Radio is the main form of communication between pilots and air traffic control. In the case of communication failure or if an aircraft is not equipped with a radio, Aviation Light Signals are used to relay aircraft navigational instructions. Much like a third-base coach using his/her hands to signal instructions to a batter, traffic controllers communicate to pilots through the use of signal lamps. Signal lamps generate three colors: red, white, and green and have two states: steady and flashing. These colors and states have specific meanings that vary depending on whether an aircraft is in flight or on the ground.

Aviation light signals on the ground are as follows. A steady green light signals to a pilot on the ground that an aircraft is clear for takeoff. A flashing green light signals to a pilot on the ground that an aircraft is cleared to taxi. A steady red light signals to a pilot to stop immediately and hold their position. Where as a flashing red light signals to a pilot that the aircraft must taxi clear of the runway to allow other aircraft to use it. Flashing white lights signal to a pilot to return to their starting point or return to the airport parking apron. Alternating red/green lights -- in countries such as the United States -- signal to a pilot an important warning  to exercise extreme caution.

An airborne aircraft receiving a steady green light signals to a pilot go, you are clear to land. When a flashing green light signal is given to an aircraft that has just taken off it is essentially a return and land, go-around command.  When a steady red light is signaled to a flying aircraft the pilot knows to continue circling and give way to other aircraft until the air traffic controller indicates it is clear to land (by giving a steady green light). Flashing red lights signal to a flying aircraft danger, the airport is unsafe and not to land. Alternating red/green lights is the same as an “on the ground” red/green light; exercise extreme caution. Next time you’re in a plane about to land or on the runway waiting to take off, see if you can’t spot the silent communication of aviation light signals.

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You may have handled a car jack at some point in your life, but have you ever handled an aircraft jack? The average person hasn’t, but there are those who are acquainted with them. Those who are familiar with aircraft jacks can testify that there is a lot more at stake. Not only is the equipment heavier, but so is the load. And if things don’t go as smoothly, the financial repercussions are significantly higher than if you mess up something using a car jack. In order to make sure everything goes according to plan, be sure to follow the following simple rules:

  • Familiarize Yourself With the Basic Rules of Operation

It is crucial that you read the manual and everything to do with your aircraft jack before you move forward with using it. Some of these rules include never putting your hands between the aircraft and the jack pad. You should also never align a jack under the aircraft by pounding on the legs of said jack. This can lead to dented legs, and in turn, cause the jack to collapse. When lowering the jack, never place your hands on top of the jack near the hand wheel safety nuts. Pinch points are between the top of the jack and threads on the ram.

  • Use Proper Jacking Points

This one is pretty self explanatory. The jack points tend to be found in relation to the plane’s center of gravity. This will keep the plane well balanced on the jack. You must take great care to ensure you’re using the proper jacking points on your aircraft and that the aircraft jacks are perfectly centered under them.

  • Check If Aircraft Stabilizers Are Required

Aircraft stabilizers were designed to make sure the aircraft stays put when lifting. They also help to ensure the safety of your entire crew and the aircraft itself when you lift and shore using Tronair jacks. Tronair jack stabilizing stands can be equipped with an alarm to warn you when the weight on the load cell exceeds 100 lbs. This feature ensures safety when performing maintenance, lifting and shoring.

  • Complete Tests and Certifications

If you’ve done everything properly, then the last but most important thing you need to do with your aircraft jack is to ensure that they pass their annual tests. In order to do this, it’s best to have a documented 90 day and 12 month checklist. The former will include things like making sure there are no leaks in the hydraulic system, inspecting fluid levels, checking air pumps, lubricating the threaded ram with DoAll, RPM, LPS or an equivalent water repellant.

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During the colder months, ice forming on aircraft can pose a problem. Ice that coats aircraft parts can cause multiple hindrances and even affect the lift of the plane. Through deicing and anti-icing, aircraft can have ice removed from the body and components, as well as have protection from reformation.

The deicing compounds that are used for aircraft are a mix of glycol and water. Glycol is a very important chemical as it has the ability to lower freezing points. This compound is then sprayed over the aircraft with a hose and is evenly coated across the entirety. Speed and thoroughness of this process is of utmost importance due to the possibility of the plane deicing again, which is its “holdover time”. This time can be as little as a few minutes, so often deicing is done very close to liftoff.

As deicing does not prevent the possibility of refreezing of parts, utilizing an anti-icing application is very beneficial as needed. Anti-ice formulas are similar to aircraft deicing, but the amount of glycol concentration is much higher. Anti-icing is spread uniformly across the aircraft and is done in a thin coated layer. According to the FAA, anti-icing should always be done within three minutes of deicing.

Once the aircraft is in the air, there is much less to worry about freezing as aircraft have methods to keep parts warm. Aircraft may have pipes that carry hot air created by the engine to other parts, such as the wings and tail, to keep them from freezing. These methods are often in place because the altitude in which most commercial aircraft fly in is below freezing all year round.

Although applying deicing and anti-icing compounds can sometimes cause a flight to be slightly delayed, it is very important to the optimal functionality and safety of the aircraft. The FAA has set out very strict rules and guidelines for how the agents are made, how they are applied, and more to ensure that these processes are done correctly and efficiently.

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Just like our own personal cars, aircraft need constant maintenance to ensure that every part works correctly and is repaired or replaced as necessary. While we may think of it as a nuisance that can cause delays, we understand that taking care of our machinery is important and keeps everything functioning smoothly and safely for everyone. But how do aircraft maintenance checks work and what are the tools used to complete them?

Applied Technical Services, or ATS, have been leaders in the Aviation NDT (Non-destructive Testing) industry since they first obtained their repair certificate from the FAA in 1975. They work to detect flaws and threats in aircraft components and search for common flaws, including cracks, thermal cycling, unintended overheating, and vibrations. Some of the few ways that they detect these flaws early is through eddy currents, ultrasonic testing, and magnetic particle inspection services.

Eddy current testing (ET), is a method that is beneficial for finding small cracks and defects that may be on or near the surface and can provide technicians with immediate results. This method of testing can be used for crack detection, material and coating thickness, and conductivity testing during aircraft inspections. Due to the portability of ATS’ ET testing equipment, they are able to inspect complex shapes and sizes of aircraft conductive materials. They utilize this form of testing in field locations, laboratories, and customer premises.

Ultrasonic testing, or UT, is also beneficial for detection as it is recognized for having the highest depth of penetration for finding subsurface flaws. ATS utilizes NDT UT for detecting flaws, taking dimensional measurements, as well as material characterization. Ultrasonic testing is very useful for immediate results and technicians often only need one side access. UT equipment has proven to be highly accurate for finding flaws as well as estimating their size and shape. Common findings using UT equipment include shrinkage cracks, welding defects, hydrogen flakes, and more to find what needs to be repaired or replaced early.

Magnetic particle inspection services are a very popular method of aircraft maintenance and repairs checks as it is a form of nondestructive testing, and has proven to be one of the most cost effective inspection methods with a very short turn-around time. Similar to Eddy Current Testing, MPI can detect at, or near surface flaws and discontinuities. One method of using MPI is using dry particle and wet suspension while applying continuous residual magnetization. Using this method, technicians can find flaws in ferromagnetic materials, cooling cracks, machine tears, cupping, and more.

Aircraft engine inspections and aircraft maintenance are important for functionality and safety of every part. The FAA sets preventative and minor maintenance schedules along with required annual inspections to ensure that all components are repaired or replaced before failure. The FAA also publishes Airworthiness Directives, or AD Notes, to help provide owners of aircraft with info about unsafe conditions. There are many utilized methods to detect flaws, and all work to aid maintenance checks and safety of everyone.

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If you’ve ever flown on a plane or even looked up at one in the night sky, then you’ve probably noticed that the plane is equipped with a number of bright lights. If you’re the more detail-oriented type, you might have even noticed that planes flash different sets of lights during landing and takeoff. So what is the purpose of these aircraft lights and what do they mean? Read on below to see why these external aircraft lights were put in place and how they help with flight operations.

Landing Lights

Landing lights are usually placed under the fuselage or positioned on the aircraft wings. They’re designed and positioned so that the pilot can see the runway when landing or taking off. They also serve to let pilots on other airplanes know that they’re there. At around 200 feet above the runway, the pilot will turn on landing lights so that the plane can be illuminated for others to see. The same goes for when taking off and when they reach cruising altitude, the pilots shut them off.

Taxi Lights

In the same way that a driver uses the car headlights, a pilot will use the airplane's external taxi headlights to light up the path in front at night. Pilots will specifically use taxi lights to illuminate the taxiway and find the runway or gate during dark and cloudy climates. Taxi lights may not seem very bright if you’re looking at a distance but if you are part of the ground personnel team and see that taxi lights are approaching, then that’s the signal for you to look away as these lights up close can cause retinal damage if you look directly into it.

Anti-Collision Lights

The name is self explanatory- these lights are designed for avoiding collisions by for letting ground personnel and other pilots know that you are flying nearby. There are three different types of anti-collision lights including:

  • Red, Green, and White Position Lights - These lights are specially positioned on an aircraft to let ground personnel and other pilots know that the position of the plane. These lights consist of red and green lights, the former being positioned on the left wing and the latter being located on the right wing
  • Red Beacons - Positioned on the top and bottom of the aircraft, these beacons begin to flash some moments before the engine starts and are turned off after the engine is turned off. The red beacons let ground personnel know that the engines have started and that they should move aside. Being around a plane when its engine is on can be dangerous and these beacons help mitigate any risk.
  • White Strobe Light s- These are the lights that you see every time you see an airplane flying through the skies. Located on the wing tips, these white strobe lights are blinding when viewed closely, but when viewed from a distance during even the most cloudy of days, shine brilliantly through to illuminate the plane.

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