Something I've at least attempted all my life is to remember to open ears and close mouth when in the presence of someone who knows a heck of a lot more than I do (a frequent event.)
Lou Mancuso is one of those guys. He has run the business that has been in his family since 1946: Mid Island Air Service, a successful FBO on Long Island, N.Y. His dad Louis racked up thousands of hours during WWII teaching Brit and Yank flight cadets which end was up, then started a flight school after the war and taught son Lou the trade.
Lou, in turn, passed on his acumen and love of aviation to son Michael, a crackerjack international air-show pilot and current turboprop and jet charter pilot.
Lou has been in the GA game for decades, understands aviation marketing better than most and was an early adopter of LSA. He has also developed and continues to refine a standardized teaching program that focuses on giving pilots superb skill sets.
I'll have more from my talk with Lou about LSA down the road. In this issue, I want to talk about his flight-training program, honed in GA and refined for LSA training.
First, his own assessment of why he's in the game:
"In college, I read Maslow's 'Hierarchy Of Needs' theory, which says we all start at the bottom of the pyramid learning to provide basic food and shelter. At the very top is self-actualization, where you want to leave this world a better place than when you came in.
"I'm committed to developing flight training in the light-sport world by using my Personal Limitation Checklist (PLC), Ground Proximity Awareness (GPA) training , and our Gleim simulator to help students and instructors follow a nice, tight curriculum. I hope to create a model that flight schools will use years from now, once I get it perfected."
The Gleim sim is a desktop computer-based simulator system with preprogrammed lessons tailored to specific LSA. It reduces flight-training costs, since students can take unlimited repeats of each lesson module without an instructor present. Once modules are practiced, student and CFI go up and perform that very lesson in the airplane. I've talked with many LSA dealers who like the very affordable Gleim sim and use it in their training.
GPA and the Personal Limitation Checklist are key components of Mid Island's training approach. "The most common way to wreck a plane is making a crosswind landing," says Mancuso. "GPA is all about becoming a better crosswind lander. Our students fly the plane down a 9,000-foot runway on crosswind days with an instructor aboard.
"First, they fly 10 feet above ground, at 80 knots, in a crab for about a minute and a half—it's a lot of fun! With 2,000 feet of runway left, they do a go-around."
The task progresses in difficulty through a half-flap, 60-knot pass at five feet above the strip, and not in a crab—students must use rudder and aileron to hold the centerline. "Then we go to full flaps, 50 knots and three feet above ground!" Mancuso continues. "At 50 knots, the airplane wants to weather vane tremendously, so crosswind effects are very pronounced."
Pronounced, as in rudder all the way against the stop! "The student will often have to hold centerline with ailerons only, and fly 7,000 feet that way. It's almost two minutes at that speed."
Once that skill is mastered, students slowly reduce power at 50 knots/full flaps/three feet AGL and settle the plane onto the mains—always on the centerline—with the nosewheel held off. "And we have them go 500 feet down the runway like that, never touching the nosewheel, then do a go-around."
Are your palms sweating like mine?
"All that will bring your crosswind skills up tremendously," explains Mancuso. "Few pilots have even made crosswind landings with full-rudder deflection. It develops your confidence in using your feet. The only reason people can't land in monster crosswinds is they haven't practiced it enough."
Lou collaborated with Dr. Irvin Gleim to create a crosswind profile at Edwards Air Force Base beyond what any pilot would ever fly a Bristell in. The Bristell is Mid Air's current and only LSA trainer for reasons we'll examine in a future column. Students get used to putting in the control pressures on the sim that support real-world, big-crosswind landings.
The other key component of Mid Air's training regimen is the PLC—the Personal Limitation Checklist Lou created. You'll find it on Mid Island's website at www.midislandair.com.
"The booklet and 24-item checklist help you set your own limits for safe flying. One item is the Solid Gold Out for making weather decisions.
"Let's say you know from the Wx briefing you can fly northeast to clear weather that's well within your range. Locally, it might be four miles and haze, or the temperature/dew-point spread may be dropping below six degrees. To decide to go anyway, with safety, you need a Solid Gold Out well within your fuel reserve where you know there's great VFR weather. And so you set that limitation: You don't fly unless you know you can easily reach that good weather if necessary.
"If the dew-point spread is five degrees everywhere within a 500-mile radius, well, you have no business flying VFR at all. Things could go to zero/zero. Your Solid Gold Out isn't available, so you don't fly," Mancuso adds.
Other items include landing only on runways longer than 3,000 feet until the pilot has 10 to 30 hours in the specific plane; minimum runway width of 75 feet and a maximum crosswind component of six knots until 10 logged hours in the plane; and maintaining a 1.5-hour fuel reserve, rather than the minimum 30-minute reserve we're all used to.
"That 30 minutes FAA requires was never meant for the newly certified pilot," clarifies Mancuso. "It's meant for almost nobody in fact. There are only a handful of pilots who can truly be safe on just 30 minutes of reserve fuel.
"Maybe pilots who own their own planes, do their own fueling and can accurately predict within 1⁄10 of a gallon what the fuel burn is, and who know of six close alternate airports to their landing field, well maybe they can use 30 minutes. But we tell new pilots to keep 11⁄2 hours of fuel in reserve. For one thing, a top-off is usually not a complete top-off. You can lose half an hour right there, and that means you've now got an hour reserve. In an LSA, that's about seven gallons, considering a near-five-gallon-per-hour burn," Mancuso concludes.
We'll come back to visit with Lou Mancuso; he shared a lot more than there's room for here. Meanwhile, if you ever get the chance, say hello to Lou and be ready to listen. You'll learn things you never knew you wanted to.