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Aviation Flight Environment

VFR Hazards

Learning to operate an aircraft safely in the flight environment is essential. If we want to become a proficient, professional pilot and show this to our passengers in such a way that they feel safe and confident flying with us. Then there are some things we need to become very good at.

Remember that when two aircraft approach each other head on at 100 kts (not an uncommon speed) they travel over 3 miles per minute. And with a visibility of 1.5 miles you will have less than 30 seconds to react before you see the other aircraft. If you were looking in the right direction.

As a pilot you need to be constantly aware of your aircraft and the environment you are fly in. Things as wake turbulence during takeoff and landing and icing are emphasized here.

Turbulence & Ice

During flight turbulence can range from non existent to severely dangerous. Most of the time turbulence is a non visual event, it can not be seen by the pilot. Some high altitude clear air turbulence is visual but of no concern to low level pilots. They will have to check where the wind is coming from and visualize where possible turbulence might occur by looking for obstructions.

Weather related

Turbulence due to weather find its origin in thermal activity, unstable atmospheric conditions, frontal zones, JET streams and Cumulonimbus activity. Our weather (JET Streams) and flight planning (aviation hazards) sections describes these in more detail.

As a pilot being able to recognize where to expect and avoid turbulence is just basic airmanship which should be expected of him and is one of the subjects during pilot training and exams.

Wake turbulence Avoidance

Wake Turbulence

Wake turbulence caused by airplanes can be really dangerous for light, no, any aircraft. There are some points to remember to keep the flight as safe as possible in the airport environment:

  • Landing behind a large aircraft on the same runway, touchdown prior to the point the aircraft rotated
  • Landing behind an aircraft which has just landed, stay above its flight path and land beyond its touchdown point
  • Departing behind an aircraft than has just lifted off, plan your lift off before its lift off point (that's were the vortices start), this is also valid for crossing runways
  • Parallel runways, take note of the wind and see if turbulence could be blown to your runway

Remember: wake turbulence can also be encountered in flight. Vortices of large aircraft trail behind and descend about 500' to 1000' below the flight path and at a distance of about 5 NM behind the aircraft.

Structural Ice

Reports as PIREPs, SIGMETs and AIRMET provide us with information about icing sensitive areas. If you encounter ice during the flight act immediately! Remove yourself from the scene, with airplane, before disaster strikes. Ice on the propeller, airframe and or induction system creates severe hazards when an airplane is not equipped to do something about it. Better yet, is to obtain current in-flight weather updates.

Aircraft icing manifests itself in different forms:

  • Clear ice: very dangerous. Its heavy, glassy, adds weight and almost not detectable because its clear.
  • Rime ice: sort of opaque, milky white color. Accumulates on leading edges, antennas and changes the aerodynamics of the wing.
  • Mixed ice: combination of the above.
  • Frost: semi white coating forms when moist air contacts a cold (subzero) surface. Frost disturbs airflow and affects the aerodynamics.

More can be read in these articles about aircraft icing.

Carburetor Icing

Carburettor IcingCarburettor Icing

Two types can develop here: fuel / throttle and induction ice. Evaporation of fuel causes a drop in temperature, when enough moisture present and the temperature drops below freezing (in the carb throat) ice will form on the throat of the carb, causing a restriction. It is imperative to understand that this can happen in summer too! It all depends on temperature drop and moisture content. Throttle ice will form on the valve in the carburetor.

Remedy: Apply full carb heat when an unexpected rough running, RPM drop or MAP change (with a constant speed prop RPM remains constant) sets in.

Induction Ice

Induction ice forms when flying in circumstances where ice will form on the induction system restricting the flow of air to the carburetor. Applying carburetor heat will not work here, the use of alternate air is the only solution in this situation.

Written by EAI.

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