Not all flight planning has to be done hunched over graphs or by punching variables into a flight computer. Memorizing some make-or-break numbers can tell you at a glance whether you can launch on a flight as planned, subject to other considerations.
Look up the useful load in your aircraft’s weight-and-balance documentation; the information is required to be available in the cockpit. Remember that your useful load data may differ markedly from generic information provided in an off-the-shelf pilot’s operating handbook (POH) for your make and model aircraft. Use only the specifically calculated information for your aircraft! (And if you find yourself wondering just how much weight and balance matters, see the Air Safety Institute’s Essential Aerodynamics course for a practical exercise.)
Knowing the useful load at the start of your flight planning can tell you right away whether a particular load is excessive for the flight. Suppose your two-seat Cessna 152 trainer has a useful load of 490 pounds. Full fuel, consisting of 24.5 usable gallons, weighs in at 147 pounds (100 low-lead avgas weighs six pounds a gallon). Now you have just 343 pounds available for people and baggage.
Can the two occupants of your aircraft, at their weights—again, not generic weights from the POH—each bring along a well-packed suitcase?
Crunch the numbers. If the basic answer is “affirmative,” also check for any baggage-compartment weight restriction.
Still good? Go ahead and perform a complete weight-and-balance calculation, including computation of the center of gravity location to ensure that the load will remain within approved limits.
What if the answer is negative and the useful load has been exceeded? Now you must plan to lighten the load.
That could mean departing with less-than-full fuel, and adding a fuel stop to your planned route. If that’s the decision, give the flight school an early heads-up; many have a policy of keeping their aircraft fuel tanks topped off. Before departure with partial fuel, check carefully for water that may have condensed in the fuel tanks.Safe piloting practices also demand that you assume a high fuel burn as a margin of error in your planning, and that you have an accurate way to measure the partial fuel loads with which you will take off.
Flight Training News
AOPA is accepting applications for three $5,000 flight training scholarships to be awarded in the spring at the Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and Expo. Student pilots working toward a sport, recreational, or private pilot certificate may apply online for the AOPA Flight Training Scholarship, Erral Lea Plymate Memorial Scholarship, and Jeppesen Flight Training Scholarship through Feb. 10. Read more >>
LSA designed for flight school market
U.S. Sport Aircraft, Fort Pierce, Fla., said it will sell a variant of the Czech-built SportCruiser light sport aircraft designed for the flight school market. The SportCruiser Classic will have the same handling characteristics and canopy as the SportCruiser, but it will have analog instruments in the panel. The avionics package includes a Garmin SL40 communication radio, Garmin aera 500 GPS, and Garmin GTX 327 transponder. The introductory price is $119,500.
Chat with the ‘Flight Training’ editors Jan. 4
Join Flight Training editors Ian Twombly and Jill Tallman on Jan. 4 for the very first live Flight Training Facebook chat of 2012. Bring your flight training questions; talk about the current issue of the magazine; or share your success stories. The chat will take place from 3 to 4 p.m. Eastern (noon to 1 p.m. Pacific). Log on to the Flight Training Facebook page and click the Chat link on the left of the page.
Be a better communicator when talking to ATC
Communicating effectively with ATC is one of the hardest skills new pilots must learn, and there’s no getting around the fact that the more you do it, the better you become. But most aviation textbooks don’t teach these communication skills. Take the safety quiz on ATC procedures from the Air Safety Institute and help get yourself up to speed when it comes to some of the more nuanced techniques of working with controllers.
SunState Aviation building new facility
SunState Aviation at Kissimmee Gateway Airport in Orlando, Fla., has begun construction of a new 16,000-square-foot building. It will feature an expanded hangar for aircraft maintenance as well as larger classrooms, a simulator room, and an FAA testing center. A sandwich shop, pilot supply shop, and observation decks are planned. A grand opening is planned for fall 2012. SunState specializes in accelerated flight training for the sport and private pilot certificates as well as instrument, commercial, ATP, multiengine, and helicopter flight training.
Many people want to learn to fly but aren’t sure if they can progress through the requirements of the private pilot certificate. If that’s your situation, don’t forget you have options. You can earn a recreational pilot certificate or a sport pilot certificate. Both require fewer hours of training than a private pilot certificate (which translates to fewer dollars spent), but they also pose limitations on the type of flying you can do and the aircraft you can fly. For more information, see AOPA’s Guide to Learning to Fly.
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.
How to intercept a VOR radial
It may seem slightly antiquated to talk about VORs, but the skill is useful if you need to intercept any course. If you fly an aircraft equipped with VORs, the better your understanding of VOR navigation, the easier time you will have during instrument training. Fly along with Flight Training Deputy Editor Ian Twombly in a Redbird Flight Simulations simulator configured as a Cessna 182 with Garmin G1000 avionics as he shows you how to intercept the 095 radial from the Lancaster, Pa., VOR. Watch AOPA Live® >>
AMR Corporation, the parent company of American Airlines and American Eagle that voluntarily filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization Nov. 29, has announced to lenders and aircraft lessors that it is accelerating its fleet upgrade plan, using the bankruptcy process to reject some leases and renegotiate payment rates for others. The company said that some aircraft leases will be rejected soon, while others may be rejected later. In addition, to conserve liquidity it plans to make payments when due of aircraft rent and mortgage principal and interest only on certain aircraft in the fleet. The airline recently announced a significant order for Airbus and Boeing narrow-body aircraft.
Pinnacle seeks to modify contracts, agreements
Pinnacle Airlines Corp. announced Dec. 8 that it has commenced a comprehensive program to reduce short- and long-term costs and enhance liquidity. The airline plans to seek modifications to its agreements with its mainline airline partners, equipment lessors, debt holders, real property lessors, and vendors, as well as to work with its pilots and other employees (both union and nonunion) to reduce labor costs. Pinnacle, with 7,800 employees, is the parent company of Pinnacle Airlines Inc., Mesaba Aviation Inc., and Colgan Air Inc.; it operates 279 aircraft on more than 1,540 daily flights for Delta Connection, United Express, and US Airways Express.
If it has two seats, low wings, a T-tail, and a bubble canopy, you are probably looking at the trainer that many from the “other half” used when learning to fly: a Piper PA-38-112 Tomahawk. Powered by a Lycoming 0-235-L2C 112-horsepower engine, this aircraft provides a different experience from the similar-sized Cessna 152 used by students in the high-wing branch of the training family. The Tomahawk’s characteristic feel and handling come from lofty position of the elevators, which give a different (delayed) responsiveness on takeoff and at low airspeeds.
Sporty’s So You Want to Fly Helicopters app
If you’ve been thinking about trying the rotary-wing side of aviation, Sporty’s app, So You Want to Fly Helicopters, is designed to prepare you. The app includes more than 90 minutes of 3-D animations and in-flight video, plus text of the FAA Rotorcraft Flying Handbook, the Helicopter Practical Test Standards, two advisory circulars, and a 30-question review quiz. Fourteen individual video segments show a Robinson R22 and R44, Schweizer 269, and Bell 206 JetRanger. The app sells for $69.99.
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.
Save up to $50 on a Hertz rental
Save up to $10 per day, up to $50 on a daily, weekly, or weekend rental on your reservation of an economy through full-size car, or small SUV. This offer is valid for vehicle pickup through Feb. 11, 2012, at the airport. Save on your next car rental and support general aviation. See the website.
The best and worst of 2011
What were the highs and lows for the flight training industry in the past 12 months? Flight Training Associate Editor Jill Tallman shares her top five picks for best and worst, and invites you to post your nominations in this week’s Flight Training blog. Read more >>
It’s a drag to find a rag … inside the cowling
CFI Jason Miller explains another way to look at a preflight—your chance to look for the reasons you shouldn’t go flying—in the Let’s Go Flying blog.
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for a senior government analyst, director of corporate finance, manager of flight training programs, online product manager, AOPA Live producer/videojournalist, associate editor–Web/ ePilot, and aviation technical specialist. To learn more about other AOPA career opportunities, visit AOPA Online.
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