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Local Phenomena

Checking the weather for a short afternoon flight showed visibility of more than 10 sm and clear skies locally, with a barely moving front off to the west. The forecast showed nothing unusual, although clouds and limited visibility were expected to arrive with nightfall several hours after my anticipated landing time. The temperature/dew point spread was narrow, but around the Great Lakes, we often had high humidity content at lower altitudes as moisture blew in off the water. Seeing ground-level dewpoints only a few degrees away from temperatures wasnt concerning. Overall, the weather looked great for a local sightseeing flight in the late afternoon.

Superior Pulls Engines From Service

When we first learned of the breadth of the detonation problem, we contacted XP-400 engine owners and paid to have them ship their engines to our facility for evaluation, Superiors Bill Ross told sister publication Kitplanes. We disassembled, inspected and tested the key components in each engine, he said, but even after adjusting the ignition timing specification, the results were still unsatisfactory. In response, the company decided to ground affected engines and create a buyback program.

Losing Attitude

All other things being equal, one of the benefits of a primary flight display (PFD, which presents flight instrumentation on an electronic panel) is its use of a solid-state attitude and heading reference system, sometimes known as an AHARS. By using an AHARS to determine which side is up and in which direction the airplane is pointed, the vacuum-driven system is avoided and usually only an electrical system failure or failure of the display itself can eliminate the flight instruments. (Certification rules require backup flight instruments when a PFD is present but not when steam gauges are energized by a vacuum pump.)

Bad Bushings

Found damage on shock absorber assembly. Damage caused from the top boss contacting the shaft shock absorber shaft. The bushing was discovered missing on three aircraft at the same flight school. The manufacturer was notified of damage, affected parts replaced and the aircraft was returned to service. The quality/airworthiness department is currently reviewing work orders in an effort to isolate aircraft affected by this missing bushing. All three aircraft with missing bushings had between 1300 and 1400 hours total time.

Three IFR Curveballs

Flying IFR can get deceptively routine. Most of the time, it means taking off, climbing, cruising, descending, and an approach and landing-all along well-defined routes and usually in VMC. The majority of IFR pilots tend to fly the same routes and procedures again and again, to the point they might memorize communications frequencies and even approach minimums. Its possible to be extremely proficient at the type of flying you usually do while letting other skills atrophy.

Lessons Not Learned

The accident occurred nine years almost to the day after an 18,600-hour airline transport pilot flew a Beech Baron into the lake just after departing from the same airport on a nighttime positioning flight. In the case of the Citation, the Board surmised that due to the pilots recent transition from a Citation Mustang with a different panel layout, he might have been unaware that hed never engaged the autopilot as hed presumably intended. On the night of the Baron accident, ceilings were 25,000 feet and visibility unrestricted, but the moon and city lights were behind the pilot once he turned north over the lake.

Nationwide Roaming

Pilots fly for a variety of reasons. If youre like me, transportation is the main reason to own an airplane. Flying a single-engine general aviation airplane can be an effective way to travel for business and personal reasons, especially in this era of degrading, inflexible and unpredictable airline service. However, to safely use small aircraft for this purpose and manage the risks, you need to expand the scope of your typical planning efforts and be ready to change schedules and even cancel some portions of a trip. This is especially true if, like me, your travel requirements include the entire United States.

Carrot, Meet Stick

Since the deadline was established, rumors about how the FAA will handle the coming transition have ranged from extending the deadline at the last minute to dismantling every non-compliant aircraft within Class B airspace and selling them for scrap on January 2. Im so old I remember when Mode C first was required in certain airspace, and ATC would routinely accommodate non-complying aircraft. Later, they wanted at least an hours notice, and the request could be denied. In my experience, ATC has always tried its best to cut some slack on Mode C, especially if everything was working when you took off.

The Transactional Pilot

I tap on a location I observe to be free of obstructions, offering a clear approach corridor and suitable landing surface, and after I get the dot on my apps chart, I change its name to an approach course, e.g., like F17, or G18, and use those designators (you can make up any letter/number you wish), as Field/Approach 170 degrees, or for the other as Grass/Approach 180 degrees. The letters can be for road, crop, highway or water, or whatever looks better-as always, the closer to roads, the better for emergency services access.

Disoriented Scans

Fine article about bounced landings. Preventing them should be primary but when we do get a bounce, for some airplanes the recommendation is not to save the landing but just to go around. A number of years ago, there was a series of fatal Cirrus bounced landing accidents. Im not sure if there were official findings that gave common cause, but one theory was that the fixed landing gear acted like a pogo stick and was unforgiving of too much energy on touchdown. The finesse that you describe to salvage this type of bounce was not easily done by some pilots.

Common Threads In Weather Accidents

In my view, there are four basic categories of aviation weather threats: low clouds and reduced visibility; turbulence and low-level wind shear; airframe ice; and thunderstorms (which may contain the three other hazards in one nasty package). When evaluating weather for a planned flight, I look at observations and forecasts with each of these specific hazards in mind: what is are the chances Ill encounter each threat and how bad will each be? How close to (or beyond) the limitations of the regulations, my capabilities and the airplanes performance would I be if I attempt the flight?

Autopilots

While in IFR cruise at 4000 feet, the pilot observed the flight director command bars move out of view as the airplane started a gradual descent. When the pilot corrected, the electric trim started to run nose down and the aircrafts descent rate increased. The pilot attempted to disconnect the autopilot and trim with the control switches and the red disconnect switch. None of this had any effect. With the turbulence and conditions, the pilot was unable to reach the autopilot and electric trim circuit breakers. After all other remedial procedures had failed, he shut off the avionics master switch at about 1000 feet and recovered the airplane at about 500 feet.