U.S. Department
of Transportation

Federal Aviation

St. Louis
Flight Standards District Office

10801 Pear Tree Lane
Suite 200
St. Ann, Missouri 63074


March 2003 




Thought for the month.....
When things don't begin well they end badly.
When things begin badly they end worse.

Brakes are for stopping, not taxiing.... Most evaluators can tell you if a pilot is going to pass a checkride long before the aircraft leaves the ground. There are always telltale signs that indicate the degree of savvy, knowledge, and finesse the individual has. In most cases, weaknesses become evident while observing the preflight. The thoroughness of the inspection, attention to detail, and knowledge of the aircraft systems, are all barometers as to how well the flight is going to go.

There are a lot of unwritten rules in aviation. They don't show up in an instructor's lesson plan, but are taught on each flight by example. The best teachers are individuals who treat the aircraft as if they owned it. They have come to realize that if they don't take care of the equipment, and teach the pilots they are training to do the same, there may not be an aircraft available to teach in, or they're going to have to sit on that torn seat or mess with the broken window latch on every subsequent flight.

During starting of a reciprocating engine, most manufacturers recommend that the throttle be opened ¼ to ½ inch. The purpose is to minimize engine wear by keeping the rpm between 900 and 1000 because the friction surfaces don't yet have a protective film of oil. If the engine roars to life at 2000 rpm, the engine life can be reduced and the cost of flying will go up. If it happens during a checkride and the aircraft begins to roll because the brakes aren't set, there is sufficient reason to terminate the evaluation because the pilot has allowed a hazardous situation to develop.

An unsecured cabin door that is suddenly blown open by the wind or the prop blast of an inconsiderate pilot can damage the doorstop and the hinges. Cracks at the attaching points may develop and the door may not secure tightly anymore resulting in increased cabin noise and air leaks. Likewise, it isn't necessary to slam the flight controls from stop to stop to verify their freedom of movement. Power applications and reductions should be smooth and not abrupt. In complex aircraft, gear and flap extension speeds must be observed and understanding the use of cowl flaps is vital to maintain proper engine operating temperatures. Some pilots believe that the only way to get their money's worth out of a rental aircraft is to fly it full-bore, and always go as fast as they can, on the ground and in the air. Observing these things on an a checkride gives the evaluator some insight on the attitude of the applicant with regard to caring for the equipment.

A fine point about flying tricycle-equipped aircraft seems to have been lost somewhere. An airplane with tricycle gear has two main landing gear and a steerable nose wheel, not three landing gear. The main gear is designed to absorb the forces of landing and should arrive at the runway first. There are times under certain wind conditions or when the airplane is contaminated with ice, that the airplane should be flown onto the runway touching down on all three wheels simultaneously. But, even then, the main gear should absorb the force of the landing. If the steerable nose wheel makes contact first, the accident investigation might determine that the landing was done on porpoise, instead of on purpose.

Pilot abuse of an aircraft isn't specifically identified in an FAR or the Practical Test Standards. Perhaps a case could be made that it qualifies as careless or reckless operation in as much as it might endanger the life or property of another, but that would be a hard case to make. Certainly the PTS eludes to using good judgment and following the procedures recommended in the various checklist items, but it doesn't specifically say "thou shalt not slam the flight controls from stop to stop while checking for freedom of movement". While finesse may not be an identified standard, lack of it will certainly get a good instructor or examiner's attention because they know that when things don't begin well they end badly and when things begin badly they end worse.

Upcoming Events

April 1st
Spatial Disorientation, Confusion That Kills
Shoney's Restaurant
Rolla, MO
7 to 9 PM

April 5th
Pilot and Aircraft Courtesy Evaluation (PACE)
Parks College Hangar
STL Downtown Airport
8 AM to 3 PM

April 10th
St. Louis Lambert RSAT
Lambert Planning and Development Office
7 to 9 PM

April 12th
VFR/IFR/Companion and Maintenance Refresher Seminar
SWIC campus
Granite City, IL
8 AM to 3 PM

April 29th
Ups and Downs of Takeoffs and Landings
AOPA Air Safety Foundation
Florissant Valley College
7 to 9 PM

Operations Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 extension 4835