Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Flying with passengers — what to bring?

They say that most GA aircraft fly with just one person—the pilot—on board. That has been my personal experience so far. With just yourself to worry about, what to bring is an easy question. Most pilots just grab their flight bag and headset, and go. During the winter, or if you are flying at night, or if you are flying over remote country, you might bring some survival gear along "just in case."

So, what should you bring if you are flying with passengers, who may not be pilots themselves? That's something I've thought about a little when flying Angel Flight missions. First the obvious. If you are bringing safety or survival gear—and in many parts of the country (of flying over water) you probably should—you obviously need to adjust the quantity of the equipment (especially water) for the number of people in the plane.  What else?  Well here's what I've come up with:
  • Headsets for all passengers.
  • Earplugs for all passengers.  Some passengers just want to go to sleep, or read a book, or whatever, and prefer earplugs to bulky headsets. Disposable foam earplugs can be found in bulk at home improvement stores and drug stores.  I carry a bunch just to be sure.
  • Appropriate hearing protection for infants/toddlers/kids if you are carrying them. Infants and finicky toddlers are tough. But as PIC, we should explain to the parents why this is important. You can find kid sized sound attenuating earmuffs (for ~$35 or so) if they don't like wearing a big adult headset. Cutting foam earplugs down to size using an exacto knife for infants and toddlers seems to work as well.
  • Water. Many of my passengers are surprised at how dry it is up high, and how thirsty they get. I provide each passenger with a bottle of water, with more behind there seats. I carry a canteen of water for myself as well. (This is in addition to any water that might be part of a survival kit.)
  • A light weight fleece blanket. Even if it is comfortable at ground level, it gets pretty chilly at altitude.  And the cabin heat is a full-blast-or-nothing-at-all sort of affair.  In our Cessnas, if the back seat is warm, the front seats are uncomfortably so.  To keep the back seat occupants toasty, without burning up the people in the front seat, I provide a warm fleece blanket for the people in the back in case they get too chilly.
  • Air sickness bags.  Enough said.
What do you provide your passengers?

Friday, March 18, 2011

Six For Safety: Illusions of Flying

Try your knowledge of aviation safety. This month: Illusions of Flying.

It's one thing to say you're going up for some spins. But it's a completely different scenario when you inadvertently wind up in a spin. According to an AOPA Safety Advisory from 2004 title Spatial Disorientation, disorientation results in a higher percentage of deaths compared to other accident categories -- over 90% in fact. With that, try completing this months short quiz based on a few flying scenarios that might challenge an unsuspecting VFR pilot. Answers and discussion can be found at the end of the quiz.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Aircraft Engine Failure in IMC

Forwarded to us by one of our members. We all hope we can perform at this level when we need to.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The "Up" house for real

This is tangentially "GA." Some of us at PFC love this sort of stunt.  Not really a house—at a relatively tiny 256 sqft and 2000 lbs—but it only took 300 weather helium filled weather balloons to lift this "house" to 10,000 feet.

Imagine getting the following traffic advisory: "Cessna 12345, off your 11 o'clock at 10,000 feet.  A house traveling with the winds at 10 knots...."

Full video on

Airplane keys

A new member recently sent an email saying: "I'm thrilled to be in PFC and can't stop showing off the key!"  One of our board members, who is not usually known for much sentimentalism, once remarked that when he first joined he would sometimes take the keys out of his pockets just to look at them.

The last thing a member will be asked to do before departing from the club is to turn in his keys—something that many former members confess was hard to do, even if they hadn't actually used them in quite some time.

Of course, keys are symbols of access, and for that reason have special meaning. Most of us can probably remember being handed the keys to our first car or our first house. But airplane keys seem to mean more. Perhaps it is the idea that we can go flying anytime we want—the promise of adventure—that we find so appealing (even if we don't actually get to go flying as often as we would like). Or perhaps it is the sense of belonging to a pretty small group—aircraft owners. Whatever the case maybe, airplane keys seem to have greater meaning for those who are fortunate enough to have them.

Got any airplane key stories to share?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

The weather is finally starting to cooperate, and many of us are eager to get back in the air.  But it's still often cold enough (especially at altitude) that cabin heat is a must. Which brings with it the risk of CO poisoning (the FAA published a safety brochure on the subject a while back) if there is a leak in the exhaust system. (Actually, even when there is no leak per se in the exhaust system, it is still possible for CO to enter the cabin as we discovered a while back in one of our aircraft.) So, many of us carry CO detectors of one kind or another.  There are many choices for CO detectors out there, which ones to use and where to put them in the cockpit for best detection? Last year, the FAA issued a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin (DOT/FAA/AR-09/49) that sheds some light on the topic.