Editor's Log

September 2004 Issue

Perpetual Students

Everyone has an idea of what the word “risk” means. But connecting its definition with a real-world event is like nailing jelly to the wall, as Teddy Roosevelt once famously said. One man’s idea of acceptable risk is another’s sweat-soaked nightmare. It has always been that way and, the truth is, it will probably always be that way.

One of the things we do in Aviation Safety is to illuminate the varying perceptions of what people call “risky.” For example, a few readers expressed dismay that we would advocate intentionally overloading an airplane. We didn’t. What we did say is, “Putting more stuff aboard than the airplane can legally carry happens more than anyone likes to admit. As long as the load is within the CG limits, it can usually be accomplished without a huge risk.” We added, “Is it legal or wise to overload an aircraft? Not a chance. Being even moderately over your gross weight, however, is far preferable to being even slightly out of CG.” That’s not the same as saying, “Go ahead and load your aircraft any way you want; you can’t screw it up.”

Other readers took us to task for an article on zero-zero takeoffs. One letter, reproduced on the facing page, said we didn’t focus enough attention on obstacle clearance issues in the article or on “whether such takeoffs should be done at all.” Maybe. We did, however, focus attention on the many additional issues associated with them.

Flip over this page and check the cover. You’ll see the words “risk management and accident prevention.” That’s what we try to do, not only in these pages in our everyday flying. We also try to give readers a healthy dose of “how-to” assistance, especially with operations they’ve never attempted.

None of us were born with 1000 hours of instrument time over the Great Lakes in winter. Instead, we all are continuing to learn about this thing called aviation. No one, perhaps, is learning more than the guy or gal with the fresh Private ticket or Instrument rating. Unfortunately, the first time a pilot attempts to take off into zero-zero conditions or load the airplane to gross weight, he or she likely won’t have an instructor standing nearby. Hopefully, he or she will have enough practical knowledge from us and other sources to make intelligent decisions.

Aviation Safety’s role, in part, is to help prepare you for that zero-zero takeoff on that dark and stormy night, the one your instructor never told you about. Another role is to demonstrate the consequences of, say, overloading your airplane or getting it out of CG. One way we do that is to help pilots understand the tips and tricks of a proposed operation. But we’re not your mother—you still have to make the decisions and you have to live with their consequences. Once the ink starts to dry on your new certificate, you’re on your own. Aviation Safety exists to pick up where your instructor left off.

In July’s article, ”Positioning Pounds,” an error crept into a graphic we used to explore weight and balance issues. In fact, it got past four pilots/editors.

On page 17 of the July 2004 issue, we transposed values in the mathematical formula for computing an aircraft’s center of gravity (CG). Instead of W/M = CG, or Weight divided by Moment equals CG, the formula should have been written as M/W = CG. Thanks to all who pointed out this error.

—Jeb Burnside