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Nov 24 2011

The Engine Silence

My first flight ever was in a primary glider. I was just 14 years young, filled with popular aviation knowledge from hundreds of books and magazines, so flying without the engine sounded like a simple and obvious idea. Why, am I a sissy to be scared by the engine getting silent in a middle of the flight?! No way. I can handle it naturally.

And in fact I did, though without much grace, taking off for the very first time in my life, in control of an engineless primary glider – without any previous flying experience. I haven’t even been a passenger before becoming a PIC.

Then there was an odd case when I heard an engine stopping in the middle of the flight. It was a discovery tour around the suburban lakes in a float-equipped ultralight hang glider trike. The pilot – an adventurous dude who had his fair amount of scary stories before and after our flight – simply shut down the engine and told me: “Listen… The wind… Isn’t that beautiful?”

And beautiful it was. I had no idea about the shock-cooling at that time, and gliding silently at barely a couple of hundred feet above the lakeshore was just magic. We’ve landed, I was excited – and that same ultralight crashed just a couple of weeks after, with my pilot able to escape and his passenger, nearly drowned.

My first real engine quit came in another ultralight trike, years after that. I have been preparing for the first solo, still not quite confident and thankful for the instructor to be around. He was literally “around”, sitting on my back and grabbing the control trapeze whenever needed. That flight was relatively calm, though. We have just landed, took off again, and I was turning left when the prop stopped with a crack.

– Why did you turn it off?!

– It actually stopped by itself…

– I have control!

– Sure…

He completed the turn quickly and precisely, aligning us with the “waves” of a freshly ploughed field, carefully flared and landed. The wheels dug into the soil, but we haven’t flipped and stopped really short – everything happened so fast there was no time to really think about it. Though now remembering the sequence, I can almost hear the wind dying in the wires, and see my own hands – totally useless at the moment.

There was a simple and obvious reason for that almost accident – our ultralight was a non-certified homebuilt, and no one paid attention to the fact that the fuel line was entering the tank on the right side only. So when the tank was almost empty, it did not took too much of a bank to let the fuel level drop beneath the intake and feed the engine with nothing. Unlike the floatplane trike, that one did not have an electric starter, and it was impossible to restart the engine in flight.

After realizing what happened, my instructor ordered me out of the trike and took off from the soft field – it took him just a couple of minutes to get back to the start, and I’ve spent something like quarter hour walking there with my feet getting stuck in the mud. But that was the only way to get out of the mishap relatively fast, before someone called the police.

Besides that funny story, my flying was pretty much happy and safe ever since – with Lycomings, Continentals and Rotaxes whirling and clunking and roaring in front or behind me. Never a problem, except for an occasional coughing or burping – easily solved by a quick carb heat application…

But then there was that night cross-country to Brampton. Winter, deep and dark sky with blindly blinking stars, chilling streams of air sneaking under my waist, and wind gusts tossing the tiny 150 all over the place… On departure from Burlington, a particularly wild gust almost flipped us over. On landing in Brampton, a wind shear dropped the plane so quickly that full power barely allowed crawling over the threshold. It felt like the wheels actually touched the packed snow before the runway.

Then we walked into the warm FBO, chatted around, logbooks stamped and off we went for the last leg… Parked plane was shaking in the freezing wind, its metal parts squeaking and control surfaces flapping in the gusts. We quickly got inside, trying to warm up, but closed doors were barely able to cover us from the waves of cold.

The engine was still warm and started right away. We taxied to the long active – listening to the radio. “Eh… This is Alpha Bravo – the weather doesn’t look good so we think we’d cancel the flight…” (“Smart decision”, commented my friend). We made it through the run-up area and lined up. All set, full power, rolling… full power… power… the engine smoothly winded down and stopped, snow flurries dancing in the landing lights.

That was scary. With those wind gusts making the aircraft barely controllable, freezing ass temperature and so on, getting the engine shut down like that after the takeoff would have been really close to the end of a story.

I stepped on the brakes, wheels sliding softly over the frozen runway – little tornadoes of snow whirling over its surface… We started the engine again, roaring it up and down, warming it as much as we could. With the oil temperature needle stuck in the very beginning of the green stripe, we took off and flew back to Toronto. Pearson vectored us around the zone, giving a beautiful view of the city at night.

I’ve learned and confirmed something very important that night:

You can do everything right, but it will still hit you. Like winning a lottery – do you think that’d never happen? It does.

So never trust the engine, however solid and sure its sound was. Wait for it to scare you, especially after you move the throttle.

Fly a glider with power, not motor with wings.

Know what to do. More importantly, know what to do in that very first moment of sheer panic, when you haven’t even quite realized what exactly went wrong.

Always look below. Terrain is rarely useful to land anywhere around the cities or in the mountains, but even there – be ready to squeeze yourself in when it comes. If you can’t see below, for example at night or IFR, you are taking significant risks and should be conscious about it.

Don’t be scared yet by the engine burping and shaking – it is still alive, just have troubles breathing. Check the mixture, magnetos, temperature and pressure gauges.

If it’s obviously slowing down – most probably the carb is clogged, so heat it right away. Even a slight slow down when in cruise flight should call your attention, don’t let the bad condition to develop.

Or the engine can just quit – and this sort of silence is unexpected, abrupt, unwelcomed and scary. Especially accompanied by the sight of a stupidly windmilling prop! Implant in your brains how to return the noise back immediately, by grabbing the tanks valve and turning on the boost pump, before trying to restart.

Then there could be a loud bang, and smoke belching, and oil spitting on the windshield – you just shouldn’t be there, but at least the very first reaction must be to cut off the fuel. Mixture, tanks valve, master, keys – everything should go “off” in a blink, than you’d have a second to recover your breath, grab an extinguisher, try to sideslip – all while maintaining the best glide speed.

I train myself to react this way – your mileage may vary, but just think about it. Don’t believe that you’d be able to confidently pull up the nose, chat on the radio and go through the emergency checklist like you do during an exam. Won’t happen – emergency catches us with the pants down; otherwise it’s just a planned exercise.


Nov 12 2011

Осман в кепке

Зло не в Медведеве и не в Путине. И даже не в злокозненном Западе. Зло в той тысяче семей, которые сегодня контролируют Россию. Которые используют все инструменты для личного обогащения. При том, что в личном плане они, возможно, вполне вменяемые и умные люди. Но целевая установка делает их деятельность разрушительной.

Раковые клетки ведь тоже не хотят гибели организма хозяина – это в итоге и их гибель. Но программа заставляет работать именно на уничтожение среды обитания – с последующей личной гибелью.

Рак лечат одним способом – убивая все раковые клетки. Если успевают. Оставили хотя бы одну – всё лечение насмарку.

(c) el-murid


Nov 2 2011

Wallet Pressure: Plane Rental

Being an avid airplane renter for the past couple of years, I’ve tried a dozen of different locations in two different provinces of Canada. I’ve been renting from the private individuals, flying schools and clubs – smaller and bigger scale. Conditions resulted to be pretty much similar for the same type of rentals, though the base level prices and taxes varied significantly according to the province. I decided to summarize the typical cases and analyze them.

Here are six representative options for the airplane rental, based on my own experience and using Toronto and GTA prices as a model:

  • Homebuilt Ultralight – registered advanced ultralight rented from an ultralight flying group north of Toronto;
  • Piper Cub – restored and certified vintage airplane, rented from an aircraft type club west of Toronto;
  • Cessna 150 – private certified airplane, rented from the owner, based at the downtown Toronto airport;
  • Cessna 150/152 – commercially certified, rented from a downtown Toronto flying school;
  • Cessna 172 – commercially certified, rented from a downtown Toronto flying school;
  • Super Cub – commercially certified, rented from a flight club west of Toronto.

Certain conditions apply before you would be able to rent. For example, an infamous “currency” requirement: This could be seen as a lack of respect to the Transport Canada pilot certification, or a client abuse with financial goals in mind – but honestly, it makes certain sense to ensure that a renter is actually able to fly on his own. In general.

Now, I can’t agree with a typical approach that requires the renter to “stay current” with a renting entity by flying with them at least once a month, unless you are sporting something like 500 hours of flight experience. Than the “currency” limit would be raised to maybe two months. But seriously, a guy may have 5000 hours of a VIP passenger duty in the right seat of a transport plane – this does not make him any better in flying a Cub, or any worse in driving a Cessna. Currency must be based on the actual skills, not just time logged. Some people become rusty if not kicked into the air at least twice a week. Others may remain grounded for three weeks, and then go flying without any negative consequences.

Frequently there is a “currency requirement” for even a specific make or model of the plane! For example, I can fly a Cessna 172S for months, and then attempt to rent a 172M – would that work out? No, because the flying school will insist that I pay for a checkout before they can let me drive a “different” airplane. I can stretch my imagination to understand such approach if one is going from Cessna 172 to Piper Warrior, or even from Cessna 172 to 150, or vice versa, but still – this is an obvious case of a “currency rule” abuse. It just cancels the whole idea of the blanket rating.

For the above cases, Super Cub and J-3 required the most extensive checkride with 10 hours minimum of the tailweel time. Homebuilt ultralight has to be flown with its owner as a passenger as the club can’t put a renter on the insurance to go solo. Private 150’s owner was able to add me to his insurance, and only requested a checkride with a CFI we both know. Downtown flying school requires a monthly minimum recency, and introduces a $2500 deductable in case of an accident.

Such conditions need to be kept in mind while you are thinking about renting a plane. Even with that “currency” nuisance alone, you will be pretty much tied to one and only rental entity, unless you wish to jump over the expensive checkride hurdles again and again upon changing the locations.

Then comes the actual rental expenses package…

Initial look at the pricelist says that I will be charged $100 for the ultralight and privately owned aircraft, $160 for a 4 hour block time in the Cub, $140 for a 150 and $160 for a C172 rented from a flying school. Now let’s see how the numbers look like if we add all the “infrastructure” expenses, including the taxes:

Plane

Transport

Block

Member

1 hr

Ultralight Homebuilt

80

0

0

100

Piper Cub Club

80

160

20

24

Private Cessna 150

0

15

0

100

Cessna 150/152 Rental

0

0

0

160

Cessna 172 Rental

0

0

0

180

Super Cub Rental

80

0

25

155

Interesting… So first of all, for the airports outside of the city (and I live in the downtown) introduce a hefty transportation fee. I put $80 which is actually a price of the train/bus/cab travel back and forth, or a typical weekend rental in a cheap location. Zipcar for a day would be $105, for example, but eighty is good enough to get an idea. Or you may own a car, but then you may not have an extra thousand bucks or so to throw away monthly for the flying fun, right?

Another important detail to understand is a block rental concept. Block price is an absolute bare minimum you must pay just to get the airplane – besides all flying! Wet rate (fuel cost included), or dry rate (pay apart for fuel) is a different story. For a private 150, the “block price” used in the table is actually an airport landing fee, mandatorily added to the rental price. Taxes add yet another dimension to the claimed list price – and I assume that a pilot AND all passengers have their own headsets, otherwise those should be added to the expenses list.

Now, who ever flies for just one hour? That’s a useless time. If you go for only a “hop and circle the airport, then land”, it will take 0.3-0.5 or something like that (and your renting entity may impose a minimum rental time, for example 0.5 at our downtown flying school). Upper airwork in the nearby training area will be 1.7 at the very least. So let’s say we are going to do some reasonably useful flying – either working the time we need in the practice area, or go sightseeing further from home, or do a nice little cross-country to some 90 miles away airport. That should cost us around 2.5 hours of the Hobbs time, and here is the updated pricelist:

Plane

1 hr

Minimum

2.5 hrs

4 hrs

Ultralight Homebuilt

100

180

320

480

Piper Cub Club

24

284

320

356

Private Cessna 150

100

115

265

415

Cessna 150/152 Rental

160

160

400

640

Cessna 172 Rental

180

180

450

720

Super Cub Rental

155

260

493

725

Woopsieeee! Now we are talking! Just look at those numbers – how’s your wallet feeling? Like shrinking? But that’s what you must expect from the actual flying day – aviation is no cheap a hobby…

First and obvious observation is that all the flight club and flight school rentals become unreasonably expensive even for a 2.5 hours of flight time. Taxes are also eating a very significant part of what we pay for flying, but oh well. From my experience, Alberta had the lowest prices and taxes, compared to Ontario. I’m wondering why…

Membership is more of a pain than a charge – not because it’s really augmenting the price, but because it looks like an unwelcome extra to the pricelist. Especially when some clubs charge the membership fee for a couple of months the first time you register! I would rather have a percentage included in my rental price upfront, and done with that – no need in additional nuisance. But that’s just my customer opinion.

And then, the transportation is a huge thing, as mentioned. Either you spend hours and hours commuting, waiting for the trains, buses and cabs, or you drive a car. Save a lot of money or a lot of time – your choice. In any case, if there is no airport next door to your home, your flying will be significantly more expensive, and you can’t do anything about that. Long live city airports anyone?

Resuming:

  • Block-time rental Cub is not cheap for the short hops, but the more you fly – the more cost-efficient it becomes. However:
    • You can’t go cheaper than the block time, plus surrounding expenses – even if you won’t fly at all;
    • You are forced to spend as much of the block time in the air, as possible, to make the long-term economy work for you;
    • You can’t really go places, as Cub is the slowest cross-country machine of all available (though it’s a legend of an airplane to simply enjoy flying around);
  • Ultralight is cheaper in a short run, and stands strong all the way to the “magic” 2.5 hours, when Cub by-passes it in being more economic way of flying. But:
    • It still doesn’t fly that fast – though significantly faster than Cub;
    • In our case, one can’t carry passengers due to the insurance restrictions, making it only good for the training flights;
  • Privately owned Cessna 150 results to be a clear winner – cheaper for almost any given timeframe and rental condition! Also:
    • Being located next door from home, I only pay a $15 extra, that’s all;
    • Cruise speed of a 150 is high enough to actually go places.

Is there any value in renting a Super Cub? It is a wonderful machine giving you precious experience, but pricing is a real killer – it is simply the most expensive for any possible condition in my list, from minimum to maximum. Add to that a duplicated membership for the first month, higher deductible (I think it was around $5500?), and the most expensive checkride of all – $70/hr for an instructor for ten mandatory hours. Not fun…

Cessna 172 looks pretty dull – though a bit cheaper than Super Cub for a short hop, its rental price grows ridiculously high on anything longer than circuits or a city tour. One may think about packing it with passengers and making them pay for fun, but that’s a commercial operation, requiring a corresponding license and owner’s approval – not an option for a private pilot from a legal perspective.

And though it’s great I have a friend who rents me his Cessna, this is not a solution for everyone – and there are no rules in regard. Some rich guy may give you his plane for free, simply to show-off, but that won’t be a regular flying activity. Or some nasty dude may try to drain you better then a flying club, and mess up with the insurance. Maintenance of the private planes is quite uneven – no guarantee here.

Looking at the big picture, airplane ownership starts looking attractive… Maybe not a certified airplane, rather a registered ultralight – one of those modern birds that can beat the venerable 150 in any aspect? Or a restored Aeronca C-3 registered as an ultralight – I don’t know. What I know for sure, though, is that it’s impossible to spend less than 150-200 dollars a weekend to get any sort of useful flying – and that’s a bare minimum. Which still sounds reasonable if you don’t have a car and other things to pay for, but if you do…

ICP Savannah

ICP Savannah