Vintage Instructor THE
BY Steve Krog, CFI
How’s your flight proficiency? Could you pass a private pilot flight test today if you had to? Attaining and maintaining flight proficiency is sometimes easier said than done. We live in a fast-paced world: time, expense, weather, business, and family commitments—all keep one away from the airport more than desired. The biennial flight review (BFR) helps all general aviation pilots maintain some level of proficiency to fly safely. But the BFR is not a pass/fail endeavor; it is a review and is only a means to determine if you are reasonably safe when operating your aircraft. Spring will soon be here (I’m writing this the day before Groundhog Day, and based on the forecast, there will be six more weeks of winter), and we’re all beginning to feel the “itch” to get our airplanes ready for the summer flying season. But are you getting yourself ready for the season? Be totally honest with yourself for a moment. Stand in front of your bathroom mirror and ask yourself, “If I had to, could I take a private pilot checkride today and perform each of the required maneuvers to the level required to pass the checkride?” As a longtime antique, classic, and tailwheel instructor, I can tell you from experience that most pilots cannot do so. While conducting BFRs, I find that most pilots can perform each of the private pilot maneuvers, but few can perform them to checkride standards. Why do we need to strive to be better pilots? Remember, whether you are a private pilot or an airline transport pilot flying commercial equipment,
30 MARCH 2010
we make up a very small portion of the populated universe. In fact, when lumping all pilots together in one group, we make up less than onetenth of 1 percent of the U.S. population…and considerably less than that when looking at global numbers! What does this mean to each of us? Every one of us has a vital responsibility to fly as safely and proficiently as we possibly can because, as a small group, when our activities result in an incident, it becomes national headlines. These incidents cause fear among the nonflying population and more regulation from the ever-present FAA. Striving to be a better, safer, and more proficient pilot should be a goal of the highest level and is a responsibility that we each need to take seriously every time we fly. Let’s look at the common private pilot maneuvers and what the FAA requirements are to demonstrate each satisfactorily. Since you took your private pilot checkride, some of the maneuvers may have been changed, either in terminology or in minimum standards.
Takeoff The takeoff, as outlined in the FAA practical test standards (PTS), lists 12 objectives by which the examiner grades this maneuver. Key among these objectives are: • Exhibit knowledge of the elements related to a normal and crosswind takeoff, climb operations, and rejected takeoff procedures. • Position the flight controls for the existing wind conditions.
• Establish a pitch attitude that will maintain VY +10/-5 knots. • Maintain takeoff power and VY +10/-5 knots to a safe maneuvering altitude. • Maintain directional control and proper wind-drift correction throughout the takeoff and climb. Based on experience, I can testify that many pilots are quite sloppy when performing each of the above tasks during the takeoff. Though not stated in the PTS, the FAA and most all FAA Designated Examiners now want the pilot to make slight S-turns while maintaining a constant climb speed. This allows the pilots to diligently scan the area in front of the nose for other aircraft. Previously we were taught to climb straight ahead until reaching approximately 500 feet above ground level (AGL), then lower the nose and scan for traffic before continuing our departure from the traffic pattern. Slow Flight This maneuver was once called “Minimum Control Airspeed” and is defined as maintaining airspeed at which any further increase in angle of attack, increase in load factor, or reduction in power would result in an immediate stall. There are six gradable objectives, but the key points are: • Maintain the specified altitude ±100 feet; specified heading ±10 degrees; airspeed +10/-0 knots; and specified angle of bank ±10 degrees. Few pilots actually practice this maneuver. When I ask BFR candi-
dates to demonstrate slow flight, most will look at me and say, “I haven’t done this since my last BFR.” This is an excellent maneuver to know and really understand your airplane, and it is a maneuver that can be used when flying into a busy pancake breakfast. Practice and know how to perform this maneuver.
Medium and Steep Turns You might be asking yourself, “How can this be so difficult? I do this all the time.” However, when was the last time you established a bank angle and altitude and performed the turn? The PTS states for the steep turn that you must: • Roll into a coordinated 360degree turn and maintain a constant 45-degree bank. • Maintain the entry altitude ±100 feet; airspeed ±10 knots; bank ±5 degrees; and roll out on the entry heading ±10 degrees. Most BFR candidates will be unable to maintain their altitude and, once realizing this, will decrease the bank angle while chasing the altitude and finally roll out well beyond the entry heading. It isn’t a difficult maneuver, but it does require practice to maintain proficiency.
Power-Off Stalls This stall was previously called the “Approach to Landing Stall,” but that phrase had a negative connotation, so the FAA changed it back to the “Power Off Stall,” a description used from the time of the Wright brothers until the 1950s. A private pilot candidate must be able to perform power-off stalls both straight ahead and with a shallow bank. The PTS provides eight points by which to be graded, but the key points state: • Maintain a specified heading ±10 degrees when performing the stall straight ahead. • Maintain a specified angle of bank not to exceed 20 degrees, ±10 degrees, in turning flight while inducing the stall. • Recognize the stall; then using
correct recovery techniques, return to a straight-and-level flight attitude with a minimum loss of altitude appropriate for the airplane. When was the last time you practiced a power-off stall? Probably during your BFR flight two years prior—at least that is the response I usually hear when I ask a BFR candidate to perform the same. There are two mistakes commonly made when demonstrating this stall: first, not recognizing the stall and initiating a recovery before the stall actually occurs, and second, pushing the nose over and diving at mother earth, losing an exorbitant amount of altitude. Remember, this stall is most likely to occur in the traffic pattern close to the ground. At a safe altitude, practice this stall using the recovery technique of lowering the nose just below the horizon line.
Power-On Stalls For reference, this stall was once referred to as the “Take Off and Departure Stall,” but the negative connotation caused the FAA to reidentify it as the “Power On Stall.” The key points in the PTS are identical to the power off stall: • Maintain a specified heading ±10 degrees when performing the stall straight ahead. • Maintain a specified angle of bank not to exceed 20 degrees, ±10 degrees, in turning flight while inducing the stall. • Recognize the stall; then using correct recovery techniques, return to a straight-and-level flight attitude with a minimum loss of altitude appropriate for the airplane. Again, the last time you may have demonstrated this stall was during your last BFR. This stall is easier to demonstrate than the power-off stall, but many pilots feel otherwise because the nose attitude is significantly higher. However, remember the required power setting is at least 65 percent or more of available power. By lowering the nose to the horizon line or just below, the airplane is once again flying. There is no need to push the nose over and dive at the ground!
Forward Slip to a Landing This maneuver is a requirement of the private pilot checkride whether flying an aircraft with flaps or not. The PTS lists eight objectives for evaluating the forward slip. The key objectives include: • Establish the slipping attitude at the point from which a landing can be made using the recommended approach and landing configuration and airspeed while adjusting pitch attitude and power as required. • Maintain a ground track aligned with the runway center/ landing path and an airspeed, which results in minimum float during the roundout. • Touch down smoothly at the approximate stalling speed, at or within 400 feet beyond a specified point, with no side drift, and with the airplane’s longitudinal axis aligned with and over the runway center/landing path. Many pilots flying antique- and classic-type aircraft are quite familiar with the slip and use it regularly when landing, but I still encounter many who haven’t performed a slip in years. The single biggest error I see during the BFR is allowing the nose to dip or drop while establishing and maintaining the slip. Airspeed then increases, and the landing is well beyond the 400 feet limit as outlined in the PTS. Another error I encounter is the pilot’s fixation on the airspeed indicator. Remember, the pitot tube is providing an erroneous reading on the airspeed during the slip. Establishing the correct nose attitude is critical to maintaining the desired approach speed. Practicing the different maneuvers as discussed above will help make a better and safer pilot of each of us. When you are ready to get your airplane out of the hangar and do some flying, why not challenge yourself and try these maneuvers? Remember, you had to perform them once upon a time when you took and passed your checkride. Test yourself and see if you could pass the checkride again today.
VINTAGE AIRPLANE 31