AVwebFlash - Volume 14, Number 15a

April 7, 2008

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Live from Lakeland ... It's Sun 'n Fun! back to top 

SportairUSA Hit By Tornado, Heading To Sun 'n Fun

Click for a Larger Image
Sun ‘n Fun is a big show for most aviation concerns but it’s especially important for the up-and-coming Light Sport Aircraft manufacturers. And they’re not going to let anything like taking a direct hit from a tornado keep them from the show. Sportair USA’s hangar in North Little Rock, Ark., was in the path of a small (ef1) tornado sporting winds of up to 110 mph on Apr. 3. The briefly destructive storm twisted one hangar into a pile of rubble that collapsed on a brand-new Sting Sport LSA. Another hangar was simply carried away, leaving nothing but the concrete slab. Luckily, SportairUSA founder Bill Canino was in a hangar that survived the onslaught.

“What I’ve always been told, is true,” Canino said. “There was the sound of a rushing freight train. Everything in the hangar shook, the ductwork was banging against the metal walls. I thought the building was moving. Then the wind was gone and the rain beat on the roof.” The surviving hangar is the core of the operation so business has continued without interruption, and that includes heading to Sun ‘n Fun.

Herpa Wings "Fly the DC-3" Contest Winners

copyright © John Fleck

We've chosen the winners to fly left seat in the Herpa Wings DC-3 at Sun 'n Fun!

Aircraft owner Dan Gryder has opened up another flight for a left-seat winner, so we were able to pick two of our favorite essayists from more than 200 entries. First and foremost, we say thank you to Dan and to every AVweb reader who took the time to share their DC-3 stories and aspirations with us.

Joining us for DC-3 flights on Tuesday morning, April 8, will be Joe Kaminskas of Biglerville, Pennsylvania and Christa Mabry of Batavia, Illinois. Both have confirmed that they can be there for the flight, and we'll be inviting a couple of the runners-up to come along with us as passengers.

Joe Kaminskas

Joe Kaminskas

Joe's a former airline pilot and had his first flight as a child in a DC-3. Throughout a long career, he's always wanted to fly one, but this is his first opportunity to do so. Joe didn't enter our contest himself, but his friend Charlie Tipton made a convincing argument on Joe's behalf with this essay:

Why I Want (Joe Kaminskas) to Fly the Herpa Wings DC-3

A DC-3 took my friend Joe for his first flight in 1950. The experience inspired him to become a pilot, and he has since relished flying in GA, USAF and airline service. Now retired, he is a dedicated vintage aircraft aficionado and a walking encyclopedia of historic aviation knowledge. However, the major regret of his career is that he never got to fly a "Gooney Bird."

I've seen Joe's poignant enthusiasm for the DC-3 when he toured Basler's conversion shop. I've watched him beam as he climbed into the left seat of a static display, and I've felt his contagious excitement during air show fly-bys. As someone who was privileged to fly the C-117D variant, I fully understand the thrill of flying this venerable icon. But I've already had my chance and now I'd like to see Joe finally get his.

Selecting Joe for the opportunity to take the controls of N143D would be a wonderful surprise for a deserving aviator in his twilight years. It would also give him closure to a journey that began with a teenage dream 58 years ago in the back of a DC-3.

Christa Mabry

Christa Mabry

Somehow, Christa managed to squeeze in flying lessons while raising four boys. She now flies at least four times a week in the family 182 — her husband is a pilot, too — and is working on her instrument rating. Here's her essay:

Why I Want to Fly the Herpa Wings DC-3 ...

Somewhere between starting the laundry and emptying the dishwasher, I find time to sit with my coffee to read my AVwebFlash e-mail (which, by the way, I love).

I do not claim to be an aviation/airplane bluff, but [I] know the DC-3 is a BIG plane! Being a mom of four boys has not made learning to fly easy for me, but it does give me motivation to keep reaching for all the information I can get my hands on to make me a better pilot. As pilots, we all know the hard work and dedication it takes to reach each goal we set for ourselves. But for me, it's also to encourage my boys to never give up on what they believe in or dream of! Flying the DC-3 would be the icing on the cake for my boys, in more ways than I could ever imagine.

Now back to the laundry.

Thanks for your time.

Reminder: Sun 'n Fun At Lakeland Florida, Plus NOTAM

AVweb will be at the big spring airshow held annually at Lakeland, Fla., this April 8 - 13, providing full coverage -- video, podcasts and text updates, every day. Sun 'n Fun this year includes all the latest gear, gadgets and aircraft ready for prime time ... and may include some early previews of big announcements to come later at AirVenture Oshkosh. And don't forget the airshow; the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will be there this year and Lancair's turbine evolution is expected to be there, too. If you're thinking of flying in, be sure you've seen, read, and understand the NOTAM and choose another method of transportation if you think the flight might make you uncomfortable. (AVweb has been made aware by some pilots that the arrival situation is not for them.) Of course, if you can't go, just watch your inbox -- we'll be putting as much of the excitement from Lakeland that we can fit in there (virtually). Plus, if you do make it to the show, and have a video or video content you'd like to share with AVweb readers, just send an e-mail to AVweb video editor Glenn Pew at gpew@avweb.com. We'll see what we can do ... .

Can't wait for the daily AVwebFlash e-newsletter? Watch our Sun 'n Fun coverage as it unfolds at http://www.avweb.com/news/snf.

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» Be there with Cessna Single-Engine at booths SNF-001-005 at Sun 'n Fun
Bluer Skies, Greener Fuels back to top 

Boeing Flies Fuel Cell Aircraft

Boeing has successfully flown the world’s first fuel-cell-powered aircraft and it took its time announcing it. The Diamond Dimona motorglider has flown three times since February out of an airfield at Ocana, south of Madrid. The aircraft took off on a combination of battery power and the fuel cell but used the fuel cell alone to cruise at 3,300 feet and about 55 knots for 20 minutes. “Boeing is actively working to develop new technologies for environmentally progressive aerospace products," said Francisco Escarti, Boeing Research & Technology Europe (BR&TE) managing director. "We are proud of our pioneering work during the past five years on the Fuel Cell Demonstrator Airplane project. It is a tangible example of how we are exploring future leaps in environmental performance." According to Boeing, fuel cells make sense for small manned and unmanned aircraft but they’re not likely to be used for airliners. But they’re also not ruling anything out. “The company will continue to investigate their potential, as well as other sustainable alternative fuel and energy sources that improve environmental performance,” Boeing said in a news release.

Related Content:
AVweb video coverage of the announcement

Exclusive Video: The Story of Boeing's Hydrogen Fuel Cell Aircraft

Original, Exclusive Videos from AVweb | Reader-Submitted & Viral Videos

Boeing has flown a manned aircraft on hydrogen fuel cell power — and while the announcement may seem to come out of the blue, Boeing has put the fuel cell-powered Diamond Dimona through its paces outside of Madrid, leaving behind only a trail of H2O exhaust. AVweb's Glenn Pew has the full story:

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Related Content:
More details on Boeing's hydrogen-powered demonstrator plane

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» See Avidyne technologies in action at booths D-069-070 and N-028 at Sun 'n Fun
Staying Safe back to top 

Military Pilots Ask For Some Space

While pedestrians have the right of way, you don’t see many sticking their arm out and marching across a freeway. Likewise, military pilots who use military operating areas to hone their skills and get a little afterburner time are asking that civilian pilots understand the kind of screeching halt their presence in MOAs can cause. “You’re talking about tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers money,” retired F-16 pilot Lt. Col Fred Clifton told AVweb in a podcast interview last week. Clifton also noted such interruptions eat into already-scarce flight time by fighter jocks thanks to military cutbacks. Similar sentiments have been expressed by forum contributors to AVweb’s blog, the AVweb Insider, in which Editorial Director Paul Bertorelli also pleaded for some consideration for the fighter operations.

Clifton explained that if civilian aircraft cross an MOA during an exercise, the drill has to be stopped and the aircraft have to fly in circles, wasting fuel, while they wait for the plane to get out of the way. Of critical importance, said Clifton, is that civilian pilots find out if the MOA is active before crossing. If it is active, it’s best to fly around or even cut a corner (corners aren’t usually used by the fighters because they need too much room to turn). The lively dialogue was sparked by a podcast interview with California Pilatus PC-12 pilot Patrick McCall who complained that he and another aircraft were intercepted and shadowed at close range by an F-16 in the Gladden MOA in Arizona. The FAA and military are looking into the allegations. Clifton said he’s intercepted civilian aircraft in MOAs and says it can be done without undue hazard to either aircraft because military pilots are trained to fly at close quarters. “Was it aggressive? Yes,” he said. “Was it hazardous? No.”

AirGator Announces NAVAir 3D Approaches

AirGator Inc. says its new NAVAir Approaches 3D offers "unparalleled situational awareness" to pilots by offering a three-dimensional view of the aircraft during approach, viewable on certain pocket- or tablet-PC products. The system shows the aircraft's position in both the plan view and on the vertical profile and works with AirGator's NAVAir moving map or NAVAir Approaches simple interface. After providing visual position representation through a successful approach and landing, the system then automatically displays the aircraft on the airport diagram for better awareness while taxiing. Pricing for the viewer is $249 with 12 months of data updates and program enhancements. After that, subscription renewals are $189 per year. And, remember, you'll need something to view it on. The company is inviting you to watch a demonstrations of the product, here and here.

NTSB: Safer Flying By Reporting UAV Accidents

The NTSB is proposing changes to regulations that concern reporting and notification with regard to aircraft incidents, accidents, or collisions, because they currently do not adequately cover unmanned aircraft. The notice of proposed rulemaking seeks comment prior to July and suggests that the definition of "aircraft accident" be made to include "unmanned aircraft accident." Specifically, revisions would be made to 49 CFR part 830 to cover unmanned aircraft for the period starting from the time the vehicle is activated and concluding when the vehicle is deactivated. A UAV accident would be indicated by any person suffering death or serious injury, or substantial damage done to the aircraft while it is in operation. These additions, says the NTSB, "will enhance aviation safety by providing the NTSB with notification" of the aforementioned events.

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Rising and Falling Tides of Business back to top 

ATA Bankruptcy Ripples Through Industry, Economy

When ATA Airlines filed for bankruptcy, Thursday, it immediately and without warning halted all flights; after 35 years in operation, the airline Thursday left its passengers stranded and nearly all of its 2,200 employees are now unemployed. The sudden stoppage was explained by ATA in a statement that said FedEx had cancelled a charter agreement with the airline, leaving ATA unable to offset fuel prices. World Airways and North American Airlines, two airlines acquired by ATA's parent group, ATA Acquisition Inc., are not in bankruptcy, according to court documents. While ATA warned other airlines of its impending shutdown, asking them to help its soon to be stranded passengers. Northwest Airlines said it will honor ATA tickets for flights to and from Hawaii and Cancun through May 3 for a fee of $100 per leg. Southwest will honor any tickets issued to is own customers, or provide those customers with refunds. For those passengers that arrived at ATA check-in points to empty counters said they received no notice of their flight's cancellation. They are encouraged to seek financial return from their credit card companies (if that's how they purchased their tickets). ATA frequent fliers currently can expect their accrued mileage to be worthless. Employees say they got phone calls, some at 3 a.m. letting them know their services were no longer required.

Some may have anticipated this day was coming, but an announcement last month from the airline stated that ATA would close its hub at Midway, ceasing domestic flights there on April 14 with a stop to international flights falling on June 7. ATA follows Aloha Airgroup Inc. into Bankruptcy. Aloha ceased operations on March 31.

"Nationwide Fractional" U.S. Aviation Group

U.S. Aviation Group claims to be the first nationwide program catering to general aviation pilots seeking fractional ownership of an aircraft. Each share begins with one pilot, in any community between the two U.S. coasts, according to the company. That pilot may purchase a 1/6 share of a 237-knot Mooney Acclaim, a Diamond DA40 XLS, or a 1/10 share in a light sport aircraft -- each to be held for three years. The company then finds five other pilots willing to put their money where their mouth is and fills in the rest of the shares. U.S. Aviation Group then applies a monthly fee ($587 for the Diamond) and maintains the aircraft's needs from hangars and insurance to maintenance and cleaning. The company then charges hourly use rates with a limit of hours per year (75 for the Acclaim). For LSA owners, use rates can be as low as $43 per hour.

At the top end, the Mooney will cost its pilot a $120,500 buy-in, plus a monthly management fee of $737.50 and an hourly rate of $129, according to the company's Web site. The Diamond has a buy-in of $66,000 and the LSA weighs in at $15,000 for its lesser share. After a checkout, according to the company, pilots just "show up and fly." The company covers "your initial transition training and regular recurrent training" as part of the program and includes Bose headsets for each occupant. Owners hold a titled interest that could be to their taxable advantage (they may depreciate costs associated with business use of the aircraft). At the end of the three-year period, the company sells the aircraft and divides the proceeds between the owners.

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News Briefs back to top 

Wathen Aviation High School Expands

After three years of operation, Wathen Aviation High School (WAHS) is expanding to include more students in grades 9-12 on the grounds of Flabob Airport, in Riverside, Calif. Children at the school have the opportunity to develop hands-on skills through a variety of airport projects (like restoring a Stinson 108 to airworthiness) and can earn free flight lessons from participation. Students previously restored and flew an Aeronca Champ to Oshkosh and back. "We think aviation is a great way to motivate kids to learn," says Wathen Foundation executive director John Lyon. A trustee at the Thomas W. Wathen Foundation, which owns Flabob airport, Major General Pat Halloran once flew the SR71 Blackbird -- now he shares with students his firsthand experience of the Cold War and the world's fastest airplane. While unique, WAHS is a free public charter high school and enrollment (which is now open for fall 2008) is open on a first-come, first-served basis.

Courses at the high school teach to state and federal standards. For more information or to enroll, contact Kathleen Swift at (951) 222-4466.

On the Fly ...

China Eastern Airlines is denying reports of rebellion by pilots in the wake of a series of cancelled flights last week. The airline says high winds forced the pilots to turn around and return to their originating airports ...

Australia is restricting importation of portable laser devices after a series of laser pointing incidents at aircraft. The government is considering imposing regulations similar to those in place on guns and other weapons ...

Three young pilots are flying a Cessna Mustang in a round-the-world speed record attempt. At our deadline, Jared Isaacman, 25; Douglas Demko, 26; and Shaun Leach, 27, were a half-hour ahead of the previous record holder as they neared completion of the 22,000 mile trip.

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New on AVweb back to top 

CEO of the Cockpit #81: Ah, To Be In Newark In The Morning!

The nice part about Newark (and New York City) in the morning is ... leaving. AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit has a good day, for once.

Click here for the full story.

Pick-up times can come awful early when you are laying over in Manhattan and departing out of Newark. Our 6 a.m. departure for Los Angeles from EWR necessitated a 3:45 a.m. pick-up at the "Mildew Plaza" on 7th Avenue. Our normal pick-up times in Manhattan are an hour and a half before report time, but the early hour allowed a 15-minute exception to the rule.

Not that I'm complaining. We got in around 11 a.m. yesterday and had a great layover. New York layovers always guarantee good food, things to do and interesting people to watch. Good times; but now my crew and I are paying the price for our fun as our Golden Touch limo hits every pothole between our hotel and the tunnel.

Some of these potholes have been here since the British occupied the city in the late 1700s. I am sitting in my van seat imagining red-coats cursing the ride in their army wagons.

Spring Has Sprung

I couldn't help but notice that the pigeons were out in full force and that spring had arrived in the city. Damn good thing, too. It has been a long and hard winter for this captain. I think my crews and I have spent more time in the de-icing area than in the sky. We've hit more airborne, winter-time bumps than usual and suffered more than our share of mechanicals, missing ground crews, inoperative APUs, and mis-caterings. Maybe the new, warmer season will smooth things around for our airline in general and this captain in particular.

I usually throw my seniority around and take the right-front seat of the van. I don't have to talk to anybody if I don't want to and it is easier to catch a short nap up in front. The driver never talks to us. I'm not sure he can, but if he does speak English, he must be in constant amazement about the dumb stuff we say.

The Most Important Layover Skill

One of the most important skills for a new pilot to learn is how to balance and drink a full cup of coffee during a turbulent van ride to the airport in the morning. It isn't as easy as it sounds and can sometimes be harder than doing a double engine-out landing in a 777. The key to the whole procedure is to maintain a light grip on your cup and let it sway (within reason) with the ride and the bumps. Timing your sips can be dicey and, because of this, I've ingested almost as much coffee through my nose as my mouth during my career.

Normally, on a very early pick-up such as this, my flight attendants are quiet and somber as they ponder their day and regret staying up late to see that off-Broadway play. Apparently, today wasn't a normal day.

My self-imposed exile in the front of the van didn't spare me hearing the summary of my crew's shopping adventure of the previous afternoon. I'm not sure why they shop on trips. I have enough trouble getting my stuff through security without having to deal with a bag of swag I just bought at Macy's. I was miserably awake now, with no hope of a decent nap, so I was actually glad when my co-pilot Paul chimed-in from his second-row seat.

"I guess I'll have to start my warm-weather bidding pattern," He said. "I normally bid trips with southern layovers in the winter and northern ones in the warm months. It is about time to stop bidding Fort Lauderdale trips and start thinking again about Seattle and Boston."

That piqued my interest a little bit. Paul and I share a weird sort of bond that has led us to fly together more than your usual pair of random pilots. No, it isn't like that ... we share the trait that we bid our trips for good layovers instead of maximum flight time.

Most pilots have the attitude that when they are at work, they ought to be by-gawd working. This leads them to bid trips that are awful in my opinion. They prefer trips to nasty places that arrive at times of the day that they know are going to be full of thunderstorms, just so they can get the huge delays and gather in more duty- and credit- time.

Paul and I have bid our time so we can arrive at a great layover well before the afternoon thunderstorms fire up. We are normally halfway through a happy hour as the first line of boomers rolls in. Then, with early morning departures, we can get a few more benefits:

  • The airplane is almost always there because it came in the night before. Most afternoon sign-ins are a crap shoot because the inbound airplane is almost never there on time;
  • The airplane is ready to fly. Big stations like EWR still have all night maintenance so our chances of having an airplane that isn't broken go way up if we take the first flight out; and
  • The passengers aren't very rowdy. You hardly ever have a drunk, out of control passenger when you leave early in the morning. Most of them just want to sleep and are harmless little fuzz-balls during the flight.

There are various things that make getting an early trip like this really hard to get. First, if you commute -- and most pilots today commute -- you have to go to work the night before and pay for a hotel room before you begin your trip. Second, almost every airline has a "preferential bid system" that builds trips for you based on your stated preferences and seniority. This makes bidding much harder than when you could actually see the trips ahead of time. Finally, almost any international rotation to and from Europe begins in the evening, not the morning, and flies most of the night.

Surprise! The FAA Enforces Some Rules!

Our van driver turned his radio up a little when he heard a news snippet that mentioned "grounded airliners." We stopped talking about Calgary layovers for a moment and listened to the first bad news of the morning. They had grounded the MD-88 fleet again. It wasn't due to a wiring inspection like last time. Our Long Beach Death Tubes were tied to the ground this time due to a hydraulic power-pack inspection required for the rudder.

The grounding wouldn't affect my 767 crew today, but if they don't clear the grounding up by tomorrow afternoon, half of my flight attendants won't be able to commute home. Also, the terminal at EWR, instead of being a mess like it usually is, would be more like the last days of Saigon. Passengers would be running around waving pieces of paper over their heads and mewing like scalded kittens.

The CEO Almost Reminisces

I was just about to start telling the group a story about how we used to inspect things before they became illegal but was interrupted by the fact that our van driver had made record time getting us to the airport and was, even now, maneuvering our crew barge to a sideways parking spot at the curb. We tipped our driver, loaded our various stuff on our pull-along bags and trudged to security and the gate.

The drowsy hassles of an early morning pick-up evaporated for me as we climbed out from EWR. We had hit the jackpot of pre-dawn flying this morning. The coffee was hot, my lamb's-wool seat cover was fairly new and comfortable and we had an airplane with absolutely no maintenance carry-overs.

Paul was flying, which left me to only answer the radio, run the occasional checklist and sip on my hot java as I thought my private, captain thoughts. We had the added early morning advantage of heading westward -- away from the rising sun. Life was good.

Cleared direct to East Texas VOR, we were now autopilot-controlled and our day got even better near cruise altitude just as the "movie running" illuminated on our overhead panel: We actually got meals from the back! Getting fed on a domestic flight was almost unheard of, yet here we were eating eggs and other breakfast stuff that was actually heated and on a plate. Could things get any better than this?

Things Get Better

It turns out they could. A building line of thunderstorms was about 20 miles ahead. I would usually not like this kind of development, but because it was early morning, they weren't all that tall and mean yet, and the line had sizeable gaps. I asked Paul if I could fly for a while and had him get us a block altitude from ATC. I then had the pleasure of a half hour of hand-flying my favorite airplane through and around pink-tinged build-ups.

What are working people doing today? I wondered. I complain a lot because I am a captain and it is my nature, but there aren't many people playing around clouds while burning hundreds of gallons of highly priced jet fuel and getting paid to do it.

Sometimes the joy of flight can overcome the cynicism of the airline world as it has become. These are the times that make me tuck in my white shirt, clip on my black tie and keep showing up at 3:45 a.m. for work.

Want to read more from AVweb's CEO of the Cockpit? Check out the rest of his columns.

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Circling With Precision

A circling approach is a visual game made safer with the right mix of math, estimation and skillful instrument flying.

Click here for the full story.

Circling at your home airport isn't that tough. Familiar landmarks help establish proper lateral spacing from the runway. Because you know the landmarks well, you can pick them out from circling altitudes and in low visibility.

Circling to an unfamiliar field in challenging conditions is another story. I was flying the C-130 to a remote radar station known as Tin City on the Alaskan Seward Peninsula. Visibility was two miles in blowing snow with winds gusting to 20 knots off the Bering Strait. After a tight procedure turn, to avoid Russian airspace, we descended on the NDB signal. At MDA we could see the cliff with the orange panel reminding us not to land short, but little else.

We couldn't distinguish any local landmarks to circle to the opposite runway. The sky was white with blowing snow. The runway was white except for the panels that marked the touchdown zone. Rooftops were white and, worse yet, the hills lining the runway on three sides were white and blended into the sky. Without a system to get in the correct position, landing would have required a lot of luck or a crash response team.

That's Not Right

Once the airport comes into view, the TLAR method -- "That Looks About Right" -- is a tempting way to establish a downwind. The hazard of TLAR is that low visibility or darkness makes the runway appear farther away. As a result, it's common to choose a downwind too close for a normal base turn.

This is made worse by the typical lower-than-pattern circling altitude. We're used to the view from a 1000-foot AGL, VFR traffic pattern. Placing the runway in the same relative position in the window at circling altitudes can cut lateral spacing from the runway in half.

The setup is now tight spacing and overshooting the turn to final. The trick is finding an accurate means of placing the airplane one turn diameter away from the runway and then compensating for any crosswind lurking at MDA.

The Overfly Method

Consider an approach course perpendicular to the runway, such as the GPS-A at Waseca, Minn., (KACQ). The approach is a 223 heading, almost 90-degrees off for a landing on Runway 15.

The simple spacing solution is to turn and overfly the runway in the landing direction, turn 180 degrees to downwind, and then turn 180 degrees to final. The beauty of this maneuver is its simplicity. The first 180-degree turn puts you exactly one turn diameter away from the runway on downwind. A base turn at the same bank angle and airspeed as the first turn aligns you with the runway for landing. That is, if there is calm wind.

When winds blow you toward the runway, evaluate the drift when first heading upwind and then correct accordingly on downwind. If more than 30 degrees of bank are required to avoid overshooting final, a go-around or continued circling at/above MDA for another try may be wise.

For winds that blow you away from the runway, adjust your spacing on the downwind or use a shallower bank turning to final. Adjustments to roll out on the runway centerline should be made as early as possible in the turn to final. If necessary, fly a base leg for a few seconds and then complete the turn.

Circling to a landing in the opposite direction -- such as I was faced with at Tin City -- can be done with 90-degree turn to crosswind, followed by a 90-degree turn back to the downwind. This s-turn puts you on downwind one turn diameter from the runway, but such maneuvers, unless well-practiced, can be disorienting.

Known-Radius Circles

A better way of establishing one-turn-diameter spacing from the runway is by calculating turn radius for your typical circling true airspeed and bank angle. When your radius of turn is known, you can skip the step of overflying the runway by just displacing yourself the correct distance from the runway, flying downwind to just past the numbers, and then making a 180-degree turn to final.

You can calculate your no-wind radius of turn ...

turn radius = (KTAS ^2) / (11.26 * TAN (angle of bank))

... or approximate it from a chart. For a preferred bank angle, I like 20 degrees. It gives leeway to safely steepen or lessen the bank during the last 90 degrees of turn to final. A turn at 20 degrees of bank and 100 knots has a radius of 2440 feet or a diameter of 4880 feet.

To use this number when circling to an opposite runway, arrive at the MAP and turn either 30 degrees or 45 degrees from runway heading. Fly until you are one-turn-diameter laterally -- in this case 4880 feet -- from the runway. Now fly downwind until abeam the numbers and make your 20-degree-bank turn to final.

For approaches perpendicular to the runway (the aircraft at right), cross the runway and fly one turn radius away. Then turn 90 degrees. For approaches from the opposite runway (the aircraft at bottom), turn 45 or 30 degrees and fly 1.5 or two times the turn diameter. Fly a short downwind if needed to get past abeam the numbers and make a 180-degree turn to final. Adjust your bank angle in the latter part of the turn to roll out on course.

How do you know when you are 4880 feet laterally from the runway? Use GPS (see "Lateral Displacement and GPS" above right) or timing. For 30 degrees, fly a distance twice your turn diameter; in this case, 9760 feet (1.6 miles). At 100 knots, that's 58 seconds. With runways less than 5000 feet, a better technique is to use a 45-degree turn and fly 1.5 times the turn diameter. Here that's 7320 feet or 44 seconds. (Technically the multiplier is 1.4, but the difference is usually less than two seconds.) If you misplace your calculator, there's a rule of thumb that says to turn 30-degrees for 60 seconds or 45-degrees for 45 seconds. That's pretty close for 100 knots and 20 degrees of bank.

For approaches perpendicular to the landing runway, cross the runway and fly straight for the distance of one turn radius -- 2440 feet, or roughly 15 seconds in our example -- and then turn 90 degrees to the downwind to add another turn radius. You're now one turn diameter from the runway and in a good position to turn and land.

The key note with this procedure is that it uses true airspeed, not indicated. In Florida, flying 100 knots on the airspeed indicator may be a diameter of 4880 feet, but in Telluride, Colo., (9078 MSL), your true airspeed is 118 knots and the diameter jumps to 6800 feet -- close to the limits of protected airspace for a Cat. A aircraft (1.3 nm).

Practice these techniques in visual conditions and customize them for your airplane. Find an airspeed and bank-angle combination that gives you the turn diameter you want for your destination.

Making it Simpler

It would be great if you could easily fly a given radius every time, but variation with true airspeed makes that challenging. Estimating your true airspeed is simple and useful. You PFD fliers can just read it off the display.

Another option is to use the radius chart in reverse to find a bank angle for a desired radius. If you want a 3000 foot radius at 100 knots (TAS) you must fly a bank angle of 16.5 degrees. In practice, holding just over 15 degrees through the turn should get you close enough. You'll find that a given airspeed, bank angle, and timing works well for most approaches. Again, watch out for larger radii due to higher true airspeeds at high-altitude airports.

Radius of turn varies with both bank angle and true airspeed. To find your radius of turn, follow the line up from your true airspeed to your desired bank angle and then move right to find the radius. Double this figure for a 180-degree turn diameter. A standard-rate turn can also be used. At 95 knots (true), a standard-rate turn has a radius of just over 3000 feet.

These calculations may seem like a lot of trouble, but their purpose is limiting the TLAR guesswork for the turn to final. Even with a perfect turn to final, remember that low visibility also causes the illusion that you're high and could lead to a low, dragged-in, approach.

In Tin City's snowstorm, I cleared the cliff with the runway directly below. At 127 knots circling speed, I turned 45 degrees and timed for 51 seconds. With the tailwind, that put me slightly beyond the threshold, but well within the 1.7-mile, Category-C limit. At the end of 51 seconds, I began a level turn toward final, varying my bank slightly to roll out on final. According to procedure, descent was initiated when landing was assured. The headwind on final provided a short, but manageable final, with attention to the VVI (VSI) and radar altimeter.

Try it Yourself

My approach to Tin City wasn't the first time that I tried the 45-degree turn and timing technique. Circling in low-visibility, white-out conditions to a short-field landing isn't the time to try something new. Practice these techniques at a familiar field in good VFR. Try some math and cross-check your performance using the length of intersecting runways or other known ground references.

Refine your techniques for your preferred bank angles and airspeeds. Watch how close you come to the limits of protected airspace. Practice in a variety of wind conditions and learn to compensate appropriately. Augmenting your visual circling with instrument techniques improves safety and confidence when faced with circling in low visibility conditions at an unfamiliar field.

More articles to help you become a better pilot are available in AVweb's Airmanship section. And for monthly articles about IFR flying, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, IFR magazine.

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Cirrus Announces New Standard Maintenance Program
A planemaker fond of comparing its planes to high-end luxury automobiles just brought those two seemingly disparate markets a little closer. Cirrus Design has announced the launch of Cirrus Maintenance, a new "standard with purchase" benefit designed to help reduce the cost of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance. For more information, click here.

» Experience the fun of flying with Cirrus Design at booths MD-032C and MD-033B at Sun 'n Fun
Reader Voices back to top 

AVmail: Apr. 7, 2008

Reader mail this week about fuel economy, position and hold and pilot firearms, and lots of comments about GA vs. F-16s in MOAs.

Click here to read this week's letters to the editor.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

Our best stories start with you. If you've heard something 200,000 pilots might want to know about, tell us. Submit news tips via email to newstips@avweb.com. You're a part of our team ... often, the best part.

Got Cylinders? Tell Us About Your Service History

Our sister publication, Aviation Consumer, is conducting a survey on aircraft engine cylinder products. If you've done an overhaul during the past several years, the magazine's editors would like to hear from you on how the cylinders have performed.

Just click on this link to take the survey.

The results will appear in a future issue of Aviation Consumer. For subscription information, click here.

Motion Sickness Solution for You and Your Passengers
The Relief Band Explorer offers the most effective and predictable relief available for nausea and vomiting associated with motion sickness. Your passengers will never feel the ill effects of motion sickness in your plane again! This FDA-cleared wristwatch-like device is available exclusively at Aeromedix.com. It's the best $129.95 purchase you will ever make. Call Aeromedix at (888) 362-7123, or go online to purchase.
AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

Heroes of ATC: The 2008 Archie League Medal of Safety Award Winners

File Size 13.4 MB / Running Time 14:41

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

As you read on AVweb, air traffic controller Patrick Eberhart of Detroit Metro TRACON is this year's winner of the NATCA Archie League Awards. In this podcast, you'll hear the dramatic audio of Eberhart guiding an aircraft with malfunctioning instruments and low fuel to a safe landing. Plus, you'll hear other amazing recordings, featuring some other finalists from this year's Archie Awards.

Click here to listen. (13.4 MB, 14:41)

Flying Into MOAs: The Military Perspective

File Size 10.6 MB / Running Time 11:35

Podcast Index | How to Listen | Subscribe Via RSS

Monday's podcast with a California pilot who was intercepted and shadowed by an F-16 in a military operating area (MOA) ignited a firestorm of debate on our blog, the AVweb Insider.

Lt. Col Fred Clifton, a retired F-16 pilot who now instructs at the Air Force's weapons school at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, joined the debate from the military pilot's perspective. AVweb's Russ Niles spoke with Clifton about why it's important that civilian pilots be aware of and avoid active MOAs.

Plus, the original story and podcast about Pilatus pilot Patrick McCall's brush with an F-16 generated several listener comments that we'll share.

Click here to listen. (10.6 MB, 11:35)

Video of the Week: Flying Low Under the Radar

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

We've seen some low-flying aircraft in the past, but this clip, originally from Military.com, gave a us a little thrill (on the rare occasions we weren't peeking between our fingers):

Don't see a video screen?
Try disabling ad blockers and refreshing this page.
If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

Don't forget to send us links to any interesting videos you find out there. If you're impressed by it, there's a good chance other AVweb readers will be too. And if we use a video you recommend on AVweb, we'll send out an official AVweb baseball cap as a "thank you."

Welcome to Jeppesen E-Charts
Jeppesen Electronic Charts — or e-charts — are here. They're compliant and replacing paper charts worldwide. E-charts will make your flying faster, safer, and better. Whether you display your electronic charts in the cockpit or print them out and use the paper, e-charts are easier to carry, easier to use, and easier to revise than traditional paper charts. You'll spend more time flying and less time preparing to fly. Learn more about the many benefits of switching to electronic charts by visiting Jeppesen online.

» See Jeppesen e-charts in action at booths C-017-021 at Sun 'n Fun
Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Parlin Field Airport (2B3, Newport, NH)

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb reader Dick Bicknell couldn't find enough nice things to say about this week's "FBO of the Week" winner — Parlin Field Airport (2B3) in Newport, New Hampshire.

Six or so years ago, while searching for low fuel prices, we discovered a perfect gem of an airport located 45 nm north of the Massachusetts border and 5 miles west of Lake Sunapee, NH. Their fuel prices remain the lowest, or equal to, any in New England, and their attractiveness, hard to beat. The airport facilities are immaculate. The north/south runway is 3450' paved and NW/SE 1950', excellent turf. 2B3 features an exceptional Mexican restaurant and an ice cream stand ... but the "piece de resistance" is found at the end of Runway 30 — shaded picnic tables, a crystal clear river, sandy beach, and a picturesque covered bridge.

The FBO, Dick tells us, is owned by the town of Newport and operated by Maura and Dean Stetson, "whose welcome is always enthusiastic, friendly and helpful."

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

The Lighter Side of Flight back to top 

Short Final

Overheard in IFR Magazine's 'On the Air' Section
Overheard in IFR Magazine's "On the Air"

Heard on the scanner over Adelaide, South Australia:

Airliner (I think it was a Qantas, but I didn't hear the start of the transmission):
"We won't need to divert into Adelaide now. The passenger is feeling much better now that he has been moved to business class."

"Amazing what recuperative powers business class has."

Leigh P. Bunting
via e-mail

More AVweb for Your Inbox back to top 

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

HAVE YOU SIGNED UP yet for AVweb's NO-COST weekly business aviation newsletter, AVwebBiz? Reporting on breaking news, Business AVflash focuses on the companies, the products and the industry leaders that make headlines in the business aviation industry. Business AVflash is a must read. Sign up today at http://www.avweb.com/profile/.

Names Behind the News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

The AVwebFlash team is:

Timothy Cole

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Features Editor
Kevin Lane-Cummings

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

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If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

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