Aviation News

Archive for March, 2011

Re-igniting the Spark of Flight – The Discovery Flight, by Christian Lienemann

by on Mar.02, 2011, under Articles, Aviation, General, Video of the day

Part 2 of business owner Christian Lienemann’s story follows below. An asterisk (*) after a word denotes that it is being defined at the bottom of the article, for those of you who are not that familiar with some of the terms we use as pilots. Christian is a great ambassador for aviation and every pilot should follow his example of promoting aviation to friends and relatives.

I have composed a waiting list of customers who want to experience a Discovery Flight.

The list ranges from a middle age nun, to a young guy who knew the name and type of every airplane picture I showed him (even the extensive album in my company computer!) and more.

Those I take up are always full of questions and shocked that the answers they get do not match what they have seen on TV.  After they relax a little, I can only describe their expressions as either shock or awe. I go as far as to let them lightly hold the yoke with me and take a picture of them assisting in level flight.

Within in a week, I send them a Discovery Flight certificate, all filled out with their name, date, time, and the aircraft they just flew. I also enclose a color picture of them in the air. One customer’s wife told me he framed it and put it on his desk.  These discovery flights help keeping aviation well and alive and I ask everyone to pay it forward!

Now I realize that I am taking on a large responsibility by simply introducing my customers to their first flight. So I wanted to do it right (or as right as I possibly could). I did a little research and discovered how the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) perform their Young Eagle flights for children. AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) also have a section on the subject, along with several other great aviation blogs (like this one).

I could fill a few pages with what I have found on the internet, and all of it would be recommended reading. But the short of it is simply this; make it as comfortable as you can for your passenger – both mentally and physically.

Shallow banks when you turn, no stalls*or practice maneuvers, pick a smooth day, (that is not a pressure cooker!) and make it short and sweet. Usually thirty minutes is more than ample. The reward is worth its weight in gold.

I usually meet my new passengers at the airport, and give them a quick rundown and answer questions before and after the flight. I found it was hard for them to keep a sterile cockpit* close to the non tower airport* Hammond Northore Regional Airport, simply because they had more questions that kept popping up.

Many times they forget we are on an open comm system and comment aloud with things like “Wow!” or “This is GREAT!”  Then they realize they said it aloud (because its playing in their ears). They then would look over at me and I just give them a smile.

You have to take human nature into account also. One woman I took up was just in awe that we didn’t fall out of the sky, like she thought would happen from watching the news. Finally she relaxed and really enjoyed the experience. That is all the way up to the landing part.

I flared* and made one of the best landings I have ever made! (The kind you wish your flight instructor was witness to). It was such a greaser, I was a little shocked when the nose wheel lightly set down. I have included a link here of a video which shows one of my landings.

I looked over to see her gleeful expression and was shocked at what I witnessed. She was white as a sheet, and scowling like she had a mouth full of lemons.

After a short and easy taxi*, I had to inquire. Towards the end of my landing, she heard the stall horn* (realizing it had to be a warning sound like her smoke detector at home ). She just knew at any minute we were going to be engulfed in flames. (If you are keeping score, that’s evening news two, and pilot one!) Yes I tried to explain how we land aircraft and how an aircraft has to transition from flight to being ground bound.

Some of the color was returning to her face, But her expression told me the adrenaline she was experiencing was only letting part of my explanation sink in. The stall horn is now on my passenger pre-flight briefing. It is always better to let your passengers know ahead of time what they can expect if it is a new experience for them.

Definitions:

A non-towered airport, sometimes referred to as an uncontrolled airport, is an airport with no operating tower. The vast majority of the more than 15,000 airports in the US are non-towered. At untowered airports, instead of taking instructions from a tower controller, aircraft follow standard procedures, which includes radio reporting procedures and standard traffic patterns to be followed.

Taxi: To taxi an airplane means to move it slowly on the ground or on the surface of the water before takeoff or after landing.

Sterile cockpit: The Sterile Cockpit Rule is an FAA regulation requiring pilots to refrain from non-essential activities during critical phases of flight, such as the landing phase.

Stall: In flying, a “stall” is a condition which occurs when there is not enough forward speed for the wings to keep the aircraft flying. The airflow over the wing gets disturbed and thus causes the airplane to lose altitude. A pilot can stall an airplane inadvertently or on purpose. When it is done on purpose, it is usually done to train pilots to recognize the signs of accidental stalls and develop the ability to safely bring the airplane out of a stall should it ever occur. An intentional stall is usually done a few feet over the ground when landing the airplane to bring the airplane down to the ground at the lowest possible speed. Click here for a short video which illustrates a stall.

Stall horn (or stall warning horn): A stall warning is an electronic or mechanical device which sounds an audible warning as the stall speed is approached. Just before an airport touches down on the runway, you can usually hear the stall horn as it slowing down.

Flare: The landing flare is when an airplane transitions from downward flight to a more level flight just before touching down. A properly performed flare will result in the aircraft touching down gently at the lowest possible speed.

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