The Stabilized Approach.

For several years the highest percentage of incidents and accidents has occurred during the approach and landing phases. According to a Flight Safety Foundation study, 46 percent of the 250 worldwide accidents of the period 2002-2011 happened during approach, landing or go-around.

Although operators can specify different minimums criteria for deciding to continue the approach or execute a go-around, on their Approach and Landing Accident Reduction (ALAR) Briefing Note 7-1, the FSF suggests that the approach must be stabilized 1000ft. AGL on IMC and 500ft AGL on VMC. An approach is considered stabilized when:

• The aircraft is on the correct flight path.
• Only small changes on heading and pitch are necessary to maintain the correct flight path.
• The airspeed is not more than VREF + 20 IAS and not less than VREF.
• The aircraft is on the landing configuration.
• Sink rate is not more than 1000ft/min. If an approach requires a sink rate of more than 1000ft/min, should be noted on the approach briefing.
• Power/Thrust is appropriate for the actual aircraft configuration and not below the minimum required for the approach according to the AOM.
• Approach briefing and all necessary checklists have been conducted.
• Specific type of approaches are stabilized if they also fulfill the following
• ILS approaches should be flown within one dot of the localizer and glide slope.
• A category II or III approach must be flown within the expanded localizer band.
• During a Circling Approach wings should be level on final when the aircraft reaches 300ft above airport elevation.
• Unique approach conditions or abnormal conditions requiring a deviation from the above elements of a stabilized approach require a special briefing.

Stabilised Approach Gates

Stabilized Approach “Gates”

If anyone of these elements are not met by 1000ft above airport elevation on IMC or 500ft above airport elevation on VMC, requires and immediate GO-AROUND.

Contributing factors to create an unstabilised approach can be adverse weather, being placed by ATC in an uncomfortable position for the approach, runway illusions during a night approach with no vertical guidance, being high or too close to the runway during a circling maneuver.

Continuation of an unstabilized approach can lead to several situations like; cross the runway threshold too fast and/or too high, not be aligned with the runway centerline, leading to land long on the existing runway, or a runway excursion.

Build your own defenses; adhere strictly to SOP’s and if for some reason not listed here you don’t feel comfortable with the approach execute a go-around, prepare for a new approach and start again. Don’t allow anyone to rush you.
Happy Landings!!


Capt. Ivan

Recommended Reading:

Shedding Light On Night Flying

I still remember my first flight at night. I felt deeply attracted and interested in experiencing the flight when darkness enveloped the small airport where it was my flight school. I used to hear stories from other pilots who would tell me that after the rotation all the real world ended and all that counted were my flight instruments.  Night flying has magic and beauty, there’s usually less air traffic and controllers are more helpful. However, the limitations that darkness puts in human vision, the effect of daily fatigue and time changes increase the risks of night flying.

In this post I would like to cover the issues involved in flying at night: The vision limitations at night, night scanning, night illusions, aircraft lightning, night operations, regulations and tips to make your night flight more comfortable and safe.

After sunset, our perception of real world changes completely, depth perceptions are severely altered and visual acuity diminishes.

Visual Limitations at Night – Pilots rely more on vision than on any other sense to orient themselves in flight. The following visual factors contribute to flying performance: good depth perception for safe landings, good visual acuity to identify terrain features and obstacles in the flight path and good color vision. Although vision is the most accurate and reliable sense, at night visual cues can be misleading, contributing to incidents occurring within the flight environment. Pilots must be aware of and know how to compensate effectively for the following:

– Physical deficiency or self-imposed stress, such as smoking, which limits night-vision capability
– Visual cue deficiencies
– Limitations in visual acuity, dark adaptation, and color and depth perception.

Even pilots with perfect vision find that image sharpness decreases as pupil diameter increases. These factors become important when pilots rely on terrain features during unaided night flights. Practicing good light discipline is very important and helps pilots to retain their night adaptation. Keeping the cockpit lighting on dim allows the pilot to better identify outside details, unmarked hazards such as towers less than 200′ AGL, and unimproved landing sites with no hazard lighting.
Normal visual acuity, or sharpness, is 20/20. A value of 20/80 indicates that an individual reads at 20 feet the letters that an individual with normal acuity (20/20) reads at 80 feet away. The human eye functions like a camera. It has an instantaneous field of view, which is oval and typically measures 120° vertically by 150° horizontally. When both eyes are used for viewing, the overall field of vision measures about 120° vertically by 200° horizontally.
The eye automatically adjusts for the light level experienced. During night flight, the cockpit and instrument lights should be as dim as possible. The eye can then adjust for the outside lighting conditions (ambient lighting) to see outside. The dimmer the inside lighting is, the better you can see outside.

Effects of cockpit light dimming at night flying.

Effects of cockpit light dimming at night flying.

Diet and general physical health have an impact on how well a person can see in the dark. Deficiencies in vitamins A and C have been shown to reduce night acuity. Other factors, such as carbon monoxide poisoning, smoking, alcohol, and certain drugs can greatly decrease night vision. Lack of oxygen can also decrease night vision as the eye requires more oxygen per weight than any other part of the body.

Night Scanning – Good night visual acuity is needed for collision avoidance. Night scanning, like day scanning, uses a series of short, regularly spaced eye movements in 10° sectors. When looking at an object, avoid staring at it too long. If staring at an object without moving the eyes, the retina becomes accustomed to the light intensity and the image begins to fade. To keep it clearly visible, new areas in the retina must be exposed to the image. Small, circular eye movements help eliminate the fading. Also, move the eyes more slowly from sector to sector than during the day to prevent blurring.

During daylight, objects can be perceived at a great distance with good detail. At night, range is limited and detail is poor. Objects along the flight path can be more readily identified at night when pilots use the proper techniques to scan the terrain. To scan effectively, pilots look from right to left or left to right. They should begin scanning at the greatest distance at which an object can be perceived (top) and move inward toward the position of the aircraft (bottom).

Visual Illusions – Illusions give false impressions or misconceptions of actual conditions; therefore, pilots must understand the type of illusions that can occur and the resulting disorientation. Although the visual system is the most reliable of the senses, some illusions can result from misinterpreting what is seen; what is perceived is not always accurate.

Relative Motion – is the falsely perceived self-motion in relation to the motion of another object. The most common example is as follows. An individual in a car is stopped at a traffic light and another car pulls alongside. The individual that was stopped at the light perceives the forward motion of the second car as his or her own motion rearward. This results in the individual applying more pressure to the brakes unnecessarily. This illusion can be encountered during flight in situations such as formation flight, hover taxi, or hovering over water or tall grass.

Confusion with Ground Lights – Confusion with ground lights occurs when a pilot mistakes ground lights for stars. When no stars are visible because of overcast conditions, unlighted areas of terrain can blend with the dark overcast to create the illusion that the unlighted terrain is part of the sky. In this illusion, the shoreline is mistaken for the horizon. This illusion can be avoided by referencing the flight instruments and establishing a true horizon and attitude.

Reversible Perspective Illusion – At night, an aircraft may appear to be moving away when it is actually approaching. If the pilot of each aircraft has the same assumption, and the rate of closure is significant, by the time each pilot realizes his or her own error in assumption, it may be too late to avoid a mishap. This illusion is called reversible perspective, and is often experienced when a pilot observes another aircraft flying a parallel course. To determine the direction of flight, the pilot should observe the other aircraft’s position lights. Remember the following: red on right returning; that is, if an aircraft is seen with the red position light on the right and the green position light on the left, the observed aircraft is traveling in the opposite direction.

At night, the horizon may be hard to discern due to dark terrain and misleading light patterns on the ground.

At night, the horizon may be hard to discern due to dark terrain and misleading light patterns on the ground.

Flicker Vertigo – Flicker vertigo is technically not an illusion; however, as most people are aware from personal experience, viewing a flickering light can be both distracting and annoying. Flashing anticollision strobe lights, especially while the aircraft is in the clouds, can produce this effect.

Featureless Terrain Illusion – An absence of ground features, as when landing over water, darkened areas, and terrain made featureless by snow, can create the illusion that the aircraft is at a higher altitude than it actually is. The pilot who does not recognize this illusion will fly a lower approach.

Atmospheric Illusions – Rain on the windscreen can create the illusion of greater height, and atmospheric haze can create the illusion of being at a greater distance from the runway. The pilot who does not recognize these illusions flies a lower approach. Penetration of fog can create the illusion of pitching up. The pilot who does not recognize this illusion steepens the approach, often quite abruptly.

Ground Lighting Illusions – Lights along a straight path, such as a road, and even lights on moving trains can be mistaken for runway and approach lights. Bright runway and approach lighting systems, especially where few lights illuminate the surrounding terrain, may create the illusion of less distance to the runway. The pilot who does not recognize this illusion flies a higher approach. Conversely, the pilot overflying terrain which has few lights to provide height cues may make a lower than normal approach.

The night flying environment and the techniques used when flying at night, depend on outside conditions. Flying on a bright, clear, moonlit evening when the visibility is good and the wind is calm is not much different from flying during the day. However, if flying on an overcast night over a sparsely populated area, with few or no outside lights on the ground, the situation is quite different. Visibility is restricted, so be more alert in steering clear of obstructions and low clouds. Options are also limited in the event of an emergency, as it is more difficult to find a place to land and determine wind direction and speed. At night, rely more heavily on the aircraft systems, such as lights, flight instruments, and navigation equipment. As a precaution, if visibility is limited or outside references are inadequate, strongly consider delaying the flight until conditions improve, unless proper instrument flight training has been received.

Aircraft Lighting – In order to see other aircraft more clearly, regulations require that all aircraft operating during the night hours have special lights and equipment. Position lights enable a pilot to locate another aircraft, as well as help determine its direction of flight. The approved aircraft lights for night operations are a green light on the right cabin side or wingtip, a red light on the left cabin side or wingtip, and a white position light on the tail. In addition, flashing aviation red or white anticollision lights are required for night flights. These flashing lights can be in a number of locations, but are most commonly found on the top and bottom of the cabin.

Aircraft Position Lights

Aircraft Position Lights

Here we have an example of aircraft lighting. By interpreting the position lights on other aircraft, the pilot in aircraft 3 can determine whether the aircraft is flying in the opposite direction or is on a collision course. If a red position light is seen to the right of a green light, such as shown by aircraft 1, it is flying toward aircraft 3. A pilot should watch this aircraft closely and be ready to change course. Aircraft 2, on the other hand, is flying away from aircraft 3, as indicated by the white position light.

Preflight – Aircraft preflight inspection is a critical aspect of flight safety. During night preflight we should use a flashlight with an unfiltered lens (white light) to supplement lighting. Windscreens are checked ensuring they are clean and relatively free of scratches. Slight scratches are acceptable for day flight but may not be for night flight. Careful attention must be paid to the aircraft electrical system. A tripped circuit breaker may be an indication of an equipment malfunction and should be left for maintenance to troubleshoot.
All aircraft operating between sunset and sunrise are required to have operable navigation (position) lights. Turn these lights on during the preflight to inspect them visually for proper operation. Between sunset and sunrise, these lights must be on any time the helicopter is operating. All recently manufactured aircraft certificated for night flight must have an anticollision light that makes the aircraft more visible to other pilots. This light is either a red or white.

One of the first steps in preparation for night flight is becoming thoroughly familiar with the cockpit, instrumentation, and control layout. It is recommended that a pilot practice locating each instrument, control, and switch, both with and without cabin lights. Since the markings on some switches and circuit breaker panels may be difficult to read at night, be able to locate and use these devices, and read the markings in poor light conditions.

Before starting the engine, make sure all necessary equipment and supplies needed for the flight, such as charts, notepads, and flashlights, are accessible and ready for use.
Check all interior lights with special attention to the instrument and panel lights. The panel lighting can usually be controlled with a rheostat or dimmer switch, allowing the pilot to adjust the intensity. If a particular light is too bright or causes reflection or glare off the windshield, it should be adjusted or turned off. As ambient level decreases from twilight to darkness, intensity of the cockpit lights is reduced to a low, usable intensity level that reduces any glare or reflection off the windshield. The light level should be adjusted to as close to the ambient light level as possible. A flashlight, with red or blue-green lens filter, or map light can supplement the available light in the cockpit. Always carry a flashlight with fresh batteries to provide an alternate source of light if the interior lights malfunction. If an existing map/ utility light is used, it should be hand held or remounted to a convenient location, in order to retain night adaptation use low level light when using your checklist. Brief you passengers in the importance of light discipline during night flight so the pilot is not blinded and loses dark adaptation.

Taxi Technique – Taxi slowly at night, especially in congested ramp and parking areas. When operating at an unfamiliar airport at night, ask for instructions or advice concerning local conditions, so as to avoid taxiing into areas of construction, or unlighted, unmarked obstructions.

Takeoff – Once you are ready and cleared for takeoff, select a point down the takeoff path to use for directional reference. During a night takeoff, notice a lack of reliable outside visual references after becoming airborne. To compensate for the lack of outside references, use the available flight instruments as an aid. Establish a climb attitude on the attitude indicator, check the altimeter and the airspeed indicator to verify the proper climb attitude. The first 500 feet of altitude after takeoff is considered to be the most critical.

En Route – During preflight planning, it is recommended that a route of flight that is within reach of an airport, or any safe landing site, be selected when possible. It is also recommended that pilots fly as close as possible to a populated or lighted area, such as a highway or town. Not only does this offer more options in the event of an emergency, but also makes navigation a lot easier. In the event of a forced landing at night, use the same procedure recommended for day time emergency landings. If available, turn on the landing light during the final descent to help in avoiding obstacles along the approach path.

Approach and Landing – Studies have revealed that pilots have a tendency to make lower approaches at night than during the day. This is potentially dangerous as there is a greater chance of hitting an obstacle, such as an overhead wire or fence, that is difficult to see. It is good practice to make steeper approaches at night, increasing the probability of clearing obstacles. Monitor altitude and rate of descent using the altimeter.
Another pilot tendency during night flight is to focus too much on the landing area and not pay enough attention to airspeed. If too much airspeed is lost, a settling-with-power condition may result. Maintain the proper attitude during the approach, and ensure that you keep some forward airspeed and movement until close to the ground. Outside visual references for airspeed and rate of closure may not be available, especially when landing in an unlit area, so pay special attention to the airspeed indicator. Although the landing light is a helpful aid when making night approaches, there is an inherent disadvantage. The portion of the landing area illuminated by the landing light seems higher than the dark area surrounding it. This effect can cause a pilot to terminate the approach at an altitude that is too high, which may result in a settling-with-power condition and a hard landing.

Night Flying Currency – 14 CFR section 61.57, Recent Flight Experience Pilot In Command, in order to carry passengers, “during the period beginning one hour after sunset and ending one hour before sunrise,” the pilot in command must have made at least three takeoffs and three landings to a full stop, between the hours of one hour after sunset to one hour before sunrise, within the preceding 90 days.

Title 14 Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR) part 1 “Night means the time between the end of evening civil twilight and the beginning of morning civil twilight, as published in the American Air Almanac, converted to local time.”

– Aircraft Lights – 14 CFR section 91.209 “No person may: (a) during the period from sunset to sunrise… (1) Operate an aircraft unless it has lighted position lights.”


For More Information

– Risk Management for VFR Flight at Night

– “N.I.G.H.T.” FAA Aviation News,

– AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Night VFR Checkup



– FAA Night Vision & Night Operations – Chapt. 13.

– FAA Night Flight Safety.

– Illustrations & Pics:  FAA

Capt. Ivan


The Departure Briefing

The old saying goes, “never fly an airplane to a place where your mind has not been at least ten minutes before”.  Said in other words – planning is key in aviation.

I still remember to Richard Bach on his book “a Gift of Wings” looking for a spot to land on every takeoff in case his sole engine quits.

Incorrect planning or lack of planning at all has been the cause of many aviation accidents that could have been avoided with a proper briefing establishing a course of actions in case the unexpected happens.

Either if you are a recreational pilot or a professional pilot flying a single engine airplane or a complex aircraft, flying single pilot, or multicrew, you must have clear course of actions for all phases of flight.

Sometimes, flight planning starts before leaving from home, reviewing the weather forecasts, TAF’s, METAR’S, PIREP’s, etc., assuming that all this has been done.  Let’s review start here with our departure briefing.

The Departure Briefing – “every takeoff is optional but every landing is mandatory”

Every time we are flying close to the ground, either for takeoff or landing, we have little time to cope with the unexpected.  Any emergency during these phases of flight requires our firm and prompt response and when time is scarce, previous planning can be the difference between a successful operation and a disaster.

Once preflight is complete, our takeoff figures have been calculated, ATIS has been copied, departure clearance has been obtained, it comes the time of The Departure / Takeoff Briefing.

If you fly single pilot, doing a departure briefing to yourself can seem odd, but set a course of actions in an emergency is critical.  In case we have an SID, after reviewing it, note which way is the first turn after takeoff, obstacles in the area, weather hazards, nav-aids availability at the airport, etc.  In a multiengine airplane, when we have to deal with an emergency situation we must carry on checklists before proceeding back to land, this means we must have the situation under control and for a certain period of time be in a precise location meanwhile we prepare for our return to the airfield. If not assigned by ATC a holding pattern fix can be the best place, instead of flying around the airport without knowing exactly where we are, this is especially critical at night or in mountainous terrain. Plan carefully, focus on flying the airplane, be situational aware all the time and don’t rush.

Many times I hear my fellow colleagues make a plan only in case of an engine failure, but having two engines or more turning, one of the most rushing situations we can experience in an airplane is:  Smoke.  Smoke can create a situation that can go beyond our control in a matter of minutes, in this case an urgent return back to land is essential.

Departure briefings vary according to Operator’s SOP’s – Standard Operating Procedures.  If you don’t have a standard one here goes an example of what point a DP should cover:

·      In case of a multi-crew, state who’s PF (Pilot Flying – is the one that must carry on the Departure Briefing)

·         Takeoff weight.

·         Takeoff speeds.

·         Rated takeoff power / thrust.

·         SID (if required)

·         Weather avoidance – if applicable

·         NAV / Radios – Frequencies selection and FMS or FMC setting.

·         Intended departure runway.

·         OEI (One Engine Inoperative) Departure procedure – if applicable.

·         Outbound radial or departure track.

·         Acceleration altitude and final altitude.

·       Holding point, return for landing and departure alternates (in case of a takeoff below landing minimums).

·         Initial turn direction and altitude.


·         And any other item considered of critical importance to be briefed prior to takeoff.


Most important of all, once your briefing has been done and once in the air, follow your briefing, a cardinal rule for a good CRM.


“Hope for the Best, Plan for the Worst”


Author:  Capt. Ivan

Technique – Crosswind takeoffs. Keep it straight and true

Crosswind landings get most of our attention, but being able to execute a proper crosswind takeoff is equally important. Not only is the takeoff the pilot’s opening act and the chance to set the tone for the rest of the flight, it’s also a time when we carry lots of energy close to the ground. That means we should try our best to get crosswind takeoffs perfect every time.

Source:  AOPA – Flight Training

Heavy Metal crosswind takeoff – Emirates B777

Avoid it! – The Weather Radar

Airborne Weather Radar - Source:  Wikimedia

Airborne Weather Radar – Source: Wikimedia

The Weather Radar is one of the most valuable tools that we have on board an aircraft to avoid / navigate areas of thunderstorms.  Without it, in many parts of the world, like the one I fly now, it would be impossible to comply with scheduled flights in areas of active or forecasted convective weather.

The Weather Radar has saved many lives, but has also caused many accidents due to misinterpretation or because some have mistakenly thought that with the only fact of having it on board, they can fly with all kind of weather.  A weather Radar is only useful is the crew is capable of fully understand the system and interpret the screen display.

Correct use of a Weather Radar requires correct use and understanding how severe weather works.  Weather reports obtained at Flight Dispatch or Flight Service Station – FFS, as well as in flight reports provide valuable data to the crew of hazardous weather.  The best use of Weather Radar is to use it in conjunction with weather reports and weather forecasts.

 Understanding Weather Radar principles:

Radar echoes returns are proportional to the droplet size and precipitation intensity, although reflectivity of precipitation not only depends on the intensity of precipitation, also in the type of precipitation. 

Weather Radar Principles - Source:  Airbus

Weather Radar Principles – Source: Airbus

Precipitation that contains water will return a stronger echo than dry precipitation.  Dry hail for example will reflect far less than wet hail.  The upper level of a thunderstorm that contains ice crystals provides weaker returns than the middle part, that is full of water or wet hail.

The Weather Radar does detect:

·         Precipitation.

The Weather Radar does not detect:

·         Clouds, fog or wind.

·         Clear air turbulence – CAT , no precipitation.

·         Windshear.

·         Sandstorms

·         Lightning.

Reflectivity according to droplet size. - Source:  Airbus

Reflectivity according to droplet size. – Source: Airbus

The Weather Radar depends on signal returns, heavy precipitation may indicate stronger weather, the major part of the signal is reflected by the frontal part of the precipitation, the aft part will return weak signals that are displayed by green or black areas, the crew may wrongly interpret that these areas are safe, this phenomenon is called Attenuation.

Modern Weather Radars are capable to apply a correction to the signal when is suspected to be attenuated behind a cloud, however a black hole behind an area shown in red in the Weather Radar Display should always be considered as an area very active.

Attenuation behind two very active cells - Source:  Airbus

Attenuation behind two very active cells – Source: Airbus







Remember, The Weather Radar should not be used as a tool to penetrate or navigate around areas that are displayed as severe.  The Weather Radar should be used for weather avoidance.


“If you don’t have Weather Radar on your airplane, the best way to flight through a thunderstorm is on the ground and inside of a hangar”

By Ivan Paredes

Recommended reading:

– Airbus – Flight Operations Briefing Notes


Flying by the Numbers

Days ago, I was observing how my junior First Officer was fighting to keep attitude, altitude, heading and airspeed where they were supposed to be meanwhile we were in a course to intercept the localizer. In the meantime I was telling him:  – Good, Fly the numbers!

As pilots, every time we fly a new aircraft or, “equipment”, as is called by the airlines, we are told memorize hundreds of numbers, speeds, power, trust settings, pitch degrees, limitations, etc., but numbers also give us patterns and patterns is what we must follow if we want to notice that something is not right or in the place is supposed to be.

Numbers give us borders, as an example, the concept of a stabilized approach is based on having a certain speed and configuration at a certain altitude during approach if, for some reason this pattern is not achieved, a go around is mandatory.Untitled

Patterns for complex aircraft and airliners are established on the AOM – Aircraft’s Operator Manual, but we can also develop a pattern for our small GA airplane based on data extracted from the POH – Pilot’s Operating Handbook and develop our own pattern or “numbers” for takeoff, climb, approach and landing.  You can start experimenting by yourself noting what power setting gives you a certain speed in level flight, let’s say 100 knots and, if you add flaps? – Then, to maintain same speed with a flap deflection you will need a higher power setting.  Next can be, 360 degrees steep turns? – in clean configuration, level flight, establish your airplane in a certain heading, speed and power and note it, by reference to the ADI – Attitude Director Indicator or Artificial Horizon, bank your airplane in a 45 degrees angle to either side and increase the power by about 5% to the setting required to maintain wings level. Pull on the control yoke as you roll in to counteract for the push down force, instead of chasing the Vertical Speed Indicator pull up to a certain degrees of pitch that gives you a zero on the VSI.  See? You have a certain power setting, you are maintaining speed and you have certain degrees of pitch to maintain level turn. Approach and landing – don’t simply extend flaps when your airspeed indicator shows white arc, define a “speed threshold” for each flap setting.  The POH for the 2001 Cessna 182S shows a Vso at maximum takeoff weight of 50 knots, when multiplied by 1,3 as a result we obtain a Vref of 65 KCAS or 61 KIAS, adding a correction of 10 knots we get an approach speed of 70 knots KIAS.  Use this speed in still air, with full flaps, if windy conditions we have to add a correction for gusts. (add to Vref half of the headwind component plus the gust).  See? We are already flying by the numbers.

Always remember, power plus pitch attitude equals performance

Flying by numbers give us an envelope, learn to respect and follow them should be part of our culture


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”





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”

  •   GDL 39