A good pilot is always learning -- how many times have you heard
this old standard throughout your flying career? There is no truer
statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of
"there are no old, bold pilots.")
Aero-News has called upon the expertise of Thomas P. Turner,
master CFI and all-around-good-guy, to bring our readers -- and us
-- daily tips to improve our skills as aviators. Some of them, you
may have heard before... but for each of us, there will also be
something we might never have considered before, or something that
didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized
it for the practical test.
Look for our daily Aero-Tips segments, coming each day to you
through the Aero-News Network.
Bright blue skies beckon you aloft. A moderate breeze pushes
warm air over the first turning leaves of autumn. The sky's deep
blue is patches with puffy, white clouds, a layer of cumulus. What
a lovely day to introduce a friend to personal flight.
But these idyllic conditions, which appear so enticing, might
not be the best skies for an introductory flight. Here's why:
Cumulus clouds form when pockets of moist air reach an altitude
where the temperature and dew point meet. Vaporous water then
condenses into visible clouds.
Cumulus clouds by definition share a puffy appearance with a
flat bottom. The flat bottom equates to the altitude where
temperature and dew point are equal; beneath the flat bottom
moisture is still present but the air is warm enough that water
does not condense. The puffy or "cotton ball" appearance comes from
rising currents of air pushing the moisture aloft. Think of cumulus
clouds as being whitecaps on waves of rising and descending air.
Fly through those waves (at or below the height of cumulus clouds)
and you may be in for a rough ride. Above the cumulus tops you can
usually expect a smooth, cool ride.
If you're flying an airplane that can rapidly climb above the
cloud tops into smooth air, and terrain or airspace won't require
you to remain low in the bumps after takeoff or as you maneuver to
land, you have the makings of a fabulous first flight. But if your
goal is to sightsee the ground, your airplane's capabilities
prevent a rapid climb and descent, or Air Traffic Control will keep
you below the clouds for a significant time, you might want to put
off that first flight for the calm before sunset, or a nice,
Aero-tip of the day: Wait for the right
conditions to introduce friends to personal aviation. First
impressions count-you want a cool, smooth first flight.