transitioning to a new
type of aircraft
One of the most interesting
challenges in aviation for any pilot is transitioning to a new type
aircraft. Normally, the pilot's first question is, "How do I start?"
That question is an easy one to answer. The best way to transition to any
new aircraft is to find a certificated flight instructor (CFI) qualified
and current in the aircraft to teach you how to fly it safely. If the
transition is to a high performance aircraft or one that requires a
category or class rating or one that requires a type rating such as a
turbojet, you might want to attend one of the many flight training schools
that specialize in such training. Another option is to attend the aircraft
manufacturer's training course for the model if the company offers such a
course. Regardless of where you attend training, the best way to
transition to a new aircraft is to work with someone, preferably a CFI,
who is current in the new aircraft. In some cases, you may need the
CFI endorsement to fly the aircraft such
as a high altitude, tailwheel, or high performance endorsement. If you
cannot find a CFI to fly with, the next step is try and find another
experienced pilot who is current in the aircraft. This is especially true
if the aircraft is an experimental aircraft or a very rare model. The
reason is every aircraft is unique. By flying with someone current in the
make and model of aircraft, the transitioning pilot gets the benefit of
the other pilot's experience and knowledge plus the added safety of
someone who knows the air-craft. What a transitioning pilot does not want
to do is become a test pilot in a new aircraft.
hitting the books
With the question of how should I begin
answered, the next question is where do I begin. You begin by studying and
learning the new aircraft's systems and operating procedures since the
bottom line to all flying is knowing everything that we can about the
aircraft so we can operate it safely. You will find this information in
the aircraft's flight manual (AFM), owner's manual, or pilot's operating
handbook (POH). If the aircraft is an older model, it might have a very
basic owner's manual. If so, you need to be aware that the older manuals
may not have the same information as some of the newer manuals, nor are
the older manuals organized like the newer POH's or AFM's. Although the
older manuals have less information than the new manuals, they still 5
provide the basic information.
The newer publications are similar in
format and have the following sections: General; Limitations; Emergency
Procedures; Normal Procedures; Performance; Weight and Balance/Equipment
List; Systems Description; Handling, Service, and Maintenance;
Supplements; and Safety Information. Another good source of information on
an aircraft, particularly older models, is magazine articles on the
aircraft. Pilot reports are especially helpful.
Once you have done your homework and
thoroughly understand the new aircraft, you should take the aircraft's
manual and checklist out to the aircraft and spend time sitting in the
cock-pit to learn the locations of the various controls, instruments, and
checklist procedures. Your goal is be become familiar enough with the
aircraft to be able to fly it before you ever start the engine. If you are
renting the aircraft, this procedure also will save you valu-able training
dollars. You don't have to pay a CFI to teach you something that you can
review on your own. When you are comfortable with the location of every
item in the cockpit and with the aircraft's procedures and numbers, it is
time to go flying with a CFI or pilot current in the aircraft.
check out guide
The following is a list of areas you
should consider when transitioning to any type of aircraft:
1. Aircraft Systems.
2. Limitations which include performance,
weight and balance, and V speeds.
3. Normal Procedures.
4. Abnormal and emergency procedures.
5. Aircraft paperwork and records.
6. Checkout by a current and qualified CFI
or experienced pilot that knows the aircraft's particular flight
characteristics. The checkout pilot should be current in make and model.
After reviewing the General section of the
AFM or POH the Aircraft Systems portion is probably the best area to start
serious study. If you start in another section, you may encounter terms
you aren't familiar with if you haven't studied the various systems first.
This is particularly true of the more complex and turbine powered
Aircraft systems not only include the
engine, fuel, electrical, landing gear, control, and hydraulic systems but
the avionics systems as well. With today's rapid changes in avionics
systems, a pilot must be very familiar with the newer equipment and how it
is operated. This is especially important when flying in different
air-craft that have different avionics packages. Pilots need to be aware
that the new GPS and older LORAN-C receivers can have different control
functions, programming, data displays, and operating procedures. Because
each GPS or LORAN-C system is unique, the time to lean how to operate the
system is when you are on the ground; not when you are in flight.
types of questions about equipment to ask
The engine is a good place for
transitioning pilots to start their study.
Is it a turbine or recip?
If it is a reciprocating engine, is it
carburettor equipped, fuel injected, or turbocharged?
What type fuel does it use?
How much fuel does it carry?
What is its usable fuel capacity?
What is the average fuel burn rate in
What type of fuel system does it have?
Is it single tank or multiple tanks?
Is fuel drawn from one tank at a time
or is fuel drawn from all or multiple tanks simultaneously?
Does the fuel gauge automatically
indicate the fuel in the tank you have selected or is there a separate
switch you must activate to get the fuel gauge to indicate the fuel
quantity in the tank you have selected?
Some aircraft have a separate switch for
the fuel gauge. You can be looking at a fuel gauge that indicates plenty
of fuel when the engine quits because you just drained a tank that the
fuel quantity indicator was not set to. If this happens at low altitude,
it could lead to a disaster.
Even when the fuel quantity indicator
indicates the tank selected or when there are multiple fuel quantity
indicators there have been accidents due to fuel starvation because one
tank was drained and the fuel selector had not been switched to the tank
that had plenty of fuel in it. How does the crossfeed work? In
multi-engine aircraft the crossfeed may work differently in differ -ent
aircraft. These are only a few of the types of questions a pilot 7 needs
to answer when transitioning to a new aircraft.
habits can be dangerous
Although knowledge of the new aircraft's
operating systems is important, pilots must also be aware that old
operating habits can be deadly when transitioning between aircraft. For
example, since we just discussed how different aircraft can have different
fuel operating systems, let's suppose you lose an engine in a twin you are
transitioning to on a dark and stormy night.
Now let's suppose in the stress of the
moment, you revert to an old habit. You use the crossfeed procedures for a
twin you normally fly instead of the different procedure for the new
aircraft. You might just have shut off the fuel to your only remaining
operating engine. Another example of how a habit can cause you a problem
in a new aircraft is using the wrong technique to lean the engine. There
is at least one make and model of aircraft that will use substantially
more fuel than the performance charts indicate if you use the traditional
leaning technique from habit. We have been taught to lean until we get
peak RPM (in aircraft with fixed-pitch propellers), then enrich the
mixture until there is a 25-50 RPM drop.
However, in at least one aircraft the
leaning instructions are to lean until the RPM is at peak, then continue
to lean until there is a 25-50 RPM drop. There is a warning that fuel
consumption can be 10 percent higher if the first method is used instead
of the recommended procedure. There is also a warning that not following
this recommended procedure and leaving the mixture in the full rich
position can increase fuel consumption as much as 40 percent and decrease
flight endurance by as much as 70 minutes from what is published in the 75
percent power performance figures.
Since old operating habits can be deadly
to pilots transitioning between aircraft with different operating
procedures, pilots need to be aware that during stressful or emergency
situations in the new aircraft, they may use the wrong procedures. In such
situations, pilots must make sure they are using the correct procedure for
the aircraft they are flying. Pilots must be particularly careful anytime
they are making any changes involving the fuel system or the landing gear
Aircraft operating systems can also
overlap and cause problems. This is particularly true of the electrical
and hydraulic systems involving the landing gear and control systems. This
relationship is extremely important. In one incident, a pilot had a total
electrical failure in an aircraft that had an electrically operated
landing gear system. After the gear up landing, the pilot said he knew the
gear down indicators would not work because they were electrically
operated. He thought the gear was down because the manual indicator showed
they were down after he had put the gear handle in the down position. When
asked if he had lowered the gear manually, he said, "No."
If this pilot had possessed more insight
into the interrelationship between systems this incident might not have
occurred. We mentioned avionics systems. Fatal accidents have occurred
because pilots set up their navigation/communication systems improperly.
No more needs to be said.
limitations, performance, and weight and balance
These three areas are very closely
interrelated. Operating at airspeeds where you get the best performance
could be a limitation, since increasing or decreasing speed would decrease
desired aircraft performance. An example of this is L/D max. This is where
the lift to drag ratio is the greatest or the airspeed where you get the
most lift for the least drag. Why is this important?
This is the speed which would give the
aircraft the greatest gliding distance in the event of a complete power
failure. You would need this performance to reach a safe landing area.
Changing speed would only reduce your chances of making the field. Weight
and performance are closely interrelated. Increasing weight reduces
performance. This will cause an increased takeoff distance, reduce an
aircraft's rate-of-climb capability, and cause the true airspeed to be
less at a given power setting and density altitude.
Although pilots should always compute the
weight and balance and performance data for every flight, this information
is especially important when transitioning to a new aircraft. Aircraft
speeds, the various "V Speeds," are also important for the safe operation
of any aircraft. It is recommended pilots know the following V Speeds that
apply to their particular aircraft:
Vso Stalling speed or the minimum
steady flight speed in the landing configuration
Vs1 Stalling speed or the minimum
steady flight speed in a specified configuration
Vr Rotation speed
Vmc Minimum control speed with the
critical engine inoperative (multiengine aircraft)
Vso Recommended final approach speed in
the landing configuration (if none specified in the aircraft's
Vx Speed for the best angle of climb
Vxse Speed for the best angle of climb
(one engine inop in multiengine aircraft)
Vy Speed for the best rate of climb
Vyse Speed for the best rate of climb
(one engine inop in multi-engine aircraft)
Vlo Maximum landing gear operating
Vle Maximum landing gear extended speed
Vfe Maximum flap extended speed
Va Design manoeuvring speed
Vne Never exceed speed
L/Dmax Airspeed that gives you the
maximum gliding distance over the ground with complete power failure
Obviously these are a lot of numbers to
memorize, however it must be remembered what was said at the beginning of
this article, a pilot must know how to operate his or her aircraft safely.
Knowing V Speeds is part of knowing what
to do not only when something goes wrong but also when things are going
right. One way to remember these speeds is to write them on 3 x 5 inch
cards and have them where they can easily be referred to just prior to
specific flight operations. Many of these speeds are also marked on the
instrument panel, some operating controls, and the airspeed indicator.
There are many other limitations that a
pilot needs to know such as manifold pressure, RPM, engine oil temperature
and pressure, cylinder head temperature, hydraulic pressure limits, volt
and loadmeter readings, etc. Fortunately for most of us, the air-craft we
fly normally have these marked with color-coded indicators. However, it is
important to know where the needles normally point so that any change will
normal and abnormal emergency procedures
One of the best and safest ways to become
familiar with these procedures is in a flight simulator designed for your
particular make and model of aircraft. Since the majority of the smaller
general aviation aircraft do not have simulators, there is another way to
become proficient in such aircraft at no cost when the actual aircraft is
available and not in use.
This is to just get into the air-craft
with the owners manual and begin to familiarize yourself with the cockpit.
This includes going over the checklists to familiarize yourself with the
location of the knobs, switches, and handles in the cockpit, and the
pattern that develops when running the checklist.
Some flight training institutions require
their students to pass what is known as a blindfold cockpit check which is
literally just that. You have to memorize the location of each item in the
cockpit then put on a blindfold and be able to touch each item called out
by the check pilot without being able to look for it. If this seems a
little extreme, think how invaluable this ability would be during a high
workload situation under single-pilot operations.
Envision yourself alone in the cockpit on
a dark and stormy night on an instrument approach when the landing gear
indicator does not indicate a normal down and locked position. It sure
would be nice to know exactly where the landing gear motor and landing
gear circuit breakers are so you could reach over and feel to see if they
are popped instead of having to look for them which could break down your
scan, or worse, possibly induce vertigo.
When using a static aircraft as a training
device, you should run through all the checklists as many times as
necessary to become thoroughly familiar with their content and the
location of all of the controls and items contained in the list or lists.
Do each item that can be safely done on a static aircraft. However, DO NOT
MOVE THE LANDING GEAR HANDLE AT ANY TIME DURING THIS TRAINING ACTIVITY.
Also, be aware that there may be other
persons around the aircraft when you are operating such items as flaps and
spoilers so you must use extreme caution when activating such devices.
When applying power to any air-craft or starting any aircraft, you must
always ensure the safety of others in the immediate area. You must never
apply power when others are working on an aircraft without coordinating
your actions with those working on the aircraft.
The reverse is also true. When you are
working on an aircraft, you should either lockout or mark those controls
or switches that would endanger you if some-one inadvertently activated
them while you are working on the air-craft. This is particularly true
when you are working on large air-craft where you may be out sight of
someone in the cockpit.
We have used the word "memorized" in this
article several times; however, when it comes to checklists, they are not
to be 11 memorized. A checklist is for checking that an item isn't
forgotten. This brings up the rather controversial subject of how to use a
checklist. This subject is especially controversial if a multi-pilot crew
is involved and the pilots have different ways of doing a procedure. This
potential conflict is why the aviation industry and FAA have spent so much
time and money on teaching crews how to work together.
Whether you are a single pilot or part of
a multicrew cockpit, the important thing to remember is to use a checklist
in a way that insures you don't inadvertently skip an item. We said
checklists are not to be memorized. This is true for normal procedures. It
is not necessarily true for all aircraft when it comes to emergency
procedures. In many aircraft flight manuals, in the emergency procedures
section, there are immediate action items that must be done if certain
emergencies occur. These immediate action items obviously must be
memorized and then followed up later with the checklist when circumstances
Some checklists are nice to memorize.
Using the example of a night instrument approach when the gear doesn't
indicate down and you need to lower it manually, it would be nice to know
what the proper procedure is before you have to do it for real without
ever having read the manual. This is why it is important for all pilots to
periodically review their aircraft's operating and emergency procedures.
Better yet, hire a CFI for some recurrent train-ing. Remember to always
use your checklist.
aircraft, aircraft paperwork an records
Before you can have a safe flight you must
have a safe pilot, a safe aircraft, and safe weather. To have a safe
aircraft you must have an airworthy aircraft. An aircraft is considered
airworthy when it conforms to its FAA-approved type certificate data and
is in condition for safe operation. Conformity to the type certificate is
considered attained, when the required and proper components are installed
and they are consistent with the drawings, specifications, and other data
that are part of the type certificate.
Conformity would include applicable
supplemental type certificates (STC's) and field-approved alterations, and
airworthiness directives. "In condition for safe operation" refers to the
condition of the aircraft with relation to wear and deterioration. If one
or both of these conditions are not met, the aircraft is un-airworthy.
So, who's responsible for ensuring an
aircraft is airworthy and what do they check? The pilot in command (PIC)
is responsible for ensuring the aircraft is safe before each flight. The
aircraft owner or operator is primarily responsible for maintaining the
aircraft in an airworthy condition. Both share responsibility for ensuring
the aircraft is safe for flight. The following are some of the items a
pilot should check before each flight.
FAR part 91 preflight checks
1. Annual inspection-within 12 calendar
months and signed off by an FAA-certificated airframe and powerplant
mechanic with inspection authorization (IA).
2. 100 hour inspection-if required for the
type of operation planned.
3. Airworthiness Directives (AD's)-all
complied with (both one-time and recurrent).
4. Altimeter system and altitude reporting
equipment tests and inspection-within 24 calendar months for IFR
operations in con-trolled airspace.
5. Transponder test and inspection-within
24 calendar months.
6. ELT inspection-within 12 calendar
months. Battery-not expired.
7. VOR operational check-within the last
30 days and the results logged (if used for IFR operations)
1. Airworthiness Certificate
2. Registration Certificate
3. Radio station transmitter license
issued by the FCC if a transmitter is installed
4. Operating limitations found in the
Airplane Flight Manual or Owners Handbook with appropriate placards and
5. W eight and Balance Documentation
This list may not be all inclusive. The
PIC is responsible for ensuring the flight complies with all of the
appropriate FAR. The Airworthiness Certificate states in part "...this
airworthiness certificate is effective as long as the maintenance,
preventative maintenance and alterations are performed in accordance with
Parts 21, 43, and 91 of the Federal Aviation Regulations, as appropriate,
and the aircraft is registered in the United States."
This statement means not only the above
checklist items but all applicable regulations are required to be complied
with for the airworthiness certificate to be effective. To determine the
aircraft is "in condition for safe operation" requires a good preflight by
the pilot in accordance with the aircraft manufacturer's recommendations
to determine "wear and deterioration" have not created any unsafe
What constitutes a good aircraft checkout?
It depends on the complexity of the
aircraft and the ability of the pilot being checked out as well as the
ability of the pilot doing the checkout. What would be adequate in a
single-engine, fixed-gear aircraft obviously would not be adequate for a
complex single or twin and what is adequate in a reciprocal engined twin
would not be adequate in a turbine powered aircraft.
For small reciprocal singles and light
twins the following is one suggested checkout. Review the previous items
discussed in this article-systems, limitations, procedures, cockpit
arrangement, various load configurations, etc. Then review the standard
flight training procedures that you will use to familiarize yourself with
the aircraft's flight characteristics.
One good guide is the FAA Practical Test
Standards (PTS) appropriate to your rating. For example, if you are a
commercial pilot, you would use the commercial PTS while conducting your
checkout. At a minimum, the Private Pilot PTS is a good lesson and flight
outline for a detailed aircraft checkout. The following outline will help
you become familiar with a new airplane.
1. A detailed preflight using a checklist.
2. Start, taxi and run-up.
3. Takeoff series and aborted takeoff
4. Turns, climbs, and descents.
5. Flight at minimum controllable
6. Stall series (appropriate to the
aircraft). Remember to use clearing turns.
7. Steep turns.
8. Simulated emergencies (appropriate to
9. Landing series and go-arounds.
10. Shutdown and postflight.
11. Fuelling procedures.
12. Discrepancy reporting procedures.
13. Appropriate aircraft endorsement if
required such as a high performance or tailwheel aircraft endorsement-if
needed (must be from an authorized flight instructor).
The above information has dealt mainly
with the aircraft's requirements. We also need to mention the pilot's
requirements. Pilots need to comply with the following requirements:
1. Pilot certificate-with appropriate
ratings and in your personal possession.
2. Medical-current and appropriate for the
type of flight to be conducted and in your personal possession (if
required for the operation).
3 Flight review or its equivalent with
appropriate logbook endorsement.
4. Meet the recent flight experience to be
pilot in command (PIC) if carrying passengers. PIC's must meet the
appropriate requirements of FAR ß 61.57 which include:
a. A takeoff and landing requirement for
any passenger carrying flight such as the requirement for:
(1) Any aircraft: Three takeoffs and
landings as the sole manipulator of the flight controls in an aircraft of
the same category and class and, if a type rating is required, of the same
type, within the preceding 90 days.
(2) Tailwheel aircraft-The required
landings must be to a full stop.
(3) Night currency for night flights. The
required three takeoffs and three landings must be made to a full stop in
the same category and class aircraft to be used. These must be done during
that period beginning one hour after sunset and ending one hour before
sunrise (as published in the American Air Almanac).
b. Instrument currency for any IFR
operation as PIC. Unless the pilot has logged at least six hours of
instrument time under actual or simulated IFR conditions, at least three
of which were in flight in the category of aircraft involved, including at
least six instrument approaches within the past six months, or passed an
instrument competency check in the category of aircraft involved within
the past six months. Glider pilots must have logged at least three hours
of instrument time with at least half of that time in a glider or
aircraft. If passengers are to be carried in a glider, the pilot must have
logged at least three hours of instrument flight time in gliders.
This article is about how to transition to
another aircraft, but the important thing to keep in mind is not just how
we do something in aviation, but how well we do it. Have a safe flight.