From the September 2015 Issue

Smoke Gets In Your Sky

Smoke Gets In Your Sky

The blue of a dry western sky can be breathtaking. But just after winter’s overcast gives way to clear and deep blue, an insidious menace begins to turn the blue skies white: smoke from the summer fire season. If the national news is covering numerous large western fires, anybody planning a flight in the western U.S. between July and October needs to be prepared to factor smoke into their pre-flight briefings. Check the fire map, or at least glance at the distribution of forest-fire TFRs.


Current Issue

New Certification Standards

The FAA and industry have spent the last three years preparing to replace the existing practical test standards (PTS). As a result, the new airman certification standards (ACS) will go into effect in 2016 for all airman certificates and ratings. This new system can potentially improve the general aviation safety record, but only if flight instructors, designated pilot examiners and FAA inspectors are prepared to teach, test and administer the new system.

Why Smart Pilots Crash

I’ve noticed there is a bias, sometimes spoken aloud, that a pilot who made some sort of a mistake and had an accident was either not terribly bright, lacked basic skills or just plain didn’t have the magical “right stuff.” As an instrument instructor, I’ve certainly seen pilots with poor skills or who weren’t terribly bright or had lousy judgment, and some of them crashed an airplane. I’ve also seen some extraordinarily good pilots who were possessed of all the right stuff imaginable, who also made mistakes and crashed.

Smoke Gets In Your Sky

The blue of a dry western sky can be breathtaking. But just after winter’s overcast gives way to clear and deep blue, an insidious menace begins to turn the blue skies white: smoke from the summer fire season. If the national news is covering numerous large western fires, anybody planning a flight in the western U.S. between July and October needs to be prepared to factor smoke into their pre-flight briefings. Check the fire map, or at least glance at the distribution of forest-fire TFRs.

NASA’s Latest Crash Tests

If there is any one thing guaranteed to frustrate an airplane owner—there actually are several, but work with us here—it’s the emergency locator transmitter, or ELT. The ELT, which was mandated by Congress in the early 1970s, got off to a bad start. Relatively short deadlines meant there weren’t enough of the devices available to meet the mandated demand. And they failed to activate in a crash more than 75 percent of the time. When they did activate, a whopping 97 percent were false alarms, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), resulting from something like a hard landing.

Fatals Higher In 2014

The NTSB in early August released preliminary general aviation accident statistics for 2014. Sadly, and despite major efforts at the FAA and within industry to enhance safety, the NTSB’s preliminary 2014 data show an increase in fatal general aviation accidents, from 222 in 2013 to 253 in 2014. Our calculator says that’s a 13.9 percent increase in fatal accidents between 2013 and 2014.

Acro Tyro

Just as there are different airplanes optimized for different purposes, pilots fly for different reasons. For some, it’s just a job, akin to driving a bus. For others, it’s a means of personal and business transportation. Still more fly for recreation, like sightseeing or aerobatics. Droning along in the stormy clag and hand-flying an ILS to minimums is the epitome of flying skill for some pilots. Others perhaps couldn’t fly an ILS if they had to but can fly, say, a loop or an Immelman to perfection, or safely get in and out of a back-country runway. Different strokes for different folks. Fortunate pilots may combine all of these activities, and others, into their flying career.

NTSB Reports: September 2015

At about 1705 Eastern time, the airplane touched down short of the intended runway. The commercial pilot sustained a minor injury; the pilot-rated passenger was not injured. The airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed. Abeam the runway threshold on downwind, the pilot lowered wing flaps to the first notch and moved the mixture control to full rich but did not turn on carburetor heat. While on final at 500 feet agl and 80 mph, the next thing he knew they were on the ground. He indicated the airplane descended due to a microburst, but there was no rain shower nearby. He also stated the passenger attempted to add full power, but was too late. He stated he did not stall the airplane.

Family Affair

The rule passed down from a father active in aviation to boys of teen age learning to fly an 85-hp Cessna 140: “Never tie down or hangar the plane after a flight without topping off the tanks.” It was good advice for the two of us flying the same plane: courtesy, good habits and prevention of water condensation in hot, humid Kansas.

Strutting

During landing gear retraction tests, it was noted the nose wheel assembly would contact the right nose gear door’s aft hinge during landing gear cycle. Also, the nose wheel assembly contacted the nose wheel well structure when fully retracted. Precision measurements determined the nose strut assembly-to-aircraft-structure attach points were misaligned.

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