What Flaps are used for?

Let’s imagine the following situation, there is a group of airline pilots, standing on an airport hall, talking about different matters, then a kid appears and after saying “hello”, comes with the following question:     – can you please tell me why an airplane flies?    You will probably see the guys slowly disappear, smile, make an exclamation like … Oh!  And,  finally a courageous one will take the challenge of an explanation.

Well, this is happening to me, and I can’t run, at first because she is my daughter and second she is not a kid anymore, she is becoming a glider pilot and she has thousands of questions!  Yesterday question was what flaps are used for?  And, I wondered myself about an article here about…. FLAPS.

Flaps are movable surfaces mounted on the trailing or leading edge of an airplane’s wing.  Flaps, when extended, increase the wing camber and the maximum coefficient of lift (L) generated by the wing for a given speed, allowing lower speeds for takeoff, approach and landing.  In most aircraft flaps are graduated in degrees of deflection, like 1, 2, 5, 10, 15, 25, 30, 40 (e.g. Boeing 737), or simply have intermediate positions like Up, Approach and Landing, (e.g. Beechcraft King Air).

Main purpose of these high lift devices during takeoff is to help the wing generate the necessary amount of lift to get the aircraft airborne at a determined speed.  Although a certain selection of flaps will allow us to reduce the required take off distance, we will sacrifice initial rate of climb during second segment of take off.   Flap up takeoff configuration is mostly used on low wing turboprops because in case of the critical engine failure at V1 the aircraft cannot achieve a positive rate of climb during the second segment.   On landing flaps have a dual purpose, up to a certain selection they actuate as high lift devices and beyond that selection they are used as air brakes to increment the angle of descent without increasing airspeed, on certain aircrafts beyond a certain extension of flaps, also ailerons lower altogether with them (e.g. Twin Otter).

These are the most common types of flaps:

Types of Flaps - (Wikipedia)

Types of Flaps – (Wikipedia)










“if we professional pilots share our experiences, we are making a safer aviation”





Short Aviation Quotes

I found some always current aviation quotes that I would like to share with you here….

• Aviate, Navigate and Communicate.

• Truly superior pilots are those who use their superior judgment to avoid those situations where they might have to use their superior skills.

• When in doubt, hold on to your altitude. No-one has ever collided with the sky.

• Try to learn from the mistakes of others. You won’t live long enough to make all of them yourself.

• When a flight is proceeding incredibly well, something may be forgotten.

• If you’re faced with a forced landing, fly the thing as far into the crash as possible. – Bob Hoover

• The three most common expressions in aviation are, “Why is it doing that?”, “Where are we?” and “Oh Crap”.

• I remember when sex was safe and flying was dangerous.

• What is the similarity between air traffic controllers and pilots? If a pilot screws up, the pilot dies; If ATC screws up, the pilot dies.

• Every takeoff is optional. Every landing is mandatory… in other words, for every take-off, there WILL be a landing.

• One of the most important skills that a pilot must develop is the skill to ignore those things that were designed by non-pilots to get the pilot’s attention.

• It’s always better to be down on the ground wishing you were up in the air than up in the air wishing you were down on the ground.

• You begin to fly with a bag full of luck and an empty bag of experience. The trick is to fill the bag of experience before you empty the bag of luck.

• Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, experience usually comes from bad judgment.

• Keep looking around. There’s always something you’ve missed.

• Always remember you fly an airplane with your head, not your hands.

• Always try to keep the number of landings you make equal the number of take-offs you’ve made.

• If you’re ever faced with a forced landing at night, turn on the landing lights to see the landing area. If you don’t like what you see, turn them back off.

• Remember that the radio is only an electronic suggestion box for the pilot. Sometimes the only way to clear up a problem is to turn it off.

• “Unskilled” pilots are always found in the wreckage with their hand around the microphone.

• The more useless things to a pilot in aviation are: The sky above you. The runway behind you. The fuel still in the truck. Half a second ago. Approach plates in the car. The airspeed you don’t have.

• Aviation is not so much a profession as it is a disease.

• Trust your captain but keep your seat belt securely fastened.

• What’s the difference between God and fighter pilots? God doesn’t think he’s a fighter pilot.

• The only thing worse than a captain who never flew as copilot is a copilot who once was a captain.

• A male pilot is a confused soul who talks about women when he’s flying, and about flying when he’s with a woman.

• Rule one: No matter what else happens, fly the airplane.

• Fly it until the last piece stops moving.

• The propeller is just a big fan in the front of the plane to keep the pilot cool. Want proof? Make it stop; then watch the pilot break out into a sweat.

• Never let an airplane take you somewhere you brain didn’t get to five minutes earlier.

• Experience is the knowledge that enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.

• If you push the stick forward, the houses get bigger, if you pull the stick back they get smaller, but if you keep pulling back, the houses get bigger again.

• Flying is the second greatest thrill known to man…. Landing is the first!

• The probability of survival is equal to the angle of arrival.

• If you’ve got time to spare, go by air.

• The only thing that scares me about flying is driving to the airport.

• Airspeed, altitude, or brains; you always need at least two.

• It is said that two wrongs do not make a right, but two wrights do make an airplane.

• I give that landing a 9 . . . on the Richter scale.

• Some pilots will make an emergency out of a bad magneto check. Others, upon losing a wing, will ask for a lower altitude.

• Real planes use only a single stick to fly. This is why bulldozers and helicopters¬ (in that order) ¬need two.

• Flying is a great way of life for men who want to feel like a kid, but not for those who still are.

• Son, you’re going to have to make up your mind about growing up and becoming a pilot. You can’t do both.

• About Rules: a. The rules are a good place to hide if you don’t have a better idea and the talent to execute it. b. If you deviate from a rule, it must be a flawless performance (e.g., If you fly under a bridge, don’t hit the bridge.)

• Be nice to your first officer, he may be your captain at your next airline.

• Remember, you’re always a student in an airplane.

“if we professional pilots share our experiences, we are making a safer aviation”

Go Around!! – Are you prepared?

We knew this is going to be a tight approach.  Visibility was reported at 900 mts., with blowing snow, indefinite ceiling, reported at 200 ft.   We did the full approach in visual conditions on the early morning sunrise, established on the localizer we entered the clouds after passing the outer marker.  The whistling of the Pratt & Whitneys of the B-737 sounded distant.  Landing checklist completed, the GPWS announced – “1000”, the adrenaline was starting to flow on us, I was pilot flying, my First Officer was diverting his scan between inside and outside.  “500”…one hundred feet above minimums my FO announced – “approaching minimums”.  My left finger is on the autopilot disconnect button, my muscles tense, all my concentration is on the flight instruments, no pilot in the world can relax at this moment.  I try to avoid the temptation of looking outside, I must remain on flying on instruments.   Minimums, negative contact!.  Go-Around, flap 5!  On my peripheral vision, on my side window, I catch a glimpse of passing runway lights during rapid acceleration.

Most professional pilots have been in this situation hundreds of times during their flying career, in real life or in the simulator, then, why the go-around maneuver is still one of the major causes of accidents during approach and landing?  Are we mentally prepared for it?

Most of us can perform very well a go-around maneuver in the simulator or during a training flight, in the above situation there were not many options than executing a missed approach procedure, but the big threat comes especially when conditions are visual and a go-around is mandatory because, for example we are not stabilized on approach.  The Federal Aviation administration states a mandatory go-around under the following conditions:  ordered by ATC, runway hazards or incursions, overtaking another airplane, wind shear, wake turbulence, mechanical failure, unstabilized approach, or whenever the PIC feels he/she is not comfortable with the approach. https://www.faasafety.gov/gslac/ALC/course_content.aspx?cID=34&sID=165 I can add to the above when at DA/DH – MDA , positive visual contact has not been established with the runway, approach light system or visual contact has been lost during a circling maneuver.

Therefore, the importance of being go-around prepared and go-around minded.  Also, Flight Departments / Operators play an important role establishing a policy of no-blame, no fault on go-around procedures.

Be always ahead of the situation, the chain of events resulting in a go-around often starts at the top of descent (TOD).  Maintain a strict adherence to the PF / PNF (Pilot Flying / Pilot Non-Flying) philosophy during a go-around.  Follow SOP’s and standard call-outs.

Not only brief the missed approach procedure, be go-around prepared.  Review the key points of the missed approach, the go-around procedures and task sharing during normal, abnormal or emergency conditions.

Brief your intentions, i.e. a second approach, a diversion.  Confirm the minimum fuel.  State any other aspect you consider important,  plan ahead!

When flying with AP (Autopilot) engaged be always ready to take over and fly manually.  Fly the final approach with one hand in the control wheel or side stick and the other in the thrust levers / power levers.

Adjust your seat armrest, it helps release stress than can be transmitted to the controls and gives you a better handling of the aircraft.

Once the PF has acquired the appropriate visual references for landing, the PNF must continue monitoring the flight instruments to announce with appropriate call outs any deviation of a normal flight parameter.  If a go-around is initiated a positive an immediate transition to instrument flying is required, this part is especially critical because linear accelerations can cause body illusions that can lead to a dangerous situation if we try to follow our body sensations.

Once a go-around decision has been made, actions should not be delayed, a go-around decision can be taken until reverse thrust is applied. Reversing a go-around decision can be extremely hazardous, (e.g. First Officer initiating a go-around and Captain taking over the controls and trying to land the aircraft).

Review the go-around actions for your particular aircraft after finishing the briefing of the approach plate (e.g. go around attitude, go around power, flap 7, positive rate – gear up). And, consider every landing as a go-around.





“if we professional pilots share our experiences, we are making a safer aviation”

Are we pilots losing our basic flying skills?

A few days ago I came back from my every six months recurrent training in the Saab 340 Level D Simulator.  On this occasion, apart from the usual V1 cuts, some of the items also included in the training menu were recovery from unusual attitudes, loss of both generators with total EFIS blackout and fly the airplane on standby instruments.

The aviation industry is answering to the increasing concern that airline pilots are losing their basic flying skills.

A recent study from an FAA – Federal Aviation Administration – Pilot Training Committee has warned that an increasing number of accidents are to blame to pilots being unable to give an adequate response to a situation of loss of automation or even not recognize when it is has been lost.  During daily airline operations we pilots rely most of the flight on our autopilot, FMS, etc., in fact a number of safety regulations as well as airline operators, require that the autopilot stay connected at maximum possible extent, this situation added to the fact that most approaches are executed with a coupled ILS are weakening pilots skills and industry is suffering that called “Automation Addiction”.

During the past five years many accidents occurred from crews being unable take proper actions in a case of loss of automation like Air France 447, or not recognizing a malfunctioning element in a critical stage of approach, like the accident of   Turkish Airlines 1951.  All this crews were experienced pilots from important air carriers.

Actually, short distance regional airlines crews are able to keep more proficient than long haul operations crews, mainly because daily they have a higher number of take offs and landings and even some airports they operate don’t have ILS and they must rely on non-precision or visual approaches to complete the landing maneuver at small or secondary airports.

Recently retired US Airways Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger whose precision flying saved the lives of 155 people aboard an Airbus 320, said  If we only look at the pilots — the human factor — then we are ignoring other important  factors,” he said. “We have to look at how they work together.”

Paul Railsback, operations director at the Air Transport Association, which represents airlines, said, “We think the best way to handle this is through the policies and training of the airlines to ensure they stipulate that the pilots devote a fair amount of time to manually flying.

“We want to encourage pilots to do that and not rely 100 percent on the automation. I think many airlines are moving in that direction.”










“if we professional pilots share our experiences, we are making a safer aviation”

What makes a good First Officer?

–          Learn and observe from the Captains you fly with.  You will see very good traits, some marginal and some bad ones.  Pay attention to the good ones and in the future you will be a good Captain.

–          Always let the Captain set the rhythm of work.  Don’t start doing checklists were not called unless the Captain forgot them.  A good pilot does not prompt the other one putting his/her hand on the flaps or landing gear lever.

–          If you have a big ego, you probably going to have a hard time being a First Officer, because your ego will be bruised and tested by different Captains.  When the Captain points you something, don’t say  – “yes I was about to do it” – or say – “right”, like if you were testing the Captain’s knowledge.

–          Don’t burn bridges, in this industry you will need of all the friends you can make.  The guy sitting in your left can be the one reviewing your resume in your next application.

–          An aircraft’s cockpit is not a good place to be shy, ask questions to clarify that you don’t understand, be respectful but express your opinions, ideas and/or concerns in a clear manner.

–          The most stupid question that you can do in an airplane is the one you don’t do.  Be willing to ask, if the Captain doesn’t know the answer, then go to the book and learn together.

–          Be honest and be yourself, don’t go into business by yourself, like chilling with flight attendants or talking with girlfriend on the phone meanwhile you are on duty.

–          Keep professional 100% of time, be always on time for your flight and if for some reason you are delayed, call flight dispatch, let them know you care about your responsibilities.

–          If you see a potential danger to the safety of the flight, don’t hesitate to speak up, or even act.  If the Captain is smart (and most of them are), his response will be:

Thank you.


…. and …  live to fly another day!!









“if we professional pilots share our experiences, we are making a safer aviation”

Following Checklists & Procedures

It happened four days ago…

The veteran Saab was behaving splendid that day, I like to fly this airplane because it is one of the two company models with extended wingtips – longer wings – so, it climbs better and flies faster than  other versions we operate.  This was an unusual flight, a mid-morning ferry flight from Bangkok to Chiang Mai with a reduced crew of only two pilots on board, our Flight Attendant was supposed to join us at our first stopover, here we had a full load of passengers to Udon Thani and back again to Chiang Mai, our return to Bangkok was a dead head one on a Company flight at the end of the afternoon.

Forty five minutes into the flight we were cruising at FL240, although our destination was with IMC with isolated rain showers, weather here was excellent.  Everything was normal and we were engaged in a technical conversation about Company procedures with my junior First Officer, although he was still in line training he had plenty Thailand flying and turboprop experience.

Then the Master Caution Light came on.  As the airplane gets old is usual to have Master Cautions alerts, most of them are nuisances alerts – a Crying Wolf – as is called in aviation.  Then, before cancelling the light and the chime, my eyes went to the Master Caution / Warnings Panel to find out what triggered the alert and the position of it on the overhead panel.  This was new, not something we see often, a “L BLD AIR LEAK” – an instant image on my mind and I found that the meaning of that light was that we had a hot air leak somewhere between the left engine nacelle and the fuselage.  Something to worry about, considering that the hot air is close to 400 degrees on that tubing and that high explosive aviation fuel is on the wing.  My First Officer was already with the Abnormal Checklist opened in the correct page.  We followed the procedures, reset the position of High and Low Pressure Bleed Valves, but the light kept ON.  At the end of the Abnormal Checklist for this item a legend stated:  “if any of the above lights still ON – Consider to shutdown the engine.  Apply Engine Shutdown Procedure – Page A45”.

Then the dilemma of every professional pilot begun.  Was this another false alarm? We were really losing hot compressed air on the rear of the wing?  Engine indications were normal. But the Checklist was clear – Engine Shutdown is recommended –  All of us heard about sad histories of guys that lost a wing because virtually melted due to a hot air leak or worse case scenario, an explosion.  I said – let’s go to Page A45.

We again followed the procedures for Engine Shutdown step by step.  I grabbed the Condition Lever and bring it to start position and after a couple of seconds to FUEL OFF.

Now we were a single engine airplane,  the sound was different, more quiet.   Well, we can’t stay here wondering now, let’s go to plan B, we can’t remain at FL240, we have to descent.  Drift down was not a problem here because the aircraft was empty and terrain was not a factor in this area.  Next step – notify ATC we had a precautionary engine shutdown and that we are in normal single engine operation.  All checklists done, let’s plan the descent, approach and landing.  Sometime ago someone taught me; never descent into an airport if you don’t follow these steps:


A – ATIS – Get the Terminal Weather Broadcast or METAR

B – BUGS – Verify the Landing Weight and set the Speed Bugs

B – BRIEFING – Brief the Approach Plate

C – Request the Before Descent Checklist

We began a shallow descent into Chiang Mai, our nearest suitable airport.  Weather at destination was with isolated rain showers and good visibility.  Established on the ILS we executed an identical approach as if we had two engines.  Landing was uneventful.  We taxied to the ramp and shutdown the right engine.  A while later, our engineer discovered that a loss clamp was the cause of the Bleed Air Leak.

In silence, I walked away from the airplane feeling the self satisfaction of taking the right decision…











Left Engine Shutdwdown

“if we professional pilots share our experiences, we are making a safer aviation”


In a Rush…..

In the early 2000s were on a mid-afternoon flight returning to Aeroparque, our main domestic airport in Argentina, in the old a reliable Boeing 737-200 after a “round flight” as we used to call to those flights in one direction with three stopovers. The Captain that day was a good fellow that used to fly Connies doing cargo in Central America, I enjoyed hearing stories of his flights. On the last leg he was PF.

At about 150 miles from our home base, I’ve got in touch in the Company frequency with our Flight Dispatch Office. Aeroparque was reporting rain showers with good visibility to the north, approach in use was ILS 13, but because of wind direction we had to do a visual circling over the river for Rwy 31.  After doing the approach briefing, set the speed bugs and run the descent & approach checklist, at about 100 miles from our destination, we begin our descent. Everything progressed normally and we were cleared to a fix for a 12 NM localizer final.

The visual circling maneuver for runway 31 requires a left turn to a heading of 105 degrees and is flown over the Rio de la Plata river until turning from base to final.  At 6 NM, with visual contact with the runway, we started our circling maneuver to the left of the center line. We flew the downwind leg at 2000 feet AGL with flaps 5 and 180 KTS., in calm air, the 737 was flying smoothly. Abeam of runway threshold we started timing for 30 seconds before turning base.

Then, we observed that right on final for runway 31 at about one mile from threshold there was a strong and concentrated rain shower.

Entering base leg, we lowered the gear, set the flaps on schedule, completed the landing checklist and started our descent to 900 feet AGL before turning final. On this portion of the approach we flew perpendicular to the shore and right over the port, we could see the red cranes pointing to the sky. We turned on a 4 NM final and with runway in sight we established on a 3 degrees final approach.

We entered the rain shower, it was very intense and we lost complete visual contact with the runway, with no radio aids for the approach we just kept the runway heading and altitude waiting to regain visual clues to complete the landing. The noise of the windshield wipers was very loud and we had to speak loudly to communicate between us.  At a certain point, still inside the rain shower, the Captain advanced the trust levers and announced… – Go Around! Flaps 5!- I moved the flap lever to the go around position and with positive rate I placed the gear up.

The missed approach procedure for this runway requires an immediate right turn over the river. After completing the turn, the ATC controller requested our intentions. We agreed to give another try, then instead of waiting for the cell to move aside from the runway center line, we made a 360 degrees turn and lined up again on final. Obviously conditions remained the same, again we entered the rain shower and lost contact with the runway. The Captain maintained 500 ft AGL and runway heading. Suddenly at about 1 NM from threshold we broke out of the rain and got the runway in sight in visual conditions,

We were too high for landing, then the chain of errors continued, then the Captain said…- give me flap 40! – and pushed the nose down.  The speed increased far beyond Vref for previous flap setting and when we crossed the threshold.  We were flying too fast. We floated over the runway due to excess speed and mains made contact more than half distance of the 2000 MTS. of runway.  The Captain tried to unlock the trust reverser’s, but the speed was so high that the main landing gear strut was not on firm contact with the runway so the weight-on-wheels sensors were not allowing the reverser’s to be deployed.

The runway end was approaching fast to us, in the meantime we were both standing on the brakes. Finally, we stopped at less than 10 mts from the runway’s end, reverser’s still deployed at full power took us a few seconds to react and bring them down.

Taxing into the parking bay, I was looking at the face of surprise of the engineer standing in front of the airplane, after all passengers left, when I meet him outside, he said – follow me … this has been your lucky day son..- and then he showed me the two inner flat main tires.

Many of us, at end of day, experience that sensation of self satisfaction when everything has gone well and the task is accomplished. Problem is when we put pressure in ourselves in accomplish the mission and that pressure interferes with the normal decision making.

Another lesson learned, don’t rush….everybody and everything can wait.

Boeing 737-200 Adv.









“if we professional pilots share our experiences, we are making a safer aviation”


Back in Time … a Pilot from the 80s

Creation of this website has been a great challenge for me. I wondered many times how to start this blog, many histories to tell, but the point was, what to write about first? How to write that is on my mind in a way that can be understandable and enjoyable to the reader?  I am not a writer, not a professional blogger, just a pilot.

And I thought that a good way to start could be taking a look back in time, more than 25 years ago, when I became a professional pilot.

Twenty five years ago we were just beginning to hear about CRM – Cockpit Resource Management – for most of us was a completely new discipline.  The arrival of this new doctrine was resisted at first by certain Captains used to think that the First Officer was just another aircraft´s element, often used to place the gear down and do the communications. This way of thinking led to not few incidents and accidents with devastating effects.  CRM was primarily used to improve Air Safety, by highlighting interpersonal communication and consulted decision making.  The first airline to apply CRM training was United Airlines, back in 1981.  With time, CRM became – Complete Resource Management – involving all Company areas.

Earlier in the 1980s we begin to see the first Aviation GPS Receivers – Global Positioning System – a satellite based navigation system.  The GPS was at first designed only for military use.  The first satellite was launched in 1978.   The tragedy of Korean Airlines 007, a Boeing 747 passenger airliner shoot down by the U.S.S.R., after entering prohibited airspace due to a navigational error, prompted President Reagan in 1983 to make GPS also available for civilian use.  GPS system currently consist of 31 satellites in orbit.

In 1979 made its appearance the first aircraft equipped with Glass Cockpit, the MD-80.  At the end of 1980s, EFIS – Electronic Flight Instrument System – was available as standard equipment in all Airbus and Boeing aircraft.  On the first generation of EFIS, presentations were a mere copy of earlier traditional instruments. The LCD – Liquid Crystal Displays later replaced the earlier cathode ray tubes with a complete new design of integrated flight instruments in a single display.
Research from NASA of a device that detects air proximity to other aircraft and provides collision avoidance dates back to mid 1950s.  But was not until mid 80s that appears the TCAS – Traffic Collision Avoidance System – As with most major aviation improvements the final decision mandating its use in all large aircraft came in 1986, after a mid-air collision over Cerritos,  California between an Aeromexico DC9 and a Piper Archer.  There are four versions of TCAS – I, II, III & IV.

TCAS I  is the most basic, provides TA – Traffic Advisories – with relative bearing and distance to the intruder.  TCAS II, provides TA and RA – Resolution Advisories – this added feature gives verbal instructions to the pilot to avoid the danger in a vertical plane, announcing “climb, climb”, “descent, descent”, etc.  TCAS III & IV are abandoned projects.

Among other things this was going on more than 25 years ago … seems yesterday.

Step into an airline career has never been easy, but the way to it was longer during the 1980s, a  civilian pilot had to win experience flying several kinds of piston singles and twins before sitting on the right seat of a turboprop, the previous step to flying a jet.  Of course you find lucky guys in all times, but most of us were not included on that selected group.

Mali, Western Africa. Flying live goats during the Ramadan.

Mali, Western Africa. Flying live goats during the Ramadan.










“if we professional pilots share our experiences, we are making a safer aviation”

  •   GDL 39