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Transport Canada modifies Flight Tests to assess stabilized approaches

cessna 172 on departure

The General Aviation Safety Campaign (GASC) was established in June 2017 and since has endeavoured to identify the most common contributory factors in aviation accidents. The GASC created working groups to look to key areas and phases of flight that were particularly hazardous. The GASC divided into nine working groups addressing various areas of interest.

The result of these working groups identified that major contributors of fatal aviation accidents are caused by in-flight loss of control. The more interesting thing is these accidents usually occur during a few critical phases of flight: you guessed it – when you’re at a lower altitude and don’t have enough time to recover.

Some of the specifics of their findings can be found on Transport’s website here

Most loss of control (LOC) accidents ocour during the arrival phase of flight, the base to final turn and on final. Over 20 years of similar research in the U.S. has aligned with these findings. Stalling the aircraft near the ground is very dangerous. One particular area of interest was the topic of stabilized approaches. Transport Canada listened, and has now incorporated the testing of stabilized approaches for the RPL, PPL, CPL and multi-engine flight tests.

transport canada
Transport Canada logo. Image from

The new flight test guidelines will be incorporated into the Flight Test Guides on March 1, 2019. They’ll be available on the Transport Canada website then for download. IFR tests already have this criteria in place, but it will be new for all other flight tests. 

The testing involves ensuring the pilot understands what constitutes a stabilized approach. We’ve always been instructed on what makes a stabilized approach during training, the only difference now is it will be a formally and officially tested skill. So what does it mean to have a stabilized approach? Our instructors have always maintained that a good approach results in a good landing. It’s all part of safety and to make our passengers more comfortable.

One thing that comes to mind is to state at a specific point in the approach is checking in on a specific point in the approach, say 200 AGL, whether your approach is :stable.”  Have you reached your target airspeed and are you flying the attitude? Have you chosen your final flap setting, if applicable? Do you have your wind inputs in, if you face a crosswind? Is the runway clear? If you’re not stabilized according to the criteria set out in the guide, you’ll be expected to initiate an overshoot.

Things we’ve always done, but now will be officially tested on. 

Look for your next handy flight test guide from Transport Canada here





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Headset Review – Powder Puff Pilot

The new ANR Headset is MP3 compatible.

My first purchase as a flight student was a headset. This is quite unarguably your most important purchase, and should be your first and done as soon as you start flying (and can afford it).  Headsets can be purchased for as little as $100 and go up in price according to quality.  The range is about $100 – over $1000. As you can see it is quite a huge price spread. This is an important first purchase – you need to protect your ears while flying and most flight schools offer rental headsets that just don’t fit right, are abused or neglected – and you need something good quality that is your own, so you can take care of it and will serve you well.  They are your ears, so deciding how much to spend is really up to you.  I suggest spending a bit more and getting something better quality and that fits properly.

When I started flying, I found an ad for “Powder Puff Pilot”, a company that makes pilot gear for girls, and purchased their noise attenuating (ANR) headset, and have been using it for years. This was my first headset, and my first purchase as a flight student.

Recently, I received the latest ANR headset from them and there have been some nice improvements.  First, the headset is now MP3 compatible, meaning you can insert a headphone jack into the unit to either listen to music or talk on your phone while in flight!  It is a neat feature and very convenient, and I can’t wait to try it on my cross country flight, where I might have a little more time than I do now, zooming in and out of the practice area or in the circuit.

On final approach, wearing the headset.
On final approach, wearing the headset.


The headsets come with two options, either passive noise reduction (PNR) or active noise reduction (ANR).  The PNR only reduces noise using the insulated gel cups while the ANR actually uses attenuation to actively reduce noise, and requires a battery. I chose the ANR model for maximum noise reduction. The ANR reduces noise attenuation by 20 decibels.

In the ANR model, a tiny microphone in the ear cup picks up noise around it, and this noise “sample” is converted into a mirror opposite of the sound – which is silence. ANR only affects certain low frequencies, so speech aircraft sound, engine sounds and changes are all easily detected.  PNR models only block out noise using the physical clamping of headset on the wearer – squeezing tight to physically block out any noise.   Because of this, they tend to be heavier and bulkier than ANR headsets.

The pink headset from Powder Puff Pilot comes in both ANR and PNR models.  The ANR model comes with a battery pack that takes two AA batteries. When the batteries aren’t inserted (or die) the unit functions as a PNR headset.  The ANR model is priced at $335 and the PNR at $210.

Highly recommend the headset.  Along with the MP3 compatibility, the headset also has thick gel pads on the ears, meaning even without the battery there is good noise cancellation. The headset fits smaller than most and is good for women. The headsets come with a 1 year warranty. The warranty at Powder Puff is excellent and they stand behind their products.

Headsets are available for purchase from our store.

What is your favorite headset?


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Aviation and climate change

C-141 Starlifter contrail. Image Courtesy of

We live in a world where there are growing concerns regarding human induced climate change. It is very high on the policy agenda of most governments, issues I have experienced first hand working as an environmental economist.   Not surprisingly, in the community it is generally accepted that we are without question experiencing climate change, and there is a consensus that a lot of it is human-induced due to increased carbon emissions.  It is not a debate, but a generally accepted consensus in the scientific community.

Global GHG Emissions By Source (2004). Image from US EPA website.
Global GHG Emissions By Source (2004). Image from US EPA website.

So like you, I love to fly and also love to travel by commercial air service.  How does commercial aviation contribute to climate change?  How do airplanes contribute negatively when it comes to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions?

Let’s examine what the main contributors are to GHG emissions. Globally, the sources of GHG are primarily from energy supply (26%) and industry (19%). Transportation is close at 13%,  where fossil fuels are burned to power transportation activities such as rail, road, air and marine transport (IPCC 2007) and aviation represents about 12% of the transport figure.  The contribution of civil global aviation is about 2%  of total GHG emissions (CleanSky website). Flights produce about 628 million tonnes of Co2 annually.  A typical car emits about 5 tonnes per year and there are about a billion cars (Huffington Post 2013)  out there in the world (of course, this is a very rough figure) meaning about 5 billion tonnes are produced by cars, making it a greater net contributor. In Europe, road vehicles contribute about 1/5th of carbon dioxide emissions (European Commission 2012b).   In Canada, transportation accounts for over 28% of total GHG emissions (Conference Board of Canada 2010).  But what about per passenger kilometer?

The current rating for car is about 140 g / kilometer (European Commission 2012a). For air travel, this figure is higher, (2000 data) at about 170 g / kilometer (BBC news).   But the figures from aircraft vary extensively, depending on the type of flight, type of airplane used and distance flown.  Domestic short distance are as high as 260 g/km, domestic long distance 178 g/ km and long distance the lowest at 114 g / km ( British Airways has estimated their per passenger rate at 100 g / km.  Flying trips cover far longer distances than could be undertaken by car, so total emissions would be higher because of the ability to travel longer distances.

The effects of flights at high altitudes may be greater than those at low altitudes. An important effect appears to be from contrail emissions.

Cirrus clouds caused by jet contrails. Image from CO2 offset
Cirrus clouds caused by jet contrails. Image from CO2 offset

Remember from weather theory that jet engines produce contrails, which are mostly water vapor. One of the effects is that jet contrails cause cirrus clouds to form in the higher atmosphere where commercial jets fly (10-12 km above ground, at temperatures of -40). There still appears to be debate about what this contribution is to global warming, and most calculations are done from contributions of fuel burn.  However, a NASA study has found the warming effect caused by increased cirrus cloud formation from aircraft in the US (NASA 2004). Because of this, aircraft cause more than just CO2 emissions but also contribute to radiative forcing, which has to do with contrail production and nitrous oxide emissions.

These contrails are rare for low altitude aircraft or propeller driven aircraft, meaning the contribution of commercial aviation could potentially be more significant than other types of flights.

Another chief concern is the increasing use of air travel.  Since planes continue to run on fossil fuels, the increase in CO2 emissions from aviation will likely grow. In fact, between 1990-2004, number of airport users in the UK rose 120%. On average, global airline growth amounts to approximately 5% per year (MIT 2006).

Winglets on a Boeing aircraft. Image from
Winglets on a Boeing aircraft. Image from

The industry is making changes to be more efficient. Experimenting with cleaner fuels (biofuels), aircraft made of composite materials that are lighter, and addition of aircraft modifications such as winglets or sharklets which block wing tip vortices (and reduce drag) are all being considered.  Wing tip devices, such as winglets or sharklets have been found to reduce fuel burn by as much as 3.5% (  Westjet’s 737 airplanes configured with winglets record a decrease of 2.7% fuel burn (Westjet website). The use of biofuels has it’s own issues – we see that with vehicles, where mandatory levels of ethanol (grain alcohol) in gasoline for vehicles has stressed grain markets -so these are being researched and considered. There are little things that can be done to reduce the impact.

It is an interesting issue.  A bit of food for thought!I am no expert in this field and your comments are welcome and appreciated.

Further reading and Sources can be found below.

BBC News (2000) “Pollution Warning on Holiday flights.

Clean Sky webpage, “Aviation & Environment”

Conference Board of Canada (2010) “Greenhouse Gas Emissions

European Commission (2012a). “Co2 emissions from new cars down by 3% in 2011.”

European Commission (2012b) Climate Action. “Road Transport. Reducing CO2 emissions from vehicles.”

Huffington (2013) “Number of cars worldwide surpasses 1 Billion. Can the world handle this many wheels?

IPCC (2007) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report.

NASA (2004) “Clouds Caused by aircraft exhaust may warm US climate.”

MIT (2006) “Global Airline Industry Program: Airline industry overview.”

US Environmental Protection Agency, EPA (2010) “Global Greenhouse Emissions Data.” (2013) “Environmental commitment (2013) “Fuel economy in aircraft.” “Environmental Impact of Aviation