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Reading the instructions

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Reading the instructions

Old 6th Jan 2019, 22:33
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Reading the instructions

As readers here may have noticed, I kind of harp on the idea that a pilot should read the the flight manual (the instructions). (By the way, I write "flight manual", while also considering the "POH", I'll get back to that). Every now and then (okay, I'm guilty more than once myself) a pilot launches into the sky in an aircraft, not completely aware of the information in the flight manual applicable to the flight. Has anyone else noticed this?

I found during my training, that training was emphasized, the flight manual, not so much. Okay, it was only a 152, and the flight manual was not really that thick, so it was easier just to do what my instructor told me. In the 152, it seemed to have worked. That said, I was a curious lad, and I would hang around the airport on rainy days, hoping to listen in the shadows to sky god conversation, or to find something to read, so I did read flight manual from time to time.

For any certified aircraft manufactured since the mid 1970's, the flight manual is probably "approved" by the authority of the nation of manufacture (commonly the FAA). In the case of Cessnas, one can often read somewhere in the front of the Owners' Manual/POH words like "this document constitutes the FAA approved flight manual" - good, we know where we stand with that.

I once had to fly performance flight testing for changed propellers in a Piper Twin Comanche. I reviewed the POH for performance information. I could not make the baseline aircraft climb anywhere near the POH values, and the mod did not improve on that much. Problem; how do I show compliance of the aircraft to the climb performance charts, when it did not comply? My learned mentor told me: "Pilot DAR, look for the performance information in the FAA approved flight manual for the airplane" - it was kind of like having Yoda tell me something. I knew that he must be right, but what was I missing? Aha! Piper issued both a POH, and an FAA approved flight manual for the Twin Comanche. The POH is really flashy, the FAA approved flight manual much less so - but approved. I was required to consider the FAA approved flight manual, the POH, was not approved, and therefore of unknown authority. The FAA approved flight manual for the Twin Comanche provides performance information for altitude loss in a stall, (an FAA requirement for certification) and nothing else. Good, there is no FAA approved climb performance data for the Twin Comanche, so the basis of my test changes favourably.

Another time, I test fly a brand new Found Bushhawk on skis. The aircraft had been delivered from the factory to the airport where I flew it. This time, I read the flight manual from the beginning, to the beginning of the supplements, which I did not read ('cause I know about radios right?). The speeds in my flight test were in conflict, the speed ranges on the ASI did not correspond to the speed in the flight manual. Hmm... I flew the test with the conservative speeds, though perplexed, what was I not understanding about this - and, I'm going to look stupid when someone (Yoda) points out to me what I have not figured out yet! After the flight, and needing a little more data, I read further into the flight manual supplements. I skipped the supplement for floatplane, as I was flying a skiplane. There was no skiplane supplement ('cause that was what I was flight testing for), then, I saw a supplement for STC installed fowler flaps. Hmmm, the plane I just flew has fowler flaps, I saw them! That must mean that this supplement applies - but when did this plane get an STC installed, it's brand new! It turns out that the Found company holds an STC for it's own plane for a fowler flap installation, replacing the plane flaps of the original design, and it left the factory with this modification (well, original build, installed. But the flight manual did not really point the pilot to this difference. There was much changed information for the aircraft with fowler flaps, including speeds. The ASI was correct, for the fowler flap version of the aircraft. I felt I was standing up to my waist in the swamp of Dagobah, with Yoda just shaking his head that I'd flown a flight test using the wrong basic data.

As a fairly new pilot, I'd flown the Cessna 310R with three passengers. One beside me, and two in the middle row. It seemed nose heavy. When I began the prep for my next flight with the same passengers, I consulted the flight manual, and really did a W&B. The number did not work out. After a few tries, I sought assistance from another flight crew in the lounge. when they worked through it with me, it seems that the way the plane was loaded required me alone in the front, one mid row pax, and two in the back row. I sat them there, and the plane flew well!

During a checkout for rental of a Piper Arrow 3, the checkout instructor had me land into a runway which was suspiciously short, on a hot Florida day. Now being nervous about the takeoff, I informed him that I would lock off the automatic landing gear to assure that it retracted when I selected up and a slightly slower speed, I really wanted it up when sleected. He resisted, displaying puzzlement as to what "locking off" was in the Arrow. I pulled out the POH (okay, I can't be sure now it was also the flight manual, Twin Comanche considered) and showed him the system description, and statement about locking the gear off for a short field takeoff. I'm pretty sure he'd never seen this before - and he was checking me out!

There are a couple of types I have encountered where the only difference between two models of the type is the flight manual - often written to comply with the requirements of a different authority, for that authority's approval - the plane itself is the same.

So, to stimulate discussion, I've honoured up about a few of my many flights which were too casual about reading the flight manual. Would anyone else like to tell us about how they used (or didn't use) the flight manual, and what they learned from that? I'm hoping to renew the sense of importance of reading the instructions before you fly the plane!
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Old 6th Jan 2019, 23:20
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Did about 200 hours private prior to joining the military, at no time during training (Chipmunk, Auster, Tiger Moth, Cessnas 150, 172, 182) was mention made of a flight manual. All training was on the basis of being shown or being told. Seems not much has changed from my daughters experience a few years ago. Was flying off the last few hours for her CPL on a navex in a 150, rang to say the alternator had failed in flight and wanted to know what to do. Had no idea the POH had an emergency checklist covering the problem.
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 02:53
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+ 1000 for what Pilot DAR said

The problem starts with instructors. I continue to find it extremely disappointing how poor the average instructor understands what is in the POH. Instead of learning what the manual says far too often instructors just mindlessly pass on Flight - Training- ism many of which are directly contrary to the direction given by the manufacturer publications

Last edited by Pilot DAR; 7th Jan 2019 at 03:28. Reason: corrected typo
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 11:01
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I don't think reference to the POH was emphasised enough during my training. However, once you hold a licence, the onus really is on the aircraft commander to be aware of what needs to be referred to. We have all passed the exams which cover the relevant documentation required for flight - whatever level we are at.
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 11:11
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Originally Posted by Big Pistons Forever View Post
+ 1000 for what Pilot DAR said

The problem starts with instructors. I continue to find it extremely disappointing how poor the average instructor understands what is in the POH. Instead of learning what the manual says far too often instructors just mindlessly pass on Flight - Training- ism many of which are directly contrary to the direction given by the manufacturer publications

Indeed, + 1000 for both. Over 20 hours into my PPL, no-one has mentioned the existence of an 'instruction book'!

Which reminds, Pilot_Dar, you kindly sent me a link to the manual for the C172M. All of its units are 'American', especially airspeed is in mph which seems very odd when the dial is in Knots. But also all the fuel, weight, balance is in rods, poles and perches. What is the advice on using this? Does a 'metric' version exist ? Or do I work in the given units and convert at the end ?
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 11:21
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I have experienced a bit of the reverse situation! I must have had good instruction, because I repeatedly tried to consult the POH, of my newly (but not new) bought plane only to find it offered no answers. For one example, I searched in vain for a schematic of the electrics, so in the end I had to concoct my own - luckily helped by a fellow flying the exact same type. Also, the one thing approaching a POH published by the manufacturer only covered the tailwheel version, and of course I have the three-wheel variant.

@above: I had to look twice at the "rods, poles and perches" bit - then laughed my head off!
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 13:03
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All of its units are 'American', especially airspeed is in mph which seems very odd when the dial is in Knots.
That was a problem in around the "M's" of the Cessna 150 and 172, Cessna was transitioning from MPH to Knots, and I have noticed that some planes had a mismatch of speed units ASI to flight manual. In most cases, the Cessna ASI's had two scales, both MPH and knots, so it was more a matter of which was the outer scale. In any case, the coloured range markings will be correct, even if the speed numbers primarily scale is in the other units. Interestingly, Canada, being a "metric" country, still has aviation regulations stating that primary aviation units shall be imperial. Imported planes with Kmph ASI's and meters altimeters must have them changed to imperial units for Canadian registration. We had our teething troubles with the metric changeover - see "Gimli Glider". We've never done passenger weight in stones.

I'm not aware that the Tiger Moth was provided with a flight manual (I asked, and was told not). I was asked to fly the maintenance check flight for a Tiger Moth following a ten year rebuild (Apparently, the owner, who so eagerly awaited the opportunity to fly his pride and joy, following the rebuild declared that the cockpit had shrunk during the process, and he no longer fit. I do know him to have enjoyed a good meal from time to time). Anyway, I gave it a careful walk around, and strapped in. It had been 30 years since I'd flown a Moth, so, with nothing to read, I took my time learning around the modest cockpit. While doing a control check, I noticed that ailerons move up when they should, but the opposing aileron did not move down much. With no written reference, and no training for this. I unstrapped the airplane, went up to the owner's office, and asked. Yes, they worked correctly, so I flew it.

For aircraft for which the manufacture provides a flight manual, it is required by regulation to be accessible to the pilot in flight, and the pilot is required to fly in accordance with what is written there.

It is as important to be familiar with the contents of any flight manual supplements (FMS), as the flight manual itself. The flight manual supplements have the same importance, and regulator requirement as the basic flight manual. These days, older aircraft are being modified to newer standards, and that often affects aircraft systems (avionics/electrics in particular). I oversaw and approved a Cessna 182 conversion, which when completed included 27 STC mods to the aircraft. Many of these mods were accompanied with their own FMS, though some not. My job became writing yet another FMS which drew together all the relevant differences in the final aircraft. It is 18 pages long.

Every FMS will probably say something like "this is not a substitute for competent flight training", and I can go along with that - you still need to receive good flight training to know how to fly! But with that, the flight manual should bring you to the required familiarity with the aircraft type. When I was a lowly 150 hr PPL, and worked a junior office position at an airline, I also moonlighted for that airline as a sub assistant sim tech for the DC-8-63 training simulator the airline had. It was a full motion, with very limited night only visual display. My training was simply to shut the sim down when the crews were finished training at midnight or so. So I'd spend all evening in the sim office, doing whatever I wanted, simply being available to shut it down, if something went wrong. So I read the manuals - all of them - over and over. Then, I realized, that when the crews were done, I could lock myself in, and go sim flying. I taught myself to fly a DC-8-63 from the flight manual - zero dual instruction. Not wanting to get caught, I always had to leave it parked at the runway threshold where I'd found it, ready to go, and I did. I never crashed it. After 40 or so hours of this (which I informally logged for myself) The boss found out, and joked that maybe they could give me a type endorsement based on sim training only. Happily, I became the go to office guy to give visiting office guests a circuit in the sim over lunch. The greater message to me was that the flight manual, if well understood, contained the information needed for an adequately competent pilot to familiarize themselves with the aircraft enough to fly it with adequate safety. Many times since, I've checked myself out on a new type, from reading the flight manual, and the FMS'.
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 13:09
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Join Date: Jan 2016
Location: Uk
Posts: 196
I do Air/Ground at a busy UK airfield underneath the London TMA and an airports Control Area with a TMZ.

Consequently most aircraft are now fitted with 8.33 radios ( we have changed frequency) and also mode S transponders.

There have been numerous radio problems and TMZ infringements because pilots have not read their manuals.

The “ best” was a regular visitor who arrived overhead non radio and proceeded to land on the reciprocal,
all because he hadn’t read the manual of his new radio fit and didn’t know how to select our new freq.

So it’s not just Flight Manuals, or whatever you like to call them nowadays, that don’t get read.
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Old 7th Jan 2019, 18:50
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Join Date: Dec 2009
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Originally Posted by double_barrel View Post
Indeed, + 1000 for both. Over 20 hours into my PPL, no-one has mentioned the existence of an 'instruction book'!

Which reminds, Pilot_Dar, you kindly sent me a link to the manual for the C172M. All of its units are 'American', especially airspeed is in mph which seems very odd when the dial is in Knots. But also all the fuel, weight, balance is in rods, poles and perches. What is the advice on using this? Does a 'metric' version exist ? Or do I work in the given units and convert at the end ?
To somewhat condense Pilot DARs reply, you'll find many additions to the Flight Manual in the supplements. Case in point, in NZ we are metric but we must operate our US made aircraft in a mixture of imperial and US measurements (US gallons, fuel pounds, statue miles, nautical miles, feet, knots) as well as metric (visibility is always given in meters or km - don't ask me why). The FM supplements may contain tables to allow quick conversion of units. For example, when doing a weight and balance, I need to convert liters of fuel (what our pumps and fuel dipsticks are calibrated in) to kilograms to fuel pounds as the chart is in pounds. You may also find approved modifications to that specific aircraft in there as well. For example, our 172M has the Supplemental Type Certificate that upgrades the engine output to 180hp but restricts flap travel to 30 degrees maximum. We also have a STC that allows us to remove the right hand door for photo ops or liferaft dropping.

The lesson here Double_Barrel is that you'll find that no two 172s are alike (the older they are, the more likely this is), and I cannot recommend strongly enough the need to read through the flight manual (and supplements) for any aircraft you might fly before you crank it over, especially if you have never flown it before.
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Old 8th Jan 2019, 11:26
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Merriment indeed when we remember that 'rods, poles and perches' and similar Angle Saxonisms took men to the Moon.
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Old 8th Jan 2019, 12:07
  #11 (permalink)  
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Dublin
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Can we alert the various publishing houses, that there is a book in the making with our veritable instructor & forum admin PilotDAR.
Self taught DC-8 pilot :-) fantastic. where do I pre-order?
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Old 8th Jan 2019, 17:03
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As a very new Group A / SEP class pilot, having learned on a C152 I bought a share in a PA28. An instructor on the syndicate taught me to use an approach speed of 75-80kts. The POH was nowhere in evidence, and I was still trying to get hold of a copy when I took it into an shortish (but should have been okay) grass runway airfield that turned out to have unpublished obstructions under the approach.

I approached at 75-80 as instructed, floated halfway down it, and wiped the gear off in a ditch near the end. The syndicate leader who turned up with the insurer handed him the POH with a smirk and comment "We keep it locked away so that nobody can mess it up".

Plenty wrong in my airmanship that flight (I have massively more hours and several more licences now, so hopefully some additional wisdom), but had I actually known that the book says 63kts at MTOW, reducing with weight, that aeroplane wouldn't have spent 6 months being rebuilt.

Some years later I found myself acting as an expert witness in court - I showed that a Rans S6 "manual" (almost laughable applying that term) gave an approach speed just a couple of mph above the stall speed - totally inappropriately - it should have been much faster, and also contained no warning about the aeroplane's large pitch up with power. And that was the reason somebody who had just bought one, approached at the book speed (he knew no better), then pitched up into an incipient spin when somebody taxied onto a runway right in front of him, causing a crash that hospitalised him, his son in the passenger seat, and the occupant of a caravan parked just off the side of the runway that he crashed into.

I am absolutely with DAR here - and certainly as a "grown up" have both ensured any POH I was responsible for was complete and checked, but that any aeroplane I was due to fly I had fully digested and was using the approved manual for the aeroplane.

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Old 8th Jan 2019, 17:13
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And then we move seamlessly on to that other beloved, much exercised (here and elsewhere) topic - checklists.

We operate a PA28 for flight training and Club use. In common with other establishments, we bought checklists for the PA28 from commercial suppliers. None of them are a particularly good fit for our aircraft. so we thought we'd start from first principles and went to the Flight Manual (by a miracle, the original has survived quite a few owners and is the actual one for our serial number). There is an amazing lack of detail, something about being on the 'proper' tank and having the seatbacks upright for take-off. Perhaps Piper thought we'd all know all the rest of the stuff. So anyway, wanting to balance having a list to check that the needful items as we see them have been done and NOT wanting to turn it in to an instruction manual we have written our own. It's carefully constructed so as not to contradict the FM in any way, but to be an aide memoire especially for low-hours and student pilots. It's a single sheet of A5, big enough print to read easily. One place I worked had a large booklet as a checklist, with several lines giving instructions on how and why to do each item - barmy!

NB. The only items referred to from a written list are done whilst the aircraft is stationary. ALL items whilst it is in motion must be done from memory.

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Old 9th Jan 2019, 11:08
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Aaahhh....yes....POHs.... or the lack thereof.

The biggest shamble I've been involved with in this respect was an FTO where, due to rapid expansion, they had been buying up various aircraft left and right, without bothering a lot about fleet commonality. After a while instructing on the Cessnas, I was due to be checked out on the Arrow, so that I could instruct for the CPL syllabus as well. I had about 80 hours on the Arrow III by then, so I wasn't expecting to find a lot of new stuff, but I still studied the SOPs diligently. The POH itself wasn't provided as the school wrote OMs with type specific SOPs that 'should' cover everything.

The checkout with the CFI in the other seat went well, but I was surprised a bit by the, to me, strange glide speed that I had to use in the relevant exercises. Then again, my experience was on fairly new Arrow IIIs, this was an older Arrow III and I was well aware that there could be some differences. It wasn't until I asked the CFI some questions about this after the flight that I realised the situation: they were operating both PA28R-200s (the Arrow II with the old slab wing) and PA28R-201s (the Arrow III with the tapered wing) using the exact same speeds and procedures from the Arrow II books. I ended up loaning my own general Arrow III POH to the CFI so he could read up and copy the relevant bits.... Within a few weeks the OMs and SOPs were adapted, but they still expected students to go from one subtype to the other without any fuss.

To keep things interesting, they also had a few PA28RT-201Ts (T-tailed and turbocharged Arrow IVs) but fortunately had realised that these were different and needed different procedures from the low-tailed non-turbocharged variants... Oh well. The interior fit and equipment was different for each individual aircraft anyway, so standardisation was a complete joke. I'm happy to say that the outfit isn't in business anymore (at least, under the old name...)
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Old 9th Jan 2019, 16:20
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Join Date: Sep 2001
Location: Toronto
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There's a recent TSB Canada report on a Navajo that landed on a road after the engines stopped TSB Report .
... created a standard operating procedures (SOPs) document containing a normal procedures checklist for the PA-31-350. This checklist was compared to the one in the Pilots Operating Handbook (POH), ... which is published by the aircraft manufacturer. The investigation found differences between the 2 documents. Of note, in the POH descent checklist, there is a step to check that the fuel selectors are set to inboard. However, the air operator's normal procedures descent checklist did not include this item. Instead, the step to check that the fuel selectors are set to inboard was included in the before landing checklist.
The manufacturer's POH contains a caution note between the before takeoff and normal takeoff procedures that states, in part, "Outboard tanks are for coordinated level flight only and may never be used for takeoff."In the description of cruise flight, the POH contains the following statement: "If outboard cells are used during climbs, descents or prolonged uncoordinated level flight, power loss may result even if there is appreciable fuel remaining." ... Neither statement was reproduced in the ... normal procedures checklist document.
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