AVwebFlash - Volume 15, Number 15b

April 16, 2009

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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Zodiac Grounding? Not at the Moment, Says FAA back to top 
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NTSB Asks FAA To Immediately Ground Zodiac CH-601XL Aircraft

In an unusual move on Tuesday, the NTSB issued an "urgent safety recommendation" asking the FAA to prohibit further flight of the Zodiac CH-601XL, which has been involved in six in-flight structural breakups since 2006. The board cited four accidents in the U.S. and two in Europe in which a CH-601XL broke up in flight, killing a total of 10 people. According to the NTSB, there is a problem with the airplane design that makes it susceptible to aerodynamic flutter -- a phenomenon in which the control surfaces of the airplane can suddenly vibrate, and if unmitigated, can lead to catastrophic structural failure. The NTSB wants the U.S. fleet grounded until the FAA can determine that the problem has been solved. "The NTSB does not often recommend that all airplanes of a particular type be prohibited from further flight," said NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker. "In this case, we believe such action will save lives. Unless the safety issues with this particular Zodiac model are addressed, we are likely to see more accidents in which pilots and passengers are killed in airplanes that they believed were safe to fly."

The NTSB also found the stick force gradient was not uniform, and was lesser at high Gs, which could make the airplane susceptible to over-control by the pilot, which could lead to over-stressing the design limits and result in in-flight structural failure. The board also made several requests of ASTM International, the entity that provides the design standards for light sport aircraft. The NTSB says ASTM should add requirements to ensure the standards for LSAs reduce the potential for aerodynamic flutter to occur, develop standards on stick-force characteristics that minimize the possibility inadvertent over-controlling by the pilot, and ensure standards for LSAs result in accurate airspeed indications and appropriate documentation in new airplane pilot operating handbooks. For more details, click here for the full text of the NTSB's safety recommendation letter (PDF) and click here for the NTSB letter to the ASTM (PDF).

FAA And Industry Respond To NTSB Zodiac Concerns

The FAA is already looking into concerns about all versions of the Zodiac CH-601XL aircraft, which were raised at an industry meeting back in February, FAA spokeswoman Laura J. Brown told AVweb on Tuesday, but she added that the agency has no immediate plans to call for the airplanes to be grounded. "The manufacturer already has told owners to check the aileron control cable tensions," she said. The FAA has formed a special review team with members from the FAA and the industry to investigate the problem. Brown added that the FAA has told the ASTM that it should conduct a review of its LSA standards regarding aerodynamic flutter. The CH-601XL airplane is sold in a kit version by Zenith Aircraft, which is run by Sebastian Heintz, and is also sold as an S-LSA by AMD (Aircraft Manufacturing & Design), which is run by Matthew Heintz. The CH-601XL was certified as an S-LSA in 2005. In the six accidents cited by the NTSB, two of the aircraft were experimental amateur-built (one in California and one in Utah), one in California was an S-LSA manufactured by AMD, and one in Florida was an S-LSA built by the Czech Aircraft Works. The other two crashes were in the Netherlands and in Spain, and it is not clear what version of the aircraft was involved.

On Wednesday, Zenith Aircraft posted a notice online stating that the company first learned of the NTSB's safety recommendation on Tuesday, when the press release was issued. "We continue to believe wing flutter will not occur if the control cables are adjusted properly," the notice reads. "Nonetheless, we are carefully considering the points raised in the memo, including whether the Zodiac CH-601XL is susceptible to wing flutter. Each accident discussed in the NTSB memo occurred under different circumstances. Some of the accidents are still being investigated and what caused those accidents has not been determined. Zenith Aircraft will communicate with the FAA about the issues raised in the NTSB memo. We will provide more information after we thoroughly consider the issues raised in the NTSB memo and we have spoken with the FAA about those issues." Matthew Heintz told EAA the company is in the process of evaluating the NTSB report, but expressed confidence in the aircraft's design. "We absolutely do have confidence in the aircraft ... If there is something wrong with the design, we want to fix it," he said. He added the NTSB's report on the California accident involving an AMD S-LSA did not cite aerodynamic flutter as a cause of the accident. Company-issued service bulletins have instructed owners to inspect all control cables and adjust as necessary so that they are within the prescribed parameters, EAA said.

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Top Tech back to top 

EAA Picks Top Innovations From Aero Friedrichshafen

Every pilot likes to see a new version of a favorite product, but what really gets attention is something completely new. At Aero Friedrichshafen earlier this month in Germany, there was plenty of innovation going on -- as AVweb's contributor Graeme Peppler reported from the scene -- and this week, EAA created a list of the show's hottest new ideas. Whether any of these will stand the test of time, or even make it into the U.S. market, remains to be seen.

EAA's choices include the Isatis LSA, which has moved the engine behind the cabin to allow for helicopter-like visibility. The Alatus-ME self-launching motorglider is electric-powered and folds up small enough to carry on your car's roof rack. Flight Design's hybrid engine made the list, as well as a Swiss anti-collision warning system for small aircraft. A line of electric airplanes from Yaneec International, a joint British-Chinese venture, include a quiet powered parachute and plans for a small twin. Many of these designs will make their U.S. debut later this year at EAA AirVenture, but we'll also be on the lookout for new ideas and innovation next week at Sun 'n Fun. Staff from AVweb and our sister Belvoir aviation publications will be on the field daily all next week to bring you news and video from sunny (we hope) Lakeland, Fla.

Avidyne Explains Latest Avionics In Webinars

Click for video of Avidyne's Release 9 from AOPA Expo 2008

For aircraft owners looking to upgrade to the latest new panel, or shoppers ready to buy a new airplane, the big shows like Sun 'n Fun and AirVenture provide great opportunities to check out all the options. But now, buyers who can't be at the show in person can have the next-best thing — an online Webinar, complete with graphics, live audio, and a Q&A session, to get a rundown on all the details in the latest products. This month, Avidyne is making the most of the Webinar format to get the word out about their latest glass-panel upgrade, Release 9. The new system was unveiled late last year — click here for Paul Bertorelli's video tour of the system at AOPA Expo — but with the spring flying season now upon us and FAA certification approaching, the company is offering the hour-long Webinars to show off the system to potential buyers.

Avidyne says Release 9 aims to provide "true single-pilot IFR" capabilities while making it easy and simple to use. Click here for a list of the dates for Avidyne's Webinars and to sign up. The Release 9 system provides new hardware and software, with redundant displays and a full qwerty keyboard for data entry. Modular design makes it easy to install, service, and upgrade the equipment, according to the company. A full-function upgrade to the flight management system provides intuitive flight-planning aid and a caution-alerting system. The system comes with two or three integrated flight displays, or IFDs — no more separate MFD and PFD. First installations in the Cirrus SR22 are on track for June, with Piper installations to start later this year. Prices range from about $73,000 to $93,000, minus trade-in credits on current systems of about $10,000 to $13,000.

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Eye on the Economy back to top 

NTSB Chair Rosenker Predicts GA Recovery

NTSB Acting Chairman Mark Rosenker told the Wichita Aero Club this week that private aviation has unfairly become a "political punching bag" and he believes the industry will rebound quickly and decisively from the current hard times. "The world's economy depends upon a robust air transportation system and general aviation and airline travel is absolutely a vital component of that global system," he said. "It is for this reason that I believe aviation will soon fly out of the turbulence that surrounds it today." He advised the industry leaders to get out and lobby for their cause. "Everyone in this room knows the benefits of business aviation, but many outside this room don't get it, so I would advise that you increase your outreach to the public, and Washington, D.C., to heal that black eye." He said that he believes in working in partnership with industry, rather than imposing regulations, to improve safety. He also said he expects to establish minimum performance requirements for lightweight flight recorders for GA aircraft by sometime this summer. "If recorder systems that captured cockpit audio, images, and parametric data had been installed on the Butte accident airplane [the Pilatus PC-12/45 that crashed on March 22], the recorders would have enabled us to quickly determine information about the accident scenario, including precise locations, altitudes, headings, airspeeds, and pilot actions," he said.

Rosenker also said that his agency is concerned about a recent spike in fatalities in on-demand Part 135 air charter operations, including air medical, air taxi and air tour flights. These flights logged over 3.6 million flight hours in 2008 and had 56 accidents, killing 66 people -- the highest number of fatalities since 2000. "There's a lot of room for improvement in this area," he said, "[and] we continue to do everything we can to identify the safety issues involved, and to advocate for the adoption of our recommendations that will make the skies safer." Click here for the full text of Rosenker's talk.

Zeppelin Startup Struggles As Economy Sinks

The folks who launched the first tour-by-zeppelin business in the U.S. couldn't have had much worse luck with timing -- Airship Ventures launched last October, after two years of planning, just in time for the depths of economic doldrums. With seats selling for $500 each for an hour flight, business has been slow. Toss in the rain and wind of winter in the San Francisco Bay area, and it's even tougher. But Brian Hall, who runs the company with wife Alex, is not discouraged. "It comes with its stresses, there's no big pot of cash, and we're working seven days a week," he told CNN recently. "But if you can ride this out, you can last through anything." He added that he hopes to find sponsors who will pay to paint their logos on the zeppelin, and he may add winery tour weekends, or move to sunny southern California for the winters. The CNN/Money reporter who took a demo flight found the business plan dubious but the view mesmerizing: "We fly over the Golden Gate Bridge just as the sun dips below the horizon. A massive container ship has run aground on the rocks just west of the bridge, and we watch in awe as a Coast Guard boat tows it out to the Pacific," he wrote. "Then we turn and drift back over the Bay as the city lights up and the bright sliver of a new moon rises above it." But will the project prove to be economically viable? CNN's story leaves that question up in the air, for now.

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What You Missed in AVwebBiz This Week back to top 

OSH Tower Comes Down, No Souvenirs

Click for more images
photos by Chris Hibben

Arguably one of the most iconic pieces of aviation-related architecture anywhere came tumbling down recently. The old tower at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wis., for a week each year the "World's Busiest Tower" was pulverized late last week by Miron Contracting, the company that built the new tower. According to the Oshkosh Northwestern, Airport Director Peter Moll said the contractor decided there was no economically feasible way to provide souvenirs from the old tower.

EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski told AVweb last year that the prime real estate formerly occupied by the old tower will become part of the exhibit space during AirVenture. Commenters on the Northwestern's Web site suggested the tower could have been used for housing during AirVenture. The new tower was completed in time for use at last year's event.

Click here to view photos.

Dead At The Controls

Every private pilot thinks about it but for an unidentified passenger on a King Air last Sunday, the fantasy/nightmare came true. The self-described low-time single pilot stepped into the cockpit of the big turboprop twin when the pilot collapsed, and a short time later, died at the controls. "It's just me and the Good Lord hand flying this," the passenger/pilot told Fort Myers approach controllers as he got the feel for the powerful aircraft and set it up for landing. As you can hear in this podcast, he didn't know much about flying a turboprop twin, but he also knew what he didn't know.

The pilot, Joe Cabuk, collapsed while the aircraft was under the control of Miami Center and was climbing through 10,000 feet on autopilot. Miami controllers, including at least one experienced pilot, cleared traffic and got the stand-in pilot hand flying and headed for a long runway at Fort Myers. Meanwhile Dan Favio, a controller at Fort Meyers Approach contacted a friend, Kari Sorensen, who is an experienced King Air pilot and was able to relay speed, equipment and other vital flight information to the pilot through controller Brian Norton, himself an experienced pilot. Norton and Favio worked the King Air exclusively, talking White to final. In the back were White's wife and two daughters. The family was flying home after attending the funeral for White's brother. The landing was uneventful and a clearly emotional White can be heard on the ATC tape telling the controllers of his safe arrival. "We're down, buddy. Thank you." National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA) President Patrick Forrey called those involved "heroic" but at the same time said it was part of the job of controllers. "They all went above and beyond the call of duty and it is times like these that I hope the flying public can see the invaluable lifeline that controllers provide every day – and particularly in emergency situations," he said.

AVwebBiz: AVweb's Business Aviation Newsletter

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News Briefs back to top 

Henley Benefit Air Show This Weekend

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The greatest lineup of the big names in air shows ever assembled will be at Cecil Airfield in Jacksonville, Fla. April 18-19 in a special benefit for Alan Henley, the leader of the Aeroshell team who was paralyzed in an accident at home almost a year ago. All of the almost 30 performers at the are donating their time and expenses to help the Henley family get through the transition to a new life. Admission prices are reasonable and the entertainment value can't be beat. AVweb will be there, and we hope you will be, too.

Related Content:
We spoke with organizer Bobbi Thompson in a podcast interview late last year.

On the Fly ...

An Airbus A380 will visit EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh this summer, EAA said this week...

NPR this week reported on the FAA problems that administrator nominee Randy Babbitt will have to cope with...

Accidents in Hawaii air tour operations have decreased over the last 10 years, compared to the decade before that, the Associated Press reported this week...

The FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive this week affecting the Socata TBM 700 turboprop, mandating a check of the cabin partition net to ensure it is not chafing certain electrical wires...

Samson Motorworks has updated its "flying motorcycle" design, replacing its telescoping wing with a scissor-wing.

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The Top Reporter on Our Crack Staff ... Is You! back to top 

Question of the Week: The Economic Outlook for GA

This Week's Question | Previous Week's Answers


Last week, we asked how tightly airplanes should be locked down at flight schools.

Perhaps in response to the theft of a Cessna 172 from a Thunder Bay flight school, 46% of AVweb readers who participated in our poll said they should be locked at all times, and students should sign them out. At the other end of the spectrum, 33% said there was no security breach in Thunder Bay, and current procedures are enough.

For a complete (real-time) breakdown of reader responses, click here.
(You may be asked to register and answer if you haven't already participated in this poll.)


Pundits are saying general aviation has hit bottom and it's all improvement from here.

Do you agree that brighter times are ahead for GA?
(click to answer)

Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to .

This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments.
Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail 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.

Online Aircraft-Specific Ground Schools
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, through its Office of Professional Education, now offers a series of aircraft-specific ground schools: Boeing 737 Classic — NG, 747, 757, 767 and 777; as well as Airbus 319, 320, 330 and 340; and the Bombardier CRJ 200. For a complete list, visit Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's web site at ERAU.edu/professionaleducation.
Register to Win an AV8OR! back to top 

Want a Chance to Win an AV8OR GPS from Bendix/King by Honeywell?

All you have to do is click the image at right to enter your name and e-mail address. And no, we're not going to rent or sell your name, but Bendix/King by Honeywell may send you information on the AV8OR. You may also forward this newsletter to friends and invite them to sign up for AVweb's Sun 'n Fun coverage and qualify for the AV8OR prizes also. (We won't spam them, either, but we will send them our e-mail news Flashes.)

Deadline for entries is midnight, Monday, April 27, 2009.

Click here to read the contest rules and enter.

(There's nothing to buy. All you need to do is be registered with AVweb.)

Video Marketplace Spotlight

Bendix/King AV8OR Demo
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New on AVweb back to top 

The Pilot's Lounge #133: The Checkout — What Does an Instructor Want to See?

Want to ace your check ride? Pay attention, stay sharp, and read Rick Durden's latest installment of "The Pilot's Lounge" to increase your chances.

Click here for the full story.

I'd gotten to the virtual airport after a particularly unpleasant bout with rush hour traffic and had hoped to find the Pilot's Lounge empty as I wanted to practice my driving gestures in preparation for the trip home. It was not to be. Inside were some of the regulars busily trying to figure out why the coffee machine made lousy coffee no matter what was fed to it and a few instructors who were between students.

Within a few minutes, I was in a conversation with Dave, our resident Husky owner, who said he was thinking about checking out in the FBO's Cessna 182RG so he'd have access to a comfortable cross country airplane for those times he and his wife wanted to travel. We were just starting to discuss the airplane when I saw Old Hack walk past me and go up to a guy who was standing near the door of the Lounge and who was looking a little uncomfortable and out of place.

Hack is about five years older than dirt, owns a Piper Super Cruiser he bought almost new which he flies with élan and verve and carefully cultivates a reputation as a curmudgeon. Yet every once in a while, he threatens that rep by letting his true nature emerge when he does something nice. He walked up to the newcomer, stuck out his hand and said, "Howdy, I'm Hack. Welcome to the virtual airport, can I help you with anything?"

With the steady decrease in the number of pilots, I'm always glad to see a new face at the airport, so I let my ears out another notch. The guy by the door shook Hack's hand and said, "I'm Stan Whalen. I've just moved here and I'm looking to get checked out to rent airplanes and get to know the area."

"You've come to the right place," Hack responded, "Even if these socially challenged jerks haven't figured out that they have to greet visitors when they come in rather than give them the cold shoulder. No wonder aviation is hurting. I'll get you to the right folks who can set you up for a checkout, but first let me introduce you to some of the people here."

Hack started walking Stan around the room, making introductions as Dave and I talked a little more about the 182RG.

A few minutes later Hack and Stan walked up, with two of the flight school instructors in tow. He introduced Dave and me to Stan and then announced, "OK, here's the deal: Dave wants to get checked out in an airplane that's new to him and Stan wants to get checked out in one of the 172s here so he can have something to fly. He's flown 172s but he'll need a local checkout to make sure he really can fly and can get to know the area. The three of you instructors are going to take a few minutes and tell Dave and Stan what an instructor looks for on a checkout, whether it's for a new and different airplane or just at a new FBO or flying club. If they know what to expect, they'll be ready and can get things done without wasting time and too much of their hard-earned money on the likes of you. Make Stan feel welcome here. I'll referee."

Over the course of the next 20 minutes or so, the three of us did our best to outline to Dave and Stan what we looked for when we did an aircraft checkout. Our approach to the "pilot new to the FBO/flight school" and "new airplane to the pilot" checkouts had a lot in common. As we finished up, Old Hack growled, "Well, other than all three of you being most worried about the guy you're checking out killing you in the airplane you may actually have given some useful information. I'm going to take Stan down to get him scheduled for his checkout and you," pointing at me, "make yourself useful and write that stuff down in that column of yours and save pilots some money; we're in a recession, you know." With that, the informal gathering broke up and I headed for my computer to do as I was told.

Planning for the Checkout

Whether it's a new airplane checkout for the pilot or pilot checking out at a new operation, instructors greatly appreciate it when the pilot has an idea of what to expect ahead of time. While most flight instructors don't charge much money--amazingly, often less than a golf pro who doesn't have your life in his hands--it still costs money when you sit down to start a checkout. Therefore, it's wise to go into the session prepared.

You'll save money and things go more smoothly for the instructor. Instructors like that a lot. Your instructor also wants to get to know you a little bit before the checkout, because, at a basic level, believe it or not, the instructor is a little nervous at flying with a pilot he or she has not met before simply because virtually every instructor has had at least one god-solid scare at the hands of a pilot during a checkout or a flight review.

Prior to the time scheduled for your checkout, call the instructor and talk with him or her for 10 minutes or so. Ask specifically what the instructor will want to see on the checkout and take notes. Find out if there are any forms or quizzes that will be required prior to flying and if there is any way you can get them and fill them out before the session.

If possible, you want to avoid having the instructor sitting around while you go through the airplane manual looking for the amount of usable fuel it can carry or the number for Vy. It means either you are paying for an instructor's time when the instructor is not doing anything or the instructor is losing money by having to be an unpaid monitor of a pilot filling out forms.

If you want a flight review and/or instrument competency check as a part of the checkout, say so ahead of time. The instructor can tailor the session so the requirements of those signoffs are met. One way to really anger an instructor is to ask him or her to sign off a flight review as he or she is signing your logbook after the checkout. There are certain items that must be covered in a flight review and IPC and asking an instructor to sign them off without having done them is asking the instructor to lie to the FAA.

Make sure you have a current sectional chart for the area and an airport diagram with communication frequencies you may need. Have a pad of paper for taking notes as there is going to be too much to memorize. For a new area, you'll want to write down procedures the operation uses for renting the airplanes, how to get fuel, how to return the keys if you get back after hours – the stuff that may not be included with any printed rental agreement.

Mark up the sectional with the location of the practice area, altitudes to use and any communications practices specific to the local area. For a new airplane checkout, the instructor is probably going to have some operating tips that aren't in the manual. Be ready to write them down. If the instructor agrees, it doesn't hurt to take a recording device to help you remember details you go over before and after the flight.

See if you can get a copy of the POH prior to the flight. Ask what maneuvers the instructor will want to see and how the instructor wants them flown.

At the Airport

Arrive early. If you are new to the area immediately get to know the person behind the counter. He or she will be the one who you'll contact to schedule airplanes and who you'll call if you have a problem away from base. It's wise to turn that person into a friend. Hopefully, you'll be greeted pleasantly and not ignored, although a lot of aviation businesses have not figured out that they have to create a friendly, welcoming atmosphere for potential customers. The customers have had to run the gauntlet of security and the general unfamiliarity with the new experience of an airport. They should not be chased off by poor customer service once they walk in the door.

If you haven't gotten the forms needed previously, get them from the receptionist and start filling them out. Your instructor may not be available yet (you're early, remember), but that's OK, you're taking care of the stuff that doesn't require an instructor's presence. Plan on having to do at least a weight and balance problem for the airplane, find and write down all the pertinent airspeeds, calculate fuel burn and endurance, and answer questions on systems. You'll also probably sign a rental agreement. Have a copy made of everything, especially the airplane checkout sheet as it will be a good reference for you in the future. The more you have done and have ready to go when the instructor shows up, the less time the checkout will take.

As many airplanes have optional fuel tanks, make sure you know which tanks are in the airplane you are to fly and how much fuel it can carry. It's embarrassing to fill out a form regarding endurance with long range tanks and subsequently experience that loud silence when you discover the airplane actually has standard tanks.

Once the paperwork is done, talk with your instructor and make sure you got the answers right on the airplane sheet. He or she may want to see your logbook. If you don't have it with you, it sets off alarm bells in the instructor's mind – what is this pilot trying to hide?

Find out precisely what you will have to demonstrate for the instructor to consider your checkout complete – there should be measurable definitions of success. For example, altitude hold within plus or minus 100 feet, airspeed within plus or minus 5 knots on climb out and approach, etc. Knowing what is to be expected as well as the passing grade makes the checkout process much less threatening for you. Your instructor will appreciate your professional approach. It's a good idea to go into the process of checking out in a new airplane, especially if it's high performance or complex, with the understanding that it may take more than one flight to complete.

Into the Airplane

The preflight means using the checklist and learning the airplane or local procedures regarding how the FBO handles preflights, obtaining fuel and what to do if there is a major squawk uncovered on the preflight. It doesn't hurt to take notes. Find out local etiquette for startup so you don't blow dirt all over other airplanes or into open hangars. Once in the airplane, use the checklist, make notes of operating suggestions regarding the airplane and communications.

After startup, let yourself get to know the airplane and area before and as you taxi. Take it easy and take in the sight picture for a new airplane or the airport environment for a new airport. Are there blind spots? How responsive is the steering? The brakes? How does the attitude the airplane sits at when taxiing compare to landing attitude? How do things look when you are on the centerline? Find out how and where to do the run-up to avoid blocking other airplanes and blowing dirt where it should not go. Are there noise-sensitive areas for the run-up or on climb out?

On takeoff track the centerline. If there is a crosswind make sure you have the ailerons deflected into it. A first flight in a new airplane or new location is not a time to ignore the airmanship you've worked so hard to develop over the years. Raise the nosewheel off the runway at the prescribed speed and let the airplane fly off. Use the trim, set the desired airspeed and start getting a feel for the sight picture. You may be busy, so be aggressive in watching for traffic and making sure you take care of things that need to be accomplished after takeoff such as gear and/or flap retraction, turning off the aux fuel pump, setting climb power (don't get in the habit of making a power reduction in an airplane with an engine that is rated for continuous operation at full power, it just kills the rate of climb and increases engine temps) and taking care of needed communication.

Your instructor is absolutely wide awake right now, paying full attention to what you are doing and how you are flying; it's pure self-preservation. Smooth, precise flying will go a long way to causing him or her to relax and also to decide the checkout isn't going to take several hours.

Once at altitude, go through the cruise checklist and make sure you understand how to set the power to get what you want per the POH and lean the mixture appropriately, then take care of any of the other systems that require attention and work on getting the feel of the airplane and the area. Make some gentle turns, maybe try some coordination exercises (the nose is held on a spot straight ahead with the rudders as you roll from left to right bank and back repeatedly – it's sometimes, incorrectly, called a Dutch Roll – Dutch Roll is an aerodynamic event in swept wing airplanes).

Take the time you need to feel the airplane and see what it takes to hold altitude within plus or minus 100 feet and to set the trim so it flies hands off or close to it. See what is involved in changing fuel tanks and how the detents feel as each is reached. Make sure you understand operation of the autopilot and avionics. If this is an introduction to a glass panel airplane, this stage of the checkout will take some time (having used a simulator first will save you a lot of money).

Once in the practice area check for traffic and go through 45-degree banked turns, adjusting power as needed. Slow the airplane down and change configurations to see if there is a pitch change with gear and/or flap extension. See what it takes to fly it at 5 knots above stall speed and trim it to fly hands off. How much rudder does it take to keep the ball in the center? What is it like to make a go around from that configuration – similar to well into the flare on landing? What is involved in transitioning into a climb?

Get a feel for trim changes needed, the pitch attitude involved and how to clean up the gear and flaps most efficiently. Then do the stalls, power off, with full flaps and gear down in a gentle turn, as if you were turning final and recover to a climb with a minimum loss of altitude; and power on, gear up and flaps set for takeoff, as if you slipped up just after takeoff with a recovery into a normal climb, again with minimum altitude loss.

Getting the maneuvers nailed down may take a few attempts as you sort out control forces, coordination and trim. It will come, but you may be working hard. The instructor is looking to see that you handle all of these maneuvers smoothly, that you keep the airplane going where you want it to go (which may take a couple of tries), and most importantly, that you know where you want the airplane to go.

If this is a new FBO checkout, the instructor is going to expect that you can do all of these maneuvers reasonably well the first try. She or he does not want to be made uncomfortable with your handling of the airplane or the decisions you make as to where you want the airplane to go. Your instructor came into a "new to the FBO" checkout assuming you know how to fly the airplane; this is not the time to disabuse her or him of that notion.

Next will come emergency procedures. They will be the ones you've done forever, engine failure (how to do a restart and then setting up a glide and selecting a place for a forced landing), fire in flight (with a new airplane you may find some specific differences than what you are used to, so plan on memorizing the fire checklists), jammed controls, system malfunctions, emergency gear extension and the rest. The instructor wants to see you handle the initial "memory items" of each emergency correctly and smoothly and then pull out the checklist when time allows to make sure you took care of everything. You'll be expected to follow the old simple rule of emergencies – fly the airplane, deal with the problem, fly the airplane, communicate.

As you return to the airport the instructor will want to see that you plan the descent appropriately, run the checklist (printed or oral) arrive in the pattern on altitude and on speed and communicate appropriately. The whole process should be smooth and reflect your ability to plan ahead. In a new airplane it may take a while to get a feel for the speeds involved so that you do arrive at pattern altitude where you want to and with the speed where you want it.

Plan on doing a series of landings. Work on establishing a routine for yourself in the pattern – something along the line of: power is set to fly level on downwind at a speed that does not eat up other airplanes or cause others to run over you; flaps are set to generate a relatively level deck angle so the nose does not block the view forward; the gear always goes down on downwind and the first GUMP check is run confirming gear down; power is reduced opposite the runway threshold and a descent initiated while decelerating to a target airspeed; a constant watch is maintained for traffic; on base the next flap setting is achieved and speed is at the desired number, trim is set and the rate of descent monitored while the GUMP check is again run; on final the prop control is pushed forward in anticipation of a go around at an airspeed that will not result on a lot of prop noise, landing flaps are selected and speed is at 1.3 Vso and trimmed and the final GUMP check is run.

You'll work on getting a feel for the sight picture, the power required to get the airplane to go where you want it to go and where to start the flare. Power should be at idle prior to touchdown, with the airplane flared to a nose high touchdown on centerline, with appropriate aileron input for any crosswind.

Make the first few landings to a full stop as you get to know the airplane and start practicing what needs to be done as you clear the runway: flaps up, cowl flaps open, strobes off, aux fuel pump off. Then taxi back and do it again, resetting flaps for takeoff, turning on strobes, activating the aux pump and so forth. Touch and goes do not allow ingraining the procedures you will be using on normal flights.

Your instructor is going to want to see that you can fly the airplane on speed, are ahead of it in planning each part of the pattern, can handle a crosswind, know where to flare and can keep the airplane straight on landing and rollout. He or she is not going to be hypercritical regarding how smooth the landings are, control of the airplane is far more important. Plan on being able to demonstrate a short field takeoff and landing and on having a feel for how much runway is required for the way you fly the airplane.

For your own information you'll want to see what it takes to rescue an approach that is too high and too low and to make a couple of go-arounds from different spots on final and in the flare. Do at least one landing where you close the throttle near the end of downwind and see just what sort of glide you can expect and experiment with using the propeller control to increase the glide by going to low rpm, or as a speed brake by going to high rpm. Make landings with various flap settings, so you are comfortable with each. Your safest landing is the slowest touchdown (least energy to dissipate on rollout) which means full flaps, so make sure you are comfortable with full flap landings in a crosswind.

With a forward c.g. and full flaps in some airplanes the control forces in the flare can seem high, so make sure you have the airplane trimmed for the approach speed on final. However, if you have to make a go around that can have the effect of pitching the nose up significantly, so try a go around and see what you have to do to retrim while going to half flaps right away. With the instructor beside you is the time to learn what the airplane does in various circumstances – it's much better than being surprised later, with your family aboard. Your instructor is going to want to see that you fly the airplane on speed as the most common cause of landing accidents is coming down final too fast, that you have the airplane under control all of the time and can salvage a botched landing.

If this is just a new FBO checkout, you'll probably be doing the above in an abbreviated fashion. The more precise you fly early in the flight, the more likely it is that the instructor is going to keep the checkout short and sweet (read inexpensive) as she or he can see you are perfectly capable of flying the airplane and have done so before.

After the landings taxi in with aileron deflection for the wind and shut down per the checklist. Learn the procedures for securing the airplane per the manual as well as the FBO preferences, and make notes for yourself for the future. Then, sit down with the instructor and go over the flight; what went right and what you need to work on. Make notes, as this is often the time that your instructor will give you some very useful operating tips. If you have met the measurables you and the instructor agreed upon prior to the flight you can plan on being signed off after a successful flight and you will walk away with that good feeling that you didn't scare your instructor and become one of those stories he or she tells other instructors over adult beverages.

Want to read more from Rick Durden? Check out AVweb's "Pilot's Lounge" index.

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AVweb Media: Look, Listen, Laugh and Learn back to top 

AVweb Insider Blog: Marc and Paul's Sportsman Pre-Sun 'n Fun Vlog (Part 2)

Marc Cook and Paul Bertorelli continue their Sportsman odyssey with a look at this unique aircraft.

Read more.

AVweb Insider Blog: Marc and Paul's Sportsman Pre-Sun 'n Fun Vlog (Part 1)

Gearing up for the Sun 'n Fun extravaganza in Lakeland, Kitplanes editor Marc Cook and AVweb editorial director Paul Bertorelli are motoring around the west in Cook's Glastar Sportsman visiting companies prior to the show. Here's their first video blog report.

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Your Favorite FBOs back to top 

FBO of the Week: Atlantic Aviation (KELM, Horseheads, NY)

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

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Atlantic Aviation at Elmira/Corning Regional Airport (KELM) in Horseheads, New York.

AVweb reader Sandra Fox recounted her stellar experience at Atlantic:

My commercial instructor and I flew to KELM for my day dual cross-country (and lunch). ... On arrival, there was someone there to marshall us to parking and someone else to chock the wheels. They immediately asked if we needed gas and were on the way to the truck before we were inside the FBO. While registering the plane I mentioned we had been told the terminal had a small restaurant. The lady behind the desk pulled out the keys to the courtesy van, gave us directions to the terminal and told us how to get the parking ticket validated. When we got back I asked where I could look up the weather. She didn't just direct me down the hall, but escorted me to the room. Everyone at the FBO was friendly and accomodating. They were proactive in asking if I needed anything rather than waiting for me to ask first. I've already recommended KELM as a standard cross-country destination for the flight school.

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!

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Reader-Submitted Photos back to top 

Picture of the Week Will Return on Monday ...

Being neck-deep in prep work for Sun 'n Fun, we're saving this week's crop of photos for a special Monday edition of "POTW." As usual during the major shows, we'll be skipping next Thursday and returning to our usual routine the following week. So keep those submissions coming!
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

Scott Simmons

Jeff van West

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