Rudder Use

Rudder Use

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I have the blessing (same say it’s a curse) of being a tailwheel pilot. I did my tailwheel training in a Citabria and have gathered about 400 hours over the years in Citabrias, Super Cubs, and Maules (don’t judge all tailwheel airplanes by a Maule, by the way. The Maule is it’s own unique animal). The blessing of being a tailwheel pilot is that it greatly enhances my stick and rudder skills for all airplanes.

No matter what airplane you fly, basic stick and rudder skills are always important. At some point during a flight, the rudder will need to be used, even if you have an airplane that has a yaw damper. Rudder use is vitally important in the takeoff and landing phase, especially if you fly an airplane that generates a lot of torque on the takeoff roll. Rudder in that phase of flight is pretty evident, because if the rudder isn’t used, you’ll go off the left side of the runway.

Where I want to focus is rudder use in the landing phase. As an airplane comes down final, there are several forces that are be acting on the airplane. When it’s bumpy, updrafts and downdrafts are moving the plane up and down and all around. To correct for a bump that sends the airplane into a roll, aileron is added in the opposite direction of the roll. That aileron input also induces adverse yaw, pulling the nose of the airplane in the opposite direction that the pilot is moving the ailerons.

If a pilot isn’t using his feet correctly, then the nose of the airplane will wallow around through the air as aileron inputs are used. The tail is also moving around quite a bit, so the pilot might not “feel” the yawing moment, but the passengers in the back seat certainly will.

The other advantage that comes with proper rudder usage on short final is the airplane is more responsive to control inputs. When utilizing both the ailerons and the rudder, a pilot is able to fly the airplane much more precisely and control it much better.

This doesn’t mean you have to be staring at the turn coordinator the whole time down final. In fact, that’s exactly what you don’t want to do. Your eyes need to be outside the airplane. Just get in the habit of stepping on the rudder whenever you move the ailerons on final and eventually, you will feel what your airplane is doing. Don’t step on the rudder as hard as you can, but slight pedal pressure in the direction of aileron input will make a big difference.

Rudder is also vitally important for landing in a crosswind no matter that airplane. Crosswind landings are a learned skill that take a lot of practice to perfect. There is also a lot of confusion as to what control input does what during the landing.

Here is the simplest way to picture a crosswind landing and what the controls do:

  • Aileron-When performing a crosswind landing, the ailerons keep the airplane over the centerline. If the airplane is drifting to the right of the centerline, add left aileron to bring it back to centerline, then keep enough aileron control pressure in to keep the airplane over centerline. In a perfect crosswind landing, the main tire on the windward side will touch down first. Left crosswind means left tire touching first.
  • Rudder-When performing a crosswind landing, the job of the rudder is to straighten the nose to point down the runway. You will not be coordinated in a crosswind landing, you will be slipping, which is the goal. So, with a left crosswind, you will be inputting left aileron to remain over the centerline and you will also need right rudder to straighten the nose. This also prevents the airplane from actually rolling in the direction of the aileron input.

If you remember for a crosswind landing: “Aileron into the wind to stay over centerline, opposite rudder to straighten the nose.” Too much aileron and the plane will drift into the wind. Too much rudder and the nose will yaw in the opposite direction.

Rudder is very important, even in our day and age where a lot of general aviation airplanes have yaw dampers. Our feet only have a job for a short period of time, but that is the most critical time. An excellent way to get more proficient in rudder use is to go get a tailwheel endorsement. If you are in the central Texas area, check out TacAreo in Fredericksburg, T82.

Don’t let your feet fall asleep!

Iridium Zoleo Allows In Flight Messaging

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Satellite communications company Iridium now has a really nifty little product called the Iridium Zoleo Satellite Communicator. Most pilots who fly newer Cirrus Aircraft will be familiar with the company name Iridium. Iridium manufactures the built in satellite phone that is an option in all Cirrus after 2012. The Iridium Zoleo brings messaging capability to any airplane in a cost effective and simple manner.

The Iridium Zoleo is a device roughly the size of a walkie-talkie. It links up with the Iridium satellite network to send and receive messages and emails anywhere in the world (or air!). To make things easier, the Iridium Zoleo links with a phone via Bluetooth to a free app that allows the user to write a message directly from the phone and send through the device.

The Iridium Zoleo is affordable at only $200. A plan has to be purchased in order to send messages, with 3 different levels of subscription offered: 25 messages a month for $20, 250 messages a month for $35, or unlimited messages per month for $50. Each plan offers a $6 upgrade to allow unlimited worldwide breadcrumbs and tracking.

The Iridium Zoleo has a 200 hour battery life and is designed to be shock, dust, and water resistant. Plus, the device has a built in SOS that can be used anywhere in the world. So, you can take it rafting down the Grand Canyon, hiking in the Andes, flying over the Atlantic, or SOS if you are stranded in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

Click here to read more about Zoleo and here to read more about the Zoleo plans.

Flying WAAS GPS Approaches

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When flying a WAAS GPS approach, there are several different levels of WAAS signal that a GPS receiver can get. The most precise is an LPV signal. LPV stands for Localizer Performance with Vertical guidance. An LPV approach has the lowest minimums of all the WAAS GPS approaches, typically in the range of 200-300 feet AGL. A GPS glide path (GP) is guaranteed with an LPV approach and the minimum altitude is a decision altitude (DA).

Just like a localizer, an LPV course width get’s tighter and the CDI becomes more sensitive the closer the plane get’s to the runway. Even though the LPV approach minimums are so low and the approach is down to a DA, they still aren’t considered precision approaches by the FAA (which leads to some extra planning when selecting an airport as an alternate that only has GPS approaches, since the AIM specifies only the LNAV minimum are to be considered if an alternate airport only has GPS approaches, bringing the 800 foot ceiling requirement to bear)

An LNAV/VNAV approach is still a WAAS approach that has a GPS glidepath, but is slightly different than an LPV approach. An LNAV/VNAV final approach course does not get more sensitive the closer the plane gets to the runway. The smallest course width on an LNAV/VNAV approach is 0.3 miles either side of center. LNAV/VNAV approaches will, most of the time, have higher minimums than LPV approaches and can have minimums no lower than 250′ AGL.

The third type of WAAS approach is strictly a non-precision approach with a Minimum Descent Altitude (MDA). These are designated LP approaches, which stands for Localizer Performance. These are like old school Localizer only approaches that, similar to the lateral portion of an LPV approach, the course width tightens the closer to the runway that a pilot is. There is no glide path by definition of an LP approach, though there is a caveat.

Now, by looking at an approach plate that is a WAAS approach, but only has LP minimums listed, a pilot would assume there would be no glide path. Depending on what type of GPS unit the airplane has, that pilot could be wrong. Garmin Perspective units (Cirrus G1000), all GTN 750s and GTN 650s, All G1000 NXi units, most Garmin 430W and 530W, and all Avidyne IFD 550/540 and 440 units will display an advisory glide path on an LP approach, designated LP+V.

What does LP+V indicate? An advisory glide path is just advisory, but it is totally legal to follow down on a non-precision LP approach. The kicker is obstacle clearance is not guaranteed and the pilot needs to keep an eye on minimum altitudes at the different waypoints on the approach. The big thing I tell people is, when you arrive at the MDA and the runway is in sight, following the advisory glide path below the MDA could get you in trouble with obstacles. Don’t just hone in on your instruments when you break out of the clouds. Look out the windscreen and make sure you won’t hit anything.

If you arrive at the MDA on the advisory glide path and the runway isn’t in sight, DON’T GO BELOW THE MDA! Most autopilots won’t level off at the MDA, even if that altitude is set in the altitude pre-select, so this will involve turning off the autopilot before the MDA and manually leveling off, or engaging the altitude mode of your autopilot at the MDA.

One other type of GPS approach that you will encounter is an LNAV approach. This is a non-WAAS approach down to an MDA, but your GPS unit may still give you a +V. Most modern ones will.

GAMI Gains STC for G100UL, Unleaded Avgas

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For years, there has been clamoring for airplanes to get rid of lead in piston engine Avgas. In the early 2000s, Thielert created a Jet A burning piston engine for Diamond Aircraft that gained some traction, but Thielert had internal issues and ended up declaring bankruptcy. Several other Jet A piston engines have come down the line since then to some success (Diamond is currently using 2 Austro manufactured Jet A piston engines on it’s DA62 and a Continental manufactured Jet piston on the new DA50).

The problem with a Jet A burning piston engine, though, is that those engines would be very expensive to put on existing airplanes, not to mention the cost of the STC alone.

Insert GAMI (General Aviation Modifications, Inc.), the famed Ada, Oklahoma company that championed turbo normalization, balanced injectors, and lean of peak operations. For those that have been to GAMI’s engine class, you know that these guys are at the very top of their game in engine knowledge.

In 2010, GAMI started the process of creating an Unleaded form of Avgas, terming it G100UL (the irony of traditional Avgas, 100LL, is the LL starts for low lead, but the lead levels in 100LL are actually quite high. UL stands for UnLeaded). Just before Osh Kosh in 2021, GAMI revealed that it’s work has come to fruition, gaining an STC for G100UL for Lycoming powered Cessna 172s.

The amazing thing about GAMI’s product is that it is able to mix with 100LL and not cause any issues. This means fuel trucks, fuel lines, fuel pumps, and aircraft fuel tanks don’t have to have any modifications to them to use G100UL. Plus, pilots will see longer engine life using G100UL because of the simple elimination of the lead. In tests, combustion chambers in cylinders burned cleaner, so theoretically, cylinders and engines will last a lot longer.

According to the company, GAMI has a few more tests to run and, assuming those go well, G100UL will be available for a whole lot more airplanes. An STC will still be required for the use of G100UL in a specific airplane, but the hope is, eventually, 100LL will be completely replaced by G100UL. The only downside is that G100UL is expected to cost about $1/gallon more than 100LL.

GAMI has partnered with Avfuel, so expect to see 100UL showing up at all Avfuel FBOs in the next year or two.

To read more, check out the press release on AOPA’s website.

Avidyne Vantage

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For years, Cirrus owners who have the Avidyne Entegra PFD and MFD have been clamoring for Avidyne to come up with some sort of upgrade. The Entegra, or EX 5000 system, is late ’90s technology and, though it still works, there will be a certain point in the future when it gives up the ghost. Avidyne still supports the Entegra system, but it’s hard for a Cirrus owner to see all this new technology coming on the market while not being able to upgrade the original Avidyne screens.

Avidyne gave it a go in the late 2000s with a panel upgrade known as the R9. The R9 was a good system, but Avidyne was very slow on the release (rumors were the company wanted it to be absolutely perfect before releasing it, which frustrated Cirrus, who then switched to the Garmin Perspective panel, leaving Avidyne behind) which led to the R9 only being available as a very expensive retrofit to the Entegra system ($80,000-$90,000 for the system and install). Needless to say, there weren’t that many takers.

Late in 2020, Garmin announced it had received certification to retrofit Avidyne Entegra equipped Cirrus Aircraft with the company’s G500 TXi displays, which gave new hope to G1, G2, and G3 Cirrus owners. The price tag wasn’t outrageous, coming in at $16,000 apiece for each display. The G500 TXi works with any possible GPS that can be installed in a Cirrus (GNS 430Ws, GTN 650s, GTN750, or the Avidyne IFD 540/440) and with the DFC 90 Autopilot (if the Cirrus is still equipped with an STEC 55x, the Autopilot would need to be changed to either a DFC 90 or a Garmin GFC 500).

Fast forward to June of 2021 and Avidyne re-enters the game with the Avidyne Vantage. After the R9 debacle, Avidyne has opted this time to go for a more simple approach. The Avidyne Vantage system changes out the Entegra PFD and MFD with bigger screens (12″; Garmin’s TXi units are only 10.6″) with high quality pixelation, synthetic vision, engine gauges, checklists, charts, a hybrid touch interface, and all the other information that was offered on the Entegra system, just all more modern and updated. The best news is that the system provides redundant reversionary mode, which was one of the biggest complaints about the Entegra system.

The price tag comes in lower than Garmin, with each screen being priced at $12,500. The units will work seamlessly with the Avidyne IFD Series GPS units, though, as of this writing, it isn’t clear if the Avidyne Vantage will work with Garmin GTN 430Ws or the GTN 750/650. I would assume that the integration would be there, but I haven’t found any documentation stating that yet. DFC 90 Autopilot integration would be seamless, but not sure the integration with the STEC 55x or Garmin GFC 500.

Avidyne says the Vantage will be fully certified in early 2022, but the company is taking orders now. Visit the Avidyne Website for more information.