Aircraft Performance Group (APG) cofounder Rogers Hemphill believes that the business aviation industry is moving into a new era of applying technology to performance analysis, akin to how computer flight plans revolutionized the calculation of optimum flight profiles. It used to be time-consuming and nearly impossible to analyze multiple profiles at different altitudes to find the best combination of winds and temperature aloft and fuel burn, but computers made that process easy. Now companies such as APG, Cavu, Ultra-Nav and other providers of computer- and online-based performance analysis software have made it much easier for pilots to perform important preflight performance calculations.
APG got started by providing runway analysis programs for Part 121 airlines, but nine years ago began offering similar services for Part 135 and 91 operators. Under
Part 121 and 135, analysis of takeoff and landing performance is mandatory, but not so in Part 91 operations, a differentiation that concerns Hemphill. Most business jets are certified under Part 25 regulations, which require manufacturers to publish detailed performance data and guarantee certain performance capabilities, but pilots who operate these jets under Part 91 don’t feel compelled to make the necessary calculations. A Part 25 jet doesn’t know whether it is being operated under Part 135 or 91 regulations, so why should pilots treat these operations differently?
Before adopting computer software for performance analysis, Hemphill suggested, Part 91 pilots need to learn “about aircraft performance in general and how the airplane was certified. What were the regulations guiding the manufacturer when [engineers] prepared the performance section of the flight manual? To hand a pilot a runway analysis and say, ‘Here’s your takeoff weight,’ when he doesn’t have the education to know how the numbers were derived is not the way to do business.”
For Part 121 and 135 operators, the regulations spell out the need to meet field length, climb and obstacle-clearance requirements, he explained. But doing a takeoff, climb and runway analysis problem properly by hand would take hours; planning software reduces that time to minutes.
More important, Hemphill said, training organizations need to do a better job of teaching pilots about performance, although he says he has noticed an improvement in how training companies approach this subject. Ideally, an instructor would teach students the fundamentals of runway analysis, then bring that lesson into the simulator. APG offers a method for training companies to do this, for example, by covering the proper analysis of an Aspen departure, then flying that task in the simulator with an engine failure after takeoff using APG’s analysis.
Although the FAA’s requirements for performance are less stringent for jets and turboprops certified under Part 23, Hemphill believes that once pilots begin flying those airplanes, they should be taught the fundamentals of runway analysis and obstacle clearance. APG’s software does cover light jets such as Cessna’s Mustang and Embraer’s Phenom 100 and it will soon be available as an Apple iPhone app.
APG provides video-based presentations on runway analysis on its Web site, including a one-hour video on runway analysis and Part 25. –MT