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Once at the empennage, examine the amount of elevator travel. “If you have an airplane that has a problem with stalls or might have a tendency to spin, one of the things (a manufacturers) does is limit the travel on the elevator,” John said. Such an aircraft may run out of back elevator before the nose is as high as in the landing attitude of most GA aircraft.

“Again, you get a feel for the changes in stick force as you get into slow flight. Does it get harder to control? Does is get sloppy? Is the handling still tight?”

overbanking tendency? Does it ride easy in a 45 degree banked turn? What are the control pressures needed to keep it on that bank and keep the nose a little above the horizon to hold the altitude?”

The talk turned to stabilators, stabilizers, and trimmable stabilizers found on some jets. John and Martha, who fly a Falcon 10, also talked about jet wings (straight, swept, slatted), rotorcraft (two-blade, three-blade; U.S., European), characteristics of the Fuji Blimp they pilot on occasion and more before John said, “We’ve just about exhausted all you can tell by walking up to an airplane and looking at it.”

“Airplanes have design specifications for how much stick force per load factor is needed to move the controls, and how the stick force varies with speed changes,” John said. “That’s one of the things you want to know about the airplane. So doing the steep turn is standard in any aircraft because you can feel how the control forces change with the increasing load factor. You go to 60 degrees bank, you get two Gs on the airplane. The only way you can put two Gs on the airplane otherwise is put it in a dive and pull out.

Time to consider the cockpit.

“And it’s very easy to overstress the airplane that way,” Martha said. Slow flight is next.

Inside the Airplane “When you get in an airplane and sit down and look at the panel, look at the airspeed indicator,” John said. “Look at the placards. Look at the limitations. It will give you an idea of what your options are in the airplane.” “Look at the limiting speed for the flaps,” Martha advised. “In some airplanes the maximum speed at which you can put the first notch of flaps down becomes an issue because it’s low, so you won’t be able to use the flaps to slow you down as you would on another airplane. That means you’re going to have to think a little more ahead of the airplane in the pattern.” “Look at maximum landing gear extension speed, and see if that’s available to you as a speed brake,” John suggested. An important principle behind John and Martha’s approach to an unfamiliar aircraft was becoming clear. While many pilots might focus on how the aircraft will perform in the air, John and Martha are thinking first and foremost about how to get it back on the ground.

In the Air The Kings begin every fixed wing check out flight the same way. “First of all, you do some steep turns,” Martha said. “That gives you a real good feel for the handling of the airplane. What you want to find out is, does the airplane have an 44

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“Again, you get a feel for the changes in stick force as you get into slow flight. Does it get harder to control? Does is get sloppy? Is the handling still tight?,” John said. “And as I put down each sequential notch of flaps,” Martha added, “how much pitch change do I get and in what direction? Is it a little tiny pitch change, hardly noticeable, or is it a big deal, and do I need to be ready to push?” “Then you want to do some stalls,” John said. “Some straight ahead and some turning stalls, in a clean configuration. In jets you don’t take it right into a stall, because they don’t always behave well in one. In a piston engine airplane you want to take it into a stall and see if it breaks nicely, does the nose come down straight ahead, or does it tend to roll off on one wing? Then do stalls in a landing configuration, and there we want to see, ‘What’s the [aircraft’s] attitude going to be just before I touch down?’ Because the landing configuration stall is what you want to be in just as you’re touching the runway.” With the low end of the envelope fully explored, the Kings are ready for their final step in checking out a new aircraft: flying a pattern with a big cushion of altitude underneath them. “I go up to about 3,000 feet above ground level, and make an approach to an [imaginary] airport at two thousand feet above ground level,” John said. “I try to get 1.3 times the stall speed in the landing configuration, that’s going to be my approach speed, and I want my descent rate at five times my ground

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PilotMag-May/June 2010  

Aviation magazine

PilotMag-May/June 2010  

Aviation magazine

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