December 2014

Logbooks Aren’t The Whole Story

Subscribers Only - Not all airframe modifications airframes are officially approved or noted in the logbooks. Shocking as it may sound, many aircraft owners are tinkerers, shade-tree mechanics or aircraft builders. Some have even been known to make unapproved changes and mods without disclosing them to their own mechanics or the FAA.

Common Instrument-Takeoff Errors

Subscribers Only - According to the FAA’s Instrument Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-15B, there are some common errors pilots make during an instrument takeoff. We would suggest a zero-zero takeoff is not the time to make some of these mistakes:

Common Holding Errors

Subscribers Only - It’s common for a student with whom I’m flying for the first time to ask if he/she needs to fly a “full turn” around the holding pattern, or if it’s okay to continue inbound on the approach once intercepting the inbound course. Controllers expect you to continue inbound from the hold entry without flying a complete circuit of the holding pattern. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule, but courtesy demands telling controllers you will not continue inbound and will instead circle in the hold if for any reason you’re not ready to continue inbound immediately from the hold entry.

Major Repair And Alteration

Subscribers Only - For certified aircraft, the FAA permits major modifications via many regulatory pathways, but the two most common in the GA fleet are via a Form 337 or a supplemental type certificate (STC). A Form 337, Major Repair and Alteration (Airframe, Powerplant, Propeller, or Appliance) is the documentation required for one-off repairs or modifications to an individual airframe, engine or prop. Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) modifications are more of a blanket approval designed to cover an entire family of aircraft types.

Selected Performance Maneuvers

Subscribers Only - Let’s take a quick look at what the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook has to say when describing three of the performance maneuvers in the commercial pilot’s practical test standards.

Learning Experiences

Subscribers Only - Have you encountered a situation or hazardous condition that yielded lessons on how to better manage the risks involved in flying? Do you have an experience to share with Aviation Safety’s readers about an occasion that taught you something significant about ways to conduct safer flight operations? If so, we want to hear about it.

Icing's Effects

Subscribers Only - According to the FAA’s Instrument Flying Handbook, FAA-H-8083-15B, “The pilot of an aircraft, which is certificated for flight in icing conditions can safely operate in the conditions for which the aircraft was evaluated during the certification process but should never become complacent about icing. Even short encounters with small amounts of rough icing can be very hazardous. The pilot should be familiar with all information in the Aircraft Flight Manual (AFM) or Pilot’s Operating Handbook (POH) concerning flight in icing conditions and follow it carefully.

Illegal Entry?

Subscribers Only - Of course, some standard operating procedures are always good. The practical test-mandated/real-world recommended method of holding pattern entry is to determine on what heading you will cross the holding fix, then use the 70-degree/180-degree diagram at right to decide whether to make a direct, parallel or teardrop entry into the hold.

Unintended Consequences

Subscribers Only - Unhappily, the accident record bears out this article’s main point: Combining STCs and performing untested modifications can have lethal effects.

15 Seconds and Counting

Subscribers Only - We have established that a missed approach in IMC and a zero-zero takeoff are operationally identical at 200 feet agl and higher. So the only difference between the two is found during the takeoff roll and few seconds after rotation to reach 200 feet.

Holding Checklist

Subscribers Only - Some of us find it helpful to write down this stuff, and not depend on the magic in our hand or on the panel to figure it out, even if it’s published. We use to be able to write it on the chart, but nothing beats a pen/pencil and a paper pad.

Staying Flexible

Subscribers Only - Anytime we use a personal airplane as regular transportation, we risk running afoul of the weather, mechanical failures and other schedules. It can be done, and done safely, but doing so requires flexibility. In the end, you’ll likely be as punctual on the airlines or by driving, but it won’t be as much fun unless you fly yourself.

This Is War!

Subscribers Only - In our February 2013 issue, we briefly discussed the late USAF Col. John Boyd’s famous OODA Loop, a decision-making process originally developed to assist fighter pilots in air combat training. We noted, “Key to understanding and implementing the OODA Loop, according to Boyd, was the accuracy and rate with which we step through the decision-making process. If we fail to accurately assess our environment, we can’t make effective decisions. If we fail to make those decisions quickly enough, external events will overtake us and also result in poor decisions.” The OODA Loop is derived from the acronym formed by it's four basic steps: observation, orientation, decision and action.

Zero-Zero Departures

Subscribers Only - Last year I read in a major aviation publication that lifting off in zero-zero conditions was one of the “riskiest and dumbest decisions” in all of flying. In late October 2014, I attended the annual convention of a major flying club, where I heard basically that same conversation and conclusion. If I had any hair on my shiny bald head, I would pull it out in frustration.

Air Conditioning

I’ve been thinking about recent attempts to produce and bring to the market refurbished aircraft, especially of types no longer in production, like the Cessna 150/152. These are worthy efforts, and can be a good option when the economics work out. There’s a lot of life left in Cessna’s 150/152 series, and modernizing them for the flying club market can make sense under the right circumstances.

Virtual Glideslopes

Your article on GPS approaches featuring WAAS-enhanced glidepath generation was very informative and clarified a number of points. There is also another approach which is not an official FAA approach and, as far as I know, is only available using Garmin WAAS navigators. It is a LNAV+V approach, and you will not see it on the minima section of an approach chart.

Mastering The Zen Of Flying

Subscribers Only - Around 600 BCE, Lao Tzu quit a good government job to seek his fulfillment in nature. He summarized his resulting thoughts in the Tao Te Ching, which can be translated as something like “The Way of Nature.” Its central tenet is that wisdom can be achieved by accepting reality and its causes, and responding accordingly. Questioning or pushing back against nature causes disharmony. In essence, one must go with the flow of nature to avoid unhappiness.

Hold Me, Thrill Me?

Subscribers Only - You want me to do what?” You didn’t say it aloud, but you may well have been thinking it when the controller directed, “N12345, hold northeast of XYZ on the 050 radial, 20 DME fix, three-mile legs. Expect further clearance at 45 past the hour; time now 20 past the hour.” A hold? Who holds anymore?

POH Fiction

Subscribers Only - My 1954 Cessna 180 was mostly stock when I bought it. That didn’t last long. I quickly added a STOL kit, wing extensions and bigger tires. As a result, the stall speed went down, useful load went up and, to a degree, the pilot’s operating handbook, POH, became a work of fiction because it no longer matches the actual airplane. This outcome is not uncommon.

Extreme Maneuvering

Subscribers Only - Most pilots are content do drone along in the straight-and-level, rarely banking beyond 30 degrees or pitching up and down beyond 10. Meanwhile, aerobatic pilots enthuse in their ability to fly upside down, vertically and in all combinations. Somewhere in the middle of these two extremes are what the FAA calls “performance maneuvers,” generally thought of as those required on the commercial airplane pilot’s practical test.


Subscribers Only - As a pilot gains ratings and experience, he or she usually transitions to bigger, faster and more capable aircraft. Progress quickly enough to aircraft with enough bells and whistles in them and it’s easy to become impressed with all the capabilities at your fingertips. Equipment like airborne weather radar, approved de- or anti-icing and two powerful engines translates into an almost-all-weather airplane. With all that capability eventually comes a desire to use it in the belief the aircraft was designed to reliably detect and avoid anything Mother Nature can throw at it. And then, every now and then, someone discovers no airplane is bulletproof, and no pilot can handle everything, either.

NTSB Reports: December 2014

Subscribers Only - The unregistered aircraft was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain at an unknown time. The private pilot was fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed. The accident pilot was last observed flying the single-seat gyrocopter at about 1350 on the day of the accident. The wreckage was subsequently located the following day about 0915, about 750 feet east of the departure airport’s Runway 26 threshold. The private pilot held a rating for single-engine land-based airplanes.


Subscribers Only - It had been a long day: Several hours breathing O2 in the low teens, covering more than 1000 nm. But I was on the ground, safe and sound, at Cheap Gas Muni. I was all topped off and on the takeoff roll for the short hop to Cheap Hangar Field. I had to do some broken-field running to get here late on this summer afternoon, but thanks to Nexrad and ATC, I was able to avoid the big bumps and hadn’t even gotten wet.


The left main gear downlock actuator failed while the airplane was airborne and the landing gear was in the up position. Since the lock collapsed into its locked position before the gear was down, the left main gear was out of sequence. The result was that the pilot followed the flight manual procedure of pumping the gear fully up and then making an emergency gear-up landing. Part total time: 3379 hours