September 2011

July 3, 2011, Washington Island, Wis., Mooney M20S Eagle

Subscribers Only - The pilot landed the airplane using a short-field technique he had recently practiced with his instructor. During the landing roll, the airplane became airborne again. The pilot attempted to abort the landing by applying full throttle and retracting the flaps to the takeoff position. However, the airplane would not climb and settled to the ground.

July 3, 2011, Santa Paula, Calif., Cessna 180D

Subscribers Only - At about 2021 Pacific time, the airplane cruised into a telephone line. The fuselage, including the cockpit and instrument panel, were consumed by a post-impact fire. The commercial pilot and passenger were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed for the dusk flight.

Burned And Separated

Subscribers Only - The nose landing gear failed to extend when the gear was lowered for landing—a nose-gear "up" landing followed. Examination revealed the uplock bellcrank forward arm (p/n: 204303112) was bent and cracked through 90 percent of its material. It would not allow the uplock to disengage. The probable cause: severe side loading during landing at an unknown time. A new part was installed and a gear-rigging check made. No other problems were noted.

July 4, 2011, Vancouver, Wash., Cessna 182A Skylane

Subscribers Only - The banner-tow pilot approached the pickup point to catch the rope with his tail hook. Shortly after his initial pitch-up maneuver to hook the rope, the pilot observed through a mirror that the rope was not attached to his tail hook. Photos taken of the airplane in the air by a witness show the tow rope hooked around the nose gear and looped over the right horizontal stabilizer.

July 2, 2011, Hayti, S.D., American Champion 7GCBC Citabria

Subscribers Only - At 2136 Central time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted power lines and terrain while maneuvering. The private pilot and his two passengers were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed. A handheld GPS navigator was found at the accident site and its data downloaded. The data indicated a majority of the flight was conducted at less than 200 feet agl.

July 1, 2011, Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Cessna A185F

Subscribers Only - The airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted water at approximately 1433 Atlantic time. The commercial pilot and four passengers were fatally injured. Instrument conditions prevailed. Review of radar data indicates the airplane initially climbed to 2000 feet msl and, approximately five minutes later, descended to 1800 feet.

Taking Hostages

Subscribers Only - It’s been almost four years since the FAA has been able to engage in the kind of long-range planning most other federal agencies enjoy. That’s because the most-recent multi-year legislation authorizing its activities expired in 2007, forcing the agency into a situation where it’s been subject to a series of short-term extensions—21 of them so far, as of this writing—to continue operating. Most recently, the agency’s offices and employees tasked with airport construction, facilities modernization, and research and development, were forced to shut down when Congress failed to renew the latest extension.

Open-Door Policy

Subscribers Only - I had almost the same experience ("Open-Door Policy," Learning Experiences, August 2011) with my father. It was just after WWII, and I was 10 or 11. He had a Piper Cub. It was a nice, late summer evening and we had just taken off from the Whitman County Airport in Eastern Washington. The window was open and—why, I don’t know—I reached up and pulled its quick release. It promptly fell off, but my dad had seen me do it and, as luck would have it, caught the door! He calmly reached around with it, handed it to me and said "Hang on to it; I’ll land and we’ll put it back on." Which we did, on a hilltop in wheat stubble out in the middle of nowhere.

July 1, 2011, Toledo, Ohio, RANS S-17 Experimental

Subscribers Only - At about 1930 Eastern time, the experimental amateur-built aircraft sustained substantial damage when it impacted terrain following loss of directional control during takeoff. The private pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed. It was the pilot’s first flight in the airplane since purchasing it.

July 7, 2011, Watsonville, Calif., Mooney M20F Executive 21

Subscribers Only - At about 1920 Pacific time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted a parking lot and a building shortly after takeoff. The private pilot and the three passengers received fatal injuries. Visual conditions prevailed. According to several eyewitnesses, the airplane departed Runway 20. The climb angle after takeoff appeared "steep." The airplane commenced a very rapid left roll when it was approximately 500 feet above the threshold of Runway 2.

July 4, 2011, Plymouth, Mass., Cessna 150L

Subscribers Only - The airplane was substantially damaged at about 1300 Eastern time during a forced landing to a cranberry bog following a partial power loss during takeoff. The commercial pilot was not injured. Visual conditions prevailed.

Small Print Giveth, Too

Subscribers Only - My Learning Experience has almost nothing to do with a near-death event and everything to do with knowing the FARs and understanding how they often can be used to our advantage when the chips are down. I was helping close friends who were preparing to ferry their cherry 172 from the east coast to their new home on the west one. Owing to their move, the airplane had been sitting for a few months, and needed some attention before it could be flown. The shop had taken its time, resulting in the airplane finally being ready the afternoon before their scheduled departure. I volunteered to do the post-maintenance check flight from the towered airport.

July 8, 2011, Verlot, Wash., Piper PA-22-135 Tri-Pacer

Subscribers Only - The airplane sustained substantial damage at about 0730 Pacific time when it impacted terrain. The private pilot and his passenger sustained fatal injuries. Both visual and instrument conditions were present in the vicinity.

July 30, 2011, Springfield, Ohio, Wright B Flyer Experimental

Subscribers Only - At about 1055 Eastern time, the airplane sustained substantial damage on impact with terrain during a forced landing near Springfield, Ohio. The commercial pilot and pilot-rated passenger sustained fatal injuries. Visual conditions prevailed. Witnesses reported the airplane’s engine sounded like its rpm varied.

July 23, 2011, Corona, Calif., American Aviation AA-1A

Subscribers Only - At about 1025 Pacific time, the airplane collided with mountainous terrain and was consumed by a post-impact fire. The flight instructor and student pilot sustained fatal injuries. Visual conditions prevailed. A witness observed the airplane flying from right to left just above the ridgeline.

July 24, 2011, Rantoul, Ill., Piper PA 46-350P Mirage

Subscribers Only - The airplane sustained substantial damage when it impacted powerlines and terrain during takeoff at about 0920 Central time. A post-impact fire ensued. The pilot and two passengers sustained fatal injuries. Visual conditions prevailed and an IFR flight plan was filed.

July 9, 2011, Demopolis, Ala., Cessna 421C Golden Eagle

Subscribers Only - At about 1740 Central time, the airplane was substantially damaged when it impacted terrain while on approach. The private pilot and six passengers were fatally injured. Visual conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan was in effect. The airplane was in cruise flight at FL210 when the pilot declared an emergency due to a rough running engine. He diverted, subsequently confirming he had shut down the right engine and reported the airport in sight.

July 14, 2011, Albany, Ore., Bellanca 7KCAB

Subscribers Only - The pilot reported his engine began running rough after 1.7 hours of flight. After making a 180-degree turn toward an airport he just passed, the airplane’s engine died and the pilot, who was unsure he could make it back to the airport without unduly endangering people on the ground, opted to set down the aircraft in an empty field. The landing was uneventful; however, the aircraft encountered a divot on the landing roll and nosed over on its back.

July 17, 2011, Matinicus Island, Maine, Cessna U206G

Subscribers Only - At about 1625 Eastern time, the airplane was ditched in the ocean. The airline transport pilot and three passengers received minor injuries. Visual conditions prevailed for the on-demand air taxi flight conducted under FAR Part 135. The airplane did not show any abnormal indications on the takeoff roll or during the initial climb.

July 18, 2011, Augusta, Ga., Mooney M20K

Subscribers Only - The airplane collided with the ground shortly after takeoff at about 1225 Eastern time. The solo private pilot was fatally injured. The airplane came to rest on airport property and was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed. The pilot had a gear-up landing accident with the same airplane on April 11, 2011.

Moving (Down) To Light Sport

Subscribers Only - Are you an experienced pilot with a light sport aircraft (LSA) in your future? For many of us, LSAs answer the need for a lower-cost option as we seek to continue flying even as the expense of doing so keeps rising. For others, an LSA is a way to scale back to the type of flying that attracted them to aviation in the first place. Yet other rated pilots see the medical self-certification of sport pilot rules as a way to keep flying longer, perhaps after becoming ineligible for an FAA medical certificate, while accepting the rules limit us to flying LSAs. Regardless of your motivation, moving from "traditional" airplanes to LSAs may be a little more involved than you’d expect. For example, what are the design and engineering issues that make LSAs handle differently than larger airplanes? What’s the safety record for pilots moving "down" to light sport? And, is there anything we can do to better manage the differences?

Are Flight Instructor Reforms Needed?

Subscribers Only - Both industry and the FAA recently have emphasized the importance of effective flight training to improve the fatal accident record. Flight instructors, who serve on the front lines in this effort, are the crucial human element in the flight training delivery system and the glue holding the other elements together. But questions regarding their experience, training, continuing education and professionalism raise doubts about whether the service they provide is effective, consistent, relevant and customer-friendly. After all, if they were doing their job, would the trend lines in general aviation’s safety record be as flat as they are?

What’s Your Vector, Victor?

Subscribers Only - November 12345, turn right, heading 140, vector around traffic." So begins yet another excursion off our planned course, courtesy of ATC: a vector. In their primary role—helping prevent us from swapping paint with each other—controllers use vectors to maintain spacing or establish sequencing for a runway. Other reasons for a vector include helping keep us out of weather or airspace, or because we request it. In fact, ATC always is supposed to tell us why we’re being vectored, something we’ll get to in a moment. The reality in today’s go-direct-everywhere ATC system usually means a heading to fly is not something we want or appreciate, since it’s usually an off-course delay, lengthening our trip and wasting time and fuel. But there are times—in terminal airspace especially, or when circumnavigating special-use airspace while en route—when vectors are good things and can help us cut various corners.

The ADS-B Mess

Subscribers Only - For the time being, a Mode C transponder is your key to regularly accessing Class A, Class B, TFR and ADIZ airspace. Under most circumstances, losing altitude squawk capability means ATC isn’t going to let you into those places, although you can continue flying elsewhere. That’s one reason many operators have installed a second, back-up Mode C transponder, in case the primary box fails. But that Mode C transponder is destined to be supplemented by—maybe replaced by—the FAA’s new air-traffic surveillance system, ADS-B, or automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast. As plans currently stand, we’ll all need this technology installed in our aircraft to access various airspace types by 2020, when the FAA’s final rule mandates the latest and greatest ATC system, NextGen, is implemented. Putting aside the new system’s relative merits and implementation timetable, the time will come when at least ADS-B Out equipment will be required for a lot of places we want to go.

The First 1000 Feet

Subscribers Only - I’m always amused by pilots and non-pilots alike who express the view that landing is the most challenging portion of a flight. Yes, it can require all of our skills, but so can other segments, even straight-and-level cruising. The degree to which any flight segment poses a greater or lesser challenge depends on weather, terrain, aircraft loading—essentially all the variables we’re trained to consider and for which we compensate during our flight planning and execution. When merely considering the challenges posed, one of the oft-overlooked portions of flight is what comes immediately after the airplane clears the runway on takeoff. Depending on things like density altitude, terrain, weather and aircraft loading, the initial climb to clear obstacles and reach a "safe" altitude easily can be the most challenging flight portion. The combination of variables can conspire to rob us of the relatively marginal performance we have right after liftoff, putting us in the weeds.

Your Lying Eyes

Subscribers Only - Fight flights are some of my favorites. The air usually is smooth, what traffic is sharing the sky can be spotted easily, there’s less chatter on ATC frequencies and—when conditions are right—the beauty is unmatched. But flying at night also brings with it some additional challenges, at least when compared with the same mission during the daytime. The root problem, of course, is lack of illumination. More than a few aircraft have smacked into hillsides at night and in good weather. Even more insidious is dealing with the odd emergency, especially if we have to put down in a remote, unlit area.