Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

Happy holidays everyone.
And safe flying in 2011!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Instrument Approach Procedures for the North Pole

This made the rounds last year, but in case you missed it. (Original link is here.) One would expect IMC on the north pole in December, so it's not surprising that Santa would have his own IAP.
"Caution: Deer in traffic pattern" is a nice touch. Well, that and the fact that all vectors to the airport are 360. I am surprised by three things. One, that the magical elf himself has nothing better than an NDB approach. Two, that the north pole isn't covered by a TFR on Christmas. And three, he only needs a <6,000 foot runway.

Think about the last one for a minute. There are 2 billion children under 18 in the world. Even if we allow that Santa appears only to Christian children (which I know is not accurate, but let us presume for the moment it is), that is still about 300 million children. Okay, suppose each kid gets a medium Lego set—2 lbs. We are talking about a payload of 600 million pounds. (That, by the way, is roughly 3.5 fully loaded QMIIs.) And we haven't even figured for the weight of the sleigh needed to carry such a payload, nor for the weight of the reindeer needed to pull such a weight (somehow, I suspect 9 reindeer is just not going to cut it). By comparison, the C-5 Galaxy which has a max takeoff weight of *just* 840,000 lbs requires a nearly 9,000 ft runway for takeoff. All I can say is, those are some reindeer.

Happy holidays.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Tracking Santa's progress

For those of you who would like to track the big guy's progress on Christmas Eve: NORAD Santa Tracker. It's kind of heart warming to think that all the technology developed to detect ICBMs and Soviet (remember them?) nuclear attacks can be put to such use.

In all seriousness, though, how this began is a really nice story. According to the NORAD site, "For more than 50 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD), have tracked Santa's flight. The tradition began in 1955 after a Colorado Springs-based Sears Roebuck & Co. advertisement for children to call Santa misprinted the telephone number. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the CONAD Commander-in-Chief’s operations "hotline." The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole. Children who called were given updates on his location, and a tradition was born. In 1958, the governments of Canada and the United States created a bi-national air defense command for North America called the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, which then took on the tradition of tracking Santa."

Our hats off to the folks at NORAD, who take their work seriously, but apparently aren't above having some fun for the kids.

Friday, December 17, 2010

New engine break-in

Courtesy of our C172 Plane Captain Chris Howitt

A follow-up to our recent experience with "engine infant mortality." The folks at Penn Yan Aero have worked exceptionally hard for us to turn around an engine replacement in three weeks time. The engine on one of our C172s began developing metal just a few hundred hours into its life, which was attributed to manufacturing defects, and all this was done under warranty. The plane should be back on the flight line in a few days, so now might be a good time to think about proper engine break-in—the process of getting the piston rings to properly form to the cylinder walls.

Mahlon Russell of Teledyne has a very nice piece on the "hows and whys" of engine break-ins. A very good read in its entirety.  To summarize:

  • Keep ground running to a minimum
  • Take off at full power and reduce to climb power at the first available safe altitude
  • Keep the climb angle flat and the climb airspeed higher to promote cooling
  • At cruise altitude use 65% to 75% power. (Higher, and the BMEP—brake mean effective pressure—gets too high, and the likelihood of glazing increases.)
  • Run the engine richer then normal.
  • Remember that heat is the greatest enemy of engine break-in. Try to maintain all engine temperatures in the green, well away from the top of the green arc or red line.
  • Step climb the aircraft if necessary
  • Operating with the cowl flaps open or in trail position during cruise flight
  • Be generous with the fuel allocation for the engine. We should not run the engine above 75% power in cruise flight because the B.M.E.P is too great and the likelihood of glazing increases. 
And this should go on for the first 100 hours.  All this also means no touch-and-goes, no repeated take-offs and landings, and no maneuvers like stalls or steep turns.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

N4468N FADEC Jet-A Diesel: Still the queen of the fleet

The acquisition of 89Q—our G1000 C172—has dominated the conversation at PFC lately, but before 89Q came along, we had 68N, the first in our long term effort to modernize and diversify our fleet. 68N is a 1980 Cessna 182Q converted to run on Jet-A fuel with the SMA FADEC Turbo Diesel. There is a lively debate going on in the aviation press about the future of 100LL. We would like to think that we were quite prescient when we decided to go ahead with the conversion two years ago. Our plane has been featured in Aviation Consumer and AvWeb, but with a couple of years of experience under our belt, it might be a good time for a quick report of our own.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Overheard: Pumping Jet-A into a C182

Our SMA Turbo Diesel C182 is a rare bird—there are probably about 2 dozen of these flying around the U.S. right now. The front of the plane—with is three bladed prop and modified cowling—is a dead give away that this is no ordinary Skylane.  So we are pretty accustomed to getting quizzical looks and a lot of questions and comments when away from home base.

While pumping Jet-A into 68N, one lineman at a destination FBO was heard to mutter "This just feels so wrong..."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Some tips for winter flying

Winter is basically here.  Other than worrying about how Thanksgiving has affected our weight and balance, pilots have to worry about a whole set of issues this season brings about.


With the coming of winter and reverting back to standard time, days are much shorter now. With the inevitable delays, a planned day trip might end up extending past sunset, and you may find yourself unexpectedly returning after dark. On top of that, winter brings weather related challenges that are unique. Preparation is the key to a safe trip---below are some tips to make sure your flight is safe and comfortable.

Petition to eliminate the third class medical

(All opinions expressed below are those of the author, and may not be those of PFC or its members.)

There is an interesting petition ("proposed rule making") being considered by the FAA to eliminate the third class medical for pilots operating aircraft of less than 6,000 lbs max gross weight under Part 91. The proposal seeks to extend the "LSA rule" which requires only a valid drivers license.

Monday, December 6, 2010

General Meeting: PilotEdge ATC Simulation Network

At this month's general meeting, we had a fascinating presentation from Keith Smith, the brains behind PilotEdge ATC simulation network.

So, what is an "ATC simulation network"? Basically, it is a plug-in software for popular flight simulators (X-plane, Flight Simulator 9/X) that gives you access to a virtual network of air traffic controllers who provide ATC services during your simulated flight.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hourly Rates from 1975

PFC has a long history and we remain as one of the most affordable solutions to flying in the region. Where else can you fly a G-1000 aircraft for $135/tach hour, wet? But in 1975 our rates were even better. In 1975 our Cessna 182 was $23/hr and a Cessna 172 went for $16/hr. As Helmgog (the unofficial mascot of PFC) says: "Inflation has caused everything to go up...including the price of going up." Going from $16/hr to $113/hr (in our well-equipped C172) in 35 years is still pretty impressive though.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Maintenance: Engine "Infant Mortality"

N6338F - Engine maintenance
Contributed by C. Howitt, Plane Captain N6338F

The engine in one of our C172s was replaced just last year. Since the club has put just shy of 300 hours on the engine. We had been told that the risk of failure in a brand new engine was often higher than a well-cared-for engine at or beyond TBO. We are discovering first hand why this is the case, how to spot the issues early, and get the engine serviced before catastrophic failure occurs. This is a detailed description of the current MX issues we are experiencing. For new members, we hope this lends insight on how maintenance is handled in the club---one of the club's greatest strengths is our emphasis on the safe operation of the fleet.