Subscribers Only - That was when I realized that my system had stopped charging. Not only was the weather collapsing, but the location I had just departed had limited maintenance options and expected severe thunderstorms with hail the following day. From my previous loss of electron flow, I knew I could do a great deal in this different airplane’s cockpit to manage power consumption, plus I was flying steam gauges that didn’t need electrons. “Plus it was Mother’s Day weekend, so continuing to a destination with known good weather required less decision making than finding an alternate airport with services.
Back in August, AOPA’s Air Safety Institute released the latest of its Nall Reports, an in-depth look at a year’s GA accidents. The newest Nall Report, the 25th, looked at 2013’s accidents and found the rate of fatal GA accidents had dropped below one in 100,000 for the first time. Ever. That’s a big deal, especially if it turns out the next few year’s numbers are similar.
Subscribers Only - In August and September of 1990, my family and I flew a Cessna T310R from the Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y. (KHPN), to Frankfurt, Germany, via Goose Bay, Godhab, Reykjavik, Liverpool and Paris, then back to KHPN. Included were several side trips around Europe. Adrian is a lot braver than I, doing it in a single. The only advantage he had was GPS navigation. I had a portable GPS that seldom got a hit.
Subscribers Only - On the first occasion, I was on an IFR flight plan departing into an 800-foot ceiling on my way to a destination reporting clear skies. At some point, I would clear the fog layer covering the inversion and find those clear skies, I just didn’t know exactly where the layer would burn off. On departure I passed through the 500-foot-thick layer and was soon in VMC on top. Tops were at roughly 6500 feet and I was cruising along at 8500 with nothing but blue skies above me and a flat layer of white tops 2000 feet below.
Veteran pilots know better, because they’ve learned that stalls are a normal part of flying, neither an aberration nor abnormal. They realize and understand stalls are simply what happens at the lowest end of an aircraft’s normal flight envelope. Stalls when not wanted, not needed, at the wrong time, wrong place bend airplanes and break people. Which brings us to the first and most-important rule to remember about stalls: A stall can occur at any airspeed, in any attitude and at any power setting, from dead engine through full power.
While there are differing statistics regarding causes of aircraft fire-related accidents, it is safe to say that aircraft maintenance and pre-flight actions by the pilot play a significant role in most such events. And since the chances of surviving an in-flight fire without major injury or death are poor, preventing a fire from occurring in the first place should be Job One. Pilots can memorize procedures, talk about scenarios and what-ifs, but when it is all said and done, avoiding one starts on the ground.
Subscribers Only - Understanding how drones—in FAA parlance, an unmanned aircraft system (UAS) is sometimes called a drone—are used is the first step toward avoiding an unexpected and unwanted encounter. In its recently released Part 107 regulations on commercial use of UAS, the FAA focused on small UAS, craft weighing under 55 pounds. Given their numbers and popularity, this is the class of systems with which we should be most concerned.
Subscribers Only - The controller finally was able to clear me to the locale’s minimum vectoring altitude (MVA—see the sidebar on the opposite page) of 1600 feet msl and soon I broke out of the stratus layer into good VMC underneath. I could see a few lights on the ground, but the runway was out of sight, behind me. Since I was still IFR and on a vector, I couldn’t just go zooming around out here, looking for the airport, without canceling IFR. And I didn’t want to cancel until I was relatively sure I didn’t need it anymore.
Subscribers Only - We’ve previously reported on the FAA’s plans to eliminate its very familiar flight plan form with one aligned with the Internal Civila Aviation Organization (ICAO) standards. The ICAO form is and has been required for international flights. Beginning in early 2017, it will be necessary for filing domestic flight plans, too, both IFR and VFR, as well as DVFR and for the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) surrounding Washington, D.C. The switchover was to occur earlier this year, then it was to go into effect on October 1.
Subscribers Only - Depending on the controller and his/her workload, plus how professional you sound on the radio, ATC may offer to fix the problem immediately. A controller can prompt you for enough information to enter your plan into the system directly, without you needing to chase down someone else on the phone or another frequency to re-file. If you can do it with your cell-connected tablet and an EFB app, try it. Otherwise, you’ll have to figure out a way to contact Flight Service and file all over again. Of course, you can depart VFR instead of IFR. If the weather is good, that’s an option, and you can raise Flight Service on the radio once you’re airborne and file, then call ATC for the clearance.
Subscribers Only - The flight instructor set the airplane up for simulated engine failure by pulling out the carburetor heat control and reducing throttle to 1200 rpm. The student pilot followed emergency procedures, used the checklist and prepared to land. After the carburetor heat control was pushed back in and the throttle advanced, there was a sudden loss of power; efforts to restart the engine were unsuccessful. The airplane collided with the fence during the landing.
Subscribers Only - Once I started the engine and made it to the runup area, the Dynon D-180 registered about 10 gallons in the selected right tank (I have a Lycoming O-235-L2C engine installed and typically I burn about 5-6 gallons an hour). I thought it was peculiar, but I attributed the loss of five gallons to starting, taxi and runup. I took off and headed the 30 miles to my practice area.
Subscribers Only - Pilot observed smoke in the cockpit, declared emergency and landed normally. Inspection of the right engine compartment revealed the muffler’s aft wall was missing and exhaust was directed onto the battery box. Hot exhaust melted the battery and battery contactor, clock fuse holder, both battery cables and boots. The gascolator push/pull control knob was melted.