August 2008 Issue

You Are The Backup To Safety Enhancing Aircraft Avionics

There’s no going back—we are in an era of high-tech avionics and cockpit automation. Even some LSAs are sporting "glass" cockpits and simple autopilots; cross-country airplanes sport panels and equipment unheard of even in high-end turbines scant years ago, and the turbines themselves are becoming more accessible to owner-pilots. Even the most capable of these airplanes, however, has its automation limitations. Proper operation and constant monitoring of automated systems remains the responsibility of well-trained and emergency-current pilots. On April 19, 2008, a Cessna Citation Mustang suffered substantial damage when its pilot ground-looped the light jet to prevent a runway overshoot at Carlsbad, Calif. According to the NTSB’s preliminary report, this was an intentional act to prevent going off a cliff past the end of the runway after the pilot landed "fast" and beyond the mid-point of Carlsbad’s 4600-foot available landing surface. The pilot’s quick action may be credited with sparing injury (or worse) to the four people on board.

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