December 2016

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Subscribers Only - Most modern comm radios can tune frequencies with 8.33 kHz channel spacing, which currently is required only in high altitude airspace in Europe (Code Y). It would not be necessary to indicate that in the U.S. Further, I’m not sure we can file a performance-based navigation (PBN) code as they require FAA approval. The closet reference is AC 90-100A—maybe someone can interpret this for Part 91 (non 91K) operations.

For Whom The Toll Bills

The existing excise taxes on aviation fuels work just fine. They account for system use more efficiently than a toll/user fee arrangement, they don’t require a new, unaccountable bureaucracy and there’s no separate bill I have to pay. (We all pay similar taxes on fuels we put in our vehicles, too, which used to cover roadways, bridges and tunnels now laden with tolls, but I digress.)

Where The Drones Are II

Subscribers Only - October’s article, “Where the Drones Are,” has no place in Aviation Safety. The very tone of it offends my safety senses honed over 59 years of private, commercial and military flying. “Think about where they are. Then don’t go there.” Silly. The entire article belongs in a Drones Today magazine.

When The Earth Moves

Everyone aboard the Beech Model 17 Staggerwing in which I was a passenger had been to the Driggs, Idaho, airport (KDIJ) dozens of times, perhaps even hundreds. Driggs Reed Memorial Airport is one of the more scenic airports in the country, much less Idaho. But as we approached, we could tell something was amiss. The pattern was busier than usual, and we heard a call for Runway 22. All three of us knew with confidence that Driggs’ single runway is laid out 03-21, but a second and third plane called in approaching the same, seemingly wrong runway.

Mismanaging Flight Energy

Loss of control in-flight (LOC-I) has become the safety issue du jour, and justifiably so. According to the NTSB, between 2001 and 2011, over 40 percent of fatal fixed-wing GA accidents occurred because pilots lost control of their airplanes. Takeoff and climb, landing and maneuvering are regarded to be the flight phases in which pilots are most susceptible to LOC-I,

Aircraft Engine Cylinder Failures

Subscribers Only - Most of us fly aircraft powered by piston engines, a basic technology dating back to the late 19th century. Meanwhile, the modern air-cooled aircraft piston engine’s basic configurations hasn’t changed since before WWII. Given the power output for their weight and fuel consumption, there’s no better solution. But hundreds of metal parts going through thousands of heat cycles year after year eventually find a way to break.

Getting Out Of Here

I get kind of worked up when I’m unsure. Last year, I hauled a load out of a backcountry strip (Sulphur Creek, Idaho, ID74) that included a 320-pound elk, my brother and me, plus all our gear for eight days in my Cessna 180. Field elevation was 5835 feet, and I remember that the takeoff used up a lot of the 3300-foot runway. I went through the numbers over and over before I left and when we got home, I confirmed the loading cargo put us right at gross weight on takeoff.

Pitot-Static System Failures

The Boeing 727-200, operating as Northwest Airlines Flight 6231, departed John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, N.Y., at about 1926 Eastern time on December 1, 1974. A ferry flight with only crew aboard, the 727’s destination was Buffalo, N.Y., a great-circle distance of 261 nm. After takeoff, the aircraft climbed to 13,500 feet msl and leveled off for about 50 seconds, accelerating from 264 knots to 304 knots.

Solid Red Means Hold

Subscribers Only - The latest in the FAA’s efforts to prevent runway incursions goes into effect at the San Francisco (Calif.) International Airport (SFO) November 30. It takes the form of the Runway Status Lights (RWSL) program, an automated series of red lights embedded in taxiways that enter runways and in the departure end of runways themselves. The lights “warn pilots of high-speed aircraft or vehicles on runways,” according to the agency.

Cloak Of Invincibility

Subscribers Only - There’s no question that increased automation capabilities in the typical general aviation cockpit over the last, say, 20 years has improved pilots’ lives. The usual cautions about possible effects resulting from over-reliance on all the magic in our panels still apply, however, and not just because of inevitable programming or mode-select errors. As demonstrated by accidents like Air France Flight 447 and Colgan Air Flight 3407, when the autopilot kicks off is not a good time to be disconnected from the airplane’s feedback loop.

NTSB Reports: December 2016

Subscribers Only - Except for the main wreckage area, there was no noticeable damage to the field’s corn stalks. The cockpit, engine cowling and a majority of the fuselage were consumed by fire, although the wings and empennage were mostly intact. Witnesses reported hearing the engine “sputtering,” and then heard a “thud” and saw a fireball. They did not observe the airplane in the air.

Mean Mr. Mustard

Subscribers Only - I had settled in for the hour-long flight and was dividing my attention between scanning instruments, looking for traffic and enjoying the view when I heard a distinct "pop.” Any unusual sound while flying my Comanche gets my attention right away, so I looked around trying to figure out where the noise came from. All instrument indications were nominal and even with my heightened sense of awareness, I could find nothing. So on I went, telling myself it could have been my imagination.


During a routine inspection, the technician noted the strobe lights would remain on after the switch was selected off. Troubleshooting revealed the switch to be defective. Removing and disassembling the switch revealed the solder joint holding the braided wire had broken and welded itself to the line post. Switch was replaced IAW AD 2008-13-17 in May 2009.

Aviation Safety 2016 Editorial Index

Catastrophic Failure August Classic CFIT May Cloak Of Invincibility December Fifteen Miles June Minimum Equipment March Missing Flight Plan October Mostly Mundane January Running The Scud April Spin Recovery Failure September The Impossible Turn February Too Much Automation? November Unsecured Cargo July