CRJ200 Airline Pilot

The personal experiences, thoughts of an CRJ captain

Wingtip Vortices and Wake Turbulence Explained

Posted by Jeffrey on October 24, 2008

The other night we were flying the CRJ700 into Chicago O’hare (KORD). It was a clear night with a beautiful view of downtown. About 30 miles from final approach, as we were gradually descending to intercept the final approach course, air traffic control advised us that we were 10 miles in trail of a Boeing 777.

“Oh…great!” was my comment.

The whole flight had been relatively smooth, so what was about to happen was going to be a big surprise to me, my crew, and my passengers.

This video shows how wingtip vortices generate. It is simple and to the point:

Now here is a little history about wingtip vortices. If you aren’t familiar with the wake turbulence of a Boeing 777, it generates more wake turbulance than almost all airplanes except for some military airplanes. It is a big, heavy airplane and therefore, generates a lot of lift.

But how is lift generated?

Think about a time when you were taking a shower in a tub with a shower curtain. Has the pesky shower curtain ever kept coming into your leg? You think, “what the heck, is the door open?”

Free Pilots Tip of the Week from PilotWorkshops.com

Well that’s not the problem. The problem is that the “pressure” inside the shower curtain is actually lower than the pressure on the outside of the shower curtain. This happens because the water coming out of the showerhead accelerates the air thus decreasing the pressure in the tub. Therefore, it seems like there is something pushing on the shower curtain from the outside, when it is actually the higher pressure air.

In the 1700’s, Daniel Bernoulli formulated the equation that explains how this happens, but that goes way beyond this blog entry. If you would like to read more about the Bernoulli equation, click here.

But that’s only half the story. Have you ever watched water flowing down a stream with a big boulder in the way? If the boulder is perfectly round, the water “splits” when it hits the rock and some of the water goes to the left of the rock and some of the water goes to the right meeting up on the other side. What we don’t see is that the water accelerates for a few seconds as it goes around the rock because it has to meet up with it’s other half on the other side which also accelerated. And when the water accelerates, the pressure per se, decreases.

Now take a wing.

The bottom of a wing, for all practical purposes and for this discussion, we will say it is flat. The top of the wing will have a bend in it or a camber. As the wind hits the wingtip, some of the air goes over the top and some goes underneath. Since the air mass that was split has to meet at the back of the wing at the same time, the airflow over the top has to accelerate to meet up with the same air mass going under the wing. The accelerated air over the top, because it has been accelerated, has to give something up, and that would be pressure. The result is lower pressure over the top of the  wing and higher pressure under the wing, hence lift. Ta Da!

Wingtip Vortices

Wingtip Vortices

Now this explanation is VERY general in nature. And you should get a good book on aviation that discusses all the aspects of wings and lift to have a thorough understanding of these principles.

OK, now back to wingtip vortices. In a perfect wing, the air flows from the front of the wing to the back of the wing. But we now know that there is low pressure air on top of the wing and high pressure air on the bottom. Well the high pressure air needs somewhere to go because it just can’t meet up with the low pressure air and go on it’s way. The high pressure air travels to where the low pressure air is and vice versa and thus creates the (wingtip) vortices.

So back to my flying story.

There were were, flying along minding our own business. The wind was calm and all of a sudden, a little shudder here, then a big upset there and before we knew it the airplane had lurched more than 20° noseup and banked 30° laterally. The autopilot kicked off and as fast as it came it was gone and once the airplane was stabilized we re-engaged the autopilot and I talked to the passengers and let them know what happened. THEN, five minutes later, IT HAPPENED AGAIN! Not my day! I ended up hand-flying the rest of the flight.

Note: One of the most fatal results on record of wake turbulence that resulted in a crash was American Airlines flight 587 on November 12, 2001. To read more about this accident, click on the NTSB report here. See if you can figure out what actually went wrong.

Now, when landing or departing, a similar thing can happen but worse. The airplane in front is slow, heavy, and at a large angle-of-attack and this is when an airplane generates its most lift. It is important to remember that in calm air, vortices tend to move outward from the aircraft. So if you are behind a departing aircraft, the vortex from the right wing will tend to move to the right and the vortex from the left wing will tend to move to the left.

If we have a crosswind, the wind will tend to influence the movement of the vortices. A crosswind of about 3 knots will hold the upwind vortex pretty much in place at the runway where it was created, while the downwind vortex will rapidly move away from the runway. Therefore, light crosswinds require the most caution during takeoff and landing. 

Wingtip Vortices with Crosswind from the right
Wingtip Vortices with Crosswind from the right

However, crosswinds greater than approximately 5 knots will tend to break up the vortices. So stronger crosswinds are a good thing, as far as vortices are concerned.

One Final Note

During landing behind a heavy airplane, a lot of pilots will fly abovethe glideslope in order to avoid any possible wake turbulence created by the preceding airplane. To me, there are two things wrong with this: 1) you may land long, which, in a Land and Hold Short (LAHSO) operation may cause you problems and 2) you are not flying your normal procedure and the possibility of a missed approach is possible. I’ve never seen pilots who fly above the glideslope not fair well during landing.

Consider this, wake turbulence falls typically about 500 feet per minute, so even in ORD on a no wind day with 2.5 miles separation, that wake turbulence is most likely already gone by the time you get to where that airplane was in front of you. Also, if you consider the wind for that day, the wake turbulence has probably blown clear of the runway as well. With that said, there is always the chance it is right along your path of flight.

But, it is your call. Just fly safe and use good judgement and consider all the variables.

Till next time…

Jeffrey

Jeffrey is a captain at a regional airline and flies the CRJ200, CRJ700, and the CRJ900. He has over 4000 hrs of flying experience in many different airplanes and is a Gold Seal flight instructor to his credit. He has recently written “The CRJ200 Quicknote Study Guide” that simplifies the systems of the CRJ200 into a downloadable eBook. Click here to get your copy today!

P.S. Encountering wake turbulence should be considered an emergency. Knowing what to do and when to do it is as important as knowing how to avoid it because most in-flight emergencies can be safely resolved if the pilot has the proper training and mental attitude. If you want to brush up on your emergency procedures (and all good pilots should), I want to recommend this book: Handling In-Flight Emergencies or sign-up for a f.r.e.e. audio on “Emergency Landing: In-Flight Engine Failure” and newsletter from PilotWorkshops.com .

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A Cool Aviation Watch – Torgoen T6 E6B and Zulu Time Watch

Posted by Jeffrey on October 22, 2008

It is every pilot’s dream watch besides a Breitling, of course.

The Very Cool Torgoen T6 E6B and Zulu Watch

The Very Cool Torgoen T6 E6B and Zulu Watch

The Torgoen T6 E6B/Zulu Time Watch Is The Watch To Have!

When I first saw the Torgoen T6 E6B/Zulu Time Watch, I thought this is one cool watch! It is affordable, and it looks great too! I love the Orange Face, which, by the way, if you were concerned IS non-radioactive. (Yeah, I was concerned too.) It really jumps out of the norm without be being obnoxious.

And I guess, as microchips get smaller, it was only a matter of time when the endearing E6B was finally made smaller, too.

Now, if you are looking for a very cool and useful online E6B, check out the E6B Emulator. http://www.csgnetwork.com/e6bcalc.html

If you are a beginner or even seasoned flying veteran, you will want to get this watch. It has EVERYTHING!

  • Zulu time by a single red hand (my favorite feature)
  • 24 hour clock (my second favorite feature)
  • Calculate time, distance, and speed (my third favorite feature)
  • Ounces to grams
  • Kilograms to pounds
  • Miles to kilometers
  • Currency conversion
  • Multiplication and division
  • And much more!

It’s durable, has a three-year warranty, and makes a great gift!

If the orange face is too much for you though, it comes with a steel bracelet and black face or
black leather and black face as well.

So do something nice for yourself. You know you’ve always wanted this watch, so get it!

Till next time…

P.S. If you are looking for tradition E6B computers, here are two that I recommend, the second one being my favorite and the one I used when I was a flight instructor.



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Focusing on Your Dream!

Posted by Jeffrey on October 20, 2008

Piper Cub

Piper Cub

Are You Ready to Make Your Flying Dream Come True?

Now I have been an airplane lover since I was eight years old when my grandpa took me up in a Piper Cub. My love affair with aviation started that day and though I have had a lot of detours in my life, as you know, I ended up a captain at a regional airline flying the CRJ200.

Well today I was given I treat that I wouldn’t have expected if you told me it would happen. We landed in LAX on 25R, after nearly taking out a taxi light clearing the runway, which I didn’t, thank you very much, we started our taxi to the south complex. As we are approaching taxiway ‘C,’ we notice a lot of cars, people, and a helicopter hovering overhead. We thought someone had gotten hurt or something of that nature. Well, as we turned the corner, there sits the Quantas Airbus A380 which had just landed. Wow! — What an airplane! — This thing is HUGE! (Oh, and by the way, that is a SkyWest Brasilia in the background.)

We taxi by slowly so that we can get a good look and my first officer makes an announcement of the PA about what is out the left side of the window because you don’t see this airplane everyday.

We continue to the gate and deplane. Several passengers thank us for pointing the airplane out and then they are gone. After our “chores” are done, my first officer and I start talking about how do you get to the point in your life that you are the captain on a such a revolutionary, exciting airplane as the Airbus A380.

Airbus A380 Cockpit

Airbus A380 Cockpit

We basically conclude that it is a little bit of luck but that it is mostly dedication, perseverance, and a desire to achieve that level of flying. No doubt there is a tremendous amount of sacrifice as well.

I have found that people that fly airplanes for a living got there because they focused intently on achieving it. If you read my “About Me” page, you will see that I loved flying for a long time but circumstances pulled me away from it for a long time too. Then one day fate pushed me back into it and I never looked back. Once I made the decision to fly, I was totally focused on achieving that goal. All or nothing as I remember it.

But how do you get there?

Well unless you have a parent or relative that has flown for the airlines, it can be as confusing as any other endeavor. A mentor or someone that has gone through the process is always helpful, but, as in my case, I had to search out the information and then act on it and that is what I did. I bought the book,
Professional Pilot Career Guide, which is a goldmine of practical tips on career opportunities, training, building flight time, and hiring practices. Another great resource, once you have your hours is Job Hunting for Pilots.

But I think the most important ingredient is “desire.” You have to stay focused, like a laser on want you want and then go after it!

So follow your dream and become a pilot, whether it is a recreational pilot or a professional pilot, but don’t stop till you get the certificate that you want. Pick up the books I mentioned then plot your course!

Till next time…

P.S. Visit MyPilotStore for other great deals on aviation products!

Other articles you might be interested in:

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How To Speak on the Radio!

Posted by Jeffrey on October 19, 2008

Learn Good Radio Communications

As I was flying around California today, I cringed listening to some of the radio communications I heard from both general aviation pilots and professional pilots, including my own first officer.

Now I don’t claim to be the end-all-be-all of radio communications but I do strive to communicate properly, as should you. Due to the nature of flying, radio transmissions need to be succinct, precise, and to the point because there are often several pilots trying to communicate with air traffic control (ATC) at any one time and sometimes there is a lot to be said. Furthermore, ATC hates to have to repeat themselves! So you better be sure and listen close the first time.

If you ever listen to ground communications in the busy airports like Chicago O’hare (ORD) or Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) or Los Angeles International (LAX), you will hear some of the most rapid-fire communications in the world. In ORD, you have to pay attention and respond when given an instruction because…if you don’t…you will be singled out…and that is always embarrassing. ORD is a little different too because the “normal” radio communication procedures often go out the window. On occasion I’ve heard Ground give instructions to ten airplanes at once in rapid succession. So forget about giving a read back.

Now today, we departed San Diego (KSAN) and landed on 25L in Los Angeles (KLAX).  Upon landing, we were cleared to cross 25R and turn right on taxi way Bravo. My first officer simply replied, “Cleared to cross, turn right on Bravo.”

What is wrong with this? If you guessed that he didn’t say which runway, i.e., 25R, the runway we were cleared to cross, you are right. Now it was obvious which runway we were cleared to cross but that doesn’t mean it is alright to not include it in the transmission. The FAA’s number one “call to action” right now is to reduce runway incursion.  You can read more about it here.

Here is another example…and I hear this a lot in ORD. ATC will say, “<Airline> 123…fly heading 140, maintain 5000 till established, cleared ILS approach 10, 180 knots to the marker, contact tower 120.75 at the marker.” This is what <airline> 123 says, “We will do all that.” I hear this from major and regional airline pilots all the time. And there are several problems with this kind of response.

  1. Did you really get ALL the instructions? Even though you may have done this thousands of time, can you really be sure that you heard exactly what the controller said.
  2. It lacks professionalism.
  3. It shows a lack of respect for the process which is to ensure a successful arrival.

Here is one more example.

When holding short, a pilot will call tower and say something like, “LAX Tower, <airline> 123, holding short 25R, ready for takeoff.” Now this may seem innocuous enough but it is wrong. When you say “Takeoff,” you are stating a action command. Tower is the only one that can issue a takeoff clearance. By saying “takeoff,” a pilot could basically misunderstand the clearance. Hard to imagine, but it happens. When holding short of a runway, it is important that you say, “LAX Tower, <airline> 123, holding short 25R, ready for departure.” Now this may seem trivial, but as a professional, it is up to you to communicate professionally. It comes with the job.

So what can you do. As a future professional pilot, you can prepare yourself by practicing with your instructor or if you are already a pilot, review your knowledge on proper communication etiquette.

Here are a few options to consider:

So, don’t be one of those pilots with bad radio communication procedures. Pick up one of these tools so that you can communicate like the professional pilot you want to be. 

Till next time…

Here are some related entries you might want to read:

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5 Thing Every Airlines Pilot Needs To Know

Posted by Jeffrey on October 17, 2008

Though flying for an airline pays well (unless you are a first year, first officer), it is an occupation that sits on the edge all the time.

Like any job, it can be here today and gone tomorrow. You only have to look at the history of any industry to know that no job is ever completely safe.

Some of the biggest airlines and industries have moved on to the history books, and for various reasons.

So what I tell all my first officers is that you have to have something to back it up. In 2001, after the attacks, luckily I had enough money to survive off till everything turned around plus I had an education to fall back on.

With the latest downturn in flying and the major airlines STILL struggling, life at a regional airline is still in a precarious situation. Last November, I went from a line holder to a reserve line holder within a few months. This November, the same thing is happening again, but this year though I’m a little better prepared.

Still there are 5 things that I think every pilot should know, and it’s probably not what you think…

Get A Bachelor’s Degree

First, get a bachelor’s degree…and not in a major like Aviation Management or something useless like that. You want a degree that gives you a business background such as marketing, finance, or entrepreneurship. Business and sales are still where the money is at, so leverage yourself to make as much money as you can.

If you want to get a degree in an engineering discipline, go for it, but realize that unless you have stayed up acedemically with your chosen discipline, you will need to continue you education while you are flying otherwise you may not be able to get back into the field if something happens in aviation and you can’t fly anymore.

Networking

What is “networking?”

Networking is building relationships with people that have common and maybe not-so-common interests as yourself. This is important, because when you want to go get another (airline) job, a lot of times you need a referral.

FedEx and SouthWest both rely heavily on referrals, so you need to have them in place when you submit your application and resume. Some pilots think that they have to know and be “best friends” with this person, but that is not always the case. A friend-of-a-friend, who flies for the airline you want to work with will do. So ask your friend to ask their friend. Pilots love to help out other pilots and they will probably say “Yes.” It doesn’t hurt, the worst they could say is “No.” Right?

Another word on networking…if you have a friend in aviation that works somewhere besides where you do, try to stay in touch. A text message, a phone call, or an email is just the thing to keep those lines of communication open.

Focus on Your Health

If you aren’t exercising in some way or form, you need to. It has been proven that exercise helps on so many levels: physical, mental, and emotional, to name a few. In addition, as a pilot, you need to look professional and the appearance of being fit is very important.

You are probably thinking, yeah, yeah, heard it all before and that’s true. Personally, I yo-yo back and forth. I will exercise regularly for a long time and then I will go into a state of not working out for awhile till my uniform is getting a little snug and then I’m motivated to work out again, but I probably work out more than I don’t. I never get to far from a weight that is comfortable for me, plus I have worked out my whole life so I know what works for me.

Regardless, you need to pick up the book, The Caveman’s Guide to Fitness. The guys that put this together know what they are doing. You can do these workouts in your hotel room or at home. They don’t take long but the biggest benefit is that you will stay fit and healthy. Click here to get your copy.

Fly SOP

On my last trip, my first officer and I were talking about some of the things we have seen other pilots do. He commented that it was annoying when other pilots used the old adage, “Well, at <put your old company here> we didn’t do <whatever> that way so I’m not going to do it that way either.”

In essence, whatever airline you fly for, they pay you to fly their way.

All airlines and charter operations have developed their standard operating procedures (SOP) over years of experience. It is possible that you don’t agree with what your company is doing or how they are doing it, but you, as a professional pilot, are still responsible for flying their way. Believe it or not, it also increases safety since everyone is standardized and doing it the same way.

When I fly the worst, is when my first officer doesn’t accomplish his tasks as stated in the SOP. It gets my rhythm off because now it is not “standard.” So do everyone a favor, fly your SOP.

Get Another Job

I flew with a first officer the other day that is $100,000 in debt. Between him going to University of North Dakota to get his degree/flight training and his wife getting her nursing degree, this couple at the rip age of early 20’s was $100,00 IN DEBT!

How are they going to pay this off?

Right now, on $100,000 of debt, hypothetically speaking, if the interest rate is 3% and they make payments of around $550 per month, it is going to take them 20 years to pay it off and will end up paying an additional $33,000 over the life of the loan. A first officer at SkyWest makes around $20+ per flight hour their first year. An entry level nurse probably makes the same. Believe me, there is no way they are making a $550 payment each month.

So what should they do?

One option is to get another job. Even as a captain, I work as a substitute teacher, I have my own window cleaning business, and I have this blog. My substitute teaching makes me $80 per day. On a good window cleaning day, I make about $180 per day working four to six hours. This blog makes me about $100 per day through affiliate marketing.

Quick note: Affiliate marketing is selling other company’s products through your website and/or blog.

How I got started was I bought The Super Affiliate Handbookby Rosiland Gardner. At only $47, this book is a steal. Rosiland lays it out step-by-step on how to make money on the Internet. Click here to get started.

Conclusion

Being a “good” pilot doesn’t work anymore. The airlines aren’t going to take care of you and the glory days of flying a long gone. Don’t get me wrong, flying is blast. Reality is that if you want to fly, you are always going to worry whether your airline is the next to go. What I have outlined here are a few things that you need to pay attention to and they will help you keep going. My last suggestion is probably the most important. If you don’t have another job and it debt pick up The Super Affiliate Handbook and The Debt Buster System and give yourself a chance to do more than living paycheck to paycheck. You owe it to yourself and your future.

Till next time…

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