Thursday, February 05, 2015

Flying in the Raw

A pilot pointed out recently how a G1000-equipped aircraft with a current navigation database did not have an approach into the airport he happened to be visiting: Pearson Field in Vancouver, Washington (KVUO). There's only one approach into Pearson, so why would the G1000 not know about it? Had an error been made when the database was created? It's been a while since I've written about a particular G1000 behavioral oddities, so now consider the oddity of an approach procedure missing from the G1000 database. If you fly into Pearson regularly you may already be familiar with the reason, but even if you are familiar with this situation it nevertheless points out an important skill that instrument pilots need to acquire and practice: Flying raw data.


A voicemail left with the Jeppesen navdata folks eventually led to a return phone call and explanation: Yes, the KVUO LDA-A approach is not contained in the G1000 database (or presumably in any other GPS receiver's database) because this is the only case in the US where a localizer installed at one airport (KPDX) for an ILS is used to implement an LDA approach at another, nearby airport (KVUO).


The approaches even have two approach fixes in common: BUXOM and TRAYL. Unfortunately, the programming language used to code approaches for the GPS database and executed by GPS receivers, ARINC 424, does not allow a localizer established for an ILS at one airport to also be used for an approach at another airport. So Jeppesen chose not to include the KVUO LDA-A in the navigation database, even though the LDA approach is the only instrument approach into Pearson. This means users of the G1000, and presumably other GPS receivers, may want to know how to set-up and fly an approach the old-school way.

Raw Data

Tune NAV1 to the localizer manually, verify the Morse code ID is correct, and ensure the front course is set on the HSI (or CDI #1 for non-G1000 installations). Tune NAV2 to the Battle Ground VOR, verify the Morse code is correct, and set bearing pointer #2 (or CDI #2) to use NAV2. When you've joined the localizer, use the tail of the bearing pointer (or adjust CDI #2) so you'll know when you've passed the BTG radials that define the step-down fixes on the approach. If this sounds awkward, you are probably a Child of the Magenta Line who needs more exposure to the way instrument flying was done for decades.

The Instrument Rating Practical Test Standards requires applicants to demonstrate the ability to fly an approach without reference to the primary attitude and heading instrument. Perhaps applicants should also be required to demonstrate flying an approach without using the GPS. Selecting an approach with the G1000 does much of the work for you, sets the primary navigation frequency, sets the navigation course, and may prevent you from acquiring understanding and correlative levels of knowledge with regard to radio navigation.

A Little Less Old School

Now if you fly into Pearson on a regular basis, there's another way to prepare for this approach, though the set-up work is best done on the ground or during low workload while in flight. You can manually create a flight plan that defines the sequence of fixes that make up the approach, which is similar to what you'd see if the LDA approach was defined in the GPS's aviation database and you selected the approach. I'm going to illustrate using screen shots from Garmin's GTN Trainer app for the iPad, but the process is essentially the same in a G1000 or most any other GPS receiver.

You're still going to fly the localizer and you'll need to tune it manually, verify the Morse code, and verify the front course of 103˚ is set on the HSI (or CDI, if so equipped). In your GPS flight plan, add the fixes BUXOM and TRAYL. ZEZJI and QEHBY are not included in the GPS database (Hey Jeppesen, toss us a bone here!), but you can enter them as user-defined waypoints. Simply insert a fix named ZEZJI, your GPS will say that no such fix exists, and give you the option of creating a user-defined waypoint. Accept that option and define ZEZJI on the 283˚ radial and 4.7 miles out from IVDG localizer. Then repeat the process for QEHBY on the 283˚ radial and 2.9 miles out.

Create user waypoint? Yes, please!

Rho-theta using IVDG localizer

Enter theta (radial is opposite of front course), then rho (distance) on the next screen (not shown)

If you want, you can define these waypoints by entering the latitude and longitude for ZEZJI and QEHBY, but more numbers and user input steps are more complicated and error prone. Lastly, insert the BTG VOR into the flight plan since that's where you'll be headed if you end up flying the missed approach segment and you should see something like this.

In both options remember that you'll be flying the localizer, not the magenta line. In option #2, you have the luxury the GPS flight plan sequencing appropriately so you'll know where you are on the profile view of the chart. You can even combine both options and use the cross-radials and the GPS to verify your position.

If you're old enough to remember VOR/DME RNAV approaches, which seem to have all been replaced with RNAV (GPS) approaches, you'll recall it was standard procedure to enter each approach fix in a VOR/DME RNAV approach as a VOR radial and distance into a unit like the Bendix-King KNS-80. I'm getting all misty just thinking about it ...

The venerable KNS-80 VOR/DME RNAV receiver


Now you may be asking yourself "Is it legal to define your own flight plan for an approach?" I'm not a lawyer, but let's use the tried and true method of testing an argument by prefacing it with "Your honor" and see how it sounds.

Your honor, since IFR-certified GPS is a legal substitute for DME, and since I defined the ZEZJI and GEHBY correctly using rho-theta from the IVDG localizer, and since I was flying the localizer, I believe my procedure to be both legal and safe.

This argument sounds pretty good to me, but the first option (flying the localizer and displaying the cross-radials) seems easier from the get-go and involves less head-down time: There are times when flying raw data is less distracting than trying to bend the G1000 to your will, provided you're one of those increasingly rare pilots who actually knows how to fly raw data.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 2015 Photos

Sonoma County

Cross DAWNA 13,000

Montecito Sunset

Reversionary mode practice

North SF and San Pablo Bays

Quiet New Year's Day at SMO

West LA view from KSMO

ABBAS (another beautiful Bay Area sunset)

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Type-Rating Experience

Direct Seal Beach, when able ...

"70 knots ... V1."  My right hand moves from the throttles to the control yoke. "92 knots, rotate." Hauling back on the yoke, pitching up 12 degrees, I notice the primary flight display has suddenly gone dark. To add to the confusion, the plane is now pointed pretty much straight into the blazing, late afternoon sun. The standby instruments are hidden in shadows and trying to fly with the co-pilot's PFD seems a dubious choice, at best. I'm certain the designated examiner is watching every move, but I'm oddly calm because crap like this has been occurring with alarming regularity over the past week. "Screw the display failure checklist, for now ..." I think to myself as I press the red reversionary mode button, transforming the MFD into a PFD. "Positive rate, gear up ..." This is a single-pilot operation, so at 700 feet AGL I transfer autopilot control to the co-pilot's PFD, the autopilot is engaged, passing V2+10 knots the flaps are retracted, set climb power, and within seconds the aircraft is accelerating through 150 knots and climbing like a stripped monkey. I change heading to comply with the departure, acknowledge the tower's handoff, then check in with departure, and only then does the display failure checklist come out. Aviate, navigate, communicate ...

Like those who have gone before (and those who will undoubtedly follow), I had wondered just what it would be like to train for a type rating in a turbojet aircraft. With the experience fresh in my mind, here are observations on preparing for, and successfully managing, the type rating experience, from the first day of training through to the practical test.

Different, Not the Same

Four days earlier the training process began in a simulator that is remarkably similar to the actual aircraft, but like all simulators it is, nevertheless, just a simulation. For the next two days it will be what I'll be using for training, mostly. The first sim session involves checklist familiarization, engine start procedures, normal takeoff, and VFR maneuvers. There's a slight delay in the simulator's visual system, which I chalk up to this particular simulator's charm. My first experience in a level D simulator many years ago taught me that there's no future in fighting the machine. Complaining can be fun, but it's more productive to learn the simulator's quirks, adapt, and move on.

Being on the opposite side of the instruction equation a good experience for a seasoned instructor. It's something we should do on a regular basis, I think. Spending a lot of time evaluating, explaining, and observing other pilots makes it all too easy to forget how it feels to be a student. Ambiguous language, overuse of indefinite pronouns (this, that, it ...), poorly worded questions, and not understanding the student's perspective are daily challenges that all instructors face. My instructors did a fine job, but I had to remind them that, despite the compressed nature of my training, taking time to repeat a task and incorporate feedback in the moment can be more productive than pressing on. Repetition is especially important for an old dog like me. Or perhaps I'm still wearing my instructor's hat by observing and critiquing other instructors!

Half of the second day is spent in the sim, but then I have a commercial flight to catch to Denver to take advantage of a repositioning flight. I'm happy to get more time in the actual aircraft. It takes a while to get from KDEN to KAPA, it's cold in Denver, and I'm not really wearing the right clothes. Luckily I'm not wearing my trademark shorts, but I have no jacket, just a lightweight sweater. The delay on the ground in minimal and the instructor with whom I'm flying offers to do the outside items on the Quick Turn checklist so I can stay inside where it's warm. Note to self: When flying a jet in the winter months, best to bring several layers of clothing, just in case.

We depart into a gray sky, threatening snow. Engine anti-ice is on and there's a bit of ice accumulation on the boots, but in just a few minutes we're on top. Flying through and on-top of weather instead of plowing through it: Now that's something I could get used to!

While cruising en route, there's plenty of time to review system operation and the various quirks of said systems. I'm accompanied by a knowledgeable instructor and I'm determined to make good use of his expertise.


The third day is spent in the aircraft and that session started with the preflight inspection. There are a number of things to check and I discover that both engines need just a smidgen of oil before we depart to reposition this aircraft to the Bay Area. We navigate to KSBP, of all places! I do the RNAV approach to a landing with simulated flap failure, which eats up a lot of runway. We roll out to the last turn off. My wife meets us at the FBO and we all go have lunch.

On departure,  there's a V1 cut just as the main wheels leave the ground. We slowly claw our way at V2 up to 1500 feet AGL, then accelerate to Venr and the flaps come up at V2+10. A Skywest Brasilia is climbing out behind us and normally we'd be long gone, but on one engine the Mustang is slowly limping its way to altitude. Luckily, Skywest turns southwest toward the Morro Bay VOR before climbing through out altitude.

Next come maneuvers. I still seem to know how to do steep turns. Stalls are done three ways; a turning departure stall, autopilot-induced stall, and approach-to-landing stall. Recovery begins at the imminent stall condition because, well ... this isn't a Citabria. Fully stalling larger aircraft is something advanced pilots are expected to avoid.

Next up: Unusual attitude recoveries, an emergency descent, and a single-engine ILS with a circle to land at KSNS. The circle-to-land was challenging because I felt compelled to keep the airspeed above Vapp, but had to stay below 120 knots in order to remain in category B. My landings have been fine so far, but I still have a tendency to pitch down too much on final. I chalk that up to a negative transfer of learning from propeller aircraft to a turbojet aircraft. I also realize my seat height is too low. Why Cessna didn't put a seat height gauge in the Mustang is a bit of a mystery.

Expedite descent? Not a problem ...

We depart to the Bay Area and after landing I realize I left my overnight bag (which I needed) at the FBO at KSBP. Oh well. I check into the hotel, then it's off to buy some long pants and a jacket. Inadequate clothing seemed to be a recurring theme. At the conclusion of day three, I'm a bit apprehensive that I won't be ready for a check ride on the fifth day. I'm more proficient and confident, but still doing some boneheaded things from time to time. I decide to sleep on it. Next morning, it is an early commercial flight back to SoCal and more time in a different aircraft.

Most of day 4 is spent doing a mock check ride: All the VFR maneuvers, then a bunch of approaches, some to a full-stop landing, some to a missed approach (often on one engine). At the end of day 4, we jump into the simulator to finish up some emergency procedures including the Mustang's Emergency Descent Mode (EDM) - an emergency descent that is automatically initiated when the aircraft is above 30,000 feet and the cabin altitude exceeds 14,500 feet. The autopilot turns the aircraft 90 degrees and initiates a descent at Vmo down to 15,000 feet. The pilot just needs to don the oxygen mask, reduce power, extend the gear and speed brakes, and hang on!

Know Thyself

Before I describe my practical test experience, let me point out the ancient Greek maxim is a good place to start on the road to advanced and/or intensive flight training. Ask yourself why you want a type rating. You can get a type rating just for kicks, but maintaining your privileges (14 CFR 61.58) requires regular proficiency checks. The cost and time involved with recurrent training tends to winnow out the pilots who are just messing around.

Acquiring knowledge, skills, and habit patterns on a compressed schedule requires you to know and respect your personal learning style. Don't be bashful about communicating your specific learning needs to your instructors. If an instructor's approach isn't working for you, let them know: Remember they work for you.

Knowing how to manage personal demons (we all have them) is crucial if you want to keep your training on track. Significant external pressures, whether they be work or family pressure, need to be managed or eliminated (at least temporarily). If you're going out of town to do training, the separation can actually be an aid. One of my own shortcomings is expecting perfection from myself, which is unrealistic at best. I've learned to accept short-term disappointment in my performance and wait. With time, things improve and I tend to lighten up on myself.

The FAA's Airline Transport Pilot and Aircraft Type Rating
Practical Test Standards for
Airplanes are used to evaluate type rating applicants, so acquiring and reading that PTS is obviously a good idea. If you want to get your ATP while you're at it, by all means do so. You'll need to have met the requirements of 14 CFR 61.515 and hopefully you passed the ATP knowledge test prior to last summer, when the requirements became pretty onerous for the average, aspiring pilot.

I perform best when I receive the training materials in advance and set time aside to study on a regular basis. Dry flying with a cockpit poster helped me memorize the flows for normal, abnormal and emergency situations so I didn't have to spend as much time learning the flows while sitting in an expensive simulator or in the aircraft. Short study sessions several times a day is the most effective way for me to cement procedures: Midnight cramming just doesn't work for me.

Memorizing facts and procedures (rote learning) may be the lowest level of learning, but you'll need to do a lot if it for a type rating. Flash cards are a proven way to memorize stuff and a high-tech version is Flashcard Machine. The web site works with a smartphone app for iOS or Android, allowing you to create and display flashcards on your phone or table which lets you turn wasted time standing in line at the grocery or cafe into productive study time. I find brief, regular, flashcard sessions lead to the best retention. The Flashcard Machine apps keep track of areas items you have missed answers so you can focus on what you need to learn instead of what you've already learned. Here's a link to flashcards I created for CE510 Emergency Memory Items.

When you get to the simulator, expect things to go sideways: Emergencies, high workload, strange panel layouts, and unfamiliar approach procedures can and will get you flummoxed. You'll make mistakes, so take a breath, slow down and prioritize: Aviate, navigate, communicate. As a DPE I know likes to say "Nothing good happens fast."

Takeoff planning and handling of emergencies are different from what you're used to in a piston twin. Engine failures and emergencies after V1 (takeoff decision speed) are handled in the air because the aircraft should have the necessary performance if you did your homework: The performance planning you do in advance should ensure that you can climb to a safe altitude. It takes a while to embrace the mindset of taking an emergency (such as an engine fire) into the air, but you've got to believe.

Checklists will become your constant companion: Normal, abnormal and emergency. And there will be memory items. More complex systems lead to more complex checklists and sometimes just locating the correct checklist is a challenge. If I had it to do over again, I would have gotten my hands on the physical checklists before beginning my training.

In the simulator, you'll experience cascading failures with interdependencies that create possible (though unlikely) nightmare situations. A dual generator failure leaves you on emergency power, which means you only have engine anti-ice, no windshield de-ice, and no de-ice boots. Oh, and you'll have to perform a manual gear extension, make a no-flaps landing, remember to dump the cabin pressure before landing, you won't have anti-skid braking and will have to use the emergency brake. Combine that with a high field elevation or a short runway ... well my palms are sweating just thinking about it!

Staying relaxed during training is determined in large part by how you manage your time outside of training. I find eating good meals, making time to exercise and getting plenty of sleep goes a long way to keeping me performing at my best. There's no shame in taking a nap after a particularly stressful session and, in fact, learning theory posits that this sort of rest can actually help you enhance learning by preventing retroactive interference.

The fast tempo at which events occurred in a jet is challenging, especially in the beginning. The first few minutes right after takeoff is a good example: Once the wheels leave the runway and the gear is up, the rate of acceleration is astounding. Just as I was getting used to the speed of events, the failures started occurring, such as the dreaded V1 cut.

The V1 cut is, quite simply, an engine failure just after you're reached the computed speed at which you are committed to takeoff. In a real aircraft, it usually is simulated just after the main wheels have left the pavement. You learn to continue the takeoff, accelerate to V2, get the aircraft climbing, get the gear up, and climb, climb, climb, slowly climb to 1500' AGL (a TERPs-derived altitude). The engines' close proximity to the aircraft's longitudinal axis gives you less adverse thrust and that makes the aircraft a bit easier to handle. You use the flight director from the start of take off and you can usually use the autopilot with an engine failure once you're at a safe altitude. After a while, a V1 cut is not unlike a crosswind landing: Once you've seen one, you pretty much seen them all.

What's it like to land a jet? I found the Jacobson Flare worked quite well with the Mustang. I calculated the correct cutoff distance and landings were never an issue. I did struggle a bit with the sight picture during approach to landing. On final approach to landing, the Mustang has a slightly pitch-up attitude that I'm still adjusting to.

Another negative transfer from propeller aircraft to turbojet aircraft is the delay between the time you adjust power and when that adjustment takes effect. If you're practiced at flying a stabilized approach in propeller aircraft, that will pay big dividends when flying a larger aircraft. Chop and drop approaches to landing can be a blast in a small aircraft, but they can lead to serious, maybe even deadly consequences in a jet.


Check ride day arrived and I reminded myself that a type rating check ride is pretty much just like any other check ride. Arrive prepared, know your systems, and do your best: No one can ask any more of you. If you mess something up during a type rating check ride, you don't get another chance. But, hey, no pressure! If you impress the examiner during the oral, the flight portion is more likely to go well, too.

The examiner is a thorough, but very practiced at getting candidates to relax. He asks me the usual questions and mostly he's unable to stump me. So he pulls out the stops and asks me more arcane stuff. It turns out my instructor has prepared me very well because I'm answering all the questions.

Something I learned during my check ride is that if an applicant for a type rating already holds a ATP certificate (which I do), the examiner has the discretion to waive some of the tasks in the PTS. The relevant section, found in the PTS introduction, is entitled Removal of the “Limited to Center Thrust” Limitation or Initial ATP/type rating Airplane Multiengine Class Certificate.

Hold short, landing traffic ...
Oh, that landing traffic ...
After the aforementioned display failure during takeoff, the flight portion of the check ride went very well. I don't make any of the mistakes I had been making and the various simulated emergencies come and go in a relaxed sort of blur. I loose track of the number of approaches and suddenly I'm doing a circle to land for a full stop. After engine shutdown, the examiner reaches out to shake my hand, offers his congratulations, and says something about how he got tired of writing "excellent." Ah, shucks ... He particularly liked my handling of the display failure after takeoff, but lest you think I'm walking around with a big head remember that as a newly-minted jet pilot with single-pilot authorization I'm like any other dedicated pilot: I'm always learning.