Category Archives: Aviation

Will Recent Air Disasters Mean Stricter Rules For Aircraft Engine Maintenance?

Will Recent Air Disasters Mean Stricter Rules For Aircraft Engine Maintenance?You don’t have to be a member of the aviation industry to recognize that the public is on edge over recent issues in aircraft safety, including several very significant aerial disasters.

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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What Are The Covington Aircraft “Missions”? Find Out & Join Us

The Covington Aircraft MissionToday’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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PT6 Celebrates Fifty Years Part 1

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

beechcraftPratt & 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.

pt6aThe 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 Maintenance

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. 

Prevent Scratching

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. 

For more information on aircraft windows or aircraft care and maintenance, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and at CovingtonAircraft.com.

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Pilot Safety and Warning Supplements Part 3: Maintenance Operations

Pilot Safety, Aircraft MaintenanceIn 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.

Older Planes 

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.

Aircraft Corrosion 

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 and Warnings Supplements Part 1: Flight Operations

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.

Checklist Requirements 

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.

Aircraft Loading 

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.

Pilot Proficiency

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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Pilot Safety: Safety Pilots and Logging Requirements

pilot safetySometimes it’s difficult for pilots to fully understand the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) rules dealing with pilot safety. Pilots are often confused about the requirements for logging hours, which also falls under pilot safety. However, there are some simple tips to follow to keep the passengers, crew and aircraft safe.

The Pilot in Command 

According to the FAA, the pilot in command (PIC) has final authority and responsibility for the operation of the flight and pilot safety. In addition, the pilot in command must hold the appropriate category, class and type rating that permits him to conduct the flight. Pilots in command are directly responsible for the operation of the aircraft, and, during an in-flight emergency, may deviate from FAA rules to the extent necessary to meet that emergency. However, a written report of the deviation must be provided to the FAA to confirm proper pilot safety procedures were followed.

Simulated Instrument Flights and Pilot Safety 

The FAA states that “no person may operate a civil aircraft in simulated instrument flight” unless the other control seat is occupied by a safety pilot that possesses at least a private pilot certificate. The safety pilot’s certificate must be for the category and class ratings appropriate for that aircraft. In addition, the safety pilot must have adequate vision forward and to each side of the aircraft. In most cases, the aircraft must be equipped with fully functioning dual controls, although there are exceptions to this pilot safety requirement. These exceptions include a determination by the safety pilot that the flight can be conducted safely and that the person manipulating the controls has the proper private pilot certificate.

Logging Hours 

There are requirements for logging PIC hours during flight. The pilot in command must be the sole manipulator of the controls, be the sole occupant of the aircraft or be acting as pilot in command of an aircraft on which more than one pilot with similar certifications is on board. In a case where two pilots with similar certifications are flying together, one may fly the outbound flight, while the other flies the inbound flight. In such cases, one pilot acts as the safety pilot on one flight, while the roles are reversed on the second. The pilot who is not flying under instruments may log PIC time, but not cross country time. Both pilots may log Total Flight Time and SEL time equal to the PIC time. Important facts to consider are:

When flying under the hood, a pilot must write the name of the safety pilot in their logbook. It is also good practice to do the same when acting as a safety pilot for someone else.

  • The safety pilot is responsible for the safety of the flight, so if something happens, they are held accountable. Some pilots may not be comfortable with sharing pilot safety responsibilities, and may choose not to designate a safety pilot. In this case, they cannot log PIC time.

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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The Glass Cockpit Advantage

Developed in the 1970s but not widely implemented until the ’90s, a glass cockpit offers many advantages to pilots.  The proper term, Technically Enhanced Cockpits, refers to the introduction of Flight Management Systems (FMS) to monitor and control the aircraft.

What is a Glass Cockpit?

A glass cockpit is an airplane that features electronic or digital displays on LCD screens as opposed to using traditional analog dials or gauges that were commonly found in an airplane cockpit.  Because the newer systems are more automated, they are more accurate and the integration of controls better than in traditional analog systems.

Glass Cockpit

Advantages to Pilots

In a glass cockpit, pilots still use the traditional T-formation scan to crosscheck, but the digital displays make the process faster and more efficient.  Data is displayed more clearly, reducing pilot workload and fatigue, and it is less likely that a critical gauge will be missed during the scan.  The controls in a glass cockpit have fewer mechanical components to break down or return false readings.

More Accuracy

The biggest advantage to a glass cockpit over traditional cockpits is that the automation systems are more accurate, the information is more precise, and the data is displayed more ergonomically.  Glass cockpits also include feedback loops and the capability for self-checking to alert the pilot to problems before they become emergencies.  The system also provides a checklist for some issues that the pilot can use to attempt to troubleshoot the problem and correct it immediately.

As electronic and digital instruments become more sophisticated, glass cockpits will become standard for aircraft in the future.  Although there is additional training necessary for pilots who switch from traditional analog instrumentation to glass cockpits, the accuracy and dependability of the newer systems offer reduced pilot fatigue, resulting in safer flying for crew and passengers.

Visit us at www.covingtonaircraft.com for more information about radial and turbine engine overhauls, maintenance, and repair.  You can also find us on Facebook andLinkedin.

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Best Method for Aircraft Deicing

Aircraft deicing before take-off is required by the Federal Aviation Administration. Ice, snow or frost can cause significant problems, including increased stall speed, trim changes, altered stall characteristics, and problems in handling the airplane.  Although icing can occur during flight, the most crucial time to deice the plane is before take-off, and the FAA requires the plane be checked for ice repeatedly before the pilot leaves the ground.

Hangar Warm-Up

The best method for aircraft deicing may not be the most practical, especially at smaller airports.  If possible, warm the airplane up in a hangar, and, as the ice melts, wipe the wings with a towel or chamois to avoid re-icing when the plane leaves the hangar.  Then, apply a thin, protective coating of Freezing Point Depressant (FPD) liquid to keep ice from forming before take-off and during flight.

Airplane Covers

Another method for keeping ice from forming on the plane and reducing the need for aircraft deicing is to use airplane covers designed for the wings and other components prone to ice build-up.  However, when the covers are removed, icing could still occur before take-off, and the application of FPD liquid may be necessary.

Spray Equipment

The most common method for aircraft deicing is the use of spray equipment that applies FPD liquids to the plane.  Most airports provide portable spray equipment, such as pressurized containers and spray wands, hand pumps and mops that apply the liquid, which normally consists of ethylene glycol or propylene glycol.  Larger airports may also offer ground support equipment for aircraft deicing.  Frost, ice and snow are slow to absorb the liquid and may take multiple applications.

Although FPD liquid works well in aircraft deicing, it is important to remember that as ice melts, the FPD mixes with water, causing the solution to dilute.  If the plane remains on the ground for more than five minutes after deicing, the FAA requires a re-check of the plane to ensure that ice has not built up on the plane while waiting, and additional applications may be necessary.

Visit us at www.CovingtonAircraft.com for information regarding aircraft engine overhauls, maintenance, and repair! You can also find us on Facebook and Linkedin.

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Dancing With Clouds – The Longest Flight, Part One

A crowd of 500 stood near the Whiley Post Airport Terminal.

On the cold, crisp, clear day of November 17, 2000, 500 pairs of eyes scanned the horizon and a thousand ears strained to hear the sound of the approach of a very special aircraft.  At 3:00 p.m., their wait was rewarded with the drone of the sound of a radial engine that announced the return of the Stearman N2S-3 that was to complete the historical longest flight that had begun at this very location 176 days earlier.  Robert Ragozzino had completed his record-setting, solo, around-the-globe flight in the 1942 Stearman. Robert flew 24,645 miles at an average ground speed of 111 miles-per-hour in his plane powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Jr., 450 horsepower, 985 cubic inch, supercharged, nine cylinder radial engine after an aircraft engine overhaul by Covington Aircraft.

Longest Flight

The flight was not without interruptions.

In fact, his first 115 mile hop was to Tulsa, Okla., where the tachometer was replaced.  The next leg of the journey was 410 miles to Mt. Vernon, Ill., where the tachometer drive was replaced.  Along this longest flight, the radio required maintenance, the oil cooler had a leak repaired and the starter was replaced.  Further delays included weather-related and nine weeks of delay  occurred while obtaining Russian permits.

A brief history of the longest flight.

Robert made 54 hops in his around-the-world flight.  His flight took him from Oklahoma City east to New York City, where he made a publicity stop.  From there, his path went north over Maine and into Canada.  His last stop in North America was at Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada.  His first oceanic traverse was from Goose Bay to Greenland at a distance of 776 miles in 6.75 hours and took place without incidence.  Iceland was made after an 833 mile hop in 7.3 hours.  After two stops in Iceland, the crossing of the Atlantic portion was done with a landing in Wick, Scotland.  From there, his route turned south to Italy, where it turned again in an easterly direction.  From Italy, he flew to Greece, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Oman, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, China, Taiwan and Okinawa before turning northward.  Following the Japanese Islands, he flew a northeast course to Kushiro, Japan, before attempting his longest over-water jump.  The longest jump in the longest flight was from Kushiro, Japan, to a landing at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, Kamchatka, Russia—a distance of 954 miles in 8.5 hours.  This stop was unscheduled, a declared emergency, and he stayed in Petropavlovsk for 29 days.  From there, Robert returned to the United States with a stop at Shemya, Alaska, after a 655 mile, 6 hour flight over the northern Pacific.  From there, he made his way south and east to Oklahoma City in 176 days.  His average hop was 221.4 miles.

It was a good thing he had a Covington logo affixed on the engine casing.

The longest flight for you may not be across a part of the Pacific Ocean; it may be on a short hop when you develop engine trouble.  Trouble can arise at any time, but routine maintenance and inspection by a top quality shop will minimize this risk.  If it’s time for an aircraft engine overhaul, reach out to Covington Aircraft.  We maintain, overhaul, and sell turbine and radial engines.  Call us at (918) 756-8320.

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