July 2016

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Subscribers Only - While an FBO might have policies, published hours and options galore for the wayfaring airman, at many airports, the lowly line man or woman is your first and last line of defense when you are up against any of the scenarios he mentioned, and a host more. They can make or break your trip, and they know it. How much he or she cares may very well be tied to how you treated them the last time your presence graced their ramp.

Best. Nordo. Ever.

Subscribers Only - Earlier in the year, I found myself headed toward Albany, N.Y., to visit a long-time pilot-friend and play with airplanes. I was flying a second friend’s airplane, IFR, and being vectored for a visual approach through a cloud deck. All of a sudden, I can hear ATC, but they can’t hear me. So I reached down between the front seats for the handheld mic—but there is no handheld mic. There’s a bracket, but nothing on it.

More on JFK, Jr.

Subscribers Only - Kennedy’s current logbook was not located. The NTSB used “records from training facilities, copies of flight instructors’ logbooks, and statements from instructors and pilots to estimate the pilot’s total flight experience ...at about 310 hours, of which 55 hours were at night.” His “estimated flight time in the accident airplane was about 36 hours, of which 9.4 hours were at night.

As Safe As The Airlines?

Subscribers Only - Scheduled passenger airlines in the U.S. have achieved an incredible level of safety. Domestic passenger operations under FAR Part 121 have achieved an unheard-of record: a near-zero fatality rate since 2010. Most of us presume general aviation operations under Part 91 never can approach this level of safety without draconian over-regulation. And most of us may be correct. It was never about the regulations, of course.

Proficiency On A Budget

Deep down, most pilots would admit they need more practice and instruction than they get. I know there have been lapses in my skills over the years, and as equipment and operating rules change, I have had to spend more time on learning how to use and benefit from them. Like many pilots, I like to train and would do it more often, except for the time and the expense. In reality, most of us have two training budgets, each with limitations: a financial budget and a time budget. Admitting it’s often difficult to increase allotments to either without significantly and adversely affecting other parts of our lives, how can we get the most benefit from the time and money we do have for flying? How can we realistically assure proficiency on a budget?

Course Reversals

Subscribers Only - The good news about this plan was the VOR/DME procedure we wanted to fly into Winter Haven used LAL as an initial approach fix. The middling news was we were doing this at 2700 feet msl, 700 feet above the minimum crossing altitude at LAL, to stay above KLAL’s Class D, which tops out at 2600. So I’d need to carefully pull the plug after crossing LAL to ensure I could get down to the MDA before getting too close to the airport. But the hold at LAL coming off the miss at VDF had us going the opposite direction, and we were trying to do this on our own, using published procedures.

3 Ways to Lose Control of An Airplane

Subscribers Only - We’ve always had stall/spin accidents. Today, refinements in data collection and analysis, plus improved aviation-accident taxonomy, have led the industry to adopt the loss of control in-flight, or LOC-I, nomenclature. Whatever its name, ICAO’s Common Taxonomy Team calls it “...an extreme manifestation of a deviation from intended flight path.” It leads the statistics for business, instructional and personal flying as the single most-prevalent cause of general aviation accidents.

Aircraft Ground Handling

It was an early departure from the Philadelphia (Pa.) International Airport (KPHL) back to home plate. Thanks to an in-flight encounter with severe turbulence two days earlier, which injured three of my passengers, it had been a memorable three-day trip. I was the pilot flying the 757 for our last leg. As we taxied out, we checked the winds one last time before taking Runway 27L. It was early morning, and ATC still was doing noise-abatement departures to the west even though the winds were out of the east at 7-8 knots. We had a tailwind limit of 10 knots, and we were fairly light, maybe just over 200,000 pounds. So we were good to go.

NTSB Looking At Future Pirep Improvements

Subscribers Only - New ways to improve pilot reports—Pireps, including their collection, dissemination and use—is the topic of a two-day forum the NTSB announced in early June. Entitled “PIREPs: Pay it Forward...Because Weather for One is Weather for None,” the forum is expected to draw other federal agencies, air carrier organizations, aviation associations and academics. Panel-discussion topics are set to include “the use and significance of Pirep information to weather services, air traffic controllers, pilots and researchers; the lifecycle of a Pirep; Pirep training, education and operations; and future improvements and emerging technologies for Pireps,” the NTSB said.

Unsecured Cargo

Subscribers Only - One of the things primary students learn early during their ground-school training—perhaps before they ever get into an airplane—is that the items loaded into it can weigh no more than a certain amount, and have to go in certain places. Overloading the aircraft, and/or placing heavy items far from its nominal center of gravity, is bad, they’re told. Somewhere along the way, it might also be explained that those items need to be secured. But the common way we load airplanes—especially those in which the passenger cabin and the cockpit are the same space—is to throw some soft-sided luggage in the baggage compartment, maybe throw some heavy things in the back seats or the floorboard behind the front seats, and light the fires. Little thought usually is given to whether those items should be secured, or how. That’s in sharp contrast to how we treat the passengers.

NTSB Reports: July 2016

Subscribers Only - The airplane was destroyed at 1456 Eastern time shortly after takeoff. The flight instructor, the private pilot receiving instruction and the pilot-rated passenger were seriously injured. Visual conditions were reported. An air traffic controller who witnessed the accident reported that, when the airplane was at about 400-500 feet agl, it made a sharp right turn followed by a sharp left turn. It then entered a steep nose-down descent before disappearing behind a tree line. An explosion followed. The controller recalled the airplane’s landing gear was retracted.

Three Strikes

Subscribers Only - It was a Labor Day weekend; my wife and I were anxious to attend the local street fair, as we did every year. Weather was hot and muggy, which was not uncommon for late August in northern Illinois, so we planned to do our shopping early. I had 99.6 hours in my logbook; at 100 hours, my insurance rate would drop. So I planned to get to the airport and fly early that morning for a half-hour, then get home and go shopping.

Bearings

Subscribers Only - When the aircraft was pulled out of its hangar for a morning flight, it would not start, due to a dead battery. After the battery was removed for charging, examination of the electrical system found the alternator belt had flipped over on the ring gear and when the prop was moved, the alternator pulley did not move. Alternator was removed and front bearing was discovered to have failed; shaft would not turn. New alternator and belt installed.