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Shine On You Crazy Diamond!

As most of you will be aware, Aircraft Flight Manuals (AFM) poorly reflect the realities of operating your aircraft.  They are a document predominantly prepared by lawyers (some would say for lawyers) apparently with the intention of minimising and limiting the manufacturers’ liability exposure due to the use and misuse of their products, rather than with the intent of assisting the end-user (pilots) to get the best out of their aircraft. Many AFM’s are best described as a fairy-tale.  Hopelessly optimistic performance and consumption figures, operational “advice” apparently written in a lost attempt at preventing even the most ham-fisted klutz from bending metal, or worse. It seems manufacturers, regulators -and industry- would prefer to legislate or socially-engineer “solutions” to issues rather than train pilots properly -or provide clear, concise, accurate information.  Have you ever wondered why later model Cessna 172’s had the maximum flap-setting available reduced from 40˚ to 30˚?

The Limitations section(s) of your AFM, including but not limited to: Loading, W&B, Structural Load limits, VSPEEDS and any other limiting information, contains empirical data established by test-pilots under strictly controlled conditions and must always be respected. Do Not exceed AFM Limitations under any circumstances.
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It seems that (predominantly in the USA) there were several crashes of 40˚-flap equipped 172’s during an attempted missed-approach -with 40˚ of flap extended, despite the fact that the AFM directed a reduction of flap immediately after the application of power for the missed approach.  Enter the lawyers… under the ridiculously litigious American legal system, victims of such inept mishandling by the pilots (or their families) were able to bring Product Liability suits against the manufacturers and, against all common sense, win massive damages awards. This whole nonsensical process very nearly sounded the death-knell for the entire GA manufacturing industry!!!  That’s also why those later-model C-172’s have only 30˚ flap available.

We work in an Industry in which "common knowledge", "Old Wives Tales" and sadly, often excessively large ego's abound. There is no need for us to be "reinventing the wheel" in our aviation practices. Very few of us do or will ever work in the Experimental or bleeding-edge-technology arena, where science supported by technology and test-pilot experience will establish base-line SOP's, which will themselves be rewritten and improved as understanding and experience of the new technologies grows. Generally speaking, we will be operating well known, well understood, proven airframes, engines and systems, supported by millions of hours of air-time, across the worldwide fleet. We have no need to deviate from those techniques that have stood the test of time. In large part you could say: "whatever this latest bright and shiny 'new' idea is, you can bet that someone before you has tried it, failed and discarded the notion as unworkable".

So we’re trying to redress the balance somewhat, by providing absolutely non-Politically Correct information written by pilots with extensive experience in the aircraft and operations of which they write.  We’re always interested in what you may be able to add too, so if you have experience of a particular airframe, operation or technique which may be of interest or benefit to others, drop us a line -we can discuss your article!

Due to the nature of the flying conducted by the pilots that write for us and the areas and situations in which they fly, they are all too often disparagingly tagged “cowboys”, usually by those who have little or no knowledge of what they do, how they do it or why they do it. In comparison to what others may be used to, I imagine that they could be perceived as cowboys, but for the knowledge, care, thought & experience that underpin every flight.  So, with that in mind, welcome to...

The Cowboy’s Guides to:

The Cessna 185 SkyWagon

The Cessna 208 Caravan

The Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander

Beach Operations

Starting your big-bore Continental or Lycoming engine


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