Flying “The Gauntlet”

This flight route was from San Carlos airport down to Reid-Hillview airport, just southeast of San Jose, and back. The flight was fun and the fact that my flying club affectionately calls this flight route “The Gauntlet” only made it more of a cool thing to do.

The challenge of The Gauntlet is that in just 30 miles you encounter boundaries and shelves of Bravo, Charlie, and Delta airspace and must talk to San Carlos tower, Palo Alto tower, Moffett tower, San Jose Tower, and finally Reid-Hillview tower (and all over again to get back home). 

This flight certainly requires planning and advance preparation. I was sure to write down all frequencies on my knee board before arriving at the airport, as there was no way I wanted to scramble to find them on a chart or try to write down a frequency from fast talking air traffic control in flight. It was also important to discuss altitude considerations and expectations before departure. Getting oriented with Reid-Hillview airport in advance was helpful to make sure I was ready for an approach to parallel runways, a displaced threshold, runway length (decision: I will land and taxi back vs. attempt touch and go’s), a short taxiway between the runways, and noise abatement procedures.

Thankfully my flight over to RHV was pretty smooth, the controllers gave me the handoffs as expected and I didn’t have to worry about getting too close to the next boundary without talking to the correct controller. My instructor told me to expect to cross SJC at exactly mid-field, so you can see me head more south to make sure that crossing was spot on, but they ended up clearing me direct to RHV anyway.

It has been a while since I have flown into an airport with parallel runways and I was obviously a bit intimidated by it and the parallel traffic, because you can see that I turn way too early for my final on the first landing, but I fixed it the next two times around.

To complete my debrief, I used the view lock function to line up and compare the scores of my four landing approaches. I’m happy to see three of the four have similar total scores in the green. But, as I’ve seen in previous debriefs… I still always earn my lowest scores on centerline deviation. So, this is something I probably need to practice more and bring up to my instructor when I fly with her. 

This flight is on the syllabus for the private pilot students at San Carlos Flight Center. When you complete the flight and all of the radio calls, you are awarded “The Gauntlet” pin of achievement. I think it is great that SCFC includes fun milestones like this in training. Even though I’m not in private pilot training, I found that this flight exercise was great for a former rusty pilot to fly to keep honing her skills and working that brain muscle.

For me, the flight had the perfect amount of challenge and total brain saturation, but I still felt like I was in the airplane the entire way and not letting it get ahead of me. During my debrief with my instructor, I said out loud, “That flight was really fun! I was on my toes the whole time and I loved it. It felt good to be challenged, but never overwhelmed into despair.”  

Debriefing an ILS Approach – Improved

What makes an ILS approach a good one? The simple answer is – staying on the needle…
And how to score it? Well, that’s not a simple matter. 

We made significant improvements to the scoring and to the visualization – so with a glance you can see immediately how good your ILS approach was.

At a Glance – The 1 Minute Debrief

Take a look at the ALT profile view and your overall score. Compare how closely your altitude track follows the solid black line of the glide slope and note that you’ve stayed within the bounds of the glideslope beam (the dotted black lines).

+ We’ve just added the glide slope beam to the ALT segment information graph. Now it looks a lot like the profile view we are all used to!

The 8 Minute Debrief

Using the Cockpit View you can animate and see the CDI. 

CloudAhoy computes “synthetic” CDI deflections (also new in this release). Of course if data is being imported from an EFIS such as a G1000, the CDI will be taken from the avionics rather than being computed.  

Scoring

We also enhanced the way the score is computed:  the scoring now takes into account glideslope & localizer accuracy, which makes the overall scoring more accurate. 

A good way to go deeper is to  take a look at what makes the score. How accurately did you track the localizer and glideslope? If you score well in those two areas, you likely flew a stabilized and consistent approach; good work. If you didn’t score well, take a look at the rest of the score details for more insight.

Then, scroll down though the segment information; expand to see graphs of how accurate the glide slope is and see the horizontal and vertical CDI tracking. The shaded green area represents the goal range of + or – one dot (1/2 scale deflection).  

Understanding an ILS approach with full situational awareness will help any level pilot fly the next one better and more precisely.

* * *

Available in CloudAhoy Pro.

These recents improvements were inspired by users’ feedback (thank you).  Your feedback is always welcome, and is an important contribution to the on-going enhancements to the analysis and visualization.  

 

 

 

Integration with MyFlightTrain by MyFlightSolutions

If the flight data is uploaded into CloudAhoy automatically from the airplane – how do we know who the pilot was?  Specifically, in a flight school – how do we know who the student and instructor were? 

 

Get pilots’ names from the scheduling program

 

 

We just completed integration with the scheduling program of MyFlightTrain by MyFlightSolutions.

When new flight data is uploaded to CloudAhoy, it calls MyFlightTrain, which retrieves the names of the Student and Instructor based on the tail number and the time of the flight.

  • This integration is available in MyFlightTrain Version 8 Release 5. 
  • It is available to any organization who is using MyFlightSolutions and CloudAhoy. 

Full solution: Automatically log flights
& put them in pilot’s account

Flight schools and individuals are increasingly adopting solutions to automatically upload data to CloudAhoy after a flight. This is an excellent way to free up pilots from doing extra tasks and clicks, and to guarantee that all flights are properly logged.

The integration with the flight schedule is a critical step in the full solution – have the flight ready to debrief without any action by the pilot.

Equipment

  • Equipment is installed in the airplane for flight logging and transmitting

See also: AirSync for automatic upload of G1000 flight data

For each flight – 

  • Automatically – logging of the flight data starts
  • Automatically – flight data is uploaded into CloudAhoy
  • Automatically – CloudAhoy retrieves the names of the pilots from the schedule app based on tail# and time of the flight

All this is done behind the scenes, automagically.

Debrief immediately after landing

 

After landing…

– The flight is ready for debrief in the pilots’ account, seconds after landing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

* * *

Integration with other applications in the aviation ecosystem is vital for a good and productive user experience, and we continue to pursue that.  

Britt’s Rusty Pilot Blog #3 – Flight Review Complete. Shiny Pilot Status!

I’ve received my flight review endorsement! I’m officially a pilot in command again. It has been fun getting back into the pilot mindset and being a part of the general aviation community. Getting current in the Bay Area out of San Carlos airport added to the challenge. This airspace is very complex and crowded. It is certainly different compared to where I learned to fly in rural Champaign, IL. I would personally say that it was even more intimidating flying VFR around here than back in my old home of Frederick, MD and the Washington DC SFRA. I’m so happy to be back and I’ve learned a lot through the process. There were times when I felt intimidated, but I had to remind myself that I’ve done this all before. And while a flight review is an evaluation of my skills, it is not a test. The components of a flight review are very flexible and should be planned out for what will best suit you and your flying. I was very adamant about being an active participant in what my flight review consisted of, instead of just showing up and relying on my new flight instructor to plan it out. That got me back to thinking and acting like the pilot in command.

Flight review endorsement and C172 rental checkout by the numbers:

Flight Hours: 5.5
Flights: 4
Landings: 17
Ground Instruction Hours: 4

Because San Carlos and all surrounding airports are towered, have noise abatement procedures, and tight airspace, I think that I could have gotten my endorsement in a less time if I flew out of an airport farther away from the city. However, this is my home and local airport, and I wanted to make sure I was ready to stick with it, have access to aircraft close by, and fly here with confidence. 

 

Overall, my VFR maneuvers felt pretty good. Of course I felt rusty, but the maneuvers never felt foreign to me. I did a solid amount of chair flying and watched some YouTube videos to help me prepare for them, and it made a big difference. Debriefing the maneuvers at home was also helpful. For example, I knew my instructor kept hounding me for more right rudder (as they do), but not until I reviewed my stall recovery and played it out in CloudAhoy watching the 3D cockpit view, did it really hit home that I did indeed need more right rudder! I also compared my two simulated emergency landings during my debrief. I can see that my airspeed (the blue line) moves up and down in both attempts, and I’d like to see that line hold more steady with practice. You can watch me debrief my VFR maneuvers in this video.

 

We added a night flight into my training to make sure I was fully current and able to carry passengers anytime, especially with daylight savings here. The night flight was not my favorite flight, in fact it was my least favorite. My head was spinning the entire time and I just couldn’t get ahead of the airplane. I expected to be a bit disoriented at times and to have some difficulty with less defined reference points in the dark, but I did not expect to feel behind the airplane for nearly the whole flight. We went to Oakland international and did 8 landings. About half way through, I told my instructor that I’d like to do a full stop landing and a taxi back to the runway so that I could have a few minutes on the ground for me to take a breath. It was a good call and helped my brain reset.

 

My instructor had a set checklist required by the flight school of items to cover for the “official” ground portion of the flight review. It was pretty straight forward. It was a mix of rote memory type regulations questions and some scenario based. The scenario based questions were very helpful to talk out and apply to real situations and examples for the local area. Once we got out the sectional and laid it on the table, it felt more fun and practical. I could better explain and show my knowledge when talking it out through examples. My instructor does very thorough pre-flight discussions as well, which were also important learning moments during this flight review. [As a side note, I’ve participated in AOPA’s Rusty Pilot seminars in the past; they are a great way to help you prepare for your flight review or to simply review the basics.]

 

Things I see that I still need to work on:

Centerline deviation on Final. A review of my last few landings reveals that I consistently score lower in this area. This tells me that I’m not correcting properly for the wind, I’m often over correcting, and that my sight picture for a stable approach still needs improvement and more practice.

Fly in less than perfect weather & set my personal minimums. My four flights have been in nice weather and light winds. I have not had the extra challenge of a large crosswind or low ceilings yet, so I know that I will remain conservative on any solo flights and that I will still want to fly a bit with my instructor. I also have not been pressured to make any decisions with questionable, but “probably” fine, weather situations, like the fog creeping in here in San Francisco. But, I know it is a common occurrence and want to fly with my instructor to understand the nuances of the local weather. I still want to work with my instructor to grow and be safe, and I will remain more restrictive on my personal minimums for now.

 

Next up in this adventure:

  • I will fly by myself and “re-solo”! So excited to do this, but maybe after one more flight with my CFI. 
  • I also need to get instrument current, and I’m way more rusty on those skills, eek. 
  • Take my friends on a San Francisco Bay Tour flight

I’m so happy and proud to be back flying and current!

(Interesting times for flight training, but we are definitely smiling!)

Scoring your approach to a short field landing

Proficiency says 1000’, safety says 500’… 

Professional jet pilots are trained to maintain a precise airspeed and altitude during the approach and over the threshold, and to aim at the 1000’ mark. CloudAhoy measures these parameters (as well as many other parameters) and scores the approach accordingly. But what if touching down on the 1000’ does not leave enough “runway remaining” per the Standard Operating Procedures? Obviously safety is always of paramount importance. 

The same applies to all pilots. Suppose you’re a C172 pilot landing on a 2500’ runway. Or a Citation pilot landing on a 4000’ runway. What would be different in your approach and landing on the short runway compared to landing on a 10,000’ runway?

We just released a new version of CloudAhoy which includes more accurate scoring for short field landings.  This is a response to feedback we got from many users, for being “penalized” incorrectly for landing short when the runway length required it. 

The main differences in the new version are:

  • Aiming point: on short runways you’d want to touchdown closer to the numbers, leaving yourself more runway for the landing roll.
  • Altitude and airspeed over the runway’s threshold: on short runways you’d be typically lower and slower.
  • Descent angle over the threshold: you may reduce the slope, and in some cases even begin the flair at the threshold. Especially if there’s a displaced threshold.

How we score

The new release automatically adjusts the tolerances in the scoring envelope based on the aircraft type and the length of the runway.

The new adjustments affect mostly scoring approaches using our “CloudAhoy Precision Landing” envelope, but also affect scoring with other envelopes.

Consider these two landings on a specific short runway. The one of the left touches down at 1000’, the one on the right touches down on 500’.

For scoring, we consider a runway to be short if its length is less than the “minimum remaining runway at touchdown” (as defined per aircraft type per the SOP) + 1000’ + safety distance (typically 500’).  These numbers have default values and can be modified.

Normally the “Precision Landing” envelope requires touchdown between 900’ and 1200’ and scores the touchdown distance accordingly. These numbers are configurable using the Envelope Editor by an individual pilot or by an organization. However, if the runway is short, CloudAhoy’s scoring does not penalize for a shorter touchdown – as long as it’s more than 200’ for a fast aircraft, or 10’ for slower aircraft. Obviously – CloudAhoy scoring will penalize for not enough runway remaining – known to be a major cause for incidents and accidents.

When a pilot lands short on a short runway, we automatically adjust the scoring envelope’s parameters for this specific approach, based on the actual touchdown point and the aircraft type. The adjustment is proportional to the actual touchdown point: 

  • In scoring the IAS from 500’ AGL to the threshold, we adjust the required minimum IAS.
  • In scoring the sink rate and descent angle from 500’ AGL to the threshold, we adjust the required range.
  • We adjust the required altitude and airspeed over the threshold to account for a potentially lower and slower threshold passing.

The result – more accurate scores for a good approach that landed short on a short runway to allow for a safe amount of remaining runway.

Similar considerations are applied when using our “Basic” envelope.

The changes affect all CloudAhoy Pro users, including users who customized their envelopes.

We would love to receive your feedback!
Please click the feedback button on an approach 

Or the general feedback link on the top-left     

 

Britt’s Rusty Pilot Blog #2 – Bay Tour


Truth be told, I’m a bit intimidated to fly again and don’t want to rush my flight review. I don’t want “just” the endorsement that shows I’m legal to fly. I want to feel safe, ready, and confident in my abilities. So, my flight instructor at San Carlos Flight Center, Mari, and I decided that we’d start off with a fun flight first. Something that would allow me to get back at the controls right away without too much ground discussion, maneuver prep, or stress. We made my first flight back a San Francisco Bay Tour. It was perfect. A clear beautiful day (very welcomed after weeks of smokey haze and strange skies). It was a great orientation to the local airport procedures, airspace, the plane’s radios and avionics, and to knock the rust off my ATC communications. It was a 1.2 hour flight and a nice way to get started and be challenged.

*I’ve also made a video of my debrief, you can check it out here!*

Let’s debrief my Bay Tour!

I flew a steam gauge C-172 and recorded my flight from the CloudAhoy app on my iPhone. Debriefing my flight with CloudAhoy was very helpful to review all the local landmarks my instructor had pointed out. For noise abatement after takeoff from San Carlos airport, we were to follow the “Oracle Departure”. This meant at the diamond shaped waterway, I was to turn right and follow the slough, being sure not to fly over any of the homes on either side. Check out how I did… pretty good and kept the neighbors happy.

Next, ATC directed us to fly to the “mid-span” of the San Mateo Bridge. Before our flight I was told that the mid-span is halfway between the flat part of the bridge, not the entire bridge. I was given the tip of how many poles to count, but that felt like too hard of a task my first 10 minutes into this rusty pilot’s flight. So I appreciated taking the time with my CloudAhoy debrief to actually validate that I did this correctly, with both a satellite and VFR chart view to reference.

Bay Bridge, Alcatraz, Sausalito, and the Golden Gate Bridge – what a site to see!
This segment was a nice relaxed time to just fly and look outside. ATC wasn’t concerned about us and we could do some circling and touring around. I was supposed to maintain 1800 feet. Overall, I feel like I did okay, but I do see some dips in altitude that I hope as I fly more become less of a trend (see graph below). I did voice to my instructor that I needed to physically relax and loosen my grip on the control, as even my shoulder was starting to feel tight. 

Next we flew along the coast line and then climbed to prepare for our route back to San Carlos. I felt like I had good situational awareness and was able to overfly the runway then enter a right downwind as instructed. I was to fly over SQL at 1300 and so I had to lose 500 ft to reach traffic pattern altitude. I probably should have extended my downwind a bit to give myself time to get better established with a more consistent descent angle.  CloudAhoy’s CFI Assistant feature scored my final approach a grade of 77. While it isn’t in the green range, it was a good place to start and now I can measure my improvement. I knew I wasn’t doing a good job holding the centerline and of course, this grade confirms how I felt in flight. 

For my first landing in many years, I thought it was okay. I don’t think I impressed anyone, but it wasn’t a horrifying smack down or anything. I definitely needed to add some power during the flare, but then it was too much power, so I floated, but it was an eventual fine touch down. I’m pretty sure the instructor didn’t touch the controls, she just gave some helpful verbal guidance on the finesse of the flare and final few seconds. 

This bay area flight was the highlight of my week. I’m glad to be back in the air. I recognize many areas for improvement and look forward to the fun challenges ahead as I continue to knock the rust off. 

Do you have any advice for Britt? Send her an email at britt@cloudahoy.com.