Why not? Because you have
developed an "attitude." You don't have to check
the weather - your in a car. It "adapts" to the
weather. You didn't check the fluid levels because you take your
car in for service and they check everything out for you. You
didn't tell anyone where you were going because - it is taken
for granted you are going to work.
"Attitude" - In every
day real life we have become pampered. Everything is either done
for us, we pay someone to do it, or it is readily available.
This is great - except when it comes to flying - especially
flying our ultralight planes. Why - because flying is nothing
like driving a car. You can and do get away with a great deal of
"things" when driving a car. A low tire - you just
pull into a service station and put air in it - sometimes every
day for a month before you get it fixed. Low on oil - ahhh your
going to get the oil changed this weekend. Down to 1/4 tank of
fuel - the next station is only an hour away.
All of these things happen to us
regularly, with little if any consequence to us. Oh sure, we had
to call for a tow truck to fix that tire when it finally went
flat, or we had to call home and get the old man to bring us
fuel when we ran out. But very seldom do these cause us
any grief or pain - just aggravation!
Lets look at these same
situations if they were to happen when we flying.
*A low tire allows the plastic rim of our plane to contact the
ground. The rim splits and the axle digs into the ground,
spinning the plane to the left, the wing hit the ground and ....
*Low on oil or fuel, while we were just going to go up for a
short 30 minute flight, the conditions are so good that we
decide to stay up for an hour. Unfortunately we only had 45
minutes of fuel/oil on board. The engine seizes/quits and we
have to make an emergency landing into a soft field - tearing up
our landing gear.
So in order to fly safely the
first thing we have to do is an attitude adjustment! Especially
us old pilots - with hundreds if not thousands of hours of
flying. If you check accident statistics you will find that it
isn't student pilots, or low time pilots having accidents! Why
not? Because they are still "scared to death" of
having to listen to their instructor, wife, friends, fellow
pilots - and they are NEW they have a more "cautious
attitude." A lot like going out on a first date, they are
nervous and don't want anything to go wrong.
Now the "old pro" on
the other hand has "been there - done that" - a number
of times and gotten away with it! The problem is that unlike the
car problems - when the "old pro" has the engine quit
for lack of fuel/oil - it is hard to find someone to come up to
2,000 feet and "filler her up." Instead he now has to
rely on the skills that made him "an old pro" to get
his butt back down safely - hopefully with no damage to him or
So lets draw up a "recipe
for safe flying" - for those just getting into our sport,
and for those already in it that might fit into the above
Let's start out with a few basic
rules before we get into the - every flight "rules."
If you want to live to fly
another day the a couple of rules you must adhere to are:
-never test fly someone's plane!
-never fly a plane that you don't know "up close and
-never fly a plane that has been in an accident or had any major
Editors note: going back over my years of flying these three
categories have put me into the hospital 6 times. With test
flying and repairs doing me the most damage - that is if you
consider - 12 broken ribs, a fractures pelvis, a broken leg, a
broken ankle, two punctured lungs, and a concussion
Okay so what's next? (You
already know how to fly - someone taught you - right!) The first
thing is "preparation of both the pilot and plane" -
for the intended flight.
Pilot: The first thing to check
is your "attitude" are you in the proper mood to go
flying? I once had a pilot show up at my field, jump in his
plane, take off, run out of gas, land in a plowed field,
destroying his plane. He had lost his job, add the fact that his
car had broken down on the way to field forcing him to walk over
2 miles. So "check your attitude."
Got a great attitude? On to step
two: Most of us fly because it is "fun and relaxing" -
to keep it fun and relaxing, plan you flight's for first thing
in the morning or later in the evening. Getting up before the
sun rises may not be part of your normal routine - but if you
take off into the sunrise on a beautiful summer morning - I will
guarantee it will become part of it! Ditto for being in the air
as the sun sets!
Step three: Information - get
all the information available on for your intended flight. The
first consideration would be weather. FSS stations, the weather
channel, radio/tv reports, the internet are some of the sources
available to you. These all can supply you with "current
information" - not just for where you are now BUT for the
route you will be flying and for the area's where you will be
Make sure you have a map(s) -
road maps are inexpensive tools that come in very handy, as does
a portable working compass (cell phones are also high on
the list). With the above items "plan" your trip no
matter how short - and let someone know your route via a
"flight plan" or "flight itinerary" (a
flight itinerary is just a very simple note or conversation with
someone, giving your planned route, stops and estimated arrival
times) great for when someone like me has to try to find you -
when your wife phones to say you were suppose to be home at
4 for dinner at your in laws and it is now nearly 8.
If you have your own plane there are a couple of things I would
recommend having on board as "part of the plane." One
is a tool kit - Costco has a neat little unit with just about
everything you need, in a compact plastic tool kit for about
$50. On my L'il Buzzard I bolt it to the floor of the plane
behind the pilot's seat.
In addition to the tool kit you should carry some safety wire,
an assortment of nuts, bolts, and cotter pins, a couple of spark
plugs, some duct tape, about 10 feet of fuel line, some primer
line, exhaust springs, a rubber replacement intake manifold, ,
on air cooled engines a fan belt, on liquid cooled a small
container you can use to get water in a rubber motor mount and a
couple of hose clamps.
The preflight should be done prior to EVERY TAKE OFF - no matter
how short the interval. I once had a pilot do a preflight on an
RX 550 Beaver - both of us checked his elevator cable PRIOR to
him taking off. He flew two hours home - called me the next day
to say that during his morning preflight, he found a failed
cable with only 7 strands of the elevator control cable still
The preflight should of course
include the engine, and floats and float mounting hardware if
thus equipped. When doing your preflight - especially if your
are new to preflight's - use a check list. Start at one point in
the plane and work all the way around until you are back to that
point. If you are interrupted for any reason - start your
preflight OVER from the beginning! When doing a preflight do not
let anyone talk to you, or distract you.
For more information on preflight click
Starting the engine: (After
preflight and fueling.)
It is suggested that if you are starting your engine make sure
to have your shoulder harness and seat belt adjusted and
buckled, especially in a plane like the RX 550 Beaver, where
they can go back and enter the prop.
Before trying to start the engine - Apply full throttle and then allow the throttle to come back to
an idle. LISTEN for the slide to hit the bottom of the carb. ESPECIALLY
in winter, when the slide can stick wide open! Or the throttle
cable can freeze up!
On Rotax engines either prime
the engine a couple of times, or if using a choke apply the
choke, the choke on Bing carbs WILL NOT work if the throttle is
not all the way back to idle.
Make sure the engine fuel selector valve is TURNED ON! I can't
tell you how many students have filled one of my L'il Buzzards
with fuel and started to taxi down the runway - only to run out
of fuel about 45 seconds later. A rule of thumb is to taxi for
about 5 or six minutes before taking off. This makes sure your
fuel is turned on - and if not you run out of gas ON THE GROUND,
and gives the engine time to warm up.
Turn the ignition switch(s) on.
Check to make sure no one is in the "Danger AREA" -
yell clear prop!
Pull the starter rope of push the electric start button. The
engine should start up.
If not refer to
What to do when your engine won't start!
Once the engine starts allow the starter recoil handle to
retract SLOWLY back up into the housing. A quick release can
result in the handle going through the prop. (If the handle does
not go up by itself - REPLACE the spring in the recoil -
otherwise it will come out while flying and in a pusher
configuration will go through the prop!
Apply the brakes and bring your engine up to operating
temperature - 350 CHT - 1,000 EGT, 140 water temp.
On dual CDI ignition engines do your mag checks - at about 3500
rpm one side then the other. You will notice a drop of about 300
rpm this is normal.
If possible bring the engine up
to full power slowly from an idle - to check ALL ranges of
Check your control system once more for free movement on
continuity! I once had a clip on the rudder pin of my Buccaneer
come off in some weeds while taxiing. Applied rudder only to
find it wasn't working. Another time I tried to apply ailerons
only to find I had forgotten to remove the aileron stops!
Here's where I am going to get into a little bit of trouble with
most instructors, and or other pilots. These recommendations are
for 3 axis control aircraft!
In most cases the recommendation is to take off into the wind.
My recommendation is to take off so that you have a landing
field directly ahead of you to land in, regardless of wind
direction! Why? On the field I flew from for over 22 years
taking off to the north meant that once I was airborne I had no
where to safely land for about 3 minutes.
But by taking off to the south I
had a two fields that I could safely land in. Over the 22 years
I landed in either one of those fields 38 times. Other pilots
and students I have trained have also made use of them.
On take off as soon as I am airborne I start flying at a slight
angle away from my runway rather than down the center line. This
way if my engine quits or I have a problem I can just do a
gentle turn forward back to the runway. By flying away at
a slight angle I have lengthened my runway.
E.G. If I were to fly straight
down the center and were to have a problem my only course of
safe action is to land straight ahead. By flying at a
slight angle away I have the distance back to the runway PLUS
the distance down the runway.
Climb out: Do a nice gentle
climb out using FULL power, keep full power on until you reach
the altitude you are going to fly at. When climbing out - climb
out going slightly away from the runway - until you get enough
altitude that you can safely start a turn BACK to the runway -
NOW do a "climb out circuit" - that is climb out while
doing a circuit of your runway. Over the years I have found that
if I am going to have a problem it generally comes within the
first 10 minutes of my flight. If you use this 10 minutes to
circle your runway and the engine quits - or you have to land.
You are now able to come back into land at your field - versus -
being 10 minutes away from your home base, landing in an
unfamiliar field, possibly damaging your plane, and having to
get a truck, trailer, and help to get the plane back!
Why FULL POWER - think about it
this way - if you run your engine at full power for 10 minutes
you can climb out to 2,000 feet (just an example). The engine
quits - you now have 2,000 feet of altitude to find a safe
spot to land. With your home base being that preferred
Now you climb out at full power
for 4 minutes and then back power down - at the ten minute mark
you are now at 1000 feet - looking for a spot to land. Altitude
is money in the bank - the more you have the more you can spend
and the more ways you can spend it.
Won't this hurt the engine? NO -
A Rotax two stroke engine has to be rebuilt at 300 hours - no matter what
rpm you fly at. The engine when designed for
snowmobile application do nearly 9,000 rpm. Full power in an ultralight
it only pulls about 6500 or nearly 30% less - and at cruise 5200
to 5800 is even less than that.
Won't my engine overheat? It
shouldn't if everything is right. Look you are running full
power the fan is producing the most air it can, or the water
pump is pumping as fast as it can. If you are flying most
enclose planes like my L'il Buzzard you are doing between 55 and
65 mph meaning that quite a bit of air is going through the rad
or fan from the plane moving through the air. If your engine is
overheating it is generally because something is wrong in the
Cross Country: Fly high enough
that you always have a safe spot to land. I like a base of 2,000
feet. With a power setting on a Rotax engine between 5200 and
5800 rpm for the best fuel burn and economy.
Landing: Enter the downwind leg
of your circuit at a height that if your engine quits you can
make the rest of the circuit dead stick! Practice this each and
every time you land - either by bringing the engine back to an
idle and flying the plane in with the stick. Or by shutting the
engine off first on final once you KNOW you can make the
landing, and then SLOWLY build confidence by shutting the engine
off a little farther out each time.
REMEMBER watch for wind
speed and direction - THIS WILL change each and every approach.
Initially an instructor along for safety is always money well
During the landing approach if
you have had the engine idling - give it short bursts of power to help
circulate the coolant and maintain engine temperatures. In the
event of an aborted landing apply power SLOWLY to help prevent cold
Shut down: When shutting down
your engine let it idle for 3 to 5 minutes to cool everything
down slowly. This will extend exhaust and engine life. It also
helps lubricate the engine, as the idle mixture is a richer
setting. Thus oil is deposited into bearings etc.
U. B. Judge - DL