Unicom

July 2005 Issue




Unicom: 07/05

Planes, Or Pilots?
I read with great interest “A Sober Look At Cirrus” (April 2005). I’m a Cirrus owner and decided to go through the NTSB accident data and look at the 30 reported Cirrus accidents. After reading these reports I conclude that the Cirrus aircraft is not the issue.

Of the 13 fatal accidents, 10 were pilot-related, two could be attributed to the pilot/controller and one remains undetermined. Seven of the fatal accidents involved IMC.

What can be concluded from this subjective analysis or the accident data? Statistically, it appears that a relatively high number of Cirrus pilots are getting into accidents, if the fleet hour estimates are accurate in the article.

A possible explanation may lie in the way the Cirrus is used. The aircraft is an ideal cross-country aircraft and is very well equipped for IFR flight. If this theory is true, then possibly the Cirrus is being flown in more demanding conditions and in IMC a greater percent of the time than comparable aircraft.

Another possibility is that Cirrus pilots are early adopters and have a higher personal-risk tolerance. There is no evidence that the aircraft is less safe and in fact you can make a case that it is safer. For example there have been four parachute deployments—none resulted in fatalities. It just may be that the Cirrus pilots are flying more difficult missions.

The article’s point regarding training certainly is underscored by a look at the details of the accident record. I think both Cirrus and COPA (Cirrus Owners and Pilots Association) are looking further at this issue. Possibly, a good subject for a follow-on article would be a more in-depth analysis of the type of usage by the various comparable aircraft. Accident statistics could then be put in a more actionable context and training needs better defined. As the article points out, this would be difficult data to develop. I appreciate Aviation Safety putting the spotlight on this subject and hope it will lead to steps that help make pilots safer.

Gil Williamson
Via e-mail


Aside from the “normal” mechanical discrepancies that can afflict any aircraft, we couldn’t uncover any chronic issues with either the SR-20 or the -22. One possible exception, however, involves the pitot-static system and the PFDs, although there simply isn’t enough data to know.

Instead, the fatal accidents involving these aircraft all appear to be pilot-related.

To us, the question industry should be asking is, “Why are pilots of such a capable airplane getting into trouble more often than pilots of similar aircraft?” We don’t think these pilots are flying more difficult missions. However, we are concerned that the airplanes’ technology and capabilies may lull their pilots into a false sense of security. The result, is similar to what happened in the 1950s and ‘60s with the Beech Bonanza: Pilots flew the airplanes into situations involving weather conditions or operations beyond their capability. Better operational training is certainly one way to address these issues—whether involving the Cirrus fleet or other technically advanced aircraft.

In the end, it comes down to the pilots’ ability to make decisions based only partially on the aircraft’s abilities and primarily on their own.

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Stupid Pilot Tricks?
A recent letter (“Unicom,” April 2005) expressed concern Aviation Safety paints a gloomy picture about GA due to the accident reports and other articles. My advice to that person: Get real! We get plenty of advertisement and exposure to the fun, excitement and benefits of flying. Unfortunately, some pilots don’t quite get the responsibilities that come with earning a pilot’s license. That is why, month after month, pilots commit the same mistakes: run out of fuel, fly into IMC when not IFR-rated, do stupid stunts, etc., getting themselves and innocent passengers killed. Your magazine does an excellent job of telling pilots the straight facts: Do stupid stuff or don’t follow the rules/training you received and here’s what will happen.

In my opinion, Aviation Safety should be required reading for safety courses in colleges and flight schools. Keep up the excellent work!

Dave Ellis
Via e-mail

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Sight Pictures
I enjoyed Pat Veillette’s article, “Finessing The Flare” (May 2005). It had a lot of good information, but I must take issue with one bit of advice he offers.

The author recommends, “As the aircraft approaches the runway threshold, your eyes should gradually shift from the aimpoint to the end of the runway ... By shifting our eyes to the end of the runway, we are better able to accurately perceive our distance above the runway.”

In my 4000 hours as a flight instructor, I have found that generally doesn’t work. One reason is that when looking at a point that may be nearly a mile away, small changes in altitude are not readily apparent. Further, peripheral vision is great at detecting motion, but not so good at determining height.

Second, in many airplanes, a person of normal stature cannot see over the instrument panel with the airplane in a proper landing attitude. If a student is having problems “finding” the runway, I’ll glance over to see where they’re looking. Often they’re craning their necks to see over the nose; when the runway disappears as the nose comes up, they’re essentially blind and cannot see the need to continue the flare. Planes which land fast and/or nosewheel first are often the result of a student not wanting to land “blind.”

I teach students to look to the left at the runway edge about 30 to 50 feet ahead of the plane. Peripheral vision is fine for keeping the plane aligned with the runway.

Keep up the good work!

Ed Benson
Via e-mail

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IPC Circling I
The FAA’s new Practical Test Standards (PTS) order for the Instrument rating is not a bit vague (“Unicom,” May 2005).

The current PTS (FAA S-8081-4D) lists 21 Tasks. On page 16, the IPC requires “...a representative number of tasks...to assure competence....” The next sentence says, “As a minimum, the applicant must demonstrate the ability to perform the Tasks as listed in the above chart.” The chart includes all of the Tasks in Area VI. A circling approach is in Task D in Area VI.

This indicates that the CFI can select as many tasks as they wish from the whole list of 21 but the selection must include those specified as the “minimum.”

It is quite clear that, for now, the FAA expects the IPC applicant to do a circling approach. We may not like it and we may not agree with it but that’s how it is. At least for now.

You do your readers a disservice when you imply that they can omit this task at their discretion.

Charles Fitzgerald
Via e-mail

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IPC Circling II
Okay, what am I missing? The May 2005 issue of Aviation Safety contained yet another letter questioning the requirement to include a circling approach on an IPC. This topic was addressed in the article, “Circle To IPC,” in the October 2004 issue.

I am looking at the Instrument Rating PTS, FAA-S-8081-4D, effective October 4, 2004. The last column of the task table, on page 16, lists the requirements for an IPC. It seems to me that the requirement for a circling approach is very clearly stated to be a requirement for an IPC in an airplane. So what I am missing?

Linda Dowdy
Via e-mail