From the April 2018 Issue

Minimizing The Risk Of Engine Failure

Minimizing The Risk Of Engine Failure

Almost from the beginning of our training, pilots are taught how to react to an engine failure. Before that, though, we’re also taught how to conduct a preflight inspection to ensure the engine (and the rest of the aircraft) is ready for what we are planning. That’s as it should be, since mechanical failures are a major component of overall accident causes, right after the pilot making a mistake. The good news is that the typical piston engine in a personal aircraft is much more reliable than it was a few years ago. The bad news is those reliability improvements often result in pilots giving little thought to piston engine aircraft reliability because failures have become so rare.

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ICON A5 Feedback

First my condolences and prayers go out to the entire Halladay family; his was a tragic loss. I commend Mr. Wright on his emphasizing risk management awareness, not only regarding the A5 but similar general aviation safety issues. Unlike many light sport aircraft that I am familiar with, the A5’s inherent engineering design and safety features are second to none.

Spinning Your Gyros

Over the last couple of years, I’ve spent some time helping students transition to full-fledged private pilots. One of the first questions I do is ask them is to picture a standard six-pack of “steam-gauge” instruments and explain what they each do and where they get their energy. Most pilots can quickly rattle off the airspeed indicator, the altimeter and the vertical speed indicator. Those systems are relatively simple to understand and describe.

Just Go Around

It’s a moment you probably won’t forget. After your instructor handed back your signed logbook and reached for the cockpit door, he or she reminded you, “If anything about the landing doesn’t look right, just go around.”

NTSB Reports

At about 1725 Eastern time, the airplane sustained substantial damage following a landing gear separation during landing. The flight instructor in the right seat and the pilot receiving instruction in the left seat sustained no injuries. Visual conditions were present.

Seeing The Invisible

Most pilots venture into windy conditions with enough skills and smarts to know how to either avoid or cope with them. But wind-related accidents are still commonplace, so clearly we don’t always get it right. One reason for this may be fairly simple: With the exception of blowing snow, tornadoes, dust devils and some cloud formations, wind is usually invisible. To visualize what is going on, you have to visualize wind currents, which is where my experience whitewater rafting has served me well.

Low-Viz Takeoffs

Last December 24th, a Cessna 340 crashed at Bartow, Fla., during an attempted predawn, IMC departure. All five aboard the airplane died. We don’t know yet what factors, if any, beside the weather may have contributed to this Christmas Eve tragedy. Regardless, the circumstances should remind us of the extra planning and skill needed for a departure into low IMC, day or night—even if everything is going right.


About 1½ hours into the return flight, I noticed I was switching fuel tanks more frequently than normal. The headwind I now had was payback for the tailwind on my arrival flight. From 12,000 feet msl down to 4000, the headwind was here to stay. I spent several minutes deciding if I had enough fuel. After going back and forth, I decided to play it safe and admit I didn’t plan appropriately for the headwind. I located my new destination which was just 10 miles ahead. A sigh of relief came over me as I chose the safer option, stopping to refuel.

Ignition Switch Issues

The student pilot was doing an engine run prior to flight. Was unable on the first try to complete the magneto check as the key would not turn from the both position to the left/right/off position. After shutdown, the student was able to select off on the switch. The switch that was installed (p/n 103572101) included a push-to-start function. Found the switch sticking internally and replaced it with a new push-to-start switch.

A Big Win, For Now

Long-time readers will recall my several scribblings in opposition to proposals to privatize the U.S. air traffic control (ATC) system, and my encouragement to those same readers to communicate their views to their federal elected officials. I’m happy to report our opposition to this solution in search of a problem has been successful: On February 27, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Penn.), the proposal’s architect and chairman of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, announced he would remove it from pending FAA legislation.

Download the Full April 2018 Issue PDF

For the last few years, my home airport has been a private, paved and lighted strip in a rural area. The pilot-controlled lighting is non-standard, however. For one, the system’s intensity is relatively weak. For another, there seem to be fewer runway lights than at most other airports I’ve used. And the light fixtures themselves seem located farther from the pavement than I’m accustomed. Often, there are few other ground lights in the area to help provide perspective at night.


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