February 2005 Issue

Unicom: 02/05

Surveying Risk
I really enjoyed the risk assesment quiz (December 2004). It really generated a lot of thought and discussion on the Cessna Pilot’s Association bulletin board. I particularly liked the questions where you had to make a snap judgment. In my opinion, they are the more accurate measures of one’s attitude towards risk, because you don’t have time to try to add in details. (Okay, what kind of equipment am I flying? How much recent experience do I have?) You either like the situtation or you don’t. Very effective.

My score was a 67, which I feel is very conservative for an ATP with 5000 hours. Keep up the good work.

Bob Thomason
Via e-mail

Bob, thanks for the comments, and for taking the survey. Scores received by our staff have been classified by the TSA. See this month's article "How You Judge Risk" for a detailed discussion of the results of our risk management survey.


Finding Ice
Really an excellent article on the practical aspects of regular flying in winter (“Finding Ice,” December 2004). There are two points to which you could have devoted a little more space: First, light aircraft pilots have a lot of icing information aloft that they’re not broadcasting for fear of some sort of official certificate action. Controllers never originate inquiries regarding your equipment. So wouldn’t it be appropriate to urge light aircraft pilots to inform ATC of the icing conditions aloft, if any, whether equipped for “known ice” or not? The real-time info we get from the airlines is invaluable, but there’s always a need for more.

Second, since a lot of icing accidents occur in the approach and landing phase, it seems to me the danger of steep banking maneuvers with airframe ice aboard should be emphasized. This can be especially treacherous when a tight circling approach is necessary.

W.S. Lyons
Falls Church, Va.

The only icing-related enforcement actions of which we’re aware involve either someone bending an airplane because of ice or an FAA inspector deciding to take a close look at a specific flight for some reason other than ice. Personally, whenever I encounter the stuff, I report it, usually as justification for my altitude-change request, and then I get the heck out of it. Interestingly, the only times I’ve seen ice, it’s not been forecast, which makes a pilot report all the more important.

How to handle an ice-laden airplane was beyond the scope of that article, but is something we’ll examine in the future. Someone flying an iced-up aircraft has become a test pilot.


Dry Tanking
I thought a lot about your recent article on “Dry Tanking” (October 2004). After a long while, I realized something was missing: You neglected to say that the pilot should fill the tanks, and ESTIMATE when the first one will run out. He should make an estimate of the EARLIEST expected time, the PROBABLE expected time, and the LATEST expected time. Write these down. Adjust them if needed, in flight, for flight and power conditions. See how your estimates are, compared to reality. Otherwise, you’d waste an opportunity to determine whether the estimates you make are in error.

Robert A. Pease
Via e-mail

Good points, Robert. In our defense, we’ve gotten used to using hyper-accurate fuel totalizers, which eliminate the need to make such predictions.


Weather Causes Accidents?
How odd that in the same month I see the AOPA Air Safety Foundation’s Bruce Landsberg write (correctly, in my view) that there is no such thing as a “weather-caused” accident, I find Paul Bertorelli (whom I respect very much) referring to VFR-into-IMC as a “weather-caused” phenomenon.

In my view, short of perhaps an invisible rotor in clear air far from any obvious orographic disturbances, weather is incapabable of actually causing an accident. Only our decision to fly in weather we shouldn’t be flying in (or don’t know enough about, which amounts to the same thing) can do that. It seems to me that a VFR-into-IMC “accident” isn’t even really an “accident” at all—it’s merely the natural, expected result of poor pilot judgment. Or am I missing something?

James Kemp
Via e-mail

Paul Bertorelli replies: No, you’re not missing anything. And you’re correct. I should have been more precise in describing VFR-into-IMC accidents as weather-related, not weather-caused. But I don’t agree that they aren’t accidents. Any outcome that bends metal or causes damage and that was unintended is an accident, in my view. Otherwise, we’re left to call them ... intentional wrecks? Frankly, the taxonomy of accident causes--ours, the NTSB’s and everyone else’s--leaves much to be desired, but we bumble along as best we can.