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.

NTSB Reports

Upon raising the landing gear after takeoff, the gear motor continued to operate longer than normal, and the pilot heard an abnormal sound toward the end of the sequence. The right main gear was hanging at about a 45-degree angle, and the left main gear was not visible. The pilot completed the appropriate checklists, without change. The pilot declared an emergency and ATC confirmed during a fly-by that the main gear was not extended. During the landing, the nose gear remained extended and the two main gear were retracted. The airplane came to rest on the runway and the passengers egressed without further incident.

Odds And Ends

This issue likely will hit your mailbox just before the Sun n Fun International Fly-In Expo in Lakeland, Fla. The annual event informally kicks off each years air show season, and 2019 will be no different. If you plan to attend SnF or any other fly-in event (cough, EAA AirVenture, cough), youre not alone. In fact, thousands of your closest friends are planning the same thing, and well all want to arrive and depart at more less the same time.


Engine began running rough in cruise, the pilot diverted and the aircraft was landed without damage. Investigation found the fuel line between the fuel flow transducer and fuel flow divider was loose at the flow divider. Although it seems unlikely, the aircraft operator has to consider the possibility that this fuel line came loose by itself in the five days and 23 hours of flying since the last scheduled inspection....

After The Prop Stops

One of the oldest jokes in aviation holds that the big fan is there to cool the cockpit: Whenever it stops unexpectedly, the pilot starts to sweat. Every aviator whos had that experience can probably confirm a significant uptick in pulse and respiration. In the best case, thats accompanied by a corresponding intensification of focus, rapid execution of the memory steps of the emergency procedures checklist and efficient assessment of available alternatives. In the worst...well, those pilots arent available for interviews, but tapes of their radio transmissions can make for uncomfortable listening.

Risks Of Engine Failure

I had an interesting experience following recent painting of my Cessna 182. I flew it back from the paint shop uneventfully enough, but after tying it down following that two-hour flight home, we had a windstorm with 50-knot gusts, and the wind put enough force on the right wingtip to cause the screws holding it in place to drop out. So, the wingtip peeled off, and smashed into the cowling, creating a dent/crease just forward of the windshield.

Trim Failures

Years ago, when I first heard the term runaway trim, my initial thought was something along the lines of, How can that happen? All of the trim systems Id seen up to that time had been manual, unassisted crank, lever or thumbwheel affairs, which rely on the pilot grabbing something and moving it to achieve the desired change. I was aware that trim systems could mechanically fail, but generally would stay in a fixed position when they did. I had discussed and trained for abnormal trim conditions, but how could a trim system run away? Then I learned about electric trim, autopilots and runaway trim, and it all became clearer.

Brake Master Cylinders

After a brake master cylinder was installed, the technician was unable to bleed the brake system. Fluid pulled from reservoir would return to reservoir through the same line as the internal bypass was not functioning properly. Master cylinder was disassembled and bypass was found stuck and unable to move. Metal shavings were found inside, and an O-ring was torn, with black specks mixed in with the shavings. Part replaced with new master cylinder.

Truth In Icing

I received a call from the owner of a turbocharged, high-performance single who lives in the Great Lakes region, well-known for icing conditions in late autumn, winter and early spring. His airplane was equipped with an aftermarket TKS-style ice protection system and was not FAA-approved for flight in known icing (FIKI). The pilot wanted to discuss strategies for flight during the cold times of the year, including insights into conditions where icing layers are vertically thin and/or rates of ice accumulation are typically light (or even only a trace).

Air In The Tanks

Ive owned Cessna T210s since 1977; first a 1969 J model and then a 1979 N model with a TSIO-520-R engine. In the 1980s, there were a number of fuel exhaustion accidents in 210s, all of them attributable to not getting a full fill and resulting in being shorted an hours supply when fueling stops after fuel backs up out of the filler port. The outboard sections of the fuel tanks are slightly higher than the bottom of the filler port. To get the last one-plus gallons in the tanks requires the slowest of fueling until reaching the real full point.

Test Pilot

My airplane has wingtip-mounted fuel tanks, installed under a supplemental type certificate (STC). In many ways, theyve transformed and improved the machine by adding greater loading flexibility, thanks in part to a gross-weight increase. What drag they produce isnt noticeable, and the additional endurance means the airplane is faster over some trips than it was before. For many of my destinations, I can depart with full tanks, fly to my destination, shoot an approach, miss it and fly home with reserves.


As someone whos researched my share of aviation accident reports over the years, its frustrating to dissect those reports and pick out the various missteps made and the points at which a change in direction, a precautionary landing or other mitigation would have altered the outcome. Loyal readers of this journal understand that aviation accidents arent preordained and, instead, often result from a complex series of events occurring over time. Its often called the accident chain, a term recognizing how these events are linked. Often, individual events occurring in an accident chain, by themselves, would not result in a new accident report. The accident chain concept has great value, but Ive come to think of it as a trajectory instead of a chain.