From the April 2015 Issue

Saving The MU-2

Saving The MU-2

On September 30, 2005, then-Director of FAA’s Flight Standards Service, Jim Ballough, noted in a letter to the type’s owners/operators, and to maintenance technicians, “the MU-2 series airplane has been involved in 11 accidents over the past 18 months, with a total of 12 fatalities.” The letter announced the agency “urgently” was undertaking an “in-depth” safety evaluation and added, “performance expectations and control techniques common in other turboprop twins do not necessarily transfer to flying the MU-2.” Ballough’s letter acknowledged the widespread perception that the airplane had a problem, thanks to its wing design and use of spoilers for roll control, which had been building for years.


Current Issue

Drone FARs

The technology you have in your glass panel, smartphone and the tablet you use in the cockpit? It turns out the same hardware and software putting a blue dot on a moving map—and displaying an accurate artificial horizon—also can be used to operate a small, airborne robot: a drone. Formally known as an unmanned aircraft system, UAS, they’ve grown in sophistication and utility to the point Congress in 2012 told the FAA to come up with a framework integrating them into the national airspace system.

The Last 400 Feet

In many conversations with instrument instructors, I’ve noted a common concern about the way many pilots conclude practice precision approaches (ILS or GPS LPV) under the “hood”: They do a great job of keeping the needles near the center as decision altitude nears; airspeed, descent rate and heading all would be appropriate. But when the hood came off at DA and the pilot spotted the runway, it was Katie bar the door. What happened next can be summarized as a whirlwind of activity in the left seat as the power was yanked back, flap deflection increased and a dive for the runway threshold commenced. It was as if there were some sort of prize for landing short.

Autopilots And Their Errors

They go by different nicknames—“George” and “Otto” probably are the most popular—and have become an integral part of even a basic IFR platform’s standard equipment, especially when flown single-pilot. And because the latest high-tech versions on the market can do just about anything for you except eliminate a potty stop, they’ve proliferated throughout all segments of the general aviation fleet. “They,” of course, are autopilots—electromechanical systems used to control an aircraft, and available in a wide variety of configurations and capabilities from simple wing-levelers to full-blown flight directors rivaling the modern transport jet you rode in last week.

A Good IFR Platform?

Especially if we include Experimental aircraft, there are many different makes and models from which owners and operation may choose, each of them having their own set of features. Whether we want an aircraft to perform aerobatics, do aerial application, conduct training or even engage in cargo operations, there’s a model out there, somewhere, optimized for the mission. But all aircraft embody compromises: none literally can do everything.

Thrill-Seeking

I admit I am a bit of an adventure-seeker. It may be just one big rationalization, but I want to defend the concept of aviation adventure-seeking, at least to a degree. For example, after watching a particularly challenging backcountry landing video found online, I mused over the many comments it drew, typically along the lines of “Not for me,” “No way,” and “Crazy.” My reaction—and I was not alone—was, “I want to do that.” But I also want to balance that activity with a healthy does of risk management and accident prevention, i.e., the mission of this magazine.

Crossed Up

Traffic patterns aren’t that hard: Fly a rectangle. One side is the downwind; one side has the final approach and departure paths. Simple, right? Not really. One of the problems is all those turns we have to make align the airplane with the runway or the downwind. And some of those turns are close to the ground, at relatively low speeds and are poorly executed. Sadly, the results of steep turns to final—especially when overshooting the runway’s extended centerline—can be fatal.

Saving The MU-2

On September 30, 2005, then-Director of FAA’s Flight Standards Service, Jim Ballough, noted in a letter to the type’s owners/operators, and to maintenance technicians, “the MU-2 series airplane has been involved in 11 accidents over the past 18 months, with a total of 12 fatalities.” The letter announced the agency “urgently” was undertaking an “in-depth” safety evaluation and added, “performance expectations and control techniques common in other turboprop twins do not necessarily transfer to flying the MU-2.” Ballough’s letter acknowledged the widespread perception that the airplane had a problem, thanks to its wing design and use of spoilers for roll control, which had been building for years.

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