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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

Type rated on A330, B747-400, B747, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Designing Planes Without Pilots

Who Reaps the Rewards?

While studying the B777, I was reviewing aircraft protections. In Primary Mode there is a flap load relief system where the flaps blow up (retract) to the next level if flap speeds are exceeded with flaps in the 15-30 positions. There are Autoslats and Asymmetry protection. Secondary mode has slat load relief, and Asymmetry protection. While there is no protection in Alternate mode, the B777 also has stall protection, overspeed protection, and bank angle protection. It appears that all these protections are designed to protect the pilot if they screw up. 

Thus, it got me thinking. Can you imagine how much money aircraft manufacturers would save if they did not have to install technology to counteract pilot error? It made me think that perhaps our aircraft manufacturers also have incentive to remove the pilots from the equation. If there were no pilots, there wold be no need for these systems. 

But what they must always remember, the reason as to why we need pilots. For when the unexpected happens...

Thank Goodness There were pilots on board!

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

B777 Hight Lift Control System


The HLCS extends and retracts the leaning edge devices and trailing edge flaps. The flaps have six position: Up, 5, 15, 20 (takeoff), 25 and 30 (landing). Hydraulic or Electric motors on the PDU, turn flap torque tubes, that operate transmission assemblies, which use a ballscrew and gimbal to extend and retract the flaps. Sounds logical. 

Leading edge devices include seven slats and a Krueger flap on each wing. The Krueger flap seals the gap between the engine strut and inboard slat. The slats have three positions: Cruise (up), Takeoff (sealed, or mid), and landing (gapped, or fully extended). 

The HLCS works in three modes:
  1. Primary
  2. Secondary 
  3. Alternate
Primary is the fly-by-wire closed loop hydraulic system, where the flaps move from up to 30 with detents at the 1 and 20 positions. The Flap/Slat Electronic Units (FSEUs) we'll call the communication system, receive and transmit data and other systems add airspeed and hydraulic data through the busses for high lift protection that will help with high lift protection. 

With the primary system operating then FSEUs operate the autoslat priority valve for autoslat extension if plane gets close to a stall. 

If the FSEUs find a fault in the primary system it will automatically default to the Secondary mode. While the secondary mode is Electric, pilot control is still operated like the primary; however, electric motors on the flap and slap PDUs move the flap and slat mechanisms. 

Alternate mode is independent of the FSEUs and use electric motors. Pilots select the Alternate mode with the flaps arm switch and can extend or retract the flaps with the selector. While these switches utilize the secondary/alternate control relays for the flaps and slats in the same way as the secondary mode, the alternate mode uses flap and slat limit switches to limit the flaps to 20 degrees and the slats to the sealed position. 

Flap Slat Indications: 

Learn the difference between displays 
depending upon the flaps system used. 

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Airplane Wanted

Buying a Beechcraft. 

B777 studying continues... but yesterday I received a comment on 2013 post titled:  

Photo from

James said: 

"Maybe someone can help me with this question. I am in the process of buying an airplane (my first). My passion is the A36 of course... I found an A36tc in excellent condition with 10 hours on a new rebuilt engine good time on the prop and all current. 

My question is, when I mention the TC everybody says to stay away from the turbo (other pilots) My instructor, mechanic and other very experienced pilot love this plane. I am concerned because the TC is less expensive than the 300hp A36. I'm confused! What should I be concerned about in the comparison? Please pardon my ignorance but..... Thank you for your thoughts. James"

Beechcraft Lovers
Can you help James?

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Monday, October 16, 2017

Monday Motivation

"Common sense is not so common" 

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene

Friday, October 13, 2017

Empowering Women

With InTransit

Friday's Fabulous Flyers... 
Jordan and Liz! 

Jordon Saxon

Jordan Saxon and Liz Knueven met at the Savannah College of Art and Design while working their way through the writing program. Jordan is currently a college Junior, and Liz graduated last spring. I connected with Liz because she sent me this email: 

"I'm Liz and I'm an editor at In Transits magazine, a travel magazine by and for women adventurers. I came across your blog while researching women pilots, and I was instantly enamored by your story and line of work. I'm starting a new column on our site about women who have made a career out of traveling and who work in the industry, and I was wondering if you would be interested in chatting with me for a few either by Skype or phone about your job as a pilot. The main goal of my column is to inspire more women to get into this line of work, and I'm especially interested in what careers in aviation look like from a woman's point of view."

Of course I would love to talk to a anyone supporting women adventurers! Especially those empowering women to travel the world. What I learned is Liz and Jordon connected over their love for travel, books and cats. But In Transit started partly because Jordan had always wanted to travel solo, but when she started planning her trips, she realized that very few publications ever went beyond the listicles. 

Jordan recruited Liz, and the two of them now share a goal of bringing women travelers together through storytelling, and empower independent women to see the world. For both of them, In Transit has become a passion project that they hope to turn into a career. 

Pilots and passengers alike, if you have any great information, adventures, or tips to share with Liz an Jordan you can reach Liz at:  Check out what they are doing by connecting with them. 

Instagram @instransit

Enjoy the Journey!
XO Karlene 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

B777 Roll Control

 Flight Controls Continue

Yesterday's blog provided an overview of the Primary Flight Control System (PFCS). Today is all about Roll Control. Ailerons, flaperons and the spoilers control the roll. Just like the old time aircraft there is a cable connecting the control wheels with a mechanical feel and centering mechanism. 

The control wheels each have 3 independent transducers, that send position signals to the ACEs, and then to the PFCs. There is also a for transducer in the event a pilot overrides the bank angle protection. Two trim switches supply power to the aileron trim actuators.


Aileron movement is 33 degrees up and 19 degrees down. Whereas Flaperons move 11 degrees up and 34 degrees down. Two Power control units (PCUs) operate each flaperons and aileron.  The inboard and outboard spoilers move a maximum of 60 degrees up. However, spoilers 4 and 11 only move up 45 degrees. Unlike the ailerons and flaperons the Spoilers only have one PCU. 


With flaps extended the the ailerons and flaperons droop to increase lift, yet continue to supply roll control. 


Like many other aircraft at high speed the ailerons are locked out. At low speed, they unlock. The PFCs are in charge of this process. 


The speedbrake lever has three positions (down, armed and up) and moves a multiple channel transducer, and data goes to the ACEs and then the PFCs. In flight the PFCs direct the speedbrakes to extend as a function of the speedbrake lever movement, however at high speeds some spoilers are prevented from moving. When the plane lands, the auto speedbrake actuator automatically moves the speedbrake. 

Speedbrakes auto deploy with the lever armed or not. When the lever is armed and the airplane is on the ground (sensed by no tilt) and the thrust lever moves to idle, the speedbrakes deploy. If the speedbrake lever is not armed, then the auto deploy feature occurs while on the ground (no tilt), and at least one thrust reverser is pulled into the idle detent. 

Keep studying!

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene 

B777 Flight Controls

Training Continues... 

Photo from

I spent the entire day learning the Flight Control System and realized there could be an element of confusion if someone was simply trying to memorize facts to pass a test. The Primary Flight Control System (PFCS) identifies three modes of operation: Normal, Secondary and Direct. There are also three modes of operation for the High Lift Control System (HLCS). The middle mode is secondary on both, and one could think that high lift devices would be considered part of the flight controls, in that they include flaps and slats. 

However, the reality is that there are two separate systems that control flight on the B777: The Primary Flight Control System (PFCS) and High Lift Control System (HLCS).

The B777 is a fly-by-wire aircraft. The PFCS is the electronic fly-by-wire system that controls pitch, yaw and roll, with Ailerons, Flaperons, Spoilers, Elevators, a Rudder and a Horizontal Stabilizer. The HLCS is also an electronic fly-by-wire system, however, this system controls Trailing Edge Flaps, Slats, and Krueger Flaps. The most important thing to remember is that these are two separate systems, both with multiple protections available for the pilots. 

The PFCS has flight envelope protection modes, to include: Overyaw protection, Overspeed protections, Stall protection, and Bank angle protection. The HLCS protections include flap and slat load relief, autoslat extension, flap /slat sequencing and asymmetry shutdown. The best part of this system, depending upon perspective, is the retention of mechanical control with two spoilers, and the horizontal stabilizer. 


Pilots give commands to the aircraft with the control wheels, the control column, rudder pedals, and speedbrakes. Position transducers change the commands to analog electrical signals. These signals go to the Actuator Control Electronics (ACEs)... there are four ACEs. The ACEs then change the signals to digital format and send that information to the Primary Flight Computers (3) (PFCs)....Not to be confused with the PFCS (Primary Flight Control System).  

The PFCs communicate with the airplane systems through electrical buses. The PFCs also get data from the Airplane Information Management Systems (AIMS), the Air Data Inertial Reference Unit (ADIRU), and Secondary Attitude Air Data Reference Unit (SAARU) to include airspeed, attitude, and inertial reference data. 

The PFCs calculate the flight control data and then send digital signals back to the ACEs. The ACEs change the command signals to analogue format and then send the signals to the Power Control Units (PCUs). The PCUs operate each control surface.  

The PCUs have a hydraulic actuator, electro-hydraulic servo-valve, and position feedback transducers. The servo-valve causes the hydraulic actuator to more the control surface. Then the actuator transducer sends position feedback signals to the ACEs. The ACEs convert the data to digital format and then send that signal to the PFCs. The ACEs stop the PCU command when  the signal equals the position. 

The PFCS three modes of operation: 


The above description is how the system operates in Normal Mode. Protections functions are  also available in Normal Mode. The protection functions include stall warning, overspeed, overyaw and bank angle. Normal mode is also the only mode where the autopilot works. 


If the PFCS loses important data it automatically defaults to the secondary mode, which operates essentially the same as the normal mode, but without protection functions and without the autopilot. 


If the data that caused the default to secondary mode degrades further, or there are more failures that make Normal and Secondary modes unreliable, the system will kick into direct mode. In direct mode, pilot commands go directly to the ACEs and then to the PCUs. The Primary Flight Computers (PFCs) do not operate in direct mode. 

There is also a two position PFC disconnect switch, on the P5 overhead panel. The switch is either in AUTO or DISC position. AUTO is the normal mode of operation. However, the DISC switch enables the pilot to place the PFCS into direct mode. This switch can also be cycled and moved back to AUTO with an attempt to take the system from Direct mode to the highest available, either Normal or Secondary.  An illuminated amber DISC light indicates the system is in Direct Mode. 

More to come tomorrow!

Enjoy the Journey!
XOX Karlene