April 2015

About The MU-2

Subscribers Only - Mitsubishi’s MU-2 twin turboprop gained FAA type certification in 1965. Initial U.S. production and sales were handled through an arrangement with Mooney Aircraft from a facility in San Angelo, Texas. By 1969, Mooney had fallen on hard times—a familiar theme for the company—and Mitsubishi stepped in to continue production and support. Worldwide production of new airplanes ended in the 1980s, with more than 750 copies having been built.

Lessons From Two Fatals

Subscribers Only - On his first ILS approach, the pilot initially flew through the localizer. The pilot then reestablished the airplane on the final approach course, but about 500 feet too high. He executed a missed approach and received radar vectors for another approach. The airplane was inbound on the second approach when a witness saw the airplane about 150 feet agl in about a 60-degree nose-low attitude with about an 80-degree right bank angle. Probable Cause: “The pilot’s failure to maintain adequate airspeed during the instrument approach, which resulted in an aerodynamic stall and impact with terrain.”

Common Autopilot Errors And Cures

Subscribers Only - The errors described below are based on the author’s experience teaching pilots to use the Garmin G1000 with a GFC 700 autopilot, an attitude-based, two-axis system. They’re also applicable to other autopilot systems.

Don’t Ad Lib

Subscribers Only - The FAA warns us of hazardous attitudes, but it can be difficult to modulate our enthusiasm when the aviation videos and performances we aspire to replicate make advanced flying look easy. We respect aviators, like Bob Hoover, not for their timidity but for their boldness and demonstrated mastery of the art of flying. But how do they do it? How do the pilots we respect balance thrill-seeking with the payoff of doing what they do safely?

Backcountry Flying Challenges

Subscribers Only - My personal advanced goals mostly center around backcountry flying. I have had numerous initial and advanced courses, and I’ve been fortunate to be able to visit backcountry airstrips in California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Utah. The better I get at backcountry flying, the more places I’m able to visit safely and the more places I want to go.

Avoiding the Cross-Controlled Stall

Subscribers Only - According to the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-3A, “this type of stall occurs with the controls crossed—aileron pressure applied in one direction and rudder pressure in the opposite direction. In addition, when excessive back-elevator pressure is applied, a cross-control stall may result. This is a stall that is most apt to occur during a poorly planned and executed base-to-final approach turn, and often is the result of overshooting the centerline of the runway during that turn.” The greatest danger from the cross-controlled stall when turning final is not the stall itself but the lack of altitude available within which the pilot may recover.


Subscribers Only - While it would be foolhardy to attempt a challenging back-country landing if your only recent experience involves shooting ILSes, the same cannot be said for low-level maneuvering: It’s always a bad idea. In fact, low-level maneuvering, according to AOPA Air Safety Institute’s 23rd Joseph T. Nall Report, a regular look-see at general aviation accidents, is “one of the two leading causes of pilot-related fatalities.”

Now what’s it Doing?

Subscribers Only - Complete integration of autopilots into avionics system—formerly seen only in large transports—is becoming common in general aviation. For example, rather than a central autopilot computer/controller design as shown in Figure 1 on Page 13, the “intelligence” of Garmin’s GFC 700 flight control system is distributed among separate servos controlling pitch, roll and trim (and yaw damper in some installations). A G1000, for example, issues pitch and roll commands to a flight director (FD) depicted on its PFD’s attitude indicator.

The Non-Type-Rating-Rating Alternative

Subscribers Only - Consider what it takes for the FAA to deem one aircraft type so, well, finicky, for lack of a better word, that it warrants its own special federal aviation regulation setting out specific training requirements for its pilots. Part of the answer is reflected in the image above, of an MU-2’s upper wing surface. Note the multiple-slotted Fowler flap. One can just make out the spoiler used for roll control.

Highlights Of The FAA’s Proposal

Minimums/Maximums Small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) must weigh less than 55 lbs. (25 kg). Maximum airspeed of 100 mph (87 knots), maximum altitude of 500 feet agl. Minimum weather visibility of three miles from control station.

How Fast?

Subscribers Only - The speed at which we want to fly an ILS in a prop-driven airplane results from several variables, and it will be two speeds: one to fly from the FAF inbound and another to use after transitioning to visual references. There’s no upside to coming down the ILS or LPV slowly, down around VY. It ties up traffic and leaves no reserve energy for a missed approach climb. It’s usually easy to scrub off that speed when it’s time.

Autopilot Control System

Subscribers Only - A control system using feedback, whether an autopilot or a thermostat, is called a closed-loop system: the feedback closes the loop. Negative feedback, i.e., the result of a certain flight condition, inhibits its further performance.

ADS-B For Small Drones?

Putting ADS-B aboard small drones is not only possible, it’s already out there in limited volume. Sagetech Corp., which makes the Clarity and Clarity SV ADS-B portable receivers, has a line of micro transponders and ADS-B equipment. And we do mean micro. These devices are the size of a business card and about 0.7-inch thick. They weigh 100 grams, less antenna. That’s about the weight of a GoPro camera.

You Want That With Ice?

Subscribers Only - While we’re discussing the various precision approach scenarios, let’s think about what’s going to happen once we’ve acquired some airframe ice. The POH probably makes it clear flaps are a big no-no when landing with ice on the airframe. We’ve seen the NASA videos on tailplane stalls, so we know, intellectually, that adding any flap deflection at all, or slowing down, could very well jam us into the planet. We fly the ILS flaps-up, at the power setting that nailed the glideslope, until we roll the wheels on the runway.

PBOR 2.0

A recent conversation with friends about flight training generally and medical certificates in particular brought home for me how unnecessary the current requirements are for private operations, and how it has its roots in WWII.

Make Good Decisions

Every month I read and digest the NTSB reports in Aviation Safety with a knot in my stomach. Like most pilots, I recognize and value the opportunity to learn from the circumstances that result in so many unfortunate outcomes. While I will continue to appreciate your reporting of these often-tragic events, I wanted to point out how much I enjoyed Amy Laboda's article, “Making Your Own Luck,” in your January 2015 issue. If possible, I think you should print a monthly column that focuses on the excellent planning and decisions that lead to pilots safely and effectively overcoming an emergency situation. While we should continue to learn from the mistakes of others, we should also learn to emulate those who have done it right!

Drone FARs

The technology you have in your glass panel, smartphone and the tablet you use in the cockpit? It turns out the same hardware and software putting a blue dot on a moving map—and displaying an accurate artificial horizon—also can be used to operate a small, airborne robot: a drone. Formally known as an unmanned aircraft system, UAS, they’ve grown in sophistication and utility to the point Congress in 2012 told the FAA to come up with a framework integrating them into the national airspace system.

The Last 400 Feet

Subscribers Only - In many conversations with instrument instructors, I’ve noted a common concern about the way many pilots conclude practice precision approaches (ILS or GPS LPV) under the “hood”: They do a great job of keeping the needles near the center as decision altitude nears; airspeed, descent rate and heading all would be appropriate. But when the hood came off at DA and the pilot spotted the runway, it was Katie bar the door. What happened next can be summarized as a whirlwind of activity in the left seat as the power was yanked back, flap deflection increased and a dive for the runway threshold commenced. It was as if there were some sort of prize for landing short.

Autopilots And Their Errors

Subscribers Only - They go by different nicknames—“George” and “Otto” probably are the most popular—and have become an integral part of even a basic IFR platform’s standard equipment, especially when flown single-pilot. And because the latest high-tech versions on the market can do just about anything for you except eliminate a potty stop, they’ve proliferated throughout all segments of the general aviation fleet. “They,” of course, are autopilots—electromechanical systems used to control an aircraft, and available in a wide variety of configurations and capabilities from simple wing-levelers to full-blown flight directors rivaling the modern transport jet you rode in last week.

Saving The MU-2

Subscribers Only - On September 30, 2005, then-Director of FAA’s Flight Standards Service, Jim Ballough, noted in a letter to the type’s owners/operators, and to maintenance technicians, “the MU-2 series airplane has been involved in 11 accidents over the past 18 months, with a total of 12 fatalities.” The letter announced the agency “urgently” was undertaking an “in-depth” safety evaluation and added, “performance expectations and control techniques common in other turboprop twins do not necessarily transfer to flying the MU-2.” Ballough’s letter acknowledged the widespread perception that the airplane had a problem, thanks to its wing design and use of spoilers for roll control, which had been building for years.


Subscribers Only - I admit I am a bit of an adventure-seeker. It may be just one big rationalization, but I want to defend the concept of aviation adventure-seeking, at least to a degree. For example, after watching a particularly challenging backcountry landing video found online, I mused over the many comments it drew, typically along the lines of “Not for me,” “No way,” and “Crazy.” My reaction—and I was not alone—was, “I want to do that.” But I also want to balance that activity with a healthy does of risk management and accident prevention, i.e., the mission of this magazine.

Crossed Up

Traffic patterns aren’t that hard: Fly a rectangle. One side is the downwind; one side has the final approach and departure paths. Simple, right? Not really. One of the problems is all those turns we have to make align the airplane with the runway or the downwind. And some of those turns are close to the ground, at relatively low speeds and are poorly executed. Sadly, the results of steep turns to final—especially when overshooting the runway’s extended centerline—can be fatal.

NTSB Reports: April 2015

Subscribers Only - Recent general aviation and air carrier accidents

Soft Spot

The trip to the in-laws had gone about as well as those things can. We were airborne in a rented Piper Arrow II—the kind with the “Hershey bar” wings—headed back home. But first, we had to negotiate a line of thunderstorms. I knew they were there when I took off. But I’ve always had pretty good luck in picking my way through them along this route without getting wet. So off we went.

Geared Up

Crew observed right main landing gear unsafe indication on extension at destination. Emergency gear extension procedures did not result in safe indication. After landing, right main gear collapsed as aircraft came to a stop. Significant damage was discovered to the right main gear actuator support structure.