Unicom: 04/05


NTSB Summaries
Having just resubscribed after a several-year hiatus in flying, and having just received the February 2005 issue, I am disappointed in the sparse information included in the NTSB summaries of recent accidents. For example, the Canadair CL-601 accident at Montrose, Colo., makes no mention of the fact that the runway was in the process of being cleared, that only a 40-foot-wide section had been plowed, and that a four-inch-high berm of slush surrounded the cleared part of the the runway. The other runway at Montrose was also in the process of being plowed. There was no mention of the fact that the aircraft did get airborne but then struck a wing tip, which tore off. Nor was there any mention of the fact that ATC had issued the aircraft an IFR clearance with a very tight time window.

Omitting factors such as these casts the accident in a totally different light. One has to wonder what relevant facts were omitted in all the other reports.

R.T. Wojciechowski
Via e-mail

The brief mentions of recent mishaps carried in our monthly Accident Briefs feature are taken from the NTSBs preliminary reports. In this instance, the NTSB preliminary report contained none of the information you cite. Within obvious space limitations, we always try to include enough information for readers to understand the conditions leading to an accident or incident. But if the official information isnt there, theres little we can do until a probable cause is determined.


Fate Is The Hunter?
Im a student pilot and new subscriber. I think your publication is excellent, but have a question about the utility of the Accident Briefs section.

It seems that flying is a continual process of risk/reward evalution and that your magazine exists to help pilots with that process. The Accident Briefs, unlike the Accident Probe feature, just manage to discourage me without informing. If an Arrow can spin itself apart in VMC and with no reason given, driven by someone who probably had more experience and training than me, it leaves the impression that fates fickle finger played a large role. Some of the examples implied a possible cause, but I would find the report including the cause after investigation to be more useful.

Im not overly risk-averse-past and current activities include skydiving and auto racing-but these affect only me. Without additional information, the accident reports suggest just going by commercial jet.

Jonathan Micocci
St. Petersburg, Fla.

Our summary of recent accidents and incidents is designed to be educational, not frightening. By reviewing these recent mishaps, we hope readers will put themselves in the mishap pilots seat and discover not only some of the ways we can find ourselves in trouble but problem areas associated with specific aircraft, airports, conditions or experience levels well before the NTSB determines a probable cause.


Far Apart On Parts
I just finished reading Mike Buschs article, Fix It Now, Or Later? in the February 2005 issue and came away shaking my head.

First he tells us Never pay list price for any expensive part. Your shop can often get 40% off. Id like to know the place where he gets these discounted parts so I can order them for my shop!

Under the sidebar, When To Say No, he tells us to buy standard parts from a non-aviation source whenever possible. I dont like to pay what seems like absurdly high prices for microswitches or fasteners when I can get them from other sources, but the fact is they are not supposed to be installed on an aircraft. Period!

If the part doesnt have traceablity and/or an FAA 8130 Form, it doesnt get installed on an aircraft, even it appears to be truly identical. Mr. Busch tells us to just make sure that the parts are truly identical to the originals. Id like to ask how he expects an aircraft owner to do this?

I run an FAA-approved repair station and I need to be competitive on pricing so I dont lose my customers to the next guy down the street, but I will not install a part in an aircraft unless it meets the FAAs requirements. Its the law.

Jared Gowlis
Via e-mail

Mike Busch responds: If your shop sometimes pays list price for parts, then I respectfully suggest you fire your parts manager. Nobody in the industry ever pays anything remotely close to list price for anything. Ill concede that occasionally there are parts that can only be purchased at 25 percent off list, but there are plenty that can be had at a 50-percent discount. In my experience, if youre not averaging at least a 30 or 35 percent discount across the board, youre not trying.

Your assertion that a part must have traceability and/or an FAA 8130-3 form is just flat wrong. Would the FAA be happy if every part installed on an aircraft had traceability and 8130-3 paperwork? Sure they would. Have they issued Advisory Circulars suggesting that mechanics might want to do this? Sure they have. Is this required by the regulations for maintenance of a Part 91 aircraft? No!

For standard fasteners and electronic components, the situation is even clearer. FAR 21.303(a)(4) explicitly says that standard parts (such as bolts and nuts) conforming to established industry or U.S. specifications may be installed on a certificated aircraft without the need for any PMA paperwork.

If an A&P installs a part without an 8130-3 form, then the A&P has to vouch for its airworthiness. Some A&Ps are unwilling to do that, even if it means the customer has to pay through the nose. It may be your policy (or your employers), and its understandable why you might prefer to do it this way (to minimize your liability). But its definitely NOT the law.


Popping Flaps
I enjoyed Flap Secrets (February 2005), but the authors analysis of flap-popping on takeoff is a little confusing. Deploying flaps on a short field will certainly reduce the rate of climb, but its not the best rate were after on short fields; its best angle of climb.

The flap-poppers intent is to shorten ground roll by initially running flapless. Once airborne with flaps extended, reaching a climbable airspeed in a shorter distance by accelerating in ground effect instead of on the surface is consistent with the AFM/POH. Flaps increase the coefficient of lift. In a steady climb, however, they actually decrease rate of climb. Thats why Vy is flown flapless.

Clark Slade
Via e-mail

Sorry for the confusion. When not prohibited, flap use on takeoff depends on a variety of variables, not least of which is the airplanes ability to clear obstacles at the runways end. Popping flaps is something usually reserved for soft fields without obstacles and the flaps should be retracted as soon as its safe to do so. As someone wiser than us once said, It all depends.


Stuck On Top
Februarys issue was excellent, but I have a couple of comments. In the Stuck on Top article, the author-not an IFR qualified pilot-files an IFR flight plan, assuming ATC knows hes not qualified, because he stumbles through it so badly. Dont be so sure.

Ive been an en route controller for 22 years, and if somebody files IFR, we assume he can fly IFR. There are lots of pilots whose radio skills are lacking. The theme of the article-confess and ask for help-is excellent. Just make sure ATC knows youre confessing that youre not IFR-qualified or ready, not that you forgot to file, or are looking for a VFR to IFR change.

If we think youre IFR-qualified, youre likely to be cleared into weather you dont want to be in. If you make it clear you are a VFR-only pilot, well do everything we can to help–including trying to get you down without flying in the clouds.

If youre worried about certificate action, all I can say is Ive seen at least a dozen of these situations over the years and while we usually ask the pilot to call us when he gets on the ground at non-towered airports, thats so we dont worry that hes crashed. As far as I know, thats been the end of it each time.

Brian Von Bevern
Via e-mail


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