Unicom

October 1999 Issue




I’m All for IMC

Instrument training in actual conditions is a big plus, but can you really log it?

I agree that any actual IMC experience is worth more than most hood time. I also am a firm believer that any pilot’s first IMC experience should be with a CFII in the right seat.

I had problems my first time (on my long dual cross-country during my instrument training) on an approach to downtown Kansas City airport. But, my next experience was better and now I’ve logged several hours of actual on my own and feel comfortable.

However, in “The JFK Aftermath,” [Commentary, September] Paul Bertorelli suggests that in conducting IFR training “on a medium-low IMC day” with a CFII you could log flight time as PIC toward a BFR or other recurrency work. Sorry, but wouldn’t you have to file IFR for such a flight? This would make the CFII the PIC for the flight. You could log the dual time and the actual IMC time but not much else. The training is a great idea but the log book may be wrong.

-Bill Scruggs
Joplin, Mo.


Paul Bertorelli responds: For logging purposes, if the pilot in the left seat is rated in the airplane – in other words, he has a private pilot certificate with single engine land rating – and he’s sole manipulator of the controls, he can log the time as PIC.

Unless he’s instrument-rated and current, he can’t act as PIC, but he can log the PIC time. The FAA clearly distinguishes between logging the time and being PIC. And yes, if in IMC, an IFR flight plan will have to filed.

As an instructor, I don’t care much about how the student logs the time. What I want is to give him real world experience in controlling the airplane under IMC. That is the critical survival skill here, not filling out columns in a logbook.

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Silliness Softens Message
While the editorial comment at the end of Patty Wagstaff’s article [Proficiency, August] is complimentary of, and reflects admiration for, her skills as an aerobatic pilot, it does not seem to me to be an appropriate interpretation of the message she tries to convey in her article. Since Aviation Safety is written for pilots, there is no need to exaggerate or “dazzle” the readers.

-Rae Willis
East Hanover, N.J.


Ever hear the saying about “all work and no play,” Rae? Ms. Wagstaff is a serious pilot, but she also likes to have fun.

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Flipping Over Wagstaff
I really enjoyed Patty Wagstaff’s article [Proficiency, August]. While I don’t do aerobatics (intentionally), I did take a 10 hour aerobatics course years ago. It was an excellent lesson in how to recover from unusual attitudes – particularly when I accidentally stalled the Citabria while upside down at the top of a loop.

This was also my first time in a tailwheel, stick controlled aircraft with the throttle on the left (requiring right hand on the stick) so I learned more than just aerobatics.

Now, pertaining to the formation flying picture on page 3, at first I assumed that the two aircraft were straight and level as this is how most air-show pilots would do this maneuver but a closer look would indicate that their attitude could only be correct if they were just going past horizontal at the top of a loop. In this position they would have to be losing altitude as the inverted aircraft must have considerable nose up to maintain level flight.

Actually, I believe that they are flying straight and level but the picture is inverted. Since the sun is usually up, the wing would only shadow the cockpit of a low wing aircraft if the aircraft was inverted.

-Lonnie McLaughlin
Via e-mail


We checked our files and discovered that at the time the photo was taken the sun was, in fact, in the sky. You’re right, the photo was printed upside down. We didn’t notice the production error until it was too late to fix it.

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The Dangerous Life
I wantedto add my two cents to the various comments on Mr. Brenlove’s article on safety statistics. I also agree that his comparisons to auto data are apples & oranges. However, one thing is for sure: Here in Hawaii, “making the same trip by car” is definitely more dangerous than flying!

-B.J. Barbata
Via email

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Risk, and the Eye of the Beholder
I read with interest “Contrived Salvation” [Editor’s Log, August]. At the end of your editorial, you say: “The perception of danger is out of sync with the actual risk, which, although high, can be acceptably managed.” What does “acceptably managed” mean?

When you admit the actual risk is high, how high is it? If the actual risk is 10 times higher than driving in your car, and “acceptable management” reduces it by half to 5 times higher than car travel, that’s still a dramatically elevated number.

Even if it’s just twice as dangerous, that’s still pretty high, particularly if one is strapping one’s children into a back seat.

I’m willing to take certain risks with my own life, but I draw the line on risking the lives of others, particularly in the absence of any objective study that charts the real dangers confronted by careful pilots in well-maintained aircraft. What are the real numbers? Words like “acceptable” and “managed” are poetic and subjective. It seems to me that flying involves, or should involve, a more objective, quantifiable set of standards.

I also read some interesting letters, particularly a letter you titled “Tone It Down, Already.”

I disagree with that writer’s suggestion to eliminate photos of crashes and other clear and direct information about aviation dangers. Without such information, how can we learn from the mistakes of others? While photos do not, in themselves, provide the necessary flight history, they do “illustrate” the outcome of poor planning and/or bad judgment.

What would Mr. Evans have you put in the magazine? Pretty pictures of shiny airplanes? Your periodical offers pointed safety-related data, and if some of it is cautionary and arresting, it should be hidden from family members who might be distressed by its messages. I think your position is correct.

-Dean Goodhill
Los Angeles, Calif.


Making the comparison between cars and airplanes requires some leaps of faith in an effort to put the two modes of transportation on the same scale, so statistically speaking the conclusion may be suspect. Practically speaking, however, and the whole reason we went through this exercise, is that it helps to frame the level of risk in terms that everyone can understand. By making some assumptions about travel, you can get a rough relationship between the two that gives an indication of relative risk, if not a definitive answer.

Keep in mind, however, that this is an average, and as such lumps the safe with the careless. We believe the risk inherent in flying can be reduced by a conscientious approach to pilot proficiency and aircraft maintenance. There’s no way to statistically measure that reduction, however, because there’s no infrastructure in place to measure all the variables. Therefore, the objective, quantifiable yardstick you seek does not exist.

We don’t aspire to be only average pilots, so to a certain extent we rationalize away some of the statistical risk by saying that we have a safer approach to flying than others do and therefore stand a good chance of beating the odds. Subjective? You bet. Unfortunately, that’s all we have.

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The Heart of the Matter
I read Dr. Doorey’s response to an article concerning the ability of a pilot to assess his or her risk of having a heart attack in the near future. As a pilot and physician with a family history of coronary disease I have been interested in this topic for years.

I know of four major studies and eight smaller ones which demonstrate that the electron beam CT result correlate very well (greater than 96%) with coronary angiographic studies in younger (less than 60) patients.

I would be interested to know which article Dr. Doorey is referring to. I paid $350 dollars for my CT and, since I recently paid $900 dollars to have two inertia reel seat belts installed in my Cessna 182, I consider the CT a bargain!

-Steven Stern
Via e-mail


Dr. Doorey referred to a recent article in the journal Circulation called “Coronary Calcium Does Not Accurately Predict Near-Term Future Coronary Events in High-Risk Adults.” It is available online at http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/99/20/2633.

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Another Way to Drive Home Message
I read with interest Charles Evans’ letter “Tone It Down, Already”, as well as your response. I believe both sides of the argument are valid, however, on balance, I come down on his side more. I have family members perusing this stuff as well, and there is no need to create undue anxiety.

I’ll tell you though, what was more impactful than looking at any crash photos, was the general press coverage of the profound sadness in the two families following the Kennedy crash. If Aviation Safety wants to provide lingering discouragement for continued VFR flight into IFR conditions, periodically provide a Time or People magazine type of view of the family members that are left behind.

-Doug Crook
Via e-mail


Having seen friends through the loss of loved ones in the aftermath of an accident, we know something of the sense of loss. Although you may in the future see a first-hand account of the aftermath of an accident, we believe our efforts are better focused on giving pilots the tools to avoid or fix mistakes than merely scaring them into flying more conservatively.

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Accident Reports are History’s Lesson
I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for your Editor’s Log column in the August issue. I am a student pilot working on my private. I want to be a proficient pilot and more importantly I want to be a safe pilot.

I subscribe to Aviation Safety as well as the NTSB Reporter and Aviation Monthly. I read the accident reports and synopses with great interest and increasingly, with great amazement. I cannot understand how so many pilots get themselves into the situations they do.

I can’t help but think that if more of them paid attention to accident reports, there would be fewer accidents. How does that old saying go? “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”?

I have been a paramedic for nearly 20 years and I am going to make aviation my next career. I hope that it involves flying and I know it will involve safety. Thanks again for being the voice of reason. I, for one, plan to spread the word about safe flying.

-George Angus
Via e-mail

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JFK Jr. and the image of G.A.