From the December 2013 Issue
As you may know, Congress recently demanded and the FAA implemented changes to rules on the training and experience required before someone can become an airline transport pilot. The new rules go into effect August 1, 2014, and perhaps have created an unintended side effect: Since they impose additional requirements for the knowledge (written) test, if you ever wanted it, nows a good time to knock out the ATP.
I think it should be every light twin pilots responsibility to be current and proficient enough to safely handle an engine failure no matter where they occur. On takeoff, this can only be done safely with enough runway for an accelerate-stop distance computed for load and density altitude. Furthermore, compute single-engine climb performance for the conditions at hand.
We see it happen here all too often. The Franklin County Airport in Sewanee, Tenn., sits at the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau. During cooler months, northwest winds are thrust up the side of the plateau and swirl back down toward the airport. Tall trees surround the runway and make the airport difficult to see throughout the approach. Pilots in the pattern are greeted by updrafts followed by downdrafts that can make landing on our 50-by-3700-foot runway a challenge.
No matter how much automation we fly behind, no matter how many air-data computers are installed and no matter how simple it is, its likely a pitot-static systempretty much like the one Lindbergh flew across the Atlanticis what generates airspeed and some other basic flight information aboard the aircraft we fly. These systems are relatively simple, consisting of basic sensors, some plumbing and sensitive instrumentation. The difference in air pressure does all the work.
Too often, instrument training can focus only on approaches, those procedures at the end of a flight allowing us to find a runway and land on it. But well before were cleared for an approach, we have to take off, climb to altitude and get through the en route system to someplace close to our destination. Sure, approaches are sexy, but other portions of an instrument flight are just as important. Take initial climb and departure, for instance, something at which pilots routinely fail.
Its often difficult to compare the risks imposed by different activities, but its reasonable to state flying a certified single-engine airplane for an hour on a severe-clear day isnt as risky as spending that same time performing low-level aerobatics in an Experimental airplane. At the same time, and according to John King of King Schools, youre more likely to have a fatality in a GA airplane than in a car when traveling the same distance. If the added risk exposure we get from flying didnt provide some benefitmore efficient transportation, for example, or pure enjoymentwe might not do it at all. But the simple enjoyment of boring holes in the sky and other benefits outweighs that risk for many of us.
Before we can fly, we probably have to taxi. At sleepy, non-towered facilities, getting from the ramp to the runway and vice versa usually isnt much of a challenge unless the surfaces condition poses one. Meanwhile, towered facilities and larger airports bring their own challenges.
When you think about it, the rules applying to non-commercial, Part 91 flying are very lenient. We can take off when we want, go pretty much where we want, and dont need to talk to anyone unless the weather or the location demands it. Still, thats not enough for some pilots, who perhaps think their skill, experience or immediate needs outweigh the need to comply with even minimal requirements.
At 1820 Pacific time, the airplane veered off the right side of a runway and collided with a hangar. The private pilot and three passengers were fatally injured, and the airplane was destroyed by a post-crash fire. Visual conditions prevailed; an IFR flight plan had been in effect.