Keep Those Run-ups Noisy
I never thought Iíd say this, but I think Iím becoming more sympathetic to people who donít like airplane noise. And Iím not talking about fly-over noiseóthatís transient and it at least affords the option of momentarily looking up to see whatís making it. I like that kind.
Iím talking about airport ground noise; the grindingly long run-up at full power or the incessant whine of an APU thatís been on for about 30 minutes too long to keep the bossís drinks chilled. I noticed this the other day at Centennial Airport near Denver. Rick Durden and I were shooting video in a hangar not too far from one of the run-up areas. During camera setup, I was vaguely conscious of a rising irritation from hearing two or three airplanes at run-up power for what like seemed like 10 minutes each, but was probably more like four minutes. And thatís probably three minutes and 30 seconds longer than a run-up needs to be.
I think I know whatís going on, too. Because weíve come to equate procedure with safety and checklists with procedure, I think pilots are being taught to use the cookbook method when doing a run-up. Set throttle at 1700 RPM. Check. Lose place on checklist, find it again, check oil pressure and charge rate. Check. Lose place again. Perform mag check and so on. So the engine screeches along at high power, making noise and wasting fuel while providing the pilot no discernibly useful information about the pending flight.
For a while there, maybe in the late 1990s, flow methods were popular and thatís what I taught. Flow over to the throttle, set it at 1700 RPM, flow the engine instruments, check the mags, cycle the prop and set the throttle to quiet again. Twenty seconds, tops. Then run the checklist to make sure you didnít miss anything. This is the single-pilot version of challenge/response.
I think the checklist and training industry has made this kind of sensible approach obsolete, aided and abetted by large cockpit displaysóor tablets--that can readily list even more checklist items. And, well, shoot, we all know the more stuff on your checklist, the safer you are. I swear, I think I remember seeing one that mentioned the pilotís meds and sort of asked you if you were feeling all right. Got clean underwear on? Hey, you never know.
At my home airport, they address the annoying ground noise problem with a run-up pad on an old closed runway in the center of the field. Makes sense. I generally donít use it because the Cubís brakes arenít effective enough to do a static run-up, so I do a rolling run-up on the departure runway. I doubt if anyone hears a thing. But in a loud airplane, I do use the mid-field pad, just as requested.
I wonder if instructors ought to think through how they teach new pilots run-up procedures, not just for noise, but for the sake of wear and tear on the airplane and common sense. While weíre at it, let's think about not punching the prop control forward on downwind and treating everyone to the howl that creates. Iím pretty sure Iím not the only old crank around the airport who could do with a little less pointless noise. We should consider each other as much as we consider the airport neighbors.