Unicom

May 2006 Issue




Unicom: 05/06

When To Use The Gear
With respect to “When To Use The Gear” (March 2006), thanks for an excellent article! What has worked best for me is the approach and landing profile in the FAA’s Airplane Flying Handbook (FAA-H-8083-3A, <www.faa.gov/library/manuals) specifically intended for multiengine flying, but equally useful in flying complex airplanes.

I conduct at least two landing gear checks on every approach and landing! The first one is made on the base leg, which tells me it is okay to continue the approach. The second is done on final, telling me it’s okay to continue to a landing. Perform as many more landing-gear checks as you wish, wherever you wish, but these have worked really well for me, a Flight Instructor for more than a half-century.

When flying IFR, I use the training that was drummed into my head over a multi-decade career as an airline pilot: gear down to go down. That lets me hang out the gear at the glideslope intercept or when crossing the final approach fix inbound.

This latter procedure serves as a reminder that what the landing gear does—besides function as a great spark arrestor on touch down—is to provide drag, which one must be prepared to accomodate. The drag is just the price you pay for deploying the landing gear. When making a circling approach, I use both methods—not just either of them, but both.

Keep up the good work.

Norm Seward
Via e-mail

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More Changes?
In addition to color, you could make an even greater impact, pun intended, if in your NTSB reports you would preface them with indentification silhouettes of the aircraft involved.

Tom Weiss
Via e-mail


Thanks, Tom. We’re hard at work trying to come up with new and innovative ways to present this information. As future issues arrive in your mailbox, I hope you’ll enjoy—and benefit from—these projects.

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Cirrus Redux
As the primary flight instructor for the pilot of a Cirrus SR-22 that crashed in January 2005, I would like to make a correction to a sidebar (“Cirrus Accident: A Second Look”) in your January 2006 issue.

The fatal flight was not this pilot’s first solo IFR flight in IMC. In May 2004, he flew IFR from KGVL to KMMI where he accomplished a GPS approach to minimums. I preceded him, executing an NDB approach in a Bellanca GC1-B. Weather was 600 overcast with five sm of visibility. We then returned to KGVL in mostly IMC weather. I was only a passenger on the return flight.

John L. Davis
Via e-mail


Thanks, John.

The information that this was the pilot’s first solo flight in actual IMC came from someone close to the investigation. We’re happy to correct the record.

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When To Preflight
The March 2006 issue suggested a habit to prevent starting up and taxiing—or worse yet, taking off—with a tow bar attached to the nose gear. The suggestion was that the preflight always be performed after pulling the airplane out of the hangar.

This would probably work fine for the specific case of pulling the airplane out of the hangar. But there are other times when an airplane is repositioned manually and they aren’t always necessarily followed by a preflight inspection.

In my younger days, I worked as an airport lineboy and found myself frequently repositioning airplanes on the ramp. The rule we lived by was never leave a tow bar connected unless the airplane was in the process of being moved. If any other task takes precedence over moving the airpane, the tow bar is first removed from the nosegear and placed flat on the ground until the other task is completed.

Except when a true emergency interrupts, I think this habit has the best potential for preventing all incidents of attached tow bars. To this day I shudder when I see an attached but unattended tow bar. Fortunately it is a very rare occurrence.

Robert Hyduke
Via e-mail


Your suggestion is a very good one. My personal habit is to stop before boarding, step back and walk around the airplane, looking for tow bars, chocks, pitot tube and engine inlet covers, and anything else that doesn’t look right. I’m also interested in what’s in front of the airplane, what’s behind it and whether I have a clear path to taxi in case the brakes don’t hold.

A close friend who has many more hours and type ratings than I will ever have recently regaled me with his tale of taxiing for takeoff with his tow bar still attached to the nosewheel. If he can do it, I can do it.

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Risky Business
I take issue regarding your editorial in the April 2006 issue (“Risk? What Risk?”).

Not enough information is included to understand exactly the circumstances and, therefore, it is dangerous to make broad generalizations. There is no discussion of whether icing was a factor in either accident and your article is silent on the topic.

Like you, I have no issue with proficient pilots flying well-equipped airplanes in low IFR. However, a 172 with no “known icing” capability flying in late February in the vicinity of “snow squalls” and “poor winter weather” is cavalier and irresponsible, and certainly begs the question of whether the attempted flight was even legal. We read too many stories of airplanes without de-icing equipment getting in trouble in winter weather.

David Lund
Riverside, Conn.


Thanks, David. You’re right, there wasn’t much information on the two accidents in that editorial. One of the reasons had to do with the space available. The other had to do with the incomplete nature of the NTSB’s preliminary accident information at that time.

Since then, information available from the NTSB indicates the Skyhawk accident may have had more to do with a stall/spin at low altitude while circling for a landing under a low overcast than with anything else, especially icing. We await the NTSB’s determination of a probable cause but don’t believe that flying a non-deiced airplane in light snow, by itself, is particularly hazardous.

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Pilot Age and Risk
I can’t help but comment on the references in both the January 2006 issue and the April 2006 issue that older pilots who learned at an early age are at lower risk than those who learned at a later age. Does this really surprise anyone?

Assuming the two groups started with an equal average risk factor, the group that learned at an early age has had a longer exposure time. Therefore, the high-risk individuals in this group have had more time to eliminate themselves, leaving a predominance of low risk individuals as compared to the group who learned at a later age.

Hal Thomas
Cave Creek, Ariz.


You broke the code!