Category Archives: From the Cockpit

illegal charters

You are at lunch with a business colleague and the subject of your pending business trip comes up. You tell your tablemate that you have been using a local air taxi service for your flights and that you need to remember to give them a call to set things up.

“Hey,” your meal buddy says, “I own a Beechcraft Baron with a few partners out at the airport and I am free that day. Why don’t you just let me fly you there and pay me a lot less?”

His pitch sounds interesting. After all, he has been telling you for some time that he is a pilot and you know that he has been flying for years. The cost reduction would be a benefit to you and an airplane is an airplane, right?

What makes air taxi operators and fractional jet companies so great anyway? They are way more expensive that you think they should be. After all, most of what they do simply entails firing up the engines and flying you somewhere. Why not use your friend’s plane and save tons of money?

Regulation

This attitude was the driving force of charter aviation not that long ago. It used to be that all you needed to have to charge passengers for travel was an airplane and a pilot that had a commercial rating. The commercial rating did not even have to include an instrument rating that attested to the fact that your pilot could fly through clouds and …

cirrus sr22 caps

The Cirrus line of single-engine aircraft has become a mainstay of charter and corporate flight departments. These aircraft look sleek and modern on the ramp and they deliver passengers and cargo to their destinations at the same speed as heavier twin-engine airplanes at half the operating costs.

Single engine aircraft have come a very long way since the old days of slow flying planes with frequent engine failures. More reliable power plants combined with computerized engine control and monitoring have led to some very successful players in the corporate and charter markets.

Cirrus aircraft are in plentiful supply now for operators and passengers have come to accept the idea that flying in a modern computerized single engine aircraft is as safe or safer than ponying up the cash to rent a heavier twin. The Cirrus, with its modern digital flight deck, can fly detect and fly around weather as well as the more expensive corporate barges. Many Cirrus models are now equipped for flight into known icing conditions.

The main reason given for choosing a twin engine aircraft over a single like the Cirrus is the fact that if an engine fails on the twin you have another engine to get you home. A twin-engine aircraft, in the case of an engine failure, could get you to an airport or at least a controlled landing somewhere – with the older single engine aircraft, an engine failure meant you were in real trouble.

Cirrus aircraft all come equipped with a CAPS …

Pilot Training

Pilots are usually thought of as young, swashbuckling types with keen eyes, razor-sharp reflexes and youthful looks. The flying public has been led over the years to assume that piloting an aircraft is a young person’s game. This belief was backed-up until recently by a mandatory retirement age of sixty years old for airline pilots.

Flight crews were called upon in the early days of aviation to be paragons of strength, youth and quickness. The aircraft they flew back then required actual physical strength to muscle around the sky.

High altitude flying without pressurization, air conditioning or heat was a physically demanding endeavor and in the early part of the twentieth century when aviation got its start, sixty years of age was past the expected lifespan of most people.

Flying is no less demanding now, but it is demanding in areas other than the need for brute strength. High-performance jets, corporate and charter aircraft of all types, from single-engine Cirrus to multi-engine piston aircraft all have an over-riding need that can’t always be fulfilled by young, bright-eyed pilots. These aircraft and their operators need deeply experienced flight crews that have the background, wisdom and experience to operate them safely.

Older pilots are now the most sought after people in the aviation business. Highly experienced airline captains, military pilots, and others who used to be considered too aged to fly are now coveted additions to many charter and corporate flight departments.

That sixty three year old captain you see flying your …

GulfstreamGV

Flying, appropriately enough is completely based on the measurement of things. Altitude, attitude, temperature, speed, vertical speed, weight, volume, distance, time and even personal limits that are harder to measure like bladder capacity and patience are all part of the corporate and charter flying mix.

Pilots blithely pass though life accepting all these various numbers without complaint, yet these numbers make up our lives and take up quite a bit of our time. All we older pilots have to do is pull out our E6b old-fashioned flight computers, which are a sort of circular slide rule and it becomes clear that the front calculating face of it is almost completely involved with converting one number into another.

Most of these scale conversions have to do with the fact that even though the aviation world agreed that we would use the English language for communications, they agreed on little else. We pilots in the United States have more conversions to do than most because as a group we tend to hang on to the concepts of Fahrenheit, statute miles, and our own U.S. gallon, while ignoring liters.

No need to start an argument here about the benefits or shortcomings of our reluctance to join the rest of the world in its “metric-ness.” We made that decision way back during the 1970s when we all thought that “Smokey and the Bandit was good cinema and we were watching “Bicentennial Minutes” on our black and white televisions.

With all the different units of …

updated-landing

You might think by looking at how the media portrays aviation that mid-air collisions are a daily event. When aircraft run into each other it makes for exciting news reporting.

The problem, for the media, is that mid-air collisions happen so infrequently that they are almost non-existent. According to the Nall Report, a yearly summation of aviation accident data, out of the millions of flights conducted in this country only nine mid-air collisions happened last year. Of those nine, four had fatalities. Only one of these mid-air collisions involved a business transport aircraft.

One.

Of course, a single midair is one too many, especially if you happen to be on one of the aircraft involved. Pilots, operators and the FAA spend a lot of time, treasure and attention to the problem of aircraft running into each other.

The FAA

The FAA is charged with rule making having to do with air traffic avoidance and they are also in charge of the air traffic control system, whose sole reason for existence is the safe separation of aircraft in flight and on the ground.  As a matter of fact, when a controller loses his or her required distances between aircraft in flight it is called a “loss of separation.”

The breathless media, eager to sell advertising space, often reports a loss of separation as an “almost tragic near-miss!” What the loss of separation report really means is that two aircraft on a controller’s scope are closer together than the minimum for the …

Cirrus SR22 Review

Most depictions of aviation charters in the movies and on television feature a crazy-eyed pilot who is not ashamed to scare the life out of his or her passengers. The plane shown on the screen is usually ratty in appearance, noisy, and frightening to behold.

If charter and air taxi aircraft aren’t being shown as clown cars, they are being shown as a luxury barge that most likely carries the bad guys to their lairs or good guys in hot pursuit of the bad guys. Air taxi and business jets are almost never show for what they are – reliable time machines that make money for their owners and customers.

I don’t need to sell you on the idea that chartering an airplane is a money making proposition and not a luxury. The time required to take an airline to and from your destination combined with the additional travel time and expense; not to mention the amount of your productive time spent in security checkpoint lines and enduring long airline delays translate into time saved and money earned.

If you are not flying in your own corporate aircraft and you are not flying in a scheduled airliner, you are most likely chartering your ride from a FAA Part 135 Air Taxi operator.

“Parts is parts…”

People in aviation tend to bandy about the term: “FAR Part whatever” as if they expect you to know what an FAR is and what a part of an FAR might be.

The acronym FAR …

Pilot Training

Weapons and bombs are being fired from drones in the air and package delivery to your business or home may soon be done via drone. Do we really need pilots anymore for air travel?

I would say yes, but that may be just because I am a pilot. There has been a strong drop in the number of flight deck crewmembers over the past few decades.

There was a minimum of three pilots in each airline cockpit when I began my career way back in the ancient late 1970’s. A captain, a co-pilot (or first officer) and a flight engineer (or second officer) were required crew on all big jets. Only a few jets, like the Douglas DC-9 had only two pilots and no engineer.

International and foreign carriers had much more crowded cockpits. I visited an Aeroflot cockpit one day at JFK back in the early 1980s. They had a captain, first officer, flight engineer, navigator, radio operator, and a political officer all crammed onto the flight deck!

We members of the Airline Pilot’s Association howled when the then brand-new Boeing 767 was going to show up on our property with only two pilots and no engineer. Truth be told, the first few 767s my airline bought were supposed to come with flight engineer panels in the cockpit! I know this, because I was slated to become one of those 767 flight engineers.

The battle was lost before it even really began. There was no way that the more …

winglets

Humans were designed to stay very close to the ground and live in the paper-thin layer of oxygen, nitrogen and other gasses that we happily call “the atmosphere.”

This apple skin thick layer of breathable gas that we pilots have become accustomed to sucking into our lungs at a partial pressure of somewhere around thirty inches of mercury, or 14.7 psi, is used by aircraft more efficiently the higher they can climb.

Airplanes, especially business and charter aircraft perform better and can cavort happier through the upper levels of the Troposphere where the air is thin but the true airspeeds and tailwinds can amaze and result in high-speed travel.

We low level humanoids don’t do very well in terms of staying alive if we have to breathe the air that is available above somewhere around eighteen thousand feet. To be specific; the same thin air that our aircraft love and thrive in would kill us humans in very short order if we don’t get some help.

Pressurization has been around since the 1920s. Wiley Post, the eye patch wearing buddy to Will Rogers and high altitude record setter, used a pressurized flight suit in his aircraft on December 7, 1934 when he set an unofficial record by flying the single engine aircraft to an estimated fifty thousand feet. Without pressurization, Post’s blood would have boiled and he would have died in a few seconds at that altitude.

The electronics and gizmos that control the pressure in your aircraft can’t talk …

winglets

 

Aviation is considered by many to be a very modern and state-of-the-art sort of thing. We can travel close to the speed of sound to almost any destination we want. Continents can be traversed in the matter of hours instead of months and years. Bad weather can be circumnavigated and sometimes even flown over as we travel to our destinations.

We owe all of this mobility to a wing design that has changed very little since the days of Wilbur and Orville.

The airfoil, or wing, has been around for over one hundred years and except for the fact that the original design of “wing warping” that the Wright Brothers used to make their aircraft bank has been changed to one using ailerons, nothing much has changed.

Aircraft wings began as fabric covers over wooden frames. They developed and grew as our technology allowed. First, they changed over to riveted metal over metal and wooden frames and now many wings are carbon composite creatures that only resemble their fabric ancestors in their basic shape.

All wings, whether rag covered or composite trans-sonic time machines, do the same thing. They create lift. Just how they create lift is for another column and believe me, the details are fascinating. Basically, an wing moves through the air and because of its design, a low pressure area forms over it, lifting the wing and the aircraft it is attached to up into the air.

What I would like to do here is to …

part 135 operations

 

Most depictions of aviation charters in the movies and on television feature a crazy-eyed pilot who is not ashamed to scare the life out of his or her passengers. The plane shown on the screen is usually ratty in appearance, noisy, and frightening to behold.

If charter and air taxi aircraft aren’t being shown as clown cars, they are being shown as a luxury barges that most likely carries the bad guys to their lairs or good guys in hot pursuit of the bad guys. Air taxi and business jets are almost never show for what they are – reliable time machines that make money for their owners and customers.

I don’t need to sell you on the idea that chartering an airplane is a money making proposition and not a luxury. The time required to take an airline to and from your destination combined with the additional travel time and expense; not to mention the amount of your productive time spent in security checkpoint lines and enduring long airline delays translate into time saved and money earned.

If you are not flying in your own corporate aircraft and you are not flying in a scheduled airliner, you are most likely chartering your ride from a FAA Part 135 Air Taxi operator.

“Parts is parts…”

People in aviation tend to bandy about the term: “FAR Part whatever” as if they expect you to know what an FAR is and what a part of an FAR might be.

The acronym …