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It’s a calm, still morning with a forecast for light winds, perfect conditions for solo practice or launching on a cross-country. By mid-morning you are under way, and a scattered cloud layer has begun to develop—exactly as advertised.
Now it’s noontime, and the ride has become distinctly choppy. You, your flight gear, and the partly consumed fuel load don’t come close to maxing out your trainer’s gross weight—and the aircraft has a low wing loading—so each bump stirs up your cockpit and can cause altitude deviation of a hundred feet or more. There’s still no wind, so what’s with these bumps?
The answer is thermal currents—columns of warm air rising from uneven solar heating of the ground as the day wears on, resulting in the cloud type known as fair-weather cumulus. These clouds are signposts of a bumpy ride in the low to mid levels on a warm day. Their expected development is what produces weather forecasts calling for clear early morning skies followed by scattered to broken clouds later—and those jarring bumps.
Cruising in thermal turbulence imparts real-world experience, but there are escape strategies when you’ve had enough. One, if the clouds are not expected to develop into a ceiling, is to climb above them; their tops mark the extent of the vertical movement of air. Above, smooth flying awaits. A well-known rule of thumb lets you estimate the altitude of the cloud bases.
In coastal areas, flying a route closer to the water’s edge may offer smooth air, especially if there’s a sea breeze bringing in cool, stable air from over the water. An absence of fair-weather cumulus in that direction is the clue to look for.
If neither option is available, slow down to your trainer’s turbulence penetration speed (for your current gross weight). Giving a pilot report on your conditions is an excellent idea and will be appreciated by anyone about to set out along your route. Try to make an accurate estimate of the turbulence according to the recommended descriptive categories.Here’s the good news about thermals: Later in the day when the sun starts down, they die out as abruptly as they sprang up, often restoring calm conditions before dusk.
YOUR PARTNER IN TRAINING
Extra-careful preflight is required for night flying: organizing the cockpit (including making sure you have flashlights and plenty of fresh batteries to power them), choosing checkpoints, and pondering emergency situations. The challenges are greater, but so are the rewards. The special skills of night flying can only be acquired and maintained by taking frequent night flights. See our aviation subject report and the Air Safety Institute’s Safety Hot Spot on night flying for more information.
Did you know that student pilots who join AOPA are three times more likely to complete their flight training? Membership includes unlimited access to aviation information by phone (800/USA-AOPA, weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time) or from Flight Training Online or AOPA Online. If you're not already a member, join today and get the pilot’s edge. Login information is available online.
Redbird Flight Simulations unveiled a new tool at the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In last week that seeks to integrate full training scenarios. Produced in partnership with King Schools, Guided Independent Flight Training (GIFT) melds a King Schools course with the simulator to allow individuals to study independently or with the assistance of a flight instructor. Read more >>
The Society of Aviation and Flight Educators (SAFE) has launched an aviation educator mentoring program. Open to SAFE members, the program seeks to provide support, leadership, and professional guidance for aviation educators. It was developed based on input from members who participated in a survey in 2010. For more information, see the website.
CFI wins King Schools sweepstakes
Rodney Mullinax, a flight instructor in Texico, Ill., is the winner of the thirty-fifth anniversary King Schools sweepstakes. As part of his prize, Mullinax will receive a seaplane rating from Alaska Floats and Skis in Talkeetna, Alaska. Read more >>
For pilots learning to fly at nontowered airports, visiting a towered field can sometimes be a nerve-wracking experience—but it doesn’t have to be. Actually, towered airports are often easier to fly into than their nontowered cousins, but only if you know the procedures. Test your knowledge of towered airport operations by taking the Air Safety Institute’s latest safety quiz, sponsored by the AOPA Insurance Agency.
Explorers post Kitfox destroyed at Sun ’n Fun
A Kitfox constructed by members of the Birmingham (Alabama) Aviation Explorers Post 491 was one of dozens of airplanes demolished March 31 when a tornado touched down at the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland, Fla. Explorers Post 491 had intended to raffle off the aircraft during Sun ’n Fun. The group said it intends to rebuild the aircraft, and has located a “new slightly damaged but repairable fuselage frame” as well as a new set of wings. The group is accepting donations on its website.
UND adds Skyhawks to fleet
The University of North Dakota (UND) has ordered five Cessna 172 Skyhawks, Cessna announced March 31. The school will take delivery of the aircraft in July or August. The order is part of a multi-year agreement between Cessna and UND’s John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. UND’s training fleet will number 63 Skyhawks, all of which are equipped with Garmin G1000 avionics.
Do you know your way around thunderstorms?
Spring has arrived at last, bringing with it warmer temperatures and considerably more volatile weather—like thunderstorms. Air traffic control can help you avoid them, but it’s important to understand the limitations of that assistance. The Air Safety Institute’s WeatherWise: Thunderstorms & ATC course is full of need-to-know facts about ATC weather radar, dangerous assumptions pilots and controllers sometimes make, and tips on making the system work better for you. Take the course >>
CFIs: Protect yourself and your livelihood
CFIs can be held liable for students’ incidents, even if they weren’t on board the aircraft at the time. The AOPA Insurance Agency understands that a CFI’s needs are unique. Without the right policy, you could be putting your livelihood in jeopardy. When you get a CFI non-owned policy through the AOPA Insurance Agency, you can rest assured that you are personally protected during flight instruction. Read more >>
Hertz introduces new Adrenaline Collection
Inject some exhilaration into your vacation with the aggressive new Adrenaline Collection from Hertz. The collection includes head-turning, heart-pumping specialty performance versions of three of the most popular muscle cars on the road today: the Chevy Camaro SS, the Ford Mustang GT Premium, and the Dodge Challenger RT. Be sure to include your AOPA CDP# 10232 in all reservations and save up to 25 percent on Hertz rentals. For reservations and value-added offers, go online or call 800/654-2200.
‘Flying the Skycatcher’ from King Schools
Is a Skycatcher in your future? If you are learning to fly a Cessna Skycatcher light sport aircraft or considering transitioning to one, King Schools has produced a training program for your Windows-compatible personal computer. Three hours of video footage includes demonstrations of all maneuvers as well as familiarity with the Garmin G300 avionics. The course sells for $149 and may be ordered online or by calling 800/854-1001.
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.
Question: What type of airspace is depicted on a VFR sectional chart by a solid black line (looks more gray to me) with altitudes for each segment surrounding a Class D airport?
Answer: The airspace is known as a terminal radar service area ( TRSA). This type of airspace, which is not controlled airspace from a regulatory standpoint, usually surrounds airports that have enough traffic to justify the presence of radar service yet don’t qualify for Class C or Class B status. Within a TRSA, ATC provides separation between participating VFR aircraft and all IFR aircraft. Note that it’s “participating” VFR aircraft, because pilot participation is recommended, but not mandatory. If you would rather not receive TRSA service, simply state “negative TRSA service” when talking with ATC. It is a good idea to participate if possible because ATC can help you approach and depart busier airports in a safe manner. For more on TRSAs and the National Airspace System, complete the Air Safety Institute’s online course, Know Before You Go: Navigating Today’s Airspace .
Got a question for our technical services staff? E-mail [email protected] or call the Pilot Information Center, 800/872-2672. Don’t forget the online archive of “Final Exam” questions and answers, searchable by keyword or topic.
What's New Online
Rain, high winds, and even a tornado managed to grab the headlines at the Sun ’n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Fla. But Flight Training Deputy Editor Ian Twombly says the foul weather overshadowed some significant events involving the flight training industry. Find out more in this week’s Flight Training blog.
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for a manager of aviation security, application support engineer, administrative assistant—marketing, and administrative assistant—office of the president. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.
Pilots love to take photos, and they love to share them with other pilots. Now you can upload your flying photos to our online gallery, “Air Mail.” Share your special aviation images, or view and rate more than 7,500 photos (and growing). Photos are put into rotation on the AOPA home page!
AVIATION EVENTS & WEATHER
Want something to do this weekend? Planning an aviation getaway? See your personalized online calendar of events . We’ve enhanced our calendar so that with one click you can see all of the events listed in the regions you selected when personalizing ePilot . Now you can browse events in your region to make planning easier. You can also bookmark the personalized calendar page to check it as often as you want. Before you take off on an adventure, make sure you check our current aviation weather provided by Jeppesen.
Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics
The next Air Safety Institute Flight Instructor Refresher Clinics are scheduled in Tampa, Fla., Cincinnati, Ohio, and Ashburn, Va., April 16 and 17; Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Pensacola, Fla., May 14 and 15; Sacramento, Calif., Kansas City, Mo., Albany, N.Y., and Houston, Texas, May 21 and 22; Orlando, Fla., Charlotte, N.C., and Columbus, Ohio, June 4 and 5. For a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.
Can’t make it in person? Sign up for the CFI Refresher Online.
Air Safety Institute Safety Seminars
Air Safety Institute Safety Seminars are scheduled in Russellville, Ky., April 12; Cynthiana, Ky., April 13; West Lafayette, Ind., and Timonium, Md., April 20; Blacksburg, Va., April 25; Danville, Va., April 26; Richmond, Va., April 27; Morris Plains, N.J., and Hampton, Va., April 28. Topics vary—for details and a complete schedule, see AOPA Online.
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Editorial Team: ePilot Flight Training Editor : Jill W. Tallman | ePilot Editor: Sarah Brown | Contributor: Alton K. Marsh