Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Single Engine Cessna - video

Here is a very cool video for all you Cessna Pilots.
(I posted this to my website also).

Single Engine Cessna


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Airship Ventures "Eureka"

Visiting the Airship "Eureka" 

A group of eight 99's met up at Moffitt Field a couple of weeks ago for our long anticipated tour of Airship Ventures "Eureka".  Gus Holweger, Community Ambassador, arranged the tour and received us at their headquarters in the historic buildings of NASA Research Park.

The Director of Flight Operations, Jim Dexter, joined us for a thoroughly informative talk about the history of airships as well as his long (27 years) and varied career in the field.  Jim started with America's longest running commercial airship program, Goodyear, (which I have had the pleasure of being a passenger in and actually taking the controls).  Jim has logged approximately 10,000 hours in airships while flying in exotic destinations including Argentina, Brazil, Hong Kong, and Turkey.

Jim then shuttled us around Moffett to the other side of the field to get a close up and personal view of the Zeppelin.  Two by two we were escorted by Jim into the cabin which sits underneath the massive rigid structure.  The panel has the latest in glass technology and Fly-by-Wire controls.  What really makes this ship unique are the independent vectored thrust engines.  Each engine can be rotated 120° and combined with variable pitch propellers to give the airship unmatched ability to stop, hover, land, and climb vertically.  "Eureka" is one of three Zeppelins in existence in the world.             


Find Airship Ventures at http://www.airshipventures.com/

If you like fun adventures, go to "The Seaplane Adventure".

Sue Ballew

Pinch Hitter or Short Course

The Short Course (or Pinch Hitter Course)

We all take passengers on our flights...

Do you have a friend, spouse, or relative that you regularly take along with
you on flights?  Maybe you wish they knew a little more about what was
going on when you are flying the airplane.  Maybe you want them to enjoy 
flying more with you.  Maybe you want them to know what to do "if".
Or maybe they want to know more about all of these things.

There are flying companion seminars or pinch hitter courses available.  
But if you want them to have more, I am offering the perfect solution.
A "Short Course" to include hands on, in-flight orientation.
The Short Course will include:

Ground Lessons  
         (these will be combined with the flight lessons)
-How the airplane flys, flight controls (You would be surprised at how
          many passengers fly often and have no idea what makes the
          airplane fly).
-Airport operations, radio communication, and ATC
-Chart reading, navigation, instruments, weather
-Towered vs. non towered airports
-Flying to that great restaurant or vacation destination
-What to do "if" – emergencies -landing the airplane

Flight Lessons
1. How the airplane flies, flight controls including taxi
2. A short flight to another airport
3. Emergencies
4. Landings
5. Landings
6. Landings

Each participant will get their own logbook with each flight entered and endorsed. If you are a member of West Valley or Advanced Flyers, your friend, spouse, relative, can join the club for the duration of the course and then cancel their membership if they no longer wish to maintain it.  If you own your airplane, then the cost will be only that of instruction. 

Each lesson will be approximately 3 hours with about 1.2 hours of flight.  The exception to this will be the flight to another airport which will be about 4 hours with 2.2 hours of flight.

Please contact me with interest and for scheduling.

Sue Ballew

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


What is all that bumpiness going on lately?

Well, if you have flown recently in the Bay Area, you have probably been tossed around quite a bit.  Turbulence...it is probably the most dreaded condition of commercial passengers, and many general aviation pilots are not fond of it either. 

What is turbulence and what causes it?

Simply stated, it is air moving up and down.  We feel it because we happen to be in an airplane in an airmass with air movement. Turbulence is air movement that normally cannot be seen. It may occur when the sky appears to be clear and can happen unexpectedly. 

What typically causes the light to moderate turbulence you may experience in the Bay Area?  The most common causes are thermals, local terrain features, cold or warm fronts, and low altitude temperature inversions.

We will focus on the most common causes in the Bay Area...thermals and terrain features.

A thermal column (or thermal) is a column of rising air.  Thermals are created by the uneven heating of the Earth's surface from solar radiation.  The Sun warms the ground, which in turn warms the air directly above it.  The sun warms different surfaces more than others - asphalt, concrete, grass, and water - all heat differently. The warmer air expands, becoming less dense (lighter) than the surrounding air mass. The mass of lighter air rises, and as it does, it cools due to its expansion at lower, high-altitude pressures. It stops rising when it has cooled to the same temperature as the surrounding air. Associated with a thermal is a downward flow surrounding the thermal column. The downward moving exterior is caused by colder air being displaced at the top of the thermal.  

So imagine around the Bay Area thousands of columns of air being heated at different rates.  Combine that with uneven terrain features, and you get turbulence.  The next time you encounter turbulence...be comforted and remember it is probably just air moving up and down caused by radiational heating and terrain.  Easier said than done.  The best thing to do is ride with it.

How do you keep informed about turbulence?
Prior to flight:
Pull up the Area Forecast (FA) on DUATS or the NWS, or 1-800-WX-Brief and talk to a briefer
In flight:
HIWAS - tune in a local VOR with HIWAS capabilities
Flight Watch - 122.0

To find out more about the different intensities of turbulence and Pireps - go here:  AIM 7-1-23 (go 2/3's of the way down in the document).

For motion sickness remedies go to "Motion Sickness and Cures".

Sue Ballew

Healthy Aging with Flying

Healthy Aging

Some of the hottest topics these days are: living a healthy and active life, maintaining health, and combating the effects of aging.  There is a wide range of methods and products to facilitate this including, taking vitamins/supplements, eating fresh/organic foods, exercising regularly, taking pharmaceuticals, etc.
During the first week of July I went to the 99s International Conference in Kona, Hawaii.  I am always amazed by this diverse group of several hundred women that attend these events.  Something we all have in common is that we are pilots. We fly airplanes from 2 place Cessnas to corporate and commercial jets, helicopters, balloons, seaplanes, ultra lights, and just about anything that can leave the earth.

One thing I noticed is how sharp some of the women are in their 70's, 80's, and even 90's.  Some of these women started flying back in the 40's and have been flying ever since.  Can you imagine? 

One day a group of us was hanging out by the hotel pool which had a  big, blue 200' long water slideWe all hooted and hollered and had a blast as we shrieked down the slide. One of the ladies was 92 (she still flies on a regular basis) and the other is in her 80's.  How many people do you know that would go down a water slide even at age 50? 

Do you think flying has anything to do with this vitality?  Well I do.  Flying exercises your brain in ways other activities don't even come close to doing.  It accesses your short and long term memory, uses your cognitive abilities, utilizes hand-eye coordination, necessitates communicating clearly, requires a constant decision making ability, and to be alert at all times.

When thinking about getting older, consider flying as something to include in your life, and for the rest of your life.  It will not only keep you thinking and feeling young, but you may live longer and healthier!

Sue Ballew

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Escape! (the go-around)

Escape!  (the go-around)

When we approach an airport, we are usually only thinking about getting on the ground and what we are going to do after the flight.  Rarely do most pilots plan for the go-around, (balked landing).

At the airlines, we continually practiced the aborted takeoff procedures.  During every takeoff we were ready for that procedure should anything go wrong.  I am proposing that go-arounds should be viewed and practiced in much the same way.

The go-around is the escape route - as in "let me out of here".  It should not be something to avoid, or thought of as an unsuccessful landing, but something readily available and doable if necessary.

Do you remember the correct procedure?  I was on my takeoff roll on runway 30 at San Carlos last week when someone on approach commenced a go-around.  They were flying over the runway directly above us at only 100-200'.  Apparently it didn't occur to the pilot that an aircraft on takeoff roll (the reason they were going around), would be lifting off and climbing out, right in to their flight path.  Do you offset to the runway when you do a go-around?  Not only do you want to gain altitude, but you want to safely side step the runway to make way for any traffic taking off.  Your objective should be to climb away from the runway and avoid any traffic. To help with your climb out, (reduce drag), add full power and remember to immediately retract the first notch of flaps, get to a good climb out speed of around 60kts and at 200' retract the remainder of flaps, (based on a Cessna 172 with 30 ° of flaps used).

Have you practiced a go-around recently?

Check out "Diversion due to Cross Winds and Wind Shear" for more reasons to practice the go-around.

For information about safety when flying in proximity to an airport, see "The importance of being situationally aware".

Sue Ballew

Byron Hot Springs Hotel

Byron Hot Springs Hotel

Did you know that a historic resort called the "Byron Hot Springs Hotel" just at the northeast edge of the small town of Byron, could be restored to its once magnificent sprawling grounds filled with natural hot springs, tropical palm trees, Mediterranean olive trees, tennis courts, and luxury hotel rooms?


A century ago it was a California premier spa hotel.  While it was open, it attracted Hollywood and the rich and famous. Then during WWII it was used as a top-secret interrogation center for prisoners of war.  After the war it served several other functions but then was closed for good in the 1980s.

A local developer, who has owned the property since 1989, has gathered up potential investors and hopes to have the property restored and operating in 2011. 

For a glimpse of this historical property, if you happen to be flying in the area, take a moment to dip down and fly over for a great view.  Be aware of the numerous gliders and jumpers nearby at Byron airport.

See the story "Byron Hot Springs Hotel" in the:

San Francisco Chronicle November 2008

For other insteresting places to fly, read "Fabulous Mountain Flying".

Sue Ballew

Maintaining Currency...but are you proficient?

Maintaining Currency...but are you proficient?

Well, what about currency?  Are you current?  How about proficient?  What do these two terms really mean?

So how about the "so-called" current pilot?  The pilot that is current according to FAA standards (Part 61.56 and 61.57) by satisfying the requirement of the bi-annual flight review of one hour of ground instruction and one hour in the airplane, and of course the passenger carrying 90 day takeoff and landing requirements.  Is this pilot proficient?  Maybe, maybe not......and most likely not.

It is the rare person that can do something once every two years and do it well, especially something as complex as flying an airplane that requires not only sharp mental organization and response, but muscle memory and reflex action.  In addition, one must be knowledgeable of FAR's and airspace, ATC phraseology and able to respond accordingly, to see and avoid other traffic, and react to emergencies quickly, etc., etc., etc.

As an instructor who flies 5 and sometimes 6 days per week, I can say I even feel a little rusty after not flying for one week.

What are your personal minimums for currency?  Do you only complete your BFR to be legal?  Do you actually fly on a regular basis.......once every 3 months, once per month, once per week?  Does this make you proficient?  (Synonyms to proficiency - competent/skilled/adept).  And if it has been longer than three months, do you go up anyway thinking it will all come back once you are in the airplane.......or do you consider calling up your instructor just to be safe?

Recently I have flown with several people that have taken years off from flying and come back to get current.  Each one has unique challenges to deal with.  Congratulations to those who have taken the step to come back after many years.  With a little effort and practice you will once again be current, proficient, and have your wings.

Think about it....you might even learn something new by going up with an instructor on a regular basis.

Two safety procedures that are not reviewed enough, "Escape! (the go-around)", and "Abort, The emergency Procedure".

Sue Ballew

Glass Cockpit, The G1000, and Transition Training

Glass Cockpit, The G1000, and Transition Training

Are you curious about the new glass cockpits available in general aviation aircraft?  There have only been a few major changes in general aviation in the last 50 years, and this is one of them.  In 2003 both Garmin and Avidyne came on board with their versions of the glass cockpit.  Cessna, Cirrus, and many other aircraft now come equipped with the glass cockpit as standard equipment.

The PFD (Primary Flight Display) has all relevant information for the flight on one panel display, except for the engine instruments which are on the MFD (Multifunction Display). You can do everything on the PFD, including enter and modify your flight plan, monitor your position on the moving map, monitor other aircraft, enter all com and nav frequencies, get to the nearest airport, waypoint and other nav information features, and still fly the airplane monitoring all of your flight instruments.  You can also refer to the MFD for fuel and engine monitoring, and the large moving map with its many additional features such as terrain awareness and traffic advisory systems. The large panel display screens make it easy to monitor lots of information. 


The G1000 offers increased safety through multiple backups for critical components, and a standby battery with standby instruments similar to the level of safety the airlines incorporate.


Your transition training will include sessions in the Frasca G1000 simulator for familiarization with the glass panels and the associated buttons and knobs.  You will also start developing your scan for the tape style instrument displays by flying the simulator.  The C172 SP G1000 has a few additional startup and operational procedures.  Once familiar, the main focus of the training will be to develop an understanding and proficiency in your scan and operation while flying the airplane safely.

To gain a thorough understaning of the G1000, I highly recommend Max Trescott's "G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook" on his blog at "Trends Aloft".

Sue Ballew

Spring is almost here...except for the ICE

Spring is almost here...except for the Ice 

Iced Wing

For anyone that has read my newsletter, you know that I like to draw from my own experiences of flying around the Bay Area. Because I encountered something of extreme importance during my flying, this month I have chosen to write a longer article about only one experience...ICING

As pilots, we all should know the significance of icing on the aircraft, whether it is on the aircraft, on the ground, or accumulated in flight. 
  • Increased weight of the aircraft  with potential CG shift
  • Decreased climb performance
  • Increased stall speed
  • Increased landing speed.
Read "Icing--We're In It", to see how even experienced pilots can find themselves in an unsafe situation. 

Sue Ballew

Icing--We're in It!!!

Icing--We're In It!!!

I was invited the other day to go as passenger on a trip down to Southern California in a TAA (Technically Advanced Aircraft).  I was somewhat unfamiliar with the aircraft and the advanced avionics with integrated auto pilot, but the pilot was experienced so I thought it would be informative and fun.  After reviewing the weather the night before, I had my doubts about going as the freezing levels were low and we had been having weather locally and along the route for the last few days.  But, that morning, the weather cleared out, with no indication of it moving back in prior to our return, and so I went.

After picking up a passenger, our departure from Socal was over two hours later than I had estimated, and we had a pretty stiff headwind coming back.  As we crossed Gorman, the valley ahead already had a layer of clouds up to about 8000'.  No problem, we cruised easily at 12k.

Our return included a stop at Monterey for fuel, with ATC starting our descent early about 75 miles out.  At 8000', we were now in the clouds and after about 10 minutes, ice was forming on the windshield.   I offered "why don't we go back up and get above it" (which would have taken us right out of the icing conditions).  He said noooooo.

I looked over and noticed he hadn't yet turned the pitot heat on.  So I asked, "where is your pitot heat”? He said "doesn't the GPS take care of that?"  With the G1000, you have what is called an ADC - air data computer. The ADC processes the information from the pitot-static lines and displays the information digitally.  You basically get the same information as the old round gauges, and still use the same pitot tube and static port to bring the air in.  An obvious misunderstanding of the capabilities of the equipment and over reliance on the brains of the system.

As we were painting the weather graphically with Nexrad (weather delayed by a few minutes), it showed precipitation as dark green as ATC vectored us, and we proceeded directly into it.  I was wondering why this pilot was allowing ATC to put us in the middle of this weather.  The pilot had not been very clear with ATC as to what our true situation was.  So I asked "what are you going to do now?"  And he said finally "what would you like me to do?”  I said turn left NOW.  He got a left turn....and I said more left, then more left, and more, as each second of delay was becoming critical.  The windscreen was solid ice now and there was ice forming on the leading edges and speed brakes.  Sheesh!

When we finally descended through 4000' and broke out of the clouds, the ice began to break off of the wind screen and disappear off of the wings.  I thought we were never going to get out of those clouds!!

One important thing I learned from flying with the airlines is, icing is critical, even if you have anti-icing or de-icing equipment.  You must tell ATC what the situation is, and exactly what you need, and not let them decide.

Had we stayed above the weather as I suggested, or out of the green altogether, we may not have taken on ice.  Although with our late departure, and with the freezing levels continuing down to about 4000', the prudent thing might have been to land somewhere along the route and wait for the weather to move out.

There are a few lessons to be learned here, not the least of which is to be very, very familiar and knowledgeable of your aircraft and all of its systems.  And this was a wake-up call as an instructor to be even more vigilant and proactive, even when, and especially when, I am not acting in the capacity of flight instructor, and I am unfamiliar with the PIC.

In the past, the FAA considered any situation where temperatures were below freezing and there was visible moisture to constitute known icing conditions. A 2006 interpretation from the FAA also included relative humidity as a factor, grounding many GA pilots even when no visible moisture was present. 

The latest discussion between AOPA and the FAA seems to be between the difference of "known icing conditions" referring to information available before and during the flight, and "known ice", known or observed or detected ice accretion--actual adhesion to the aircraft, rather than the existence of potential icing conditions.

Here are two articles and a letter from the FAA that refer to icing, the definitions, and interpretations.


Most GA aircraft are specifically prohibited from flying into "known icing conditions".  As a general aviation pilot, when in doubt, why dispute whether there are "known icing conditions", or "known ice", when you can always wait for a better day. 

Read "Spring is almost here...except for the Ice", for specific effects of ice on your airplane.

Sue Ballew

Monday, December 20, 2010

Abort! The Emergency Procedure



How many of you regularly give a takeoff briefing prior to taking the runway?

If something were to happen, first there is that disbelief "this isn't happening to me ", and/or the "oh s__t" factor, which takes approximately 2-5 seconds before reality sets in.  Now, you are thinking - "I have to land on that runway behind me" - oh no -- The Impossible Turn.  Do you know for sure how high you have to be to make it back to the runway?  What about airspeed, stall speed, bank angle, and winds - returning now with a tailwind?

If you have a plan, one of the results of briefing it out loud, every single time before you takeoff, is that you have thought through your options in advance, decided what you will do, and you will more than likely do it, should the occasion arise.

Recently I was at San Carlos Airport taking off in a C172SP with one of my students.  As we gained speed on the takeoff roll there was this awful rumbling and loud noise.  Before I could say anything, my student already had the power pulled out and was applying brakes.  It worked!  And this student had just soloed a few weeks prior!!

What should your briefing include?  Here is mine: 
1. Any issues on the runway, power back, apply brakes, stop, get off the runway.
2. Any issues above the runway-with runway remaining, power back, apply brakes, stop, get off the runway.
3. Engine failure above the runway-no runway remaining and below 1000', (provided you have not already initiated a turn), land straight ahead,  turning no more than 20-30 °  left or right - land as soft and slow as possible.
4.  Engine failure above 1000' - perform a teardrop only if the winds are less than 15kts.  With winds 15kts or greater, fly the downwind and land.

As this is meant as a general briefing after one has thought through the various scenarios, there are certainly other situations, and more could be added.  If you have questions about my briefing, please ask.

Read "Escape! (the go-around)" for more safety procedures.

Sue Ballew