East Hill Moving Forward: 2015/6

Thanks for tuning in for a quick report on our amazing club.We are strong and growing and benefit greatly from the generosity and talent of so many people. East Hill’s strength is certainly its wonderful members. The airplane cover donated for our Mooney today is a perfect example. That same member donated the large screen TV years ago we still use for our seminars and presentations. Another person donated the beautiful canopy at our front door and also the floor and cabinets in the kitchen. Where would we be without this generosity?

LizSharpAwardOther generous members have donated time and money to create our aviation foundation that has given several scholarships to our local students. When I travel regionally or nationally, I see so many other flight schools struggling to survive. When I tell them about our growth and the new foundation, they are amazed. Aviation is alive and well in Ithaca thanks to you. I  especially want to thank Larry Baum, Mike Meador, and Mike Carman, who are all leaving the board this year.  They all worked very hard to make this foundation a reality as did member Mark Sanford. Thanks also to Mike Shay (we refused to let him leave), who guided our financial recovery over the last 8-10 years. (This same talented fellow rebuilt the SeaBee you see at our events.)

From our annual meeting I can report we are in the best financial position we have enjoyed in the last 10 years. First, we welcomed new board members Bill Childres, Emma Newman, Michael Heise and Dan Asselin. Financially, the decrease in fuel cost generated some surplus which our increased maintenance cost (from losing our own mechanic) ate up (we are supposed to break even after all). Fortunately, the additional instructor staff led to more time available and the flight hours increased 14% over last year. Most of the flying again however is in the school and the increase in owner-members (now 36) means there is less recreational flying of our planes.

Our membership is growing steadily at 270 members. Many very generous people (some in other states) pay their monthly dues and support us (this keeps your costs and monthly fees reasonable). Others, as I mentioned, contribute regularly. Remember please your donations to our foundation, a 501(c)3 corporation, are usually tax deductible.

We now have a new C-152 ready to go into service (waiting for a radio) and we are negotiating a new engine for N6230Q at this moment. Just today we discovered a club member has a brand new 0-235 L2-C engine in a crate right here in town we can buy (you can’t make this stuff up) so our search might be simpler and quicker. We cerminil the cylinders in the trainers to prevent rust so they will be sent out for this process soon.

Avidyne440N97266 has been in the shop with a fuel tank leak (actually four) but when we get that plane back in service it will receive a new Avidyne 440 touch screen GPS. This is a 30 day trial so give it a workout and see if this is worth buying. One attractive feature is the Bluetooth connection with the iPad and the airways in the data base.

And yes, we are planning a new facility anticipating the approval of our recent grant proposal. Our current facility is the oldest building on the airport and needs an upgrade or replacement. Keep your fingers crossed and we will let you know soon how this project is progressing.

Gala at the TerminalThis year is my 30th at East Hill. What is amazing about that is all the other people who have also been here that long (or longer). We are an amazing aviation organization and the trust and commitment of all of us make this unique organization grow and move forward. Thanks for all you do for East Hill, your participation and flying. I will be in the Bahamas for a week (putting hours on our Mooney). I hope this wonderful Ithaca weather continues. Please join us at our Aviation Gala (with EAA Chapter 811) on February 27th. RSVP here!

Aviation Night Before Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas, and out on the ramp,
Not an airplane was stirring, not even a Champ.
The aircraft were fastened to tiedowns with care,
In hopes that come morning, they all would be there.
The fuel trucks were nestled, all snug in their spots,
With gusts from two-forty at 39 knots.

I slumped at the fuel desk, now finally caught up,
And settled down comfortably, resting my butt.
When the radio lit up with noise and with chatter,
I turned up the scanner to see what was the matter.
A voice clearly heard over static and snow,
Called for clearance to land at the airport below.

He barked his transmission so lively and quick,
I’d have sworn that the call sign he used was “St. Nick”.
I ran to the panel to turn up the lights,
The better to welcome this magical flight.
He called his position, no room for denial,
“St. Nicholas One, turnin’ left onto final.”

And what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a Rutan-built sleigh, with eight Rotax Reindeer!
With vectors to final, down the glideslope he came,
As he passed all fixes, he called them by name:
“Now Ringo! Now Tolga! Now Trini and Bacun!
On Comet! On Cupid!” What pills was he takin’?

While controllers were sittin’, and scratchin’ their head,
They phoned to my office, and I heard it with dread,
The message they left was both urgent and dour:
“When Santa pulls in, have him please call the tower.”
He landed like silk, with the sled runners sparking,
Then I heard “Left at Charlie,” and “Taxi to parking.”
He slowed to a taxi, turned off of three-oh
And stopped on the ramp with a “Ho, ho-ho-ho…”

He stepped out of the sleigh, but before he could talk,
I ran out to meet him with my best set of chocks.
His red helmet and goggles were covered with frost
And his beard was all blackened from Reindeer exhaust.
His breath smelled like peppermint, gone slightly stale,
And he puffed on a pipe, but he didn’t inhale.

His cheeks were all rosy and jiggled like jelly,
His boots were as black as a cropduster’s belly.
He was chubby and plump, in his suit of bright red,
And he asked me to “fill it, with hundred low-lead.”
He came dashing in from the snow-covered pump,
I knew he was anxious for draining’ the sump.

I spoke not a word, but went straight to my work,
And I filled up the sleigh, but I spilled like a jerk.
He came out of the restroom, and sighed in relief,
Then he picked up a phone for a Flight Service brief.
And I thought as he silently scribed in his log,
These reindeer could land in an eighth-mile fog.

He completed his pre-flight, from the front to the rear,
Then he put on his headset, and I heard him yell, “Clear!”
And laying a finger on his push-to-talk,
He called up the tower for clearance and squawk.
“Take taxiway Charlie, the southbound direction,
Turn right three-two-zero at pilot’s discretion”

He sped down the runway, the best of the best,
“Your traffic’s a Grumman, inbound from the west.”
Then I heard him proclaim, as he climbed through the night,
“Merry Christmas to all! I have traffic in sight.”

No credit claimed for this…on the web for years; ideas?

FAA Wings For You!

FAA Wings is a very useful program for fulfilling your pilot currency requirements and also feeds your “alpha pilot” need for personal achievement. I personally never do a flight review any more but stay constantly current with the FAA Wings Program. There is always a new challenge and a feeling of accomplishment. Unfortunately Wings is poorly understood and suffers from “design by committee.” It is slow to load on the web but stick with me it is certainly worth the effort!

Why? Pilots are usually predictably “alpha performers.” They love a challenge, crave accomplishment and  feed on achievement (me too!) My wife used to joke when I successfully accomplished a new pilot certificate or rating; “how’s that new Boy Scout badge?” Wings provides a constant time line of accomplishment and also rewards you with constant re-education, flight proficiency (sharper, safer pilot), and also the benefit of 61.56 flight currency.

Let’s unpack the FAA Wings program and hopefully get you involved and excited about maintaining and tracking your currency. I just achieved my Level 3 Master Wings…that is my most recent “pelt on the wall” to satisfy my pilot need for accomplishment. Notice my “flight review” is not due for 25 months. Before that date I guarantee I will add another level through some seminars and flying (I do spend a lot of time flying).


How does this program work? There is a whole manual available here but we will go through the basics. Three ground school events of your choosing need to be accomplished, then three flight events again chosen by you are accomplished and as a last step “validated” by your CFI. When you are done a Certificate pops up and this counts as a flight review! Easy. Here is mine:


The important point most people miss is that you choose the ground and flight modules you want to accomplish! Print them out before flight so your CFI knows what you are supposed to cover and have fun. There is no minimum time requirement! If you accomplish all three flight elements in an hour, you are done!

The interface for selecting the courses is a bit cumbersome. Here is a screen shot. Remember this website is SLOW. “Click and wait” is the rule for Wings!


Select your ground training on the top…this often is credit for attending an FAA Safety meeting (painless) or an AOPA training video you probably watch anyway. The flight elements are selected on the bottom and often can all be accomplished in an hour if you are proficient. Make sure to print out your  checklist before flight and bring it for your CFI so you can complete all the flight elements efficiently and get your endorsements in your logbook. The last step is “Request Credit” and you accomplish a level of FAA Wings (and renew your flight review!)   ©2015, David St. George


Understanding Twin Engine Aerodynamics

Twin engine aircraft are still the backbone of the corporate transportation world. The Beechcraft King Air is emblematic of what “makes business work” in the US. To “fly corporate” you still need to obtain a multi-engine rating and build that “twin time.” After the piston comes the jet and most of these seem to have at least two burners. Unfortunately it is increasingly difficult to find a light twin in the GA training fleet or on a local airport. Slippery carbon fiber, single engine, fixed gear planes are largely the small business airplane and as they move up the single engine turbo-props like the TBM, PC-12. Meridian have taken over in the flight levels.


Along with the disappearance of the Apache, Aztec, TravelAir fleet, the knowledge and craft of multi-engine flying is also getting harder to obtain and master. This is a brief overview of the subject with a special emphasis on the problems of flying on one engine in the event of a problem. Further articles on this subject are available on our multi-engine training page…this is just a warm-up to the subject.

The wake-up call for small twins came in 1979 with a special NTSB report that studied 2,229 accidents over a five-year period. Of these, 610 accidents involved fatalities and 123 resulted from engine failures. In nearly 3/4 of these cases pilots lost control of their plane due to the asymmetric thrust from the lost engine. The percentage of fatal accidents involving engine failure was more that four times greater in light twins than in single-engine planes. Lack of pilot proficiency was cited as the cause of most of these accidents and four specific recommendations were put forth by the NTSB. Lets first examine the problem and then we will look at the NTSB ideas.

The basic problem is obvious if you study a wing mounted twin-engine aircraft. If one of those fans goes bad that plane sure is not going to fly straight or pretty. But the major problem is more what my former chief pilot used to say when he saw a light twin take off. “You know why that plane has two engines? Because it needs them both” Once you understand how pathetic the performance is on one engine, you are a long way toward safety. When an engine fails in a light twin you absolutely must sacrifice performance and achieve control instead. A good rule is only try to achieve performance once you have controlled the adverse forces. Though you lost half the power when an engine goes bad, 80% or more of your climb potential just died too.


It did not help of course that manufacturers like Piper used to put pilots in the field who would demonstrate single-engine take-offs in the Aztec. This was fueling a myth that only could be achieved with superb piloting skill (and a very light aircraft) Load it up with fuel and family and most light twins can barely maintain altitude on an ISA day with an engine out. Pilot handbooks of the day were often written more to sell airplanes rather than insure safety.

Here is a fun experiment for a single-engine pilot to understand the dilemma of a twin engine failure. At a safe altitude, after clearing carefully, fly your plane at the best glide speed (Max L/D…minimum drag) at a level altitude. Make sure you get very stable and control the left-turning tendencies with rudder and carefully note the power setting. This number in most small singles will be 60-70% of your rated power (this assumes max gross weight) In a C-172 this is around 1900rpm.This is the minimum power it takes to maintain level flight. The difference up to maximum rpm is your climb potential. Usually, with coordinated controls, you can assume about 100fpm for each 100 rpm of surplus power available…500-700fpm. (Here is where power to weight ratios really count and streamlined airframes rule!) The point however is to gain respect for how little climb potential ANY plane has. A twin with an engine out lost 50% of it’s power but most of that is what allows it to climb! The remaining 50% just might keep you in the air (if you do everything correctly)

“Doing everything correctly” in the heat of the moment is a tall order for a twin driver. Imagine you are climbing out at max power and  max gross, (gear up) when an engine suddenly fails. That operating engine will twist the plane dramatically and the loss of lift on the dead engine side will dramatically amplify this force. One major flight control opposing this yaw and roll is the rudder. Since this air control surface loses effectiveness rapidly as you fly slower, it’s critical to lower the nose and maintain airspeed (while holding the nose straight) as a first remedy. Sacrificing climb to get control is essential. Once basic control is regained, there are many tweaks to optimize the performance that are beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say we must avoid flying slowly of we lose rudder authority and the yaw force will win. The critical loss of control occurs at what is called Vmc or “velocity  for minimum control.” There are detailed specifications for Vmc in CFR 23.149 for manufacturers to determine and mark this airpeed (the “red line”) The important take-away must not get near this minimum speed or we will lose control. It would be better to reduce both throttles to idle and crash level lie a single than to roll over from the asymmetric forces. The high AOA coupled with the huge yaw lead to loss of control pretty quickly.

Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 11.57.03 PM

The joke in multi-engine training is that since you mostly fly on one engine anyway (since the goal is mastering this exotic skill) shouldn’t the cost be half? You get exceptionally fast and skilled after five to ten hours of training (and hopefully even pass an FAA check ride and add this too your certificate). Unfortunately like all carefully honed skills this quickly becomes rusty without practice. Hours of successful multi-engine flying lead to complacency. This is why the NTSB statistics are so grim on twins.

And the recommendations? More recent currency for pilots, better POH information and increased outreach to rated pilots on light-twin problems. An interesting idea still not implemented by the FAA is for multi-engine pilots to accomplish their flight review in a twin to retain their privileges. Hopefully the overview is clear; the price of flying a multi-engine aircraft is maintaining superb currency. If you don’t do this “luck and hope” are two of your primary flight planning tools…never a great idea. Here is a great article to dig deeper…good luck!          ©2015, David St. George




Fly Accurately, Practice Often, Avoid LOC!

  • Fly Accurately: Know your pitch/power for all maneuvers…think “total energy”
  • Practice Often: Too much “enroute autopilot”? Go “yank and bank” (steep turns, “dutch rolls,” slips) Challenge yourself!
  • Stay Sharp and Avoid LOC: Practice out of your “comfort zone” with a CFI…become “bulletproof!”

The most pressing area of concern in general aviation safety is  I-LOC; “In-flight Loss of Control.” This sounds like a new and surprising problem, as if the plane will jump out of your hands but it really is a problem that has dogged aviation safety for years:  “maneuvering flight”. Whatever you call it, over 40% of pilot accidents happen in an area of flight where we only spend 5% of our time; maneuvering flight and usually below 1000ft agl. This would of course include that inherently tricky area of take-off and landing.

As a long time CFI and DPE let me assure you that flying is safe and what we are addressing here are the frustrating and almost predictable accidents that seem to happen regardless of training and interventions. In aviation safety, we have harvested all the low-hanging fruit; our planes are now super safe and we have incorporated all kinds of technology to help. We have displays with current weather and other planes in the cockpit and GPS to drive us  precisely to our destination. What does not seem to be “fixable” however is the pilot handling the controls when the demands of the task are suddenly overwhelming. Stall/spin accidents account for 21% of fatalities in aircraft…we need to learn to control our aircraft correctly for safety not just in the center of the control envelope but also toward the edges. This involves both basic aerodynamic knowledge and recent and correct practice at the controls of the aircraft. This Vg diagram depicts the maneuver envelope for a GA aircraft. The yellow oval is where we spend 95% of our time…safe and comfortable with little real demands of pilot skill. Pilots who spend all their time here are are not prepared if they are suddenly displaced from their “comfort zone!”VgCenter

The problem starts with the fact that the fundamental physics of safe aircraft control is not all intuitive. Flying safely requires deeply embedded trained responses based on extensive knowledge and good habits. Piloting skills need to be correctly taught initially and fully assimilated but also practiced regularly to be available, in fluid form, when a sudden upset demands action. Flying only in the center of the flight envelope will not keep you sharp enough to be safe…you need to be challenged with some dual flight on a regular basis. If a pilot wants to climb in a plane, just pulling on the yoke will not work (for long). If you want to turn, mashing a rudder in that direction will not work (for long). To be safe in a plane and avoid I-LOC, you must bank the plane in a coordinated fashion and understand and manage angle of attack. Mishandling both of these control inputs together is the heart of I-LOC…an aerodynamic stall (excessive AOA) with a lot of yaw (turning with the rudder)!

Angle of attack cannot be easily explained in an blog article, it really has to be demonstrated to be effective. Suffice to say here that AOA is usually almost invisible to the pilot. A plane in a snapshot in a level flight attitude could be climbing or descending or even stalled and falling, but its impossible to tell without movement. The trend would reveal the AOA as would the position of the yoke. The amount of back pressure and the extent of geometric pitch is a good rough estimate of AOA. Pilots absolutely must practice and understand this critical part of aircraft operation.This classic diagram from Aerodynamics for Naval Aviators clearly diagrams this problem.



The recent “seawall approach” into SF international in a Boeing 777 was a classic student pilot level error in aircraft control. It is what we call “naive rendition” in the flight instructor world: what you *think* should make the plane do what you want…just pull up the nose and it will climb…NOT! Actually, nose pitch controls airspeed primarily and adding power is necessary to arrest a descent and “stretch a glide” to the airport when low on final…not intuitive! In this photo, both the nose high (scary) Aircraft A and the nose low (friendly) Aircraft B have the same angle of attack. The plane can quite easily stall with the nose below the horizon with G-forces induced by a turn.


Turning coordinated using balanced rudder and ailerons seems to be increasingly rare in the pilot community and it is the heart of avoiding I-LOC. This essential skill is often missed in initial pilot training due to all the other “important” items that have to be covered in flight training…is my sarcasm showing? Nothing is more important than turning coordinated with balanced rudder and aileron! Pilots in training often miss this due to focus on glass panel avionics and other “shiny toy” distractions. Find a good instructor and practice this vital skill in your plane. Watch directly out over the nose when rolling the plane and the coordination will be immediately apparent. Watching the ball is absolutely the wrong place to focus…you are already behind the machine. “Dutch rolls” on a point will give you a good feel for the rudder and develop confidence in the outside visual cues.

Understanding slips and skids are also essential to safety in an airplane…but I doubt more then 10% of pilots could describe the process. (Keeping the plane from turning with the rudder is a slip and aerodynamically  stable…read this). Often used to land in a crosswind or add drag to increase the descent rate, a slip is a required maneuver for all private pilots candidates….learn and practice this maneuver with a good CFI.

Ultimately what I am am recommending here is a solid aerodynamic understanding of flight (AOPA course is excellent for this) and good “stick and rudder skills” to be safe and avoid I-LOC. Maintain a regular recurrency flight routine to stay sharp. Participation in the FAA Wings program is an excellent way to do this. Spend some time in our tail wheel aircraft to acquire an understanding of correct rudder usage. Practice some dutch rolls on your annual check-out. Above all stay sharp with your maneuvering skills…just droning on autopilot in the center of the flight envelope will not maintain the requisite pilot skills for safety. As the professionals joke “safety is not an accident” it take regular practice to stay safe.    ©2015, David St. George


By Skyhawk to Florida – Day 8 – Back home!

We’ve made it back to Ithaca, as of Tuesday afternoon. Our last day’s flying was uneventful, if a bit bumpy (and, of course, with a headwind…)

When we arrived at Cape Isle Airport (a/k/a Odell Williamson or 60J) and fueled 46493, we discovered that the left-hand fuel cap was missing. Either the line crew in St. Simons forgot to put it back after they fueled the airplane, or they’d put it on loose and it vibrated off. I’d prefer to believe the latter, but I have to admit I didn’t check to see if the cap was there before we took off. I suppose one tends to look at eye level and lower during a preflight, and there’s no way to get on top of the wing of a 172M without a ladder (the step on the cowling was added in a later model). Whatever – from now on I find a way to check. In any case, the local Auto Zone was accommodating – for future reference, apparently the fuel cap from a 1953 Ford Pickup fits a Skyhawk, and we flew back fully capped. (No, it’s not official – I will replace it with a real Cessna cap).

Anyway, the weather was beautiful when we arrived at the airport, and the air was smooth as we climbed up to 3,500 feet. Things are green already down there – this is the Cape Fear River.

Once at 3,500 feet, I found that we were fighting a 20knot headwind – at 105 knots air speed, we were only doing 85 knots over the ground. Winds are often less closer to the survace, so I went back down to 2,500 feet and picked up about 7-8 knots. Not great, but 92 is better than 85…

This is the Bay Tree Lake State Park – I liked the pattern made by the lakes and the canal around the inside of the isthmus (if that’s what you call a piece of land between two lakes).

I’ve seen quite a few wind farms this trip, but this was the first solar farm – near Kelly, NC.

A neat pattern of green bushes and brown fields in Virginia.

We crossed Virginia, and the Shenandoah Mountains appeared on the horizon. That marked the highest point in our journey, but we only needed another 500 feet to clear them comfortably. Soon we were flying over the Shenandoah Valley.

Our lunch and fuel stop for the day was Martinsburg, West Virginia – Eastern West Virginia Regional Airport to give it its formal name, or KMRB. As you approach the airport the three huge grey concrete hangars on the far side of the runway are the first thing you see, from miles away. As you get closer, you see the huge grey jet airplanes parked in front of them.  They’re C-17’s, flown by the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia National Guard.

Martinsburg Tower cleared us to land, and we were soon on final. The right-hand or north side of the field, looking westward on Runway 26, all belongs to the Air Force. The FBO is all the way down at the end of the runway, off on one of the narrower taxiways to the left. It’s a newly renovated facility, with friendly staff. They tossed us the keys to a Kia and gave us directions for lunch. For what it’s worth, if you visit KMRB, don’t bother driving all the way to the mall – there’s a little family diner on the left side of Route 11 only a few miles from the airport, and the food is great.

An interesting thing I learned at a Sun’n Fun forum – did you know you can tell the width of a runway from the approach-end stripes? Take Runway 26 at KMRB:

There are six stripes either side of the center gap. Multiply by 25, and you get the runway width – 150 feet. Sort of neat, actually.

After lunch we took off and headed northeasterly – only 200 miles to go from here. In a short while we were passing the Potomac River, and we were in Maryland for a short time.

After Maryland, it’s Pennsylvania (Chambersburg, in this picture), and a broken cloud deck formed overhead. We had the deck for the rest of the trip, but it wasn’t a factor, other than signalling a much bumpier ride than we’d had up until then.

Plowing patterns in north-central Pennsylvania:

And, finally… we were home.

The totals for the trip were approximately 47 hours flying about 4,140 miles, for an average ground speed of about 88 knots, thereby proving you can do that large a circle around the US and hit headwinds nearly all the way. Still, it was a fantastic trip, and if you’re flying for the flying, who cares if it takes a little longer?

Wonder where I can go next?

{-Back to Day 7: Clearwater to North Carolina