June 2016

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Subscribers Only - The wreckage path extended about 185 feet; the propeller, various engine components, and pieces associated with both left and right wings were located along it. The main wreckage was completely consumed by post-impact fire, precluding detailed examination of the cockpit instruments, flight control surfaces and control tubes. One propeller blade was fractured near the hub; the other two blades exhibited s-bending, leading edge gouging and chordwise scratching.

I’m Not That Good

So I got into one of those internet discussions with other pilots about airplane performance. The focus was on a 2100-foot-long grass strip near sea level and how well a Bonanza would handle it. We didn’t disagree on the typical Bonanza’s ability to get in or out, but I think some people might be a bit more optimistic about such things than I am.

Severe-Clear IFR?

Subscribers Only - After earning my instrument rating, I took my CFII’s advice to heart and have filed IFR religiously on virtually every flight since my checkride eight years ago. I do it because I noticed that I am more “tuned up” for IFR flight than I am when flying VFR. My preflight planning is more thorough and my cockpit is more organized.

Revisiting JFK, Jr.

After his airplane was reported overdue and missing, it took three days for searchers to locate the underwater crash site using side-scan sonar, and cable news breathlessly reported every development. This media event practically begged viewers to ask themselves, “If someone with JFK, Jr.’s resources can’t fly a well-equipped small airplane, what chances do I have, or the person I met last night at that cocktail party?” So, what to tell your in-laws or dinner-party guests, that’s both accurate and reassuring?

Turn Fundamentals

Subscribers Only - Arguably the most challenging of all the Wright Brothers’ multiple successes involved mastering roll control. Pitch and yaw came relatively easy, but absent the ability to command a roll for a coordinated turn, aviation could go nowhere—at least nowhere near the intended heading. Their solution—wing warping—allowed for affirmative roll control and completed their mastery over all three axes.

IFR In The Mountains

Subscribers Only - A cardinal rule of mountain flying is to always be mindful of places where the terrain climbs faster than the airplane, and then avoid them. This isn’t exclusively a backcountry issue—you don’t have to fly in the Western U.S. or in the mountains to get bitten—there are plenty of airports on the U.S. East Coast where we can run into things if we can’t climb well enough or if we stray off the published route, whether IFR or VFR.

Run It Dry?

Subscribers Only - Way back in the mid-1980s, when I purchased a 1946 Cessna 120—the same week I earned my private pilot certificate—I received my taildragger checkout from Mr. W.E. Dierking in Higginsville, Mo. “Dirk” had taught U.S. Navy cadets in Waco biplanes during WWII, and he sure taught me a lot about flying! One of the techniques Dirk suggested was to take off with the fuel selector on the left tank (there was no “both” position in the ’46 Cessna), fly for an hour, and write down the time aloft.

Inoperative Equipment

Subscribers Only - The overall reason we conduct a preflight inspection is to verify everything on the airplane is both present and working. We check fluids, tire and strut inflation, look for damage and wiggle things like ailerons and rudders to ensure they’re working as they should. Once we’re satisfied the airplane is ready to fly, we mount up and launch. But what if we find a piece of equipment that’s not working? Can we still fly?

FAA Deregulation Picks Up Speed

Subscribers Only - If the U.S. general aviation industry has its way, a new FAA framework for certificating aircraft and components—including the ways new equipment is installed on in-service aircraft—would be in place by the end of the year. That’s one of the goals expressed in a joint statement supporting a proposed rewrite of the agency’s Part 23 rules, those under which small airplanes are certificated and equipment for them is approved.

Fifteen Miles

From a risk-management standpoint, short hops don’t get the respect they deserve. For an experienced pilot, it’s hard to get too worked up about a 10- or 15-minute jaunt from one airport to another one close by. Yet short hops of such duration often come with a high workload, especially in a complex airplane or in complex airspace.

NTSB Reports

Subscribers Only - During his second solo flight, the student pilot encountered a gust of wind during the landing flare. The airplane ballooned and then bounced twice on its nosewheel. After the second bounce, the student pilot applied full power and aborted the landing. The subsequent landing was uneventful and he taxied to the ramp. Post-accident examination revealed substantial damage to the firewall.

Optionally Piloted Aircraft

Subscribers Only - Owning an airplane always was a dream of mine, one I recently was able to realize. Like so many others, I spent many years renting, and borrowing or participating in flying clubs, as I learned to fly and use an airplane both fun and travel. But there’s no free lunch, and owning an airplane brings responsibilities and hassles. They’re mostly worthwhile, of course.

Aircraft Engine Starters

Subscribers Only - Installed a rebuilt starter adapter and overhauled starter. On starting, the prop turned about 10 degrees and stopped. Pilot then smelled a burning odor and could not shut off the battery. The cowling was removed but the battery box was too hot to touch. Using gloves, the battery was disconnected.