I recently got a question from a reader: “When you are flying in clouds and the ride is bumpy, is it bumpy because it’s cloudy or is it cloudy because it’s bumpy?” Good question. Turbulence is often approached from a rather pragmatic approach in aviation, and that often leaves pilots with questions about where it fits in with weather patterns. Let’s look at this piecemeal. From a meteorological perspective, turbulence is bumpiness caused by flight into an area where wind is changing over a small distance.
Good single-pilot resource management calls for three basic elements: Knowledge of one’s aircraft systems and characteristics, proficiency in their use under various conditions, and well-crafted, consistent routines. Those well-crafted, consistent routines—standard operating procedures, SOPs—encompass flows, checklists and callouts, but go well beyond the basics. We’ve started down the path toward personal SOPs in “Using an SOP in GA” in the September 2016 issue.
Periodically, NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System publishes many of the most meaningful ASRS report submissions that relate to various specific aspects of aviation, such as weather, near-midairs, GPS and the like. We looked at these selected reports covering Air Traffic Control, with a view toward lessons we can learn in dealing with ATC, better practices we can follow, and generally ways to do things better. You’ll note two recurring themes. The first is incorrect pilot readbacks of controller instructions and controllers not catching the mistake. The second is pilots turning incorrectly left, right or to the wrong heading, or similar errors with altitude, as in this first case below.
A friend of mine used to work in customer support for a simulator manufacturer. He told me the most common customer support question was: “OK, I’m sitting at the end of the runway. Now what?” Imagine a pilot in the real world pondering an equivalent question. There you are sitting at the end of the runway, engine running, and thinking, “Hmm. What should I do with this airplane?” Yet that’s the abyss many folks face—and turn their backs on—when trying to use a simulator for proficiency.
Airspace redesign, increased use of RNAV and optimum climb/descent profiles complicate and clutter STARs and SIDs. Procedure complexity previously stemmed from complicated lateral paths. Course changes and cross-radials required frequencies to be tuned and OBS knobs spun like the man behind the curtain. (I’m supposed to identify each of these stations too?) The HAARP arrival into LaGuardia is an example: tracking outbound on Kingston R-203, the number two radio is set on Deer Park R-338, then number one on the Pawling R-211 or Huguenot R-107 to identify BASYE intersection.
Perhaps we should cut right to the life-saving takeaway: If you’re engine-out in a typical single and gliding into a headwind of 15 knots or more, pitching down to at least 10 knots over published best glide speed will probably extend your glide range. This is true down to short final. Holding best glide into a headwind on short final and see you clearly won’t make it? Pitch down and see if that improves things. Just remember to slow back to your normal procedures for the actual landing, using or shedding those extra knots as necessary.