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Complex aircraft conversion

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Complex aircraft conversion

Old 25th Oct 2010, 20:04
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: England and Central Europe
Posts: 31
Complex aircraft conversion

I'm about to convert into my first complex - C172RG. I'm very familiar with the C172, so what do I need to consider in the conversion (apart from putting the gear down for landing! )

I don't yet have full details of the aircraft in question, other than that it has a GNS430 and autopilot so any advice from more experienced pilots much appreciated.
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Old 25th Oct 2010, 21:35
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: UK, mainly
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Assuming it's fully complex, use of the prop control, power settings, leaning safely. When to retract the gear, when to delay retraction. Rejoins without overspeeding the prop... The major focus for me on conversions is the emergencies side - ie glides with gear up & down, looking at using prop rpm to vary glide range, and gear failure scenarios. Basically the what ifs! Anything else should just be standard checkout, getting used to the handling and speeds.
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Old 25th Oct 2010, 22:52
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Join Date: Jun 2003
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What autopilot?
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Old 26th Oct 2010, 10:49
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Location: London
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I love the C-172RG - great plane. I agree with everything that madlandrover advised.

To save time and hassle in the air, learn the systems inside out before you fly, particularly:

1) Constant speed propellor - how does it work, how do you operate it, what happens if you lose oil pressure, what settings do you fly at. Try to read around this as well as there is a lot of useful information on the internet.

2) Landing gear - again, how does it work, what happens if you have an electrical failure and/or the pump fails, how does it operate under normal conditions (I have a personal rule that I always ask myself whether the gear is down on short final - no matter what I am flying).

3) Cowl flaps - again, how they work, what they are for and how/when they should be used.
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Old 26th Oct 2010, 17:02
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Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: England and Central Europe
Posts: 31

Thanks - info much appreciated.

IO - sadly the plane hasn't been delivered to my club yet, so haven't seen the POH and don't know which model the autopilot is.

Madlandrover - great tips thanks. Heli - I should have mentioned I am used to constant speed units, although with MP measured in atmospheres (Zlin 142) rather than inches. Suspect I will be spending a lot of time pre-landing checking the gear is down, just for my own sanity!

Do any of you know of any good books / resources specifically for the RG? I've downloaded a "generic" POH and a couple of checklists (and the GNS430 manual and simulator), but is there anything that covers the practicalities (like cowl flaps) as well as the POH info?
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Old 26th Oct 2010, 17:51
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Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: UK
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Nothing much to add to the posts above, except to say that I'm very impressed with your attitude about learning as much as possible about your aircraft. Keep it up, you'll stay a good pilot.

Actually one thing - in advance, practice a bit more doing this "by the checklist", the order, timing and content of which becomes more important on a complex than it does on simpler types where it can be more appropriate to do things "by feel".

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Old 26th Oct 2010, 21:18
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Ontario, Canada
Age: 59
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First and foremost: More complex airplane means more things to think about - don't foreget to fly the plane first and always. Everything else will wait for you to keep the aircraft in safe flight. If you're exceeding your total capability, go back to a simpler plane!

Have a mind for more precise anticipation of speeds. The 172RG is pretty forgiving, but you'll still want to plan to fly the aircraft so as to slow down (without slamming the throttle closed, and shock cooling the engine) so that you can enter the circiut at a speed such that extension of the gear and flaps does not require areobatics for speed management. Plan well ahead. This is much more applicable to slinky high performance types, which are hard to slow down, but equally valuable to practice in the 172RG.

Also remind yourself that in single Cessna RG's the pilot has a first hand view with which to confirm the extension of the main gear, but not so much the nose. This has two important aspects: If the nose gear has not extended, you may be distracted into thinking it has because of the thump, and presence of the mains. If you are conducting a forced landing, and you go through the checklist too quickly, or wrong order, you can get the gear on the way down, and actually get the master off (as a checklist item) before the nose gear is down. The result can be landing on the mains, and partially extended nosewheel. It's been done many times. Look to see if there is a mirror in which you can see the nosewheel. When flying at night, it can be useful to recall what the profile of the fuselage looks like in the mirror, so you can fly some lights on the ground behind the nosewheel, to see if you get the desired "nosewheel eclipse".

It will probably have a landing gear selector which you have to pull out to move. Pull on it to move it, don't force it (if you break off the knob, you will wish you hadn't later).

Confirm by visual inspection of the selector knob position, that the landing gear is selected down, before you turn on the master on the ground for any reason (pre flight inspection). The "WOW" weight on wheels switch is on the nosewheel only. If it is U/S, and someone left the selector up, the nose wheel is going to retract right then (it will go much faster than usual, 'cause the mains are not moving). If you have people in the back, and a load of baggage, and the nose wheel is light, it could also retract even with a working, but poorly rigged WOW switch.

When you switch the master on, you will probably hear the pump run for a few seconds. As long as it shuts off promptly, that's fine.

Also begin to consider those circumstances where landing with the gear up would be preferable- there are some.

There are lots of other things you will learn as you go, and the advice here will be a good part of that. It's just mind expanding, and in aviation, that's always good!
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Old 26th Oct 2010, 22:33
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Join Date: May 2003
Location: UK
Posts: 278
In case you are not familiar with the John Deakin's Engine-RelatedColumns:
John Deakin's Engine-Related Columns

I found them a mine of useful information when I did my complex a/c conversion recently.
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Old 26th Oct 2010, 22:36
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Location: Denmark
Age: 59
Posts: 41
Up/down - as simple as that, right?

I agree with the above. However, I would like to add some further risk considerations.

Most pilots in your position are puzzled by the "fancy" propellor, but expects that handling the undercarriage is as simple as switching on and off the landing light.

Actually, it is the other way around. Handling the propellor is fairly simple and close to idiot proof - if in doubt, push the lever forward and go to high RPM. Propellor governor failures are rare and don't usually cause accidents.

The retractable undercarriage, on the other hand, is responsible for most of the trouble. This is only partly due to the obvious possibility of a wheels-up landing. Another more serious risk factor is that a complex airplane with the undercarriage retracted is slippier that the fixed gear version, and if the pilot loses control, it will accelerate towards Vne much quicker. For this reason accident rates due to loss of control are higher with complex aeroplanes.

So, if you ever lose control at altitude in a complex aircraft, it is probably the best option to extend the gear immediately, even if you are above the gear extension limit speed.

Gear-up landings are embarassing if caused by a distraction or by lack of familiarity with aircraft systems. But usually the damage is limited to the pilot's ego and a little to the aircraft's underside. Two exceptions:

1) Gear-up landing on grass. Unlike on hard surfaces, there is a risk that the aircraft will turn over on its back, which sometimes is critical. Always land on a hard surface if you suspect or know of gear problems.

2) Ultra-low go-around with gear retracted. Sometimes the airplane is down in the landing flare, before the pilot realizes that the gear is still retracted. If the pilot then throttles up and goes around, there is a risk of prop strike. It has happened more than once, that an aircraft climbing to circuit altitude has experiences prop blade failure after an undetected prop strike with the gear retracted. Such failures are usually serious, occasionally fatal.

So make sure you understand the gear system of any retractable aircraft you fly. To power gear retraction Cessnas have an electro-hyd-pack that is known to have failures, especially if not expertly maintained. The pack is able to drain the battery in a short time if the pump is left running e.g. due to pressure switch failure or a fluid leak.

I don't mean to scare anyone away. I find retractable Cessnas (and many other retractables) a delight to fly (177RG is my favorite). Just don't let the gear - or its implications - take you by surprise.
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Old 27th Oct 2010, 19:16
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Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Middle England
Posts: 145
GNS430 - wonderful bit of kit! Get familiar with it on the ground. It does magical things, particularly when coupled to the autopilot.
Garmin have a simulator for the PC which I think you can find here
Free 400/500 Series & GNS 480 Simulators
The FAA has some stuff as well on it which you can find here
There's also bags of stuff on Youtube you can look at.

Some thoughts based on my experiences:
1. Do your downwind checks before you arrive in the circuit and get your speed back and wheels down. It's very embarrassing shunting a 152 up the backside.
2. Do check the wheels and the green light several times (I check on entry to circuit, downwind and final).
3. I think 177's have a mirror on the wing for the front wheel. You might like to see what you could do on the 172 legally.
4. With complex conversion, wheels are the easy bit. I found fiddling with the prop much more challenging.
5. Use the autopilot. I find it's invaluable when I leave the circuit. I put the autopilot on so that I can fiddle with prop and mixture and make ATC calls.
6. Don't use the autopilot...all the time. You should handfly to make sure your skills are maintained.
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Old 28th Oct 2010, 11:24
  #11 (permalink)  
Join Date: May 2003
Location: Yorkshire
Posts: 664
Never flown a 172RG, but I have flown Cessna RGs 177, 182 and 210. In my experience the hardest thing to master (?) is getting into the mindset of slowing the things down in good time - particularly with the heavier 210, it's amazing how much more slippery they are with their legs up. It's really easy to underestimate how much time/distance you need to get properly set up to join or land, and be left with the options of (a) dangle the Dunlops, slam the throttle closed and the prop all the way up - not wise, (b) some combination of the above plus aerial ballet - also not wise, or (c) b*gger off and come back with it sorted !
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