Learning to land an aircraft is hard
When someone asks me: ‘Is it hard to teach someone how to land an aircraft?’, my response is always, ‘Landing an aircraft once you have mastered flying is not that hard, however, learning to land an aircraft ‘well’ and consistently safely, is hard and takes time, perseverance and patience – for both the student and instructor’.
I often joke that most flight schools would not be profitable if learning how to land an aircraft was easy. And if it was easy, it would not lead to such a great feeling of achievement once you have learnt how to land.
Notice how I did not use the term ‘master how to land’’. A pilot is always trying to master the landing and even with lots of experience a great landing can still be hard to achieve.
Teaching someone how to land takes, on average, anywhere from five to fifteen hours of circuit training before they are safe and competent enough to achieve their first solo flight.
What is a missed approach?
During the student’s circuit training the student is taught how to conduct what is known as a ‘missed approach’ which is also known as a ‘go around’.
A missed approach is where the pilot elects not to land at some point on final approach, then initiates full power and climbs back to the circuit height to conduct another circuit and approaches to try and land again.
A missed approach is conducted for many reasons, and some of these reasons are:
The most common student errors when landing are listed below.
Ballooning is where the pilot pulls back too much on the control column and so starts to gently climb again just prior to touch down. If the student tries to land after a balloon, there is a chance the aircraft could stall close to the ground and the nosewheel could impact first (in a tricycle aircraft) causing damage to the aircraft.
Sometimes a student lands too fast, or too flat and hard, and the aircraft bounces back into the air. Just like ballooning, the aircraft can run out of energy and airspeed quickly and stall close to the ground. Also if the student tries to land again they may inadvertently contact the nose wheel first (in a tricycle aircraft) and damage the aircraft.
Sometimes students will land with the aircraft not being straight and parallel with the runway, and this can cause damage to the tyres and/or undercarriage. Or they might land off to one side of the runway with the potential to go off the runway.
Why pilots don’t conduct a missed approach
An obvious question to ask is, ‘Why don’t student pilots and experienced pilots conduct a missed approach when the approach or landing is falling outside the safe parameters for a landing?’
I find that the main reasons students pilot do not go around is their inability to identify that the aircraft has deviated from a normal approach and landing. I feel that the three main reasons experienced pilots do not conduct a missed approach are:
Every good landing is a failed missed approach!
When I was learning to land an aircraft around 36 years ago, my instructor told me to remember that ‘Every good landing is a failed missed approach!’ I never forgot that statement. While teaching a student how to land, and how to conduct a missed approach, is important, teaching a student to have the correct mindset and to be ready to conduct a missed approach is critical when it comes to safely landing an aircraft. There have been many accidents from both inexperienced and highly experienced pilots who have tried to land an aircraft when the safest thing to do would have been to conduct a missed approach and try again.
The pre-landing mental checklist
I like to teach students to conduct a pre-landing mental checklist, where the student has memorised this checklist and repeats it to themselves in their mind as they turn onto the final approach for landing.
The mental checklist is:
‘If my approach and airspeed is not stable, or if I balloon or bounce, or I can’t maintain the centre line, I will go around!’
During training, instructors will simulate balloons, and not landing straight, to see if the student can identify that the landing does not look correct and then elect to conduct a missed approach without prompting from the instructor.
When is the student solo ready?
One student might be able to land perfectly but not be ready for solo, while another student might be able to conduct safe but not technically perfect landings and be considered ready for their first solo. The difference between the two situations is that the student who is ready for their first solo flight, can:
Expecting a missed approach reduces risk
My hope is, that the saying, ‘Every good landing is a failed missed approach’, will stay with the student for as long as they are flying. By having the student expect to conduct a missed approach and to know that landing is optional, enforces a behaviour and mindset that mitigates risk whether they are landing a Cessna, Boeing or Airbus.
Damien Wills, December 2022
Most student pilots, and a lot of experienced pilots, fear stalling an aircraft. During initial training, stalling lessons are given high priority to ensure all students are aware of what an approaching stall looks like, and how to recover with a minimum loss of height if the aircraft does stall.
So what is a stall?
To put it very simply, a stall is caused when an aircraft’s wing exceeds a certain angle (the critical angle of attack) in relation to the airflow (known as ‘relative airflow’).
When this critical angle is exceeded, the airflow on the top of the wing becomes turbulent and a large amount of lift is lost. Most aircraft will lose a considerable amount of height during a stall unless proper recovery technique is initiated. A stall can, under certain conditions, also lead into a spin. A spin is bad news, particularly if you are low to the ground.
To give my students some context (and to reduce their anxiety) I ask them if they have ever planned on hitting a power pole when driving a car? Of course they all say ‘no’. I then advise them that inadvertently stalling an aircraft is like ‘inadvertently’ hitting a power pole. As drivers, we all know that if we stick to the road rules and drive safely in all conditions we mitigate our risk of losing control and hitting a power pole. The same can be said for stalling an aircraft.
Stall avoidance and pre-stall recognition are key
While being trained to recover from a stall is an important part of flight training, I believe stall avoidance is the most important aspect of flight training. Below I have listed some very simple rules that will prevent you from ever stalling an aircraft. If you keep to these rules, your odds of stalling an aircraft are greatly reduced.
So, to sum it up, if you want to avoid a stall when flying a plane, do these things:
Obviously the more training you do the safer and more competent you will become. Slow speed flight and upset recovery training are also excellent ways to increase your confidence and can be conducted safely at high altitude with a competent instructor. Stalls (just like telegraph poles) should never be feared if you have the right training, know the rules, have a disciplined approach to your flying and if you stay current.
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Teaching a student how to turn, and to climb and descend is not too hard, but teaching a student to land an aircraft takes time. All flight instructors and students would prefer to learn the art of landing while experiencing as little wind as possible.
Adding wind into the mix makes it harder for the student to master the final landing sequence, particularly if there is any crosswind or gusts of wind. One of the many challenges students face when learning how to land an aircraft is understanding ‘wind gradient’, which is also known as ‘wind shear’. So what is wind gradient?
WIND GRADIENT (OR WIND SHEAR)
Wind gradient is basically a change of wind direction and speed over a vertical or horizontal distance. Wind gradient or shear can exist when two different airstreams meet.
For instance, if an aircraft is climbing through 3,000 feet and the wind at 3,100 feet changes from a westerly wind to a northerly, the difference in the direction of the airflow of these two wind directions in a small amount of distance can cause turbulence known as wind shear.
When landing, the most common form of wind shear is due to the frictional forces of the ground causing the wind speed to decrease as the wind gets closer to ground level.
For instance at 1,000 feet the wind may be 20 knots. However, at just three feet above the ground – due to the frictional forces of the ground – the wind may only be five knots.
This change in wind speed as you get closer to the ground can affect the aircraft on final approach and care must be taken to ensure the pilot is aware of the effect of decreasing wind strength on the aircraft’s airspeed.
Wind shear can also be experienced as a sudden drop in airspeed followed by an increased rate of descent.
And during a climb, or just after takeoff in strong winds, wind shear can also be experienced as a sudden increase in airspeed followed by an increase in rate of climb.
The pilot needs to be aware of the potential sink and loss of airspeed and make sure a healthy attitude and airspeed is always maintained during final approach, with power ready to control the sink rate.
Wind shear can be severe, such as wind near a storm, however for today’s purposes we are only going to discuss light wind shear or wind gradient in relation to final approach to land, when the wind is blowing between 10 to 20kts.
THE FIRST TIME A STUDENT ENCOUNTERS WIND GRADIENT
In nil or little wind, the student has been taught to ensure the aircraft has a stable approach prior to landing. This means a stable indicated airspeed, a stable rate of descent and a stable approach profile.
In nil wind this is normally quite easy to achieve once the student is used to the correct site picture of the runway on final approach.
However if we add 15 kts of headwind the student will notice on final approach that if they keep maintaining the same approach profile the airspeed will start to decrease as the aircraft descends.
This is because the wind strength starts to decrease as the aircraft gets closer to the ground and if the aircraft attitude and approach profile is not changed, the result will be a decrease in indicated airspeed.
When airspeed is decreased (if no pitch change occurs) the lift also decreases and this may also result in an increase in the rate of descent.
If the student does not change the attitude, the airspeed may get dangerously low on final approach.
THE CORRECT PROCEDURE WHEN EXPERIENCING WIND GRADIENT ON FINAL APPROACH
The correct procedure (in a light training aircraft) would be to adjust the attitude (pitch) to maintain the correct approach speed, then adjust power to ensure the rate of descent does not increase (keep in mind that for larger high inertia aircraft, power would be used to correct a reduction in airspeed).
When a student first encounters this (if they have been taught to maintain airspeed with attitude) they will pitch the nose down to maintain a healthy approach speed, however this steepens the approach profile and in most instances they will now be aiming short of the runway.
The only way to correct this is to apply power to change the rate of descent to get back onto the desired approach profile.
When a student pilot first encounters a strong wind gradient on final approach it can be quite frightening, however as they gain experience they learn to anticipate and to keep adjusting the aircraft’s altitude, airspeed and power continuously to maintain the correct approach profile as they descend towards the flare point.
SEVERE WIND SHEAR
Occasionally a pilot and student pilot/instructor may experience a severe wind gradient, where the indicated airspeed reduces dramatically and the rate of descent increases dramatically. In this instance a missed approach (go around) should be initiated immediately.
WIND GRADIENT IS ALWAYS PRESENT WITH WIND
Remember, wind gradient will always be present if there is wind present. In most instances, wind gradient or shear (below 20kts of wind) is easy to manage providing the pilot has had proper training and understands the aircraft and their own limitations.
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Is it better to learn in a high-wing or low-wing aircraft ?
As a flight instructor, and having had both high and low-wing training aircraft used in our flight school over the last twelve years, I often get asked, ‘Is a high-wing or low-wing aircraft better for students to learn in?’
While I have my personal preference, for now, I will stick to the facts and let you make your own decision.
The main benefits of a high wing include:
Easier to board the aircraft
Unlike in a low-wing aircraft, you simply open the door and climb up the step and into the aircraft, just like climbing into an SUV. While this may be challenging for some, typically it is a lot easier than getting into a low-wing aircraft. If the student or pilot is elderly then a high-wing aircraft has a lot of benefits.
High-wing aircraft are more stable than a low-wing aircraft as the centre of gravity sits below the wing and this acts like a pendulum.
High-wing aircraft can offer more shade than low-wing aircraft. If you’re learning to fly in a hot environment, then a high-wing aircraft usually offers more protection from the sun as the wing is positioned above the cabin. If you attend a fly-on event. you can also sit or sleep in the shade from the wing.
Direct view below the aircraft
High-wing aircraft allow a better view of the ground directly under the aircraft.
The main disadvantages of flying in a high-wing aircraft, include:
High-wing aircraft are harder to fuel as the fuel caps are situated on top of the wing and one has to pull the fuel hose up over shoulder height.
In a high-wing aircraft it can be more difficult to see other aircraft, particularly during a turn as the high wing can block the pilot’s field of vision.
The advantages of using low-wing aircraft include:
There is no ladder required and it is easier to fill the aircraft’s low wing.
There is better visibility for other aircraft, particularly when during a turn as there is no wing to block the pilot’s field of view at eye level).
Inspection of fuel caps
When doing pre-takeoff checks, the fuel caps can be inspected again before take off (this cannot easily be done in a high-wing aircraft).
The disadvantages of using low wing aircraft:
Boarding the aircraft
Low-wing aircraft are usually harder to climb into than high-wing planes. With most low-wing planes you have to step up onto the wing, then carefully enter the cockpit from above and lever yourself down into the seat without putting any weight on any part of the canopy. Getting out can be just as hard and requires a reasonable amount of arm and leg strength to lift your own weight.
Low-wing aircraft are not as stable as high-wing aircraft and are usually more responsive in pitch and roll. This can mean it is more exciting to fly, but it also makes it harder for a new student to learn.
Direct view below
With a low-wing you cannot see directly underneath the aircraft as the wing is in the way of the pilot’s field of vision.
Another factor to consider between the two types is ‘ground effect’. Ground effect is the effect of reduced ‘induced drag’ on the proximity of the wing to the ground on landing. Less drag means the aircraft will float more and have a longer landing roll and a shorter take-off roll. A low-wing aircraft wing is closer to the ground, so it experiences more ground effect and therefore normally experiences a longer ground roll and shorter take off roll than a similarly-performing high-wing. There are no real advantages or disadvantages with ground effect, but it is important to be aware of the differences.
My personal opinion
I learned to fly in a high-wing Cessna 150 over 30 years ago and I used high-wing aircraft when I first started our flight school. I now only operate low wing aircraft in the school. I believe the high-wing aircraft offers a few more practical advantages than a low-wing aircraft, however I have four main reasons why I now prefer the low-wing aircraft for training.
While I prefer low-wing aircraft, I still love flying high-wing aircraft and if I was travelling around Australia in summer, or if my passengers were older and less mobile, I would definitely choose a high-wing aircraft. I’d love to test fly a high-wing Sling in the future.
If you are considering learning to fly, I would suggest you do not worry about whether it is a high-wing or low-wing aircraft. When choosing a flight school the important things to consider are the quality of the training, the age and condition of the aircraft and how customer-focused and passionate the instructors are.
Damien Wills, Aug 2022
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What is an alternate aerodrome?
An ‘alternate aerodrome’ is another aerodrome other than the departure or destination aerodrome, that the pilot in command has selected to fly to, should the destination aerodrome not be suitable for a landing.
If an alternate aerodrome is required, the pilot in command must ensure there is enough fuel to fly from the planned destination aerodrome to the alternate aerodrome and still land with the required minimum amount of fixed reserve fuel on board the aircraft.
Why do we need to have an alternate aerodrome?
The main reasons an alternate aerodrome might be required is because the destination aerodrome has either no valid weather forecast, or the weather is forecast to reduce below the minimum required for a visual flight rules (VFR) flight. In Australia the conditions and rules can be located in the VFRG (Visual Flight Rules Guide) chapter 2 and CASR 91.235 and MOS 8.04.
It is also important to note that all alternate aerodromes must have a valid weather forecast and the weather conditions must also be above the minimum required for VFR flight.
When an alternate aerodrome is not required
There are certain conditions where an alternate aerodrome is not required and a few of these conditions include:
Why not always having an alternate aerodrome is a bad idea
While legally you may not be required to have an alternate aerodrome, there are two main reasons (facts!) why I think it is prudent to always plan for an alternate:
A weather forecast is a forecast and it is not always correct. While the forecast may state that the VFR conditions will be above the minimum required occasionally this can be wrong. It’s always better to have an alternate selected on the rare occasion this happens to you when flying.
This is the biggest reason you should always plan to have an alternate. Unfortunately incidents and accidents occur and occasionally they occur during the landing phase of flight. A landing incident may close a runway for a couple of hours or if serious the entire day. I have personally had this happen to me twice over the last ten years where I have had to divert to an alternate aerodrome due to a landing accident at the destination aerodrome.
Even if you are flying locally, plan to have an alternate aerodrome
For the two reasons mentioned above – in particular an aerodrome closing due to an incident or accident – I always recommend planning an alternate aerodrome even if flying locally. Imagine if you decided to take your family for a local flight, only to return to the aerodrome to discover that it’s been closed due to an aircraft having a very hard landing, and you only had on board the minimum fixed fuel reserves for your flight (i.e 30 minutes reserve in Australia). You’d be in trouble.
It does not take too much time to always plan for an alternate aerodrome and it will give you that extra level of comfort knowing you have a plan should the worst occur. I love the statement: ‘prepare for the worst and expect the best’ when it comes to planning your flight.
For more information about nav and flight planning, why not take a look at our Navigation for the Recreational Pilot Easy Book.
Happy and safe flying.
The reality is that most pilots and passengers in light aircraft have felt the effects of motion sickness at some point in their lives. It might have been just a slight feeling of uneasiness or it could have been a full-blown projectile event.
Understanding what causes motion sickness and how to avoid it, is very important for both pilots and passengers so they can mitigate the risks that are associated with sickness when flying a light aircraft.
What causes motion sickness?
Motion sickness is caused by conflicting information sent by your eyes and vestibular system. Motion sickness can occur on any object that is moving but is generally most commonly experienced on a boat, vehicle or aircraft.
A good example of this is when you fly through light turbulence, and your eyes are looking at the horizon and do not sense any movement, the information from your eyes is telling the brain that no movement is occurring and you are at rest.
However the vestibular system in the inner ear (more about this soon) is telling the brain that there is movement. The conflicting data to the brain can cause motion sickness.
The inner ear is also very important as it contributes to our sense of balance. Most of our balance comes visually from our eyes but the ears also contain a balance mechanism to support our vision and as a backup to maintaining balance.
The vestibular system
The vestibular system is located in each inner ear. The system contains semicircular canals that contain a fluid with tiny hairs that can detect movement, on the inside of the canals. These hairs send information to the brain to help assist with balance.
This information helps the brain work out whether you are moving backwards or forwards, up or down, and whether you are lying down or standing up.
While the inner ear balance system is a great back up system it cannot be solely relied upon, particularly when flying. When flying, the aircraft experiences acceleration and deceleration forces that can cause the inner ear fluid to misinterpret the information and send the wrong information to the brain.
Each ear contains three semicircular canals and these are roughly positioned at right angles to each other. They are aligned this way so they can detect movement in three dimensional space.
Some of the early warning signs for motion sickness include sweating and the individual may become quiet and pale.
Symptoms of motion sickness include:
The dangers of motion sickness
For pilots, motion sickness is a real threat that must be avoided as much as possible.
Even slight motion sickness affects the individual’s cognitive function and ability to concentrate on any task. Severe motion sickness could actually lead to total pilot or passenger incapacitation.
Avoiding motion sickness
Eating a light meal before flying, and avoiding dairy food, is one way of reducing motion sickness. Also ensuring the cockpit is well ventilated and – for VFR pilots – that your eyes are on the horizon for the majority of the time, is helpful. Try not to make any abrupt head movements that could also disrupt the vestibular system.
Pilots are not allowed to take most motion sickness medication, but ginger tablets are a natural remedy which can be used in moderation and may prevent or reduce the effects of motion sickness. The good news is that over time, most student pilots build a tolerance for motion sickness and the symptoms eventually disappear.
Only take passengers flying on calm days
If you are taking a first time passenger for a flight, please don’t take them on a day with high winds, severe heat and or turbulence. It is a sure way to ensure the sick bag will be used and they will never want to fly with you again!
Fly the plane like an airliner (no abrupt flying)
If you are an instructor and do not want your student to get sick, or if you are a pilot and don’t want your passenger to get sick, this one is the easiest method I know to avoid air sickness. My recommendation to all pilots and flight instructors (other than when doing stall and steep turn lessons) is to fly the aircraft like a mini airliner jet. When you fly in an airliner there are usually no abrupt movements.
Climbs and turns are always made gently and slowly. This gives time for the vestibular system to catch up with what the eyes are seeing. Quick abrupt movements are a sure way to get everyone sick very quickly!
What to eat before flying
It is a misconception that having an empty stomach will help the body avoid air sickness. Having no food in your stomach is a sure way of getting motion sickness.
Being well hydrated and having something light to eat before flying is very important. Any oily or fried food and any dairy foods should be avoided. Foods such as bananas, breads, almonds and crackers are examples of foods that can assist in decreasing the chances of getting air sickness.
Treatment of motion sickness
It is also a good idea to take sickbags in the aircraft in case any passengers experience air sickness. If you or your passenger experience motion sickness, try to relax and get as much fresh air as possible. If you are flying with an instructor, inform your instructor.
Do not conduct any abrupt manoeuvres and keep your eyes on the horizon until the air sickness passes. Once you are on the ground, the quickest way to recover from the effects of motion sickness is to ensure you are well hydrated and to lie down in a cool dark room.
The good news is, you will get used to it (eventually)
The majority of pilots (myself included) eventually adjust to the effects of flying. Passengers may not, as they may not fly enough in light aircraft to overcome the effects of motion sickness, this is why flying on a calm day with no abrupt movements is so important when flying with passengers.
The more your senses are exposed to flying in three dimensions, the more the effects of motion sickness will reduce. I have known airline pilots and air force fighter pilots who suffered severe air sickness during their early training and eventually their bodies adjusted and they no longer experience air sickness.
Flying can be fun and rewarding. The more knowledge the instructor or pilot has about motion sickness avoidance, the more likely students will continue their flight training and become a student pilot themselves.
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Unfortunately loss of control accidents are very common during take off and landing.
Many of these accidents could have been prevented if the pilot had a better understanding of slow speed flight and what is commonly known as the ‘region of reverse command’.
Region of normal command
Before we talk about the region of reverse command, let’s look at the ‘region of normal command’.
The region of normal command is where most aircraft spend most of their time, that is, in standard climb, level flight and descent.
In this region, an increase in airspeed causes an increase in parasite drag (drag caused by the structure of the airframe interacting with the relative airflow) and a decrease in induced drag (drag caused by lift).
To put this another way, in the region of normal command, when you pitch the nose up the aircraft’s airspeed decreases and the aircraft climbs; and when you pitch the nose down, the aircraft’s airspeed increases and the aircraft descends.
Region of reverse command
The region of reverse command is encountered at low airspeed. It is also known as the back of the power curve, and is normally situated below the max endurance power and airspeed combination for the aircraft type. This region is always encountered during take off and landing.
The aircraft is not behaving like it should!
In the region of reverse command, any decrease in airspeed will see an increase in total drag, and any increase in airspeed will see a decrease in total drag.
The graph below highlights what is actually happening. As you can see, at a certain airspeed, the total drag starts to increase again as the airspeed decreases.
This is the reverse of what happens at higher airspeeds, hence the term ‘region of reverse command’.
Low and slow on final
Imagine a pilot allows the aircraft to get low and slow on final approach and the airspeed enters the region of reverse command.
If the pilot decides to pull back on the controls to gain height, the total drag will increase and so will the rate of descent.
The pilot will be expecting the aircraft to climb but it may actually descend.
If the pilot was using a substantial amount of power (such as a short field approach) there may not have enough power available to arrest the sink rate and not enough height below the aircraft to pitch the nose down to increase the airspeed.
Things can get ugly quickly on takeoff!
Let’s assume a pilot is conducting a short field takeoff with full power and, due to a wet runway, the take off distance increases.
Just after takeoff the pilot notices trees at the end of the runway and is worried that they may not be able to climb over the trees even though they are climbing at the best angle!
To try to avoid the trees, the pilot pitches the nose up slightly to try and increase the climb angle to get over the trees. Unfortunately, by doing this, the airspeed decreases below the best angle of climb and into the area of reverse command.
At this airspeed, any decrease in airspeed will see the rate of climb decrease (as total drag is increasing) and potentially the aircraft will actually start to descend (or worse, stall).
As the aircraft is delivering full power there is no longer any available power to improve the rate of climb or airspeed.
The only way to improve your climb rate is to actually lower the nose to increase the airspeed before attempting to climb again (which is a hard thing to do if you can see trees heading towards the windshield!)
The relationship of power overcoming drag also reverses
If you look at the graph below you can notice that above the best ‘lift to drag ratio’, more power is required to increase the airspeed (to overcome drag), until it reaches a point where there is no more power available (maximum level flight speed).
However, below the best ‘lift to drag ratio’ line, more power is required to maintain level flight, as the airspeed decreases until it reaches a point at a very low airspeed (normally near, or at, the stall) where there is no more power available to maintain level flight.
Here are some simple rules on how to avoid unrecoverable situations in the region of reverse command.
Know your aircraft’s limitations
It is important to know your aircraft’s correct airspeed and limitations by reading the POH (Pilot Operating Handbook).
For instance, if the short field take off and landing airspeed is 65kts, then under no circumstance should you ever allow the aircraft to get below this speed! This also means understanding the performance and weight and balance charts for your aircraft type so you never have to put yourself and your passengers in a marginal situation with no buffer.
Ensure a stabilised approach
A stabilised approach includes a stable approach speed, stable rate of descent and the correct approach profile. If any of these variables are not met, particularly below 200 feet, conduct a missed approach.
Do not fly below best angle airspeed (VX) on take off
For takeoff, ensure the aircraft does not adopt the climb attitude until the airspeed can maintain the minimum safe climb altitude and airspeed.
Slow speed flight and approaching the stall
The best technique is always to avoid a stall. Proper initial training plus refresher training with a qualified instructor on slow speed flight and stall avoidance is very important.
Know your own limitations
If you have not done a short field takeoff or landing for a long time and you’re not feeling confident doing one, then don’t! Find an appropriate flight instructor and do some refresher training to ensure you are confident before conducting these types of takeoffs and landings on your own.
If you balloon or bounce on landing conduct a missed approach
For most light aircraft and in particular light sport aircraft, if the aircraft balloons or bounces on landing, the best decision is to conduct a missed approach. The aircraft is usually already in the region of reverse command on landing and any attempt to try and recover at this low airspeed with insufficient height below you, is very dangerous.
Applying full power and allowing the aircraft to accelerate to a safe climb speed is always the best option.
Slow flight does not have to be dangerous
If slow flight is conducted within the designated limitations of the Pilot Operating Handbook by a qualified and current pilot, it does not have to be dangerous.
Understanding the how, what and why of the ‘region of reverse command’ is the first step in avoiding a negative outcome!
Happy and safe flying and see you next time on GoFly Online.
The GoFly Online team wants to help you become the best pilot you can be. You can access all of our flight training videos, practice exams and theory books with the 7-day free trial.
What documents do pilots need to carry on board the aircraft when flying?
It is important for all pilots in Australia to know what documents they must legally have on board the aircraft when flying. It can be quite confusing understanding the legal requirements and where to find the most up to date legislation in relation to documentation requirements.
As the pilot in command, knowing these requirements will not only ensure you meet your legal obligations but also give you peace of mind should you get a ramp check or spot audit from CASA or Recreational Aviation Australia (RAAUS).
Here is a list of items that need to ALWAYS be carried on an aircraft when flying in Australia for day VFR flights. These references can be located on CASR 91.105, 91.110 and the Recreational Aviation Australia Operations Manual and VFRG.
Flight Crew licence
A Pilots Licence holder must have a valid Flight Crew licence on them at all times.
If they have a Recreational Pilot Certificate with RAAUS, while it is a good idea to have the Certificate on you, it is not a legal requirement. As per the RAAUS Ops Section 2.03, Recreational Pilot Certificate holders only have to produce the documentation within 72 hours of being requested by RAAUS or CASA.
For a CASA pilot licence holder, it is a requirement to have your Medical Certificate on you at all times.
For a Recreational Pilot Certificate, if you are required to have a medical certificate, then once again, as per the RAAUS Operations Manual, the pilot has 72 hours to produce the document if requested by RAAUS or CASA.
All pilot licence and certificate holders are required to have photographic ID on them at all times. This can be a passport, an ASIC card or a driver’s licence.
Flight Manual or Pilot Operating Handbook (POH)
The aircraft Flight Manual or Pilot Operating Handbook must be on board the aircraft at all times.
Minimum equipment list for the aircraft type
If your aircraft type has a minimum equipment list, this equipment must all be onboard the aircraft. This list is often contained in the flight manual or Pilot Operating Handbook or could be a requirement for a particular commercial air operation.
Not required if doing aerobatics
There is an exemption from having to carry these documents if you are performing aerobatics and the documents could interfere with the safe operation of the aircraft.
Recreational and light sport aircraft
As per CAO 95.32 and 95.55 and the RAAUS Operations Manual, each aircraft must have a means of ascertaining current registration and valid airworthiness. This would normally mean a registration certificate on board and a type certificate, or for LSA aircraft, a special Certificate of Airworthiness on board the aircraft.
As per CASR 91.110, the documents below are exempt from being carryied on board an aircraft, providing the flight is conducted within 50NM of the departure aerodrome flying within or traveling to and from a training area. These documents include
If we look at this another way, if you are planning to depart from the departure aerodrome for more than 50NM or outside a training area then the aircraft must carry its Maintenance Release sheet. The aircraft must also have the relevant aeronautical information such as maps and other documents required to safely conduct the flight.
Do pilots need to have their Logbook with them?
As per CASR 61.345 and RAAUs Ops Manual 2.03, a pilot logbook is not required to be carried on board an aircraft. However, for Pilot Licence holders, the logbook must be presented to CASA within 7 days if requested by CASA. For RAAUS Pilot Certificate holders, the logbook must be presented within 72 hours if requested from Recreational Aviation Australia.
It is a good idea to have your own documentation checklist which is particular for your licence or certificate type, that you check every time you go flying. The checklist will also vary depending on whether you are flying within 50nm or the training area.
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I have owned a Flight School for over 10 years now. The majority of our students are learning to fly for fun. The majority of recreational flight students have no ambition to turn their passion for flying into a career; they just want to learn for the sheer joy of flying.
The next aviation revolution
Currently there is a ‘quiet’ revolution going on with electric VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) technology. There are roughly 80 new start-up companies world-wide, designing, flight testing and trying to certify passenger carrying electric VTOL aircraft.
Some of these companies have had close to a billion dollars of private equity investment. Some of the most promising electric VTOL start-ups include Joby Aviation, Lilium, Kittyhawk, Archer and Beta, and then there are the big aerospace companies such as Airbus, Boeing and Embraer, all working on their own designs.
These companies are focusing on urban transport and are designing and certifying these new types of aircraft for affordable mass passenger travel. These aircraft only have a limited range (usually around 200km), however this satisfies densely urban transport such as city to airport transfers. Compared to current helicopters, the cost is projected to be up to five to ten times more affordable than current helicopter technology with less than half of the noise. This future VTOL market is estimated to be worth around a trillion dollars globally by mid-2035.
The effects on learning to fly
What has not really been discussed, is how this new technology will impact personal flying and in particular, personal fixed-wing flying. While most new startups are focused on the mass transport of passengers, some companies such as Jetson One and Air One are focused on the recreational pilot market.
Startup company, Air, an Israeli-based start-up, is solely focusing on the personal recreational market with their Air One electric VTOL aircraft. While the full-scale prototype is set to fly later this year, the initial performance projections are impressive, with a one-hour range at around 90 knots with 30 minutes reserve, and it can carry two people. The aircraft has eight electric motors and a ballistic recovery system (BRS chute) for additional safety. The Air One also will have AI (artificial intelligence) self-diagnostic software that will complete the majority of the pre-flight inspections on most of the systems on behalf of the pilot. Projected sale costs are similar to an upper-end of the market Light Sport Aircraft (LSA).
Will students still want to fly fixed wing, VTOL or both?
Will future recreational pilots wish to continue flying fixed-wing aircraft or will they see electric VTOL as a better alternative? There are a few things to consider when trying to guess the answer.
Most recreational pilots fly locally
While most of our students continue on to complete their navigation and passenger endorsements, the majority of pilots who fly for fun are content to fly locally (within 50 nautical miles of the departing aerodrome). Most recreational pilots just want to get up in their local airspace and enjoy the freedom of flying and maybe share it with a friend or family member.
Those students who want to fly longer distances, have usually learned for business-related reasons and end up purchasing their own aircraft to save regularly having to drive long distances.
Learning to land is the hardest part of flying
Most people can be taught the basics of flying a plane, in a small amount of time. Landing however, is what separates the serious students from those who just think it will be cool to have a pilot’s licence.
It appears that piloting these new VTOL aircraft will be substantially easier than flying a fixed-wing aircraft. For instance, the take-off and landing in most of these VTOL aircraft will be computer-assisted. The pilot will not be responsible for basic stability in the hover, as is a helicopter pilot.
While mastering landings in a fixed-wing aircraft is rewarding, and some students love the challenge, I’m sure there are plenty of would-be students who would prefer this was a lot easier.
The other huge benefit for VTOL is that no runway is required. Theoretically they can take off and land almost anywhere.
While there are start-up companies working on this issue such as Skyportz, it will be a while before there are mass urban take-off and landing sites available for all VTOL types of flying, not to mention charging stations. The other factor is whether these sites will be available for personal use or only for commercial applications.
Initially, range will be the biggest issue for early VTOL aircraft, the same as for early electric fixed-wing aircraft. I believe that within 10 years there will be hybrid VTOL (vertical take-off with a fixed-wing component, such as the start-up Beta, that can actually take off and land as a fixed-wing aircraft and have a range close to 400km.
Battery technology is also improving at a rate of about 5 to 7% per year. This means that within 10 years, energy density should double. This is not taking into account any major breakthroughs in battery technology (such as solid-state batteries).
The future is exciting
While it is hard to predict the future, I think the personal VTOL aircraft revolution is still four to eight years away and when it arrives it is going to radically change urban transport and bring helicopter-like charter operations to the masses (rather than just the rich!).
There will still be plenty of individuals who will want to learn to fly in a fixed-wing aircraft. There is something magical about mastering a landing in a fixed-wing aircraft and as all pilots know, you never stop perfecting your landings. However, I think flying a recreational VTOL will also be rewarding in new ways. It is possible that this new technology will open up new opportunities and entice more tech-savvy pilots into the recreational flying space.
I can envision a future where a flight school has both electric fixed-wing aircraft and electric VTOL aircraft. Some pilots will be attracted to one type and some pilots will want to do both. The issue over the next five to eight years will be deciding who will manage the training and regulatory/safety aspect of these recreational VTOL type aircraft.
While Commercial VTOL will be governed by CASA in Australia, who will take the regulatory lead with recreational VTOL aircraft? For instance in Australia, will it be governed directly by CASA, or by Recreational Aviation Australia, or some new self-administering organisation?
I don’t have the answers, but I think we need to start having the conversation now so we can all have a part in creating our flying (for fun) future. While it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future will hold, there is no doubt that the future of personal flying will be very exciting.
Damien Wills, CEO GoFly Group
Feature photo courtesy of Air One
If you have already completed Practice Forced Landing (simulated engine failure) training you will remember how your flight instructor reiterated how important it is to adopt the best glide speed as soon as the engine goes quiet. So why is the best glide speed so important after an engine failure?
Glide performance and best glide speed
Firstly, for your aircraft type, the pilot operating handbook (POH) will advise what the best glide speed is for the aircraft type. The best glide speed is the airspeed for the best lift to drag ratio. Any faster than this speed and the total drag increases, and any slower than this speed, then the total drag increases.
A simpler definition is ‘at the best glide speed the aircraft is delivering the maximum amount of lift for the least amount of drag’. This best glide speed is important to know in the event of an engine failure, as it will result in obtaining the best maximum gliding range for the aircraft.
As we can see from the graph below at the best glide speed total drag (Induced plus parasite drag) is at a minimum.
Factors affecting glide range
The maximum gliding range for the aircraft type will also be affected by wind, weight and aircraft configuration. If you are flying into a strong headwind, your gliding rage will be reduced; and if you are flying with a tailwind, your gliding rage will be extended.
As for weight, the heavier the aircraft, the more lift is required to balance the force of weight. The extra weight means that for the same airspeed, more angle of attack is required to create more lift, which results in more drag and therefore diminishes the aircraft’s glide range.
Aircraft configuration also affects the aircraft glide range. For instance, if you have flaps selected, this will increase both induced drag and parasite drag. If the total drag increases, then the aircraft’s glide range will be reduced.
Time and distance is critical following an engine failure
Unless the aircraft is on fire, the pilot should aim to stay in the air as long as possible and have the longest possible glide range following an engine failure. This will allow the pilot to have more options in relation to field selection, and allow more time to complete the emergency procedures. By not adopting the best glide speed the pilot may not be able to make the pre-selected field to land in.
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