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‘Higher than standard’
It’s a cool spring morning when you take off on your cross-country flight. The weather forecast is good, but the day is expected to become “a scorcher.”
Your smooth ride will become bumpy as the sun heats the ground and creates thermal turbulence. What conditions should you expect in a few hours at your destination, an airport at 2,000 feet msl with a 3,000-foot-long runway?
You studied the nearest terminal forecast, but it won’t be until you hear the automated surface observing system (ASOS) report that you will learn details including the destination’s surface temperature. Fortunately, ASOS and many preceding-generation automated weather observation system (AWOS) units provide another valuable piece of information for hot weather operations: the field’s current density altitude.
If the surface temperature is 90 degrees Fahrenheit—well above standard temperature of about 52 degrees Fahrenheit for 2,000 feet msl—density altitude will be about 4,550 feet. When you depart for home, on takeoff and climbout your low-powered trainer will perform as if departing an airport at 4,550 feet msl under standard conditions. Plan accordingly.
“On a hot and humid day, the aircraft will accelerate more slowly down the runway, will need to move faster to attain the same lift, and will climb more slowly,” explains this AOPA subject report. “All of these factors can lead to an accident if the poor performance has not been anticipated.”
Question: If humidity is so important, why isn’t it part of density-altitude calculations? Most consider only nonstandard temperature and pressure.
“Humidity should not be ignored but almost always is because aircraft performance charts do not include it as a factor, but should,” wrote AOPA Pilot columnist Barry Schiff in his July 2007 Proficient Pilot column. “Although even the most humid air is not that much lighter than dry air, it causes reciprocating engines to lose considerable power.”
He offered an alternative way to estimate humidity’s effect: “Because the precise effect of humidity involves complex calculations and is difficult to determine, pilots can compensate by raising the calculated DA by 1,000 feet on hot, humid days and decreasing calculated performance by a conservative fudge factor of 10 percent.”
Remember, no airport is “too low” for a density altitude check and aircraft performance calculations in hot weather!
YOUR PARTNER IN TRAINING
If good weather is permitting you to fly more, you might notice increased bird activity near your airport. Listen to a Real Pilot Story about an actual bird strike brought to you by the Air Safety Institute.
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.
Flight instructor Mary Latimer has wanted to help more women become pilots ever since she became one herself. This year she hit upon a strategy to help women succeed: Create a program that will help women age 15 and older advance their flight training. She and her husband, assisted by other CFIs, will hold the Girls in Flight Training (GIFT) academy in July. Read more >>
Able Flight, an organization that aims to provide flight training to people with disabilities, has announced three new scholarship recipients. Korel Cudmore, Eric Ingram, and U.S. Army Specialist Jermaine Strachan will train in Lafayette, Ind., as part of a joint Able Flight/Purdue University program in which they will live in Purdue dormitories and train with university flight instructors. Cudmore is the program’s first deaf recipient. Ingram suffers from a rare genetic disorder that has left him a quadriplegic, and Strachan is a two-time recipient of the Purple Heart.
Internet scam targets flight instructors
Flight instructors beware. A new scam uses email to contact flight instructors saying that a group of foreign students wants to train with the instructors in the United States this summer. It requests the instructor to submit a proposal of what the training program would entail. After that, a second email is sent requesting banking information to make a direct deposit for the program. In another case, an email correspondence offered to pay more than the program would cost if the balance could be forwarded to another individual. Read more >>
Takeoffs and landings can be trying for both student and instructor. Many of the calculations you make about them, both on paper and in the air, must transfer to your eyes, hands, and feet simultaneously. That equates to a lot going on for those few minutes of every flight. The Air Safety Institute’s Mastering Takeoffs and Landings Safety Advisor lists some great tips for minimizing the risk every time you line up that centerline, whether you’re coming or going.
Dowling, Mid Island Air recommit for training
Dowling College School of Aviation in New York has re-established a longtime relationship with Mid Island Air Service. Dowling said the agreement will enable the school to expand offerings and increase enrollment while reducing flight training hourly costs by 30 percent. Mid Island’s fleet includes Cessna 152s and 172s as well as Remos, SportCruiser, and Tecnam light sport aircraft.
New facility for San Jose State University
San Jose State University’s (SJSU) aviation and technology department opened a new facility at Reid-Hillview Airport on April 22. The program also has a new lab and simulator on campus that includes a plaque honoring the memory of Capt. Jason Dahl. Dahl and First Officer LeRoy Homer were piloting United Airlines Flight 93 when it was hijacked and subsequently crashed into a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001. Dahl graduated from SJSU with a Bachelor of Science degree in aeronautics.
Summer camps at Sun ’n Fun site
There’s still time to enroll your wannabe aviator in one of several day and residential camps sponsored by the Florida Air Museum in Lakeland. Camps are available for children ages 11 through 18 with a curriculum that includes aerodynamics, basic navigation, weather, preflight, and flying aircraft. Also available for younger campers ages 7 through 12 is a day camp option that utilizes a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) curriculum. For more information, see the website.
Pilot to take one last flight
Once flying gets in your blood, it never leaves. Helen Dax, an 87-year-old resident of the Brookdale Senior Living center in Denver, Colo., will take a flight on May 10. She became a private pilot at age 26, had owned several airplanes with her husband, and had been an air traffic controller in Chicago. Dax will be taken aloft by Emily Howell Warner, Frontier Airlines’ first woman pilot. The adventure is made possible by Brookdale and Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime program.
Learn the rules IFR pilots follow
For many student pilots, as soon as the private checkride is passed it’s on to the instrument rating. If you’re curious about IFR flying, the Air Safety Institute’s free IFR Insights: Regulations course is worth a look. It’s a plain-language guide to IFR ground rules and what they mean in the real world. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything: The course is meant primarily for instrument-rated pilots, but it can still give you a head start on a future IFR education. Take the course >>
Save on your next rental with Avis
AOPA and Avis have partnered to bring you special discounts on your next car rental. Use your AOPA Avis Worldwide discount number A451348 to save up to 25 percent every time you rent. Additionally, Avis offers AOPA members coupon savings such as $35 off a weekly rental, a free weekend day, or a free upgrade. Go online to find exclusive deals. Avis Preferred Service, available at nearly 1,400 locations worldwide, is a counter bypass program that will make traveling easier and quicker. Store your rental preferences with Avis and have your car and rental document waiting for you when you arrive every time. Plus, you'll enjoy amenities like the newest cars, door-to-door directions, local weather information, and help with your luggage. Enrollment is free to residents of the United States and Canada. Enroll online.
Are you taking every precaution when it comes to your health?
As a pilot, you take every precaution before taking a flight—but are you taking the same care when it comes to your health? AOPA members can improve their health preparedness with Life Line Screenings. Read more >>
Ultimate Saitek flight sim kit from Sporty’s
PC-based flight simulator programs are fine for brushing up on some skills and maneuvers, but they have their limits. The Ultimate Saitek Flight Simulator Kit from Sporty’s offers a deluxe setup that more closely approximates a cockpit. It includes yoke, rudder pedals, a Cessna throttle quad, switch and radio panels, plus Microsoft Flight Simulator X Gold software and training book. The package sells for $999. Order online or call 800/SPORTYS.
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: When flying in the traffic pattern, my flight instructor recommends that I fly 1,000 feet agl, but I've heard other instructors teaching their students to fly 800 feet agl. I'm a bit confused on this issue.
Answer: Traffic pattern altitudes for propeller-driven aircraft can range from 600 through 1,500 feet agl, according to Chapter 4-3-3 of the Aeronautical Information Manual (AIM). The AIM also recommends using a 1,000-foot-agl pattern altitude unless a different altitude has been established for the airport. If a traffic pattern altitude (TPA) is not listed for a particular airport, the 1,000-foot recommendation would apply. Sometimes airport management decides to set or change a TPA (within the parameters of 600 to 1,500 feet agl), and the new TPA is not listed in the airport/facility directory. AOPA Airports updates this information through airport surveys and questionnaires. If in doubt, though, AOPA recommends you call the airport. For more information, download the Air Safety Institute’s Safety Advisor, Operations at Nontowered Airports .
Got a question for our technical services staff? Email [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
The FAA is hung up on numbers; that’s no surprise. What this means for you has an impact on how you keep track of those numbers, Flight Training contributor Chip Wright explains in this week’s Flight Training blog. Also, AOPA Associate Editor Jill W. Tallman wants to know if you’ve ever bartered goods or services in exchange for flight instruction.
AOPA Career Opportunities
Ever dream of turning your passion for aviation into a career? We’re looking for an application support engineer and member services representative. 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 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; San Jose, Calif., and Minneapolis, Minn., June 11 and 12. 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 Morganton, N.C., May 7; Newton, Mass., Salisbury, N.C., Brookings, S.D., and Madison, Wis., May 9; East Hartford, Conn., Jamestown, N.C., Aberdeen, S.D., and Milwaukee, Wis., May 10; Smithfield, N.C., Spearfish, S.D., and Manitowoc, Wis., May 11. 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