Got a Meter? Check Your Alternator

It's cold, it's dark, it's winter. The alternator is the electrical lifeline for your aircraft. While the battery on board most planes, if you lose the alternator, the life of the battery is typically less than an hour at full load, and even shorter with all the lights on! But many pilots pay little attention to the alternator in their airplane, since it is such a dependable piece of equipment. The problem with alternator problems is that they usually come when the alternator is under heavy load. Translation: The alternator usually fails when you need it most.

Danger Signs – When A Drip Is More Than A Drip

A cockpit is one of the best classrooms. When you fly, there are always chances to learn lessons from what you are doing. Whether it is a long cross-country flight into an unfamiliar area, or handling the chores of a hard IFR flight, each time you get into the plane and turn the key you start a new learning session... provided you are willing to learn.

Short Field Challenges

We've had a number of accidents at a nearby airport with a "short" runway. The reason I say it is "short" is because at 3000 feet, it isn't a mile long - judging by the number of planes that have gone off the end of the runway and into the creek, some pilots need it to be. If you are the type of pilot that can learn from the mistakes of others, read on...

Headwinds — Watch Em’ or Pay

If you've read my work here, you know that I respect Mother Nature. She is the force that creates beautiful sunsets, and gives us the delightful spring rains that bring forth the green fields that feed our world. I also believe that Mother Nature is a witch of the worst order, who will use the weather to beat sense into any pilot who should happen to disregard her power.

The Human Factor and Airplanes

The way people work with machinery, or to say it better, the way machines work with people is a field of study called human factors. When we look at general aviation aircraft, few have a worse reputation for human factors incidents than the early Beech Bonanza models. This is because in an effort to make an airplane that was as beautiful to see as it was to fly, Walter Beech created the infamous "piano key" control panel.

The Wrong Flaps

We are all trained to prepare a plane for landing. Generically, this includes the reduction of power to provoke descent, extension of flaps as called for in the Pilots Operations Handbook or POH, and extending the landing gear on those planes with retractable gear, before we make a safe landing. However, there are times when the use of full flaps isn't necessary, and by knowing when these cases arise, you will be better able to handle them.

Danger Signs – Loose Rivets

I HAD A FRIEND WHO WAS A PILOT, AND WHO OWNED A BEECH SUNDOWNER. The Sundowner had a reputation as a well-built plane, and was one of Beech's first of a less expensive breed of airplane. The truth be told, while rugged, the Sundowner was a little on the slow side, but was still a lot of fun to fly. It was basically an upgraded Musketeer, but in this new incarnation, shared many components with the Sierra, which was a retractable model, and the Duchess twin model.