May 2016

Download the Full May 2016 Issue PDF

Subscribers Only - As pilots, our biggest oxygen consumer is our brain. Night vision is one of the first things to go. The retina’s rod cells, which provide night vision, are heavy oxygen consumers. Retinal function begins to deteriorate at altitudes as low as 5000 feet, and so will your night vision. Low perfusion of oxygen also reduces visual acuity. Blurred vision and tunnel vision are both common symptoms of hypoxia. If you experience these symptoms before reducing altitude or starting supplemental oxygen, they may linger.

FSF’s Recommended Elements Of a Stabilized Approach

Subscribers Only - All flights must be stabilized by 1000 feet above airport elevation in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) and by 500 feet above airport elevation in visual meteorological conditions (VMC). An approach is stabilized when all of the following criteria are met: 1. The aircraft is on the correct flight path; [IMGCAP(1)] 2. Only small changes in heading/pitch are required to maintain the correct flight path; 3. The aircraft speed is not more than VREF + 20 knots indicated airspeed and…

Multicom Frequency

Like many airports in the U.S., my home base does not have a dedicated Unicom frequency. Instead, we use the Multicom frequency, 122.9 MHz, to self-announce our positions and intentions. Occasionally, two or more pilots trying to use the same runway at the same time will use the frequency to work out details of sequencing themselves, but that’s about it. Other airports in the vicinity also use 122.9, including nearby Cheap Fuel County, so it’s easy and convenient to leave the selected comm radio on that frequency when popping out to top off before a longer flight.

Landing Out

Subscribers Only - I’ve been flying for 40 years in my J-3 Cub, in the USAF, for a major carrier, etc., and it’s always a special thing when I stumble across genuinely new and valuable information about flying. The landing-out decision seems to hinge on the difficult psychological step of accepting and owning the situation and the consequences of dealing with the aftermath of getting the airplane back out, which Durden addressed eloquently, if not almost philosophically.

High-Risk Flights

Subscribers Only - General aviation pilots all too often routinely undertake flights in the face of obvious or hidden hazards. In too many cases, such pilots come to grief because they ignored obvious risks or failed to identify, assess and mitigate subtle risks. The key to addressing these hazards is to do a proper risk assessment, mitigate these risks and then decide whether you’re ready to accept the remaining risk.

Pattern Ops

Subscribers Only - Spend enough time at a non-towered airport, as I have, and you’ll eventually see every traffic-pattern variation you thought possible. Traffic patterns at towered facilities, of course, are subject to ATC management. The controller’s job is to sequence and separate traffic on the runway(s). In the absence of local controllers, non-towered airports use the traffic-pattern procedures first drummed into primary students during landing practice.

Avionics Gremlins

Subscribers Only - You may think your avionics stack is not a safety-critical system because it often is perfectly legal to fly without it. But once you turn on a radio, it becomes an integral part of your aeronautical decision making. Most of the time, thankfully, everything works. But stuff does happen, and things do break or don’t work as they should. Many failures can be caused by interactions between the various pieces of equipment installed in your panel, or by devices you and your passengers brought aboard.

Finding The Slot

If you were investigating a runway overrun mishap—to discover precisely what led to the accident for the sole purpose of helping other pilots avoid similar events in the future—where would you focus your attention? What might be the deciding factor? What one thing would have broken the accident chain and prevented the crash?

To File, Or Not To File

Subscribers Only - At the beginning of the first leg, one of my pilot-rated passengers expressed surprise that I went to the trouble to plan and file IFR, especially because the weather was so good. But by the end of the day, he seemed convinced I made the right decision to file IFR, not because the weather caved but because it simplified dealing with relatively complex airspace and lots of VFR traffic.

Fly-In Safety Highlighted

Subscribers Only - As the summer fly-in season kicked off in the U.S., the NTSB published the latest in its ongoing series of Safety Alerts, with discussions and tips for pilots arriving at fly-in events. Focused primarily on the Sun ’n Fun and the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA’s) AirVenture events but applicable to many others, the Board’s new advisory (SA-053) emphasizes the unique challenges arrivals at heavily attended fly-ins can present to pilots of all experience levels but especially those who aren’t prepared.

Classic CFIT

Subscribers Only - According to the FAA’s advisory circular on the subject, controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) occurs when “an airworthy aircraft is flown, under the control of a qualified pilot, into terrain (water or obstacles) with inadequate awareness on the part of the pilot of the impending collision.”

NTSB Reports: May 2016

Subscribers Only - At 2305 Eastern time, the airplane was substantially damaged during a ditching in the Setauket Harbor. The flight instructor, student and one passenger received minor injuries. One passenger is missing and presumed to be fatally injured at this writing. Night visual conditions prevailed. While cruising at around 2000 feet msl, the engine “sputtered.” Turning on the electric fuel pump and switching the fuel selector to the left fuel tank stopped the sputtering. The flight chose to divert to an airport 10 nm south.

Local Knowledge

Subscribers Only - If you’ve ever wanted to see something you wrote appear in an aviation magazine with your name, here’s your chance. Each month, this space is devoted to giving readers the opportunity to share with other pilots something they’ve learned about flying aircraft. We’ll always assure anonymity if you want it, but we’ll be happy to put your name on it, also.


Subscribers Only - Upon removal, found a two-inch-long piece of material in filter outlet, which appears to be the edge of a gasket. It could only have gotten there when the filter was manufactured. The material would have plugged small oil passages had it moved into the engine as it was on the downstream side of filter.