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AOPA Online Members Only -- AOPA ePilot Custom Content -- Vol. 9, Issue 18AOPA Online Members Only -- AOPA ePilot Custom Content -- Vol. 9, Issue 18

The following stories from the May 4, 2007, edition of AOPA ePilot were provided to AOPA members who expressed an interest in the particular subject areas. Any AOPA member can receive information tailored to their areas of interest by updating their preferences online.

My ePilot – Other Interest
A student team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology took the $2,500 prize in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Design/Build/Fly international competition with a 1.9-pound twin-engine biplane that became a 5.5-pound gross weight heavy hauler. The radio-controlled aircraft was required to lift two separate payloads, including one held by George Kiwada weighing 3.5 pounds, slightly less than a brick. To get the needed power the team wildly overboosted two electric Parkjet Littlescreamers, sparking them with far more wattage than the design allowed. They were smoking, literally. A pair of engines turned into charred parts every five flights. A video of the radio-controlled aircraft flying is available on YouTube.

My ePilot – Student Interest, Training Tips
Spring is here, bringing a blossom of activity in the airport traffic pattern. Now, you must be able to blend in with numerous other aircraft to keep the flow smooth. (See the April 18, 2003, "Training Tips" article "Proper pattern procedures." ) This may mean abandoning complacency developed during quieter times, when it was rarely necessary to extend your pattern to allow an aircraft to take off or to find your way into line behind another aircraft that entered the traffic pattern while you were executing your touch and go.

Coordinating adjustments with other pilots over the common traffic advisory frequency (CTAF) assumes new importance. Don't get rattled by the pushy types who want you to do all the adjusting. Although extending a downwind leg is a common method of allowing traffic ahead of you to land and clear, or perform a touch and go, another method is to slow down a bit earlier than usual. At towered airports, the need to manage traffic may result in clearances and instructions that you have not experienced before.

Another issue is how to make your way back into the traffic pattern correctly when returning from a flight. In his May 2003 AOPA Pilot feature, "Pattern Perfection," Thomas A. Horne reviews preferred entries. "It's best to enter the downwind leg of a nontowered airport's traffic pattern at midfield, on a 45-degree interception angle. This gives you a good viewing perspective of all legs of the pattern. You should be at pattern altitude (anywhere from 600 feet agl to 1,500 feet agl—check your airport reference for the recommended altitude), and your downwind leg should be flown as close as is comfortable for the airplane you're flying."

When to turn base? Horne suggests, "A good rule of thumb on the downwind leg is to allow the preceding airplane to pass abeam your left side (in left-hand traffic patterns; abeam your right in right-hand patterns) before turning base." For more, download the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Operations at Nontowered Airports Safety Advisor. Communicating on CTAF is important, but a radio is no substitute for seeing other traffic. Help others see you; use your landing light in and near the airport area.

Busy patterns are a nice-weather reality. Take advantage of the seasonal opportunity to learn.

My ePilot – Training Product
Aviation Supplies & Academics is the new publisher of Lessons from the Logbook by popular aviation author Ron Fowler. Fowler is well known for one of his early books, Making Perfect Landings, which has helped thousands of pilots with their approach and landing techniques. Lessons from the Logbook is a collection of stories that Fowler wrote for Plane and Pilot magazine. The articles cover all phases of flight, including recurrent training. Fowler is a Gold Seal flight instructor with more than 12,600 hours of instructing. The book sells for $19.95. For more information, see the Web site or call 800/272-2359.

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: I have noticed that the magnetic compass doesn't always match the heading indicator when making turns. What's the reason for this?

Answer: The compass needle seeks to align itself with the lines of magnetic force that causes a magnetic dip while turning. Because the magnets in the compass are oriented horizontally in level flight, dip errors only occur when the airplane is banked. With the airplane banked, the magnets in the compass are now given the chance to move vertically, causing the magnets to tilt downward. This causes an initial error in the compass indication until the magnets have a chance to properly align themselves and indicate the correct heading. The turning error causes the compass to lead or lag the actual magnetic heading and is most prevalent when turning from a north or south heading. In the Northern Hemisphere, the lag occurs when turning from a north heading, and the compass leads when turning from a south heading. There is no error when turning from an east or west heading. Additional insight on the magnetic compass is covered in Chapter 6 of the FAA's publication, Pilot's Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge .

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