From the August 2018 Issue

Real-World Takeoff Performance

Real-World Takeoff Performance

1) A Piper PA-32R-300 Lance attempted to take off from a 3200-foot-long grass runway on a June morning with flaps retracted. It lifted off at the end of the runway, then descended into a shallow valley, touched down and lifted off a second time, before settling back to the ground and colliding with a barbed-wire fence. It was later determined to have been 188 pounds over its maximum gross weight with its center of gravity 0.15 inches aft of limits. Density altitude was about 1800 feet above field elevation.


Current Issue

Paperwork

Over the years, I’ve spent way too much time as self-loading cargo on airliners. Regardless, I’m always curious about what’s going on in the front office but rarely get a clear glimpse. One exception is when some last-minute maintenance is performed or connection problems result in some passengers arriving late to the gate. Invariably, Captain Speaking will come on the PA and apologize for the delay, commenting that “we’ll be ready to go as soon as we get the final paperwork.” What is the captain talking about?

Ground Control

My flight instructor also lives in an airpark development, about 40 nm away, an easy hop. When we fly together, I generally taxi directly to her home. Past palm and pine trees, mailboxes, fences and...well, you get the idea. (Her trash gets collected on Fridays.) So I’m no stranger to ground operations in close quarters. It could be said that I don’t really know what to do with all the expansive, unobstructed pavement available for taxiing at “real” airports. That’s not to say I’ll never taxi into something; that’s always a risk.

Smarter Than Direct

Don’t you hate it when this happens? “November 12345, I have an amendment to your clearance...advise when ready to copy.” Then ATC gives you the barely pronounceable name of a waypoint you never heard of. You’re given a re-route around restricted airspace or a military operations area (MOA) that just went hot. Or you’re making a short positioning flight in IMC, and have to make rapid-fire GPS flight plan updates and heading changes when you’re cleared for a approach just as you’re leveling off from climb.

Flying For Money

A year and a half ago, it dawned on me that what I most enjoyed about my previouscareer as a science communications consultant was when I got to commute to visit clients in my faithful Cessna 180. With some 1500 hours in my logbook—accumulated primarily on those business trips—I sent out my résumé to two area commercial operators. In response, I got two job offers. Wow. What a game-changer for me. I jumped into the Part 135 world with both feet and left my previous career behind. Now, with more than a year under my belt flying for money, I have been reflecting on how profoundly the move from Part 91 to Part 135 has affected my risk management experiences and choices.

FAA Reforms Several Flight Training Rules

In Advisory Circular AC 61-136A, the FAA defines an aviation training device (ATD) as “...a training device, other than a full flight simulator (FFS) or flight training device (FTD), that has been evaluated, qualified, and approved by the Administrator. In general, this includes a replica of aircraft instruments, equipment, panels, and controls in an open flight deck area or an enclosed aircraft cockpit. It includes the hardware and software necessary to represent a category and class of aircraft (or set of aircraft) operations in ground and flight conditions having the appropriate range of capabilities and systems installed in the device as described” by the AC. They come in two basic flavors: basic and advanced. Approval of an ATD like the Redbird LD pictured at right is at the FAA’s discretion. (Redbird’s LD is FAA-approved as an Advanced ATD.)

Fuelish Behavior

Over time, many of the features in a personal airplane cockpit have become more or less standardized. Power controls are color- and shape-coded, flight instruments consistently work the same way and when we push on the pitch control, houses get bigger. Not so much for many other controls, especially those for important systems. The Cessna 172 you learned to fly in probably had electric flaps and a fuel selector with a BOTH position. It was about as simple as simple got; the only time one needed to select an individual time was when we were going for maximum range and wanted to run a tank dry.

Losing Control Is Easy

It was a warm, blustery late-spring day in Texas. Visibility was restricted by the haze, and the afternoon’s updrafts were in full bloom. The whole package made the air hot, bumpy and thick. I had a multi-engine checkride scheduled in a few days, so my instructor and I were aloft in the Piper Seneca I that I’d been using and were up to no good, trying to buff out the rough spots. This was for a commercial multi-engine checkride and emphasized instrument work.

Switch Hunts

Beech Model 65 Queen Air Failed Gear Limit Switch Landing gear limit switch (p/n MS250261) failed to stop motor during retraction, causing landing gear circuit breaker to pop. Aircraft landed without incident. Re-rigged the switch IAW maintenance manual. Retraction test and ops check okay. Part total time: Unknown

Risk And Benefit

I much appreciated Robert Wright's May 2018 article, “Risk Assessment Tools.” We use a version of a flight risk assessment tool in our flying club, and while I agree that numerical values should not be the sole criteria for the go, no-go decision, the process does provide a checklist of sorts for decision-making. The most valuable risk assessment tool I use is not found on any web site or aviation app, but is the application of a simple philosophy: If I have to analyze a go, no-go decision for more than a few seconds, it is a sure sign that the risk requires serious mitigation or a willingness to stay safely on the ground.

NTSB Reports

At the conclusion of the photo mission, the airplanes approached the airport from the north. At this time, the accident pilot transmitted a “Mayday” call and stated he intended to land on Runway 14. The other Thunder Mustang’s pilot observed the accident airplane over the runway. As it neared the end of the runway, it veered off the right side and nosed over, coming to rest inverted. The cockpit canopy was shattered, and the pilot’s helmet “appeared to be impinged against the gravel surface,” according to the NTSB.

Cranky Pilots

My Debonair had to go to the avionics shop recently for its 24-month pitot/static and transponder checks, and to diagnose an autopilot that wouldn’t. As I feared, autopilot system components had to go out for factory attention, and the removal work would take longer than my schedule allowed. So I left the airplane and Uber’d home. Before I had the free time to retrieve the airplane, my part of Florida was seeing a constant flow of moisture and showers coming in from the Gulf of Mexico.

Download The Full July 2018 Issue PDF

People wouldn’t fly personal aircraft—or participate in many other activities—if there weren’t benefits. That’s human nature. Some benefits we seek by taking risks are intangible and hard to quantify. Others can be readily identified and weighted. It’s a calculus we all employ daily in mundane ways. However, the problem isn’t that we fail to assess benefits when we analyze risk. Instead, the issue is the inaccurate values we assign on both sides of the equation.

Download The Full August 2018 Issue PDF

My Debonair had to go to the avionics shop recently for its 24-month pitot/static and transponder checks, and to diagnose an autopilot that wouldn’t. As I feared, autopilot system components had to go out for factory attention, and the removal work would take longer than my schedule allowed. So I left the airplane and Uber’d home. Before I had the free time to retrieve the airplane, my part of Florida was seeing a constant flow of moisture and showers coming in from the Gulf of Mexico.

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