Risk Management

Clouds In Your CAVU

For a supposedly CAVU day, I was now pointed at a solid cloud bank. I transitioned to instruments while still VFR and entered the clouds continuing toward VOR #3. It was still smooth as I crossed it and adjusted course toward VOR #4. Shortly after crossing VOR #3, there suddenly were a lot of pilots on the frequency asking for course and/or altitude changes to get out of this weather. I was still enjoying a smooth ride.

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.

Lack Of Peer Pressure

When I was a student pilot, I was lucky to have some grizzled mentors. There were a lot of do this and dont do that admonitions, a lot of tips regarding shortcuts and rules of thumb, plus some sage advice about decision-making. A lot of that advice could be broken down into the old Its better to be on the ground wishing you in the air than to be in the air wishing you were on the ground genre, but it was often accompanied by a Let me tell you what I learned the hard way kind of introduction.

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.