From the South Ramp

--Hank Bruckner:

December 1998

Mele Kalikimaka, folks. And, of course, a Hau'oli Makahiki Hou! Another year comes to a close and I can't help but reflect on the year that was. We lost Duff King and Bob Whittinghill this year--both aviators who made their mark in the Hawaiian skies. One succumbed to a fit of aviation passion and paid the ultimate price; the other to a long battle with illness that had largely failed to dim his passion for flying. Both are missed. This year, as do all, started with great promise. And, as so often happens, some of it failed to materialize. The much-heralded (or ballyhooed, depending on your take) Flight 2000 flew headlong into fiscal reality and crumpled upon impact. If you recall, it was the program that was going to put some nifty stuff in your airplane, free (at least at first), to test out a vision of free-flight. That one goes into the negative column, at least as far as getting some great gear goes. The driving concepts are still alive and competing technologies are going to be tested, albeit on a much smaller scale. This was the year that Century Aviation at Kahului, Maui became purposefully anti-general aviation by refusing to allow anyone in anything smaller than a G-IV to use their facility. We are worthy enough, however, to buy their avgas. There is an outfit in desperate need of a competitor. Another negative.

The state continues to churn out airport master plans, which we continue to study. It still takes years to get the required permits to do anything at any of the airports, stretching the term 'due process' to the extreme. Unless, of course, you are big enough, and then, all sorts of possibilities open up. The BIG Continental maintenance hangar opened up this year. It completely swallows a 747, with enough room to park a dozen smaller craft inside. The HCC opened up its flight program with a couple of Katanas. And several aircraft have come and gone. Notably, the south ramp at HNL now sports a YAK-52, and Wilga has been seen at various airports. This year also saw the culmination of an incredible amount of time and effort by Greg Marshall bent on saving Charles Lindbergh's Hana house from being razed. This historically significant house will be saved and moved to Park lands near its present location. Greg almost single-handedly pulled together all the disparate parties and made it a win-win situation for all. Well done!

What's on tap for 1999? Will Hawai'i close out the century with an eye toward the millennium or facing the empennage of history, bucking in the wake of missed opportunity? With every chance to shine is a corresponding one to cast a shadow.

We'll be starting the year right, with the Great Hawaiian Air Race, 12 - 14 February. We've already gotten 19 paid entrants (mostly from the mainalnd), including author/pilot Barry Schiff and are expecting 30 - 40 aircraft participating. It's time for you Hawai'i folk to send in your applications. It all goes to benefit Make-A-Wish Hawaii, and should be a real shot in the arm for General Aviation in this state.

After 80 years as an airfield, Ford Island is scheduled to close to air operations in 1999. This will truly be a loss to aviation and to the community at large, as an historically significant place is irretrievably altered and an essential part of its character lost. A major opportunity or challenge facing general aviation in the state is the new reliever at Kala'eloa (aka Barbers Point). The state will hopefully abide by their promise to entice aircraft owners to relocate from HNL rather than force us to move. There is still much to be done over the next few months, and GACH will remain fully engaged in the process. We need to insure that the relocation plan is fair and realistic.

We still haven't had any substantive answers back from the state to the issues we raised over a year ago, especially those dealing with general aviation access to the state's airports and the costs of T-hangars. Maybe in the coming year...

The state has the opportunity to encourage the growth and use of general aviation throughout the state by revising restrictive policies, establishing needed facilities, enforcing equal treatment to all segments of aviation, and facilitating the establishment of aviation-related businesses that, after all, provide valuable services to the community at large.

Since it's not too late for Holiday shopping, here's a short list of what to consider for that hard-to-buy-for aviator. A portable, waterproof ELT (known in boating circles as an EPIRB) should be at the top of the list. Available for under $300, it can make all the difference if you're out floating around the Kai'wi Channel some night. If you can swing it, how about a small, light life raft? Survival Products has a basic 4-person model for about $1000 that only weighs 12 pounds and will fit between the seats of most aircraft. If your aviator already has an EPIRB and a raft, how about a pouch-type life vest? They are reasonably comfortable and not that expensive, especially when you consider the benefits. There are some really handy hand-held VHF radios out there, some combining VOR/LOC and one even has a GPS. Speaking of which, hand-held GPS is available in several models at relatively reasonable prices, considering the nav power they bestow. As a safety backup, they can't be beat. And there's always the gift certificate: You can give some neat stuff like aerobatic instruction or rides, seaplane rides, glider instruction or rides. You might consider a gift certificate to have your aviator's life vests and/or raft leak tested. Enjoy!

Cabin-class. That's a term that usually refers to an aircraft with an airstair door and an aisle between the seats. It also usually refers to something larger than what most of us fly. I've had the opportunity to spend some real quality time in a Cessna 421A, and I must admit, that's a great way to travel. This particular model is just about 30 years old; yet certain aspects are timeless. It is solid, fast, comfortable, quiet (inside) and a joy to fly (and land). Those turbosupercharged, geared engines require proper care and a light touch, but they reward you with smooth power at prop RPM conducive to conversation at normal levels. It's a pleasure to not have to wear a heavy headset, although those 750 horses do bellow at take-off. It's very easy to become accustomed to 1,200 FPM climb up to the oxygen altitudes (this bird is pressurized, if you want to go that high). All in all, a very civilized way to go. Of course, there is a price for all that. If you go fast, you burn a lot of gas. This airplane, however, offers tremendous flexibility. Those geared engines can run between 1,600 and 1,950 prop RPM, with manifold pressures from 17" to 32.5". You can thus fly at reduced power, noise, and fuel burn (26 GPH), and still be doing 160 knots or so. Or, you can bump her up to 190+ knots and burn 40+ GPH. The fuel system can be quite complex in one of these (ask Willie Tashima, who has tanks just about everywhere possible in his 421), but good, professional flight discipline should mitigate any potential safety concerns. The insurance company involved with the 421 I've been flying has insisted the new owner fly 25 hours with an instructor prior to setting off on his own, and that really isn't unreasonable. It takes time to get used to all the capabilities and systems and complexities of a true corporate-style twin. What is striking is that an airplane that rolled out the factory doors thirty years ago still offers tremendous value to the business flyer. All-in-all, a great ride.

As this year fades into history, I'd like to thank all of those who flew with me this past year. It's been a pleasure and an honor to share this wonderful thing called aviation with you.

Be careful out there.


Hank Bruckner CFI/I/ME, ASC, DNRC

Winter in Hawai'i accentuates the normal trades. In addition to cooling and orographic lifting, the trades can bring turbulence, shear, and the occasional challenge on take-off and landing. Although some attempt was made to generally align most of our runways into the prevailing winds, virtually every location in the state has its own peculiarities and challenges. Most are related to low-level turbulence and shear caused by natural and man-made obstructions to the flow of air. If you are not comfortable with taking off and landing into gusty crosswinds, this is the season to either get proficient or stay on the ground. So, let's start on the ground and decide when to stay there and when to venture aloft.

If your local airport is in the lee of higher terrain, when the winds are cranking, so are the downdrafts. When the downdraft is equal or greater than your rate of climb, the challenge meter starts to point off the scale. The Red Hill 3 and Freeway 3 departures from Honolulu can do that to you when the winds at 3,000' are 25 knots or greater. Is this to be a pleasure flight? Taking along a friend who has never/seldom flown in a light aircraft and/or is a little nervous about the whole thing and/or is prone to motion sickness? Going on a training flight? The learning curve tends to decrease as the fight for survival increases. The pleasure quotient tends to go down exponentially as breakfast tries to come up. Low wing loading tends to lead to a sporty ride in turbulence. So much for those inside. Know thyself and thine aircraft.

Do you know the demonstrated or maximum cross-wind component for the airplane you fly? There may be a difference between the two. Depends. Read the fine print in the AFM. Generally "demonstrated" means just that. At certification, that was the crosswind that was demonstrated. Whether or not the aircraft could have handled greater is unknown (to you, at least). A C-172 manual states that "with average pilot technique, direct crosswinds of 15 knots can be handled with safety." The Grumman Tiger lists "Demonstrated Crosswind for takeoff and landing---16 knots." But the AFM goes on to state that "excessive touchdown speed is not required with direct crosswinds up to 16 knots," implying that higher crosswinds may be handled with higher touchdown speeds--but it doesn't actually say so. And the Seneca just states "Maximum landing crosswind component is 15 MPH." Bottom line is, you've got to know your airplane. You can take the Seneca limit to the bank; with more than 15 MPH direct crosswind, you run out of aileron. In a C-172, you run out of rudder at about 17 knots crosswind. My CAP-10, lists a maximum crosswind of 20 knots. The real problem with a tailwheel airplane is crosswind taxiing, a problem shared with Grummans with castoring nosewheels. If your downwind brake is weak, you become an expensive weather vane (as well as either an annoyance or source of great amusement to those around you). I once landed a Tiger at Kahului in 25 - 30 knots wind right down Rwy 5, and couldn't turn right to exit the runway. I ended up doing a left 270, much to the consternation of the tower folks, but it worked. The AFM doesn't say anything about the maximum crosswind for taxi. We are taught to position the controls relative to the wind during taxi and takeoff and landing. This time of year, that becomes really important, especially in a taildragger or light wing-loaded Cessna. A quartering tailwind gust can topple your Cessna if you are just blithely driving along with the controls either neutral or flapping in the breeze. On the takeoff roll, it is important to cancel any drift. Aileron into the wind is the key, remembering to reduce deflection as airspeed and control effectiveness increase. Cessna recommends accelerating the aircraft on the ground to a speed slightly higher than normal and then pulling the aircraft off the ground "abruptly" to avoid settling back down while drifting. Grumman uses the term "flown off abruptly". While I don't wish to argue with Cessna or Grumman, I tend to avoid doing anything "abruptly" in an airplane if I can help it, especially close to the ground. However, a smooth, deliberate rotation from a slightly higher speed works just great. What you want to avoid is a leisurely lift-off in ground effect near stall speed. At all times, you need to be the master of the aircraft's attitude. A coordinated turn into the wind is then in order to maintain your ground track as you accelerate through best angle to best rate--unless Vx is the speed you need to clear an obstacle or low-level turbulence caused by specific obstructions (like the trees at Dillingham when a strong nor'easter is blowing.) How many times have you heard the stall warning go off right after lift-off? Watch that shear on a gusty day.

And, now, the landing. Most manufacturers recommend using minimum flaps in high or gusty crosswinds. The difference in aileron effectiveness in the Seneca is dramatic between a full flap and a 10 or 25 degree flap landing. Crab or Wing-Low? Whatever works best for you. It doesn't make much sense getting into a side-slip (wing low) way out on final, with all the extra drag that entails. I find, however, that just prior to touchdown is not the place to discover that you in fact have more crosswind than you can handle. If you wait until just before you touch to "kick it straight" you are likely to land with some drift. At best, it's hard on tires, at worst it collapses gear and/or sets you up for a wild ride through the weeds. Of course, if you have underslung engines that limit your bank angle close to the ground, or are flying an Ercoupe with no rudder pedals at all, then you hold the crab longer (until touchdown in the Ercoupe and also the C-5). I like to transition from a crab to a side-slip at about 50' or so AGL. If I find I've run out of control and can't cancel both drift and maintain my alignment with the runway, I have time to do something about it, like go around. Remember that your rate of descent will increase in a side slip due to the increased drag, and you may need to carry a little more power on short final. The old rule of thumb about adding half the gust factor to your approach speed is a good one. Low-level shear, such as at Dillingham, can almost instantaneously rob you of a few critical knots right close to the ground, and then the bottom drops out if you're not primed to react. Do not quit flying until you really are done, and you aren't done until that airplane is stopped. Whatever control inputs worked a second ago are now history and pretty much irrelevant. The only thing that counts is what control inputs do you need right NOW. Keep 'er straight with rudder and kill the drift with aileron. In a twin, you may have the option of using differential power if you start running out of rudder, but that may take more finesse than you have on tap, especially if it is gusty and turbulent. Want to perfect your crosswind technique? Go to Moloka'i and use Runway 35 on a typical trades day. Just be ready to abandon the landing attempt if you can't keep aligned with zero drift. Good crosswind technique is very satisfying. Bad crosswind technique can be very expensive.