Procedures and Airport Operations: Night Flight Approaches and Landings

The mechanical operation of an airplane at night is no different than operating the same airplane during the day. The pilot, however, is affected by various aspects of night operations and must take them into consideration during night flight operations. Some are actual physical limitations affecting all pilots while others, such as equipment requirements, procedures, and emergency situations, must also be considered. Today, we’re featuring an excerpt from the Airplane Flying Handbook (8083-3B) on flying approaches and landings at night.

When approaching the airport to enter the traffic pattern and land, it is important that the runway lights and other airport lighting be identified as early as possible. If the airport layout is unfamiliar, sighting of the runway may be difficult until very close-in due to the maze of lights observed in the area. Fly toward the rotating beacon until the lights outlining the runway are distinguishable. To fly a traffic pattern of proper size and direction, the runway threshold and runway-edge lights must be positively identified. Once the airport lights are seen, these lights should be kept in sight throughout the approach.

Use light patterns for orientation.

Distance may be deceptive at night due to limited lighting conditions. A lack of intervening references on the ground and the inability to compare the size and location of different ground objects cause this. This also applies to the estimation of altitude and speed. Consequently, more dependence must be placed on flight instruments, particularly the altimeter and the airspeed indicator. When entering the traffic pattern, always give yourself plenty of time to complete the before landing checklist. If the heading indicator contains a heading bug, setting it to the runway heading is an excellent reference for the pattern legs.

Maintain the recommended airspeeds and execute the approach and landing in the same manner as during the day. A low, shallow approach is definitely inappropriate during a night operation. The altimeter and VSI should be constantly cross-checked against the airplane’s position along the base leg and final approach. A visual approach slope indicator (VASI) is an indispensable aid in establishing and maintaining a proper glide path.


After turning onto the final approach and aligning the airplane midway between the two rows of runway-edge lights, note and correct for any wind drift. Throughout the final approach, use pitch and power to maintain a stabilized approach. Flaps are used the same as in a normal approach. Usually, halfway through the final approach, the landing light is turned on. Earlier use of the landing light may be necessary because of “Operation Lights ON” or for local traffic considerations. The landing light is sometimes ineffective since the light beam will usually not reach the ground from higher altitudes. The light may even be reflected back into the pilot’s eyes by any existing haze, smoke, or fog. This disadvantage is overshadowed by the safety considerations provided by using the “Operation Lights ON” procedure around other traffic.

The round out and touchdown is made in the same manner as in day landings. At night, the judgment of height, speed, and sink rate is impaired by the scarcity of observable objects in the landing area. An inexperienced pilot may have a tendency to round out too high until attaining familiarity with the proper height for the correct round out. To aid in determining the proper round out point, continue a constant approach descent until the landing lights reflect on the runway and tire marks on the runway can be seen clearly. At this point, the round out is started smoothly and the throttle gradually reduced to idle as the airplane is touching down. During landings without the use of landing lights, the round out may be started when the runway lights at the far end of the runway first appear to be rising higher than the nose of the airplane. This demands a smooth and very timely round out and requires that the pilot feel for the runway surface using power and pitch changes, as necessary, for the airplane to settle slowly to the runway. Blackout landings should always be included in night pilot training as an emergency procedure.

Roundout when tire marks are visible.

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CFI Brief: Aviation Weather Services (AC 00-45H) – UPDATE

The FAA has issued a Change 1 to Advisory Circular AC 00-45H effective January 8th 2018. AC 00-45, more commonly referred as Aviation Weather Services, is the go-to resource for U.S. aviation weather products and services. This document is organized using the FAA’s three distinct types of aviation weather information: observations, analyses, and forecasts. This is a vital resource and should be a part of any aviators library.

Here are some of the highlights on what you need to know regarding Change 1:

  • DUATS II no longer requires an airman medical to access the system (
  • A new section was added to Chapter 3, Terminal Doppler Weather Radar (TDWR). The TDWR network is a Doppler weather radar system operated by the FAA, which is used primarily for the detection of hazardous windshear conditions, precipitation, and winds aloft on and near major airports situated in climates with great exposure to thunderstorms in the United States. To review this information refer to Section 3.4.
  • A new sub-section was added to Chapter 3, POES. POES stands for the Polar Orbiting Environment Satellites, although more recently the U.S. polar satellite program has been rechristened the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS). Polar satellites are not stationary. They track along various orbits around the poles. Typically, they are somewhere between 124 and 1,240 mi above the Earth’s surface. The satellites scan the Earth in swaths as they pass by on their tracks. To review this information refer to Section 3.5.3.
  • Note in chapter 5 section 6 that Collaborative Convective Forecast Planning (CCFP) is now Convective Forecast (TCF). The figures and language throughout this section have been updated to reflect this updated weather product. To review this information refer to Section 5.6.3.
  • A new section was added to Chapter 5, Graphical Forecasts for Aviation (GFA). The GFAs are a set of Web-based displays which are expected to provide the necessary aviation weather information to give users a complete picture of the weather that may impact flights in the CONUS. These displays are updated continuously and provide forecasts, observational data, and warnings of weather phenomena that can be viewed from 14 hours in the past to 15 hours in the future. This product covers the surface up to FL420 (or 42,000 ft MSL). Wind, icing, and turbulence forecasts are available in 3,000-ft increments from the surface up to 18,000 ft MSL, and in 6,000-ft increments from 18,000 ft MSL to FL420. Turbulence forecasts are also broken into low (below 18,000 ft MSL) and high (above 18,000 ft MSL) graphics. A maximum icing graphic and maximum wind velocity graphic (regardless of altitude) are also available. The graphic below is an example of an aviation forecast for clouds. To review this information refer to Section 5.9.
  • A new section was added to Chapter 5, Localized Aviation Model Output Statistics (MOS) Program (LAMP). The LAMP weather product is a statistical model program that provides specific point forecast guidance on sensible weather elements (perceivable elements such as temperature, wind, sky cover, etc.). LAMP weather product forecasts are provided in both graphical and coded text format, and are currently generated for more than 1,500 locations. The LAMP weather product is entirely automated and may not be as accurate as a forecast generated with human involvement. However, information from the LAMP weather product can be used in combination with Terminal Aerodrome Forecasts (TAF), and other weather reporting and forecasting products and tools, to provide additional information and enhance situational awareness regarding a particular location. To review this information refer to Section 5.10.  
  • Hawaii was added to Section 5.11.1 as an area of issuance for an Area Forecast (FA). You will find new figures and detailed information regarding the Hawaii Area Forecast. To review this information refer to Section 5.11.1.
  • A new sub-section was added to Chapter 5, Low-Level Wind Shear Alert System (LLWAS). The LLWAS system was originally developed by the FAA in the 1970s to detect large-scale wind shifts (sea breeze fronts, gust fronts, and cold and warm fronts). It was developed by the FAA in response to an accident at JFK Airport in New York. The aircraft (Eastern 66) landed during a wind shift caused by interacting sea breeze and thunderstorm outflows. To review this information refer to Section

ASA will have an Change 1 update available shortly to go along with all printed copies of the Aviation Weather Handbook (ASA-AC00-45H). The update will be posted on the Textbooks Update page at

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Ground Reference Maneuvers: Rectangular Course

A pilot must develop the proper coordination, timing, and attention to accurately and safely maneuver the airplane with regard to the required attitudes and ground references. Ground reference maneuvers are the principle flight maneuvers that combine the four fundamentals (straight-and-level, turns, climbs, and descents) into a set of integrated skills that the pilot uses in their everyday flight activity. A pilot must develop the skills necessary to accurately control, through the effect and use of the flight controls, the flightpath of the airplane in relationship to the ground. From every takeoff to every landing, a pilot exercises these skills in controlling the airplane.

Today, we’re featuring an excerpt from the Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3B) on a principle ground reference maneuver known as the rectangular course.

The rectangular course is a training maneuver in which the airplane maintains an equal distance from all sides of the selected rectangular references. The maneuver is accomplished to replicate the airport traffic pattern that an airplane typically maneuvers while landing. While performing the rectangular course maneuver, the pilot should maintain a constant altitude, airspeed, and distance from the ground references. The maneuver assists the pilot in practicing the following:

  • Maintaining a specific relationship between the airplane and the ground.
  • Dividing attention between the flightpath, groundbased references, manipulating the flight controls, and scanning for outside hazards and instrument indications.
  • Adjusting the bank angle during turns to correct for groundspeed changes in order to maintain constant radius turns.
  • Rolling out from a turn with the required wind correction angle to compensate for any drift cause by the wind.
  • Establishing and correcting the wind correction angle in order to maintain the track over the ground.
  • Preparing the pilot for the airport traffic pattern and subsequent landing pattern practice.

First, a square, rectangular field, or an area with suitable ground references on all four sides, as previously mentioned should be selected consistent with safe practices. The airplane should be flown parallel to and at an equal distance between one-half to three-fourths of a mile away from the field boundaries or selected ground references. The flightpath should be positioned outside the field boundaries or selected ground references so that the references may be easily observed from either pilot seat. It is not practicable to fly directly above the field boundaries or selected ground references. The pilot should avoid flying close to the references, as this will require the pilot to turn using very steep bank angles, thereby increasing aerodynamic load factor and the airplane’s stall speed, especially in the downwind to crosswind turn.

The entry into the maneuver should be accomplished downwind. This places the wind on the tail of the airplane and results in an increased groundspeed. There should be no wind correction angle if the wind is directly on the tail of the airplane; however, a real-world situation results in some drift correction. The turn from the downwind leg onto the base leg is entered with a relatively steep bank angle. The pilot should roll the airplane into a steep bank with rapid, but not excessive, coordinated aileron and rudder pressures. As the airplane turns onto the following base leg, the tailwind lessens and becomes a crosswind; the bank angle is reduced gradually with coordinated aileron and rudder pressures. The pilot should be prepared for the lateral drift and compensate by turning more than 90° angling toward the inside of the rectangular course.

The next leg is where the airplane turns from a base leg position to the upwind leg. Ideally, the wind is directly on the nose of the airplane resulting in a direct headwind and decreased groundspeed; however, a real-world situation results in some drift correction. The pilot should roll the airplane into a medium banked turn with coordinated aileron and rudder pressures. As the airplane turns onto the upwind leg, the crosswind lessens and becomes a headwind, and the bank angle is gradually reduced with coordinated aileron and rudder pressures. Because the pilot was angled into the wind on the base leg, the turn to the upwind leg is less than 90°.

The next leg is where the airplane turns from an upwind leg position to the crosswind leg. The pilot should slowly roll the airplane into a shallow-banked turn, as the developing crosswind drifts the airplane into the inside of the rectangular course with coordinated aileron and rudder pressures. As the airplane turns onto the crosswind leg, the headwind lessens and becomes a crosswind. As the turn nears completion, the bank angle is reduced with coordinated aileron and rudder pressures. To compensate for the crosswind, the pilot must angle into the wind, toward the outside of the rectangular course, which requires the turn to be less than 90°.

The final turn is back to the downwind leg, which requires a medium-banked angle and a turn greater than 90°. The groundspeed will be increasing as the turn progresses and the bank should be held and then rolled out in a rapid, but not excessive, manner using coordinated aileron and rudder pressures.

For the maneuver to be executed properly, the pilot must visually utilize the ground-based, nose, and wingtip references to properly position the airplane in attitude and in orientation to the rectangular course. Each turn, in order to maintain a constant ground-based radius, requires the bank angle to be adjusted to compensate for the changing groundspeed—the higher the groundspeed, the steeper the bank. If the groundspeed is initially higher and then decreases throughout the turn, the bank angle should progressively decrease throughout the turn. The converse is also true, if the groundspeed is initially slower and then increases throughout the turn, the bank angle should progressively increase throughout the turn until rollout is started. Also, the rate for rolling in and out of the turn should be adjusted to prevent drifting in or out of the course. When the wind is from a direction that could drift the airplane into the course, the banking roll rate should be slow. When the wind is from a direction that could drift the airplane to the outside of the course, the banking roll rate should be quick.

The following are the most common errors made while performing rectangular courses:

  • Failure to adequately clear the area above, below, and on either side of the airplane for safety hazards, initially and throughout the maneuver.
  • Failure to establish a constant, level altitude prior to entering the maneuver.
  • Failure to maintain altitude during the maneuver.
  • Failure to properly assess wind direction.
  • Failure to establish the appropriate wind correction angle.
  • Failure to apply coordinated aileron and rudder pressure, resulting in slips and skids.
  • Failure to manipulate the flight controls in a smooth and continuous manner.
  • Failure to properly divide attention between controlling the airplane and maintaining proper orientation with the ground references.
  • Failure to execute turns with accurate timing.
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CFI Brief: Icing

Ice sucks, unless of course you are a hockey player, figure skater, or just want a nice, cold, tasty beverage. But in terms of aviation, ice sucks. In general, icing is any deposit of ice forming on an object. In aviation icing is considered to be one of the major weather hazards affecting flight. We refer to icing as a cumulative hazard, meaning the longer an aircraft collects structural icing the worse the hazard will become. Structural icing is the stuff that sticks to the outside of the airplane, it occurs whenever supercooled condensed droplets of water make contact with any part of the airframe that is also at a temperature below freezing. An inflight condition necessary for structural icing to form is visible moisture (clouds or raindrops). Structural icing is categorized into three types: Rime, Clear, and Mixed.

Rime Ice

Rime ice is rough, milky, and opaque ice formed by the instantaneous freezing of small, supercooled water droplets after they strike the aircraft. It is the most frequently reported icing type. Rime ice can pose a hazard because its jagged texture can disrupt an aircraft’s aerodynamic integrity.

Rime icing formation favors colder temperatures, lower liquid water content, and small droplets. It grows when droplets rapidly freeze upon striking an aircraft. The rapid freezing traps air and forms a porous, brittle, opaque, and milky-colored ice. Rime ice grows into the air stream from the forward edges of wings and other exposed parts of the airframe.

Clear Ice

Clear ice (or glaze ice) is a glossy, clear, or translucent ice formed by therelatively slow freezing of large, supercooled water droplets. Clear icing conditions exist more often in an environment with warmer temperatures, higher liquid water contents, and larger droplets.

Clear ice forms when only a small portion of the drop freezes immediately while the remaining unfrozen portion flows or smears over the aircraft surface and gradually freezes. Few air bubbles are trapped during this gradual process. Thus, clear ice is less opaque and denser than rime ice. It can appear either as a thin smooth surface, or as rivulets, streaks, or bumps on the aircraft.

Clear icing is a more hazardous ice type for many reasons. It tends to form horns near the top and bottom of the airfoils leading edge, which greatly affects airflow. This results in an area of disrupted and turbulent airflow that is considerably larger than that caused by rime ice. Since it is clear and difficult to see, the pilot may not be able to quickly recognize that it is occurring. It can be difficult to remove since it can spread beyond the deicing or anti-icing equipment, although in most cases it is removed nearly completely by deicing devices.

Mixed Ice

Mixed ice is a mixture of clear ice and rime ice. It forms as an airplane collects both rime and clear ice due to small-scale (tens of kilometers or less) variations in liquid water content, temperature, and droplet sizes. Mixed ice appears as layers of relatively clear and opaque ice when examined from the side.

Mixed icing poses a similar hazard to an aircraft as clear ice. It may form horns or other shapes that disrupt airflow and cause handling and performance problems. It can spread over more of the airframe’s surface and is more difficult to remove than rime ice. It can also spread over a portion of airfoil not protected by anti-icing or deicing equipment. Ice forming farther aft causes flow separation and turbulence over a large area of the airfoil, which decreases the ability of the airfoil to keep the aircraft in flight.


Effects of Icing

Remember when I said a few paragraphs earlier that ice sucks? Well I didn’t really explain myself as to why.

When structural icing forms, it reduces aircraft efficiency by increasing weight, reducing lift, decreasing thrust, and increasing drag. Each effect will either slow the aircraft or force it downward.  As ice accumulates the performance characteristics of the aircraft will continually deteriorate eventually to a point where the aircraft can no longer maintain sustained flight and stalls.  The image below is a good depiction of this.

As ice forms on an airfoil, it will destroy the smooth flow of air over the surface of the wing resulting in drag and diminishing the maximum lift capable of the wing. NASA wind tunnel testing has shown that icing on the leading edge or upper surface of a wing no thicker then coarse sandpaper can reduce lift by 30 percent and increase drag by 40 percent.

In addition icing can also cause instrumentation errors, frozen or unbalanced control surfaces, engine failures and/or structural damage due to chunks of ice breaking off.

Additional Knowledge to Know

  • Icing in precipitation (rain) is of concern to the VFR pilot because it can occur outside of clouds.
  • Aircraft structural ice will most likely have the highest accumulation in freezing rain which indicates warmer temperature at a higher altitude.
  • The presence of ice pellets at the surface is evidence that there is freezing rain at a higher altitude, while wet snow indicates that the temperature at your altitude is above freezing.
  • A situation conducive to any icing would be flying in the vicinity of a front.



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Weather: Fronts

Today, we’re featuring an excerpt from Bob Gardner’s The Complete Private Pilot.

A weather front exists where air masses with different properties meet. The terms “warm” and “cold” are relative: 30°F air is warmer than 10°F air, but that “warm” air doesn’t call for bathing suits. Cold air is more dense than warm air, so where two dissimilar masses meet, the cold air stays near the surface. Figure 1 shows a cold front: cold air advancing from west to east and displacing warm air. Because the cold air is dense and relatively heavy, it moves rapidly across the surface, pushing the warm air up. Notice that in both cases the warm air is forced aloft and the cold air stays at the surface. When air is lifted, stuff happens. Just how bad that “stuff” might be is determined by the moisture content of the warm air and where that moisture is coming from.

Figure 1. Cross-section of a typical cold front

Friction slows the cold air movement at the surface, so that the front is quite vertical in cross-section and the band of frontal weather is narrow. Cold fronts can move as fast as 30 knots. Your awareness of this rapid movement, together with facts you already know about temperature and dew point will allow you to make the following generalizations about cold front weather.

Visibility: Good behind the front. Warm air and pollutants rise rapidly because warm air is less dense than cold air.
Flight conditions: Bumpy as thermal currents rise.

Precipitation: Showery in the frontal area as the warm air is forced aloft and its moisture condenses. The ability of the air to hold moisture decreases as the air cools, and as the moisture contained in each column of rising air condenses into water droplets, showers result.

Cloud type: Cumulus, due to air being raised rapidly to the condensation level. Cumulus clouds are a sign of unstable air; the rising air columns are warmer than the surrounding air and continue to rise under their own power.

Icing possibility: Clear ice. Cumulus clouds develop large water droplets which freeze into clear sheets of ice when they strike an airplane.

A warm front exists when a warm air mass overtakes a slow-moving cold air mass; the lighter warm air cannot displace the heavier cold air, and the warm air is forced to rise as it moves forward (Figure 2). This slow upward movement combined with the slow forward movement characteristic of warm fronts allows the warm air to cool slowly. As it reaches the condensation level, stratiform clouds develop. While cold frontal conditions exist over a very short distance, warm fronts slope upward for many miles, and warm frontal weather may be extensive.

Figure 2. Cross-section of a typical warm front

You may encounter warm front clouds 50 to 100 miles from where the front is depicted on the surface analysis chart. The following are the characteristics of warm frontal weather:

Visibility: Poor; pollutants trapped by warm air aloft. Air warmed at the surface can only rise until it reaches air at its own temperature.

Flight conditions: Smooth, no thermal activity.

Precipitation: Drizzle or continuous rain as moist air is slowly raised to the condensation level.

Cloud type: Stratus or layered, the result of slow cooling.

Icing possibility: Rime ice; small water droplets freeze instantly upon contact with an airplane and form a rough, milky coating.

Occasionally, a fast-moving cold front will overtake a warm front (Figure 3) and lift the warm air away from the surface. This is called an occlusion, and occluded frontal weather contains the worst features of both warm and cold fronts: turbulent flying conditions, showers and/or continuous precipitation, poor visibility in precipitation, and broad geographic extent of frontal weather conditions.

Figure 3. Occluded fronts

Air masses can maintain their warm/cold identity and yet not exert any displacement force. When this happens, the front becomes stationary, and the associated weather covers a large geographic area. In your planning, what you see is probably what you will get during the flight.

When you look at a weather map which shows frontal positions, cold fronts will be marked in blue, warm fronts in red, occluded fronts will be purple, and stationary fronts will alternate red and blue. You can identify fronts on black-and-white charts because the cold front symbols look like icicles and warm front symbols appear as blisters (Figure 4). Visualize the lifting process, and you will be on your way to being your own weather forecaster.

Figure 4. Surface analysis chart symbols

In flight, when you fly through a front you will notice a change in outside air temperature and wind direction; you will change heading to the right in order to stay on course.

Occluded fronts show both icicles and blisters on the same side of the front in the direction of movement, and stationary fronts show the symbols on opposite sides of the frontal line, indicating opposing forces.

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Aircraft Systems: Fuel Injection Systems

Today we’re featuring an excerpt from The Pilot’s Manual: Ground School (PM-2C).

Many sophisticated engines have fuel directly metered into the induction manifold and then into the cylinders without using a carburetor. This is known as fuel injection.

A venturi system is still used to create the pressure differential. This is coupled to a fuel control unit (FCU), from which metered fuel is piped to the fuel manifold unit (fuel distributor). From here, a separate fuel line carries fuel to the discharge nozzle in each cylinder head, or into the inlet port prior to the inlet valve. The mixture control in the fuel injection system controls the idle cut-off.

With fuel injection, each individual cylinder is provided with a correct mixture by its own separate fuel line. (This is unlike the carburetor system, which supplies the same fuel/air mixture to all cylinders. This requires a slightly richer-than-ideal mixture to ensure that the leanest-running cylinder does not run too lean.)

The advantages of fuel injection include:

  • freedom from fuel ice (no suitable place for it to form);
  • more uniform delivery of the fuel/air mixture to each cylinder;
  • improved control of fuel/air ratio;
  • fewer maintenance problems;
  • instant acceleration of the engine after idling with no tendency for it to stall; and
  • increased engine efficiency.

Starting an already hot engine that has a fuel injection system may be difficult because of vapor locking in the fuel lines. Electric boost pumps that pressurize the fuel lines can help alleviate this problem. Having very fine fuel lines, fuel injection engines are more susceptible to any contamination in the fuel such as dirt or water. Correct fuel management is imperative! Know the fuel system of your particular airplane. Surplus fuel provided by a fuel injection system will pass through a return line which may be routed to only one of the fuel tanks. If the pilot does not remain aware of where the surplus fuel is being returned to, it may result in uneven fuel loading in the tanks or fuel being vented overboard (thus reducing flight fuel available).

Typical fuel injection system.

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CFI Brief: How does a Propeller Work?

The propeller is a rotating airfoil which produces thrust by creating a positive dynamic pressure, usually on the engine side. Some exceptions include the Piaggio Avanti, shown below which uses propellers mounted in what’s often referred to as the pusher configuration.

When a propeller rotates, the tips travel at a greater speed than the hub. To compensate for the greater speed at the tips, the blades are twisted slightly. The propeller blade angles decrease from the hub to the tips with the greatest angle of incidence, or highest pitch, at the hub and the smallest at the tip. This produces a relatively uniform angle of attack (uniform lift) along the blade’s length in cruise flight.

No propeller is 100% efficient. There is always some loss of power when converting engine output into thrust. This loss is primarily due to propeller slippage. A propeller’s efficiency is the ratio of thrust horsepower (propeller output) to brake horsepower (engine output). A fixed propeller will have a peak (best) efficiency at only one combination of airspeed and RPM.

A constant-speed (controllable-pitch) propeller allows the pilot to select the most efficient propeller blade angle for each phase of flight. In this system, the throttle controls the power output as registered on the manifold pressure gauge, and the propeller control regulates the engine RPM (propeller RPM). The pitch angle of the blades is changed by governor regulated oil pressure which keeps engine speed at a constant selected RPM. A constant-speed propeller allows the pilot to select a small propeller blade angle (flat pitch) and high RPM to develop maximum power and thrust for takeoff.

To reduce the engine output to climb power after takeoff, a pilot should decrease the manifold pressure. The RPM is decreased by increasing the propeller blade angle. When the throttle is advanced (increased) during cruise, the propeller pitch angle will automatically increase to allow engine RPM to remain the same. A pilot should avoid a high manifold pressure setting with low RPM on engines equipped with a constant-speed propeller to prevent placing undue stress on engine components. To avoid high manifold pressure combined with low RPM, the manifold pressure should be reduced before reducing RPM when decreasing power settings, and the RPM increased before increasing the manifold pressure when increasing power settings.

Let’s take a look at these three sample knowledge test questions and see if we can answer them given the information from Monday and todays posts.

1. Which statement best describes the operating principle of a constant-speed propeller?
A—As throttle setting is changed by the pilot, the prop governor causes pitch angle of the propeller blades to remain unchanged.
B—A high blade angle, or increased pitch, reduces the propeller drag and allows more engine power for takeoffs.
C—The propeller control regulates the engine RPM and in turn the propeller RPM.

2. Propeller efficiency is the
A—ratio of thrust horsepower to brake horsepower.
B—actual distance a propeller advances in one revolution.
C—ratio of geometric pitch to effective pitch.

3. A fixed-pitch propeller is designed for best efficiency only at a given combination of
A—altitude and RPM.
B—airspeed and RPM.
C—airspeed and altitude.

Answers in the comments section.

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Aircraft Systems: Propeller Principles

The propeller, the unit which must absorb the power output of the engine, has passed through many stages of development. Today we’ll feature an excerpt introducing the general concepts of a propeller from our recently released book Aircraft Systems for Pilots.

Propeller Principles
The aircraft propeller consists of two or more blades and a central hub to which the blades are attached. Each blade of an aircraft propeller is essentially a rotating wing. As a result of their construction, the propeller blades produce forces that create thrust to pull or push the airplane through the air.

The power needed to rotate the propeller blades is furnished by the engine. The propeller is mounted on a shaft. which may be an extension of the crankshaft on low-horsepower engines; on high-horsepower engines, it is mounted on a propeller shaft which is geared to the engine crankshaft. In either case. the engine rotates the airfoils of the blades through the air at high speeds, and the propeller transforms the rotary motion (power) of the engine into thrust.

The engine supplies brake horsepower through a rotating shaft. and the propeller converts it into thrust horsepower. In this conversion, some power is wasted. For maximum efficiency, the propeller must be designed to keep this waste as small as possible. Since the efficiency of any machine is the ratio of the useful power output to the power input, propeller efficiency is the ratio of thrust horsepower to brake horsepower. The usual symbol for propeller efficiency is the Greek letter η (eta). Propeller efficiency varies from 50% to 87%, depending on how much the propeller “slips.”

THP = BHP × Propeller Efficiency

Propeller slip is the difference between the geometric pitch of the propeller and its effective pitch (see figure 1). Geometric pitch is the distance a propeller should advance in one revolution; effective pitch is the distance it actually advances. Thus, geometric or theoretical pitch is based on no slippage, but actual, or effective pitch, recognizes propeller slippage in the air.

Figure 1. Effective and geometric pitch.

The typical propeller blade can be described as a twisted airfoil of irregular planform. Two views of a propeller blade are shown in figure 2. For purposes of analysis, a blade can be divided into segments, which are located by station numbers in inches from the center of the blade hub. The cross sections of each 6-in. blade segment are shown as airfoils in the right-hand side of figure 2. Also identified in figure 2 are the blade shank and the blade butt. The blade shank is the thick, rounded portion of the propeller blade near the hub, which is designed to give strength to the blade. The blade butt, also called the blade base or root, is the end of the blade that fits in the propeller hub. The blade tip is that part of the propeller blade farthest from the hub, generally defined as the last 6 in. of the blade.

Figure 2. Propeller blade design.

A cross section of a typical propeller blade is shown in figure 3. This section or blade element is an airfoil comparable to a cross section of an aircraft wing. The blade back is the cambered or curved side of the blade, similar to the upper surface of an aircraft wing. The blade face is the flat side of the propeller blade (“facing” the pilot, if the propeller is up front in the tractor position). The chord line is an imaginary line drawn through the blade from the leading edge to the trailing edge. The leading edge is the thick edge of the blade that meets the air as the propeller rotates.

Figure 3. Cross section of a propeller blade.

Blade angle, usually measured in degrees, is the angle between the chord line of the blade and the plane of rotation (figure 4). The chord of the propeller blade is determined in about the same manner as the chord of an airfoil. In fact, a propeller blade can be considered as being made up of an infinite number of thin blade elements, each of which is a miniature airfoil section whose chord is the width of the propeller blade at that section. Because most propellers have a flat blade face, pitch is easily measured by finding the angle between a line drawn along the face of the propeller blade and a line scribed by the plane of rotation. Pitch is not the same as blade angle, but, because pitch is largely determined by blade angle, the two terms are often used interchangeably. An increase or decrease in one is usually associated with an increase or decrease in the other.

Figure 4. Propeller efficiency varies with airspeed while constant speed propellers maintain high efficiency over a wide range of airspeeds.

Forces Acting On The Propeller
A rotating propeller is acted upon by centrifugal, twisting, and bending forces. The principal forces acting on a rotating propeller are illustrated in figure 5.

Figure 5. Forces acting on a rotating propeller.

Centrifugal force (A of figure 5) is a physical force that tends to throw the rotating propeller blades away from the hub. Torque bending force (B of figure 5), in the form of air resistance, tends to bend the propeller blades opposite to the direction of rotation. Thrust bending force (C of figure 5) is the thrust load that tends to bend propeller blades forward as the aircraft is pulled through the air. Aerodynamic twisting force (D of figure 5) creates a rotational force (twisting moment) about the center of pressure, causing the blade to tend to pitch to a lower blade angle (streamline).

At high angles of attack this twisting moment is reduced as the center of lift moves forward. At very high blade angles of attack, the blades may exhibit a weak tendency to pitch toward a greater blade angle.

Centrifugal twisting force also twists the blade to flat pitch (unless the blade is counterweighted so its center of mass is behind the center of rotation). This is a strong force at normal propeller speeds. Imagine a string tied to your finger and to a small weight (see figure 6). If the weight is spinning about your finger, the weight will align itself directly in line with the point on your finger where it is tied (reference the plane scribed by the spinning weight). This same force causes the center of mass of the propeller to align itself with the center of rotation on the spin-plane, causing a strong pitch tendency toward minimum blade pitch angle.

Figure 6. Propeller forces.

A propeller must be capable of withstanding severe stresses, which are greater near the hub, caused by centrifugal force and thrust. The stresses increase in proportion to the RPM. The blade face is also subjected to tension from the centrifugal force and additional tension from the bending. For these reasons, nicks or scratches on the blade may cause very serious consequences.

A propeller must also be rigid enough to prevent fluttering, a type of vibration in which the ends of the blade twist back and forth at high frequency around an axis perpendicular to the engine crankshaft. Fluttering is accompanied by a distinctive noise often mistaken for exhaust noise. The constant vibration tends to weaken the blade and eventually causes failure.

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CFI Brief: FAA Safety Briefing, January 2018

The first edition of the FAA Safety Briefing for 2018 is now available and includes some great articles. One in particular that I found to be very informative is “Simple?” written by Susan Parsons. This is a great article that discusses getting back to the basics of piloting in an otherwise complex environment. To read this, and other articles, download the latest edition by selecting the below image.

Also recently published is Advisory Circular 61-65G, which replaces the -65F. This advisory circular (AC) provides guidance for pilot applicants, pilots, flight instructors, ground instructors, and examiners on the certification standards, knowledge test procedures, and other requirements in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) Part 61. This AC is also commonly known as your go to reference for sample endorsements for use by authorized instructors when endorsing logbooks, or other means found acceptable to the Administrator for airmen applying for a knowledge or practical test, or when certifying accomplishment of requirements for pilot operating privileges.

ASA has noted all these changes throughout this AC and updated our fill-in PDF Endorsement Labels accordingly. To download this free product check out the link below:

ASA Endorsement Labels

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CFI Brief: CX-3 Flight Computer – Indicated Airspeed

Some questions on the FAA Knowledge Exam will require you to determine approximate indicated airspeed. These types of problems are best solved with the use of a CX-3 Flight Computer. Today, we will work through a sample knowledge test question requiring us to run several different calculations on the CX-3 to determine indicated airspeed from the given information. Problems like the one below are a great way to get use to using your new go to tool in the flight bag.

On a cross-country flight, point A is crossed at 1500 hours and the plan is to reach point B at 1530 hours. Use the following information to determine the indicated airspeed required to reach point B on schedule.

Distance between A and B 70 NM
Forecast wind 310° at 15 kts
Pressure altitude 8,000 ft
Ambient temperature -10 °C
True course 270°

The required indicated airspeed would be approximately

A. 126 knots.
B. 137 knots.
C. 152 knots.

Step 1 is to determine the Ground Speed it will take to cover 70 NM in 30 minutes (1500 – 1530 hours), this information is given in the question.

From the FLT menu select the Ground Speed Function.

Input a Distance (Dist) of 70 NM and Duration (Dur) of 0.50 HR to get a Ground Speed (GS) of 140 KTS.

Step 2 we need to find the True Airspeed using our equated ground speed, forecast wind, and true course.

From the FLT menu select Wind Correction.

Input a Ground Speed (GS) of 140 KTS, True Course (TCrs) of 270°, Wind Speed (WSpd) of 15 KTS, and Wind Direction (WDir) of 310°. The CX-3 will show a TAS of 151.8 KTS.

Step 3 we can now determine the required indicated airspeed using the true airspeed determined in step 2 and the pressure altitude and ambient temperature given in the question. Note that the Indicate Airspeed is shown in the CX-3 as Calibrated Airspeed (CAS).

From the FLT menu select Airspeed.

Input a True Airspeed (TAS) of 151.8 KTS, Outside Air Temperature (OAT) of -10°C, and Pressure Altitude (PAlt) of 8,000 FT. The CX-3 will show a CAS of 137.15.

The correct answer to the above question is B: 137 knots.

For additional information on using your CX-3 Flight Computer check out the complete Users Guide at

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