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Misadventures with an anonymous primary student.

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  • Misadventures with an anonymous primary student.


    The next five days were filled with a client who will remain anonymous because there are things to learn from our mistakes. I will refer to him as Bob to protect his identity.

    Bob is a primary student who had done very well with a little over seven hours in his log book. This was his third visit. I had him for five days and we were hoping to get him ready for his knowledge test, do his cross country, improve his radio work and refine his landings.

    I had not seen Bob since the beginning of January and we were slightly concerned about how much he may have forgotten in three and a half months. I had already transitioned him to the front seat where he is responsible for the engine instruments, operating all the electrics, radio, and transponder. The Predator has a free castering nose wheel steers with differential braking and has toe brakes in the front. I have no brakes in the back.

    I recommended that we do some ground reference maneuvers first but Bob was anxious to get started on takeoffs and landings so we decided to jump right into pattern work.

    Bob did very well on preflight and was getting better at getting the briefing from flight service.

    Bob worked his way through the engine startup check list and things seemed to be going well with a few minor excursions from the check list. I was concerned that I was being too pedantic as I double checked the items I have had problems with in the past. I insisted on readout of each line item. I double checked that the alternator was on, radio on and tuned to the correct frequency. Transponder on and lean for taxi. We listened to the ATIS and then changed to ground. I was going to make the radio calls to minimize distractions. Most primary students find radio calls a distraction.

    We received out clearance to taxi to the run-up area (“Experimental Gyroplane 142 Mike Golf, runway 30 taxi via Alpha, Alpha Eight”).

    After getting our taxi clearance I again asked if we were leaned for taxi as it doesn’t take much full rich idling to foul the plugs. Bob killed the engine by leaning too far as he added power to taxi out. I had to talk him through a fuel injected Lycoming hot start that took several tries with ground asking if we needed assistance. We again went through the startup list with some additions for hot start.

    We taxied to the run-up area and the magneto check went well after I reminded Bob to go full rich for the check. I was concerned he had missed a check list item and double checked everything one more time.

    After being cleared for takeoff and left closed traffic we began our takeoff roll. Bob was rusty and trying too hard to keep the nose from coming up so he had the cyclic too far forward allowing us to accelerate faster than the rotor could keep up. At my direction we stopped and did the pre-rotation over again. We moved across the runway more than I would like and lifted off early because we had been hard on the tailwheel. The takeoff was not dangerous, just a little inelegant. The second takeoff was better and the third looked pretty good lifting off at 50kts and climbing out nicely.

    At Santa Maria (SMX) we report downwind abeam each pass and receive landing clearance on each lap. On our third round I did not hear a side tone when I made my radio and there was no response from the tower so I asked Bob to make the call. I did not hear him make the call so I realized for some reason we had lost the radio and I took the controls and headed out of the pattern. I did not hear the side tone on the intercom and suspected we had lost the intercom too. SMX is class Delta so two way radio communication is required.

    For some reason Bob had forgotten that in the case of radio failure to squawk 7600 and the intercom was not working. I first tried to write 7600 on the body but because I was reaching over the stick the writing was difficult to read. I tried passing Bob a very shaking note with 7600 on it but still failed to communicate. A second time was successful and I headed back to the pattern. I could see a green light gun signal and landed waiting for a second green signal to cross taxiway Alpha to parking.

    After we shut down I called the tower on my cell phone and they said I had dropped off the radar (lost the mode C transponder) and they had given me a green light before I had departed the pattern. I got the admonishment: “don’t fly that thing till it is fixed”.

    Bob went through the startup check list and only heard clicking when he pressed the start button. I walked over to Coastal Valley Aviation and got a tow back to the hangar for The Predator. I still didn’t know what had happened but I suspected the alternator had been left off despite the check list and reminders. We put her on my trickle charger and headed off to lunch.

    I was surprised my Battery Tender was able to breathe life back into the battery over lunch and after a preflight and a quick maintenance flight Bob checked the weather and we were good to go.

    Bob realized he had missed “alternator on” on the check list the first time around and simply glanced at the toggle switch each time I reminded him. He had been misinterpreting the volt meter each time I had asked “temperatures and pressures in the green?” From twelve to ten volts there are red lines across a green background and from ten down it goes red. We didn’t lose communication till it was reading in the red. The lines are to tell you the voltage is low and the alternator is not charging and the red is to let you know the battery is not making enough power to run the radio, intercom and transponder. I will add this explanation to my preflight briefing.

    Bob did not miss that check list item the rest of the week although I did find the occasional missed item. It is hard to slow down and methodically work through the check list when you want to fly.

    I have a backup radio but I can’t reach it from the back and apparently had not briefed Bob properly because I was not able to communicate that I wanted it. I was not able to communicate much of anything. I will add that to the preflight briefing too.

    I feel the story will have more value if I break it up so I will write more about my week of adventures with Bob.

    I am off to change the ignition wires on The Predator and I will write more when time permits. I feel there is a lot to learn from our adventures. I find value in writing about things and hope you find value in reading about them.
    Attached Files
    Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI http://www.breeseaircraft.com/

  • #2
    Vance: Please keep these articles coming.....

    Comment


    • #3
      All I have to Say is , great for ignition generator on your lycoming.
      and it could have been worse really.
      you need a radio battery back up. in your training so they know how to turn them on.
      I'm a gyro Dude now! Bensen FTW

      FRANK

      Comment


      • #4
        I have found that going through a check list and looking at items on the dash and engine after a while you

        look at them but don't really see what there condition or position is. I have developed a way to solve that

        by actually touching the item and saying aloud what its condition/position is.
        Best Regards,
        Eddie Sigman,Polvadera,nm
        (575) 835-4921

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by curtisscholl View Post
          Vance: Please keep these articles coming.....
          I love sharing the fun Curtis.
          Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI http://www.breeseaircraft.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by FRANK'S View Post
            All I have to Say is , great for ignition generator on your lycoming.
            and it could have been worse really.
            you need a radio battery back up. in your training so they know how to turn them on.
            I had a backup radio on board Frank. I just had not briefed Bob properly and without the intercom landing with the light gun was the easiest solution to getting on the ground.

            One of the wonderful things about an aircraft engine is I can lose the complete electrical system and the engine keeps running.
            Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI http://www.breeseaircraft.com/

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by eddie View Post
              I have found that going through a check list and looking at items on the dash and engine after a while you

              look at them but don't really see what there condition or position is. I have developed a way to solve that

              by actually touching the item and saying aloud what its condition/position is.
              A wonderful way to do things and what I teach after a few check list failures.

              I have found if I teach it that way first people think I am just pedantic and look forward to not having to use the check list.

              A check list failure on any level is a humbling learning experience.
              Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI http://www.breeseaircraft.com/

              Comment


              • #8
                More fun with my anonymous client.

                After my maintenance flight we flew for eight tenths of an hour out away from the airport so Bob would have less pressure. The goal was to get his eyes outside and build a little confidence after the morning challenges. Bob wants to do well and tends to focus on airspeed and altitude because they are part of the practical test standards. It doesn't matter how many times I say pitch and the sight picture is the point and the airspeed indicator is just part of an instrument sweep to calibrate the sight picture people still focus on airspeed and the altimeter. Getting away from the airport means looser standards for airspeed, altitude and ground track so sometimes I can wean them off the airspeed indicator.

                Bob flew well and managed his path back to the airport well with a nice approach and a good landing.

                The fog was coming in so we had time for a couple of patterns. I could see he was again focused on the indicated air speed so I told him to not look at the instruments and I would tell him if he was fast or slow, high or low. It worked great and they were his best patterns yet. I actually talked less.

                We were flush with success as he made his final landing for the day with the engine at sixteen hundred RPM to manage the gusting wind. The difference between a stop and go and a full stop landing is with a stop and go he leaves the power in and the cyclic back to increase the rotor rpm as quickly as possible. With a full stop landing power goes to idle as soon as the mains touch and the cyclic goes full forward as soon as taxi speed is reached. The tower was busy talking so I could not remind Bob of this and he did things slightly out of order. We touched down and got the stick forward and we quickly began to accelerate because the power was still in and we had lost the drag from the rotor. Bob used the toe brakes to slow down and could not manage directional stability. I got the power back quickly but not before some wild gyrations on the runway and some tire smoke.

                It was an exciting end to an exciting day. It was also Bob's birthday.

                I stayed late in the hangar to do preflight and plan the next days missions.
                Last edited by Vance; 05-02-2018, 11:50 AM.
                Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI http://www.breeseaircraft.com/

                Comment


                • #9
                  More Fun with Bob (not his real name).

                  Tuesday conditions were perfect with winds 300 degrees at 6kts. Preflight went well as did start up.

                  We went out and flew around for a bit working on managing ground track, airspeed and latitude. We did recognition and recovery from low airspeed and high rate of descent.

                  We returned to the SMX and made six stop and goes. Bob’s airspeed and altitude control was getting better as were his control inputs. His turns were nicer as well.

                  We visited the tower and let them know Bob would be learning about radio calls.

                  Bob wasn’t feeling well so we called it a day.

                  Wednesday preflight went well and we got a particularly helpful briefer from Flight service. Startup went well as Bob carefully worked his way through the takeoff check list.

                  Bob taxied up to the movement area and called ground. His call was near perfect and he sounded like an experienced pilot. There was no response. He double checked that we were on the right frequency, made a perfect call to ground and again no response.

                  I can’t see the radio from the back. I have made this same mistake myself so I guessed. “Is the dot on the volume control at one o’clock?” Bob turned up the volume and made a third call. Ground came back;
                  “Experimental Gyroplane One Four Two Mike Golf radio check, how do you here?”

                  When Bob came back loud and clear and explained he had the volume turned down Ground cleared us to taxi to runway three zero via Alpha, Alpha Eight.

                  We left the pattern to give Bob a better chance to practice staying outside the aircraft and he did well and learned to better use the trim.

                  When it was time to make the radio call that we were inbound Bob slowed to 30kts and lost 100 feet of altitude as he focused on the radio call. He did it again reporting right down wind mid field to land. It is not unusual to lose situational awareness when multitasking. The old pilot’s adage is “Aviate, Navigate and Communicate” in that order of priority.

                  Back at the hangar we worked on preparation for Bob’s knowledge test. He had been studying with the Kings for sport pilot fixed wing and had learned his lessons well. We covered the gyroplane material out of the Rotorcraft Flying Handbook and I signed him off for his Sport Pilot, Rotorcraft-Gyroplane knowledge test that he will take when he gets back home. We called it a day.

                  Thursday we got right to it and flew two forty minute missions with five landings a piece. Radio work is something Bob can practice at home so he made the ground calls perfectly and I made the tower calls. I felt there were still symptoms of focusing on the instruments so toward the end of the second mission I told Bob not to look at the instruments and I would tell him if he was slow or fast, high or low. I actually talked less as he did a great job of staying outside the aircraft with his airspeed and altitude control vastly improved.

                  Friday the Terminal Aerodrome Forecast for SMX was predicting the wind would come up around 1:00 so we planned and executed a flight to Lompoc LPC, 14 miles to the south. We talked about Vandenberg’s restricted airspace, the different sight picture of the hundred foot wide runway and radio work at a non-towered airport. We used the chart to plan our navigation and picked out some way points and estimated out time in route.

                  Bob made a nice takeoff, had a good ground track, eyes outside, great airspeed and altitude control. I could feel his confidence and delighted in his skill. It felt to me like a pilot having fun. We gradually climbed to 2,000 feet for Harris Grade. Bob overshot the altitude target a little because our tail wind turned into an up draft when it hit the hills.

                  Our descent to pattern altitude was nicely done and the entrance to the right pattern for runway 25 was a nice as could be. We were not quite parallel with the runway making our right base and final a single turn. I reminded Bob that the narrower runway made it appear we were lower and talked him through a nice landing.

                  The debrief was mostly “GREAT JOB BOB!” with a little longer brief for our somewhat hard to describe exit back over Harris Grade to Santa Maria.

                  The takeoff and climb out from Lompoc were nice. The winds were picking up and Bob handled the turbulence well with smooth, progressive inputs to manage our ground track. Bob had a little trouble finding the pass until we were about 2 miles out.

                  I called Santa Maria from ten miles to South over Harris Grade descending through 2,000 feet with Juliet inbound to land.

                  Bob was to make a base entry for runway three zero and report the Orcutt Y.

                  There was a Cessna 172 coming in with a failed charging system so the tower cleared him to land from ten miles out in case they lost communication. The pilot did not want to declare an emergency. Bob had good situational awareness and did not let the Cessna become a distraction.

                  Bob’s airspeed, altitude and ground track were great and I could feel his confidence building despite the gusting winds.

                  Our landing was slightly disrupted by a wind gust but completely acceptable without any help from me.

                  Looking back I feel Bob’s errors were learning opportunities that don’t exist if there are no mistakes.

                  I have him for three days in June and hope to finish his cross country and check off all the required duel instruction exercises and practice the different landings. I am looking forward to hearing how he did on his knowledge test.

                  I love to see the progress and enjoy the strength I see when someone bounces back from a public mistake. All of Bob’s errors were very public and could be taken as humiliation.
                  Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI http://www.breeseaircraft.com/

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Vance,

                    Eddie makes a good point about the dangers of pre-flight complacency and offers a good solution.

                    Long ago I noticed a big difference between the way I did a pre-flight and the way a friend of mine who was a professional pilot did his. You mentioned how excited Bob was to go flying and most of us are like that thinking "I need to do the things on this list and then I can go fly". My friend who was an ATP thought like this- I will do item 1 on the list - if item 1 passes I will get to do item 2 on the list. If item 2 passes i will get to do item 3, etc". His focus is NEVER on going flying- it is only on the next item on the list. Eventually IF---- IF ---- all the items on the list get checked off THEN he thinks about going flying.

                    If we all adopted this way of thinking we would be far less likely to miss something.

                    Rob
                    Rob Dubin

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I find that an interesting perspective Rob.

                      Not every line item on my preflight has dire consequences.

                      Forget to change to tower frequency or forget to turn the transponder to mode C is only slightly embarrassing.

                      Forgetting to turn on the alternator and not noticing the volt meter caused a total communication failure. It could have been ugly.

                      I am trying to establish a flow.

                      I need to get an alternator light in the back to lessen the impact of missing that line item.
                      Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI http://www.breeseaircraft.com/

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I think Having a master switch that turns every items needed would be a good investment instead of having multiple switches.
                        and different switch for non essential items like lights and so on.
                        I'm a gyro Dude now! Bensen FTW

                        FRANK

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by FRANK'S View Post
                          I think Having a master switch that turns every items needed would be a good investment instead of having multiple switches.
                          and different switch for non essential items like lights and so on.
                          The reason for the separate switches is to be able to isolate a problem in flight and reduce the draw if there is a charging system problem Frank.

                          The reason for the alternator switch is because an alternator at low rpm can send a voltage spike back through the system causing problems with the avionics so the engine is started and stopped with the alternator off and avionics off.

                          Some air craft have a switch for the avionics. On The Predator the radio, transponder, GPS and intercom are turned on individually.

                          The transponder is first turned to on and later to mode C so it does not mess up the radar when you are on the ground. Some airports have more sophisticated radar and the transponder is turned to mode C before taxi. SMX and SBP do not have that sort of radar.

                          Startup on The Predator is: check brakes, master on, boost pump on till the red light goes out then boost pump off, magneto switches off (run), mixture full rich, one third throttle and push the starter button. When the engine starts throttle to idle and lean for taxi, check oil pressure in the green, alternator on, intercom on, radio on, transponder on, GPS on.

                          Shut down on the Predator is: Rotor stopped, transponder off, radio off, intercom off, alternator off, learn cut off, magneto switches on, master off.

                          This procedure is typical of an aircraft powered by a Lycoming or Continental with a charging system.
                          Regards, Vance Breese Gyroplane CFI http://www.breeseaircraft.com/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Yep planes have a avionics master switch that's separate from the other master switch,and there is usually a alternator breaker switch.

                            That's pretty much a standard setup for aviation.
                            Best Regards,
                            Eddie Sigman,Polvadera,nm
                            (575) 835-4921

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Well thank you for schooling me. I will put that in my head and build on it later.
                              I'm a gyro Dude now! Bensen FTW

                              FRANK

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