Thursday, December 21, 2006

Logbook Entries

I have on many occasions had discussions with flight instructors on issues concerning logging of time. I would like to go over a few of these issues. Some of them are misconceptions, while others are simply confusion about how a particular logbook entry should be made. I should also add that I claim no great expertise in these matters, but I did serve as chief flight instructor of a flight school for a number of years, and researched these questions as they arose. In many cases I relied heavily on the Part 61 FAQ file created by John Lynch. For a long time this file was available on the FAA’s website. It was recently removed from the site, but a number of us still have copies of the file squirreled away for reference.

I emphasize that in no way do I consider myself an expert on logbook entries, but I do get a lot of questions about these issues. Trying to research and find the right answers has led to the following recommendations I give to pilots and instructors.


  • John D. Lynch Part 61 FAQ file
  • FARs Explained, by Kent Jackson and Joseph Brennan
  • AOPA Flight Training, columns by John and Kathy Yodice

Logging Landings for Currency

One of the most common misconceptions is that because an instructor may log flight time when giving dual instruction, by extension that instructor may also log the student’s landings as their own landings in order to satisfy currency requirements. In a nutshell – no way. John Lynch is very clear about this. An instructor may not maintain/attain the FAR 61.57 recent experience for takeoffs and landings while monitoring and critiquing takeoffs and landings performed by another pilot/student. Jackson and Brennan also concur on this – a CFI cannot log student landings to meet the FAR 61.57 recent experience criteria.

Logging IMC Time

Only the pilot can determine if the aircraft is in actual instrument conditions. But a quick and easy answer, according to John Lynch, is that if the weather is below the VFR minimums listed in FAR 91.155 and the pilot is flying solely by reference to instruments, the time may be logged as instrument flight under actual instrument conditions.

When flying solely by reference to instruments in VMC conditions, such as a dark night over a landscape with few visible lights or over an overcast with no visible horizon, it should be logged as simulated instrument conditions. However this brings up the interesting question of whether a safety pilot must be in the other seat when flying solely by reference to instruments in VMC conditions such as listed above. John Lynch is not completely clear on this.

An appropriately rated flight instructor (CFII) may log as actual instrument time the time spent giving flight instruction in IMC conditions.

A pilot working on an instrument rating may log the time spent in actual IMC conditions when receiving training from a CFII as PIC if the pilot is rated for the airplane. Note, there is a difference between logging time as PIC and serving as PIC on the flight. The person who is sole manipulator of the controls may log the time as PIC. However that is not the same as serving as PIC on the flight. The later, the CFII in this case, is serving as PIC on the flight and as such has full responsibility for the safety and legality of the flight.

Logging Approaches

A CFII may log approaches that a student flies when those approaches are conducted in actual instrument flight conditions. John Lynch is slightly unclear on this, but he seems to imply that in order to log an approach in actual instrument conditions, it should be flown to either DH or MDA. However he doesn’t say that the entire approach, down to DH or MDA, must be conducted in IMC. But he is very clear that to fly to the FAF and then break it off does not qualify as an approach flown in actual instrument conditions. Jackson and Brennan concur on this, but further specify that it may be necessary to abandon the approach for safety reasons.

Logging Time in an FTD

Instruction received in an authorized FTD (Flight Training Device) such as Frasca or an Elite RC1 ATD from a CFII may be logged as dual received and FTD (or simulator) time. It does not count towards flight time. The logbook entry must contain the type and identification of the device and its location. Instructors should make a corroborative entry in their logbook, for FTD time and dual instruction given. The 8710 form contains space for FTD time under both the instrument column and the dual received column.

If a FTD is approved for 2.5 hours toward the Private Pilot License, the device may not be used to meet the requirements for three hours of hood time. This time specifically must be accomplished in an airplane. FAR 61.109(a) specifies 12 hours of instruction that must be conducted in an airplane – 3 hours night, 3 hours cross-country, 3 hours hood work, and 3 hours in preparation for the practical test. However the 2.5 hours in an FTD may be used to meet the remaining non-specified (minimum) 8 hours of dual instruction.

Logging Night Flight

According to the John Lynch, logging of night flight should be made in accordance with Part 1 definitions, which is from the end of evening civil twilight to the start of morning civil twilight. This is approximately from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise. Note, this definition does not serve for the purpose of meeting night currency. That is still from one hour after sunset until one hour before sunrise. So basically FAA has three definitions of night.

  • Sunset to sunrise – aircraft position lights must be on
  • ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise – may be logged as night flight
  • 1 hour after sunset to 1 hour before sunrise – may be used for landings to attain/maintain currency to carry passengers at night.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Creating holding clearances

So there you are, trucking along in your trusty bug smasher (or trusty sim), tracking inbound on the 360° radial, when without warning your instructor sadistically says, “Devise a holding clearance from your present position that will require a parallel entry for a left-hand holding pattern.”

Many instrument students do very well figuring out holding entries in an intuitive fashion. However this approach tends to break down when you are on the dispensing end of a holding clearance rather than the receiving end. Although at first glance it may seem a bit daunting, once you have your secret decoding ring, it’s remarkably easy to do.

The secret decoding ring system works when the airplane is traveling to a VOR (or GPS waypoint). Let’s take the situation shown above, traveling towards the VOR. Remember when you were studying for your instrument rating and your instructor drew out the classic diagram for determining holding entries?

The trick in creating holding clearances is to use this same diagram and overlay it on the DG or HSI. Let’s say you are tracking inbound on the 360° radial as shown in the first figure, and you want to create a holding clearance that will force a teardrop entry for a standard (meaning right-hand) holding pattern. To do this, take the pattern formed by the red lines in the above figure and superimpose it on the DG or HSI, with the inbound leg being the radial on which you are tracking inbound.

Because it is a right-hand holding pattern, tilt the horizontal line up about 20° or so on the right-hand side of the DG or HSI. The radial on which you are tracking inbound forms the vertical line. Taken together, these two lines delineate the three regions for hold entries. The small pie-shaped section is for teardrop entries – any radial selected in this region will call for a teardrop entry. (Hint – remember “Tiny Tears”) The larger pie-shaped segment defines the parallel entry region. Any radial in this region will call for a parallel entry. Everything below the tilted line calls for a direct entry. So in this case, if you want to create a holding clearance that will force a teardrop entry for a right-hand pattern, any radial between about 190°and 240° will work very nicely. So the holding clearance could be

Hold southwest of VOR on the 210° radial right-hand turns EFC

If you want to create a holding clearance for a left-hand pattern, just tilt the left-side of the horizontal line up rather than the right side. Let’s say you want to create a holding clearance that will call for a parallel entry for a left-hand holding pattern. Again, superimpose the two lines on the DG or HSI, but this time since a left-hand pattern has been specified, tilt the left side of the line up about 20° or so, as shown below.

The 240° radial lies right in the middle of the parallel entry region. So a holding clearance could be:

Hold southwest of VOR on the 240° radial left-hand turns EFC

Creating hold clearances for your student is really a very simple matter once you know this little trick. Try out a few for yourself.

Direct entry for either left-hand or right-hand hold could be:

Hold northeast of VOR on the 030° radial EFC

Teardrop entry for left-hand hold could be:

Hold southeast of VOR on 150° radial left-hand turns EFC

Parallel entry for left-hand hold could be:

Hold southwest of VOR on 210° radial left-hand turns EFC

Parallel entry for right-hand hold could be:

Hold east of VOR on 090° radial right-hand turns EFC

And there you have it – the secret decoding ring for creating holding clearances for your student. And yes, it works equally well for teaching holding entries to your student. The only caveat is that you must be tracking towards the waypoint in order for this method to work.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Avionics Troubleshooting

This avionics troubleshooting guide comes from R.C. Avionics. It is a great compilation of tips and guidance in troubleshooting avionics problems. R.C. Avionics suggests keeping a copy of this guide in the airplane.

General Troubleshooting
• Check the aircraft breaker or fuses. Reset only once.
• Is the electrical system properly charging?
• Could water have leaked onto the avionics?
• Could a connector be loose or wire broken from recent maintenance?
• Do you hear alternator or mag noise?
• Are any antennas missing, corroded, dirty, broken, oil coated, or delaminated?
• Is the problem intermittent?
• Could heat, cold, altitude or time be a factor?

• Has the correct triad been selected?
• Is manual triad mode selected?
• Verify the correct waypoint.
• Is there a NORAM of any outages?
• Are the signal and SNR levels adequate?
• Are you in a fringe coverage area?
• Is precipitation static a factor?
• Does it have the latest hardware/software updates?
• Check present position or nearest airport.
• Are there any warning or error messages?
• Is interference also affecting the ADF?
• Are you near a thunderstorm?
• Is the NAV selected to an ILS frequency locking out course deviation?

• Is ATC receiving both Mode-A (squawk code) and Mode-C (altitude)?
• Has the problem occurred with more than one ATC facility?
• Is Mode-C inoperative or just reporting the wrong altitude?
• Does the reply light illuminate in radar coverage?
• Is the reply light dimmer turned down?
• Is it in the correct mode (stand-by/on/altitude)?
• Does it recycle (power off, then on, then wait 30 seconds)?
• Does turning off the DME resolve the problem?

Com/Audio Panel/Intercom
• Is the correct frequency active (not stand-by)?
• Are the audio switches set correctly?
• Is the auto mode being used?
• Is the same radio selected for transmit and receive?
• Is the volume turned down?
• Is a mic key stuck?
• Are both the headphone and speaker working?
• Does it both receive and transmit?
• Do you hear your voice in the headphone during transmit (sidetone)?
• Did ATC say they heard carrier only without voice?
• Is there background noise when in test mode (squelch off)?
• Try a different headset or microphone.
• Try emergency or isolation modes.
• Are the plugs or jacks dirty, corroded or loose?
• Do all crew and passenger headset locations have the same problem?
• Does another com act the same way?
• Is the oxygen mic switch in the proper position?

• Review operating procedures.
• Does it pass self-test on the ground?
• Does the auto trim work?
• Does the manual electric trim work?
• Does it engage?
• Can you overpower it on the ground?
• Do the controls lock when engaged?
• Could the cables be loose from maintenance?
• Is the aircraft out of trim?
• Is the horizon gyro precessing?
• Is the gyro vacuum within limits?
• Does it hold the wings level?
• Does it hold heading?
• Does it lose altitude in a turn?
• Does it porpoise?
• Does it respond in NAV mode?
• How does it respond on an ILS?

• Does it paint rain and ground clutter?
• Is the gain turned down?
• Is the brightness turned down?
• Does it test?
• Does it display wheel spokes?
• Does the tilt work?
• Are the images smeared?
• Does it lose targets within 40 miles?
• Is the radome damaged or delaminating or leaking?
• Is stabilization working?

• Does it receive an ident code? (Listen for 60 seconds.)
• Is the remote channeling switch set?
• Is the display dimmed?
• Does the GS and TTS function? (Flying directly to/from but not over station.)
• Is the problem present on other frequencies?
• Does it test?
• Is there a NOTAM of any outages?

• Is it on the correct frequency?
• Is the unit in ADF mode?
• Does it point to the station?
• Does the needle move in test?
• Does the unit receive in ANT mode?
• Does the unit receive in ADF mode?
• Do all three frequency bands work – (200-399, 400-799, 800-1699)?
• Do you hear alternator or mag noise?
• Is the reception better on the ground with the engine(s) off?
• Are other radios interfering with the ADF?
• Are there thunderstorms in the area?
• Is there a NOTAM of any outages?

Lightning Detection
• Does it pass self test?
• Does it display aircraft electrical noise?
• Is heading orientation functioning?
• In a turn, are the dots all in the same relative direction?
• Is the brightness turned down?

• Verify the correct waypoint.
• Check present position or nearest airport.
• Are at least three satellites being tracked (VFR) or four satellites (IFR)?
• Is the satellite geometry poor?
• Are the satellite signal levels adequate?
• Has the unit been inactive for a few months?
• Is the hold or OBS mode selected?
• Is the NAV selected to an ILS frequency locking out course indication?
• Is there a NOTAM of any outages?
• Are there any warning or error messages?
• Does it have the latest hardware/software updates?

• Is the correct frequency active (not stand-by)?
• Does it receive the ident code?
• Do the needles or flags move at all?
• Can you select a reciprocal OBS course?
• Does the To/From indicator work?
• How many degrees off is the VOR?
• Does the NAV test (self or VOT)?
• Does it have 20° course width peg to peg?
• Do both NAV radios have the same problem?
• Does the localizer work but not the VOR?
• Are you close or far from the station?
• Does a change in engine rpm have an effect?
• Is the RNAV or PAR mode active?
• Is the Loran/GPS switched to the indicator?
• Is there a NOTAM of any outages?
• Is the problem present on different frequencies?
• Does VOR station position relative to the aircraft have an effect?

Marker Beacon
• Do the lamps illuminate over markers?
• Do lamps test?
• Are the lamps dimmed?
• Is problem resolved when high sensitivity is selected?
• Is the audio turned down or not selected?
• Are lights seen but tones not heard?
• Are the correct tones heard?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Let There Be Light

When it comes to lighting in the sim, it has been something of a Catch 22 situation. To really see the great graphics, the room needs to be fairly dark. However then reading an approach plate becomes nigh impossible. Some small lights on the sides have at least made approach plates visible, but the radio stack was still pretty much of a black hole.

One of the sim customers came up with the idea of utilizing rope lights to create sufficient ambient light to see the radio stack while still allowing the room to be dark enough to see a runway materializing out of the gloom. He brought in a piece of rope lighting that was long enough to go from one side of the cockpit enclosure, across the top, and down the other side. The lights are actually behind the pilot’s head, so they aren’t in the field of vision. He selected light green for the color, which happens to be a great color in a cockpit. The effect is great, and the visibility for the pilot is very good.

It was a great idea on his part, and I think it will really solve the problem of providing enough soft ambient light to see the radio stack and controls but not interfering with the graphics.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Windows Strikes Again

Recently I flew with a longtime friend who wanted to do some approaches. He explained beforehand that he had been flying strictly VFR for several months and thought he might be a bit rusty. The flight confirmed the rust prediction. He wanted to make a trip to Rapid City, SD (KRAP), so decided to schedule a sim session.

He normally flies a Piper Dakota, a fixed-gear Cherokee with a 235 hp engine. I configured the sim for a fixed-gear C182, figuring this would be close in speeds and performance to the Dakota.

About 45 minutes into the sim session, strange things started happening. First symptom was a loss of power, followed by loss of vacuum, then electrical failure. I was baffled. I hadn’t specified any systems failures, and a check of the malfunctions page confirmed that everything was supposed to be working.

With apologies, I reconfigured the sim as a trusty C172, the most commonly used model in the sim. Again, about 20 minutes or so into the flight, the same set of symptoms occurred.

I was both perplexed and unhappy. This had been my friend’s first introduction to the sim, and it certainly did not live up to his expectations. I called Elite support and left a message detailing the problem.

Elite support called back in about an hour. Yes, they had seen the problem and knew what it was. It was not an Elite software bug, nor was it a hardware bug. Instead, it was a Windows problem.

Wonderful Windows XP had struck again. In its “father knows best” mode, Windows decided to put the USB hub into energy saving mode. I was directed to the proper spot to turn off the option to put the USB hub into energy saving mode.

So far it hasn’t happened again. Once again however I find that I really resent the hubris on the part of Windows to think that it knows what is best for my system.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Piece of the Magic

Periodically I check out fellow instructors in J’s plane. J. has a very nice fixed-gear Cessna Cardinal (C177). However a checkout in this plane reduces most instructors to feeling like a student pilot again. Remember how you felt the first time you tried to taxi an airplane? Well, you will relive that feeling on your first attempt to taxi J’s plane.

J. is one of the coolest guys I know. When he was 16 years old he fell off of a ladder and broke his neck. It left him in a wheelchair. But J. didn’t give up on life or his desire to learn how to fly. J. bought the Cardinal and had the left side fitted with hand controls. Although the right side has conventional controls, I have all instructors who fly with J. do the checkout in the left side, so they will understand how to fly a plane with hand controls and what J. is dealing with.

The hand controls hook on to the brake and rudder pedals with j-hooks. A bar comes up and rests on the pilot’s right leg. This bar has a knob to use when moving it. Move it to the 9 o’clock position and you have engaged left rudder. Moving it to the 3 o’clock position engages the right rudder. 12 o’clock engages both brakes, while 10:30 and 1:30 engage left brake + left rudder and right brake + right rudder respectively. You must learn to taxi and fly the plane with both feet flat on the floor. In the air it flies pretty conventionally, but taxi, take-off, and landings are very challenging.

When the first version of the hand control was installed in the Cardinal, it was not as functional as the current version, and I had an extremely difficult time learning to use it. I was the Anoka version of “Entertainment Today” for the tower. I will never (ever) forget the day I was going to taxi out to runway 27. I had to taxi north past the tower and then hang a hard right to go out to runway 27. When I started trying to make the turn to the right, I could not get the airplane to go all the way around to the desired direction. Unable to turn right, I decided I would do a 270-degree turn to the left. About a quarter of the way around, I came to a dead stop, unable to get the hand control to keep the airplane turning left. Completely frustrated, I decided to drop the hand control bar down on the floor and resort to using the rudders. However the j-hooks were still firmly attached to the rudder pedals and the bar was hitting the seat pedestals, preventing full use of the rudders. As a result I was unable to go in either direction. I was finally forced to shut the plane down and ask ground control if they would have a tug sent out for me. By this time the tower was in stitches, and I was completely embarrassed. I was definitely the talk of the airport for a couple of days.

One day when I was talking to J., I asked him why he was so determined to learn how to fly. He told me how he had always hung around airports, listening to the pilots talk. And then he said something that almost brought tears to my eyes. He said listening to the pilots talk, “flying was like magic, and I just wanted a piece of the magic for myself.” Go for it, J. – you’re an inspiration to everyone who knows you.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Snowbird Practice

R. is a sim student who is working on getting his instrument proficiency back. He owns a lovely Piper Lance, and we met a few weeks ago when I did his flight review. Although he is instrument rated, he has not used it very much. I mentioned that he might be interested in Wings of Mercy Minnesota, a volunteer organization of pilots similar to Angel Flight. R. was interested and decided the sim was the perfect tool for regaining his instrument proficiency.

He is flying the sim configured as a Bonanza. We started with the basics, and it quickly became apparent that his initial training was good, although there was a bit of rust to be removed. He progressed through the basics, including partial panel work. The sim, incidentally, does very nice mag compass turns, which is quite satisfying after working in the Frasca. The only time the Frasca could do a mag compass turn correctly was if you were turning to a heading of either due east or due west. After going through the basics, all types of holding, and DME arcs, today it was time to start approaches.

R. and his wife are “snowbirds”, leaving Minnesota in mid-October for their home in Florida. Since we were starting on approaches today, I suggested he bring in plates for the airports close to their Florida home. So he brought in the GPS-4 approach for Winter Haven (KGIF), the GPS-27R approach for Bartow KBOW), and the ILS-5 for Lakeland (KLAL). Since the sim has a Garmin 430, as does his Lance, it was perfect.

It was a snap to load the USSE database, which included Florida. I positioned the plane at Lakeland, and he soon ready for takeoff. First came the GPS-4 into Winter Haven. He was vectored to go directly to the intermediate waypoint BEZDU. We did that approach twice, and then I vectored him for the GPS-27R at Bartow. Finally we finished up with the ILS-5 at Lakeland. The first ILS was vectors, and the second one included one turn around holding, which serves as the PT.

R. did a good job. But the thing that stands out in my mind was the ease of switching the Elite AATD from Minnesota to Florida. This was somewhat of a messy procedure in the Frasca. It is a far superior procedure in the Elite. And best of all, when R. and his wife depart for Florida in a couple of weeks, he will be fresh on the approaches at all three airports.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Using an HSI

To many pilots, an HSI ranks high on the list of essential flight instruments, while others find it mystifying. So let’s try to demystify the HSI. HSI, as most of you know, stands for Horizontal Situation Indicator. However that definition by itself doesn’t offer much of a clue as to why pilots love it. So let’s examine an imaginary evolutionary history of the HSI.

In the beginning there was the trusty DG (or heading indicator, if you prefer) and the VOR display. They were two separate and distinct instruments, with two separate and distinct functions.

Most of us during our training learned to use the OBS knob on the VOR display to select our desired course, in this example the 330° radial. Then we would determine an appropriate intercept heading. The CDI shows the aircraft is west of the radial, so we fly towards the CDI. A heading of due north, as shown on our trusty DG, will work nicely. Sooner or later the CDI will start moving towards the center of the VOR display, at which point we guess as to how quickly to turn to a heading of 330°.

This all works very nicely, and it’s how the majority of us were trained. But we have to look at two different instruments and figure out if everything will work. Will we intercept that 330° radial? But suppose we could somehow magically rotate the VOR display so that it matched the aircraft heading.

This improves things, but you still have to look at two instruments. But now suppose you could merge those two instruments, so that the VOR display was superimposed on the DG. This is exactly what the HSI does – it merges the two instruments so that you only have to look in one place for both heading information and VOR navigation information.

The course selector is the OBS from the VOR display; it shows the selected radial of 330°. The steering bar is the CDI from the VOR display. It shows the position of the aircraft with respect to the selected radial. The heading information is presented in a familiar manner, with the magnetic heading of the aircraft shown at the top of the display. The orange aircraft symbol shows the position of the aircraft with respect to the selected radial. In this example it’s easy to see that the airplane is southwest of the selected radial. The white triangle always points towards the VOR. So in this case, the VOR is behind us, and we are on a heading to intercept the 330° radial. The lubber line is a thin white line at the top of the display. We’ll see in the discussion below how very useful the lubber line is. With the HSI display, the pilot flies the aircraft towards the steering bar until the steering bar moves to the course selector. At that point you’re on the radial, so you turn the aircraft to the desired course. In a no-wind situation, this would be 330°.

Wind correction

Wind correction is done in a conventional manner, offsetting the heading as needed to keep the steering bar centered. But unlike the conventional DG display, the HSI makes it simple to determine the wind correction angle. If the steering bar drifts off center, simply turn the aircraft so as to place the tip of the white lubber line on the tip of the steering bar. As the steering bar re-centers, fly the aircraft much like you would fly a ground reference maneuver. Imagine the course selector is a road, and you are flying so as to maintain a ground track down that road by visual reference. Crab into the wind to maintain that ground track, and you have your wind correction.

Course Interception

One of the really great features of an HSI is how it allows you to smoothly intercept a given course, whether it’s a localizer, VOR or GPS. ATC puts you on a vector to intercept a given course, 030 degrees in the above graphic. Eventually the steering bar starts to move in towards the course selector. But when do you start to turn to the course? Depending on the sensitivity of the station (localizer versus VOR or GPS), do you wait until it is almost centered, or do you start turning earlier? The HSI takes the guesswork out of this situation. Once the steering bar starts to move inward, turn the plane so as to keep the lubber line on the tip of the steering bar, as shown on the right. As it moves towards the centerline, continue turning the plane so as to keep the lubber line centered on the tip of the steering bar, and you will have a smooth, effortless intercept of the course. Be forewarned, however, that in a strong crosswind coming from the direction of your intercept heading, this technique will lead you to the perfect wind correction heading. So if the steering bar stops moving, you will need to turn back into the wind in order to completely intercept the course.

Circling Approach

A circling approach, either at night or in poor visibility, presents a challenging situation to pilots of all experience levels. Experienced HSI users will set the Course Selector to the runway heading when the airport has come into view. Experience has shown that the safest path to the runway is the shortest path, and the HSI can provide a very helpful visualization as to where the runway is and where the pilot needs to go. You can either turn to enter a downwind, paralleling the course selector, or if you’re in position to enter directly into base leg, you can turn the aircraft to a heading that is perpendicular to the course selector.

You can even use this trick as an aid in taxiing when you’re at an unfamiliar airport – particularly where there is no helpful tower to provide progressive taxi instructions. Simply set the course selector to the desired runway, and it will at least get you started in the right direction. This little trick is very effective at night.

Quick Aid for NDB Approaches

Okay, so you may not ever have to actually fly an NDB approach, but in case every GPS satellite falls out of orbit and you actually have to fly one, the HSI can even help here. The trick is to set the course selector on the desired bearing to the station. When the ADF needle matches the course selector, both in orientation and relative number of degrees from the top of the card, 40°in this example, you are on course.

DME Arcs

Admit it; there might still be a bit of mystery, even for experienced pilots, about DME arcs. Or maybe you just haven’t flown one in a long time. The HSI can be a pretty handy decoder ring for demystifying DME arcs. Say you are flying outbound on the 050° radial to intercept a 12-mile right-hand DME arc. Right-hand simply means you are to progress around the arc clockwise, or to put it in another perspective, your right wing is pointing at the VOR. So when do you start your turn onto the arc? The rule of thumb is ½ of 1% of your ground speed. So theoretically, if your ground speed is 130 knots, you would start your turn at ½ of 1% of 130, or ½ of 1.3, which would be about 0.6 miles. However, for anything less than about 150 knots ground speed, ½ mile works quite well. When you get to within ½ mile of the arc, turn the aircraft so that the orange aircraft symbol is perpendicular to the steering bar. Then move the course selector 10°, in the direction that puts the steering bar ahead of the aircraft symbol. To go around the arc, simply drive the aircraft perpendicularly towards the steering bar. When the steering bar centers, move it 10° more and continue the process.

This even works if you are not tracking directly on a radial towards the arc. Suppose you have been given a heading to intercept a 12 mile left-hand DME arc. Let’s further assume you are intercepting the arc from the outside.

As you approach the 12.5 mile point, center the steering bar and turn the aircraft perpendicular to the steering bar. Since you are going around a left-hand arc, you want your left wing to point towards the VOR – left wing points in the same direction as the white triangle. Now move the course selector so the steering bar is in front of the aircraft symbol, and continue flying the arc as before. Now all you have to do is watch for the final course and be prepared to turn inbound. So there you have it – DME arcs demystified.


So all of the sudden, out of a not-so-clear-blue sky, you are given a hold. Yikes, and you don’t remember how it’s done. Okay, so you manage to sketch out the hold, as you are approaching Podunk VOR. But how do you get into it? Once again, the trusty HSI can help out. As you pass over the VOR (or waypoint), set the course selector to the inbound course. After passing over the station, turn so as to line up the miniature aircraft symbol to fly parallel to the course on the outbound leg. Fly for one minute and then turn inbound and intercept the course. It may not be the entry your flight instructor would prefer, but it will keep you within the confines of the protected space and get you into the hold.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Birthing Pains

So how does a modern sim like the new Elite arrive at its destination? The answer is in an incredible number of boxes. I had reached an agreement with R.C. Avionics at Anoka (KANE) to rent space for my new sim. ETA for the sim was late May. The arrival date slipped into early June, but soon one corner of the hangar was temporarily housing a large number of boxes. Looking at all those boxes, it was hard to imagine this could actually become a sim.

Once everything had arrived, I faced the challenge of trying to turn this pile of boxes into a modern sim. One of my former students came to the rescue. We started the assembly process on a Friday evening, and after four hours of hard work, the outlines were beginning to take shape. But there were still a lot questions about how to proceed with the cabling.

The next week one of the avionics techs volunteered to cable everything. Once that was done, we tried the basic smoke test – power it up and see if anything turned to carbon and started smoking. It seemed to work, but where was the Garmin 430 supposed to go? The only place that made any sense was in a center console. Elite support has been incredibly helpful, and they quickly verified the Garmin placement was correct.

But then problems surfaced. The sim is driven by two computers. One computer, acting as master, drives the simulation while a second slaved computer drives the visuals. The simulation computer had problems. Without any warning it would reboot itself. One of these uncommanded reboots occurred during the installation of a wireless mouse and keyboard. This left it so confused that it refused to recognize any mouse or keyboard in the Windows environment. The R.C. Avionics IT expert came by one evening and tried everything he could think of. It was all to no avail. The simulation computer had basically turned into a large rock.

I shipped the simulation computer back to Elite, where it was confirmed to definitely be broken. A new simulation computer was shipped out. Once it arrived and was installed into the simulation, I figured the problems were over. That proved not to be the case. The new one insisted on also doing uncommanded reboots.

The Elite support people were baffled. What could be causing it? So they got in touch with the manufacturer of the computer, who came up with the answer. The problem was being caused by the two 512m memory cards. I had specified a gig of memory, and it had been installed as two 512m cards. I was highly dubious that this could be the source of the problem but was willing to try anything at this point. Elite sent out a 1 gig memory card. We installed it and held our collective breath as the sim was powered up. It worked beautifully! No uncommanded reboots, no glitches; everything was working.

A large group of instructors, technicians, and students gathered around and watched as one of the senior instructors put the sim through its paces. The visuals are projected onto a large screen, and as of yet there was no screen. So a large off white piece of canvas was quickly hung up to serve as a temporary screen. We all oohed and ahhed as the demonstration proceeded without any hitches. The Garmin 430 worked beautifully, as did the KFC 150 autopilot and flight director. Even on the wrinkled canvas screen, the visuals were very clear.

Victory was declared, and it was now time to complete the installation. Another former student volunteered to help put the cockpit enclosure together. The enclosure assembled more easily than expected, and soon it was looking like a real sim. Now it was time to find a real screen. I blanched at the price of a large projection screen, but one of my students made an incredibly serendipitous discovery. He found a piece of white polywall at Home Depot. He promptly bought a 4’ x 8’ sheet and brought it up to see if it would work as a screen. The polywall sheet has one very smooth side and one slightly textured side. We put it up, and it worked beautifully. And it only cost $20, which sure beat paying several hundred dollars for a real projection screen.

The next step was getting the projector mounted. To date it had been sitting rather precariously on a stack of boxes. Another student made a platform to mount it near the ceiling behind the sim. It was all coming together. There were still a lot of details to be handled, but my dream of owning a sim was becoming reality.

With the help and support of a lot of people, the sim went operational on July 12th, when I gave my first lesson in it. It’s still a learning experience for me, as I explore the different capabilities of the software. But it is successful, and Sim Flite Minnesota is doing well.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

In the Beginning

Welcome to an online journal about the creation and running of Sim Flite Minnesota, a small enterprise devoted to sim and GPS training. I am a passionate advocate of sim training for pilots and for years utilized a Frasca 142 for instruction. However this spring the Frasca was sold, so I was forced to finally make a decision about my future as a flight instructor. My real interest lies in sim and GPS training, so I resigned from Knowlton Flight Instruction Services, where I had been chief flight instructor for several years, in order to set up my own company for sim training.

I had been researching various sims (technically FTDs - flight training devices) on a low level for quite some time, but the sale of the Frasca made it necessary for me to move forward with the purchase of a sim and the formation of an LLC to pursue sim and GPS training. The sim I chose is the new Elite, an FTD that is Elite’s answer to Frasca. It has the same FAA accreditation as Frasca, meaning it can be used for 20 hours of instrument training, as well as IPCs and approaches for currency.

Sim Flite Minnesota is located at the Anoka country airport (KANE), in the north metro area of Minneapolis. It has been quite an interesting experience to set up this company, and I will recount those growing pains. I had created another online journal, when I was chief flight instructor for Knowlton Flight, and many of those articles will eventually be uploaded to this new journal. But for now, welcome to my journal about the creation of Sim Flite Minnesota. It has been quite a journey.