From the April 2014 Issue

Rust-Colored Water

Ensuring adequate flow of clean fuel to your engine(s) would seem to be a pretty basic part of ownership and regular/pre-flight inspections. Yet, according to AOPA Air Safety Institute’s 2011 Nall Report, “Eight accidents were attributed to fuel contamination, six of them by water. Seven of those airplanes were more than 20 years old, and at least three had been tied down outdoors for extended periods during which they were not flown regularly.” Some people apparently didn’t get the memo.

Current Issue

Handle With Care

In his timeless classic Fate Is The Hunter, Ernest K. Gann regales readers with several tales of in-flight emergencies, hairy takeoffs and grateful landings. Perhaps the book’s most memorable takeoff involves a grossly overweight C-87 departing Agra, India, on a hot day, aimed directly at the nearby Taj Mahal mausoleum. Of course, Gann didn’t know the airplane was overweight before beginning the takeoff. How he and his crew flew it could be viewed as a clinic on how to handle an overweight airplane.

Reluctant Test Pilot

As anyone who reads this magazine knows, most GA accidents are caused by the loose screw between the seat and rudder pedals. “Pilot induced” is the leading cause of accidents, not mechanical failure. But sometimes even mechanical failures can be attributable to aeronautical decision-making, like deciding to trust an aircraft after it has been in maintenance.

Simulating Proficiency

Each year, some number of pilots come to grief because they can’t handle the demands of instrument flight beyond straight-and-level. The AOPA Air Safety Institute’s 2011 Joseph T. Nall Report, which took a close look at general aviation accidents in 2009, found 22 accidents that year in which a non-commercial fixed-wing aircraft was involved in a weather-related accident with an instrument-rated pilot aboard. Of them, 16 involved fatalities. We can do better.

Your Other Wings

Unless you’re someone we’d really like to get to know better, it’s likely you’re not flying around in your own personal jet. Which means you probably are flying behind, between, below or in front of at least one propeller. They’re marvelous devices, often subjected to substantial forces as they unceasingly (we hope) spin thousands of times per minute. They also can be a bit mysterious, even the fixed-pitch variety.

Pushing Reset

We all have been there. You’re on a certificate or rating checkride and you make one little mistake—nothing huge, nothing that puts the outcome of the flight or the practical test in jeopardy—yet. The examiner, who has been discreetly scribbling away on a notepad throughout your performance, ticks something off, but shows only a carefully schooled poker-face. You don’t hear, “Stop the flight.” So you continue. But you get a little rattled. Come on, everyone does! The examiner doesn’t care, though. What you do next is the important part: Can you stop the fault-chain you triggered with your first error?

Pilot/Controller Duties

Amy Laboda writes in February’s issue that “...controllers are not required to correct you if you read back a clearance incorrectly.” A retired SoCal Tracon controller explained to me why it is important for controllers to catch bad readbacks.

What Pilot Shortage?

If you listen much to the airlines and some training organizations, there’s a pilot shortage in the U.S., either ongoing or imminent. But pilot organizations say many furloughed or unemployed pilots with qualifications to at least ride shotgun aboard a scheduled jet transport are content to stay right where they are, doing whatever it is they’re doing. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently decided to find out who was right and last month published their findings.

NTSB Reports April 2014: Recent general aviation and air carrier accidents

February 2, 2014, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Gates Learjet Corp. 35AAt about 2230 Eastern time, the airplane was involved in a ground crew injury during engine start and taxi in preparation for a Part 135 medical transport flight. The pilot, co-pilot and two cabin crewmembers were not injured, and the airplane was not damaged, but a ground crewman sustained serious injuries. Visual conditions prevailed. …


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