Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Joys Of Summer


Depending on where you live, summer can be the time to fly


You can accomplish several of the checklist items before even starting the engine. C (controls) doesn't rely on engine operation, G (gas) and A (attitude) can also be set in advance. I (instruments) obviously demands that the engine be running, as does R (run-up) but you can expedite even those. You can do the instrument check during taxi, and some pilots who operate in hot climates make it a habit of performing the run-up for the next flight immediately after landing from the last one. Security, Radios and Lights/Camera/ Action need to be completed immediately before taking the runway. Many mechanics suggest the engine should be ready for full power application any time the oil temp is above 100 degrees F. In summer at the places above, that will be practically all the time.

If you're uncomfortable with doing the next flight's run-up after the last flight, consider performing the run-up as you take the runway; then, push power on up for takeoff. If it's necessary to hold on a hot ramp, face the airplane into whatever wind there is and make certain cowl flaps are full open.

When you do get off the ground, consider a cruise climb speed 10-15 knots above Vy after you clear the first 500 feet. This will pump more air through the cowling and should help cool the cylinders. It will also provide a better view of other traffic, more than a peripheral benefit.

Another hedge to keep both the airplane and the passengers happy is to flight-plan your trips as early in the day as possible, before the hot Earth begins to radiate heat uphill.

A second precaution to counter thermal turbulence is to cruise at a higher altitude, possibly above most of the chop. The obvious benefit is a smoother ride, but another advantage is the pad of altitude between you and the ground.

If you should encounter strong turbulence, especially significant up- and downdrafts, remember not to try to maintain altitude. If you're VFR, let the airplane ride with the thermals (consistent with terrain clearance). When filed IFR, you'll need to maintain a consistent altitude, but if that's not possible, advise the controller, and again, remember to fly the airplane first, maintain a precise altitude second.

If things become unmanageable, slow the airplane to maneuvering speed (Va) to minimize the chance of structural damage. If you can't remember Va for your make and model, you can estimate it by multiplying the flaps-up stall speed times 1.5.

When you arrive at your destination, don't worry about padding your approach speed unless you're concerned about wind shear. Use the same indicated airspeed, as it automatically compensates for density altitude.



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