March 2019

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Subscribers Only - The recent partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government had a far-reaching impact on aviation, thanks to its parent Department of Transportation (DOT) being one of the agencies lacking an enacted appropriations bill for the current fiscal year. Since related agencies are tacked onto DOT spending bills, the NTSB also closed for the duration, delaying ongoing investigations and postponing new ones. (Our monthly listing of preliminary accident reports might look a bit strange until the NTSB has caught up with the backlog.)

After The Prop Stops

Subscribers Only - One of the oldest jokes in aviation holds that the big fan is there to cool the cockpit: Whenever it stops unexpectedly, the pilot starts to sweat. Every aviator who’s had that experience can probably confirm a significant uptick in pulse and respiration. In the best case, that’s accompanied by a corresponding intensification of focus, rapid execution of the memory steps of the emergency procedures checklist and efficient assessment of available alternatives. In the worst...well, those pilots aren’t available for interviews, but tapes of their radio transmissions can make for uncomfortable listening.

Why We Lose Control

Subscribers Only - The aviation industry in recent years has highlighted loss of control in-flight (LOC-I) as the leading cause of general aviation fatal accidents. Many aviation organizations, including government agencies, have devoted considerable time and resources to target this problem and develop effective mitigations to reduce the number of LOC-I accidents. Much of that effort focuses on a pilot losing control, and how to train and equip to prevent it, because it’s the final event in the accident chain.

Exhaust Essentials

Subscribers Only - The first order of business in the inspection process is to become familiar with the specific exhaust system and components so that the aircraft is maintained in the desired condition. As always, the place to start is the manufacturer’s maintenance and parts manuals. This is also true when considering an aftermarket exhaust system, including turbochargers, typically installed according to a supplemental type certificate (STC). Aftermarket exhaust and turbocharger providers like Power Flow and Tornado Alley Turbo offer documentation at least as good as the airframe manufacturer’s, including installation instructions, parts manuals and instructions for continued airworthiness.

Hosed

Subscribers Only - Engine began running rough in cruise, the pilot diverted and the aircraft was landed without damage. Investigation found the fuel line between the fuel flow transducer and fuel flow divider was loose at the flow divider. “Although it seems unlikely, the aircraft operator has to consider the possibility that this fuel line came loose by itself in the five days and 23 hours of flying since the last scheduled inspection....”

Ag Pilots

The old stereotype of crop dusters—excuse me, aerial applicators—is that they are scofflaw daredevils, perhaps with behavior issues. That caricature is a relic of the past, when an enterprising farmer would buy a $300 war-surplus Stearman, put a hopper in the front cockpit and fly the plane hard until it broke. It follows that some might think ag pilots are an unlikely source of safety wisdom, and have fallen far behind aviation’s cutting-edge technology, but the truth is quite different.

Clouds In Your CAVU

Subscribers Only - For a supposedly CAVU day, I was now pointed at a solid cloud bank. I transitioned to instruments while still VFR and entered the clouds continuing toward VOR #3. It was still smooth as I crossed it and adjusted course toward VOR #4. Shortly after crossing VOR #3, there suddenly were a lot of pilots on the frequency asking for course and/or altitude changes to “get out of this weather.” I was still enjoying a smooth ride.

Procedure Briefings

Subscribers Only - I don’t recall my exact reaction the first time I contemplated an instrument approach procedure via its plate, but it probably was something along the lines of, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” How can any pilot be expected to fly to such exacting detail? As time went on, I learned more about instrument flight, associated procedures and what to look for on the small, black-and-white paper charts they were printed on. Soon I was able to fool an examiner into thinking I could fly approaches.

NTSB Reports

The crew reportedly was en route to pick up a neonatal infant. Radar data show the airplane climbed until reaching 14,000 feet msl. Ground speed was at 240 knots. The airplane then entered a steep right bank and radar contact was lost. No distress calls were received. A 600-foot-wide swath of wreckage was scattered over snow-covered terrain for about a mile. The cockpit area, cabin area, empennage, both engines and propellers, and both wings were identified and recovered.

Twin Training

Subscribers Only - When I first started training to fly multi-engine airplanes, it was solemnly explained to me that there were a few things the CFI and weren’t going to do. Yes, we were going to do stalls, but only from 5000 feet agl or more. They all would be straight-ahead and power-off to the pre-stall buffet, followed by the published stall recovery procedure. Generally, that involved pitching the nose down to regain airspeed and control. Only as we accelerated above the red line (VMCA) with the nose down did we bring up power to both engines. The CFI would arrange his knees and hands so that the yoke couldn’t rotate past 20 or so degrees, limiting possible bank angles but poised to take over if needed.

New FAA Guidance On Turbine Climb Gradients

The agency offered a two-part rationale for the new policy statement. First, according to the InFO, “It has come to the attention” of the FAA that some confusion exists regarding “compliance with climb gradients on IFR departure procedures and/or missed approach procedures. In some instances, this confusion has led to...excessive weight penalties to the departure performance capabilities of the aircraft.” More important, according to the InFO, “some operators may not be accounting for all obstacles in the planned departure path” when flying departure procedures and/or missed approach procedures.

Shut Down

The recent partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government had a far-reaching impact on aviation, thanks to its parent Department of Transportation (DOT) being one of the agencies lacking an enacted appropriations bill for the current fiscal year. Since related agencies are tacked onto DOT spending bills, the NTSB also closed for the duration, delaying ongoing investigations and postponing new ones. (Our monthly listing of preliminary accident reports might look a bit strange until the NTSB has caught up with the backlog.)

Risks Of Engine Failure

I had an interesting experience following recent painting of my Cessna 182. I flew it back from the paint shop uneventfully enough, but after tying it down following that two-hour flight home, we had a windstorm with 50-knot gusts, and the wind put enough force on the right wingtip to cause the screws holding it in place to drop out. So, the wingtip peeled off, and smashed into the cowling, creating a dent/crease just forward of the windshield.