From the April 2017 Issue
It was in the news recently: Noted actor and aviation proponent Harrison Ford, while arriving at an airport on the west coast, reportedly landed on a taxiway, not the assigned runway. Oops! Dissecting that event is not this articles purpose. But it did get me to wonder: How often does this happen? Why does it happen? What can we as pilots do to minimize the opportunities for this type of event to happen to us?
One of the first and most obvious choices we make when using a personal airplane is routing. We want to get from Point A to Point B, usually by the shortest, most direct route. So far, so good. What if that route increases the consequences of the risk in question, namely that our sole powerplant will fail at the worst possible time? Maybe change the route?
There is a fundamental reason we perform preflight run-ups and engine checks before takeoff: It is a whole lot better to find problems at 1G, 0 feet agl and 0 knots airspeed than it is while airborne. Making sure a powerplant will work as we intend before taking off is just good airmanship. A good run-up doesnt mean everything is perfect, however, and we train for airborne engine problems, including full use of its controls and instruments.
While generally round and black in color, thats almost all the characteristics aircraft tires have in common with their automotive siblings. In fact, a major difference is the construction and materials used in their manufacture. Aircraft tires and tubes primarily incorporate natural rubber while automotive tires use synthetic compounds extensively. Aircraft tires are designed for a very specific job and are part of the landing gear system on almost every aircraft.
Every instrument approach procedure we fly ends in one of two ways: We either see the runway environment and land, perhaps after circling to align ourselves with a runway, or we dont. When we dont, we fly a missed approach procedure designed to get the aircraft back to a safe altitude and position from which the next steps can be taken. Those next steps can include trying the same approach again, shooting a different one or diverting to a different airport. Its not that hard.
The FAA in late February released an updated list of reports detailing sightings of unmanned aircraft systems, or drones. The sightings were reported by pilots, air traffic controllers, law enforcement personnel and citizens concerned the drones posed the threat of potential collisions or other encounters with the drones. The latest data covers February through September 2016, and includes a sharp increase1274 new reports compared with 874 for the same period in 2015.
Most of us fly from nice, long, level and wide paved runways with minimal obstructions. Whether for fun, variety or vocation, others of us use less-developed runways and airports, most notably back-country airstrips. All of us know that whenever were off the beaten patha term holding different meanings for different peoplethe risk of whatever flight operations we engage in goes up. While Ive done my share of off-pavement operations, most of them were to or from well-maintained grass runways with clear approach and departure paths, or from sometimes-remote lakes using a seaplane. So Im a little familiar with the roll your own style of flight operations in which many pilots engage.
I am still a student, but after a long time and many obstacles, Im finally getting close to my checkride. Along the way, Ive had a few experiences, one of which started with me basically stealing the airplane.
Ive never thought too much about traffic patterns. Turn left or right, fly downwind, turn left or right again. Align with the runway. Land. Or not, since tower controllers may have their own idea of traffic management. The basic idea, of course, is to maneuver the airplane so you can glide to the runway under partial power and execute one of your greasers of a landing. Depending on where you fly and how good (bad) the controllers are, regularly flying a rectangular pattern to land may not be something youve done lately.
At about 0937 Mountain time, the airplane was destroyed when it collided with mountainous terrain. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed. Radar data show the airplane reached its cruising altitude of approximately 8000 feet msl some 12 minutes after takeoff. The airplane subsequently descended about 1300 feet in one minute before entering a momentary climb, which was followed by a shallow descent. In the remaining two and a half minutes, the airplane maintained a 300 fpm descent rate, with some intermittent climbs. The final two radar targets show the airplane climbed about 425 feet in 12 seconds. The airplane maintained a straight track from its departure airport to the last radar target, which was within 0.1 nm of the 6670 feet msl accident site.
Inspection after aircraft received from paint shop found left elevator actuating rod nut unpinned and backed off almost completely, with its bolt backing out. Left aileron outboard hinge was not attached. Hinge plate pinched between skin. Aileron binding. This aircraft was flown in this condition.
I own and fly a Cessna 172, and a curved pattern (Circular Patterns, March 2017) would not be an advantage as I would not see the runway until I came out at the end of the turn. I realize the military used this approach but as you know they have very few high-wing aircraft. Also, you would not be able to see if another aircraft cut you off until the last moment. Why change something that has been working just fine?
There is a fundamental reason we perform preflight run-ups and engine checks before takeoff: It is a whole lot better to find problems at 1G, 0 feet agl and 0 knots airspeed than it is while airborne. Making sure a power- plant will work as we intend before taking off is just good airmanship. A good run-up doesnt mean every- thing is perfect, however, and we train for airborne engine problems, including full use of its controls and instruments. Sometimes, though, the problems were looking for dont reveal themselves when it is convenient for us, and we have to diagnose engine issues in the air. Urgently. And fly the airplane at the same time. It is not a comfortable experience.