From the July 2015 Issue
Lightning always gets your attention. It should. On average, 51 people die in the U.S. each year from lightning strikes, making it the second-most common cause of storm-related deaths in the country, behind only floods. Hundreds more people are struck by lightning each year in the U.S., resulting in significant injury.
Its tragic that so many public figures have perished in general aviation accidents. The death of a celebrity in a general aviation aircraft almost always leaves a strong negative impact on the industrys image, probably creating additional downstream challenges ranging from local airport restrictions to reduced student pilot starts. Traditional media rarely is helpful and the ignorance of mainstream journalism causes additional harm.
Dont stop to think, just answer the question: When flying a crosswind approach to landing, which compensation technique do you use, a sideslip all the way to the runway, touching down first on the upwind main wheel? Or do you crab into the crosswind, kicking it out at the last second to align the airplane with the runway as it touches down?
Sometimes you just get set up. You got up early, looked out the window at a nearly clear sky and figured youd fly the 80 miles or so to visit a buddy and hang out at his airport instead of yours. You whipped out your tablet for a full briefing and to make sure there were no TFRs. The forecast advertised nothing below 5000 broken and four miles viz all day, so you headed for the airport, did the preflight and motored off over the horizon.
All pilots and controllers know about wake turbulence, the vortices streaming out and downward from an airplanes wingtips anytime its generating lift. We know theyre strongest when the generating airplane is heavy, clean and slow. We know not to fly in-trail of a larger airplane at the same altitude unless there are at least three minutes separation, preferably more.
At about 1225 Central time, the gyrocopter was destroyed when it collided with power lines while maneuvering. The solo private pilot sustained serious injuries. Visual conditions prevailed. The gyrocopter had impacted 30-foot-high power lines, breaking two of them. The pilot's headgear showed thermal damage to the faceshield and soot was evident inside of the shield and around the face relief of the helmet, consistent with electrical arcing. The engine appeared to be mostly intact and fuel was present.
As I scanned the local conditions for my first IFR flight after relocating the airplane to Non-Towered Municipal, I decided I needed to get my clearance on the ground before taking off. Using my cellphone, I called Flight Service, obtained my clearance and departed just fine. Only then I discovered the weather was far better than my estimation; good enough that I easily could have departed and picked up my clearance airborne.
The alternator cooling fan came apart after takeoff, and parts punched a hole in the induction air box downstream of the air filter. Also, the alternator belt became loose in the engine compartment. Loss of power from engine FOD damage resulted in an uneventful landing back to the airport. The cooling fan had fractured at one of the fins spot welds.