From the July 2014 Issue

Two Miles Ahead

Thunderstorm avoidance can be both an art and a science. The science part is covered with technology—airborne Nexrad weather radar data as an example—while the Zen of staying out of the beasts can be as simple as waiting for them to die down or pass by.

Current Issue

Five Crosswind Fixes

Remember films like The Blue Max, The Red Baron or Flyboys? They all depicted WWI aerial warfare, in machines invented some 15 years earlier. Instead of defined runways, pilots of that era landed and took off from large, broad fields, which always allowed them to fly into the prevailing wind. One of the reasons those big fields were necessary was the lack of early airplanes’ maneuverability—some had control-authority issues at low speeds—so the range of available runway directions was expanded to include them all.

Not Just For Jets Anymore

Forty percent. In any context that’s a sizable percentage. In ours, 40 percent represents the share of fatalities aviation-safety advocates pin to one category of crashes: loss-of-control accidents (LOC). Reducing LOC accidents and their fatalities led the FAA to put two available tools at the top of its 2013 list of most-desired general-aviation safety enhancements. The winners? Airbag seatbelt systems and angle-of-attack (AoA) indicators.

SIDuational Awareness

Conditions were about 600 overcast, visibility four miles in haze as I prepared to depart the Santa Maria Public Airport/Capt G. Allan Hancock Field (KSMX) in Santa Maria, Calif. I was flying a well-equipped Beechcraft A36 Bonanza sporting a Garmin 530/430 stack and a Honeywell KFC225 autopilot/flight director—the airplane and configuration with which I’m most familiar and current.

Higher Is (Usually) Better

We regularly see non-turbocharged piston singles cruising in the 4500-6500-foot range, even when wind and weather aren’t operational considerations. Meanwhile, a few thousand feet higher, the ride’s better—as is visibility—there’s better comm and navaid reception, and likely a lot less traffic. So, why do some pilots of personal airplanes prefer to cruise at lower-than-optimum altitudes? Why do others go as high as they reasonably can for the trip length? Is the extra time and fuel worth climbing a few more thousand feet?

How Much Proficiency Is Enough?

I had my Bonanza set up perfectly for the straight-in ILS Runway 22 approach at Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (FGSL), following a short, 63-nm flight across the Bight of Biafra from Douala, Cameroon (FKKD). It was actually a rare clear day near the equator and I could easily see the nearly 10,000 foot Pico de Basile only 10 miles south of Malabo, certainly a potential terrain hazard to be managed if it had been actual instrument conditions and I had been concerned about the missed approach. That would be one of many risks to be managed in this environment.

Engine-Out Simulations

Articles like the one by Mike Hart, “Takeoff Engine Failures,” June 2014, are the reason I think this publication is the best aviation magazine around. I routinely practice VX climb to 350 feet, engine to idle, hold nose up till VS then make a teardrop return to the runway. That maneuver, though, has none of the pucker factor that engine-out practice has from 100 feet!

As We Know It

A close friend, pilot and former aircraft owner is fond of reminding me that general aviation “as we know it” is going away. He laments losing the GA industry as it existed in the last 20 or so years of the previous century, mainly because fewer pilots today use their airplanes for personal transportation. (Business use of GA continues, of course, with its fortunes tightly tied to the overall economy, which is another topic.)

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

May 1, 2014, Frederick, Md. Robinson Helicopter R22 BetaThe flight instructor and student were practicing hover operations, during which the helicopter drifted right and descended. The right skid contacted the grass, the helicopter rolled to the right and the main rotor blades contacted the ground. The helicopter came to rest on its right side. There was substantial damage. The pilots reported no pre-impact mechanical malfunctions or failures. This was the first flight in a helicopter…


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