March 1999 Issue

Misinformation Indeed

Fuel errors piece contained errors of its own

Couldn’t resist commenting on Milovan Brenlove’s “Gasping for Gas” [Airmanship, February]. His example of the private pilot who believed he had 26.5 gallons per tank in his 150 only to discover in reality the airplane carried 22.5 gallons per tank wouldn’t have been saved the embarrassment of running out of gas even had he plugged in the 45 gallon stats.

According to an old manual I have for a ’74 150, usable fuel for the little trainer totals 22.5 gallons. That’s both tanks, not in each. The optional long range tanks in the 150s prior to ’65 provided only 35 gallons; 38 gallons through 77; the 152 long range upped the ante to a total of 39 gallons usable.

To quote the article, “Misinformation, believing something to be true that simply isn’t, can occur in many forms and for many reasons...”

-Robert Hazlett
Bisbee, Ariz.

You got us on this one. Mr. Brenlove responds, “In talking to the pilot about his accident, I was more concerned with the fact that his own airplane carried less fuel than he thought. It has been a while since I have flown a C150 and the most recent planes I have flown all carry significantly more fuel. So when he stated the figures, I absent-mindedly equated them to fuel per side as opposed to total fuel. I apologize for the mistake, but the underlying point still stands. Check the POH and don’t make false assumptions.”


Technique Wasn’t Really at Fault
I am the daughter of the pilot of the Citabria you wrote about [Accident Probe, January]. I was unfortunate enough to have just read your article “Wicked Assumptions” regarding the accident that killed my father and my brother. I am in the process of making a correction to the NTSB report regarding comments made regarding my fathers “routine high performance take-offs.” Now, after reading the article you wrote, I realize that I have to do the same with Aviation Safety. I have a letter written by the “witness” that states that my brother never made any such comment to her regarding “being apprehensive about routinely using the soft field takeoff technique, especially in high-density altitude conditions” and that my father had taught her correct takeoff techniques in the accident airplane. I don’t know if you have ever lost family members in such a tragic way, but I’m sure that you can understand my feelings for only stating the “so-called facts,” and not “hearsay.”

-Jennifer T. Moloney
Hyannis, Mass.

Our condolences on your loss. Having watched an old friend cope with the loss of her husband in a Lake amphibian accident, we know how difficult it is.

Writing about accidents is difficult. There is much we can learn from them as pilots, and yet to reduce someone’s entire flying career to a single misfortune seems to somehow trivialize the loss.

Because we rely on NTSB reports, errors there may be reflected in our stories. We are glad to correct any errors of fact that find their way into print. In this case, however, it is important to note that an FAA examiner also said your father commonly used soft field takeoffs in taildraggers.

Our intention in writing the accident probe articles is to help other pilots learn from the mistakes of those who came before. Small consolation, but sometimes that’s all there is.


Give Me More on Belt Regs
I am very interested in getting hold of the FAA Letter of Interpretation (stating that separate safety belts are not required for Part 91 operations) mentioned by Catherine Buhaly in her helpful article on Junior Aviators [Reality Check, January].

This subject is of particular interest to me as the father of three small children and the pilot of a 182. Weight and balance is not an issue; I just have never been clear what the regs mean in terms of seat belt/passenger.

Please forward any information you can which will help me in this quest.

Thanks, and congratulations on an outstanding publication.

-David Mullens,
Tampico, Tamps, Mexico

The letter in question is dated Nov. 5, 1990 and signed by the manager of the Operations Branch of the FAA. A copy is included in AOPA’s 1998 booklet “Traveling with Children.”


Mum on Icing Diatribe?
After reading “Icing Piece Left Me Cold” [Unicom, January], I diligently searched for the editor’s much-needed response to this diatribe, but, disappointedly, I found none. Is this writer serious? His comments indicate a dangerous and callous disregard for safety with respect to winter flying. It is indeed true that it is “not against the law to file IFR into real IMC in winter.” The powers that be do not always legislate against stupidity.

Am I to understand that this pilot believes that it is OK to get busted and have a 30- to 90-day suspension on one’s license? Surely the editorial staff of Aviation Safety must have a response to this. I fear that such an arrogant attitude by this pilot will have grave consequences.

In-flight icing represents one of the most significant hazards in general aviation and mandates respect far beyond the dogma of the FARs. The disdain for the FARs on icing and the cocky attitude implied in this Unicom piece, if followed by the readers, will certainly result in disaster(s).

Aviation Safety has the obligation to publish all opinions, but it also has the responsibility to its readership to state clearly when an opinion is dangerous, or as far left of center as this one is.

-Jim Benecke
St. Louis, Mo.

Like it or not, there are a lot of people tooling around in icing conditions in airplanes that were never meant to be there. Icing runs the gamut from a light dusting to a shellacking, so it’s impossible to generalize and say that flying when ice is forecast is either smart or stupid.

Our silence should not be construed to mean we endorse the writer’s opinion in the letter you cite. He does have a legitimate point in that the regulations are so conservative they are routinely ignored. In our view, however, the risk is more than just the inconvenience of a suspension on your record.

Tackling icing conditions in an airplane without de-ice or anti-ice equipment is a delicate matter. You don’t know how much ice there is until you’re there. If you happen to pick up more ice than you can handle you have very few options. Even planning to “take a look” and turn around if things don’t look good is perilous because conditions may deteriorate behind you.

As for warning people if a letter writer is too extreme, do you have to hear an umpire yell “Foul ball” if the ball has already landed in the stands?


Lies, Damn Lies...
In reference to the recent “Lessons to Unlearn” by Patrick Veillette [Training, January], I must say I enjoyed the article (as always) but find the quoting of “meaningless” statistics to be simply scare tactics. I do understand the point behind saying things like “Half the stall accidents … have an instructor on board” but this certainly isn’t fair.

Last year there were, let’s say, 1 million intentional stalls made with instructors on board, leading to 20 fatal accidents. Suppose there were also 5,000 deliberate stalls made by solo students, also leading to 20 fatal accidents. Conclusion? Well, half the accidents had an instructor on board, correct. Realistically, a solo student was 200 times safer with an instructor than without one.

Yes, we should watch our instructors like the hawks that they’re not. We shouldn’t quote figures randomly to unfairly prove our point.

-Michael Lean
Malvern, Pa.

Your point is valid, of course, but the statistics do have some value. Too many people blindly trust their CFI despite the fact that the instructor has weaknesses of his or her own. We personally knew an instructor years ago who liked to take students out over the ocean at night and do spins in a Cessna 152. He and his last student were never found, nor was the plane. The figures don’t aim to prove a point, only to illustrate that problems are more common than one might think.