How to become a Pilot #08: Multi Crew Cooperation (MCC)

So here we are, at the final course of flight school: The Multi Crew Cooperation (MCC) course! So far, you’ve learned how to fly single and multi engined aircraft, but even though you were often with your instructor, these planes are all single-pilot aircraft, which means that they can be flown by one pilot only.

Big jets such as Airbus and Boeing aircraft require a minimum of two pilots. One that takes care of the flying whilst other one talks on the radio, checks the fuel and aircraft status and fills the flight plan. In case of a system malfunction, the Pilot Not-Flying – PNF (or Pilot Monitoring – PM) tries to solve the issue using the Quick Reference Handbook (QRH) and the Pilot Flying (PF) continues to fly the aircraft.

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How do pilots cope with delays?

We’ve all been there, spending hours and hours in the airport as the flight is delayed. How do pilots cope with delays?

In general, most delays are caused by either of the following:

Technical Problems
Weather Conditions
Air Traffic Control restrictions

All airplanes are checked by maintenance on a daily basis and before every flight by the pilots. This is important to ensure the safety of the flight. If a system malfunction or system alert arises during flight or on the ground, the airplane needs to be checked before the next flight. Pilots are not trained as mechanic, so the moment we notice a problem, we call our maintenance staff. The maintenance will look for the cause of the problem and fix the problem or replaces a part if required.

This, of course, takes time and whilst they are completely aware of the inconvenience it causes for the passengers, they can not rush their tasks. If it takes more time to solve a problem, the plane will be taken out of service and a standby airplane will be flown in to perform the flight. The broken plane can only go back to service if all problems are solved and all components are fixed. It then gets signed off by maintenance. In these circumstances, no matter how inconvenient for the passengers, safety has a higher priority than on time performance. 

Sometimes, the weather conditions are the reason for long delays. In case of Low Visibility for example. Not all airports are fully equipped for low visibility approaches. Arriving aircraft may need to divert to another airport if the visibility is too low to land. Take off may be delayed and the aircraft have to wait until the visibility is big enough for take off.

Strong wind. Even though aircraft can withstand a lot of wind, they do have limitations. The limitations depend on the direction of the wind and whether is steady or gusty. If the wind is out of limits, we are not allowed to land or take off until the wind slows down.

Thunderstorms are a risk for airplanes, both for lightning strikes and for the turbulence and icing inside the cumulonimbus clouds. If the thunderstorm is over the airfield, we may need to hold before we can land or divert to another airport. Refueling on ground is not allowed during thunderstorms.

In Winter Operations, with snow and ice, airplanes need to be de-iced and anti-iced before take off by ground staff. This could take a while, especially if all other aircraft are also in queue to be de-iced!

Snow and slush on the runway reduces the effectivity of the brakes (brake effect) and we can not take off with freezing rain or freezing fog.

Also in case of adverse weather conditions, we need to take safety in mind and not take any risks. We always need to take the rules and regulations established with regards to adverse weather and limitations into account!

ATC restrictions. Often, especially in summer, we get air traffic control slots. A departure slot means that we have to take off at a certain time. We can take off maximum 5 minutes before, or 10 minutes after our slot time. This slot can be at the scheduled departure time, but can also be two hours after the scheduled departure time. If we board the passengers, we may send a ready message, which means that if there is an opportunity to take off earlier, we can take off earlier and reduce the delay.

ATC restrictions are usually caused by limited parking availability at the destination or due to traffic congestion en-route.

And all of this happens while you are waiting in the terminal, and all you can see is the plane being delayed. Limited information is available and you don’t know how much time longer you will have to wait. The point is, that we in many cases don’t know that either.From our own experiences we know how annoying it can be to be waiting for a delayed flight without any information. The only thing we can do is maintain clear communication with our passengers, either by ourselves or via the ground staff and hope for the problem to be solved soon or for the weather to improve, so that we can depart as soon as possible.

And all you can see is the plane being delayed. Limited information is available and you don’t know for how long you have to wait. The point is, in many cases, that we do not know that either. We always try to give as much information as possible to our passengers and we do know from own experiences how annoying it can be to have a delay. All we can do is be patient, maintain clear communication with our passengers and hope that we can depart soon! 


My own experience #07: Multi Engine & Multi Crew

After my CPL exam, a whole new challenge came up: I was going to fly the Piper Seneca, a slightly bigger airplane with two engines! We did 25 hours on this new type of plane in order to get the Multi Engine Rating.

It was a different type of airplane, so the cockpit was significantly different with regards to the location of the flap handle, the engine start buttons and other avionics (electronic items in the aircraft).

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VLOG #58: From The Netherlands to Italy by car!


As I drove my car to Holland last week for the yearly revision, I went this week with Diego to Amsterdam to pick the car up and spend time with my family!

We flew to Amsterdam via Naples and enjoyed a lovely day in Amsterdam and Friesland in the North! We then drove via Lelystad Airport (gotta watch some planes once in a while!) towards Strasbourg, where we slept at my friend Ruben’s place.

The next day, the journey continued via Germany and Switzerland to Italy, where we dropped off the car at the boat and we took a plane back to Palermo as we didn’t feel like spending 20+ hours on the ferry!

I really hope you enjoy the views of my home country and en-route to Italy throughout Europe! Happy watching!

How do pilots take off?


How do pilots Take Off?

To understand how an airplane takes off, we need to learn a little bit about aerodynamics. Aerodynamics is all about what happens when a solid object flows through a fluid. Air is a type of fluid as it can move freely around any object. Depending on the shape of the object, and in our case the shape of the airplane wing, the air will flow around it in a certain direction and causes forces on the wing.

The 4 forces acting on the aircraft, are thrust – lift – drag – weight. 

Thrust is the horizontal component pushing the plane forward, created by the engines.

Lift is the vertical component generated by the airflow passing the wings.

Drag is the horizontal component working backwards, which is the resistance force of the aircraft moving through the air.

Weight is the vertical component working downwards, caused by gravity.

If a plane is flying in the air, at the same altitude and the same speed, the thrust component is equal to the drag component and the lift component is equal to the weight component. 
But in order to accelerate, the thrust must be bigger than our drag and to climb, the lift needs to be more than the weight in order to go upwards.

The amount of lift generated depends on many variables. The formula for lift is the following:

L = (1/2) d v2 s CL

  • L = Lift
  • d = density of the air.
  • v = velocity of an aircraft
  • s = the wing area of an aircraft
  • CL = Coefficient of lift , which is determined by the type of airfoil and angle of attack.

This is where the shape of the wing (airfoil) plays a crucial role. Here you see a cross-section of a wing.

The shape of the airfoil splits the incoming air. The pressure of the air that flows on top of the wing is decreased due to the airfoils curvature and the air  pressure below the wing is increased. The airflow is deflected down and the airfoil gets pushed up, causing the plane to move upwards.

The more the airfoil changes the path of the incoming air, the more lift is created. The angle between the wing’s chord line and the relative wind is called the angle of attack.This is why the angle of attack the ‘pitch’ of the plane plays a part in the lift formula. You can see that the bigger the angle of attack, the more lift is created. 

If the plane pitches more downwards, the angle of attack is less. Less air gets split, less pressure difference exists between the upper and lower surface of the wing and the air is not deflected as much downwards as before. Because of this, less lift is generated. 

During take off, we increase the power of the engines (thrust) and the plane starts to accelerate. The wings will pass with a high speed through the air. The airflow around the wings is split, creating a lower pressure above the wing an a higher pressure below the wing. The pilots pull the control wheel to lift the nose up upwards. Lift will be generated and the plane starts going upwards and lifts off the ground. And we fly to our destination!

My own experience #06: Practical exams

After my first solo, I continued flying with instructors to learn how to navigate visually (VFR – Visual Flight Rules), to practice engine failures and advanced manoeuvres such as stalls and steep turns. When my knowledge and skills were good enough, I had my Private Pilot Licence (PPL) exam. I flew with an examiner and he let me do a visual navigation, do some simulated engine failures and show him some manoeuvres. I passed the exam and received my very first pilot licence. A very valuable step in my career as a pilot!

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VLOG #57: I just can’t get enough of flying!

”Do you ever get enough of flying?” Consider this video as my answer to that question!

I just LOVE being in the air, in any type of airplane, especially in formation with other aircraft! Thankfully my boyfriend is an awesome pilot and shows me what these little TB-9 airplanes are capable of! Besides the views and the formation flying, we did an awesome low pass over the runway! I hope you like the video!!

Do you ever get enough of flying?