May 2017

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Subscribers Only - For almost as long as I’ve been flying, the general aviation industry has been in upheaval. By the mid-1980s, product liability concerns and tax law changes helped remove what was propping up things, and the bottom fell out. Among other outcomes, Cessna stopped making piston-powered airplanes altogether while other manufacturers discontinued numerous models, preferring to concentrate on one or two.

More Changes Coming

For almost as long as I’ve been flying, the general aviation industry has been in upheaval. By the mid-1980s, product liability concerns and tax law changes helped remove what was propping up things, and the bottom fell out. Among other outcomes, Cessna stopped making piston-powered airplanes altogether while other manufacturers discontinued numerous models, preferring to concentrate on one or two.

Curved Approaches, II

There is nothing wrong with the traffic pattern as it stands today. Just like with the emphasis on AOA indicators, we are not concentrating on proper training, which is the only way to reduce LOC-I accidents. Your article on slow flight (“Revising Slow Flight,” February 2017) was a great example of what CFIs should be adding to their flight reviews and checkrides.

Performance Margins

At one time or another, we’ve all passed an FAA knowledge test requiring us to calculate aircraft performance for various phases of flight, such as takeoff, cruise and landing. Even though we’ve been trained and tested on our ability to interpolate the answer down to the foot, mile, minute or gallon, these calculations alone don’t ensure we’re always operating the aircraft prudently. For one thing, they don’t account for poor technique, worn equipment or errors.

Fire And Ice

Subscribers Only - The typical air-cooled piston aircraft engine powering personal airplanes employs a carburetor to meter the fuel and air entering combustion chambers before it’s ignited. The devices are relatively simple and well-understood, with roots going back to the first internal combustion engines. But almost since the beginning of heavier-than-air flight, carburetor icing has been an operational consideration associated with mysterious engine failures or interruptions of power.

Finding The Airport

A student pilot in a Cessna 152 was flying from Denton, Texas, to the Ardmore (Okla.) Municipal Airport (KADM). During the trip, he obtained VFR flight following from ATC. At his last checkpoint, he was told Ardmore was at his 12 o’clock and 10 miles. The student contacted what he thought was Ardmore Municipal Tower and reported his position. It is unclear from the report, but it appears that he may have entered the wrong frequency.

Hacking VFR Flight Following

No matter what it’s called—flight following, VFR advisories or the FAA’s official term, “Radar Traffic Information Service”—the radar-based assistance ATC provides VFR pilots to help them identify and avoid nearby traffic often can be a mystery to pilots. The reasons why are complicated— often involving lazy instructors and low-level training flights that rarely use ATC—but it’s not uncommon for a freshly certificated pilot to not know how to obtain VFR flight following.

Know Thy Cargo

Subscribers Only - Out flying about here in Idaho, it’s amazing the kind of useful cargo that gets thrown into a typical personal airplane. Personally, I’ve flown white gas, propane, butane, isobutene, bear spray, flares, magnesium metal, petroleum jelly-soaked cotton, windproof matches, fire starter, resin wood, radioactive materials, guns and ammunition. And that’s just my emergency kit. I also usually carry (mostly) full tanks of aviation fuel and an engine filled with oil. You probably do, also.

BasicMed Takes Effect

Effective May 1, 2017, you may no longer need to hold an FAA third-class medical certificate to serve as pilot in command. The change results from FAA implementing a Congressional mandate enacted last year, which directed the agency to develop appropriate regulations to eliminate the third-class medical for specified flight operations. The image below, prepared by the FAA, highlights BasicMed’s major provisions.

Navigating Weather

Subscribers Only - The relatively inexpensive and ubiquitous availability of in-cockpit Nexrad weather radar has helped minimize the risk of using personal airplanes compared to, say, 30 years ago. But risk and aviation seem to be a zero-sum game, since one result of this technology is that we’re more likely to get up close and personal with cumulus clouds in all stages of thunderstorm development than ever before. That’s not a good thing, but it is real. Along the way, most of us haven’t taken to heart the technology’s inherent limitations for our purposes, like latency.

NTSB Reports: May 2017

Subscribers Only - The pilot reported that when he raised the landing gear shortly after takeoff, he heard a loud crunch as the gear entered the wells. The pilot climbed the airplane to about 3000 feet and observed the landing gear circuit breaker was popped and the alternator was off. The pilot attempted to extend the landing gear normally several times, however, the circuit breaker popped each time and the gear remained retracted. The pilot also attempted to use the emergency gear extension, to no avail.

Disappearing Runway

Subscribers Only - I was flying out of Boeing Field (KBFI), something I had done hundreds of times before. Tonight’s flight was to maintain night landing proficiency, so after making landings at a few airports in the area, the adventure started as I returned home in the dark. The wind was from the north, so the active runway was 31L. And because I was making the approach at night, I did what I always do: approach the runway from the north over Elliot Bay. As expected, I was assigned a left pattern to 31L.

Fuel Tanks

Subscribers Only - Aircraft had been inactive and hangared for approximately six months. While trying to troubleshoot a fuel quantity indication problem, a fuel sample revealed contamination, which was sent for analysis. While awaiting results, tanks were drained and an anti-bacterial fuel additive was added before they were refilled.