For aviation enthusiasts who own their own planes, becoming a licensed aircraft mechanic can be a very worthwhile investment when it comes to both time and money. An aircraft mechanic is able to check for, diagnose, and repair all problems associated with personal aircrafts, and this can provide you with the knowledge you need to continue safe and affordable flying. Rather than hiring an airline mechanic to inspect your plane in the beginning of the flying season, or waiting on one to make any necessary repairs before going on a flight, you can take care of these issues yourself as you learn more about your aircraft and your passion. Continue reading
Throughout its 84 year long history, Beechcraft has brought to the table some of the most innovative designs and concepts in the aviation industry. With such a storied history, Beechcraft has seen some hits and some misses in its 84 years, but continues to push the envelope when it comes to aviation design up until this day. From designing planes used in the fighting during the second world war, to those made for personal use, to regional aircrafts, the history of Beechcraft is a fascinating one for anyone interested in modern day aviation. Continue reading
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Throughout the United States, there is a new spirit of hope out there that’s the result of something very important: The “discovery” of parents, the media, and college-aged students of “STEM” careers in science, technology, education, and math.
Needless to say, aviation is one of the most exciting and attractive areas of STEM. Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics published its recent studies indicating that aviation will most likely remain a solid area of employment for the next decade, the news has really gotten around. Continue reading
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For more than a decade now, the commercial aviation industry in the United States has been even more competitive than ever imagined. Major fleets have found it difficult to increase their profit margins in a world where the price of fuel has consistently increased. Continue reading
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Of course, those within the industry need to take a cautious tact. Safety standards within the U.S. are very high, but it is still important to show care and consideration for the public’s sentiment. Continue reading
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Today’s economic climate can be downright poisonous. It can feel like large companies take advantage, making profits a priority over people. That is why it is such a breath of fresh air to see a company like Covington Aircraft. The business puts people first, no matter what, especially when it comes to furthering Christ and the gospel. Continue reading
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When it was developed in 1963, the PT6 was the first turboprop engine rated at 450 shaft horsepower, impressing Beechcraft to the point that the company chose to install the engine in their King Air line of turboprop twins. Fast-forward 50 years, and Beechcraft still choose the PT6, although of ever-increasing power ratings, to power their engines.
Before The PT6
Pratt & Whitney began development of the PT6 in the late 1950’s in an attempt to replace the manufacturer’s Wasp radial engines, developed during in the 1930’s. In 1925, Frederick Rentschler, President of Wright Aeronautical, approached his brother, Gordon, and Edward Deeds, who were both on the board of Niles Bement Pond, convincing them that Pratt & Whitney Machine Tool, a subsidiary of Niles, should fund the creation of a new aircraft engine Rentschler and a colleage, George Mead, were developing. The engine was to be a large, air-cooled radial design. The executives at Pratt & Whitney saw an opportunity for growth and lent Rentschler $250,000, the use of the Pratt & Whitney name and space in their building to begin creating the new engine. Rentschler left Wright Aeronautical and took over operations of Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Division, The first of the Wasp series debuted on December 24, 1925, quickly becoming one of the most widely used aircraft engines in the industry due to their superior speed, rate of climb and reliability. Charles Lindbergh and Ameila Earhart both set records in Wasp-powered aircraft.
Wasp to Hornet
With the development of the PT6 still a few decades away, Pratt & Whitney created the next line of radial engines, the Hornet, rated at 525 horsepower. The dependability of both the Wasp and the Hornet made them very popular among commercial aircraft, and as the public use of air travel increased, so did the demand for Pratt & Whitney engines. As it became apparent that the United States would enter World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on manufacturers to produce 50,000 aircraft a year for military use, requiring Pratt & Whitney to expand its workforce from 3,000 to 40,000. Throughout the war, Pratt & Whitney continued to innovate, until, by the end of the war, their largest engine provided 3,600 horsepower. However, radial engines were slowly being replaced by lighter turboprop engines.
Vision of the PT6
In 1957, Pratt & Whitney saw an opportunity to channel profits from the piston engine spare parts business to the development of smaller gas turbine engines than those currently being manufactured in the United States. The company gathered a team of 12 young engineers after conducting market studies that found there was a need for a 500 shaft horsepower engine that could replace piston engines, such as the Wasp and Hornet. In December 1963, Pratt & Whitney shipped the first of the PT6 series, the PT6A-6, a highly innovative gas turbine representing technology advances that were significant at the time. Because gas turbines have a higher power to weight ratio than piston engines, the PT6 was perfect for aviation engines.
The PT6 has enjoyed a rich and colorful history since it began production in 1963, and Pratt & Whitney is proud to celebrate the 50th anniversary of this timeless aircraft engine. Learn more about the colorful past, pioneers who flew this engine and continuing evolution of an engine ahead of its time. For more information on the PT6 or about aircraft maintenance, contact Covington Aircraft online or by telephone today.
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Aircraft windows, especially the windshield, require maintenance just as the windows and windshields in any vehicle do. The pilot must have a clear, unobstructed view through the windshield to monitor conditions on the horizon and avoid debris that could potentially damage aircraft windows and the rest of the plane.
Most aircraft windows are made of acrylic plastic which can be easily scratched in flight and during cleaning. Therefore, use extreme care during the cleaning process. Begin by flushing window’s surface with water, allowing accumulated debris to soak so that it loosens and removes easily. A small amount of dish washing liquid can aid in loosening bug residue and dirt. Once the larger debris has been removed, rinse the window with clear water, and then dry with a clean, soft cloth. Once the windshield is dry, choose a cleaner or polish recommended for acrylic windows and wipe following the manufacturer’s recommendations. Avoid using traditional glass cleaners that contain ammonia, because those products can cause crazing or microscopic cracks in acrylic windows. Some maintenance crews use furniture polish on airplane windows, but these products can cause build-up and are not much less expensive than window cleaner products designed specifically for aircraft windows.
Common Windshield Problems
Several common problems occur in airplane windshields that require maintenance. These include:
- In-flight cracking – In-flight cracking often occurs when moisture penetrates the aerodynamic seal, causing heat-coating problems that lead to cracking of the outer ply of the window. Because exposure to wind and rain can compromise the aerodynamic seals, frequent inspections can help pilots avoid in-flight cracking of aircraft windows and windshields.
- Cloudy areas, burn marks or bubbles – Cloudy areas in the upper corner of a window could indicate moisture ingress. Burn marks, bubbles or moisture stains indicate a window that will soon be unserviceable and should be replaced.
Routine Maintenance Guidelines
Most airplane manufacturers provide guidelines for scheduled maintenance of aircraft windows. Normally, these include frequent visual inspections that could determine if windows need replacing or repairing. Power connectors should be tight and sealed properly. Any service bulletins or letters sent by manufacturers should be read thoroughly, as they often indicate specific problems in certain models that need to be addressed. Any unserviceable windshields should be replaced with windows of improved design.
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In addition to understanding pilot safety recommendations that pertain to flight and system operations, a pilot must understand the safety requirements that fall under maintenance operations of the aircraft as well. Like all vehicles, an aircraft requires inspection and maintenance on a regular basis, many of which are outlined in operational manuals and other publications. While maintenance is usually performed by aircraft mechanics and other trained personnel, it is the pilot’s responsibility to confirm that all recommended inspections and maintenance are completed.
Unauthorized Repairs and Modifications
Repair facilities must follow established repair procedures. Unauthorized modifications could void any warranties associated with the aircraft and jeopardize not only pilot safety, but also the safety of passengers and the airworthiness of the plane itself. Modifications to an aircraft beyond those authorized in the operations or maintenance manual could result in the information provided in those manuals to be inaccurate, resulting in an aircraft that is no longer properly maintained, even when regular maintenance is performed.
An older plane requires more care and maintenance than newer models. Areas where an older plane may need additional attention include:
- Wing attach points
- Fuselage carry out throughout the structure
- Wing span capstrips, especially lower ones
- Horizontal and vertical stabilizer attach points and spar structure
- Exhaust and cabin heater systems
- Around all doors, windows, windshields and other cutouts of the airplane as these are pressurized structures that could fail
- Landing gear
- Engine mounts, beams and cowlings
- Control surface structure and attach points
These parts of the plane are susceptible to wear, deterioration, fatigue, environmental exposure, and accidental damage, which could jeopardize pilot safety.
Left unchecked, corrosion can cause structural failure, but because the appearance of corrosion varies with metals, it can go undetected. In some types of metal, pitting and etching indicate corrosion, while copper and copper alloys show corrosion as green or red deposits. Corrosion is part of the normal wear and tear of an aircraft, and minor corrosion may not significantly alter the strength of the metal. However, leaving the corrosion unchecked could result in cracks, which is why addressing aircraft corrosion is critical to pilot safety. Treating corrosion depends on the type of metal, the part of the aircraft that becomes corroded and what caused the corrosion. Corrosion can be effectively controlled if action is taken early.
Every aspect of the aircraft must be properly maintained, and confirming that proper maintenance of the plane has been performed is the responsibility of the pilot. In addition to routine maintenance, pilot safety requires that the restraint systems be operating properly, that the exhaust and fuel systems are inspected and maintained, and that landing gear is operating properly. For more information on pilot safety, visit us at www.covingtonaircraft.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest aviation news.
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Pilot safety is a critical part of any flight, and many of these safety requirements deal with flight operations. There are several factors that can affect the safe flying of an aircraft during flight operations, including physiological factors, required checklists, aircraft loading, pilot proficiency, fuel management, airtime, icing, and weather.
Pilot Safety and Physiological Factors
Physiological factors that affect pilot safety include fatigue, stress, emotions, illness, medication, and alcohol. Fatigue is one of the most treacherous hazards to pilot safety as it slows reaction time and causes errors. In fact, fatigue is often not recognized until a serious error occurs. When combined with stress, results can be disastrous. Pilots must be sure to get adequate rest, and remain mentally alert during flight. During times of severe stress or times when emotions are high, such as before a big family event, divorce or death of a family member, a pilot may consider not accepting a flight assignment. Illness can also cause a pilot to become distracted or lose mental focus, and there are some medications that pilots cannot take prior to flight as they can cause drowsiness or lack of focus. Pilots are forbidden from piloting a plane within eight hours of drinking alcohol, per FAA regulations.
For pilots that do not wish to use the operating handbook on every flight, checklists are available that contain portions of the operating handbook for the particular airplane the pilot is flying. These checklists assist with pilot safety by reminding pilots of the minimum items required for the safe operation of that particular airplane. The checklists also help pilots by reminding them of safety items they might overlook or forget. However, only pilots who are familiar with the operating manual should use these abbreviated checklists. Such checklists are arranged by “Item” or “Condition,” with the item to be checked listed along with the desired condition of that item. There are also checklists designed specifically for use during emergency situations. Because emergencies are never planned and a pilot might not have time to refer to the checklist, it is a critical part of pilot safety that pilots memorize emergency procedures on the list that are shown in boldface type or are outlined with a black border. Once the emergency is resolved, the pilot should review the checklist to ensure all items were completed.
Weight and balance are vital to pilot safety, so it is critical that pilots do not become complacent about those factors. Airplane balance is controlled by the position of center-of-gravity, and although overloading or misloading may not result in obvious damage, it could cause a dangerous situation during an emergency. An overloaded or misloaded aircraft could also cause hazardous handling of the plane. Therefore, it is the pilot’s responsibility to insure the aircraft is properly loaded.
Factors such as airspeed control, traffic pattern maneuvers, use of lights, partial panel flying, and other plane maneuvers are also critical to pilot safety. Flying at airspeeds that are different from those published not only put the pilot in jeopardy, but the passengers and the plane itself in danger as well.
Unexpected maneuvers around airports have been known to cause dangerous conditions; that’s why pilot safety requires strict adherence to proper maneuvers, especially around airports. Pilots must cooperate with the Air Traffic Controllers, and if a pilot must make an unusual maneuver, maintaining space is critical. Pilots must also understand the use of lights on the aircraft, both when the lights must be used and when lights must be turned off for safety reasons. All pilots must also understand the emergency procedures for partial instrument panel operation as part of their pilot safety procedures. Understanding descents through clouds, pulling out of a spiral, and the use of landing gear and flaps are also critical to the safe operation of the plane. Understanding common illusions that can occur in flight, as well as the possibility of obstructions when flying low, are other factors in pilot safety.
In addition to these important pilot safety factors, pilots must follow efficient fuel management, the amount of time they spend in the air, icing and weather. For more information on pilot safety, visit us online at www.covingtonaircraft.com. Follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up to date on the latest aviation news.
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