March 8, 2011
Last year, Apple announced something that over the past year has taken mobile computing by storm, the iPad.
Shortly after I posted a blog post “The Apple iPad: Electronic Flight Bag?“, which I considered the potential the device has for aviation. Namely, getting rid of the ridiculously overpriced and underpowered specialty “electronic flight bag” (or EFB) computers.
Now when I made that prediction, I had no clue how quickly the aviation industry would step up and embrace this device. Let’s face it, sometimes with certain technology, aviation isn’t always up to current times (I’m looking at you DUATs & NOTAMs).
So what’s the secret to the iPad’s success? Long battery life, great fit and finish, it’s portable, beautiful screen, lots of power and memory, those are important, but what the iPad has that other EFBs don’t is a diverse platform for developers to write excellent aviation apps. Apps such as Foreflight, Jeppesen Mobile TC, Skycharts Pro, and even the simple PDF reader app GoodReader.
Private pilots aren’t the only ones noticing that the iPad is a great platform for managing a flight. The FAA has approved an EFB app from Jeppesen to be used for Executive Jet. Wonder what kind of tests the FAA has done on the device to certify it for cockpit use?
FAA authorisation came after an intensive three-month in-flight evaluation, which included a successful rapid decompression test on the iPad to 51,000ft (15,555m) and non-interference testing.
With the iPad2 coming out in a few short days, the future is looking pretty good for pilots who want a low-cost solution to having an EFB and getting rid of the paper charts. The new iPad will be lighter, thinner, and will include a built-in gyroscope. Coupled with the Bad ELF GPS, the iPad and the apps will just keep getting better.
Finally, as an aside, I really want Android to step into this space as well. Hopefully with the Motorola Xoom we’ll start seeing some comparable aviation apps for Android as well.
February 28, 2011
Now that CircleToLand.com has been around for over a year, I felt now would be a great time to do a deep dive on the stats and determine how pilots are using CTL.
Currently we have 159 questions, 257 answers, and over 81 users. Fifteen of those users have collected over 100 reputation points, with two users having over 1000 points.
Over the past year, CTL has had 34,160 page views and 6,800 visits. The ten top visited questions on Circle To Land are:
The top five questions with the most votes are:
As you can see, we’ve come a long way in a year. When I started CTL I wasn’t sure how many pilots would be interested in a community Q&A or if I could get the kind of answers/questions that would be engaging to an audience of pilots. It’s been amazing the amount of great questions and great answers the site has generated. With practically nothing but word of mouth advertising and general outreach.
To all the pilots who have logged in CircleToLand and posted a question or answer, thank you, you’re the ones who make this site a success. I can’t wait to see what happens in 2011.
December 20, 2010
When I started learning to fly back in 2003, the Internet was a very different. Google was just starting to replace Yahoo! and Alta-Vista as the search engine of choice. Most people still used dial-up and pilots submitting flight plans online mostly had to settle for DUATs. Finding decent relevant information online about flying was a virtual crap-shoot of surfing through some of the more popular aviation forums or personal aviation sites.
Fast-forward to today, pilots are more connected, we have sophisticated online tools for checking the weather, TFRs, and filing flight plans, pilots from all over the country interact through blogs, twitter, and social media.
Yet with all this progress, if a pilot (or pilot in training) has a question, it is still a shot in the dark to find the right answer to their question. How can this be?
The problem isn’t that there is a shortage of knowledgeable aviation professionals, and enthusiasts. On the contrary, there are hundreds of pilots, mechanics, licensed medical examiners, and aviation lawyers online right now asking and giving advice.
The problem is, unless you’re cued into the right forums, the right groups (AOPA, EAA), and blogs, the people with the right answers to your questions can be quite difficult to find.
Furthermore, once you’ve found a forum, the proper netiquette is to search the forum or newsgroup to find out if the question has been asked before. With some of the online forum software out there, searching for an answer to your question can be a slow, torturous prospect. Imagine searching for a needle in a haystack with only a refrigerator magnet!
There has to be a better way.
I believe it’s time for an aviation site that’s built with the sole purpose of having people ask questions and get relevant answers. Any pilot can answer or ask a question on the CircleToLand.com, as long as the question is A) about flying an aircraft, B) is reasonably objective (not based on preference or opinion).
CircleToLand.com has a voting system in place for the best answers. If an answer has been voted up by the community and accepted by the person asking the question, you can be sure the information is good. CircleToLand has advanced searching and tagging tools so you can find if a question matching yours has already been asked. Finally, users are given points based on how well they answer questions and participate in the site, which can unlock more features in the site (such as allowing users to edit questions and answers). Like Wikipedia, or other Web 2.0 social communities, users themselves help moderate the site and produce an encyclopedia of the art of flying that is informative, searchable, and fun.
After a year of operation, CircleToLand has grown to about 150 questions about flying, 250 answers, and 70 registered users. Over the next year I’d like to see CircleToLand.com grow to over 300 users, 500 questions and 1000 answers. More importantly though, I want to make sure that CircleToLand grows while not sacrificing the quality or focus of the questions and answers.
Give Circle To Land (http://www.circletoland.com) a try, if you ask a question I’ll be on there to give you an answer. If you give an answer I’ll vote it up. In time, I hope to have Circle to Land be that place on the web you can go to get relevant answers about your aviation questions.
Thanks and Clear Skies!
December 14, 2010
Let’s face it, you’ve been working hard all December playing Santa Claus buying gifts for all of your family and friends. But what about yourself? Well, if you are one of the first three people to correctly fill out our first CircleToLand.com Crossword Puzzle Contest you could have a nice $10 Sporty’s Gift Card in your stocking!
1. Download the crossword puzzle here:
2. Fill out the crossword puzzle and send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
3. The first three people who correctly fill out the crossword puzzle and send it back will receive a $10 gift card to Sporty’s (http://www.sportys.com)
November 8, 2010
What’s the big deal? A little bit of ice forms on the plane and it weighs a little more, I’m flying by myself, a little extra weight isn’t that bad is it?
Despite what most people think, the main danger ice presents is not increased weight on the airframe, but what the ice does to the flow of air around the aircraft. Ice (as well as frost and snow) change the aerodynamic properties of airfoils (wings, control surfaces, even propellers) and disrupt the smooth flow of air which increases drag and decreases the ability of the aircraft to generate life. The added weight of the ice is insignificant compared to the decrease in lift caused by the disruption in airflow. When power is added and the nose is pulled up to counter-act the decrease in lift, it can allow ice to form on the underside of the aircraft as well, decreasing lift further and increasing the chance of a stall as the air becomes further disrupted. Even a tiny amount can be dangerous:
Wind tunnel and flight tests have shown that frost, snow, and ice accumulations (on the leading edge or upper surface of the wing) no thicker or rougher than a piece of coarse sandpaper can reduce lift by 30 percent and increase drag up to 40 percent. Larger accretions can reduce lift even more and can increase drag by 80 percent or more. Wind tunnel and flight tests have shown that frost,snow, and ice accumulations (on the leading edge orupper surface of the wing) no thicker or rougher thana piece of coarse sandpaper can reduce lift by 30percent and increase drag up to 40 percent. Larger accretions can reduce lift even more and canincrease drag by 80 percent or more.
So make sure part of your preflight in the fall/winter is to scrub off that “tiny” amount of morning frost on your wing!
Okay I agree, ice is scary, what can I do about it?
The good news is that ice can form only when the following conditions are met: visible moisture (rain/clouds), and the outside air temperature (OAT) is in the range for ice to form. The safest thing for a pilot to do is to treat ice like thunderstorms, avoid avoid avoid! It’s easy if you’re flying VFR, as long as you stay away from clouds and rain, then you are out of danger for ice. If you’re flying in IMC, then things are a little bit more complicated for you, you need to keep out of the temperature range for ice formation.
The ice risk for each temperature range depends on what kind of moisture you’re flying through. For rain and drizzle, the OAT needs to be above freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit / 0 Celsius), below and you’re in high risk for icing. For cumulous clouds, you’re at high risk in between 0 to -20 Celsius, medium risk -20 to -40 Celsius, and low risk below -40 Celsius. For stratiform clouds, you’re at high risk in between 0 and -15 Celsius, medium risk -15 to -30 Celsius, and low risk under -30 Celsius.
If you’re flying an aircraft with a deicing system, you need to find out what kind and if you’re aircraft is certified into known icing conditions. Flying into known icing conditions if you’re aircraft is not properly equipped could put you in violation with the FAA (the formal definition of known ice and legal consequences of flying into known icing conditions can be found here: http://www.circletoland.com/questions/54/what-is-the-definition-of-known-ice)
Back to equipment, aircraft are equipped with either Anti-Ice, De-Ice or a combination of both. Anti-Ice equipment is designed to prevent ice buildup and is turned on before ice forms. This include prop, carb, pitot, fuel vent, and windshield heat. Two other anti-icing technologies are fluid deicers (“weeping wings”) and heated wings (usually found in jets, not typically found on most GA aircraft).
Deicing equipment is designed to remove ice that has already accumulated (although it can be used as a preventive measure). For most aircraft there is only one deicer available, boots, which are inflatable rubber strips attached to the leading edges of wings and tail surfaces. When the boots are inflated, it causes pressure to break off ice that has formed on the leading edges of the wings. Suction is then applied to deflate the boot until the next cycle. There is a persistent myth in aviation that warns not to inflate the boots too much. For fear it will cause “ice bridging,” or the accumulation of ice beyond the inflation point of the boot, thus preventing ice from breaking off in the next inflation cycle. While its true that some residual ice can be found after the boots have done their work, its for the most part not enough to cause a bridge to form.
Wow thanks, but I have a feeling there’s more I could be learning about ice. Where can I go for more information?
This article from the AOPA Safety Foundation is a great place to go, you’ll learn more about ice forms, how you can tell if there’s ice build-up on the tail, and even how ice can form inside of your engine (ice induction). It’s a must read for any pilot flying in the US at this time of year!
The European Parlament is expected today to sign a bill today that will cancel priveleges of pilots holding FAA certificates in European Union countries.
Once the bill is signed into law, FAA ticket holders must undergo the conversion process to a JAA/EASA equivalent. A process that could involve several medical exams and additional knowledge exams.
The situation is even grimmer for those who wish to fly IFR. Unlike the US, IFR requirements are stricter under JAA/EASA, which is closer to obtaining an ATP license in the US. The estimated amount of time to obtain an IFR rating in Europe for an average pilot with a family would be a year of groundschool and nearly cost nearly $30,000.
Don’t think this won’t impact the United States either. While there aren’t hard numbers out there, it’s been estimated that the FAA issues certificates to several hundred international students every year. After the bill is signed into effect, it would be pointless for international students to come to the US to train. This could have a severe financial impact on an already struggling flight training market.
For more information, check out the IAOPA October newsletter, and listen to this special podcast from AvWeb and Emmanuel Davidson, vice president of AOPA in France.
In my opinion, this bill has nothing to do with safety, and everything to do with political protectionism. The EU is trying to address why so few pilots have a JAA/EASA license and spend money training in Europe by brute force. What they’ll find is that this measure (like user fees) will only shrink aviation in Europe more until it is only available to the very rich or to airlines.
I just hope some “brilliant” politician or lobby group doesn’t get the same idea here.
September 8, 2010
In between marathons of Airplane!, Top Gun, One-Six Right, and Hot Shots, you might want to check out another high-octane feature (shot and directed by a pilot).
This was a week long video project my girlfriend (Haley Weaver) put together for a video contest. The prize is a free trip to New Orleans for the National REALTORS Conference and Expo.
August 25, 2010
So you ask a great aviation question on a flying forum (AOPA, EAA, etc) but you haven’t gotten any responses? Your question might not be as great as you think. Here are five tips that I put together for the users of CircleToLand.com on how to ask great aviation questions and get excellent answers from pilots.
August 5, 2010
The Commemorative Air Force (CAF)’s B-29, with help from a number of sponsers and volunteers, took to the sky today for the first time since 2004. Its regained its status as the world’s only flyable B-29 Superfortress.
July 12, 2010
CircleToLand.com, my website for pilot questions and answers, has just completed its major face-lift and software overhaul. For the software geeks, I’m now using a Q&A package called OSQA. Its still in a beta stage and there are some rough spots, but there are some advantages to using the new software package: