Monday, July 27, 2015

Talking to Ourselves...

I listen and follow most of the social media, podcasts and some blogs about aviation. Most people are saying the same thing, pilot population is heading down. There are discussions about why this or that, and what laws can be changed to make things better. Some things may help, some may not.

The reality is, we are all talking to ourselves. We talk about flying, and how to get new people involved in aviation. We don't always get to do something about it.

When I was a kid my neighbor was a pilot. He took my dad flying, and his kids flying. I never got to go, but between the stories that my dad told, and his kids told, I really wanted to go flying. I was able to go for rides with my high school buddies, splitting costs and such, but never on my own. I knew I wanted to be a pilot.

My kids tended to be ambivalent towards flying. The first trip we took was in a C-172 from Minneapolis to Billings MT. I don't think I scared them, they were too young to remember how long, hot and awful that trip was (lost an alternator, had a dust storm in Wyoming, and a couple other issues).

Last week I took them to Oshkosh. I think they were just along for the ride to appease me. "Yea, dad we'll go" they kept saying. Getting the car loaded up was difficult, and there was lots of discussions. I wanted to not take them, but that would end my trip, and I wanted to go. I sucked it up, and started driving.

Where we live is close to a largish GA airport. There are plenty of normal looking aircraft, jets, trainers and everything in between. When we got in the gate at Oshkosh, they saw the Cessna and Raytheon display, with all the same aircraft as at our airport. On the right was Aviat and Champs, and others. They were still bored. The next display on the left was the Icon A5, and they just lit up. "Dad, this is the airplane you should buy!". It made me happy that they liked something.

We kept looking, and they stuck their heads in the bomb bay of the B-52, and poked and prodded other aircraft in the main pavilion, and were somewhat interested.  We looked at homebuilts and some of the factory built planes. They weren't there to appease me any more, they were getting something out of this. We went to the Museum and they asked questions about the various airplanes. We got to see the end of Dick Rutan's discussion of the Voyager, and my son went up and talked to Dick. They chatted for a while, and Dick told him the Voyager didn't fly so well, and other things, I didn't hear. Finally he got Dicks autograph, his cherished souvenir.

Then they watched the airshow. My older son saw Mike Gougain perform. He was really impressed, and focused. He asked if I could do that, all I could say is, "I've done some aerobatics, nothing like that".

So then the questions started, what does it take to learn to fly? when can I start? Sunday evening, he turned on the TV and started watching Red Bull Air Races. I will help him get started, but I think he needs to put some effort into making it happen. I'd hate to give him the PPL and have him think that was easy, and only go often enough to be dangerous. He needs to appreciate it.

What can I say, take people to the airport is how to get people interested in flying. Bring 'em into a cockpit. I've taken friends flying,  had boy scouts in my plane, I've flown young eagles, I've done what I could to get as many people thinking positively about flying. If I would have gone to Oshkosh alone, my kids would still be ambivalent, and not thinking about flying. Next time you are going to the airport, even if not to fly, invite someone to come with.

Just Do It!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Twins Really Have 3 Engines; APUs RATs and emergency items

Most twin engine transport aircraft (IE 737, 777, A320, etc) really have 3 engines. The third engine is usually in the tail, and provides almost no thrust. The third engine is generally small (compared to the two engines on the wings) and is called the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). This APU will provide the aircraft with electricity, air and maybe hydraulic power in the event the wing engines are unable to power the electrical needs of the aircraft.

The APU is a turbine engine, a small jet engine that will provide various resources, like a generator. The APU will use the fuel from the tanks on the aircraft. The engine runs at a constant speed, so there are no throttle controls. There are various gauges to monitor the performance of the engine and the accessories.

The APU can generate enough power to start the larger engines, so it may be running while the aircraft is on the ground. The APU may also provide conditioned air for the aircraft at the gate. The APU can be started using batteries or from the generators on the main engines. Some APUs have separate started batteries from the aircraft other batteries, depending on aircraft needs.

The APU is available for emergency needs. If the aircraft engines are unable to provide air conditioning and pressurization, the APU may be used for that. If the main generators have failed, the APU may provide electricity for the aircraft.

Various scenarios are possible. A maximum performance takeoff will require bleed air from the main engines to be cut off, and the APU can provide pressurization in that case. MELs may allow an aircraft to fly with a single operating generator if the APU is available. Sometimes both generators will fail, and the APU can take the load. For ETOP operations, the APU may need to be running for a portion of the flight (depending on operating limitations).

APUs fail, sometimes. The APU uses fuel, and people are very conscious of fuel consumption, so they are not used all the time. An APU may sit idle for days on certain aircraft, and when they are needed, they don't work, won't start, batteries are dead. The need is still there, so most aircraft have another backup device for emergency electricity generation, called the Ram Air Turbine (RAT).

The RAT is capable of powering enough of the aircraft to get it on the ground. This is a last final device for when things are going bad. The RAT is a propeller attached to a generator that will drop down into the slipstream air close to the fuselage. The electricity will be used to power the pilots PFD and whatever else the pilots need (IE fly by wire system).

The twin aircraft will have two generators, one on each engine. The APU will be there if one or more of those generators fail, and some aircraft have a RAT if all the other generators fail. There is proably no good reason for a pilot not to be able to land a plane if all the electrical systems are out. Will that help you fly more comfortably?