December 2017

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Subscribers Only - When it does, that new generation of personal aircraft likely will include technologies designed to prevent accidents. Things like envelope protection, where the machine doesn’t allow its pilot to put it into an unsafe situation. Technologies like GPS and ADS-B are a given, along with a networked operating environment where it and all other nearby aircraft “talk” to each other to manage collision avoidance, sequencing and efficient routing. Operator certification won’t be nearly as complex, time-consuming or expensive as it is today.


In another forum, I recently complained that much of the technological advancement the general aviation industry has seen in my flying career manifests itself only in the instrument panel, not in the airframe or the powerplant. The evidence supporting my complaint is rather abundant, and my own airplane—manufactured in 1966—is something of a poster child.

When To Switch Tanks?

In the “Top Five Tips and Traps” article of the November 2017 issue, I disagree slightly with the statement that “once an engine is started, take off on the selected tank and only switch to another one while airborne.” The premise is a good one, but I have been in the habit of immediately switching tanks after engine start. My theory being that if the engine started fine on one tank, that tank is probably fine.

What’s Age Got To Do With It?

The FAA’s BasicMed alternative to a traditional medical certificate is an attractive option for many pilots, especially those of us who are now senior citizens. However, we should recognize that medical issues are not the only factors affecting our ability to fly as we get older. Even in the absence of pathology, age alters our cognitive processes: how we recognize and interpret situations, decide on courses of actions, manage our workload, remember crucial information and skillfully execute our plans. We may joke about our “senior moments,” but many of us wonder if our ability to continue flying skillfully and safely is being undermined.

Special Flight Permits

Subscribers Only - Spend much time around aircraft owners or a maintenance facility and you’re likely to hear the term “ferry permit.” What’s being talked about is what the FAA calls a “special flight permit.” It’s the paperwork the agency uses to approve the flight of an aircraft “that may not currently meet applicable airworthiness requirements but is capable for safe flight.” Perhaps the most common reason for a special flight permit is lack of an annual inspection within the preceding 12 months.

‘Say Approach Request’

Subscribers Only - In less than 25 years, the “miracle” of GPS has transformed how even the smallest and least expensive aircraft navigates. Thanks to the wide area augmentation system (WAAS) in the U.S. and similar technologies deployed in other countries, GPS is more accurate, more reliable and more repeatable than what came before. If you need proof, look no further than comparing the faithful instrument landing system (ILS) to its WAAS GPS-based equivalent, the LPV (localizer performance…

The Risks of Routine

Subscribers Only - One of the great joys of flying is a routine flight. I’m not referring to a flight that went as expected, which undeniably is the greatest joy, I’m talking about flying a routine route. If you hop in your plane on a Saturday afternoon to fly to your favorite $100 hamburger location and get a respite from your weekday worries, or a cargo pilot plying a daily route, you probably know the pleasure I am talking about. Pilots who fly routine flights can feel at one with their aircraft, heightening their sensitivity to any little deviation, like unusual engine noises or subtle performance changes with different loads.

Huerta: 2017 May Be The Safest Year Yet

When FAA Administrator Michael Huerta told attendees at the agency’s October 24, 2017, General Aviation Summit “it looks like 2017 will end up being our safest year yet,” he also took something of a victory lap. As Huerta’s five-year term nears its end in January, he and his team are taking some credit for what everyone hopes will be a distinct improvement in aviation safety. And since the airline accident rate essentially is zero, that…

Maneuvering Speed

Early in our primary training, we encountered the concept of maneuvering speed (VA), or design maneuvering speed as it’s sometimes called. We’re basically told it’s the speed at below which we should fly in turbulence and when entering advanced maneuvers, hence its name. If we’re lucky and have a good ground-school instructor, we’ll also learn that VA changes with weight: As the airplane’s weight decreases, so will maneuvering speed. Although VA isn’t marked on our airspeed indicators, there should be a placard listing it at the airplane’s gross weight, with the admonition to not make full control deflections above it.

NTSB Reports

The pilot later stated the approach to land was steeper and faster than normal as he was aware of cranes near Runway 18’s approach end. The airplane landed long and instead of going around, the pilot continued with the landing. The airplane went off the runway and into Tampa Bay. Observed weather included wind from 170 degrees at eight knots.

Peer Pressure

Subscribers Only - I had flown to Florida to visit friends in their beachfront condo. They were not pilots and had no concept of things like trading fuel for cabin load or the dangers of overloading an airplane. That evening, after a few drinks, the idea arose of a day trip to Key West to take in the sights. Against my better judgment, I agreed.

Master Switches

Cessna Model 172S Skyhawk SP Arcing Avionics Master Pilot reported burning smell and failure of avionics #2 buss during run-up. Troubleshooting revealed the right side of the avionics master switch (#2 buss) had been arcing internally. Replaced switch; ops check okay.