High risk turns

Here’s a great video by legend Wayne Handley, all about the use of rudder in turns. Although written primarily for ag pilots, the lessons he gives are equally applicable to pilots who often fly close to the ground – for example when stock counting or mustering – or even just the rest of us when we make that last turn at 500 feet on to final approach to land.

His explanation of what causes one wing to stall before the other is excellent, as are his instructions for spin avoidance and wing-drop recovery.

Although posted nearly 10 years ago, the lessons in the video are just as important today as they ever were! Great stuff from Wayne Handley and a quarter hour well-spent!

As usual, to view the Vimeo video, click on the picture or here: Smart Turn by Wayne Handley

Dan Johnson tests the A32 Vixxen

Light aviation’s guru blogger Dan Johnson grabbed the opportunity to test fly the newest FAA LSA-approved aircraft, the Aeroprakt A32 Vixxen.

Click the photo above or here to see the article and accompanying video: Dan flies the A32

You can read more – much much more – about all manner of light sport, recreational and ultralight aircraft on Dan’s blog: ByDanJohnson.

Why LSAs crash so much

I have long held a view that Light Sport Aircraft (LSAs) are not, as many people seem to think, just less expensive ‘mini’ GA aircraft.

For a start, they are built to much tighter weight tolerances than typical GA aircraft and thus need careful maintenance to ensure that they remain airworthy. Don’t get me wrong – a correctly maintained LSA can have a life span of many many years – but alas, in Australia, quite a few LSAs are quite legally owner-maintained by people who do not really have the skills, experience or knowledge to do so….but that’s another rant.

More importantly, LSAs have quite different flight handling characteristics from typical GA aircraft. This starts with taxiing, where dyed-in-the-wool GA jocks often describe them as ‘squirrely’, through to take-off performance: what typical school GA trainer will take off in 4-5 seconds after applying power, as many LSAs will? In the cruise, the light wing loading of most LSAs (remember, the regulation requires a stall speed limit of 42 knots ‘clean’) is more susceptible to turbulence – although the great upside of most LSAs is that they are a lot more responsive (to some, ‘fun’) on the controls.

This responsiveness, however, can potentially cause problems when it comes to the approach and landing phase of flight. For a start, approach and landing speeds of most LSAs are around 50 knots or even slower, a speed which feels dangerous to many GA pilots. Come in faster and you’ll likely over-control, and/or float or balloon the aircraft, with potentially disastrous consequences.

To further expand our thinking, Paul Bertorelli of AVweb has made a great little video on the subject of accidents in LSAs, which you can view by clicking on the picture above or here: Why Light Sport Airplanes suffer so many crashes

Most of Paul’s statistics refer to the USA market but all of his comments apply to LSAs the world over. Enjoy the video!

Cleaning A22 Foxbat and A32 Vixxen windscreens

Over the last couple of years, we have received reports of broken windscreens on a very small number of Aeroprakt aircraft in Australia. A couple of these were definitely due to bird strikes. However, the cause of a couple of others has never been finally agreed.

The factory reports a very limited number of screen failures in the rest of the world – I believe two or three more – in addition to those reported in Australia. This is out of a total world fleet of over 1,100 aircraft spanning 22 years of production.

In an effort to establish potential causes, and thus introduce preventative measures, we have agreed to publish as much information as possible and seek owner responses where appropriate.

First of all, the factory wants to emphasise the following points:
1. The windscreen design and material have proven themselves on hundreds of Aeroprakt airplanes. Screen collapse cases are extremely rare and have never been associated with the design, but usually pre-existing cracks.
2. Current windscreens are made not of polycarbonate plastic but of PET (Polyethylene terephthalate), so any ‘polycarbonate approved’ cleaner may not be suitable for PET.
3. The effect of unsuitable cleaners (including gasoline, Windex®, Mr Sheen®, solvents which may be suitable for acrylic screens or any other non-PET approved solvents) on the structural properties is such that the PET glass may become brittle (crack-prone) in stressed areas (although in non-stressed areas it has no such effect).
4. The factory does not make oversize rivet holes in the glass because it makes no sense as the rivets compress – that is, produce stress in – the glass anyway.
5. All-aluminium rivets are used to secure the windscreens. This means every part of the rivet is aluminium – including the shaft, which is not steel, as per regular ‘pop’ rivets.
6. The recommended sealant for PET and polycarbonate windscreen replacement is now an acrylic transparent sealer such as FulaSeal 701, not a silicone sealer, which should be used sparingly. Excessive use of sealer can potentially weaken the screen.
7. Finally, a thicker glass is not a good solution as it will be under even higher stress in the areas where it is formed to the required shape. Therefore it will be even more prone to cracking.

In the past, based on local engineers advice, it has been Foxbat Australia’s understanding that the windscreens of A22 and A32 aircraft were polycarbonate sheet and as part of our new owner pack, we have included a canister of proprietary polycarbonate screen cleaner. We have also in good faith recommended these cleaners to existing owners. None of these products expressly forbids their use on PET, nor can we find any information regarding their suitability for PET – indeed, they all make generic statements like ‘suitable for cleaning all plastics’.

However, at the present time, we strongly recommend that owners/pilots of Aeroprakt aircraft stop using these types of cleaner on their windscreens until such time as their manufacturers confirm without reservation and in writing that they are suitable for PET.

So how should you clean your Foxbat/Kelpie or Vixxen windscreen?
1. We recommend cleaning PET (or polycarbonate) plastics first with a mild solution of soap or detergent and warm water. It is also possible safely to use a specialty cleaning product such as Novus® No.1 or Brillianize.
2. DO NOT use window cleaning fluids with ammonia (such as Windex®, or Formula 409®), Mr Sheen®, gasoline, denatured alcohol, carbon tetrachloride, or acetone, which will cause the plastics to craze with minute cracks.
3. DO NOT use so-called ‘aviation approved’ screen cleaners as these may have been formulated for cleaning other types of plastics.
4. Begin by gently blowing away any loose dust, dirt and dead bugs from the surface. DO NOT use a pressure washer on any part of the aircraft, including the screen.
5. DO NOT use proprietary chemicals (such as ‘Bug Off’) to soften and remove dead bugs from the screen. Simply spray a weak solution of soap and water on the screen and let it soak for 5-10 minutes, re-spraying if needed to keep the surface wet. Then wipe with a wet non-abrasive/non-contaminating/lint-free soft cloth, microfibre cloth, or cellulose sponge. Rinse well with plenty of clean, clear water. You may need to repeat this process a couple of times to remove all dried-on dead bugs.
6. To give a final clean to the screen, apply the specialty cleaning product (or a weak soap and water solution) with a dampened non-abrasive/non-contaminating/lint-free soft cloth, microfibre cloth, or cellulose sponge.
7. Rinse well with plenty of clean, clear water.
8. Pat dry with a chamois leather, damp cellulose sponge, or microfibre cloth to prevent water spotting.
9. Repeat this process regularly to ensure there is no build up of dirt on the windscreen. If possible, clean a dirty screen immediately after flight to stop dirt etc hardening during the time before you next fly.

Thank you for your attention – please leave a comment below if you feel it’s appropriate.

 

A32 Vixxen ferry flight to Queensland

Jeremy Hill with his new A32 Vixxen aeroplane

Here’s a short video about an aircraft ferry trip from Tyabb Airfield in southern Victoria to a cattle station near Dirranbandi in Queensland – a distance of over 650 nautical miles.

And here’s a bit of background. What turned out to be one of our favourite Aeroprakt A32 Vixxen aircraft arrived at Moorabbin in mid-December. I say ‘favourite’ because its new owner had chosen a great colour scheme, perfect for this time of the year – red wings and stabiliser with a white fuselage, fin and rudder, finished off nicely with a red propeller spinner. Our engineering colleagues immediately named it ‘Rudolf’ after Santa’s reindeer saviour.

Rudolf’s new owner – Jeremy Hill, based near Dirranbandi in Queensland – could not clear work commitments enough to come to us and pick up his new aeroplane, so my colleague and friend, Ido Segev, agreed to ferry it north. In all, the flight was over 7 hours’ in duration, plus stops, squeezed in before New Year, so Ido could enjoy celebrations with his loved ones on his return.

Departure day – 27 December – dawned clear but cool at Tyabb, with a strong northerly blowing – not ideal for a long trip northwards. Even in the A32 Vixxen, Ido was planning a ground speed of only 85 knots for the first part of his journey. Temperatures were forecast to be close to 40 celsius by the time he reached Jeremy’s farm, with the northerlies gusting all the way.

In the event, with a true airspeed around 115 knots and a ground speed of 95 knots, at around 7,500-8,500 feet, Ido made the journey in a single day, with plenty of daylight to spare. I suppose I could add that Rudolf was fitted with an autopilot, which helps a lot on long-distance flights. Nevertheless, it was still a long way over most of a day, in thermic and bumpy conditions.

Many thanks to Jeremy and his family for their hospitality during Ido’s visit and their 6-hour round trip by road to drop Ido at the nearest airport, so he could return home in time for New Year 2018!

The A22LS Foxbat – and more recently, its farmer-orientated sibling, the A22LS Kelpie – have been popular with outback owners for quite a few years. These rugged, easy to handle aircraft seem to stand up well to Australian country conditions. The icing on the owners’ cakes has been the excellent resale value when it comes to upgrade or switch to a newer aircraft.

It looks like the A32 Vixxen, with its extra turn of speed, is set to continue the Aeroprakt reputation for affordable aircraft with great (legal) load carrying capabilities!

As usual, to view the video, either click on the photo above or here:
Ido’s Vixxen adventure

Aeroprakt A32 crosswind at Tyabb

Crosswind at TyabbYesterday there was a fairly strong and gusty crosswind on Tyabb’s 35/17 runway. The crosswind was made even more tricky as the wind was blowing from the north west over the hills and trees near the airfield, making for very uneven and turbulent conditions.

Quite by chance, Mike Rudd, our video producer, was there trying out a new video camera, capturing a couple of aircraft landing – but due to the conditions, there weren’t many up and about in the skies! However, my colleague Ido Segev was flying an A32 Vixxen demonstration with a prospective owner. (Thanks to Stuart for the loan of his aircraft).

This very short video (click the photo or here to view on YouTube) first shows a landing by a Beech Travelair twin, piloted as it turns out, by Roger Merridew, a very experienced pilot and owner of Lilydale Airfield. He is followed closely by Ido and his passenger (who was sitting in the left seat) in the A32 Vixxen.

It’s interesting to note the different techniques used to land each aircraft in what was a 12-15 knot gusting crosswind. In many ways, as you can see, the A32 Vixxen handles the conditions better than the Travelair. The secret to making a successful crosswind landing in the A32 Vixxen is speed management and the minimal use of flap. The aircraft was down safely and exited at the first cross-taxiway, about 70-75 metres from the threshold of runway 35.

Good demonstration Ido!

PS – the prospective customer placed an order after the flight!