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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Goal Oriented Flying

I don't like mnemonics, and there are many in flying.  Here are a few:

TOMATO FLAMES lists all the equipment required by law for VFR day flight:

Tachometer
Oil pressure
Manifold pressure
Altimeter
Temperature sensor (liquid-cooled)
Oil temperature (air cooled)
Fuel gauge
Landing gear position
Airspeed indicator
Magnetic compass
ELT
Seat belts

At night you have to add FLAPS:

Fuses (spares) or circuit breakers
Landing light (if for hire)
Anticollision lights
Position lights
Source of electricity

If you are flying IFR you must GRABCARD:

Generator
Radios
Attitude indicator
Ball
Clock
Adjustable altimeter
Rate of turn indicator
Directional gyro

And one that all instrument students are taught - the 5 T's:

Twist the heading bug or OBS dial to the new course
Turn to the new course
Tune the new frequency, or navaid
Time - Start your clock at the fix
Talk - make any required radio calls

Mnemonics just don't work for me (quite apart from the stupid silent "m" at the beginning of the word).  My mind isn't wired that way.  Instead, what I found does work is to use what I call Goal Oriented Flying (hey, that's "GOF"!!).  For each stage of a flight, I think about what is it that I want to achieve?  Is it to go as fast as reasonably possible in cruise?  Make sure all sources of drag are removed and that the engine is set as I want (usually 23" of power, 2300 RPM, cowl flaps in, trimmed correctly).  Is it to descend?  Reduce engine power, and add drag if needed.

When flying an instrument approach, what am I trying to?  I need to turn to the inbound leg, at a particular altitude, and I'd been asked to report the outer marker.  Or I know I need to time this leg, so start my clock.   Trying to remember the 5T's just doesn't work for me, especially when most of them are irrelevant at any given point.  At each step, before I reach the start of "something changing" as a waypoint or on a frequency, I think about what comes next and what needs to be done for success.  It's kind of how I approach my everyday life, not just flying.

I think I'm going to try it on one of my basic flying students too, as well as my instrument students.  What are you trying to achieve in a crosswind landing?  To land on the runway, with the upwind wheel first, with the nose pointing parallel to the center line.  Beyond that, does it really matter how you get there?

I do use one mnemonic on every flight - GUMPS before landing.  That's because I'm paranoid about having the gear down and checked.  I check it 3 times on each approach, and on an instrument approach I equate gear down with final descent - I won't fly the glide-slope unless the gear is down and checked.  Gear down - going down.G-D g-d?  Another acronym?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Checklist happy

I made my own checklist in MS Word. It's 2 pages, each side formatted into 3 columns, and laminated back to back into a single, stiff 8 x 11 card that fits into the side pocket by my left leg. I started doing this when I still had my Sundowner, but that one was quite a bit shorter, and had room for things like crosswind control positions and ATC light signals.  My checklist for the Bonanza is quite a bit more dense.

I based it on the POH, but modified it from my initial experience and I had it pretty finalized after about the first 5 or 10 hours in my Bonanza. Once in a while I add or subtract something, but it's mostly stable now after 100 hours.

The front page is the external inspection, engine start (hot and cold), taxi and pre-take off checks - everything that happens with the wheels on the ground. If someone is flying who is unfamiliar with my a/c, I have them hold the check list in their free hand while doing the walk around, but I don't do it for myself, I know my plane and use a walk-around flow. I always use my written check list for engine starts and pre- T/O checks, although I know I know them by heart. It doesn't take any longer, and it takes emotion out of the equation and takes out any temptation to rush.

The reverse side is for in the air - it has the most common V-speeds, T/O and landing procedures for normal, short and soft fields, and in green type (so it doesn't wash out under red light at night), all the emergency procedures. I only really use that side as a memory aid for unusual actions, for normal landings I just use a verbal "GUMPS", but that most translates to "Am I on a tank I know has fuel and is feeding well", and "Are the wheels really down?" I don't usually go to full rich (the engine doesn't like it at low power) or high RPM (the neighbors don't like the noise). So I supposed it's really just G-U (and "do I want to do the M-P bit?") and check seatbelts.

Still I like to have it available, so the day when my gear motor stops, or the engine gets quiet, or I have to land on a soggy grass field, or I'm having a BFR and my CFI decides to wring me out (as I would do to him or her in turn), I'm prepared and ready.