October 2017

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Subscribers Only - If you’ve been paying attention to this magazine and other general aviation media the last several months, you know that there’s a serious (in the sense it could become law) proposal to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system. In the U.S. House of Representatives, bill H.R. 2997 contains the privatization proposal as part of a larger measure designed to fund the FAA and its programs beyond September 30, 2017, their current expiration date.

See You In September

If you’ve been paying attention to this magazine and other general aviation media the last several months, you know that there’s a serious (in the sense it could become law) proposal to privatize the U.S. air traffic control system. In the U.S. House of Representatives, bill H.R. 2997 contains the privatization proposal as part of a larger measure designed to fund the FAA and its programs beyond September 30, 2017, their current expiration date.

Entry-Level Machines

We own and fly a Diamondstar DA40 from our home in Michigan to destinations all over the country. Generally my wife and I plan a two-week trip each fall and spring, often to the coasts. However, the word “plan” is figurative as we expect weather deviations and our routing may change at any time. We literally wake up in the morning, look at the current weather and decide our destination for the day. Typically, we will fly no more than 500 miles and land at a suitable GA airport. While I button down the airplane, my wife books a hotel, rents a car and finds out what to see and do in town from the always-friendly and helpful FBO staff.

Daytime Black Holes

Optical illusions are all around us. A classic example might be when looking through a camera and a slow-turning airplane propeller or the wheel spokes on a car appear to slow and then reverse direction. None of that happens, of course; part what we “see” is determined by how well our eyes and brain work and play together. The bad news is there are many other optical illusions, and they can actually be quite dangerous if encountered while flying. The good news is we can understand them, anticipate them, then compensate for them.

Ground Handling 101

Every flight begins and ends on the ground. And when we’re not flying, the airplane has to be stored somewhere. In fact, the typical personal aircraft spends far more time on the ground than above it. Rarely do we have a genuine drive-in, drive-out parking or storage situation, so the airplane gets pushed, pulled and towed into its tiedown or hangar when it’s not in use.

Licking Gravity

There is more to weight and balance than the obvious fact that airplanes behave differently when the center of gravity (CG) is forward versus aft. The acceptable CG range tends to be broader when the plane is carrying a minimal load and narrower as you approach gross weight. Performance always matters, but CG is the most critical performance factor when the plane is at gross weight. Calculating weight and balance is not complex. It’s pretty basic math that we all learn to do early on in ground school. And just like balancing a checkbook before paying bills, the numbers should always add up. It is just a little more effort with a bigger plane offering more loading permutations—more options for where people and objects can be stationed inside.

Touch-And-Goes

The approach and landing phase should be conducted in accordance with whatever specific procedure is being practiced: normal, engine-out, short/soft-field, high density altitude. Simply because you’re not planning to slow down and exit the runway doesn’t mean you should do anything different on the approach and landing. After all, the reason you’re doing touch-and-goes is to practice, and you can’t engage in valuable practice if you don’t simulate realistic conditions and procedures.

Approach Vectors Checklist

Subscribers Only - There’s nothing quite like hearing the phrase, “vectors for the approach.” To me at least, this is a calming phrase from an approach or center controller that says, “You’re just about there; now we’ll take care of you.” On vectors, it’s easy to let your guard down and lose track of where you are and what’s going on, subconsciously delegating those things to that friendly controller.

NTSB Highlights GA’s Fuel-Related Accidents

The NTSB in August released the latest in a series of what it calls Safety Alerts, which focused on preventable accidents stemming from fuel starvation or fuel exhaustion. According to the Safety Alert (SA-067, “Flying On Empty,” August 2017), an average of more than 50 accidents each year in the five years from 2011 to 2015 “occurred due to fuel management issues.”

Timing Is Everything

Subscribers Only - When I first started flying what I consider to be serious cross-countries, there was no such thing as in-cockpit weather radar. Even when flying the best-equipped singles, it was rare to have an sferic device like a Stormscope or Strike Finder. When my route was filled with a line of thunderstorms, I either went around them or landed and found a hotel for the evening. These days, we have near-real-time Nexrad weather radar from a variety of sources, and even ATC is better at pointing out storms and helping us around them.

NTSB Reports: October 2017

The aircraft broke up in flight then impacted the ground after an uncontrolled descent at about 0153 Central time. The commercial pilot and five passengers sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed. Dark night visual conditions prevailed. An IFR flight plan was in effect. The airplane was in cruise at 10,000 feet msl when its pilot queried ATC about nearby weather conditions. Radar data then showed the airplane climb slightly and turn left.

Finding The Airport

Subscribers Only - Starting a new job right out of engineering school was everything I thought it would be. With a great boss, a smart and experienced team, and interesting work, I had everything I wanted, with the exception of having to work the second shift.

Skyhawks

Landing light switch was stuck in the “on” position. Suspect internal arcing and welding of contacts. The overheating caused by the arc- ing can cause the switch body to melt, but did not in this case. No signs of heat damage of external switch surface were found.