Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Annual Checkout in the Piper Seminole

I frequently rent Piper Seminoles from my FBO. As part of their rental agreement for the Seminole, I'm required to undergo an annual proficiency check.

The Piper Seminole is small two-engine airplane with constant speed propellers and retractable landing gear. (Such airplanes are commonly called a "twin".) Airplanes like the Seminole are more complicated to fly than a simple single-engine airplane like the Cessna 172 or the Diamond DA40. Although most small airplanes fly the same, differences becomes apparent when an emergency arises. And the most challenging emergency a pilot can face is an engine failure.

Engine Failure: Single Engine versus Twin Engine

If an engine fails in a single-engine airplane, it becomes a glider. You don't have a choice in the matter. Simply pitch the nose down to maintain the best glide speed land in an open area. It's no surprise that simulated engine failures are a common component of private pilot training and certification.

In a two-engine airplane, a single engine failure means only half the thrust is lost. But think about situation some more and you can appreciate why twins are harder to fly: the working engine must now contend with the weight and drag of the dead engine. Thrust is asymmetric, which adds to challenge, because if you fly too slow with a failed engine the plane can flip over. Scary!

Unlike a single-engine airplane, a twin with a failed engine is not a glider. Having one functioning engine can give a poorly trained pilot a false sense of security. In reality, an engine failure (50% power loss) results in a performance loss of about 80%! The plane is still capable of flight, but with significantly degraded performance.

A good pilot knows how to fly any airplane not only when all is well, but when an emergency arises. To see an emergency situation through to a safe outcome requires practice. And it's a good idea to undergo routine training flights, such as a proficiency check, to practice emergency situations. Preparation makes for safe aviation.

Here's a picture of a Seminole I rent.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Value of Time

It's the start of a new year! And as usual, it feels as though the holiday season was a blur. Time. Really. Does. Fly.

When I think about time, my mind wanders to relativity. Not Einstein's theories, but to the relativity of time as we perceive it.

A unit of time (minute, hour, day) is defined. Time is an objective quantity. But the perception of time is subjective, an hour may pass in an instant whereas a minute may feel like an eternity.

The Value of Time

Time keeps moving forward, which makes it much more valuable than money (at least in my eyes). You can always earn more money, but you can't earn more time (unless you have a time machine).

Given that life is finite and of an unknown duration, it must be spent wisely. How will you spend your time?