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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Year-End and Milestones

Hard to believe that the year is winding to a close so soon. If you haven't already received an invitation to a party to celebrate the completion of a BS in Aviation Science, consider this post as an invite. The party is on December 10, from 5 - 8 pm at Gordonsville Muni. Should be good food, company, and a rumor that a bluegrass band will show up!

I started this college effort after high school, way too many years ago (30+), got sidetracked by life, but continued to take a class here and there along the way. I ramped up the effort about five years ago, and this December, the degree is a done deal.

Somebody kick me, but I'm considering Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Master of Aviation Science with a focus on human-factors. Why? Because the capstone research project for the BS degree I chose was on loss of control - in-flight (LOC-I). "So what," you say. Here's what I found: The number one cause of commercial and GA aviation accidents is LOC-I as a result of "pilot error." I think with some additional credentials, I can first, know more about the human condition that causes this, second, use this new knowledge in my flight instruction, and who know where else, and third, make some sort of a difference to mitigate accidents. To think, I can be an idealist after 56 years on the planet. Anyway, if you're at all interested in the topic, I wrote this paper and posted it on my web. Download a copy, read it, and let me know what you think.

Hope your holidays are excellent. Come see us at GVE. Blue skies!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

East Coast Aerobatics Contest

This weekend, September 9, 10, and 11 is the annual East Coast Aerobatics contest, held at Warrenton airport (KHWY), put on by the IAC's Chapter 11 (I kid you not). It's a very cool contest, with lots of friendly people, a nice meal on Saturday evening for competitors, and great acro! Spectators are welcome. I was hoping to enter in the Sportsman category, but alas, I have a full parcel of students on Saturday, and this final semester at school demands I behave like an adult and study. If you have a chance, and the weather cooperates, fly or drive into Warrenton and watch some acro.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Spin on Spin Training

Nathan Richards more than survived spin training over the course of a couple weeks, he relished it. On lesson number two of three, he managed to nauseate the instructor. No, not with sub-par jokes, but with spins ad nauseum. He hung in there for just shy of 1.5 hours of one, two, and three turn spins until I tapped him on the shoulder with, "lets go home, you're making me sick." Nathan, a private pilot, is a PhD researcher with Barron Associates in Charlottesville who contributes to the aeronautic brain trust of that company.

Today, lesson three of three, saw us reviewing two turn spins, then some loops in preparation for entry into inverted spins. Inverted spins were an an eye-opener (more like an eye-popper) as we pulled (or pushed) about -2.5 g's before recovering. He did excellent. After this we worked on some aileron rolls and slow rolls. We managed to carve an interesting pattern over Orange County this morning (below) as recorded by my SPOT personal locator beacon. Thanks, Nathan, it was a blast!

Give a call or drop an email, and we'll carve our own patterns during acro, spin training, unusual attitude recovery, or that tailwheel training.

See you at the airport!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Get Set Free

It's been piping hot over the past few weeks, but the hot weather hasn't kept the pilots from flying. We've been spinning, looping, recovering from unusual attitudes, and just plan dialing in those wheel landings over the first week of August. If you haven't seen the sky and earth swapping places in a while, or ever, lets set up some time to do just that. I can't stress enough how important it is to have seen and experienced the "out-of-the-box" sensations and views of the not-so-normal flight attitudes encountered during acro, spin, and unusual attitude training. Other than the plain fun of it, its utility is quickly realized if the event is ever unintentionally encountered during "normal" flight. Plus, as Sean D. Tucker says, "it sets you free" from fears and gives you a new confidence in your skills.

Ralph Boyd, finishing up his tailwheel endorsement in this most excellent landing at GVE. Ralph is moving on to some acro to become a safer pilot (and to have a wee bit of fun, too). Photo by Mike Colburn.

See you at the airport!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Oshkosh: There and Back

My first trip to Oshkosh was well worth the effort and expense. OSH is aviation Mecca the last week in July. We saw more warbirds, antiques, electric, and of course, aerobatic than you could shake a stick at. Fifi (B-29) was there, as well as Boeing's new 787 offering to mass transit.

Saw a new Light Sport, the Dallair Snap (left), in front of the IAC's pavillion. Looks like a whole heap of fun.

And ran into a very nifty little Mooney Mite (with yours truly looking like a kid in the candy store), like the one my father owned in the '50's. It's got 65 screamin' horspower, retractable gear, and fun written all over it.

If you haven't been, consider flying out and attending AirVenture. Flying out with your own airplane is very fun. However this time of year, almost plan on diversions and delays (we lost a day due to weather on the way up; however it was smooth sailing back to GVE, yesterday, 7/31).

Stay cool and see you at the airport.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Holiday and Facebook

I hope everyone has a safe, enjoyable holiday weekend. Take someone for an airplane ride if you get the chance. It may change their perspective about things.
The last few days have been excellent aviating opportunities. I flew with a couple of primary students this week. One has turned the corner in his landings, the other, with just a handful of flights definitely has the "fire in the belly" when it comes to flying. A tailwheel student will take to the skies for his first attempt at landing a conventional gear airplane tomorrow morning. We'll head to Louisa Country/Freeman Field (LKU) for some landing practice in the grass. Should be fun!

Some time ago I generated a Facebook presence for Aero Enterprises. I've totally ignored it until today, where I posted a few remarks. If you have a hankering, friend me there and post away.

Blue skies to you all, and see you at the airport.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Scheduling Help with Google Calendar

My flying schedule is reflected on Google Calendar located on this blog at the bottom of the page. If you'd like to fly, have a look at the calendar first, then email or call.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

New Syllabi on the Web

Two blog posts in one day! Recently posted to the aero enterprise's web are new syllabi links for spin training, unusual attitude recovery, and basic aerobatics. When you get a minute, check 'em out.

Indecision Settled

Business has been less than stellar the past few months. Yesterday I'd decided to close my doors. Today I decided to leave them open. Insurance was a primary demotivator. I've reconciled that issue and with new vigor will promote Aero Enterprises. Please note that there's a 10% discount when you buy a 3-hour block of time, that is, instead of forking over 540 of those hard-earned greenbacks for three hours of flight time, you pay $486. Also, if you refer someone to fly with me, and they actually do fly, I'll subtract 10% from the cost of your next flight.

I'll be posting an interesting discussion on rolling G's on the blog in the not-to-distant future, stay tuned. Oh, and I still owe the blog an acro rest for the wicked.

Blue skies, and hope to see you at the airport.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Up and Running

The 100 hour/annual is complete, the airplane's been flown a couple times to ensure all is operating correctly, and we've flown some acro, too. After a couple weeks off, my G tolerance is diminished, so I'll be flying often to build that up (yeah, that's my excuse). Mornings are primetime for smooth air and good visibility (until that warm, moist Gulf air moves in). I'll be posting syllabi for introductory acro and unusual attitude recovery instruction on the web for download. Although I follow a regimented and sequential instruction method, having something concrete to look at will help pilots understand the process. Okay, hope everyone is gearing up for the prime flying season that is upon us. Blue skies and tailwinds....

Friday, April 8, 2011

100 Hour/Annual In Progress

The Decathlon is undergoing an inspection before the busy flying year takes off. A few items as a result of the past year's acro that need some attention include replacing engine Lord mounts and resetting and securing some rib nails. Neither are too major, but require some time consuming labor to fix. It's my hope that I'll finish the work this weekend (4/9 & 4/10). I elected to replace the original gascolator with a Steve's Aircraft gascolator. These units are well designed and manufactured, allowing easy service and daily fuel inspection. The replacement was preemptive as the original gascolator is no longer supported by American Champion. The airplane's opened up, waiting for some mirror and flashlight inspection and if you have a chance, come out and pear into the bowels of a '78 8KCAB.

Blue Skies!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Maneuvering Speed - Va

You probably remember the maneuvering speed definition from your Private Pilot study days as something like "that speed where any sudden control movement or vertical gust, i.e., turbulence, will not cause the airplane to experience damage, and the airplane will first stall." Close, but hold off handing out cigars just yet. We need to understand that maneuvering speed is not a static number, like 108 knots. You probably know that Va varies with aircraft weight. However did you know that Va varies with aircraft configuration? For example, Va changes when flaps are lowered (Va decreases). He's a better definition of Va: The stall speed at a particular design limit g-load. And yes, the purpose is to prevent us from bending the airplane. If we look at the v-g diagram below, we see that there's a positive limit and a negative limit.

I don't know about you, but when I'm forced to fly in turbulence, that doggone stuff is both positive and negative. What that means to us is that the POH/AFM Va is stated as an airspeed value in relation to the positive g-load limit, for example, 3.8 g's for your Normal category airplane. There is no published Va for negative g loads. This means that if you fly into turbulence, slow the airplane to a controllable speed BELOW the published maneuvering speed at your airplane's current weight. Whoops! What if your POH/AFM doesn't have a value for your current weight? Use this handy formula: VA-NEW = VA √ (WNEW/WMAX-GROSS) The FAA published a Special Airworthiness Bulletin about this topic. You can find it here.

This is important for all you acro-files, too. We have to understand that if we have a positive design load limit of 6.0 g's, then if we blend control inputs, e.g., elevator and aileron, then the new load limit shrinks to 4.0 g's, and the maneuvering speed decreases to 2 X Vs (if you're interested, I've have the mathematical calculations to support this, drop me a line).

Well, that's enough brain-twisting for a while. It's perfect weather these days if you're a duck or goose, so bone up on the theory, grab some good flying weather when it shows up, and we'll see you at the airport!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

For a Couple Bucks....

There are some relatively inexpensive aerobatics reading material to be had that I'd like to recommend. Two books in particular that are very readable and provide just enough information to help you understand how figures are performed, what they look like, and some common errors during their execution. These aren't presented in any order of endorsement; both have their pluses and minuses.

Basic Aerobatics by Mike Goulian and Geza Szurovy covers most of the figures one would encounter in the Primary and Sportsman sequences (these are the two beginning competition sequences). Also discussed in the book are aspects of getting started in aerobatics, e.g., safety, physical conditioning, selection of a airplane and flight instructor. Load limits, stall, developing sequences, and more advanced figures are also contained in this book. Each figure is discussed in sections: Understanding It, Flying It, Common Errors, and If Things Go Wrong. An illustration depicts pertinent portions of the figure, with accompanying photographs from the cockpit of various low and high-wing airplanes. As you may already know, Mike Goulian is an airshow performer, former unlimited competitor, and Red Bull Race competitor. Geza Szurovy is an aviation writer and recreational aerobat. This book retails from $16 - $33, and you can find it used on and

A new favorite of mine is Duane Cole's Conquest of Line and Symmetry. In this book Mr. Cole writes from the instructor's perspective, introducing us to all the basic figures accompanied with excellent illustrations of each figure, and what some of the errors look like. It's written in a very easy to understand manner. Mr. Cole had a rich history of flying beginning in the 1930's, instructing Civilian Pilot Training Program students, Royal Air Force Cadets, and United States Army Air Force Cadets. With his brothers he formed the Cole Brothers Airshow, was one of twelve people to start the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and started and flew in the Reno Air Races. He ran an aerobatic school for twenty years and wrote nine books. Used copies of this book can be purchased for about $10 on and I managed to find an autographed copy on eBay for a whopping $6.

Of course these are no substitution for actual instruction with a Flight Instructor in an airplane certified in the Acrobatic category (I feel compelled to offer that disclaimer). There are a host of other books out there. If you find something good, drop me a line and let me know about your discovery.

The weather is warming up, Spring is here, or certainly "right around the corner." I hope to see you out at the airport(s).

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Two Old Warriors

A couple Saturdays ago I had the pleasure to fly with two former military aviators: Ken Elias, a former F-4 fighter jock and former airline pilot and Steve Ham, a retired USAF Colonel, who was a T-38 instructor pilot (IP) and an IP instructor, and finally a base commander. Both wanted to revisit aerobatics, in a slow, methodical fashion. Like I do with those just beginning aerobatics, we talked about what we'd do aloft, explaining the theory, pilot's control inputs, sight pictures, airspeeds, and common problems for each of the figures. Once aloft, each pilot did all the flying (less a few demos of some figures), from slow flight, stalls, spins, rolls and loops. Steve was surprised how little "air" each figure used (he was used to a T-38 which would take up 5,000 feet and more in a loop). Ken's working on some tailwheel proficiency, and continues to fly aerobatics with me, and Steve is planning on more acro in the not-to-distant future. I'm looking forward to it. I hope to see you in the not-to-distant future, too.