Camera & EFB Mounts

I was aware of an STC for GoPro cameras to be mounted externally on specific aircraft types however I knew that it wasn’t cheap so not viable for the typical GA aircraft owner. So, while visiting Oshkosh in July 2015, I was pleasantly surprised to see this company: Flight Fix http://www.flightflixcameras.com/ They mentioned that in the USA allowed their mounts to be used externally without an STC or other engineering approval as they were temporary. That surprised me as I had seen an FAA Safety Briefing on the subject http://www.faa.gov/news/safety_briefing/2014/media/janfeb2014.pdf

FAAsafety1

FAAsafety2

There are some inconsistencies with this internal FAA memo of about the same time: FAA-camera-memo 13Mar2014. I see that many are taking that memo as equivalent to law. Good that the FAA has since clarified that in their May/June 2016 Safety Brief:13263750_10154192052598454_919621119467713188_n

CASA’s view of the requirements for external camera installations is defined in Reference 1 (at least for certified airplanes).

CASA231

Quite clear isn’t it.

Reference 2 is quite general with much more information and includes the following clear statement regarding camera installations:

CASA2108

With respect to external camera mounts it is consistent with Reference 1. It also provides some guidance on internal camera mounts. Note that there is nothing in either of those Advisory Circulars which distinguishes between permanent and temporary installations as far as the requirement for needing specific approval – as an engineer I don’t have a problem with that.

Let’s move onto Electronic Flight Bags. From an engineering point of view the considerations are quite similar to a camera of about the same size. Obviously we are only interested in internal installations so we have all of the requirements from Reference 2 to consider.

But now look at Reference 3.

CASA2331

If attached to the aircraft structure then an EFB mount requires approval. Let’s consider two simple aeroplanes for discussion.

Firstly, the Airtourer. Where can we mount an EFB that is not aircraft structure?

I know that windscreens and windows have been used by some people however, being a former student of Henry Millicer, I know that the canopy and windscreen take about 20% of the total lift so therefore they are both part of the structure. The instrument panel must support the instruments and avionics up to the design loads so also a structural part. The instrument panel coaming supports the instrument panel and, as Henry told me, in an accident it was designed to fail at a particular load to allow the instrument panel to move forward.

Doesn’t leave many options for the Airtourer apart from the internal cabin trim.

Secondly, the Citabria/Decathlon series. Is the windscreen and skylight part of the structure? I’d say so as there are quite high loads on them in flight. Instrument panel, as above, needs to support instruments and avionics so that is structural. Interior trim is not really viable. Window and door maybe? There are some very nice steel tubes in the cabin however that is primary structure so definitely cannot be used to attach an EFB notwithstanding that people hang onto them during aerobatics. Not many options there to mount an EFB either.

Para 7.4.1 refers to temporary as “not considered to be airworthy” and must be stowed during take-off and landing, turbulent conditions etc. Presumably somewhere there is an exemption for temporary EFB mounts (whether temporary or permanent) to be attached to non-structural parts without approval? I cannot find it on the CASA website.

Furthermore, it gives Velcro and suction mounts as examples of temporary mounts but no other guidance – I have seen GoPro mounts which require a screwdriver which I would regard as temporary?

From and engineering point of view, the mounting of a small camera internally is quite similar to an EFB. We don’t appear to have any exemption (not that I believe one exists for EFBs) allowing pilots to temporarily mount small cameras internally on non-structural parts. Regardless, pilots like to get video in situations where Reference 3 would requires it be stowed.

So, any camera mounted on an aircraft, whether external or internal and whether permanent or temporary requires approval.

Personally, I use a kneeboard for my main EFB and my backup EFB goes in a pocket.

I hold a camera or fix it to my headset rather than mount it on an airframe part.

Finally, Flight Fix told me that they expect to have an STC within a year (i.e. at Oshkosh in 2016) for their external camera mounts.

PS Feb 2016: I have just seen this very sensible CAP 1369 Policy and guidance on mounting cameras on aircraft from the UK CAA.

References

  1. CASA AC 23-1 v1.0 Airspeed airworthiness standards for the installation of equipment that protrudes into the airflow
  2. CASA AC 21-08 v1.0 Approval of modification and repair designs under Subpart 21.M
  3. CASA CAAP 233-1(1) Electronic Flight Bags

Clothes Maketh the Aerobatic Pilot

I like to follow CASA’s recommendations on what to wear at https://www.casa.gov.au/standard-page/what-wear
“In the improbable event of an emergency, the clothes you are wearing can play a significant role in your safety. People wear synthetic blend fabrics …. However, they ignite quickly, shrink, melt, and continue burning after the heat source is removed.
…..
Wearing clothes made of natural fibres such as cotton, wool, denim and leather offer the best protection during an evacuation or fire.
….
Avoid leaving large areas of the body uncovered. …. Wear non-restrictive clothing as this allows you greater movement.
….
The most common injuries to feet during accidents or emergencies can be prevented by wearing suitable footwear. Wearing fully enclosed leather low-heeled laced or buckled shoes, boots or tennis shoes is recommended.
…..”
So, the standard issue pilot shirt and trousers with synthetic underwear is not good for one’s survival in an accident where a fire is likely to occur (I know, it always happens to some-one else).

I sometimes use Nomex gloves too – apart from the safety considerations it overcomes those unpleasant, sweaty hands on slippery control sticks.

Plus: there are times when extras such as a Nomex flying suit, crash helmet and/or parachute should be considered.

Transitioning to a Decathlon

The 8KCAB series are fairly simple airplanes, mostly 1940 technology with a few bells and whistles. Pilots seem to cope with the fancy bells and whistles fairly well but my observation is that there needs to be more effort by pilots new to the type into learning some very basic stuff.

The park brake. There is a placard adjacent to the park brake knob which clearly explains how to operate it. There are instructions in the Airplane Flight Manual and the Pilot Operating Manual. So, why do so many pilots tell me that they have set the park brake yet the airplane moves freely when given a gentle tug.

Weight and balance is a fairly important topic, not really critical in the Decathlon as on a typical training flight with the usual weights of pilots then it is generally within the permitted envelope – just follow maximum weight limitations. Yet, pilots seem unable to actually determine the weight and balance for a particular loading. The method in the Airplane Flight Manual is expanded upon in the Pilot Operating Manual with a sample calculation which is easy to follow. So simple that it can be done on the back of envelope.

SuperDWB

The thing that catches most people out is that the Manuals use Imperial units whereas stuff generated in Australia is mostly metric and if a new approved loading system is not provided then pilots need to work with the system in the Manual. There is plenty of help online to convert from one set of units to another. Some people use a simple Excel spreadsheet. Compare your calculations with the sample then proceed with your own – if it looks inexplicably different from the sample then it is probably wrong.

There is some good advice on transition to a new type here:  http://www.pilotfriend.com/training/flight_training/fxd_wing/newtype.htm

“You begin by studying and learning the new aircraft’s systems and operating procedures since the bottom line to all flying is knowing everything that we can about the aircraft so we can operate it safely. You will find this information in the aircraft’s flight manual (AFM), owner’s manual, or pilot’s operating handbook (POH). If the aircraft is an older model, it might have a very basic owner’s manual. If so, you need to be aware that the older manuals may not have the same information as some of the newer manuals, nor are the older manuals organized like the newer POH’s or AFM’s. Although the older manuals have less information than the new manuals, they still provide the basic information.

……

Once you have done your homework and thoroughly understand the new aircraft, you should take the aircraft’s manual and checklist out to the aircraft and spend time sitting in the cock-pit to learn the locations of the various controls, instruments, and checklist procedures. Your goal is be become familiar enough with the aircraft to be able to fly it before you ever start the engine. If you are renting the aircraft, this procedure also will save you valuable training dollars.”

Very good advice indeed.

I encounter some pilots who have flown Decathlons for some time but they have never even opened up the Airplane Flight Manual. They tell me that it is in the airplane so at least they know where it is. Perhaps. I know of some airplanes which do not have the FAA Approved Airplane Flight Manual in it – instead they have just that other Pilot Operating Manual – not quite the same with some conflicting information.

Myths of Manoeuvring Speed

“It turns out that our early training on maneuvering speed was badly over-simplified. The truth is that you can’t move all the controls to the stop and it isn’t the same as gust penetration speed. Here’s the unvarnished truth about Va.”

Avweb recently started this topic at http://www.avweb.com/news/features/The-Risks-of-Maneuvering-Speed-Myths-222680-1.html

I explained this further with three articles in the first three volumes of the Australian Aerobatic Club’s Vitamin G magazine.

You may have been told something like the definition quoted in Avweb’s article:

“The maximum speed at which the limit load can be imposed (either by gusts or full deflection of the control surfaces) without causing structural damage.”

Another one that I have seen is:

“Maneuvering Speed is the maximum speed at which you may use abrupt control travel.”

Aerobatic pilots should be familiar with the definition provided by CASA in their CAAP 155-1, Aerobatics, which states:

“Manoeuvring speed (VA) is the speed above which full deflection of the elevator control will exceed aircraft structural limitations. Below VA the aircraft will stall before structural limits can be exceeded.”

All are woefully inadequate definitions of VA and it is particularly disappointing to see that CASA’s advice to aerobatic pilots is also inadequate.

The original articles are:

The fourth and final article is provided here: Ozaeros Maneuvring Speed Myths Part 4

The correct definition is provided by the FAA Special Airwothiness Information Bulletin CE-11-17:

“The Design Maneuvering Speed (VA) is the speed below which you can move a single flight control, one time, to its full deflection, for one axis of airplane rotation only (pitch, roll or yaw), in smooth air, without risk of damage to the airplane.”

Short Field Tailwheel Operations

My tailwheel training course in the Super Decathlon does not conform to CASA’s Part 61 Manual of Standards for the reasons explained below. 

Short Take-off

      • CASA requires take-off power to be fully applied before releasing the brakes – this is contrary to the Manual and is a common cause of nosing over.
      • CASA requires rotation at the manufacturer’s recommended speed and climb at speed for obstacle clearance – rotate speed in the Manual is 43 kts – less than the stall speed and the climb speed in the Manual is 50 kts – very close to the stall speed. The Manual warns of risk of injury or fatality in the event of an engine failure in this situation.

Short Landing

  • CASA requires application of maximum braking after touchdown at minimum speed – this is contrary to the Manual where the instruction is “brake as required” with a warning of injury or fatality due to the risk of nosing over.
  • CASA requires the trainee to calculate the landing distance and promotes the falsehood that the short field performance can be easily achieved by an average pilot – this is not true of aircraft certified many years ago. The Manual states that the landing distance data represents “maximum airplane capability at speeds shown and requires aircraft in good operating condition and a proficient pilot”.
  • CASA requires that the trainee stops the aeroplane within the calculated distance. Landing approach speed in the Manual is 52 kts which is very close to the stall speed. The Manual warns of risk of injury or fatality with this technique and I repeat the above statement – the landing distances in the Manual will only be achieved using exactly those speeds specified with the various risks of damage to the aeroplane and injury or death to the crew must be highlighted.

It is interesting to note that when Decathlons first arrived in Australia they were provided with new take-off and landing charts – so-called P charts. There was a take-off safety speed (that is a very informative term) of 58 kts. The landing approach speed was also 58 kts – about 1.3Vs. Those charts applied to the earlier model Decathlons with a lower maximum weight and have since been withdrawn.

I see that the Manual for the new Xtreme Decathlon is differs from that of the Super Decathlon by specifying more reasonable speeds – similar to these P charts.

CAAP 155-1, Aerobatics

CASA’s CAAP 155-1, Aerobatics used to be a good place to start reading about aerobatics and does include some of the information that you must know but it has a number of deficiencies:

  • it does not adequately explain the structural limitations associated with VA, Manoeuvring Speed
  • it does not have the new, additional underpinning knowledge requirements of the Part 61 MOS
  • it has not been updated with the new licensing regulations of September 2014

What is Aerobatics?

A good place to start is with the definition of aerobatics :

The International Civil Aviation Organization defines aerobatics as “maneuvers intentionally performed by an aircraft involving an abrupt change in its attitude, an abnormal attitude, or abnormal variation in speed.”

CASA used to have that exact same definition but in September 2015 they changed it to:

“aerobatic manoeuvres, for an aircraft, means manoeuvres of the aircraft that involve:

(a)  bank angles that are greater than 60°; or

(b)  pitch angles that are greater than 45°, or are otherwise abnormal to the aircraft type; or

(c)  abrupt changes of speed, direction, angle of bank or angle of pitch.”

Why did CASA change their definition of aerobatics?

The USA and Europe have definitions which are almost exactly like the ICAO definition. The USA has an additional rule requiring the wearing of parachutes in some circumstances when an aircraft exceeds 30 degrees of pitch or 60 degrees of bank relative to the horizon; their definition of aerobatic flight, however does not specify pitch attitude or bank angle. EASA has an additional rule clarifying that training undertaken for a licence is not aerobatics.

Why did CASA remove the word “intentionally” from the definition of aerobatics? Consider what CASA requires for training towards a licence and consider whether any unintentional wing-drop etc is aerobatics per CASA’s definition. Not a problem of course if it is a dual flight and the instructor has an aerobatic training endorsement.

Have fun!