effect.

It is APPARENT movement.

These three excellent videos should help you understand the EFFECT and the APPARENT movement.

Anyone Fancy a Low Level Steep Turn?

Two accidents that happened within a few miles of each other in the 1970s shew the dangers of making steep turns near the ground. The first  is loss of control following a steep turn and the second a stall in a steep turn.

In this accident the pilot, Prince William of Gloucester,  was killed in an air race at Halfpenny Green.

This next one was at the former Wolverhampton airfield and is weather related, it contains many lessons and a series of error chains. This accident was the final nail in the coffin of Wolverhampton (Pendeford) Aerodrome which closed soon afterwards.

Always remember the stalling speed increases at the square root of the total wing loading (weight)

60 degree bank turn = 2g  – square root of 2 = 1.414 so 41% increase in stall speed. That’s above your approach speed in most aircraft-think about it!

Just as you are taking off the door opens – what do you do?

You rotate for take off and the door or hatch opens , what do you do?

A twin engined Piper Aztec had completed its C of A maintenance check at Glenrothes and was due to be flown on the required C of A air test with a pilot & observer (no other passengers are supposed to be carried). The commander was the owner of the engineering facility and elected to take 5 of his engineers with him on the C of A air test. On rotation for take off the forward hatch opened fully. The pilot, thinking the hatch would contact the propeller, elected to shut the engine down on the side that the hatch had opened. After shutting the engine down the pilot lost control of the aircraft which stalled and dropped a wing crashing into the ground. All 5 engineers were killed, the pilot survived. Piper later advised that, as stated in the flight manual, the hatch will not contact the propeller if it opens in flight.

Can you see how this tragic error chain accident started? Not taking any notice of the rules on C of A air tests, not completing a proper pre-flight inspection (absolutely essential after maintenance), not knowing the aircraft, making a totally wrong decision based on ignorance and finally not being able to handle the aircraft on one engine.

It was after this tragic accident over 25 years ago that I was prompted to introduce an exercise of ‘door opening on take off’, as one of the pre solo emergency procedures that must be signed off before first solo. Quite a few questioned the point of this at the time so many years later the accident described below proved the reasoning behind my decision. interestingly I had flown the aircraft in question (G-BAZS) when it was brand new in 1973 at the Channel Islands Aero Club in Jersey.

Captain Jon with G-BAZS at Jersey

Cessna F150L, G-BAZS

Date & Time (UTC): 12 April 1997 at 1115 hrs
Location: Sherburn-In-Elmet Aerodrome, Leeds
Persons on Board: Crew – 1 – Passengers – None
Injuries: Crew – None – Passengers – N/A
Nature of Damage: Damage to nose landing gear, propeller, engine and
mounting and forward fuselage
Commander’s Licence: Student Pilot
Commander’s Age: 34 years
Commander’s Flying Experience: 32 hours (all on type)
Last 90 days – 6 hours
Last 28 days – 3 hours

The student pilot had completed her first solo flight on 8 March1997. Adverse weather conditions prevented any further solo flying until the day of the accident. The pilot had successfully completed 0.6 hours dual flying with four circuits for Runway 29L at Sherburn. The pilot was then briefed by her instructor to complete one solo circuit. The instructor then left the aircraft and
closed the right hand door.
During the take-off run, the aircraft hopped twice before becoming airborne to a height of about
four feet. The pilot reported that the passenger door came open at this time. The pilot made
an unsuccessful attempt to close it, then elected to pitch the aircraft nose down in an attempt to land
back on the runway. On touchdown the nose landing gear collapsed. The aircraft came to rest upright on its nose.
The pilot commented that she had not received any instruction on the action to be taken in the event of a door coming open inflight, prior to this event.

The question is-HAVE YOU?