Airport safety

When walking or driving a car around an airport, airplanes should always be given the right-of-way. Remember that you can more easily see the airplane than they can see you.

Even if an airplane’s engine is not running, you should pay attention. Any aircraft with people inside of it or any lights illuminated should be treated with extreme caution and an extra wide berth. Don’t count on the pilot noticing you.

I’ve had several cases recently of people coming very close to an airplane on foot and on a bicycle, just as we were about to start the airplane. In both cases, the airplane’s beacon was flashing and we had yelled “CLEAR” in preparation for starting. Even with those precautions they came much closer than I felt was safe.

Safe AND Legal

Safe AND Legal - Operate There

During my pilot ground school, I always draw a diagram like the one above as we start to discuss regulations. I do this to reinforce the concept that being safe is not necessarily the same as being legal and being legal is not always the same as being safe. As pilots, we are likely to have a longer flying career if we restrict ourselves to operations that meet both criteria and stay away from the edges. Continue reading

Cheap charts

It’s getting harder to find paper charts locally, whether VFR charts like sectionals and terminal area charts or instrument en route charts and instrument approach procedures. The reason is that many (most?) pilots are moving to charts on a tablet device.

Google Nexus 7 (2nd generation) with app

Google Nexus 7 (2nd generation) with app

For my primary (VFR) students, I require them to get a paper TAC and Sectional for their training, but most of my IFR students are going the tablet route.

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For the second time in my flying career I had flaps fail Friday (in the same airplane in which they failed about 12 years ago). The flaps failed in the up position when preparing to land… my student went to put the flaps down and nothing happened; checked the circuit breakers.. no dice.  So, time to land without flaps. In terms of severity of equipment failures, this really isn’t a big deal. All private pilots are required to demonstrate their ability to deal with this failure. My recounting of the failure, prompted a question about flap failure and slips. Let’s work through the what and why

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Left Turning Tendencies

One last topic today, triggered by a reader question

Q: The things I’ve seen indicate that rotating to climb (applying an upward force on the clockwise-spinning propeller) causes the airplane to yaw left.  But the right-hand rule says
Angular momentum (forward) X force (upward) = torque (to the right)
i.e., this results in a yaw to the right.  What have I got wrong?  Continue reading

Stall Speeds and Center of Gravity (C.G.)

Here’s another topic triggered by a reader question:

Q: Some stall speeds are specified with the occupants in the full forward CG position. This does not seem like it’s a conservative specification, i.e., if the occupants move rearward, that would tilt the plane backward, causing an increase  in angle of attack, causing a higher stall speed. What am I missing here? Continue reading

Airspace Overflight

A reader recently sent me the following question.

Q: If you fly over an airspace (e.g., EMT), is it customary to call in to the EMT tower just to make your intentions clear that you don’t intend to enter the airspace?  Does it depend on whether you have flight following (by SoCal Approach, for example)? Continue reading

X-Cntry Plan/Prep (KMRY: T-1 day)

Evening update

Looking at KMRY, it never did clear off today (per forecast). The best was OVC016, so an instrument approach does seem likely tomorrow. Nearby KSNS cleared off to SCT018 at 2015Z, but that wouldn’t have really helped. That means a possible IFR departure back out of MRY too.

KEMT went to marginal VFR around 1000 local, but a special VFR departure [not recommended in most cases for new VFR pilots] would have been possible. The TAFs for BUR and ONT indicated a similar pattern tomorrow, so it will be a morning evaluation as to whether VFR, special VFR or IFR is the right answer on departure.

The only AIRMET that looks to affect us so far (though they don’t yet extend far enough out) would be for IFR conditions along the coast (as already discussed above).

No TFR or NOTAM changes that will impact us. Winds seem to be turning a little more out of the south, so tailwinds on the way there seem likely (and headwind back)


I awoke this morning to cloudy gray skies. At home, we have what I would call an indefinite ceiling – hard to tell if it is actual clouds or just poor visibility. A quick check of METARs shows a mixture of overcast skies and poor visibility in the LA Basin:

KFUL 051353Z 00000KT 10SM OVC012 21/16 A2982
KPOC 051347Z 00000KT 1SM BR CLR 17/15 A2986
KBUR 051353Z 16004KT 3SM HZ OVC007
KLGB 051400Z 12003KT 10SM OVC010

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X-Cntry Plan/Prep (KMRY: T-2 days)

Now we’re getting into the time range where aviation oriented forecasts start to be of some use. The winds and overall weather forecasts aren’t changing much, which is to say a chance of cloud/visibility problems for VFR pilots at the time of our departure and a slight chance on our arrival at Monterey. I do see an Surface Winds AIRMET for areas north of our destination, that I might worry about moving down into the Monterey area later.


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X-Cntry Plan/Prep (KMRY: T-3 days)

The El Monte forecast has changed a bit and now is showing “Sunny” for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Our heat has started to break, so now the marine layer is affecting us more. Fullerton (KFUL) was overcast until about 930 local this morning, but it didn’t extend to EMT – the worst we had was lower visibility (7sm), but no clouds. Overall, this forecast seems a little better for VFR departure on Saturday, but subject to a lot of change.

Monterey is now showing morning clouds, afternoon sun on Saturday, which is more consistent with what they have been experiencing (though they cleared by 800 local today). This brings a chance of clouds on arrival, though looking unlikely.

There’s still no indication of major weather coming our direction:

48hr Prog Chart Wednesday - for Friday

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