November 2016

Download the Full November 2016 Issue PDF

Subscribers Only - If your aircraft model has a type club or owners organization, you may want to join and participate in their training programs and related activities. Many of the name-brand types are well-served by these programs, and their graduates often come away with new and safer insights on how to operate their aircraft. If your aircraft has unusual handling characteristics—or if you just want to be able to take full advantage of its performance—obtaining specialized instruction from an instructor or training center with experience in that model should be a no-brainer.

Setting The Narrative

Even though the fatality rate in 2015 was the lowest it has been in many years, 376 people still lost their lives,’ said NTSB Chairman Christopher A. Hart, ‘which is why improving general aviation safety is on the NTSB’s Most Wanted List of transportation safety improvements. While lower, these numbers are still too high’ said Hart.” That’s a quote from a September 22, 2016, NTSB press release headlined, “NTSB 2015 Aviation Statistics Show General Aviation Accidents Continue to Decline.”

Where The Drones Are

Subscribers Only - I want to thank you for writing a balanced and fair assessment about the threat of drones to aviation (“Where The Drones Are,” October 2016). Your article is perhaps the first rational discussion related to the dangers of these little plastic radio-control models. I have been a pilot for the past 22 years, and owned a Cessna 172 for the past 12 years. I would certainly hate to hit one of these things.

Manufacturer Mandates

Subscribers Only - Readers likely are familiar with the role product liability plays in general aviation’s history. It shares responsibility for the industry’s collapse in the 1980s and it wasn’t until federal legislation was enacted—the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, which limited manufacturer liability—that some piston-engine airplane production was restarted. Separately, patterns were identified involving accidents of specific aircraft types, and addressing them became another way to minimize the risk of successful liability claims.

Braking Action

Ever looked closely at the brakes on a personal airplane? The basic system isn’t much different than what’s on your car, motorcycle or SUV. Typically, you’re looking at a six- or eight-inch wheel assembly, with a brake disc of about the same diameter. The tires, of course, usually are much smaller than your car’s. Stopping power comes when hydraulic pressure is applied to the attached caliper, which then squeezes its brake pads against the disc, generating friction and slowing its rotation. That hydraulic pressure, of course, is applied and moderated by the pilot, usually by pressing on the top of the rudder pedals.

Low-Level Flying

Let’s start by defining “too low.” Many pilots may think low-level flying is a FAR violation. Not necessarily—see the sidebar on page 14. And some wags may say the only to know for sure that you’re too low is when you run into something. We’ll get to obstacles in a moment, but another way to define “too low” is in terms of whether stall recovery is likely before hitting terrain. But for those who need a number, let’s arbitrarily agree that anything under 500 feet agl is low flying.

Energy Management Basics

In my experience as a flight instructor, many civilian-trained pilots have little to no understanding of energy management (EM) concepts. I often find myself advising pilots to maintain their energy, particularly in the traffic pattern. That’s because a classic accident sequence involving a pilot’s failure to manage his or her energy works like this: flying too slowly and/or too low on final approach and attempting to arrest the descent by increasing pitch alone. Instead, a well-founded understanding of energy management mandates increasing power to add energy to the aircraft to prevent airspeed decay and a possible stall.

Not At Night

Subscribers Only - One of the first things instrument pilots learn during their training to fly approaches is reading the fine print, the various notes that may accompany a published procedure. It’s a classic case of the large print holding great promise while the small print dashes any lingering hopes. Perhaps most ubiquitous is the NoPT admonition that a procedure turn is not authorized when flying to the final approach fix on certain segments.

Impaired Flying Targeted

Subscribers Only - According to the FAA and its Civil Aerospace Medical Institute, CAMI, between six and 14 percent of pilot fatalities are related to alcohol intoxication. While that seems like a very high number of pilots in our experience—and a wide, inexact statistical range—the agency said it reached its conclusion by analyzing deceased pilots’ blood and tissue samples after accidents.

Too Much Automation?

Subscribers Only - There’s no question in my mind that a good autopilot system tends to dull a pilot to what the airplane is doing and what it may be telling him or her. I’m fortunate to have a really good one in my traveling airplane and use it most of the time when I’m in cruising flight. It will fly a heading, follow a magenta line, climb/descend to a preset altitude at a rate of my choosing and shoot coupled ILS or GPS approaches.

NTSB Reports: November 2016

Subscribers Only - The pilot later related he was in cruise climb at about 8500 feet msl when he noticed something in his peripheral vision, then felt a “thud” as something struck the airplane. There was no loss of control or abnormal control feel, so he continued the flight and landed uneventfully. Upon landing, about 12 inches of the airplane’s vertical stabilizer was missing; there also was substantial damage to the rudder. Initial examination showed no evidence of organic material. A detailed examination by the NTSB is pending.

Fuel Burned

Subscribers Only - In the spring of 1984, I was 23 and a new pilot, with barely 120 hours. While planning a trip that would include my wife and another couple, I called the FBO to ask about the amount of fuel burn on the Piper Warrior I had rented for the flight. I was advised the Warrior burns eight gph in cruise at 9500 feet msl and, with that information, I completed my flight planning and we all met at the airport.

Circuit Breakers

Subscribers Only - Pitot heat switch would not stay in the on position. On troubleshooting, the technician found circuit breaker/switch (p/n 35-38013263) to be at fault. AD 2008-13-17 had been completed 2427 flight hours prior. Recommend breaker manufacturer develop a more durable product or aircraft maker look for a different source for its circuit breakers.