Regarding the May 2022 issue’s staff article, “Fly in the Yellow Arc?” I disagree with the recommendation to extend the gear above VLO to slow down “in a hurry.” The pilot has no idea how the airplane will react to lowering the gear at a high airspeed—will it pitch or yaw? Asymmetric drag if a gear door separates? What will that separated gear door hit on its way back?
The best and fastest way to reduce airspeed is to pull up the nose. Raising it 30 degrees will get your airspeed indicator back in the green in 2-3 seconds. To recover, push over and go slightly negative until the nose is again on the horizon.
Finally, whatever would compel the pilot to risk structural damage just to slow down “in a hurry?” I cannot think of anything.
David Oberholtzer – Via email
Thanks for asking! Due to space limitations, we weren’t able to fully flesh out the discussed scenario. We envisioned an out-of-control situation, perhaps in a thunderstorm, when the pilot simply isn’t sure what’s up and what’s down. All he or she knows is the airplane isn’t under control, and dropping the gear may help. It can be a last-ditch attempt, when additional flights in the airplane appear unlikely.
Finally, it’s hard to raise the nose to slow down if we don’t know whether to push or pull. That’s the extreme kind of scenario in which dropping the gear from within the yellow arc might save the day.
This is my first response in over 25 years of subscribing to Aviation Safety. While reading Mr. Burnside’s editorial “Is it Safe?” in the June 2022 issue, I noticed an anomaly. On Page 2 he states, “An aircraft’s mechanical condition is the pilot’s responsibility, also, but we often don’t have all the information necessary to make informed judgments.”
On the final page, he continues to state: “But according to the airplane’s maintenance logs, it hadn’t been accomplished in the almost 13 years preceding the accident. From the record, it’s not clear that the owner/operator or the mechanic knew of the recommendation, or even that there was a suction screen that should be cleaned.”
From what I read, the owner/operator (could be a rental facility) is not responsible for the mechanical condition and that the pilot (could be a renter with low time, like me) is responsible? How is the pilot responsible for the mechanical condition, especially as a renter when the maintenance logs are not in the airplane? Was the page 2 reference to “pilot’s” a mistake? Can you please clarify?
Keep up the great work. I fly vicariously through this magazine and love keeping all its knowledge in the mental bank hoping I will never have to use most of it. But if the poop hits the rotating oscillator, I feel pretty confident.
Greg Lary – Via email
We were making an oblique reference to FAR 91.7, regarding airworthiness. It states: “No person may operate a civil aircraft unless it is in an airworthy condition.” Typically, this means ensuring required inspections are performed, ADs are complied with, etc. Yes, even renters. Frequently, of course, the pilot is relying on maintenance technicians to both perform and document the appropriate procedures, and on the operator’s assurances.
There’s certainly an argument for the pilot to be intimately familiar with the airplane’s maintenance requirements and airworthiness status, but that’s not realistic. Instead, we often rely on the techs. Sometimes, the techs are wrong, or make a mistake. From the evidence in this accident, we’re reasonably confident the pilot had no idea the oil screen hadn’t been cleaned in 13 years.
I’LL BE DECLARING
I had read Rick Durden’s essay in the January 2009 issue, “Declaring the Emergency,” yet when faced with a very sick engine, I was reluctant to declare an emergency last December and fully regret it. It was my biggest takeaway from an incident that could have ended very badly.
At the end of a four-hour trip, with 20 minutes to go, entering Class B at 9500 feet msl, on flight following and at night, the engine’s EGTs began to climb and became erratic. We lost about 20 percent power and had a rough-running engine. I was in the process of evaluating whether we could limp home when ATC lowered us to 4000 feet and turn us east, 90 degrees away from our destination. As we approached 4000, we were full rich at near-peak EGTs, and it was clear that we needed to land. When I communicated a rough engine to ATC and requested to deviate to a nearby airport, ATC asked if I wanted to declare an emergency. When I declined, the next words were, “Radar service terminated, squawk VFR, frequency change approved.” I was a bit surprised at being dropped so quickly, but turned my focus to getting the new airport in the GPS and comm radio. As we approached the airport, I radioed downwind and started trying to turn on the MIRL. After multiple attempts, no lights turned on and I could not find the runway.
I had been to the airport once before and knew it was surrounded by 150-foot-plus trees in all directions. On what I assumed was base, my EGTs climbed past 1550 degrees F and I had no runway in sight. As I turned short final, my passenger spotted the beacon and I saw the PAPI about 200-300 yards off course. I was understandably high but was able to touch down on a pitch-black runway at just past midfield.
After we landed, a police officer showed up to check on us. They were called by ATC, who expressed concern about our erratic approach. Airport personnel later informed us that the MIRL was non-functioning and under repair.
Had I declared an emergency, ATC may have checked NOTAMs and identified the lighting issue. They would have also likely vectored me directly to the airport or an alternate. Although everything ended well, I regret having put my passenger and myself at greater risk than necessary.
Any potential administrative inspection from declaring an emergency would have been well worth the reduced risk of injury or worse. If there is a next time, I’ll be declaring an emergency and hope your other readers don’t have to learn the hard way like me.
There’s simply nothing we can add to this account.