October 2015

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NTSB Reports: October 2015

At about 1745 Central time, the airplane lost engine power shortly after takeoff. The airplane impacted trees and was substantially damaged. The solo private pilot was seriously injured. Visual conditions prevailed. The FAA reported the pilot was doing touch-and-goes. The engine lost power and the airplane impacted trees and terrain about a mile southeast of the airport. The airplane’s empennage separated from the fuselage, and there was “heavy” damage to the right wing and fuselage.

A Classic Case

I remember the first time I flew in less-than-VFR conditions. I had a very fresh private pilot certificate and was en route in a Skyhawk, probably at 3500 feet msl. There was a shower between me and my destination, dropping visibility to less than three miles. My heading would take me under it and through the rain shaft. There was no traffic around. I could almost see what was on the other side before entering it, so I kept on going. For the experience, of course. I had ground contact throughout, and there was clear air 90 degrees and 15 seconds to my right. Coincidentally, I wasn’t far from this month’s accident site.

Flight Service Changes

Subscribers Only - Saying it is responding to “a shift in users’ preferences for automated services,” the FAA in August announced it will discontinue the so-called Flight Watch radio service, also known as En Route Flight Advisory Service, or EFAS, available nationwide on 122.0 MHz. Flight Watch will be discontinued about the time you read this, on September 24, 2015, although the frequency will be monitored for an additional six months, presumably to tell pilots trying to use it to do a better job of preflight planning.

Why A PBF Is Different from Your Last Cross-Country

It’s one thing to load up family and friends who have flown with you before and launch for the beach, but it’s quite another to board strangers with no knowledge of personal aircraft, what’s about to happen or the additional risk present compared to a flight on scheduled airliner. Some tips:


Cessna Model 172S Skyhawk SP Frayed Control Cable During an annual inspection, an aileron control cable (p/n 0510105-364) was found worn at the pulley cluster (p/n S378-4) in the center overhead ceiling area. Cable must be rotated so access can be gained where cable rests on the pulley at the six o’clock position. The cable wear is not easy to see and a strong magnifying device must be used. …

Diversion Decisions

It was a stormy day over South Florida, and just as I was near my destination, a late afternoon thundershower decided to camp out over it. The storm wasn’t moving, so I diverted to a nearby non-towered airport. I’d never visited it before, so I rationalized it: I was multi-tasking. My divert field was VFR, so I cancelled IFR and tuned the CTAF. I was number two for the airport until a bizjet called in on an umpteen-mile final and the guy in front decided to let him go first. Once I finally landed, I discovered a pleasant, well-equipped FBO and settled in to wait for the destination’s weather to improve.


Subscribers Only - In September’s issue, we ran a small article about NASA’s crash-testing of three Cessna 172s as it researches emergency locator transmitter (ELT) technologies and mountings. A sidebar with that article published still images from an in-cabin video of a test, highlighting the value of shoulder harnesses for occupant protection.

Bank Angle Vs. G Force

If I see one more graph or chart showing that if I’m in a 60-degree bank (“Maneuvering Stalls,” September 2015), I must be pulling 2G, I think I’ll throw up. Presenting this data is an indication of competence in trigonometry but someone is not paying attention to the real world of airplane flying.

Public Benefit Flying Safety

Subscribers Only - Donating your time, skill and aircraft (rented or owned) as a volunteer pilot supporting a public benefit organization can be the most rewarding flying you ever do. Whether it’s medical transport (by far the largest segment), environmental and conservation support, search and rescue, emergency response, pet transport or one of the many other types of public benefit flying, you can help others doing something you love while clearly demonstrating the value and capabilities of general aviation.

Get Some Air Under You

Since we usually can’t see unlit objects at night, there’s an increased risk of controlled flight into terrain, CFIT, and the plain, old-fashioned collision with an obstacle. One way to help minimize the risk of CFIT at night is simple: fly higher. And one way to do that is use IFR minimum altitudes even when VFR.

Preventive Maintenance Resources

Subscribers Only - As this article’s main text discusses, an owner-pilot needs more reference materials than the aircraft’s pilot operating handbook if he or she expects to perform any preventive maintenance tasks correctly and legally. In addition to the approved maintenance manual and parts catalog for both the aircraft and its engine(s), check out these references, available on the FAA Web site:

Performing Typical PM Tasks: Stuff You Need

Subscribers Only - There’s a right way and a wrong way to do anything, and when it comes to your own aircraft, you want to do it right the first time. Regardless of the task, you need manufacturer’s specifications on things like oil filters, tire sizes, engine oil grades, spark plug types and hydraulic fluid, to name a few. Don’t forget plenty of shop towels.

DIY Maintenance?

Subscribers Only - It’s no secret aircraft owners routinely complain about the high cost of maintaining their flying machines (even though hourly labor and parts prices at their local auto dealer’s service department can easily be more expensive). The good news is owners can perform many routine tasks themselves. The bad news is the typical owner-pilot has no business whatsoever tinkering with his airplane. And even a basic task can require tools, supplies and reference materials the typical owner doesn’t have. Acquiring them costs money, which might be better spent with your local maintenance shop.

Personal Minimums?

Subscribers Only - We typically don’t recommend establishing hard weather or runway minimums. Why refuse to fly an ILS to 200 and a half if the tops are at 500?

Using Ground Effect

The lack of respect many pilots give to ground effect sort of makes it the Rodney Dangerfield of aerodynamics. It’s that momentary sag right after takeoff, and that little bit of float on landing. We know about it, but it’s often an afterthought: “Oh, that’s how I screwed up that flare.” We all should know ground effect is only encountered...well, close to a flat surface, be it liquid or solid, but sometimes we forget.

Breaking Out

Subscribers Only - I clearly remember my first experience breaking out on final after an instrument approach. It was late Thanksgiving, on the second leg of a seven-hour cross-country. At the time, I was an IFR noob with very little experience flying “in the system,” much less in actual IMC. I had been flying above a cloud layer, but with an hour remaining in my flight and the sun setting, the deck had finally sealed off my view of the ground. Fortunately, temperatures were warm, the layer was only a few thousand feet thick and the bases were reported at 1800 feet agl. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to experience breaking out without being anywhere near IFR minimums.

Cockpit Lighting Choices

In recent years, there’s been a move away from using red-colored lighting to illuminate cockpits, often in favor of low-intensity greenish-blue light. The reasons are numerous, but boil down to the fact rods in our retinas are most sensitive to that green/blue wavelength. But that’s not the whole story.

Up At Night

Night flying can be the most rewarding kind available to mere mortals. Twinkling stars above, perhaps a full moon in close formation, and well-lit ground features can be wondrous. Too, the air generally is smoother and there’s less traffic. The frequency is quieter and ATC can give you more attention, while what traffic there is can be easier to spot. And an aircraft will perform better in cooler air. Humans will, too, but that’s about the only benefit we realize at night.

Looking For Anything Special?

Subscribers Only - Breaking out of an approach can be a high-workload situation, in which we’re dividing our attention between flying the airplane and looking for the runway environment. At that point, FAR 91.175(c) tells us there are three requirements we need to meet before descending below the DA/DH or MDA:

Five Things To Get Right On Your Next Flight

Subscribers Only - It is said a pilot cannot conduct a flight without violating at least one FAA regulation somewhere along the way. Advocates look no farther than FAR 91.103, which requires a pilot to become “familiar with all available information” (emphasis added) pertaining to a flight before taking off, which simply isn’t possible these days. If one equates FAR compliance with safety, that means at some point during the flight, we’re unsafe. We don’t buy that, and can think of many situations where at least bending a FAR can be the safer action, and when violating one really should be the least of our worries.