From the July 2019 Issue

Air Mass Storms

Air Mass Storms

I used to ground myself when I saw a forecast of thunderstorm weather. I had an immediate visceral response rooted in memories of growing up in Kansas, seeing vast tornado-spawning squall lines, their blue-green tint indicating they were pregnant with hail. At age 11, I watched a barn across the road explode in one of those storms, flying in pieces across the fields, followed by a barrage of baseball-sized hail. Surely you can’t fly when convective weather and thunderstorms are nearby or on the way, can you? Well, Dorothy, sometimes you can. You just need to know what to look for and what to avoid.


Current Issue

Diesel Additive Again Contaminates Jet Fuel

After noting that “five incidents of aircraft uncommanded roll events with the ATLAS activated have been reported to EASA and the FAA,” the U.S. agency on May 24 issued an airworthiness directive (AD) grounding Cessna CitationJet 525, 525A and 525B models equipped with Tamarack active load alleviation system (ATLAS) winglets. The action is related to an EASA AD and is “mandatory continuing airworthiness information (MCAI) issued by the aviation authority of another country to identify and correct an unsafe condition on an aviation product.”

Power And Pitch

If you’re like me, you’ve been watching the ongoing saga of Boeing and its 737 MAX. The gist of it for our purposes is that the new MAX versions of the 737 are powered by larger-diameter engines than the type was originally designed to accommodate. Since the 1980s—when Boeing switched from the type’s original low-bypass Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines to the CFM International CFM56—the reduced ground clearance when mounting high-bypass powerplants featuring improved fuel economy has required flattening the bottom of the cowlings. It was cheaper and easier than redesigning the landing gear, which is too short to accommodate the larger engines.

Five Reasons Not To Fly A Coupled Approach

And like every other technology, autopilots have their limitations. For one, they have to be set up correctly—along with the navigation equipment—to reliably follow a heading and descend along a glidepath. Details like when to take over from the autopilot, how you might handle an equipment failure—if you notice it—and even whether to let Otto fly the missed approach or do it yourself need to be worked out ahead of time. That’s the short version of why we might want to consider hand-flying the approach. Let’s expand on them.

Out Of Gliding Distance

The earth’s surface is about 71 percent water. Most of us will never pilot a personal aircraft long distances over oceans, but eventually flying over some body of water while beyond gliding distance to land is almost a certainty. When we do that in a single-engine aircraft, the adverse consequences of an engine failure increase dramatically, even if the likelihood of that same failure remains the same. And even multi-engine aircraft have been forced to ditch, so an extra powerplant won’t always get you home.

Stress In The Cockpit

I would like to extend congratulations on this article. (“Stress In The Cockpit,” May 2019) It represents a thoughtful departure from the routine reviews of everyday flying. When placed in context that over 80 percent of all accidents are due to pilot error, it highlights an intrinsic human weak point that all pilots share. I’m sure we all have had the experience making the comment about someone we know, “How could he/she have gotten into a situation like that?”

Catching Up

By the time you read this, I’ll be getting my Debonair out of its annual inspection. It’s been a lengthy one, in part because of some items I had deferred from previous inspections and in part because the airplane was new to the shop doing the work. Basically, I decided it was time to catch up on a few wear-and-tear items that pop up with any kind of machine, from a Roomba vacuum cleaner to a personal airplane.

Mufflers

While carrying out Canadian AD CF90-03-R2, large leaks were found in the area surrounding the muffler tail pipe area under the structure for supporting the heat muff shroud. No defects were noticed in a visual inspection of this area. No data tag was on the muffler, so it’s assumed it is an original unit. The operator’s logs don’t show it ever being changed.

Other Airplanes

For example, a large flying club I was in a few years back had a pair of Cessna Cardinal RGs. They were getting a bit long in the tooth, but were roomy and relatively fast, and they were good cross-country airplanes. They also were configured basically the same, with two nav/comms but little else: no autopilot, for example, GPS or DME. After getting to know them both, I came to prefer the blue-and-white one over the orange version, since it was a bit younger and cleaner. Neither let me down, but one was sold to someone outside the club and, shortly thereafter, another pilot landed the remaining Cardinal RG gear-up.

Behind The Curve

The only time I’ve performed what I consider to have been a for-real high-altitude takeoff, it went fine. I was at Albuquerque, N.M.’s Double Eagle II airport, elevation some 5800 feet. It wasn’t the middle of summer, but it was a warm, sunny fall afternoon. I don’t recall which runway I used, but it offered more than enough length for my Debonair, which carried only me, some gear and full fuel. As I’d been trained, I leaned the engine before the takeoff and let the airplane fly itself off the runway. I handled it gently until gaining enough airspeed to establish a proper climb and I had some altitude.

NTSB Reports

After a low pass over the field, the pilot returned to land. On final approach, he was “blinded by [the] sun” and the tailwheel hit vines growing near the airstrip, causing the airplane to stall. The left wing, left main landing gear and propeller were damaged during the hard landing. According to the NTSB, “[b]ecause the pilot did not hold a current pilot certificate, nor did he meet the medical certification requirements, he was not legally authorized to act as pilot-in-command of the airplane at the time of the accident.”

North To Alaska

Please don’t consider this article to represent the level of preparation you’ll need to do this trip yourself. Much has changed in Alaska’s flying environment in the last 20 years, and I’m pleased that some of the work I supported there as an FAA executive during my last trip resulted in safety improvements. My two trips help illustrate some of the risk management issues you will need to consider if you decide to go. But you should complete a much more extensive risk analysis when planning your own trip.

Download The Full July 2019 Issue PDF

By the time you read this, I’ll be getting my Debonair out of its annual inspection. It’s been a lengthy one, in part because of some items I had deferred from previous inspections and in part because the airplane was new to the shop doing the work. Basically, I decided it was time to catch up on a few wear-and-tear items that pop up with any kind of machine, from a Roomba vacuum cleaner to a personal airplane.

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