Unicom

March 2004 Issue




Unicom: 03/04

Casting Aspersions
To say that I am outraged would be a gross understatement! For the first time in my many years of reading the NTSB reports section of your periodical I noted that you identified the pilot by name in the report on the October 2 accident in Clayton, Ga.

In my opinion, you callously insulted perhaps the greatest aviator in aviation history, bar none. I have followed the career of Gen. Yeager since my Air Force days with SAC in the mid-’50s and have always had the greatest of respect and admiration for the man.

His work as a test pilot in the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s probably saved the lives of more pilots in the Air Force (and general aviation, for that matter) than all the graduate aeronautical engineers and so-called aviation experts put together. Considering his age and all the scrapes and bruises his body endured making aviation the safe mode of transportation and sport it is today, it’s pretty remarkable that he is still a competent pilot in high performance aircraft, especially one as quirky as a T-6.

Since you were so bold as to identify Gen. Yeager as the PIC, why didn’t you also mention the fact that his wife, Glennis, was the back seat passenger? As we used to say in the USAF, “You are screwing up like a T-6.” I will never again look forward to receiving and reading Aviation Safety with the same respect and anticipation as I once did.

-Stan McCurdy
Franklin, N.C.

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Yeager-meister
I am an ATP/CFII/MEI with about 8,500 hours, mostly instructing. I often use your information to show students what not to do, and that it only takes letting your guard down once to have a serious problem.

The articles also keep me focused and hopefully stop me from getting too complacent.

In the Preliminary Reports section in the January issue you cite an accident of Oct. 2, in Clayton, Ga. Is that the Chuck Yeager or just someone with the same name?

Keep up the good work.

-Jim Beauchamp
Via e-mail


While there have been a handful of occasions over the years in which the pilot was identified in the accident reports section, we acknowledge that it is highly unusual and we take such action only with careful forethought.

The purpose of printing the preliminary reports in the first place is to glean lessons from the mistakes and misfortunes of others in the hope that we might be able to avoid them ourselves. In the case of the accident in question, the lesson is greatly amplified by the presence of the pilot involved.

An anonymous pilot renders this a typical runway loss of control accident that is all-too-common. However, given that this supposedly routine landing was able to snag one of the most accomplished pilots of all time, those with more modest skills are warned in a palpable way that they would be well-served by keeping in mind that landings should be aborted at the first hint of trouble and that every landing deserves utmost focus.

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A Bad Idea You Have There
In a survey you recently sent, you asked if I would like to see more information about telling pilots how to safely push the envelope. Wow! What a bad idea! I care about safety for two reasons:

To protect my life and the passengers’ lives and to improve the safety record of GA (both out of regard for human life in general and specifically so the insurance rates can come down).

The idea that a safety publication would teach pilots how to push the envelope just seems wrong. I recall the article about how to fly over gross weight. I thought that was poor judgment. What’s next? How to scud-run? Check list short cuts? How to fly in known ice with a plane not so certified?

I enjoy your publication and read it with keen interest. But since you’re asking, that’s my opinion.

-Neil Myers
Via e-mail


Real-world flying often results in the actual flight transpiring somewhat differently than planned. In addition, limitations are often personal and by definition not carved in stone. “Pushing the envelope” can be construed as violating the airplane’s POH, certainly, but it can also mean expanding your own envelope of personal minimums.

That means slowly accumulating experience in stronger crosswinds, more difficult weather scenarios and lower approaches. In our book, helping you discover how to expand your comfort zone means arming you with the insight necessary to distinguish the possible from the foolish.

We would never recommend that you operate counter to the capabilities of yourself or your airplane. But knowing what those capabilities are is the first step in figuring out where to draw that line in the sand.

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Reporting Aircraft Time
Regarding your column, “No Answers” [Editor’s Log, January], I want to say, “Right on!”

And it’s a very simple problem for the FAA to fix. Just add a few data fields to the FAA aircraft registry website. Require the input of hours, mechanic, date, etc. For enforcement, give the mechanic a transaction code that must go in the logbook. Then we would have hours by aircraft, by type, by airport, by mechanic.

-Dan Barta
Via e-mail

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Rolling Waterfall
In response to Bill Levy’s comments in “All Wet” [Unicom, January], he should see the fantastic video of Bob Hoover doing a barrel roll in his Shrike Commander as taken from inside.

Hoover placed an empty glass on the glareshield. With the yoke in his left hand and a pitcher held backhanded in his right hand, he slowly filled the glass with “tea” as the horizon rotated 360 degrees in the background as seen through the windshield.

I don’t know who has the video now but I sure would like to have a copy of it. I saw his airshow performance well over a dozen times at Oshkosh and was always humbled.

-Henry M. Hurd
Via e-mail

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Bewildering Choices
I am a 1,200-hour CFII, owner of a 1981 Piper Warrior II. I am soliciting opinions as to when to rebuild my instruments, and in what order. My AI is 15 years old with 961 hours on it; the DG is 9 years with 600 hours; vacuum 7 years and 470 hours; alternator 7 years and 448 hours; turn coordinator 2 years and 318 hours.

I am considering a backup electric gyro (approved) or an unapproved electronic eGyro-3 AI. I also am considering an autopilot, which may affect which backup AI I choose. I fly single pilot IFR often, and want to improve my safety.

-Frank E. Dorrin Jr.
Via e-mail


Backups are a deeply personal choice, dictated by pilot skill, typical mission and budget. We don’t presume to have a quick answer for you, but here’s some food for thought.

First, gyros generally do not fail without some kind of warning. The attitude indicator may be slow to erect or the DG may precess excessively. We’ve heard turn coordinators shriek wildly for weeks before packing it in.

Vacuum pumps, however, are another story. They can self-destruct faster than the tapes on “Mission: Impossible.” Pre-emptive replacement is called for, and at 470 hours you might start thinking about it.

Since we don’t mind spending other people’s money, we’d suggest first either replacing the vac pump or installing a Precise Flight standby vac system and then replacing the vac pump whenever it blows up.

The PC Flightsystems eGyro-3 works very well, in our experience, and is a reasonable emergency substitute, but if your primary fails on the ground you’re stuck. Electric gyros are considerably more expensive, and the less expensive ones have a checkered service history. Your call there, depending on your flexibility.

If you want an autopilot, consider the S-Tec system that replaces the turn coordinator. That frees you up to overhaul your attitude indicator while you save up some money.

As for the alternator, that depends on your environment. If you fly to a lot of uncontrolled airports in an area where there are a lot of options, loss of the alternator isn’t the end of the world. If you fly a lot of hard IFR in areas where the battery will go down before the airplane can, pre-emptive action is appropriate there.

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Auto Pilot
I’m puzzled by the “Errors of Omission” [Learning Experiences, January], which seems to imply the pilot put 10 gallons of auto gas into the airplane rather than aviation gas.

Can you do this and have a properly running engine?

-Jim LaVelle
Fort Myers, Fla.


That depends on the engine. The airplane in question, a Bellanca 7KCAB, has a Lycoming IO-320-E2B that makes 150 horsepower. The carbureted version of this engine has an auto fuel STC that involves only paperwork. The fuel injection complicates things, but in this case, with this engine and the fact that the auto fuel was mixing with avgas, the engine would – and did – run just fine.