January 2017

Download the Full January 2017 Issue PDF

Subscribers Only - Until recently, the constituency comprising LBA operations was paid little attention by the major aviation organizations. Most general aviation pilots affiliated themselves with either the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) or the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). Most of those organizations’ members, especially in EAA, often do not fly for personal or business transportation purposes. The heavy-iron two-pilot corporate jets already were well represented by the NBAA.

Is See-And-Avoid Dead?

The NTSB’s recent Safety Alert suggests pilots should consider increased use of technological solutions to help prevent midair collisions. The NTSB is encouraging pilots and aircraft owners to adopt and use capabilities like ADS-B In’s free traffic information service, otherwise known as TIS-B. I’ve been flying with TIS-B for a couple of years now and there’s no question it identifies nearby traffic. When I recently installed an L-3 Lynx NGT-9000 ADS-B In/Out transponder in my airplane, having TIS-B front and center was a key reason I had the shop mount the new box high in the avionics stack instead of at the bottom where my previous transponder lived.

“No Noticeable Damage”

Subscribers Only - I read your magazine every month and have never written a letter on an article in my life, but will now. In the December 2016 issue, the first NTSB report involved a Van’s RV-6 Experimental. The report states “the commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured; the airplane was destroyed...there was no noticeable damage to the field’s corn stalks”. Really? Someone should care about the corn stalks? Everything else was destroyed, including lives, but the corn stalks made it!

Light Business Aircraft

Subscribers Only - Single-pilot IFR (SPIFR) used to be a thing, back in the days before things like headsets, autopilots, moving maps and automated navigation became widespread. Journals like this one often carried articles urging pilots to pay attention to things like backup instrumentation, cockpit organization and fatigue to help minimize its risk. While these factors remain important, increased automation, improved procedures and charting, and training that recognizes SPIFR’s do-it-all imperative—among other evolutionary changes—have combined to make the practice much more prevalent and accepted today.

Fuel Systems 101

The good news about fuel-related accidents is they seem to be stable in occurrence year over year, and perhaps trending slightly downward. It’s a bit too soon to tell if a recent downturn is an aberration or the new normal, but we’ll know more in a couple of years. The bad news is they continue to be preventable. In fact, a thorough understanding of the fuel system for the aircraft you fly is critical to further minimizing these kinds of accidents. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the three basic categories of fuel-related accidents—planning, systems operation and contamination, according to the AOPA Air Safety Institute’s 25th Nall Report—seem to occur more frequently as aircraft system complexity increases.

Emergencies Are Analog

Subscribers Only - Over the years, I’ve had my share of urgent situations, events that were abnormal and required ending a flight in a fashion other than was planned or performing a checklist from the flight manual’s emergencies section. These events never really turned into full-fledged emergencies, but “emergency” is defined by the person experiencing it. Most of us have experienced such episodes—peaking oil temperature, a rough-running engine, an unsafe landing gear indication. The outcome is more likely to be frustrated phone calls from unfamiliar airports, plus unscheduled underwear changes, than an accident report.

Climbing On Top

The day of my departure, I had one good sign. The area forecast predicted tops at between 12,000-14,000 feet. That’s a familiar forecast for the time of year, and I find it enjoyable to fly over a cotton-like cloud deck. It was also well within my airplane’s capability, and I had a four-place oxygen bottle that had been recently topped off. Looking at the satellite data, Metars and TAFs at my destination, it appeared to be clear on the far end of my route.

Pegging Performance

Subscribers Only - Remember when you were a primary student, learning to land? When you were abeam the runway numbers on downwind, your instructor probably taught you to pull the power off to begin slowing down. Then you deployed flaps and began the descent, nailing the desired airspeeds and following the pattern to the runway. If you did it right, made your turns at the correct points and reduced power to the optimal setting, you wouldn’t need to touch the throttle again until flaring over the runway.

NTSB Takes On Midair Collisions

In the aftermath of its investigations into recent midair collisions the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in November released guidance for pilots stressing “the inherent limitations” of the long-standing see-and-avoid practice and urging adoption of technological solutions. The NTSB’s guidance is found in Safety Alert SA-058, Prevent Midair Collisions: Don’t Depend on Vision Alone. The Safety Alert is available in the PDF file format free for the download at tinyurl.com/SAF058.

Altitude? Or Speed?

Subscribers Only - Last year, I flew maybe 40 hours in piston twins, building time and getting through a checkride. With a bunch of experience in the IFR system flying high-performance singles, keeping up with the twins I was flying—and planning ahead and managing their systems, even in the busiest airspace—was relatively easy. Performing the engine-failure drills, the VMC and drag demonstrations, and practicing various other systems failures also were relatively easy, thanks to my experience in complex airplanes.

NTSB Reports: January 2017

Subscribers Only - At about 0925 Central time, the airplane was destroyed after impacting trees and terrain during final approach. The pilot and the child passenger were seriously injured. Visual conditions prevailed. Initial reports showed the airplane experienced a complete loss of engine power when about one-half mile from the runway. During the accident sequence, both wings were separated at the wing root and the fuselage came to rest upright about 20 feet beyond initial impact with trees. The airplane was immediately involved in a fire. The pilot removed the child passenger, exited the airplane and walked to a nearby rural residence.

Muscle Memory

Subscribers Only - Have you encountered a situation or hazardous condition that yielded lessons on how to better manage the risks involved in flying? Do you have an experience to share with Aviation Safety’s readers about an occasion that taught you something significant about ways to conduct safer flight operations? If so, we want to hear about it.

Drive Shafts

On attempting to start the engine for a post-maintenance ground run, the propeller turned through approximately three blades then stopped. Propeller was difficult to rotate forward or backward. Inspection of the starter’s Bendix drive shaft revealed cracks in the gear running parallel to the teeth, causing the gear not to properly mesh with the flywheel.