Risk Management

Express Elevator Up

As the morning waned, the weather picture improved greatly, with only scattered showers and clouds over the Mojave Desert and clearing over the west side of the Tehachapi Mountains. We ended up filing to go over Victorville and into Bakersfield to visit family. Soon, we were cruising in VMC at 10,000 feet and looking at the activity over the Mojave. Ahead, there were Pireps for icing above 8000 feet, so we asked for and received routing over Edwards AFB at 6000. Based on what we saw visually and on the FAAs flight information system (FIS-B), we thought we were well out of danger.

Fixing Your Bounce

The primary cause of a bounced landing is flaring too high above the runway, perhaps with too much speed. In our ideal, perfect landing, the airplane will quit flying just inches above the runway. Instead, a bounce results when the flare occurs a few feet above it, and the airplane has the energy-resulting from excess altitude, excess airspeed or both-to rebound back into the air. In any event, a bounce results when the airplane isnt finished flying.

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).

Two Guys In A Learjet

After the usual say again your callsign back and forth, the controller determined there was no flight plan on file. A new voice from the Learjet, probably the captain, asked if he could air-file over the ATC frequency. The controller instead suggested the Lear could file its flight plan over the radio by talking to Flight Service. This is when it got interesting: The Learjet then asked for the Flight Service frequency and a clearance to 17,500 feet. It got even more interesting when ATC suggested calling Flight Service on 122.1 MHz. All of a sudden, here were three blatant examples of poor airmanship and incomplete knowledge.

Canceling IFR Too Soon

Tom Turners article in the October issue, When To Go Visual, touched on one of my pet peeves about canceling IFR after breaking out on an approach to a nontowered airport: the need to maintain VFR to the runway in an IMC environment. While we all need to be courteous and try to expedite other traffic, canceling IFR at, say, 500 agl after breaking out of a 700-foot ceiling puts us 200 feet below the clouds, too close for legal VFR in Class E airspace. And canceling two miles out on the final can provide all the evidence one needs that youre operating in less than VMC without a clearance. Enterprising feds have brought enforcement actions in similar circumstances. And theres always the guy who pulls his pickup truck onto the runway forcing you to go around and fly the miss.

Flying For Money

A year and a half ago, it dawned on me that what I most enjoyed about my previouscareer as a science communications consultant was when I got to commute to visit clients in my faithful Cessna 180. With some 1500 hours in my logbook-accumulated primarily on those business trips-I sent out my rsum to two area commercial operators. In response, I got two job offers. Wow. What a game-changer for me. I jumped into the Part 135 world with both feet and left my previous career behind. Now, with more than a year under my belt flying for money, I have been reflecting on how profoundly the move from Part 91 to Part 135 has affected my risk management experiences and choices.

Real-World Takeoff Performance

1) A Piper PA-32R-300 Lance attempted to take off from a 3200-foot-long grass runway on a June morning with flaps retracted. It lifted off at the end of the runway, then descended into a shallow valley, touched down and lifted off a second time, before settling back to the ground and colliding with a barbed-wire fence. It was later determined to have been 188 pounds over its maximum gross weight with its center of gravity 0.15 inches aft of limits. Density altitude was about 1800 feet above field elevation.

NTSB Reports

After maneuvering away from the airport, the Piper returned and executed a touch-and-go landing. Radar data indicate the airplane climbed to 900 feet msl at 80 knots of groundspeed before radar contact was lost. Witnesses observed the airplane flying normally, then saw the left wing separate from the fuselage, which impacted a field. Preliminary examination revealed the left wing main spar exhibited cracks from metal fatigue extending through more than 80 percent of the lower spar cap, and portions of the forward and aft spar web doublers. The right wing also exhibited fatigue cracks in the lower spar cap at the same hole location extending up to 0.047-inch deep. The 2007 airplane had accumulated 7690 flight hours since new. Weather at 0953 included wind from 260 degrees at seven knots, 10 statute miles of visibility and few clouds at 25,000 feet.

Risk And Benefit

I much appreciated Robert Wright's May 2018 article, Risk Assessment Tools. We use a version of a flight risk assessment tool in our flying club, and while I agree that numerical values should not be the sole criteria for the go, no-go decision, the process does provide a checklist of sorts for decision-making. The most valuable risk assessment tool I use is not found on any web site or aviation app, but is the application of a simple philosophy: If I have to analyze a go, no-go decision for more than a few seconds, it is a sure sign that the risk requires serious mitigation or a willingness to stay safely on the ground.


People wouldnt fly personal aircraft-or participate in many other activities-if there werent benefits. Thats human nature. Some benefits we seek by taking risks are intangible and hard to quantify. Others can be readily identified and weighted. Its a calculus we all employ daily in mundane ways. However, the problem isnt that we fail to assess benefits when we analyze risk. Instead, the issue is the inaccurate values we assign on both sides of the equation.

Braking Tactics

While conducting flight reviews and stage checks for students working toward various airman certificates, Im finding pilots who do not have a strong understanding of the operation and limitations of light aircraft braking systems. Ive also noticed many pilots misuse the brakes in landing and taxiing. For the former, brakes are incorrectly and/or unnecessarily applied immediately following landing. For the latter, excessive engine power requires the pilot to ride the brakes to control the airplane. Both are examples of poor technique.

FAA Rolls Back Complex Airplane Checkride Rule

Less than a month after the April 4, 2018, fatal crash of a Piper Arrow during a commercial-pilot checkride, the FAA has changed its policy to no longer require a complex airplane (one with controllable-pitch propeller, flaps and retractable landing gear) for the commercial pilot-airplane or flight instructor-airplane certificates. The change comes via FAA Notice 8900.463,Use of a Complex Airplane During a Commercial Pilot or Flight Instructor Practical Test, dated April 24, 2018. The policy change reflects the lack of suitable aircraft.