January 2006 Issue

Unicom: 01/06

How To Crash 101
For a safety magazine, the “Crash” Course sidebar on page 7 of the November issue is indeed a course on how to have a fatal crash. Suggesting that an approach should be flown with the stall horn blaring is an invitation to the classic stall-spin with no altitude for recovery.

A friend of mine was of the opinion that you should fly the pattern same speed, wind or not. He’s dead now—spun in on a windy day. And he likely at least had the recommended margin for a no-wind day.

I’m not advocating faster is better—it’s not. Flying the right speed for the conditions is the answer. If there’s no wind, fly 1.2 times Vso, not 1.3, not 1.25. And do this every landing, not just when you’re practicing emergencies. Then, when you have an emergency, it’s just another landing—you just don’t have pavement in front of you.

And, if you have the time, get a glider rating. Every landing in a glider is practicing for a corn field or short-field spot landing. If you get into cross-country glider flying, you’ll be talking to farmers more than once.

A final comment is that you suggest that the right speed to fly is best glide. Then you suggest minimum controllable airspeed. Minimum controllable airspeed is slower than the best rate of sink, which is slower than recommended approach speed, which is likely slower than best glide. Use best glide to get to your emergency field, then slow down to 1.2 times Vso for the pattern.

Steve Paavola
Via e-mail

Gliding is gliding; crashing is crashing. An off-airport landing is when you want to be on your game. I don’t think anyone would advocate contacting the ground at the airplane’s best glide speed. Similarly, 1.3 Vso isn’t always the right speed at which to fly an approach in gusty conditions. As someone older, wiser and with many thousands more hours under his belt than I will ever have once said, “It depends.”

The point is that we want to contact the ground or water in an off-airport landing at the slowest possible speed. Doing so minimizes the energy the airframe—and its occupants—must dissipate. Ideally, we will have planned the glide, the flare and the touchdown so that we run out of airspeed and altitude at the same time.


More math destruction
The author responds with the incorrect formula but worked it out with the numbers correctly. The correct formula is V2 = V1 times square root of W2/W1.

Rick Nowack
Via e-mail

Ouch. That left a mark.


Teaching Spins
This comment is motivated by Tom Oneto’s article “Stalls Revisited” in your September 2005 issue.

It is a shame, bordering on downright dangerous, that full stalls, right through the break and into fully developed spins followed by recovery, are not a mandatory part of flight training. There is nothing more disorienting to a pilot unfamiliar with spins than the face full of swiftly rotating terrain that accompanies an unintentional spin, no matter how it is entered. It is so disorienting that more than a few pilots, some of them quite experienced, have gone headfirst into the earth full of perplexity and fright at the strange sight of the ever-growing spinning scene out front.

There is only one remedy for that danger, and that is experience. To be safe, everyone who flies should be taught to enter spins from a variety of situations, to know what they feel like as they start and when they get going, and how to get out of them safely.

Of course, it goes without saying that everyone should understand the circumstances that lead to spins and have experience of a variety of them. Current training does include this to a very small extent; but most real spins are inadvertent, so much practice in rapid recognition and correct reaction is badly needed.

David Fox
Via e-mail


I don’t think I ever had an airplane with a starter—I’ve been hand-propping for a lifetime—so I wanted to comment on some of the items you covered in October’s article on propeller safety, “Top Prop Traps.”

First of all, the “knowledgeable” person at the controls you advocate sounds good and makes everyone feel nice and warm, but it’s just not practical. If I had to scurry around to find this person every time I wanted to fly, my airplane would simply sit in its hangar. And forget flying from any field other than my home base; the last thing I need is some knowledgeable stranger sitting in my airplane ready to do God knows what. That really scares me.

Here are my rules:

1. Clear the area. No one, “knowledgeable” or not, is in the plane.

2. Secure the airplane. Tie the stick full back and use any two of either chocks (mine are tested to 2350 rpm), locked hydraulic brakes or a tail tiedown.

3. Manage the engine controls. I want to personally set them so I know what’s going to happen.

4. Wear gloves. Real gloves.

Most handpropping accidents result when inexperienced people try to prop big engines, like when someone leaves on his Bonanza’s master switch. Keep up the mostly good work.

Stephen W. Trolander
Palmer Lake, Colo.


Singles vs. Twins
I’ve always enjoyed your publication but I was shocked to see your statement (Unicom, October 2005) that “…the realities of risk management dictate that we really shouldn’t be flying a single, no matter what powerplant it uses.” Do you really want to dismiss singles with a sweeping statement?

I’m sure you know the single vs. twin arguments, which you have gone into before (as has most every other aviation magazine). I fly a Bonanza over water two-three times a week and wouldn’t do it in a twin for anything. In fact, my idea of the ideal airplane is the Bonanza Propjet. There have been many instances of twins having an engine failure on takeoff or in the pattern, resulting in mishandling by the pilot and death. Not to mention mishandling of fuel and other complexities even with two good engines.

Multi-engine training for non-professionals is a joke. The potential for brain lock in a real situation, when you have a couple of seconds to do everything right, is hard to train for. Many professional pilots subscribe to this philosophy.

The majority of twin pilots delude themselves into thinking they could successfully perform a single engine go-around under stress. My single engine is maintained to a much higher standard than most twins, since I can devote any amount of money to it and still be half of the equivalent vigilance on a twin.

If I do have an engine failure over water, I am prepared. And I bet I am more likely to execute that successfully than the average twin pilot is likely to execute an engine-out go-around at 500 feet.

We recently had a twin come into HNL with an engine out. The dead engine also operated the gear. There were a bunch of issues to deal with, and they didn’t get the gear down all the way. The occupants walked away, but the plane was destroyed. Complexity has a way of creeping up on you.

Brian Barbata
Kailua, Hawaii

We’re reminded of the guy who only flew on four-engine airliners. When asked why, he said, “Because there are no five-engine airliners.” Us? We all fly singles.