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AOPA Online Members Only -- AOPA ePilot Custom Content --Vol. 6, Issue 34AOPA Online Members Only -- AOPA ePilot Custom Content --Vol. 6, Issue 34

The following stories from the August 20, 2004, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information customized to their areas of interest by updating their member record file online.

My ePilot - Student Interest, Training Tips
What airspeed do you strive to maintain after takeoff from a normal-sized runway without obstacles at the departure end? If Vy, best rate of climb speed, did not come to mind, it's time to rethink your technique. As its name implies, best rate of climb speed is the calibrated airspeed (see the February 6, 2004, Training Tips) at which the airplane will achieve the maximum increase in altitude per unit of time ( download Chapter 9 of the Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge). Stated simply, climbing at Vy is the quickest way to get you to a desired altitude. This is crucial immediately after takeoff because you need to reach an altitude at which it would be possible to safely turn around and land in the event of power loss. The less time you spend exposed to lower altitudes, the safer your flight. In a long climb to a high cruise altitude, increase your airspeed after attaining a safe altitude (such as traffic pattern height) for better engine cooling and visibility. Depending on the kind of aircraft you fly, the difference in climb speeds may be considerable, as Mark Twombly discusses in "Continuing Ed: Think Fast" in the December 1999 AOPA Flight Training. Also remember that Vy is the airspeed that you will be expected to target after a normal takeoff on the private pilot flight test. See "Testing Speed Control" in the October 4, 2002, newsletter.

Many student pilots ask: Why not use Vx, the best angle of climb speed? "The best-rate airspeed will generate the fastest rate of climb, but if you're worried about an obstacle at the end of the runway, it may not get you up quickly enough to clear it. The best angle of climb speed won't gain the altitude as quickly but will do it in less distance traveled horizontally," explains Budd Davisson in the December 2001 AOPA Flight Training article "25 Questions." Performance airspeeds change with altitude. Vx and Vy are no exception; as one increases, the other decreases! See Rod Machado's explanation in the June 1999 AOPA Flight Training.

Bottom line: Vy gets you to a safe altitude in the least time. Use it whenever another performance speed doesn't take precedence-now during training, and throughout your flying career.

My ePilot - Student Interest, Training Products
Volumes undoubtedly could be written about the unique aspects of night flying as well as the accompanying safety concerns. David Robson takes an extended look at the subject in Sunset to Sunrise, a book that is said to offer practical techniques on weather considerations; human factors such as night vision, fatigue, and hypoxia; what the Federal Aviation Regulations have to say about night operations; preflight preparation; aircraft and airport lighting; cross-country planning; takeoffs and landings; and emergency situations. The soft-cover, 208-page book sells for $19.95 and may be ordered from Aviation Supplies and Academics.

Note: Products listed have not been evaluated by ePilot editors unless otherwise noted. AOPA assumes no responsibility for products or services listed or for claims or actions by manufacturers or vendors.

My ePilot - Student Interest, Final Exam
Question: Is it stated anywhere in the Federal Aviation Regulations or Aeronautical Information Manual as to the proper altitude to begin your turn from upwind to crosswind while staying in the pattern? I was always told it was the traffic pattern altitude (TPA) for the particular airport, minus 300 feet. For example, at Danbury (Connecticut) Municipal the TPA is 1,700 feet, and I have been turning from upwind to crosswind at 1,400 feet because of what my original CFI drilled into my head. Was that just sound CFI advice, or does it come from a regulation?

Answer: This has long been a topic of hangar talks. According to the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM) Chapter 4 Section 3, "Airport Operations," the upwind (or departure) leg is defined as "the flight path which continues straight ahead along the extended runway centerline and continues until reaching a point at least one-half mile beyond the departure end of the runway and within 300 feet of the traffic pattern altitude." The crosswind leg is "a flight path at right angles to the landing runway off its takeoff end." So the AIM recommendation agrees with your CFI's good advice to turn onto the crosswind leg once the departure leg is completed, which is 300 feet below pattern altitude.

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