Flight Operations

Flight Test—Ultra-light Aeroplane

by Martin Buissonneau, Recreational Aviation Inspector, Flight Training Standards, Quebec Region, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada


In December 2005, three new sections were added to the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs): 401.55, 401.56 and 421.55. These sections set out the new passenger carrying rating for advanced ultra-light aeroplanes, as well as the rating’s privileges and requirements, including the successful completion of a flight test.

Also in December 2005, sections 401.88 and 421.88 of the CARs, pertaining to the ultra-light aeroplane flight instructor rating, were amended to include a successful flight test.

One flight test, two uses

To obtain an ultra-light aeroplane passenger carrying or flight instructor rating, the holder of an ultra-light aeroplane permit must successfully complete the same flight test. The flight test, known as “Flight Test—Ultra-light Aeroplane,” is described in Transport Canada’s Flight Test Guide—Ultra-light Aeroplane (TP13984). The guide is valid for both ratings and is found at the following Web address:  www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/publications/tp13984-menu-1812.htm.

All the requirements relating to medical standards, experience and skills for passenger carrying and flight instructor ratings are listed in sections 421.55 and 421.88 of the CARs.

In contrast to flight tests for flight instructors of other aircraft categories, the flight test required for an ultra-light aeroplane flight instructor rating does not include the demonstration of ground or flight teaching techniques.

The ultra-light aeroplane flight test, for either the passenger carrying or flight instructor rating, includes the following items in both cases: a) on the ground: aircraft familiarization and preparation for flight; b) in flight: ancillary controls, taxiing, takeoff, stall, pilot navigation, precautionary landing, forced landing,  overshoot, emergency procedures, runway circuit, approach and landing, and slipping.

Basic ultra-light in flight (Photo: Martin Buissonneau)

Depending on the type of ultra-light aeroplane used during the flight test, certain exercises have been removed, either for safety reasons or because the aircraft type cannot perform the manoeuvre. In Transport Canada’s aircraft classification by category, the ultra-light aeroplane category includes four relatively different aircraft types:

  • three-axis ultra-light aeroplane;
  • powered hang-glider (also known as a trike);
  • under the term “powered parachute”, the powered para-glider; and
  • powered parachute with trike.

The exercises not to be conducted as well as the exempt aircraft types are mentioned after the title of each exercise in the Flight Test Guide—Ultra-light Aeroplane. In 2010, Transport Canada published a new flight test guide specifically for powered para-gliders, the Flight Test Guide—Power Para-Glider (TP 15031) is available at the following Web page: http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/publications/tp15031-menu-3046.htm. Given that para-gliders are typically single-seat aircraft that cannot accommodate an on-board pilot examiner during a flight test, it was imperative to develop a flight test where the pilot examiner could observe and evaluate the candidate’s on-board flight exercises while remaining on the ground. 

Types of aircraft that can be used for a flight test—ultra-light aeroplane

As mentioned above, the ultra-light aircraft category can be subdivided into four aircraft types. One subdivision can also be made based upon whether a passenger may legally be carried.

This leads to the possibility of two types of ultra-light aeroplanes:

  • basic ultra-light aeroplanes that are prohibited from carrying a passenger

  • advanced ultra-light aeroplanes that may carry a passenger

Before going any further, here are the definitions of these two aircraft types as found in section 101.01 of the CARs:

Basic ultra-light aeroplane: An aeroplane having no more than two seats, designed and manufactured to have:

(a) a maximum take-off weight not exceeding 544 kg (1 200 lb), and

(b) a stall speed in the landing configuration (Vso) of 39 kt (45 mph) indicated airspeed, or less, at the maximum takeoff weight.

Advanced ultra-light aeroplane: An aeroplane that has a type design that is in compliance with the standards specified in the manual entitled Design Standards for Advanced Ultra-light Aeroplanes.

For the moment, only ultra-light aeroplanes with conventional aircraft controls are considered advanced ultra-light aeroplanes because the standard for these aircraft, set at the end of the 1980s, was developed around this type of ultra-light aeroplane. Thus, a three-axis ultra-light aeroplane may be considered basic or advanced depending on whether the manufacturer decided to follow the Design Standards for Advanced Ultra-light Aeroplanesduring the aircraft model design planning stage.

Basic ultra-light aeroplanes, which include powered hang-gliders, powered parachutes, powered parachutes with trikes as well as three-axis ultra-light aeroplanes that are not advanced, cannot carry passengers. Section 401.21a) of the CARs clearly states that a holder of a pilot permit—ultra-light aeroplane must have no other person on board. However, section 602.29 of the CARs, which prohibits having two persons on board a basic ultra-light aeroplane, allows for two exceptions:

  1. When the flight is conducted for the purpose of providing dual flight instruction (a flight instructor and a student).

  2. When the other person is a holder of a pilot licence or permit, other than a student pilot permit, that allows them to act as pilot-in-command of an ultra-light aeroplane. For example, two ultra-light aeroplane pilots, two conventional airplane pilots or one ultra-light aeroplane pilot and one conventional airplane pilot.

Even though only an advanced ultra-light aeroplane may carry a passenger, the flight test can be conducted on either a basic or an advanced ultra-light aeroplane. Details about aircraft and equipment requirements for flight tests can be found on page 2 of both the Flight Test Guide—Ultra-light Aeroplane and the Flight Test Guide—Powered Para-Glider.

In addition, the flight test may be conducted in a conventional aircraft that corresponds to the definition of a basic ultra-light aeroplane as listed above and as found in section 101.01 of the CARs.

The reason why a flight test may be conducted in a conventional aircraft that corresponds to the basic ultra-light aeroplane definition is that, since the publication of Transport Canada General Aviation Policy Letter No. 576 in 1996, the holder of an ultra-light aeroplane pilot permit is authorized to be pilot-in-command on board such an aircraft.

Even though advanced ultra-light aeroplanes may have a maximum permissible takeoff weight of 1 232 lb, if a conventional aircraft is used for the flight test, it must respect the definition of a basic ultra-light aeroplane which allows for a maximum permissible takeoff weight not exceeding 1 200 lb.

The pilot examiner and evaluation during a flight test

Pilot examiners conduct flight tests for ultra-light aeroplanes. They hold accreditation giving them official authorization to conduct flight tests on behalf of the Minister, in accordance with Part 1, subsection 4.3(1) of the Aeronautics Act. Transport Canada inspectors may also conduct these flight tests.

In the ultra-light aeroplane category, the pilot examiner must hold a flight instructor rating for ultra-light aeroplanes or a flight instructor rating for aeroplanes. The pilot examiner must also possess sufficient flight experience on the type or types of ultra-light aeroplanes on which they conduct flight tests.

The minimum pass mark for the ultra-light flight test is 50% and the failure of any flight test item constitutes failure of the flight test. This is true for the four types of ultra-light aeroplanes used during flight tests. 

The flight test is divided into three parts:

  • The first part (1:15) takes place on the ground, usually in a private area. This part includes meeting the candidate, verifying the candidate’s admissibility, briefing the candidate about the test and evaluating the candidate’s knowledge;

  • The second part (1:15) takes place in flight and includes a pre-flight briefing and an in-flight evaluation;

  • The third part (30 min) is a post-test debriefing conducted by the pilot examiner regarding the test results: pass or fail, strong and weak points, etc.

The times listed here are approximate and may vary depending on the candidate, the type of ultra-light aeroplane used for the test and other test factors.

In the event of a flight test failure, a retest is possible after the candidate has received further training on the failed test item(s). It is possible to take a “partial flight test” if the candidate failed one or two items whereas a complete retest is required if the candidate failed more than two flight test items.

For more details about this subject or subjects related to flight tests and pilot examiners, please refer to the Transport Canada Pilot Examiner Manual (TP 14277) which can be found at: www.tc.gc.ca/publications/EN/TP14277/PDF/HR/TP14277E.PDF

The aforementioned publication describes the evaluation and marking criteria for each flight test item.

Flight instructor rating and passenger carrying rating

An ultra-light aeroplane flight instructor does not have to hold a passenger-carrying rating on their pilot permit because the instructor is flying with a student and not a passenger during flight training. As such, the instructor exercises privileges under section 401.88 of the CARs and not those listed under section 401.56.

If, however, an ultra-light aeroplane instructor wishes to carry a passenger in an advanced ultra-light aeroplane, then the instructor must hold a passenger-carrying rating and meet the requirements set out in section 421.55 of the CARs for this rating.

At the candidate’s request, it is possible that the same flight test be used to obtain ratings for flight instruction and passenger carriage, as long as the requirements for the two ratings, as listed in sections 421.88 and 421.55 of the CARs, are respected.

For more information on the subjects discussed in this article as well as on Canadian aviation regulations regarding ultra-light aeroplanes, visit the following Transport Canada Web page: www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviation/standards/general-recavi-ultra-light-menu-2457.htm. You may also contact your Transport Canada regional or district office.

Please note that the latest revision or amendment to the Canadian Aviation Regulations and their related standards make up the official document. You must always refer to the official document. In addition, the official document ALWAYS has precedence over the information presented in this article.

Helicopter Rules of Thumb

by Serge Côté, Civil Aviation Safety Inspector, Aviation Licensing, Standards, Civil Aviation, Transport Canada

Based on some pilot experiences, some manoeuvres in helicopters should be avoided as the result has proven to be undesirable in many cases. An autorotation downwind flare is one of those manoeuvres. Most helicopter flight training manuals, if not all, fail to describe an autorotation downwind flare; however they all describe, following an entry in autorotation, a turn into wind before the flare.

The reason to avoid an autorotation downwind flare manoeuvre is that some of the benefits gained in a flare into wind or in a no-wind condition are diminished considerably in a downwind flare. In a flare, the airspeed is traded for lift in order to decrease the rate of descent and consequently the rotor rpm rises to a certain rate. After levelling the aircraft at the end of the flare, the high rate of the main rotor rpm is now used to cushion the landing with the collective. A downwind flare will have a similar effect but only until the forward airspeed, relative to the surrounding air, reaches zero. As the forward speed relative to the surrounding air reaches zero, the high rate of rotor rpm will start to decrease back to a pre-flare number, due to the decrease of inflow to the main rotor, as the pilot will attempt to achieve a zero or near zero ground speed. 

The inflow decrease will prevent the pilot from reaching a zero or near zero ground speed and as the aircraft is levelled for the landing, the downwind effect will increase the forward velocity. Because of the decay of the main rotor rpm before the end of the flare, the efficiency in cushioning the landing will be reduced. This will result in a fairly fast-running touchdown, with a proportionally lower main rotor rpm to cushion the contact with the ground. Any fast-running touchdown requires a firm, well-prepared surface.  According to reports of helicopters having to autorotate following a failure, the terrain available in the majority of the occurrences did not permit a fast-running touchdown. A turn into wind before the flare is preferable in order to take full advantage of the increase in main rotor rpm and the stop or near stop of the forward movement before the touchdown. 

The major problem with a 180° turn is that it takes time, and time is precious when the rate of descent is 1 500 ft per minute or more. The lower the height, the less time the pilot has for such a turn. 

Other factors also have an effect on the time required to make a 180° turn in autorotation. Simulated failures that require autorotations are expected on training flights with an instructor or a training pilot. The pilot that is being trained is mentally prepared even for a surprise autorotation, and consequently should react quickly and automatically to the announcement “Simulated engine failure!”. 

In a real emergency situation that requires an autorotation, our first thought is usually “What’s wrong?” It is only after a quick scan and analysis that we realise that you must lower the collective to enter the autorotation. After the collective is down, the rotor rpm is usually lower than we are accustomed to seeing during a training flight autorotation and this is due to the split second delay caused by analyzing the problem and then deciding to lower the collective. Psychologically, there is often a short period of denial, where the pilot cannot believe that an engine failure has occurred. This too can cause a delay in reaction time, causing the further loss of critical main rotor rpm.

On an entry into autorotation, a lower main rotor rpm means a higher rate of descent until the rotor rpm recovers. Such delayed initial reaction easily results in greater loss of height in comparison to the reaction during a training flight. Following the entry, the pilot focuses then on making sure that the rotor rpm is recovering, and if the rpm is very low, a rotor rpm recovery method should be used. This is followed by a quick look around for a suitable landing area. 

Some other situations could further interfere with the reaction of a pilot. For example, if the pilot flying is a student that is learning how to fly, the loss of rotor rpm on the entry into autorotation could be fairly high if the student reaction time is slower than expected or nonexistent. The loss of rotor rpm will be greater with a high power setting such as during a climb and this is due to the higher pitch angle resulting in additional drag on the main and tail rotors. It is not surprising to hear from pilots that have experienced a real failure followed by an autorotation that time during the descent seemed shorter than when training for autorotations.

Obviously, good practice dictates that, as much as possible, we should maintain a height that will increase the likelihood of a successful autorotation. Downwind flight at low altitude, when not necessary, increases the chances of an unfortunate consequence. We usually link the necessity of entering into autorotation to a partial or complete loss of engine power or an engine fire, but autorotations could also be the result of various failures of the drive system, including the tail rotor system. Twin-engine helicopters are vulnerable to those various failures of the drive system as much as single-engine helicopters. A greater height, in addition to giving us time, also gives us a greater choice of landing areas. 

Too often, helicopter pilots will turn out of wind on departure at low altitude towards their destination ignoring the fact that an early low turn may position them over significant obstacles. This simple but common mistake adds greatly to the difficulty of conducting a successful autorotation should that action become necessary. In the mistaken belief of being more operationally efficient, it instead results in a self-made trap that could have a tragic outcome. Such situations have happened too many times and are avoidable.

Helicopter type-related rules of thumb have been around for decades. Those rules of thumb are sometimes written or passed on verbally. According to a few dictionaries, the definition of “rule of thumb” is: “a method of procedure based on experience and common sense” and “a rule for general guidance, based on experience or practice rather than theory”.  This quite accurately defines the rules of thumb that we find in the helicopter industry, as a result of pilot and helicopter maintenance engineer experiences with certain types of helicopters.

Here is a new rule of thumb that applies to all types of helicopters: The next time you depart from an airport, a pad or a confined area, before you turn out of wind, think of how much time you had to spare the last time the instructor or the training pilot gave you a surprise autorotation at 500 ft downwind. And remember, that was likely over a long runway, with the certainty that the instructor or a training pilot was going to take over if you made a mistake. You may even decide to make this a habit! Have a good flight, have a safe flight.   

Watch That Hand Over the Governor Beep Switch!

The following story was submitted by an operator for the benefit of the helicopter industry.

Last season we had a helicopter accident that really should not have happened, and the outcome of the investigation really took us by surprise. We found that the root cause was that the pilot would sometimes fly with his hand wrapped around the top end of the collective. In this case, on approach to the intended landing site, the pilot lowered the collective with his hand on top of it. At the same time, he unknowingly pressed the governor beep switch to the lower end of its range. The low rotor/engine out warning system was activated at 250 ft AGL. The pilot made an autorotation and landed in an estuary. The main rotors struck the tail boom but the aircraft stayed upright. Thankfully, none of the occupants were hurt.

After talking to friends and colleagues in the helicopter community, I found two other pilots who had done something similar. One pilot, in New Zealand, was flying a Hughes 500D when he lost rotor rpm. The pilot had enough altitude to figure things out and recovered in flight. He later realized that his watchband had pressed on the governor switch when his hand was on top of the collective.

The second event happened in Alaska, where the pilot, with his hand in the same position, was hovering a Bell 205 and long lining. He pressed on the governor switch without knowing and landed safely with low rotor speed. After landing and with the helicopter still running, he came to the conclusion that he had inadvertently “beeped” the governor down.

The following photos illustrate the issue quite clearly, showing both the incorrect and correct ways to hold the collective grip.

Wrong position
(on top of the governor beep switch)

Right position

As a result, our operator issued a bulletin making it company policy that pilots should never fly with their hand over the end of the collective. Our operator also announced additional training sequences on reduced power setting flight, low rotor rpm recognition and recovery, and the use of the governor range in order to show that the aircraft will still fly at the low end of the range.

Thank you for sharing. Most helicopters have the beep switch installed where the pilot can access it without difficulty. As a result, this is also where the governor can be beeped down inadvertently. Keep in mind that, normally, the minimum beep position should not allow the engine to be operated with rotor rpm outside the normal range.

Nevertheless, inadvertent beep down can be an insidious trap. Pilots may not notice the beep down until they try to increase power. This often occurs late in the approach when they are committed, there is little time to figure out the problem, and few options remain as they get closer to the ground.

Your advice applies not only to inadvertent operation of the beep switch, but also to any other critical on/off device in the cockpit. Consequently, pilots need to pay attention not only to the location of their hands but also to the position of their jacket sleeves, glove cuffs, wristwatches, pens, zippers, straps, etc. Such “pilot paraphernalia” could engage devices inadvertently. —Ed.

Worth-a-Click: Analysis of Runway Incursion and Excursion Statistics

Take a few minutes to read Rick Darby’s analysis of runway incursion and excursion statistics for 2012 in Canada. M. Darby is associate editor at the Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) and his article was published in the May 2013 issue of the FSF’s AeroSafety World magazine. It’s Worth-a-Click!

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