Thank you for printing in Augusts magazine the short letter I wrote, highlighting an issue I encountered just south of the Albany, N.Y., Class C airspace-a Cub showing an ADS-B altitude of 500 feet below sea level. (By the way, I passed the same Cub today at very close range. This time he wasnt showing up at all on ADS-B). In your response, you asked readers to report other anomalies, so heres one from a week or so ago.
The event perhaps most demonstrative of what can happen as an aircraft ages occurred on April 28, 1988, over Hawaii. Thats when an Aloha Airlines Boeing 737-200 operating in scheduled passenger service as Flight 243 between Hilo and Honolulu lost part of its cabin roof while in cruise at FL240. The crew successfully landed the airplane after diverting to Maui. Of the 89 passengers and six crewmembers aboard, there was one fatality-a flight attendant who was swept overboard during the decompression event.
During the landing roll, three deer ran from right to left across the runway. The pilot felt a hard strike on the inboard section of the right wing, observed a deer roll over the right wing and felt a sensation of the right landing gear running over a second deer. Although the airplane sustained substantial damage to its right wing, the pilot was able to maintain control and taxied to the ramp without further incident. The pilot and passenger had to egress through the rear baggage door due to damage to the cabin door.
While carrying out Canadian AD CF90-03-R2, large leaks were found in the area surrounding the muffler tail pipe area under the structure for supporting the heat muff shroud. No defects were noticed in a visual inspection of this area. No data tag was on the muffler, so its assumed it is an original unit. The operators logs dont show it ever being changed.
I used to ground myself when I saw a forecast of thunderstorm weather. I had an immediate visceral response rooted in memories of growing up in Kansas, seeing vast tornado-spawning squall lines, their blue-green tint indicating they were pregnant with hail. At age 11, I watched a barn across the road explode in one of those storms, flying in pieces across the fields, followed by a barrage of baseball-sized hail. Surely you cant fly when convective weather and thunderstorms are nearby or on the way, can you? Well, Dorothy, sometimes you can. You just need to know what to look for and what to avoid.
They expressed their nervousness, which was understandable. Who wants to show their flight skills to a critic when those skills are at low proficiency? It is human nature to want to show your best side, but a rusty pilot flight review will show the naked truth. I explained there is nothing wrong with being out of practice, and a flight review is not a test, but an opportunity to learn. Their anxiety acknowledged, we moved on to the needed practice.
Radar data depicted the airplane flying northerly until about 1138, when it initiated a right turn to the south at about 400 feet msl. Witnesses then saw the airplane turn right to a westerly or northwesterly direction over land while radar depicted the airplane descending to about 200 feet msl. The airplane banked sharply left, and one witness observed the banner twist and separate. The airplane then banked to the right and impacted a 19-story condominium near its top floor. The airplane fell to the second floor deck and came to rest on its left side. Witnesses described the engine sound as either sputtering, operating normally or being at a low throttle setting.
I recently had the chance to chat with a long-time friend and pilot about some issues he had with an instructor while working through a flight review. The friend was concerned about the instructors critique of his flying, which included comments like, I didnt expect you to do that, and I would have done it differently. The friend wasnt necessarily complaining about the critique itself but the after-the-fact manner in which it was supplied. Ultimately, it undermined his confidence and he chose not to fly with that instructor again, taking his chances with someone different.
True story: A USAF F-105 Thunderchief pilot was shot down over North Vietnam, ejected and landed in the jungle. Coming up on his emergency radio, he was told a rescue mission was on the way, to hide out and to come back up on the frequency in an hour. The pilot waited for what seemed like an hour and called back; he once again was told to call back when the hour was up-in 55 more minutes.
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.
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.