March 2018

Download the Full March 2018 Issue PDF

Subscribers Only - If you’re an aircraft owner like me, you enjoy rolling up your sleeves and tackling various tasks to help maintain or preserve your airborne conveyance. Those tasks can be as simple as a wash and wax, or more complicated, like an engine oil and filter change, or other preventive maintenance (PM) items allowed in FAR 43’s Appendix A. And if you’re also busy like me, you may find it difficult to work these projects into your schedule. One result is starting a PM project and not having time to finish it. That’s a place I find myself.

Down Time

If you’re an aircraft owner like me, you enjoy rolling up your sleeves and tackling various tasks to help maintain or preserve your airborne conveyance. Those tasks can be as simple as a wash and wax, or more complicated, like an engine oil and filter change, or other preventive maintenance (PM) items allowed in FAR 43’s Appendix A. And if you’re also busy like me, you may find it difficult to work these projects into your schedule. One result is starting a PM project and not having time to finish it. That’s a place I find myself.

Alternate Alternatives

One thing from the article I’d like to emphasize is the difference between the filed, legal alternate and the real Plan B. The requirements for identifying and filing an alternate are designed to ensure we have options for when the weather forecast goes wrong, when someone lands gear-up on the runway or when an equipment malfunction—whether involving a ground-based navaid or a panel-mounted radio—means we can’t shoot the approach into our original destination.

Cockpits By Braille

Subscribers Only - Stuff happens. One minute the engine may be purring like a kitten, the next it can be coughing up a hairball. Pilots who react well to such challenges often credit their training, applying the instincts honed by indoctrination without the need for excessive thought. How does that happen? Most pilots regularly practice simulating an engine out, picking a field and pitching for best glide. That is one scenario to be ready for, but emergencies come in many forms, and your preparation in advance will pay off when that time comes.

Procedure Vs. Technique

Subscribers Only - If you’re lucky, you’ve gotten some of your aviation education from an instructor with extensive real-world experience. One CFI who fits that description—having flown freight, charter, airline and corporate without ever giving up teaching in the 35 years he’s had his certificate—likes to remind students of the difference between procedure and technique. The former is what you have to do; the latter is how you choose to go about doing it. Before landing, for example, a constant-speed prop should be moved to its full-forward high-rpm setting to prepare for a possible go-around. Whether it’s done after turning final, on base or immediately after reducing power on downwind is entirely at the pilot’s discretion, provided it gets done. Reasonable arguments can be made for each alternative.

E/AB Aircraft Safety

Subscribers Only - The Experimental/Amateur-Built aircraft category has been the fastest-growing segment of general aviation for some years. The term “amateur-built” suggests the aircraft was assembled by an individual instead of a factory. In fact, the FARs state that an amateur-built aircraft is one that ”the major portion of which has been fabricated and assembled by persons who undertook the construction project solely for their own education or recreation.” The FAA requires that an amateur-built aircraft must be assembled or constructed at least 51 percent by an amateur, not including the engine(s), propeller(s) or accessories. Meanwhile, the term “experimental” encompasses much more than just amateur-built aircraft. Examples include those used for research and development, air racing, exhibition, etc.

The ICON A5

ICON Aircraft has been a media darling since the project was first announced. Founded in 2006, the company set out to create a different kind of light sport aircraft (LSA)—an amphibian, with folding wings for ground transportation and storage, and interior styling by BMW DesignWorks and Nissan Design America—that would appeal to a broad section of the current aviation community as well as to that huge potential market of non-pilots. The marketing emphasis was on recreation and fun, not transportation.

The Alternate Missed

Subscribers Only - I was in the left seat of a Beech Bonanza, receiving an instrument proficiency check in the Kansas City, Mo., area. We departed Lee’s Summit Municipal Airport (KLXT), simulating a takeoff into instrument conditions, and proceeded toward Midwest National Air Center Airport (KGPH), a short distance to the north. My instructor gave me headings to simulate radar vectors in the clear, cold and turbulent low-level air.

A Turn Too Late

It’s easy to look at controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) accidents as the kind you’ll never get into. Sure; you may suffer an engine failure from contaminated fuel, or scrape a wingtip while landing in a stiff crosswind or even forget to put down the gear before landing. But flying a perfectly good airplane into the side of a mountain? Never happen. The thing is, I’m relatively certain every pilot who was ever involved in a CFIT accident said the same thing at one point or another, perhaps right up until the moment a tree trunk came through the windshield.

NTSB Reports

The pilot reported attempting to activate the airport’s pilot-controlled lighting (PCL) system, but was unsuccessful. He continued toward the airport and, while maneuvering for a landing, he lost sight of the airport. The pilot continued to descend, however, and the airplane sustained substantial damage when it impacted a fence adjacent to the runway at around 1650 Central time. The private airport’s owner reported the PCL does not receive signals from the southeast, due to obstructions. The accident airplane was approaching from the southeast.

Tune And Identify

Subscribers Only - I’m a 63-year-old pilot completing my IFR training and obtaining a high-performance endorsement for a 182. Virtually all of my training has been with a large flight school in South Florida (name withheld to protect the guilty). In my regular life I’m a senior faculty member for a respected trade association. After about 30 years as an educator, I’ve learned that a successful learning outcome happens when the teacher is addressing the unique learning styles of each individual student. All of my students are adults with varying skill and education levels. If I teach in a manner that I think is the right way, but fail to connect with the individual student, I’ve failed as an instructor.

Fuel Tank Frustrations

Right fuel tank cracked at top seam. Tank was replaced. Operator noticed a very loud oil canning sound from right wing after shutdown following a one-hour flight. Investigation revealed a partial blockage of the fuel tank vent, causing oil canning of fuel tank due to vacuum in fuel tank. Vent line was cleared and vented cap was replaced with new.

FAA Updates Weather Services Guidance

Open your favorite EFB or log onto a web-based aviation weather site and you’ll be presented with a deluge of information on the environment in which we fly. Text-based weather observations and forecasts, plus Nexrad weather radar mosaics, satellite-based cloud and moisture images, and information-dense graphical products are but a few taps or clicks away. With a smidgen of understanding, a lot of it becomes self-explanatory to even the infrequent pilot.