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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The best advice often comes in the fewest words, Part 1: Doing it right


"Never let this situation develop."

Due to the pointless/counterproductive changes in the requirements for the Airline Transport Pilot certificate that go into effect on August 1st, I'm going to be taking my ATP multi-engine checkride in July. I already have it scheduled with Tom Brady (no, the other one) at Traverse Air, and I've started studying ahead for the oral part.

I got my commercial multi-engine with him several years ago as one of those "learn to fly a twin in a weekend" courses. I was skeptical that it would be anything more than a checkride cram course, but he was recommended by someone who had done his course earlier, so I gave it a shot. I was very surprised at how good a job he did in so little time. I really didn't think it was possible, but now that I've got almost 10 times as many hours as I did back then, and now that I've been an instructor myself for a few years, I can see and understand how he can do it so well. Like most highly effective people (or good landings), it's all about the approach.

As part of the course, he emails you the POH for the Apache you'll be training in. At the end is a list of questions and answers to study to aid in preparation for the oral. When I came across the following one, I was impressed:

Q: What steps must be taken if an engine failure occurs during flight below Vmc?
A: Never let this situation develop. [emphasis mine]

The red line above the word "this" marks Vmc.

He goes on to finish the answer with, "The only recovery is to reduce power on both engines, lower the nose, [and accelerate to an] airspeed faster than Vmc in order to maintain aircraft control."

Sometimes (and probably most of the time, actually), when a person gives a long, complicated answer to something, it's because they don't understand the answer themselves so they bury you in a bunch of technical gobbledygook and hope you'll be too intimidated to ask anything else. As the saying goes, if you can't dazzle 'em with brilliance, then baffle 'em with bullcrap.

For example, the answer to that question above could go something along the lines of "Due of the adverse effects of asymmetric thrust, especially pronounced in a failure of the critical engine due to P-factor (and other elements) being more heavily misaligned in reference to the longitudinal axis of the aircraft, combined with a reduced effectiveness of the control surfaces in low-airspeed regimes, the pilot must reduce power to reduce the deleterious influence of unbalanced thrust as part of an effort to regain directional control."

That is 100% technically correct and 100% totally useless.

Instead, I would just say (as Tom did above), "Don't do that."


"Because you'll die."

"But what if I do?"

"Then cut the throttles, push the nose down, and pray you have enough altitude to cash in for the airspeed you should have kept the whole time."

This advice may seem like the old joke about the person who goes to the doctor and says, "Doc, it hurts when I do this!" and the doctor replies, "Then don't do that." However, it's actually much deeper than that. I would sum it up as, "You don't have to recover from what you don't get yourself into."

There is another example of this no-nonsense, full common sense approach a little further down:

Q: How important is the best rate of climb, single engine (Vyse)?
A: It is the most important thing for the airplane.

Indeed it is, followed closely by Vmc. Both of them are so important that multi-engine aircraft have two markings on their airspeed indicators that single engine aircraft don't: a red radial line marking Vmc (this is not the red radial line that marks Vne—you can see Vmc's redline right above the word "this" in the first illustration above) and a blue radial line marking Vyse. That's why you'll hear the word "blueline" a lot when getting your multi-engine rating, usually preceded by the words "maintain" or "don't go below". It's so important it gets its own piece of jargon and a splash of paint.

Just like life, aviation is all about priorities. Priority #1 is to fly the airplane. Aviate. If you don't let a situation develop, you don't have to recover from it.

This is just another example of how when you learn to fly, you learn to live. In the second part, I'll give you an example of how not to do things.

The author is an airline pilot, flight instructor, and adjunct college professor teaching aviation ground schools. He holds an ATP certificate with a DHC-8 type rating, as well as CFI, CFII, MEI, AGI, and IGI certificates, and is a FAASafety Team representative and Master-level participant in the FAA's WINGS program. He is on Facebook as Larry the Flying Guy, has a Larry the Flying Guy YouTube channel, and is on Twitter as @Lairspeed.

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