Summertime Flying

From NAFI's Chair

Summertime Flying

The summer solstice is net week, which means that, as the great Nat King Cole sang, "Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer" are upon us. Baseball, hot dogs, the beach, camping, all of the fun stuff we like to do in our spare time. For us as pilots and instructors, that means airshows, fly-ins, EAA AirVenture, $100 hamburgers, or just going up for a ride to look at the countryside. It also means we're likely to be busier now with clients, whether they're new pilots, pilots participating in the Wings program, flight reviews, new ratings, what-have-you.

I was reminded of this as I flew on an airliner from St. Louis to Omaha this week. Normally, this is pretty straightforward - take off from runway 12L at St. Louis Lambert, fly to Omaha, and land on 14R at Omaha Eppley. I've done it often enough that I know how the route is filed and how long it takes (48 minutes from takeoff to touchdown). Not this time, though. On this occasion, there was a vee-shaped line of thunderstorms with an apex near Des Moines that was also filling in. Our flight crew elected, wisely I think, to go all the way past Wichita and then make a turn to the right to come in on the back side of the weather that had already passed to the east of Omaha. Great ride, and everyone on the right side of our aircraft witnessed a light show, at the small price of an extra hour in the air.

So, summer time. This is the time of year when convective activity is common. There will be everything from isolated storms to lines of killers towering well into FL500 and beyond. Make sure you review this information with your students, regardless of experience or ratings. Remind them that they need to give wide berth, 20 miles, and to never fly under a storm. In the drier areas out west, virga is just as dangerous as a storm where precipitation reaches the ground, perhaps even more insidious because it doesn't look that bad. Also, make sure they know that they shouldn't race a storm to the airport, or take off in the face of a storm. No aircraft can out perform the downdrafts and turbulence associated with a thunderstorm, as witnessed by the L1011 crash at DFW back in the eighties - that was the accident that made us all aware of wind shear.

Speaking of airports, because we've hit the hot time of year, remind your students that aircraft will not perform as well as they do in the cooler months. Here's some quick data on the performance of a Cessna 182T in the Omaha area. For every 10 degrees Centigrade increase in temperature, the aircraft needs about 8 percent more ground roll and distance to clear a 50-foot obstacle on takeoff. That's a difference, according to my handbook, of 1080 feet to clear the proverbial 50-foot tall tree on winter day to needing 1,410 feet on a hot summer day. Landing performance is not as badly affected, but it does increase from 1265 feet to 1475 feet. And, lest we forget, these numbers were derived by test pilots flying brand new, perfectly maintained aircraft, using superb short field techniques - yours and your students' results will vary, usually for the worse.

Be safe and enjoy your summer.

Bob Meder,
NAFI Board Chair
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