Tuesday, October 25, 2016

When I look out the window, I see nothing but water.

Flying over seas. Did You Know?

I will often hear someone say that there is no way they would fly to Hong Kong or Australia. Maybe even Europe, because it is too much of a challenge. Why? Because 14 hours in the air over nothing but ocean sounds risky.

Flying over long expanses of water is planned out with many turnaround points built in called go/nogo waypoints. When each point is reached, a planned track to any airport with a long enough runway and fueling facilities is an option; but rejected if there is no reason to do so.

Remember that pilots file flight plans. That flight plan includes many useful details, both for the pilot, and to inform the Air Traffic Control system every step of the way. The part that the pilot must calculate is what we call waypoints. Sometimes these waypoints are named points with a specific distance from a shore based radio navaid. For simplicity we will equate a navaid with a ground based direction finder; distance and direction; which is actually given a name on a chart. If you are a pilot, do not write me! You may also make up a waypoint by drawing on a map, every 200 miles a point where you will make a very firm decision. Will I continue to my destination? Will I return to my departure airport? Will I turn now to the closest airport with a runway long enough for my size airplane? These other airports, not visible from the airplane could be hours away, but are all circled and referenced on a chart.

There are other details that we look into, and the options are plentiful. Each time we reach a named fix, or a 200 mile mark, we call the closest Air Traffic Control facility. And this is what we tell them. “This is our location, in miles and altitude. This was the moment in time we arrived there. This is how many hours of fuel we are carrying. Everything is great (we don’t really say that) so we will continue on to our next waypoint. We will get to that waypoint at a specific time and if we descend, we plan to be at this specific altitude.”

Now let’s say, somewhere between this waypoint, and the next waypoint, we have a problem. Based on the headwinds or tailwinds, the facility we have already picked out, direction of turn, is it faster to 1) continue to destination, 2) return to departure airport, 3) fly to the pre determined alternate. We happen to know that the winds are stronger when we head west bound then when we head eastbound. So as we travel west, we know that it will take a shorter amount of time to turn around and go east then to continue a short distance west.

There is also a go/no go point. If we are traveling east/west, then the mid point of our distance to our destination is NOT the midpoint of our flight. We decide, before we ever leave the flight planning room, where the go/no go point of our flight. Once we pass that point, then we know, we are continuing to our destination or next waypoint, but returning to departure is not an option.

Also you should know that flights over a certain number of hours say 8 hours, requires extra crew members. That way, we share flight time and rest time. A 9 hour trip will carry one Captain and two First Officers. Each pilot will fly at least 2/3 of the trip. A 14 hour Asian flight will have two full crews, or two Captains and two First Officers. Each pilot will fly at least half of the trip.

During flights over long expanses of water, when reaching each waypoint and contacting the nearest facility to make our report, we are legally bound to notate our every word, time, altitude, expected next waypoint, and fuel remaining, right on our flight plan. At the end of our flight, this flight plan is turned in as a document and filed as the log that accounts for the whole flight and is considered an official document. Years later, someone can go back and track the entire flight just by referencing the statistics, documented by the flight crew.

See you in Bora Bora!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Did You Know? Rejected Takeoff...

Over the next year you will learn the minimum you should know to be a confident passenger on any flight. There is nothing for you to do as all safety precautions are already baked in. If you plan to become a pilot, this will take the mystery out of the Big Picture.

Did you know?

During the typical take off, pilots are aggressively looking for any mechanical reason to abort the take-off

Typically an aborted take-off, which is also called a rejected take-off is usually not that big of a deal.  More than likely it’s something out of the ordinary yet manageable that will cause the pilot to abort the take-off.  Should it be a major mechanical malfunction, the preplanned response makes this a priority best dealt with on the ground rather than taking it into the air.

As passengers turn their attention to the takeoff roll, their thoughts turn to the possible danger of the lift off. Pilots on the other hand have completed preliminary calculations that are put into effect the moment the pilot releases the brakes. Taken into account is the length of the runway; the wind speed and direction; what contamination may be on the runway surface; what obstacle can be found off of the end of the runway. Be it a tree or a mountain. All factors are taken into account. By knowing the speed required for the airplane to lift off and how long it takes to accelerated to THAT speed, is calculated into the amount of runway required to reach that speed. Then by adding the runway length, obstacle distance and height, the pilot can calculate at what point they would need to put on the brakes and come to a full stop within the runway remaining. That long math calculation has a specific name. It’s call the Accelerated Stop distance. So let’s recap. Before the pilot pulls out onto the runway, they have already figured out at what distance they will be at the fastest speed just before they must put on max breaking to come to a full stop, no matter what the reason, prior to the end of the runway.  That distance or point they give another name. It’s called V1. At that speed, the pilot, will retard the throttles/power levers, use reverse to assist the breaking process, apply full and sometimes anti skid breaking, and bring the airplane to a full stop.
While a pilot is taxing onto the takeoff runway, they are completing their final checks looking for some small problem that has the potential to cause unacceptable issues later in the flight. Adding power and rolling down the runway continues the same priority, look for or listen for the slightest indication of a problem. Before V1, the pilots are ready to stop. What if something happens after V1? Then what?

After V1, the next phase of flight begins, and it has its own set of rules. After V1, the calculated distance to stop within the runway length is no longer an option. It is much less dangerous, often not dangerous at all, to continue the flight into the air, handle the malfunction and then bring the airplane back to an airport for a controlled stabilized approach and landing. Last week we discussed an engine failure and how the airplane flys perfectly well on one engine. Pilots practice engine failures during all training evolutions. That may not make passengers happy, but your pilots have expert knowledge in takeoff malfunctions. All pilots must pass a checkride which includes many opportunities to prove competency in takeoff malfunctions.
So whether the pilot stops the airplane on the runway, abruptly it may seem, or takes it into the air, every precise segment of the takeoff roll is planned well in advance expressly for the safety of the passengers and flight crews on board.

Join #AviationCarolinaKids if you want to attend Aviation Camps of the Carolinas to get the full details on this and other inside information.

Did You Know? An A & P licensed aircraft mechanic makes more money than a Junior Pilot

Did you know?

An aircraft mechanic with an A&P license makes more money than a junior pilot.
An A&P license, which is an abbreviation for Airframe and Power plant license, is issued to technicians who have the proper training and meet all the requirements set by the Federal Aviation Administration. Once certified, an A&P mechanic can perform routine and complex aircraft inspections and repairs that ensure aircraft are properly maintained and in peak condition.
In 2013 there were an estimated 20,000 airplanes on the planet. In the next 20 years, that number will quickly climb to 35,000. Each airplane must be inspected and all maintenance must be done by a certified aircraft mechanic. In general aviation, there is the annual or 100-hour inspection. Repairs can only be done by an aircraft mechanic. The number of mechanics required to maintain all of these airplanes, several times a year or constantly, cannot be counted. Just as the number of pilots retiring is leading to a pilot shortage, there is the same need for aircraft mechanics. To be certified by the FAA to actually work on an airplane, the mechanic must be A&P certified.
This highly sought after skill requires a few years of study, often completed through a two-year course or an Associate’s Degree. Many in the business start with military aviation, which is excellent paid-for training. Not every mechanic can become an airplane mechanic, but every A&P licensed aircraft mechanic can choose the best positions in almost any field requiring maintenance. That certification is highly sought after, and those who earn it receive respectable pay. A certified mechanic can expect to earn $30,000+ starting pay and quickly increase to $45,000. More senior Airline Mechanics can expect $24/hour to $80,000+ per year. This line of work is hourly based and is often subject to increased hourly pay through overtime. A junior pilot at a regional airline, after years of training, building up of hours, and completion of certificates, may begin at $22,000, with a slow climb to $50,000.

Aircraft mechanics quickly take on supervisory positions, as all types of training are closely supervised and signed completion inspections are required every step of the way. A mechanic who holds an A&P license is certified to inspect, perform, and supervise maintenance on aircraft and their systems. A&P mechanics work on all parts of the aircraft except for the instruments. An A&P mechanic is certified for both commercial and private aircraft.
Before you take on the job of Aircraft Mechanic, check your integrity. Passengers depend on it. Any lapse in judgment or work ethic will cause problems for your reputation, your fellow mechanics and the traveling public that depend on you. This is one industry in which quality control and safety are top priority. Redundant checks and balances support a safer environment.
The mechanic skill set can prove to be a quality, satisfying job for the worker and their family. Because they are highly sought after, you can choose to live anywhere, and you will find a position available. Also, there are many industries outside of aviation that will hire someone with their A&P such as industrial turbines or wind power.
Join #AviationCarolinaKids if you want to attend Aviation Camps of the Carolinas to get the full details on this and other inside information.