June 2015

Of Prop Strikes And Other Mischief

Subscribers Only - Prop strikes are more common than most pilots realize. Depending on the circumstance, they don’t have to be reported to the NTSB if damage is not considered substantial. But if you have ever had to pay for a new prop or an engine tear-down, there is no way on earth you’d consider a prop strike minor. They are to be avoided.

NTSB Safety Alert Highlights

Subscribers Only - Mastering Mountain Flying Understanding Flight Experience Perform Advanced Preflight After Maintenance

Where we’re going, we don’t need roads

Subscribers Only - The private pilot/owner planned to fly to at least two back country airports in a neighboring state. His first destination was an unpaved USFS strip. The runway, oriented 11/29, was reported to be 2765 feet long and 50 feet wide. It was located in a narrow valley, and situated about 30 feet southwest of the main road that transited the valley. An unpaved road exited the main road immediately southeast of the threshold of Runway 29, and then turned northwest to initially merge with the runway. About 300 feet northwest of the threshold, the unpaved road diverged slightly southwest of the runway, before assuming a track separate from but parallel to the runway.

Finding Alternates With An EFB App — Is This Really So Hard?

Subscribers Only - Electronic flight bag (EFB) apps running on a tablet computer, as depicted above, have greatly increased the typical pilot’s SA (situational awareness). As this article’s main text relates, some pilots haven’t figured out how to use their EFBs to answer the many questions necessary to legally and safely pick alternate airports. They supposedly prefer paper charts and a plotter. (Really. Have you guys seen the size and number of books of Aeronav charts required for 48-state coverage lately? The proliferation of LPV, LNAV and similar approaches has swollen them in size, weight and number.)

Departure Alternates

Subscribers Only - Aviation Safety recently ran two articles, in the December 2014, and January 2015 issues) on the various considerations involving low-weather IFR departures. Under FAR 91, if we can find the runway in the fog, it’s legal to launch. Somewhat Darwinian, but legal.

Filing an Alternate is Required...Unless...

Subscribers Only - When filing an IFR flight plan, the language of FAR 91.169 makes listing an alternate airport the default: You have to name one unless the circumstances of the flight are such that it falls under both of the two listed exceptions: First, the airport must have a published instrument approach procedure. Second, the forecast weather meets the 1-2-3 rule: For an hour before to an hour after the ETA at your destination, the weather is forecast to be equal to or better than a 2000-foot ceiling with three statute miles’ visibility.

Will ATC provide waivers?

Subscribers Only - Doubtful. However, FAR 91.225, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) Out equipment and use, says:

TWA514’s Legacy

Subscribers Only - The NTSB’s probable cause determination: “[T]he crew’s decision to descend to 1800 feet before the aircraft had reached the approach segment where that minimum altitude applied. The crew’s decision to descend was a result of inadequacies and lack of clarity in the air traffic control procedures which led to a misunderstanding on the part of the pilots and of the controllers regarding each other’s responsibilities during operations in terminal areas under instrument meteorological conditions. Nevertheless, the examination of the plan view of the approach chart should have disclosed to the captain that a minimum altitude of 1800 feet was not a safe altitude.”

Can You Spin Your Flivver (Intentionally)?

Subscribers Only - You might be able to do spin training in your own airplane. The first thing to check is whether it’s placarded against intentional spins, as depicted above. If not, you may still need to find a CFI willing to spin your airplane, plus a couple of parachutes. It may be easier and cheaper to simply find the local spin instructor and sign up for the training in his or her airplane.

Which Way Will It Go?

Subscribers Only - For many, predicting the direction in which an airplane will spin is a Fool’s Errand—any spins should be avoided in the first place. But understanding how a spin develops and how control deflections help determine the spin direction also can help us avoid them.

A Couple Of Things

As GPS becomes more ubiquitous—and as the FAA works to reduce its expenses for things like navigation facilities, airports and controllers—it has long-range plans to unplug hundreds of VOR facilities throughout the U.S. in favor of the satellites. There were 967 U.S. VORs operating in late 2012, and AOPA says the FAA wanted that number to be 500 by January 2020, when ADS-B and the next-generation ATC system are supposed to be in place.

Out Of Control?

Your May 2015 issue exemplifies continued excellence by probing the contributing factors leading to aircraft accidents. Articles on icing, fueling, landings, situational awareness and IMC are likely activities that we experience every time we fly. My interest as a pilot and investigator is to focus on the factors that lead to human response errors.

Hard Lessons

Among pilots, rules and regulations are often described as having been “written in blood.” The implication being that the regulation under discussion likely came about as a result of an accident or incident where, had the regulation existed at the time, the outcome may have been different. This is often accurate to varying degrees, and the notion can be a reminder to pilots that “[i]n this business we play for keeps,” as Ernest K. Gann wrote in his classic Fate is the Hunter.

Spin Training

Subscribers Only - Dad had a healthy respect for spins. A pilot trained in the “old school” of the 1950s, he’d done many of them in one of Mr. Piper’s Cubs as a student and private pilot. He’d taken my uncle up and shown him what one was like...and ended up cleaning the cabin afterwards. When I started pilot training 20 years later, he insisted I have my instructor teach me how to do spins.

Time To Bite The Bullet?

Subscribers Only - Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of ADS-B, or Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast. As of January 1, 2020, you’ll need this equipment to routinely fly in U.S. airspace where the FARs now require a working Mode C transponder. The FAA rule mandating ADS-B in 2020 went into effect in 2010, so there’s little argument that operators haven’t had enough warning about it, and it’s not likely the FAA will change the deadline. There are two flavors of ADS-B, the “in” and “out” kinds. For now, only ADS-B Out is required in 2020; ADS-B In is optional. Both flavors are operational today, as the two coverage maps below demonstrate.

Tips From The NTSB

Subscribers Only - There’s no question pilots can make dumb mistakes—each month, the back pages of this magazine have the proof. In many instances, however, pilots make mistakes because they weren’t warned of the consequences of their (in)actions. In other words, sometimes they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s the NTSB’s role to investigate aviation accidents in the U.S., and to come up with recommendations on ways to prevent them.

Off The Beaten Path

Subscribers Only - Private pilots are required to demonstrate soft-field technique before they earn their certificates. The FAA, however, doesn’t require you to demonstrate that skill on an actual soft field. Perhaps they should. It’s too easy to find examples of pilots filling out reports of accidents and incidents involving unpaved landing surfaces. Based on my experience and those of other pilots like me, there are many novel ways a pilot can screw up when venturing off pavement. Insurance companies know this and often restrict operations to paved runways.

Real-World Alternates

Subscribers Only - One of the concerns many pilots express about doing their flight planning on a tablet computer is that they don’t spend time with a chart and a plotter looking over a route. They end up starting a flight with less situational awareness about airports where they can bail out if something goes wrong en route. That, combined with what can become a rote fixation on selecting an IFR alternate based only on the regs regarding weather at the destination, is an invitation to poor decision-making when a little smoke in the cockpit means shutting off the electrical system a third of the way into the flight, or the engine starts running rough on initial climb from an airport that’s below approach minimums. One way out of these dilemmas is to keep in mind the FARs are, by law, nothing more than minimum standards—and only looking at an alternate airport for the destination on an IFR flight of 500 miles might not be doing ourselves any favors. We always need an ace in the hole, and it doesn’t have to be the one we tell the FAA about on the flight plan.


Everyone remembers the first airplane they flew. But what about the second one? Chances are it was a lot like the first one, but still was different. While the make and model may have been the same, the serial and registration numbers were different, of course. Even trivial differences between the two likely was a topic of discussion with your instructor. The conversation may have included how different avionics equipment was installed, or one of them never had a working landing light, or had a prop offering better performance. In an extreme, you could have been mixing makes, models, wing position and avionics. There likely was a moment where you couldn’t find that blemish on the windshield you used as a reference point, or found the throttle too stiff.

NTSB Reports: June 2015

Subscribers Only - Recent general aviation and air carrier accidents


Subscribers Only - As the aircraft climbed through FL190, the pilot reported a loss of power. An emergency descent was begun and an unscheduled landing was planned. Some power was restored as the airplane descended. On landing, inspection revealed the shaft between the turbocharger compressor and exhaust wheels had broken in two.


The day’s mission was rather simple: An out-and-back to an airport about 100 miles away, nestled next to a chunk of Class Bravo airspace, let my passenger check out a plane he was looking to buy and pop back. My retractable single could easily make the trip in 40 minutes or so, and we had plenty of gas. So, off we went.