August 2015


Subscribers Only - Let’s face it: the brakes on typical general aviation airplanes pretty much suck. That’s what happens when you try to stop 2000-plus pounds of airplane at 70 knots with only two six-inch disc brakes that haven’t been serviced lately. It’s going to take longer and be a bit more exciting than with the SUV parked in your hangar.

Is This Even Reportable?

Subscribers Only - If what just happened meets certain NTSB definitions, they’ll want immediate notification. And even if your event wasn’t an accident, they still may request you submit a report by completing NTSB Form 6120.1, Pilot/Operator Aircraft Accident/Incident Report. It’s always a good idea to consult with counsel before filing any such form, and you have up to 10 days. But there’s a good chance what happened doesn’t require notification. How can you tell? The NTSB rules do a pretty good job of laying it out.

An Ounce Of Prevention

Subscribers Only - While this article targets what to do post-crunch, it can’t hurt to think a little about how to avoid having to worry about the whole issue. As briefly and bluntly as possible, if you want to avoid an accident the data clearly show the single most effective way to do so is to take regular recurrent training. Take an hour of dual every six months—it will cut your risk of damaging an airplane substantially. Better still, get involved with and stay current in the FAA WINGS program. The accident rate for pilots who do so is so close to zero; it’s astonishing.

Abort-Analysis Checklist

It’s up to the airplane to demonstrate to us it’s capable of performing on takeoff. And it’s up to us to ensure it’s doing what it’s supposed to do and, if not, to abort the takeoff and live to fly another time. At most of the airports from which we fly, even a runway overrun, like the one pictured above, results in no or minimal damage.

Is Busting a Void Time A BIG Deal?

Subscribers Only - A typical IFR clearance from a non-towered airport will usually go something like this: “N12345 is cleared to Podunk Airport via runway heading to 2000 then as filed. Climb and maintain 5000; expect 10,000 one-zero minutes after departure. Contact center on 123.45; squawk 1234. Time now:1620. Clearance void if not off by 1630. If not off by 1630, advise intentions by 1640. You’re released.” That gives you 10 minutes to get airborne. Is that enough? What does “off” mean? What if it takes you 12 minutes to take off after being released? What will ATC do?

From The NTSB

Subscribers Only - The private pilot in a light, single-engine airplane was taxiing toward the runway. The pilot observed a four-engine military C-130 that appeared to be doing an engine run-up, about 300 feet to the left of his taxiway. Seeing the implications of this setup, the pilot asked ground control for further taxi instructions. The controller cleared him to proceed behind the C-130 at his discretion. The pilot continued to taxi behind the C-130 and the plane subsequently blew sideways and overturned.

Rotor Wash

Dealing with prop wash or jet blast is relatively straightforward: It is directed behind the aircraft. Wingtip vortices are a bit more complicated, but still they are easy enough to visualize. Helicopter rotorwash can almost be seen as a hybrid blend of the two. A recent accident at a Colorado airport implicated the rotor wash from a Blackhawk helicopter in the pattern with a Cirrus. It did not end well for the Cirrus, which dragged a wing tip and cartwheeled while in the landing flare. The drift of rotor wash from the recently departed Blackhawk is suspected as a contributing factor.

Killer Factors On Instrument Takeoffs

An instrument takeoff is just like any other takeoff, except when it isn’t. The self-imposed pressures of a clearance void time, a distant appointment or passenger expectations can mean we’ll ignore or minimize the importance of ensuring the airplane is ready, even when we need to the most. Some common problems are discussed below.

Privatize ATC?

Every few years, the law Congress uses to set the FAA’s agenda and priorities expires, creating demand for a new aviation bill in Congress. The last one was enacted in 2012 but only after non-essential FAA functions were shut down when the previous version expired without an extension. That law expires this coming September 30, and Congress will be wrestling with options this summer.

Crosswinds On Rails

I enjoyed Jeb Burnside's article, “Crosswinds On Rails,” in the July issue and some further suggestions about crosswind landings, plus a correction:

Blowin’ In The Wind

Subscribers Only - When your plane is stationary, it’s a good time to consider Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion, regarding inertia. It essentially tells us a great deal of energy is required to convert your airplane’s gross weight at rest into your airplane’s gross weight in motion. In other words, it takes a lot of throttle to get things moving. When your advance the throttle(s)is the time to think about Newton’s Third Law of Motion, which states a force in one direction creates an equal force in the opposite direction.

Timed-Out Takeoffs

I’ve not found any published data on the subject, but after years or reading accident reports I’ve formed the opinion that pilots making takeoffs that will be followed by a flight on an IFR flight plan may unconsciously add a little more “I gotta go come hell or high water” attitude than their normal, Type A, mission-completion orientation to the decision-making process.

Some Weight In The Back?

Subscribers Only - You shouldn’t have gotten through private pilot ground school without understanding that, for the same power and weight, minimizing drag will result in an increased airspeed. A gross example might be the difference in airspeed with flaps extended at, say, 55-percent power and when they’re retracted. Of course, no one cruises with flaps extended, but you may inadvertently be adding to the airplane’s total drag in cruise when you load it.


Subscribers Only - The bumper sticker tells us a bad day flying is better than a good day at the office. I think most pilots would agree, however, there can be bad days flying and there can be really bad days flying. If the latter involves bending an airplane, there are things to do after the airplane stops and the dust cloud departs. There also are things you can to help prevent the event in the first place. Once “something” happens, however, your priorities need to change.

In-Cockpit Wireless

That brand-new, touch-screen GPS navigator in your panel? It’s obsolete. Oh, it’s got the latest WAAS GPS receiver and more processing power than its forebears, and it’ll tackle any navigation task from an ILS to a holding pattern to a complicated departure procedure, But its display likely is a generation or two removed from what anyone can buy today in the form of a smartphone or tablet computer.

Fly Safe

Subscribers Only - On June 6, at AOPA’s Homecoming Fly-In, the association and the FAA formally kicked off a new program focused on improving general aviation safety. Dubbed “Fly Safe,” the FAA’s campaign will be highlighting GA accident causes and solutions in partnership with AOPA and other industry organizations. The agency says preventing GA fatalities is one of its top priorities, with the goal of reducing the GA fatal accident rate by 10 percent over a 10-year period (2009-2018). Noting that loss of control (LOC)—mainly stalls—accounts for the largest number of GA accidents, the new program will start there.

Tight Circle

Subscribers Only - Circling an airport after an instrument approach procedure (IAP) to land on a runway other than the one aligned with the IAP is something all instrument-rated pilots have practiced. It’s a maneuver that places an airplane relatively close to the ground—sometimes at half the traffic-pattern altitude—and can require steeply banked turns.

NTSB Reports: August 2015

Subscribers Only - At about 1730 Central time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a forced landing to a field following total loss of engine power during cruise flight. The airline transport pilot and passenger were not injured. Visual conditions prevailed. About 15 minutes after adding 30 gallons of fuel at an en-route fuel stop and while cruising at 3500 feet msl, the engine lost all power. Emergency procedures weren’t successful and the pilot selected a field for an emergency landing due to utility wires surrounding the adjacent roads. The touchdown was normal, but the field included rough terrain, which resulted in the nosegear collapsing before the airplane came to rest upright.

Pop Goes The Loran

The takeoff and departure for the planned flight in a borrowed Cessna 172 proceeded normally. The airplane was equipped with two nav/comms plus a Loran navigator, but no autopilot. Soon, we had climbed into an overcast layer with moderate rain and were at 9000 feet over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The airplane was performing well and we were in IMC and steady rain.


This aircraft was equipped with a turbonormalizing system, which requires a fuel pump with an aneroid compensator to regulate the mixture replaces the original pump. On this installation, the “fuel mixture cam profile was erroneous.” Fuel flow rate increased normally from idle cutoff to approx 80 percent of mixture-lever range of motion where fuel flow is at maximum. Then the fuel ratio decreases as lever continues toward maximum position: 80 percent mixture provides 37.5 gph; 100 percent provides 35.5 gph.