Commercial Pilot Ground School
Complex Aircraft Checkout - BRIEFING
In this lesson, you'll learn to fly a complex aircraft, which in this case
is an airplane with a constant-speed propeller, retractable landing gear, and
ESTIMATED TIME TO COMPLETE
You should complete all of the Student and Private Pilot lessons before
beginning this lesson. Reading the Ground School material before starting this
lesson will help you better understand the skills being taught.
The sky is clear and the wind is calm.
ABOUT THE FLIGHT
You'll start on the ground, ready to depart on runway 19 at Bremerton
National Airport. Your instructor will teach you about power operations
(throttle and propeller RPM), raising and lowering the gear, operating cowl
flaps, and approach and landing procedures in the aircraft. After departing
from Bremerton, you'll fly to the practice area, work through a set of
maneuvers, and then return for landing on runway 19 at Bremerton.
KEY COMMANDS TO REMEMBER
F10 to display the kneeboard
G key to raise and lower the landing gear
F7 to operate the flaps
Shift + 3 to display the GPS
Shift + 4 to display and hide the throttle quadrant
CTRL+SHIFT+V to open Cowl Flaps in increments
CTRL+SHIFT+C to close Cowl Flaps in increments
You'll be asked to maintain:
- Airspeed within 10 knots as assigned except on descents and landing
approach where airspeed should not be less than assigned or more than 10
knots above assigned speed.
- Altitude within 100 feet as assigned.
- Headings within 10 degrees as assigned
- Bank within 10 degrees as assigned
- Power within 1 inch of manifold pressure as assigned
- Propeller RPM within 100 RPM as assigned
Complex Aircraft Checkout - LESSON
by Rod Machado
Congratulations on completing the student and instrument private pilot
lessons. You've come this far and you should feel quite proud of yourself. I'm
certainly proud of you. Now it's time to make another big jump in your
aviation education. The three commercial lessons and solo session in this
series will help prepare you to operate heavy machinery. No, I don't mean
bulldozers, backhoes, and street cleaners; I mean an airplane like the
twin-engine Beechcraft Baron 58.
Whether or not you know it, I have big plans for you. That's why I picked
the Beechcraft Baron 58 for your commercial training. I eventually see you
flying heavy metal, and I don't mean rock bands, either. Without having to
consult a psychic, I think there is a Boeing 737–400 in your future. That's
the heavy metal of which I speak. If one of these airplanes is in your stars
(or possibly your airport garage), then it's best that you know how to operate
an airplane with complexity somewhere between that of a Cessna Skyhawk SP
Model 172 and the Boeing 737. That's why I won't put you directly into a
Boeing 737 for your commercial training. If I did, you'd probably spend all
your time saying things like, "Yeee haaa!, hold on little doggie, whoooa
boy, whoooa boy, somebody stop me!" You get the point, right? It's just
too big a jump without first taking an intermediate form of training.
There's one thing, however, that won't happen with the commercial training
in the Baron. Because of the difficulties involved, we won't be practicing any
single-engine operations in this multiengine airplane. If you want to fly on a
single engine, I have a Skyhawk SP ready and warmed up for you. It's true,
however, that the most important thing about learning to fly a multiengine
airplane is dealing with the loss of one engine. (By that I mean one engine
stops running at a very critical time, not that we actually lose an engine
like we do with a set of car keys.) Anyone who flies an actual multiengine
airplane is sure to practice single-engine operations. For our purposes, we'll
assume that both engines on the Baron operate at the same time, all the time,
which is how it works in real life 99.999999 percent of the time. That's why
we won't be discussing things like single-engine minimum control speed, also
known as Vmc, as well as Vsse, Vyse, and so on. As a benefit, all the material
discussed in this lesson is applicable to the operation of any complex
single-engine airplane, too. If you want to learn more about engine-out
procedures in twin-engine aircraft, see Flying Twin-Engine Aircraft in
the Learning Center.
I do feel obligated to offer one more note for those who actually fly the
Baron outside of Flight Simulator: I've had to modify the operating procedures
slightly to make these lessons work. That's why you should always check the
actual airplane's Pilot Operating Handbook for the specific procedures
applicable to the airplane you fly. And whatever you do, don't run with a pair
of scissors in your hand or jump into a swimming pool until an hour after
you've eaten. You get the point, right?
And so we begin.
Complex Airplane: The Big Picture
First, here's an easy question. Why do they call them the Canary Islands?
Good, you got that one. Now, why do we call the Beechcraft Baron a complex
airplane? If you've never been in one, the Baron can appear quite complex,
especially if the only airplane you've flown is the Skyhawk SP.
Complex airplanes always have three things in common: flaps, retractable
gear, and a controllable propeller. You're already familiar with flaps since
you used them on the Skyhawk SP. Before we begin our in-depth study of the
Baron, let's take a quick look at its instrument panel to make sure we know
what we're looking at.
Figure 1-1 is a picture of the Baron's instrument panel with its major
instruments identified below. Study this carefully and familiarize yourself
with these instruments. Once done, you can begin your lesson.
Figure 1-1 A-Propeller Controls B-Fuel Selector C-Cowl
Flaps D-Manifold Pressure
E-Propeller RPM F-Landing Gear G-Flaps
Retractable Landing Gear
Long ago, someone decided that retracting the airplane's gear would reduce
drag and allow the airplane to fly faster. Not only does this work in theory, it
also works in practice. Airplanes can fly, climb, and descend at a faster speed
with the gear retracted. These same airplanes can also slow down faster when the
gear is extended. Pilots often use landing gear drag to their advantage to help
them get the airplane down quicker when they are in the vicinity of the airport
in preparation for landing. Although there are a few important items to remember
about operating the gear, nothing is more important than remembering to put it
down before landing. You don't want to land your airplane with the gear
retracted. You'll know if you did because it will take full power to taxi the
airplane. Just kidding, but you get the point, right?
Figure 1-2 shows the Baron's gear handle next to three green lights, each
representing one of the three landing gear struts. The center green light
represents the nose gear; the two green lights on either side represent the
right and left main gear. After takeoff, once the VSI shows a positive rate of
climb, you should raise the gear handle to retract the gear. At this point,
you'll want to check to make sure that all three green lights go out, indicating
that each gear has retracted (Figure 1-3).
It's a good procedure to say "Gear up and locked" after raising the
gear handle and all three gear lights show proper gear retraction. If the gear
failed to retract (or extend, for that matter) the gear in transition
light might remain illuminated. Sometimes, albeit rarely, this does happen.
While mechanical equipment is reliable, it's not completely reliable. That's
why, as I write this, I keep two computer repair kits handy in case a circuit
board goes haywire. If one or more of the gears didn't retract, then, as the
astronauts say, "Houston, we have a problem." You'd want to lower the
gear handle and return for landing to have your machine checked out by a
Fortunately, landing gear is very reliable. In fact, whenever there is a
problem with the gear it's usually pilot induced. For instance, you shouldn't
lower the gear while flying at speeds above 152 knots. Doing so exposes the gear
doors to extreme stress, possibly causing them to leave the airplane. This isn't
good, even if you don't own the airplane. So make sure you slow the airplane
down to 152 knots or less before you lower the gear.
If you're in cruise flight zipping through the air at 170 knots indicated
airspeed, you'll have to reduce power to slow the airplane down. In an actual
airplane, you wouldn't want to yank the throttle back to idle to do this,
either. Yanking a throttle is never a good idea in an airplane. Doing so,
according to many experts, could shock-cool the engine. Think of this as
installing a large glacier under your engine cowling when it's at its peak
operating temperatures. Making this behavior a habit might result in long term
engine damage. That, my friend, is no good. (It's also why in the very next
section I'll talk about how to use something known as cowl flaps to keep your
engine from overcooling and overheating. Stay tuned, future power plant master.)
So, plan in advance and gradually reduce power to slow the airplane down
before lowering the gear. In case you're wondering, the professionals try and
reduce power no more than one inch of manifold pressure per minute (you'll learn
about manifold pressure shortly).
One last thing about landing gear operations. As I've already mentioned, you
must remember to put it down before you land. If you don't, then you won't need
your landing light to see the runway at night. The sparks from the airplane's
metal belly will light the runway for you.
While most airplanes have a warning horn (or a warning instructor) to remind
you to put the gear down before you land, I like to count proper planning to
accomplish this objective. That's why you'll always use the acronym GUMP before
I always say "GUMP" at least four times before I land any
retractable-geared airplane to remind me to put the gear down. You should, too.
But don't mispronounce this: It sounds a lot like like "jump," and you
don't want your passengers to do that.
I say GUMP on the downwind leg (the gear should be down by then), on base
leg, on final and when I cross the threshold. Am I paranoid about leaving the
gear up? Maybe I am. But since when is this type of paranoia such a bad thing?
Now that you know about operating the landing gear, it's a good time to talk
about what you can do to keep the engine from getting too cool or too hot.
Keeping Your Cool with Cowl Flaps
By now you've probably guessed that our powerplant (the engine) is also a
heat plant. All that local motion results in the production of calories galore,
with every bit of the heat looking for a home. One of the things you must be
aware of in a complex airplane is preventing engine overheating when operating
at high power settings. Unfortunately, engine cooling is least effective at high
power settings and low airspeeds, where a limited amount of air enters the
engine cowling. This condition just happens to describe our airplane during a
climb, doesn't it?
While overheating is damaging, excessive cooling can also shorten engine
life, as I've already discussed. Long or rapid descents under low power
conditions might cause shock cooling of the engine, a condition in which the
various metals of the cylinders cool suddenly and at different rates. This can
lead to something getting bent out of shape. That can lead to buying expensive
new engine parts in an actual airplane, so pilots generally have a strong
imperative to avoid doing it.
In addition to properly planning your descents, there's something else you
can do to help keep the engine from getting too hot during a climb and too cold
during cruise and during descents. I'm referring to using something known as the
cowl flaps (Figure 1-4).
Just to be clear here, I said cowl flaps, not cow flaps. The
airplane doesn't have anything associated with a cow on it, not even the "rrrrr-udder"
pedals. (Sorry, I had to do that.)
Cowl flaps are moveable sections of metal under the engine cowling (thus the
origin of the phrase "cowl" flaps) that can be manually opened or
closed from the cockpit. All the pilot needs do is move a small lever (Figure
Keeping the cowl flaps closed (Figure 1-6) helps restrict the flow of air
over the engine and through the cowling. This helps maintain warmer engine
temperatures during cruise flight as well as during a descent. Opening the cowl
flaps before takeoff and during climbs allows more air to flow over the engine
and through the cowling, which helps prevent engine overheating.
Of course not all airplanes have cowl flaps. These are usually found on
airplanes with larger engines, typically having 200 horsepower or more, like the
Your job will be to ensure that the cowl flaps are always open for takeoff
and climbs, and always closed for cruise and descents. In real life, like a
lizard eyeing a juicy, tasty-looking fly, we'd carefully monitor our cylinder
head temperatures (CHT) and oil temperatures to keep these temperature values in
the green. I guess this means we'd act just like a monitor lizard, except we'd
be doing the fly(ing) instead of eating one (don't mind me, I just like my job).
At this point, you've had your hands full with gear handles and cowl flap
levers, neither of which have much to do with operating the engine. So let me
put a little spin on this lesson by introducing you to the propeller. Then I'll
help you get a grip on the throttle control. These two items are a little
different from what you've experienced when flying the Shyhawk SP, but I know
you'll find them interesting.
The Big Spin on the Propeller
Propellers come in all sizes and colors, but they are of two basic types:
fixed-pitch and constant speed. In an airplane with a fixed-pitch prop (like the
one of the Skyhawk SP you've flown), one lever—the throttle—controls both
power and propeller rpm. The Baron, however, has what is known as a constant-speed
propeller, which means there are separate controls for engine power and
The Skyhawk SP's fixed-pitch propeller had its pitch (angle of attack) fixed
or made permanent during the forging process. The angle is set in stone
(actually, set in aluminum). This pitch can't be changed except by replacing the
propeller, which pretty much prevents you from changing the propeller's pitch in
flight. Fixed-pitch props are not ideal for any single thing, yet they are, in
many ways, best for everything. They represent a compromise between a propeller
blade's best angle of attack for climb and its best angle for cruise.
Fixed-pitch propellers are simple to operate, and easier (thus less expensive)
As I've already mentioned, on fixed-pitch propeller airplanes like the
Skyhawk SP, engine power and engine rpm are both controlled by the throttle. One
lever does it all, power equals rpm, and that's that. Complex airplanes,
however, have something known as a constant-speed (or,
Airplanes with these propellers usually have both a throttle and a propeller
control, so you manage engine power and propeller rpm separately as shown in
Figure 1-7. (Since you may want to fly a single-engine complex airplane at some
point, the figures shown here represent a single-engine complex airplane,
despite the fact that you're flying a Baron. So, just double everything I
say—except the jokes—to make the material applicable to the Baron).
On airplanes with constant-speed propellers, movement of the throttle
determines the amount of fuel and air reaching the cylinders. Simply stated, the
throttle determines how much power the engine can develop. Movement of the
propeller control changes the propeller's pitch (its angle of attack); which
directly controls how fast the propeller rotates (its speed or rpm) as shown in
Although throttle determines engine power, propeller pitch determines how
efficiently that power is used. Let's examine how the controllable propeller
works. Then we'll examine why changing the propeller's pitch in the Baron is
such a helpful thing.
The Propeller Control Goal
Forward movement of the propeller control causes both halves of the propeller
to rotate about their axes and attack the wind at a smaller angle (i.e., take a
smaller bite of air) as shown in Figure 1-9.
From our earlier discussion on aerodynamics, you know that a smaller angle of
attack means less drag and less resistance to forward motion; therefore, moving
the propeller control forward increases propeller rpm. Pulling the propeller
control rearward causes the propeller to attack the wind at a larger angle of
attack (that is, take a larger bite of air). Propeller drag increases and engine
rpm slows as shown in Figure 1-10.
Just as the tachometer tells you how fast the propeller spins (its rpm), the
manifold pressure gauge tells you how much throttle is applied, and it gives you
an approximate measure of engine power (Figure 1-11).
To understand what manifold pressure means, I need to give you a little
lesson on the first cycle of a four cycle airplane engine.
Getting Your Strokes Right
Airplane engines have four cycles: intake, compression, power, and exhaust.
The intake cycle is what's important here (Figure 1-12, position A).
This cycle occurs as the piston moves downward and the intake value opens. Since
the cylinder was filled with the piston as the cycle started, moving the piston
downward creates a vacuum. Think of a vacuum as the presence of nothing, or the
absence of everything (your choice). Nature abhors a vacuum (that's
"vacuum," not "vacuum cleaner," so this isn't a reason for
not cleaning your house). You've heard that fools rush in where angels fear to
tread? While the piston is in its downward journey, a mixture of fuel and air
rushes into the cylinder (Figure 1-12, position A). This sucking action is
responsible for the term manifold pressure. It's the sucking action of
the descending piston that creates a vacuum in the induction system (Figure
With the throttle closed, the throttle valve in the induction system prevents
air (and thus fuel) from rushing into the cylinders and powering the engine. But
what is it that forces air into the induction system in the first place? Yes,
it's the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere. Because atmospheric pressure is
higher than the pressure within the induction system, air flows into the
cylinders. Simply stated, the atmosphere wants to push air into the induction
system (toward the suction created by the downward moving pistons). The amount
of this push is measured by the manifold pressure gauge (which is nothing more
than a barometric measuring device calibrated to read pressure in inches of
mercury—just like altimeters).
The Pressure is On
Manifold pressure is measured downstream of the throttle valve as shown in
Figure 1-13. When the throttle is closed, air outside the engine (under higher
atmospheric pressure) can't flow into the induction system, despite the vacuum
on the engine side of the throttle valve. Figure 1-14 shows a manifold pressure
of 14 inches of mercury with a closed throttle. The engine is sucking as hard as
it can but the outside air can't get past the closed throttle valve.
Opening the throttle slightly causes an increase in manifold pressure as
shown in Figure 1-15.
More air and fuel are drawn inside the engine, and power increases.
Eventually, as the pilot opens the throttle fully (Figure 1-16), the pressure
downstream of the throttle valve approaches that of the atmosphere. In other
words, the air is being forced into the induction system at the maximum pressure
the atmosphere is capable of pushing.
Under normal conditions, the engine's manifold pressure can't rise above
atmospheric pressure. The atmosphere can only push an amount equal to how much
it weighs. At sea level, atmospheric pressure weighs enough to push a column of
mercury 30 inches into a glass tube containing a vacuum (Figure 1-17).
As a measurement of the atmosphere's weight, we say that the outside air
pressure is 30 inches of mercury. Therefore, the engine's manifold pressure at
full throttle is a little less than 30 inches (it's a little less because of air
friction and intake restrictions within the induction system). Clearly, then,
manifold pressures near 30 inches of mercury signifies more power is being
developed by the engine. On the other hand, low manifold pressures (say 15
inches or so) indicate less fuel and air is entering the cylinders and less
power is being produced.
As the airplane climbs, you'll notice the manifold pressure decreases even
though the throttle is fully opened. Why? Atmospheric pressure decreases as you
ascend. It decreases approximately one inch of mercury for every thousand feet
of altitude gain as shown in Figure 1-18 (and increases approximately one inch
of mercury for every thousand feet of altitude loss).
At sea level you can develop approximately 30 inches of manifold pressure
with full throttle. At 5,000 MSL, however, your manifold pressure will be
approximately 25 inches with full throttle (Figure 1-19).
Remember, under normal conditions the atmosphere can't force air into the
induction system at more than its own pressure (its own weight).
I mentioned that engine power is controlled by the throttle. That's basically
true; but engine power can also be varied slightly by the rpm you've selected.
In other words, the total power produced by the engine is really a combination
of both manifold pressure and engine rpm. Think of it this way: you're on a
2,000 calorie diet. You can eat 1,500 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch and
skip dinner; 1,000 for breakfast, and 500 each for lunch and dinner, and so
forth. There are lots of combinations that will yield 2,000 calories.
The same is true on a constant-speed prop plane. Different combinations of
manifold pressure and engine (prop blade) rpm can be used to attain a given
power setting. Figure 1-20 shows how this works for the Baron.
Any of the manifold pressure and engine rpm combinations listed can be
selected to obtain the desired engine power output in cruise flight. The
throttle selects the desired manifold pressure and the propeller control selects
Why would you want so many combinations of manifold pressure and rpm? The
reason is that fuel consumption, airspeed and the percent of power produced all
vary based on different combinations of manifold pressure and rpm. Noise levels
and smoothness of engine operation also vary based on rpm. Even some of your
airborne electronic equipment can be affected by engine speed. At least you have
a choice among different combinations for power selection.
The big question is, "Why have a propeller that can change its pitch in
flight in the first place?" After all, this is just another airplane knob
you have to contend with, isn't it? Yes it is. But it's worth the trouble.
Airplanes equipped with constant-speed propellers are much more versatile in
their operation. For instance, fixed-pitch propeller airplanes have their
propellers permanently configured (pitched) for either a fast cruise, a fast
climb, or somewhere in between (like the Skyhawk SP). You can't change their
pitch in flight. Airplanes with controllable-pitch propellers, however, can
essentially reshape the prop, by changing its pitch, from the cockpit. This
means you can obtain the optimum angle of attack for climb or cruise. Let's take
a look at how a different pitch may result in increased performance. (As a
reminder, while I'm only referring to the operations of a single engine in this
lesson, this obviously applies to operating both engines in the Baron.)
Low Pitch and High rpms
When climbing a very steep hill in a car, you want your automobile's engine
to develop nearly 100 percent of its maximum power; that's why you start off in
low gear. Low gear results in high engine rpm, thus more engine power being
transferred to the wheels (Figure 1-21, position A). As a result, your car is
less likely to bog down during the climb. Pay attention the next time you walk
up a steep hill. You'll find yourself using lots of short steps (high rpm)
instead of the long strides you'll use on the flatlands.
The same philosophy applies to airplanes. During a climb, we want the
airplane's engine to develop maximum power. This allows maximum thrust to be
produced (remember, it's excess thrust that allows an airplane to climb).
Engine power is dependent on its rpm. For an engine to develop its maximum
power, it must be operated at its highest allowable rpm. At any lower rpm the
engine develops only a fraction of its total horsepower. That's why on takeoff
(or during go-arounds) we want the propeller set to its lowest pitch (highest
rpm) position (full forward on the prop lever). In this position the propeller
experiences less wind resistance, resulting in less drag and higher engine rpms
(Figure 1-21, position B). Under these conditions the engine develops maximum
power, thus maximum thrust for climbing and accelerating.
You may be thinking, "How can the propeller deliver maximum thrust if it
doesn't take a big bite of air?" Think of it this way: If the propeller
does take a big bite of air (a large angle of attack), it will surely develop
more thrust—but only if the propeller continues to turn over at a high speed.
That's the problem! Taking such a large bite of air increases the propeller's
drag (just like a wing at a large angle of attack). This disproportionally
decreases the propeller's speed and prevents the engine from developing its
maximum horsepower (it bogs it down, like the car). The final result is that the
propeller produces less thrust than it's capable of producing.
One last way of conceptualizing this is to think about a blender. (If you
don't have one, simply send out a few wedding invitations). If hard vegetable
fiber is dropped in before the blades have a chance to spin up, the machine bogs
down (rpms stay low). Nothing gets chopped because the motor has less spinning
force or torque at slower speeds. However, once the blender's blades spin to a
fast speed, nothing seems to resist the spinning force of the blades. High motor
rpms mean maximum power is developed and the blender's blades resist slowing
when they encounter thick vegetable fiber. The net result of higher engine rpms
for the airplane is that maximum engine thrust is produced when the propeller
spins faster, even though the blades are at a lower pitch.
High Pitch and Low rpms
Are there times when you don't need to develop maximum engine power? Yes. For
example, if you're on the freeway, your automobile only needs enough power to
keep it moving at a reasonable speed—perhaps only 55 percent to 65 percent of
its maximum power. High gear (low engine rpm) is selected to maintain freeway
speeds (Figure 1-22, position A). High gear means the engine turns over at a
lower rpm, thus producing only the horsepower needed to keep the car moving
along at an acceptable pace. This is achieved with less fuel consumption than if
the car were running flat out.
Airplanes are operated in a similar manner during cruise flight (Figure 1-22,
position B). There is no need to develop maximum horsepower during cruise
flight. Our concern is to obtain a reasonably fast airspeed while keeping the
fuel consumption low. After all, we could operate our Baron in cruise flight at
full throttle—but why? The larger drag associated with higher speeds would
consume enormous amounts of fuel and not allow us to move all that much faster
anyway (remember, total drag increases dramatically at higher airspeeds).
Therefore, cruise flight is a tradeoff between high airspeed and low fuel
With the proper combination of manifold pressure and engine rpm, you can
obtain a reasonably fast airspeed for a given rate of fuel consumption (See
Figure 1-20 for a few of these combinations). In cruise flight we select the
desired manifold pressure with the throttle, and engine rpm with the propeller
control. Now the propeller produces a specific amount of lift (thrust) for a
given (lower) fuel consumption.
Why Constant-Speed Propellers?
Controllable-pitch propellers on complex airplanes are of the constant-speed
variety. Once the rpm is established, changes in manifold pressure (by moving
the throttle) won't affect engine speed. In other words, opening (Figure 1-23)
or closing (Figure 1-24) the throttle (or changing the airplane's attitude)
doesn't vary the engine's rpm. This is why these controllable propellers are
given the name constant-speed propellers. (Of course, if you pull the throttle
all the way back, there's simply no power available to keep the propeller
spinning. The engine's rpm has no choice but to drop.)
The reason constant-speed propellers are put on an airplane is to reduce a
pilot's workload. Instead of having to readjust the rpm with every change in
power, you simply set the rpm and it stays where it's put—just like your home
thermostat keeps the temperature constant (although the thermostat in my home
only has two settings: Cold and Kenya).
What is the value of having a propeller that maintains a preset (constant)
speed? It provides you with one less item to readjust while managing power.
Let's suppose the airplane's Pilot Operating Handbook suggests the most
efficient use of engine power during climb occurs at 25 inches of manifold
pressure and 2,500 rpm (pilots refer to this as 25 squared, which proves how
weak some of them are in math). As you climb, the manifold pressure decreases
approximately one inch per thousand feet (because the outside air pressure
decreases one inch for every thousand feet altitude gain). Since you have a
constant speed propeller, the rpm automatically stays set at 2,500, despite
variations in manifold pressure (or throttle positions). All you need to do is
keep adding throttle to maintain the desired manifold pressure during the climb;
the rpm needs no adjusting.
In the Baron, all takeoffs will be made with full throttle (approximately 29
inches of manifold pressure) and propeller controls full forward, which will
produce approximately 2,700 rpm. This is called takeoff power and we can
be assured of obtaining maximum thrust in this condition. Once the airplane
reaches a safe maneuvering altitude, however, we'll want to reduce power to the
climb power setting of 25 inches of manifold pressure and 2,500 rpm. This
prevents the engine for working too hard, possibly overheating and damaging
itself. You can consider an altitude of 500 feet AGL a safe maneuvering altitude
(unless I recommend a higher altitude in any lesson, which I might do). Why 500
feet? There's one school of thought that the first reduction of power after
takeoff changes the engine's stress level, possibly exacerbating an already
existing engine problem, thus instigating an engine failure. Therefore, it seems
reasonable not to adjust power until reaching an altitude at which you can more
easily maneuver the airplane and return for landing.
In cruise flight, we'll use manifold pressure settings around 19 to 23 inches
and rpm values of around 2,300, depending on what the lesson specifics call for.
Making Power Changes
With the ability to vary propeller pitch you need to understand a few very
important principles about power management. It's relatively easy to overstress
an engine if the throttle and propeller controls aren't used in the proper order
during power changes. I can't overstress this point.
For instance, suppose your manifold pressure and rpm are set at 23 inches and
2,300 rpm (Figure 1-25).
Now suppose that you want to increase the manifold pressure and rpm to 25
inches and 2,500 rpm. If you increase the manifold pressure to 25 inches first,
it will increase the combustible mixture flowing to the cylinders. This would
normally spin the propeller faster. Yet this doesn't happen, since the propeller
takes a bigger bite of air to absorb the increase in power, thus maintaining its
last established rpm. Cylinder stress increases as the propeller keeps the rpm
from increasing (that is, the expanding gases push harder, yet are unable to
move the pistons faster). Given enough cylinder stress, you could damage the
When you want to increase both the manifold pressure and rpm, increase the
rpm first, then increase the manifold pressure. In other words, move the
propeller control forward first, the throttle next.
Follow the same philosophy when decreasing manifold pressure and rpm. Pull
the throttle back first, followed by the propeller control, as shown in Figure
1-26. Another way of thinking about this is to keep the propeller control lever
physically ahead of the throttle during all manifold pressure and rpm changes. A
memory aid for this is to keep the prop on top (or always in front of the
Propeller Tips and Other Ideas
Be aware that the propeller governor starts working only when the engine is
operating above a specific rpm and not below. In other words, moving the
throttle will change the rpm until the propeller reaches its minimum governing
Now you're ready to understand the "P" portion of the GUMP acronym
we spoke of earlier. GUMP, as you recall, stands for: Gas (fuel pump on),
Undercarriage (gear down), Mixture (full in) and Prop
(propeller control full forward). Why is the propeller control put in the
full-forward (low pitch—high rpm) position just before landing? It's done to
prepare for the unlikely event there's a need to go-around. A go-around
is an aborted landing that follows these steps: you apply full power, climb out,
and go around for another attempt at landing. In this situation, it's important
that the engine develop full power—just like on takeoff. That's why the
propeller control is moved to the full-forward position before landing—exactly
where it is during takeoff.
You now know the basics of what makes an airplane engine tick, kick, heat,
and freeze. You don't, however, have to be a mechanic to be a good pilot. But
now you at least have some vital information under your seatbelt—information
that can help you fly safely and economically.
Here are just a few more tips you'll need to fly the Baron and other
airplanes like it.
It's Fast, So Fly It Fast
The Baron, like many complex airplanes, is a fast airplane. To make the most
of its speed, I want you to fly the airplane fast when and where it's
appropriate. For instance, when you're descending to land at an airport, it
doesn't make sense to descend at the same speed you'd use to fly your final
approach to landing. You can descend up to speeds reaching 223 knots if you
desire. This is the maximum operating speed of the Baron, also known as
its high speed red line on the airspeed indicator. Of course, I'm not a big fan
of operating near red line but it can legally be done (but I still don't
The yellow arc on the Baron's airspeed indicator begins at 195 knots and
extends to 223 knots, or red line. This is called the caution range and
you should only be operating in this airspeed range if the air is perfectly
smooth. Thus, the need to use caution. If the air is smooth, however, feel free
to operate within this speed range. There's absolutely nothing wrong doing so.
This certainly works to your advantage when you're descending to land at an
airport and need to get down from cruise altitude. Descending at these higher
speeds produces a lot of drag, allowing the airplane to descend quickly.
On the other hand, you can't come screaming into the airport environment at
220 knots without scattering all the other airplanes in the traffic pattern like
bowling pins. That's why it's always best to enter the traffic pattern with your
gear down. Since the maximum speed at which you can lower the gear is 152 knots,
you'll have to slow the airplane down to at least this speed before entering the
pattern. Once the gear is down, however, you can't just increase your speed back
to 220 knots. That's because 152 knots is also the maximum gear-extended speed.
In other words, because of either the structure of the gear or the gear doors,
you shouldn't fly faster than 152 knots with the gear lowered. When you fly this
lesson, you'll see how quickly the airplane descends with the gear lowered.
Therefore, once the gear is down, if you need to lose a lot of altitude quickly,
you'll be able to do so very quickly by increase your speed up to but not beyond
A Few Final Pointers
Here are a few final pointers that I want you to consider when flying the
- The Baron is a multiengine airplane and, like most similar airplanes, it
has something known as Vmc or single-engine minimum control speed. This is
the low-speed red line on the airspeed indicator (Figure 1-27) set at 85
knots. Although we won't go into detail on Vmc in this lesson, let it be
said that we avoid rotating a multiengine airplane below its Vmc because the
airplane would most likely become uncontrollable if an engine was lost (or
even sputtered) below this speed.
- The blue line, at 101 knots on the airspeed indicator, indicates the best
rate-of-climb speed on one engine for the Baron. You won't use this speed
since you won't be losing engines during these lessons.
- The best rate-of-climb speed with both engines operating in the Baron is
105 knots. We'll use this speed for climb immediately after liftoff and hold
it until reaching approximately 500 feet AGL (our safe maneuvering
altitude). Then we'll increase our speed to 136 knots, which is a good
cruise-climb speed. It's good for a number of reasons, in particular because
this higher speed provides you with a good view over the cowling to look for
traffic, and because it helps keep the engines cool.
- As a general rule, we will make all our approaches at 105 knots, unless
we're trying to land on a particularly short field. Then we'll use a slower
speed which we'll talk about in Commercial Pilot Lesson 2.
- You can apply 15 degrees of flaps at speeds up to 152 knots (the same as
the maximum gear-extension and operating speed) Any more than 15 degrees of
flaps requires you to be at 122 knots of below (the top end of the white
arc) to prevent damaging those flaps. You'll notice that the Baron's flap
switch has three settings as shown in Figure 1-28 TRANS or transition
(meaning that the flaps are in the process of moving up or down), APR
(approach flaps, 15 degrees) and DN (down, full flaps).
Now You're Ready
If you've gotten this far with this lesson, I think you've earned the right
to begin your commercial training...so give it a try. Remember, it often takes
several hundred hours of flight practice—to say nothing of ground study—for
a pilot to earn a commercial license. So be patient: The Flight Simulator
commercial lessons will be somewhat challenging. If it were easy, then everyone
would be doing it.
Ok, see you in the cockpit. Click the Fly This Lesson link to practice
what you've just learned.
THIS LESSON IS AVAILABLE IN THE ACTIVE FLIGHT