Sunday, December 10, 2017


We are all spacefarers, hurtling through space whether our feet are on the ground or traversing through the air. Humans were meant to fly but with artificial wings. Once you have broken the surely bonds and catapulted through the air, there is no turning back from that delight. The desire forever haunts you for more.

But when there is silence from the artificial means of thrust, we want to get down and kiss the ground too. And therein lies a tale of nonfiction.

Engine Out procedures are practiced daily by scores of students and those undergoing recurrent training. But… but, and here is the logical question, does that practice translate to the real thing? Mostly, I hate to say…Depends!

The answer is quite simple, really. If you practice “feel good” maneuvers, then the real live scenarios, when they come your way one day, the mind will be rattled. Practicing good real world scenarios with a fund of knowledge in real world is like executing a bicycle ride. Let me add in some comforting mathematics and some simple calculations along the way to make it more palatable.

"If you practice “feel good” maneuvers then the real live scenarios, when they come your way one day, the mind will be rattled."

But one thing is for certain, to be able to come out of such a real live scenario without a scratch, it is only the prepared mind that will succeed.

Look into your POHs and you will find some evidence in the Performance section of your aircraft’s abilities. One such ability we need to hone in on. It is Glide Speed. The first and only major thought in any engine out scenario is to trim for best glide speed based on the weight of the aircraft. (direct relationship -  Heavy weight = higher glide speed) most POHs will give you relative glide speeds for different aircraft weights.

In most General Aviation aircraft, the glide distance per 1000 feet varies between 1.5 nautical mile to 2.1 nautical miles. It also varies significantly with whether the gear is extended in complex aircraft, the propeller is low RPM and if the flaps are retracted. Adding any drag significantly affects the glide distance.

Altitude is always your friend. There is inherent Kinetic Energy in an object in the air with or without thrust, the gravitational pull gives it that energy. Dissipating the energy by virtue of the airfoil (wings) gives us the distance gained per altitude lost. Knowing that one can quickly calculate how far one can successfully land and fly another day.

Keeping brevity in mind, let us look at the common scenario. Let us say a pilot loses the thrust at 5000 feet AGL. What are his chances? If we multiply the 5 (000) x 1.7 = 8.5 miles is the answer. Simple and direct. This encounter would favor the prepared pilot and not the panicked one. Of course one has to go through the checklist at that altitude: Fuel (Change tanks & Auxillary pump on for a short time), Spark (Check Magnetos on both) and Air(Pull Alternate Air). If not successful, declare an emergency and plan for a on or off-airport landing.

"There is inherent Kinetic Energy in an object in the air with or without thrust, the gravitational pull gives it that energy. Dissipating the energy by virtue of the airfoil (wings) gives us the distance gained per altitude lost."

Now the easy math part I mentioned earlier. Look at the altitude, your best glide speed and calculate the distance. Remembering that, that distance is in zero-wind condition. Add the prevailing wind speed and the decision making becomes a little bit more complex. Heading into a header will obviously diminish the glide distance, since one must add at least ½ the wind speed to the glide speed to traverse the distance and that will reduce the overall distance. However, if the airport or landing zone is on the leeward side, then flying distance will increase by the factor of the wind. I have calculated a chart attached to this article that might help most GA aircraft based on their descent rate and the glide distance per 1000 feet.

Now for the practical test itself. I have done several simulated engine-out scenarios both in flight simulators and in real time. The margins are definitely lower in real world scenarios, because the pilot's mind plays tricks too. So those pilots thinking that 2.1 miles/1000 feet of altitude loss is their bird’s "Glide Distance" value, should consider a more conservative measure at say 1.8 miles/1000 feet. Arriving over an airport at a 1000 feet is infinitely better that trying to do the most dangerous of all things; “Stretching a glide” to the runway. “There it is! There it is! Oops! @#$%$!

If you wish to have .pdf copy of this image, please request under comments.

Two methods of practicing are helpful. One is to spiral down over the runway, if you have arrived there with altitude to lose, using the fighter pilot "flame out" technique of “High Key, Low Key and Base Key” and the other is the straight-in approach. Both have different calculations. In the former method, based on Altitude loss per 360 degrees turn at 20-30 degrees bank angle must be known and that establishes the “Keys.” So if your aircraft loses 1000 feet in a 360 degree turn, then the start with an upwind “high key” at 1500 feet to arrive at the “low key” (Downwind) at 1000 feet and “base key” at 500 feet. In the latter method, it is based mostly on the distance gained per 1000 feet of altitude loss. So at 9000 feet losing 1400+/- feet/minute (heavy drag), one can traverse 11 miles of distance and that increases with a tailwind and decreases with a headwind component.

Some basic CALCULATIONS on a very “Draggy aircraft” that might help include the following:

 ((nm flown) * (feet per nm)/ Altitude in feet AGL)) = GLIDE RATIO
eg: 11 * 6072 / 9000 = 7.42 : 1
(Distance in nm/speed in knots)*(minutes/hour) = TIME ALOFT
eg: (11 / 100) * 60 = 6.6 minutes
(Altitude in AGL)/(minutes aloft) = SINK RATE
eg: 9000 / 6.6 = 1363 feet per minute.

There you have it. Next section, I plan to discuss “Engine Out” Scenario in an IFR state of mind. And that gets very interesting but no less challenging and mathematically easy to accomplish safely if one keeps one's wits orbiting around one’s head. So let the knowledge and experience shoot up in the air and the roots dig deeper into the ground for familiarity and retrieval.

Safety is No Accident.

Sunday, December 3, 2017


It occurred to me the other day that while humans are not meant to fly, we have through our intellect and perseverance learnt the physics of how to fly like birds, that is, without wings attached to our bodies, although with the Jetman-age, that might be disputed.

But what happens when the propulsion system gives up the ghost and the only salvation is to find a place to settle down on the terra firma. Unlike birds alighting on a treetop, planes do not necessarily like the idea of treetops or trees in general (well insurers surely don’t). So that brings up the discussion of how to “alight” on the green earth with all limbs and wings intact.

The major issues we need to discuss are what would you do if you lost an engine at the following altitudes…
500 feet
1000 feet
2000 feet
5000 feet
10,000 feet
What would you do?

Let’s start with an “engine out” on the runway and get that out of the way… solution is to close the throttle (pull it back all the way and the mixture) and brake to stop on the pavement if possible, shut down the electronics, Magnetos and evacuate the aircraft quickly! Alertness is the key. There is plenty of fuel in the wings since you just took off and any miscreant spark can make a mess of things quickly.

At 500 feet, the options are limited except flying straight ahead with minimal degrees of bank, no more than 20 degrees (you don’t want to lose the vertical component of lift). If there are trees ahead, slow the aircraft to minimal controllable airspeed as you mush onto the treetops with the gear stowed. This is an eminently survivable technique. For that matter if you have to set the plane down on any terrain where you cannot fly out from, leave the gear in the wheel wells. Dissipation of energy in a slow skid over the terrain will reduce the harm from an abrupt 100-G force on a sudden stop at 70+kts. A 100-G force can liquefy the human body into a horrible mess. Thinking about Force = Mass x Acceleration, Reducing the acceleration reduces the (G) force. As a preplanning reminder at this juncture, one should always observe the departure and approach end of every runway for potential unplanned landing-sites. Use the 45-degree entry to evaluate both ends of the runway; a good habit to say the least. Bad things happen even on runways when fuel starvation is the cause and pilots and passengers sit and discuss what might have been in their seats as trouble brews into a catastrophe. So, remember to evacuate the aircraft as quickly as possible after an unplanned landing.

"A 100-G force can liquefy the human body into a horrible mess. Thinking about Force = Mass x Acceleration, Reducing the acceleration reduces the (G) force." 

At 1000 feet more optional vistas open up to you. A turn back to the crosswind runway or the same runway you departed from is a real possibility. Only if you are astute and aware enough to take advantage of the possibility. But here, practice makes it easier to walk away without a scratch on pilot and plane. The most important thing is to immediately maintain an appropriate Glide Speed (GS) for the weight of the aircraft. Scan the Fuel flow, change to other tank, check magnetos on both and Alternate Air handle pull quickly without a thought- these are Critical Memorized Actions! Then, using the common heuristic, reduce 2 knots from the glide speed for every 100 lbs less weight, since best glide speed is calculated at max gross weight. Careful preflight planning to figure out the GS at various weights and have them memorized might save the day too, someday. In some aircraft, you might only require a 3-4 degrees pitch down in others a steeper 6-7 degrees nose down maybe required to keep the constant appropriate glide speed. The importance in immediate recognition and execution of planned action cannot be underscored. Usually the human brain has a few seconds of disbelief that colors the next move. These seconds if prolonged are detrimental to a good outcome. Unless one has practiced such a maneuver previously – and many times, it is difficult to ascertain the big picture rationally as the ground rushes at you and the altimeter winds down at break-neck 600-1000 feet per minute speed. So, practice, practice, Practice! Remember it is better to fly and mush it gently onto a surface then stall and spin like a missile into the ground!

"The most important thing is to immediately maintain an appropriate Glide Speed (GS) for the weight of the aircraft. Scan the Fuel flow, change to other tank, check magnetos on both and Alternate Air handle pull quickly without a thought- these are Critical Memorized Actions!"

At 2000 feet the options increase even more. Here, one has a chance to figure out the three components that make the engine hum; Fuel, Spark and Air. Commit to Memory! So, check the (Fuel) gauge and switch tanks + Boost pump (in case of vapor lock or contaminant), Check the Magneto switch (Spark) is on both and open the Alternate Air for (Air) induction. Most General Aviation Aircraft have a glide ratio of about 1.5-1.7 miles of distance gained for 1000 feet of altitude loss. One can increase the distance based on the winds (tailwinds behind you help get you to the airport or suitable landing area by extending that 1.7 nautical mile (nm) to perhaps 2.0 nm with the same glide speed). To increase the distance, Glide Speed is to be followed with a perfect trim (to reiterate) and an appropriate pitch attitude to reduce drag. In a complex aircraft, pulling back the propeller also helps the gliding distance by reducing the propeller drag. In retractable gear equipped aircraft. Experience counts in knowing when to bring the gear down as extension of gear increases parasitic drag and makes the pitch attitude much steeper (reduces the glide distance). In other words, a 3-4 degree, pitch with gears retracted and a gained distance of 1.8 miles per 1000 feet of altitude loss, becomes a 6-7 degree, pitch and 1.2 miles per 1000 feet of altitude loss with the gear extended and similar Glide Speed.

"NEVER stretch a powerless Glide"

At 5000 feet and above altitude, other issues come into play. Although options increase in finding a favorable landing area, more critical thinking is required. The longer the engine remains quiet, battery power is drained due to lack of alternator helping juice up the battery or batteries powering the many avionics in use. It is therefore beneficial if you are within glide distance of an airfield to lower the gear early on and circle overhead the runway to land. Foreflight type Apps also can help create a circle around the aircraft to help determine gliding distance (If you have set them up according to the aircraft you fly) based on glide speed and prevailing winds. These Apps can be of great help. However, don’t forget to put the gear down if you are extending your glide reach with the gear retracted when you arrive at the airport either. Remain cognizant of all the dynamics involved in flight. Multiple attempts to restart the engine can be accomplished and if the recalcitrant pistons don’t start pumping, continue with the old adage “Aviate, Navigate and Communicate,” or put simply, fly the plane, look for NRST (Press the NRST button on your favorite GPS box) landing site and talk to ATC while squawking 7700.

"However, don’t forget to put the gear down if you are extending your glide reach with the gear retracted when you arrive at the airport either."

Those pilots flying aircraft with the landing gear fixed and welded securely to the airframe, need to remember that reducing drag is a simple mechanism of a properly trimmed aircraft without a slip or a skid and no flaps deployment until runway of landing is assured.

In the next section, we can discuss some mathematics and aerodynamic limits that work for us in flight and methods of reaching our intended landing area safely.

Until then, be SAFE! And remember NEVER stretch a powerless Glide. Bad things happen when you try to “pull up” to reach a landing strip. Those things are buried in issues of Stalls, Spins, Crashes and NTSB statistics. Remember venerable Bob Hoover’s simple statement, “Fly the aircraft all the way to the crash site.” Ah, there is a lot of truth in that!

Friday, November 17, 2017


Spoken language is simple and direct. There is action in every sentence spoken. Nothing hidden, except that which is in the mind of the speaker. And what is spoken is what the speaker intends to say. The written word on the other hand, has no such constraint. I can make you think thoughts that you might never have dreamt of or make you sit beneath an oak tree with cool breeze of the evening and a setting sun slowly dying in its warmth. Ah, and I can take you to a place where you have never been, wide open fields of greens, undulating hills and valleys with a few large weeping willows overhanging their leaves in despair for company. But I shan’t do that today.  I will let those that do such things take you, if you are willing, to nirvanas where eternal blossoms grace the fields.  Today, I will tell you about my first love. What a ride it has beed.  It lasted for a career. It was replaced by a beautiful girl who became my wife and was subrogated to the next lower level. But it still remained a love for me for a while.

"Today, I will tell you about my first love."

This love thing, there is mystery in it. One can spend a lifetime delving into it and know very little. For instance, when I was younger, I had this notion that everything there was to know, had already been discovered and so there was nothing for me to venture into. But as I grew up poking holes in thoughts and other assumed realities, which clustered around and made some orbit the stellar magic cast by seasoned older people with thick rimmed glasses who had grown frown lines and large noses, I soon realized that they were faced with the same dilemma that I was; what is real?

Now mind you the context within which these words find the digital ink on the screen remains an enigma. True knowledge is never true for long. Something always comes along to overshadow it. Take the Ptolemy assumption and one would live and breathe it daily till Galileo comes along and with a simple telescope turned the whole egocentricity on its head and he almost literally lost his head over it.

"True knowledge is never true for long."

Ideas that ignite thoughts always bring in a charm of snake-oil sniffers. There is money to be made. And a snake-oil sniffer will not be denied his Dollar or Shilling or Yuan. His, is progress in the Kaching world not in the toil of searching for truth. Progress however, is a matter of experimentation, isn’t it? A thought is buried deep within someone’s mind that makes him or her sitting on the edge of the bed at night, wondering through sleeplessness, "how to" until the break of dawn. These ideas are then transformed into energy to experiment, to verify, to validate and thence to produce for others to benefit. Innovation has never been about money. If it is, it will never make any. Innovation is about passion and love. For snake-oil men it is all about money, period.

"For snake-oil men it is all about money, period."

See this circumstantiality always takes me onto paths that, well, are less travelled. Rocky, sometimes, painful seldom, yet in the end for the most part, rewarding. So, let me linger on those pesky distillers of snake-oil a moment longer. These many, undaunted soldiers of limited value create hurdles upon hurdles for innovators, lying to them, cheating from them and usurping their ideas only never to be able to fully realize the thinker’s thought. And in that, lies the solace for the innovator. But the unceasing tiresome volleys of “do this and that” keep coming. For each stride brings wealth to the snake-oil group. They measure for measure’s sake and then demand everyone should “Follow that measure,” because to all others it is gospel. They force-feed misinformation and disinformation even to the intellectuals who at times succumb to the tantalizingly perceived value these wretched beings project and thus in doing, lose their soul in the process. The deeper the intellectuals sink into the desire of “self,” the further they are beholden to those that drive these desires. The world sinks slowly into chaos as common sense becomes rare and people rush on the streets with their eyes wide open and their minds paralyzed shut, committing the only act they know how to do; go through the day.

"The deeper the intellectuals sink into the desire of “self,” the deeper they are beholden to those that drive their desire."

Okay, yes, I must tell you, for this writing is getting long in the tooth. My first love was medicine. It spoke to me of things that were impossible. The human body, a massive collection of individual cells, each finely tuned to perform a finite set of functions. Those tiny, itty-bitty vessels are the ghost within the human machine. Vessels with many stowaways that function as a collective in perfect harmony. And the magic of this grist mill is replenishment; as some cells tire, they are replaced by new ones. All happens in the quiet of the circumstance, painlessly and efficiently. The beat goes on. The dance of cells continues until it cannot anymore.

There is magic, for instance, in embryology; of how the parts become, from so simple a fertilized egg. There is splendor in the human parts as they grow and enlarge and a create a field, realized as anatomy that dissects each part to understand its visible limitations and its anchors. All parts beautifully form fed into a gorgeous frame. And then there is physiology; a fecund land of function that binds the anatomical parts. The mechanics defined, each part versatile and committing to the function of the whole. Inspired by this choreography of the anatomical parts, a living breathing being is installed on this Gaia. The perfect image of the homo-sapien. These are the visible beings. What goes on inside to keep the chemistry of action is a wonder to behold. There are the invisible things that only peering through microscopes reveal. However more and more magnification right down to the electron level can make one see the workings of the city within the tiny little cell; its power structure enclosed in the mitochondria and the humors that flow as electronic signals from the surface of the cell to its nucleus where marching orders for building materials, proteins and proliferation are undertaken creating a symphony of cell growth and division. All this happening deep within through the tightly knit chemistry of electrical impulses. Such essence of magic is never perceived to the idle mind, only one that lurks at the periphery of inquisitiveness. This molecular microbiology of life’s essence is the magic crafted by unmeasured and innovative intellect.

But let me not forget, when pathos strikes the discordant cell, there lies the human dignity of help, nurture, nourish and rebuilding. The understanding to limit such pathos is the discourse of a few learned and humble minds. These minds that spend their days, learning, for there is a lot to learn, and then putting that knowledge to test, to heal. To heal, there I said again, "TO HEAL!" The days turn into nights, and into days and the world turns over and over as a lifetime passes in the service of humanity.

"The understanding of such pathos is the discourse of a few learned and humble minds."

That my dear reader is medicine; my first love. But now sadly it is slowly dying. The scaffolding is all that remains. The snake-oil men have destroyed all but the skeleton. They have sucked out the humor, the sinews and the skin of this wondrous joy and left the gangly skeletal remains flailing in the wind, subject to their whims. The joy of learning and experimenting has been replaced by useless information that does not make for intelligent understanding. Knowledge testing shams are rampant. No where is the desire to inquire about experience. Experience they say is nothing. Really? Discordant information is like plastering a fa├žade with hidden struts to hold it up as in a movie set. No substance, just form. These snake-oil people have loud megaphones and they constantly blast away their cymbals and beat their drums till all is cacophony.They compare humans to machines. Slowly eroding the sense of value by conjuring up value where none exists. And then they come for the kill; "attest to the expressed need for testing of their made up standards, conjured up in catacombs of their ivory towers" or die a professional death. Ah but were it so simple but that the mind has bad dreams. Slowly the desire to understand dies and such is the penalty of misunderstood regulatory fiat designed for metrics, impose willy nilly to the detriment of the vulnerable, the sick and the infirmed. 

That love is lost by the deeds of all these hedonistic snake-oil souls and yet the desire to win back its worth still remains strong amongst a few. Please don't let them destroy it. I beseech those that have the will and the strength to fight for the sanity of real human intellect in science in general and medicine in particular, to reform and remake the love that I once loved so dearly.

"I beseech those that have the will and the strength to fight for the sanity of real human intellect."