A Safety Journal for General Aviation
by Max Trescott, Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
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The past month has been a busy one. From a flying standpoint, I had one of my most enjoyable flights in the last few years. Surprisingly (to me as well), I wasn't even at the controls! But I have seen the future and I'm here to share it with you.
Although I worked in high tech for many years, it might be easy to suspect that I fall in love with every new technical gadget and fawn over the 105 functions that can be accessed through just 2 buttons. Quite the contrary. I'm usually unimpressed with most new electronic marvels. So, even though general aviation aircraft are rapidly swinging over to glass cockpits, I figured this was just another glitzy, unnecessary use of technology. And of course, I was wrong.
A couple of weeks ago, I flew in the back seat of a Garmin G1000 equipped Cessna 182 during a demo flight for a customer at a local Cessna dealership. It was great! I'll have more details on the ride below. If you want to know where to rent one or even buy one, just contact me. Does all of this have any implication for pilot safety? You bet. This month we'll talk about an accident that probably wouldn't have occurred if the G1000 had been around a couple of years ago.
On March 3, I was hosted by the EAA Chapter 62 at the RHV airport, where I talked about accidents in the Bay area. Prior to the presentation, I re-examined my Bay Area Accident data to see how homebuilt accidents differ. I came across some amazing results that also have ramifications for those of us flying certified aircraft--and they're not good. You can read more about it below in the section on night flying dangers. By the way, these guys make a great dinner before their meeting the first Thursday of each month. So if you're hungry around 6:30PM and want to meet a lot of nice people that know a lot about airplanes, wander over to Vern Miller's hanger which is one of the first buildings on your right, just after you enter the Reid-Hillview airport.
You've probably figured out by now that I feel that we have way too many accidents in California at night. Now, before going on a night flight with a student, I ask them to read Into the Night which is an excellent 16 page article that the FAA has on their website. Print it out and keep it around for review from time to time.
On March 22, I repeated my Wings Seminar on Bay Area Accident Analysis. We had a good turn out and lots of fun. Thanks to everyone who attended on a very rainy night. For those who missed it, send me an email, and I'll let you know when I repeat the seminar. I'll be presenting to the Santa Clara 99's on April 21 at the Palo Alto airport. They are a wonderful group of pilots and I'm looking forward to having fun with them. Incidentally, they are holding a "Flying Companion Seminar" on April 23 at the Reid-Hillview airport in San Jose. If you have a spouse or partner that wants to learn more about what's going on when they fly with you, I highly recommend this all day seminar that's held once a year.
While flying during the past month, I spotted this fellow a number of times and you'll find information about him scattered through this newsletter. If you sight or hear a clown while you're flying around, watch out! Fly defensively, because you never know when this guy is going to pop up in the airspace around you. Send me an email to let me know when you spot this guy and tell me what he was doing. I'll pass some of the stories along. No names of course!
I also invested time and money in new software to greatly reduce the time it takes me to add new names to the distribution list for this newsletter. So, feel free to forward it to your flying friends and encourage them to subscribe. If you're on the distribution list, you'll receive an email each month highlighting the information contained in the online version of the newsletter. Submissions and feedback are always welcome!
Enjoy the longer days, and
have fun flying safely!
Max Trescott, Master CFI
Glass Cockpits Sweeping through General Aviation
Not your father's 182
You may not know it yet, but a tidal wave of change is sweeping over the General Aviation industry, the likes of which haven't been seen for 25 or 60 years, depending upon what event you want to compare it to. This year, 2005, is the year of the glass cockpit. Oh, sure, Cirrus introduced it in 2003 in their SR22G2, but 2005 will be the first year in which virtually every G.A. manufacturer will ship more than half of their new planes with glass cockpits--and most of them expect 90% of their sales to go out the door this year with glass.
Did you get that? Last year, only Cirrus shipped glass for the entire year, and this year there will be virtually NO sales of steam gauge panels in small planes. There's another implication too. For the first time in recent history, you cannot go out and buy a used plane for half the cost of a new one and make it equivalent to a new plane by retrofitting the electronics. The G1000 is not available for the retrofit market, though perhaps it will be in a few years. Sure you could buy a Chelton Systems or Blue Mountain PFD to replace your instruments, but it won't be the same as a new plane. So the case for buying new versus used is more compelling than it's been in recent years.
The last events of this magnitude were the peak in sales in general aviation aircraft in 1979, followed by a massive decline in sales in the 1980's and 1990's, and the post-WWII boom in aircraft sales in 1946 and 1947. Coincidentally, general aviation is once again on a tear this year, albeit at much lower sales levels than these prior booms. Cirrus reported sales growth of 69% in 2004 to 733 units (those are orders; they actually shipped about 550 planes) and Cessna sold over 600 piston aircraft. Our spies tell us Cessna is planning to sell close to 1000 new single engine aircraft in 2005.
The past booms were largely build-ups in sales volume; the current one is more innovation driven. As everyone knows, change in general aviation--and I mean real change, like new engines and new instruments and avionics--was usually measured in a geological timeframe. Just like mountains rising and falling, change in G.A. was happening, just not fast enough for us to detect it in our lifetime. The current change to glass cockpits is happening lightning fast and it will re-shape the way we fly airplanes.
182 & the Garmin G1000 glass cockpit
Our primary focus is safety, but let's digress to talk about this great plane. In most planes, the Garmin G1000 consists of two 10.4 inch monitors, though a three monitor version is planned for the Cessna Mustang jet when it debuts next year. The left monitor is the Primary Flight Display (PFD), which replaces the six-pack of instruments that we're so used to, and the right screen is the Multi-Function Display (MFD) which displays maps, traffic, weather and probably re-runs of Sky King soon too.
Engine instruments appear on the left display until after engine start when they magically move over to the right monitor (try that trick in a traditional cockpit!). Garmin GNS-430 and GNS-530 users will have an immediate advantage in operating everything, since much of the same software has been ported to the G1000, so you won't be totally learning everything from scratch.
The Cessna 182 came fully loaded. The Mode S transponder provided Traffic Information Service (TIS) which displayed traffic on our screen as long as we were in line of sight from the San Jose area ground based transmitter. Mode S service is not universally available, but in most metro areas you'll be able to see all transponder equipped aircraft in your vicinity. For example, we had a traffic call for "caution wake turbulence for the Boeing 777 passing 1000 feet overhead," but we had already seen it on the MFD, and indeed the display said that it was +1000 feet relative to our altitude at the time. Nice. Next time I get a call like that from ATC I can respond the way the airlines do. "No the Boeing's not in sight, but we have him on the Fish Finder."
The plane could also display lightning strikes, but fortunately there were none to see. Later in the year, current buyers will be shipped an upgrade that will allow reception of XM satellite radio and a full complement of weather data. Of course you will pay a monthly fee to XM for the package, but that shouldn't surprise anyone (hey, we're talking aviation here!).
yes, and safer--maybe
Okay, say the cynics among you (and remember I was one of you until two weeks ago), what's the big deal about having glass in the cockpit. Probably the largest impact I noticed was on our IFR departure and climb through a couple of thousand feet of clouds hanging across Silicon Valley. You would be amazed at how easily you can detect a degree or two of bank when the horizon line stretches completely across a 10 inch screen--even from the back seat! There's no way to miss the bank--your eye is drawn right to it--which is quite unlike the experience with the two-inch wide airplane in the tradition artificial horizon. Is that enough to make a difference? I think so. In a moment we'll talk about a recent fatal accident in our area that would probably not have occurred if the pilot was flying behind a modern PFD.
Another great feature was the moving map on the MFD, which showed the terrain in remarkably realistic relief, making it easy to know where we were and what we were flying over. Terrain Warning software is not yet shipping (showing terrain higher than your present altitude in red, lower terrain in yellow and green) but will be available soon.
But what's the downside to it all? Probably the most common fear is "what happens when the electrical system dies?" You would actually need for two fully independent electrical systems, each with their own separate battery and alternator, to go toes up in order to have a problem. And even then, the display should work on battery back-up for 30 minutes. After that, you'll have three traditional steam gauges (if people still remember how to use them!) with which you can continue flying.
In some ways, it's like the fear of engine failures--we worry far more than we should about an event that's unlikely compared to other more clear and present dangers we face. Personally, I think there's a far greater danger of being distracted either by the attractive MFD, or by trying to remember the exact buttonology to set-up the avionics. A good example is the crash of a Cirrus SR-20 on approach to Reid-Hillview airport when the pilot got distracted and descended into terrain. Going forward, pilots will need much more familiarity with aircraft electrical systems and computer driven menus to fly these modern airplanes. Training will change and pilots will adapt. But, oh it's going to be worth it, so enjoy the ride!
SF Bay Area Fatal
Night Flying Dangers -- the deeper we look, the worse it gets!
For our seasoned readers, I'm sure the message is becoming very clear. Night flying in the S.F. Bay area is a lot more dangerous here than compared to the rest of the U.S.
In February, I stated that 44.1% of Bay Area fatal accidents occurred at night, which is double the rate for the rest of the country! Remember, this is for any flight departing from or flying to a Bay Area airport, so many of these accidents happened outside our immediate area.
In March, I mentioned that the rate is even higher if the crash occurs in the Bay area. For those flights from 1993-2000, where the fatal accident actually occurred in the Bay area, fully 54% occurred at night, or 2.5X the rate of night fatal accidents in the rest of the country.
And now in April, I'm here to tell you that if you're like most of us who fly certificated aircraft (not homebuilts), the story just gets worse. Prior to presenting to the local EAA Chapter 62 last month, I re-examined my data on local accidents to see how homebuilt accidents were different. To my surprise, not a single one of the five fatal homebuilt accidents in the S.F. Bay Area from 1993-2000 occurred at night! When I asked the audience about this, I learned that many of their aircraft are not certified to fly at night, and many members simply choose not to fly at night.
So what does this mean for those of us flying certificated aircraft (Cessnas, Pipers, etc). It means that the night accident rate is even worse than we thought. For factory built aircraft involved in fatal accidents in the S.F. Bay area from 1993-2004, fully 64% of fatal accidents occurred at night!
How big a deal is this? If aviation had an Amber Alert system, there would be an electronic sign at every local airport warning you about night flight. Designated Examiners would quiz people on night illusions as part of the drill to get their private pilot license. But the problem is so well obscured in the data that most people haven't figured out that we face unique risks in our area. Please spread the word. Night flying is far more dangerous in the Bay area than in the rest of the country. Let's be careful out there!
Last month, we featured an article on black hole approaches and how, when there are few lights on the ground approaching an airport, the eyes fool us and we tend to fly low on approach, resulting in many accidents just short of the runway. Local airports that I mentioned that may be back hole airports were King City, Half Moon Bay, Harris Ranch, and Pine Mountain Lake airports. I asked you the reader which other airports you felt were black hole approaches, and got back several suggestions. They were: Little River airport near Mendocino, Frazier Lake airport south of San Jose, and Gravelly Valley, which apparently is an unlit field, so it would be a very black hole! If you have others, please email them to me.
Would it surprise you to learn that Little River has already had several fatal accidents, including ones at night? A quick search of the NTSB database shows nine accidents there since 1980, including five that were fatal. Remember that typically in the U.S. only 21% of accidents are fatal; at Little River, 56% of the accidents have been fatal, many involving night and weather, so exercise extreme caution there. Some of the fatal accidents include:
Taking off at Night crashed into the
10/31/2001 182 Landing at Night; low stratus; 1 mile visibility Accident Report
3/15/1998 Beech takeoff into clouds; non-instrument rated Accident Report
7/13/1991 Mooney landing; 500 foot overcast; non-instrument rated Accident Report
Circus day at the airport--who let the animals out?
I've had a lot of "teachable moments" this month, where other pilots demonstrated for my clients what NOT to do. Oddly, all four moments occurred at uncontrolled South County Airport, and three of them were on the same day! Remember there's a difference between legal and safe and while none of the actions were necessarily illegal, they didn't adhere to recommended procedures and weren't particularly safe. Had an accident occurred, these pilots would have been more at fault (and their estates more liable) than others following the recommended procedures.
The first was a student pilot who announced that he was doing a long (several mile), straight in approach to runway 32. No problem there except that there were 2 or 3 other planes in the pattern. Then, the plane in front of me turned base to final and inquired about that Cessna above him on final. The straight-in pilot didn't see him (he was very high), and I suggested that he go-around (when you see a potential accident in the making, you should speak up!). Instead he did a 360. That then put him behind us on final, and ultimately he had to do a go-around anyway. I saw him back at the flying club and suggested that straight-ins with a busy pattern didn't make sense. He said that he was practicing simulated engine outs (always a good thing!) and he didn't hear anyone in the pattern when he started it. Pretty funny since everyone in the pattern had been announcing their position. I'm sure he was right that he didn't hear anyone else--because I don't think he was listening.
The other questionable things I observed were:
1) An airplane flying outbound to maneuver for entry on the 45 crossed 100 to 200 feet above our plane while we were on crosswind
2) An airplane transitioning the area from southeast to northwest flew through the traffic pattern at no more than 1500 feet (200 feet above the TPA). We were on the downwind and he flew between us and the runway.
Finally, we also observed an airplane using an approved alternate way to enter the traffic pattern. The airplane crossed overhead the field at 1300 foot TPA (traffic pattern altitude) and turned directly onto downwind to land. The Air Safety Foundation's brochure on Operations at Non-Towered Airports says that when using this alternate method the crossing aircraft must "Give way to aircraft on the preferred 45-degree entry and to aircraft on downwind"
is a better way!
Let's briefly review the FAA's recommended entry for uncontrolled fields. This is what I'm teaching new students, and what a DPE (designated pilot examiner) told me he expects on checkrides. The diagram below and the text in italics comes directly from Advisory Circular AC90-66A entitled Recommended Standard Traffic Patterns and Practices for Aeronautical Operations at Airports without Operating Control Towers.
Arriving aircraft should be at the appropriate traffic pattern altitude before entering the traffic pattern. Entry to the downwind leg should be at a 45-degree angle abeam the midpoint of the runway. So ideally, you enter on the 45 at position #1 above, AND you are already at TPA--not still descending to it--as you begin the 45 degree leg. The idea is that everyone in the pattern should be at the same altitude, so that they can easily spot each other. But how do you get to the 45 leg?
Prior to entering the traffic pattern at an airport without an operating control tower, aircraft should avoid the flow of traffic until established on the entry leg. For example, wind and landing direction indicators can be checked while at an altitude above the traffic pattern. When the proper traffic pattern direction has been determined, the pilot should then proceed to a point well clear of the pattern before descending to the pattern altitude. The examiner wants to see pilots crossing overhead the field +1000 feet ABOVE TPA, though the diagram below from Air Safety Foundation's brochure on Operations at Non-Towered Airports shows airplanes crossing at #1 at +500 feet of TPA.
At South County, +1000 above TPA is 2300 feet. Then proceed perpendicular to the runway and start descending after you're over the downwind leg. So at South County, when right traffic for runway 32 is in use, you'll cross the field on a heading of approximately 050 degrees, start descending above the downwind leg, then make a left turn to put yourself in position to enter the 45 degree leg. Notice that if right traffic is in use, you turn left to get to the 45. For left traffic patterns, cross overhead and turn right to get to the 45.
The FAA encourages pilots to use the standard traffic pattern. However, for those pilots who choose to execute a straight-in approach, maneuvering for and execution of the approach should be completed so as not to disrupt the flow of arriving and departing traffic. Therefore, pilots operating in the traffic pattern should be alert at all times to aircraft executing straight-in approaches.
So in summary, the FAA encourages the use of a standard traffic pattern, but doesn't absolutely require it. But suppose there's an accident and it comes out in an enforcement action or a lawsuit against you (or your estate if you don't survive) that you weren't following recommended procedures? At a recent seminar, someone told me that whenever they're flying and they consider doing something the least bit risky or non-standard, they think about how it will read in an accident report. Good advice. Please fly legally AND safely!
Pilot Distracted on
IFR Departure and Crashed
Santa Rosa IFR departure accident
Anyone who has attended one of my instrument ground schools or FAA Wings seminar on "Bay Area Accident Analysis" has heard me talk about this accident. It shouldn't have happened--but it could happen to any of us. Everything was going along just fine. Then the pilot heard a powerful little voice in his head that he couldn't ignore. And just as suddenly it was all over
From the NTSB report: LAX01FA003
Accident occurred Wednesday, October 04, 2000 in SANTA ROSA, CA
Aircraft: Cessna 182S, registration: N2373D
Injuries: 1 Fatal.
During initial climb in instrument meteorological conditions, the pilot failed to maintain directional control and altitude. The airplane entered a right descending spiral until impacting terrain 2 miles west of the airport. In accordance with the instrument departure procedure, the pilot had taken off from runway 19, elevation 125 feet msl, under a 600-foot overcast sky condition. Thereafter, the pilot commenced a right climbing turn. The pilot reported climbing through 1,100 feet and 1,600 feet msl, and the radar controller informed the pilot that he was not receiving the airplane's mode C transponder signal. The radar controller then observed one radar hit and then lost contact with the airplane...The calculated ground speed between these hits and the previously identified Mode C target was, respectively, 75, 131, and 163 knots.
During the subsequent airframe and engine examination, no evidence of any mechanical failure or malfunction was found. However, neither the artificial horizon nor the directional gyroscope were recovered from the 50-foot deep pond. During the wreckage examination, the airframe was found accordioned in an aft direction, and the wings were fragmented. Evidence was found that could document the pilot's instrument flying currency and familiarity with the make and model airplane.
Probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:
the pilot's loss of airplane control due to spatial disorientation. A related factor was the low ceiling.
Don't get distracted; tune the radio in
many small steps while watching the instruments
So what happened? Everything was going fine until the controller called because the transponder wasn't on. As the pilot reached to the right to turn on the transponder, his hand on the yoke probably followed suit, putting the plane into a right turn and eventually out of control. In instrument training, I see it all the time. One hand reaches for the radios, and the other one puts the plane into a turn.
So what should you do? If the plane is properly trimmed, you can let go of the yoke for a few seconds while you adjust the radios. Or, break the radio adjustment down into many small steps and look back at your instruments between each step. For example, look at radio to see what frequency it is on, and estimate the number of turns you need to make on each radio knob. Then look back at the instruments and count the clicks you make while still looking at the instruments. Then look at the radio and see how many additional clicks you may need to make.
Was there a need to respond immediately to the controller's call regarding the transponder? Probably not. If the pilot had any doubt about his ability to control the plane, he should have postponed checking on the transponder until he could do so safely. How would it have been different were the accident airplane a slightly newer G1000 equipped plane? First, the large PFD display would have made it easy for him to monitor the attitude out of his peripheral vision while working on the transponder. Second, the G1000 turns the transponder to the ALT mode automatically after the airplane reaches a certain airspeed. Finally, Cessna is currently shipping the G1000 equipped airplanes with a STEC autopilot, and an autopilot can simplify the workload during the busy departure sequence.
Could a pilot still get distracted with a Glass Cockpit? Sure. But the newer equipment can reduce your workload and make flying safer and more pleasurable. You can bet I'll be spending more time behind glass soon, and I hope you do too.
Minutes, Twenty Seconds
Another Good Book from Powell's
Those of you who read last month's newsletter know that I was elated to spend time at Powell's in Portland, which is my favorite bookstore in the world. I'm still working my way through the stack I bought, and I just finished Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds, which is named for the total time that elapsed from the loss of a propeller blade in cruise until the crash of an Embraer Brasillia commuter flight in 1995.
This is not your average airplane accident book. While it does an excellent job of working through the accident sequence, the NTSB investigation, and the probable cause, it's more a book of the human struggles and defeats experienced by those who initially survived the crash. Some of these survivors lived but faced enormous struggles to regain something close to the life they had before the crash. Others struggled and didn't survived yet showed remarkable dignity and respect for others until the end.
My takeaway is that those who had a focus in their life--a child or spouse to live for--were more likely to survive despite the odds against them. Those who didn't have a focus, or who knew that the odds were against them, were less likely to survive. The author, Gary M. Pomerantz, who apparently lives here in the San Francisco Bay area, did a great job of weaving a story with the details of each passenger's life both before and after the accident. It's a great read and a moving story that goes far beyond most accident books and I highly recommend it.
Or soft crash?
April Fools Day turned out to be a tough one for a pilot at Reid-Hillview who didn't just walk away from an accident--he actually ran away! And no, to those who know me and might rightly believe that I'm making this up--I am not! I observed the Cessna 172 where it came to rest nose down in the dirt adjacent to Runway 31L, but it was actually facing in almost the opposite direction from which it had landed (or more accurately crashed). While I didn't see the actual crash, I'm told a witness described the pilot as attempting a go-around, but that he stalled in the process.
I later got my camera as the airplane was being towed away and you can see that the nose gear was driven up into the engine compartment (no, this was not intended to be a retractable 172!).
After the accident, I'm told that the pilot ran across an active runway and taxiway and was later seen being interviewed by police (perhaps because he raised suspicion by running away?). I've seen no official reports, but will pass along any I find. If he really had a stall accident, he's very lucky that it occurred so close to the ground. And that's no joke.
Recent Fatal crashes in California
Night Training Accident -- Blind leading the blind?
This most recent fatal accident in California falls squarely in the danger areas that we've highlighted in past issues--Night flight and low experience. Typically, flight training has the lowest accident rates of any type of flying, and there were only 17 fatal training accidents in the entire U.S. last year! However, it wasn't enough to keep this instructor and pilot safe in a case that might be characterized as the blind leading the blind.
The following comes directly from the NTSB report, though I've
re-ordered the paragraphs:
On February 28, 2005, about 1900 Pacific standard time, a Piper PA 28-181, N2954P, impacted mountainous terrain near Yucaipa, California. M I Air Corporation was operating the airplane under the provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The certified flight instructor (CFI), the private pilot undergoing instruction (PUI), and the private pilot rated passenger sustained fatal injuries; the airplane was destroyed. The instructional local night flight departed Redlands Municipal Airport, Redlands, California, at 1846. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and no flight plan had been filed. The primary wreckage was at 34 degrees 02.258 minutes north latitude and 116 degrees 59.249 minutes west longitude.
The purpose of the flight was for the PUI to obtain night VFR pilot-in-command time. The flight was scheduled to fly in the local area and to make night landings at Redlands and at other local airports. A friend of the pilot's reported that he heard the airplane fly over the PUI's residence about 1900. The witness said that he could see the strobe lights of the airplane, but could not see the airplane registration number due to the low clouds that were in the area.
The airplane was reported missing on March 1, 2005, at 0800, when personnel at M I Air Corporation came to work and discovered that the airplane had not returned. San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department Aero Bureau personnel located the wreckage about 1400 in mountainous terrain about 9.0 nm southeast of Redlands Airport. The wreckage site was at the 4,100-foot level, on the southeastern slope of a box canyon, about 100 feet below the ridgeline.
The terrain consisted of a ridgeline radiating westward from Pisgah Peak (1.8nm to the east), in the San Bernardino National Forest. The wreckage site overlooked Wildwood Canyon to the south. The slope consisted of primarily decomposed granite and shale, covered by loose soil, and estimated to be about 60 degrees from the horizontal.
An examination of the PUI pilot's logbook indicated a total logged flight time of 95 hours. He logged 78 hours in the last 90 days, and 33 hours in the last 30 days. He had an estimated 13 hours in this make and model. He completed a private pilot examination on January 25, 2005. The accident flight was the PUI's first night VFR flight as pilot-in-command.
An examination of the CFI pilot's logbook indicated an estimated total flight time of 435 hours. He logged 54 hours in the last 90 days, and 23 hours in the last 30 days. He had an estimated 31 hours in this make and model. He completed a certified flight instructor, instrument airplane examination, on February 01, 2005. He had a total of 22 flight hours logged during night conditions.
What's the lesson to take away from this? Clearly, we all need to be vigilant about terrain at night. Note the MEF (Mean Elevation Figure) for your area, add at least 500 feet, and fly above that altitude. In the chart above, just above Redlands Airport, you can see "86" in large blue numbers. That means the MEF in that area is 8600 feet, and you should be flying at around 9000 feet to safely clear all terrain in that quadrangle.
Accident News of the
While searching the NTSB website for recent accidents, I came across this recent local accident which reminded me of Chuck Shepherd's News of the Weird website and newspaper column. Sometimes truth is stranger then fiction.
On March 7, 2005, at 2039 Pacific standard time, a Cirrus SR22, N517SW,
caught fire prior to the takeoff roll on runway 12 at Half Moon Bay Airport (HAF),
Half Moon Bay, California. The pilot/owner operated the airplane under the
provisions of 14 CFR Part 91. The airplane sustained substantial damage. The
private pilot and one passenger were not injured. Visual meteorological
conditions prevailed for the local area flight that was scheduled to terminate
at Palo Alto Airport of Santa Clara County (PAO), Palo Alto, California. An
instrument flight rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigator-in-charge (IIC) interviewed the pilot. The pilot stated that he had to taxi about 1.5 miles to the departure end of runway 12. During the taxi the airplane was pulling to the left so he applied a little extra power, and right brake to maintain a forward/straight taxi. Once he had lined up on the runway for takeoff, his wife noted flames from the right main landing gear brake area. They exited the airplane and called 9-1-1. By the time the fire department arrived, the right wing had melted and collapsed.
The pilot reported that 2 weeks prior to the accident the airplane had been pulling to the left. He informed maintenance of the issue. Maintenance personnel found that the brake cylinder and assembly had been leaking fluid. The brake assembly was repaired and returned to service.
It's hard to add anything to this other than to say that it's nice they were able to walk away from this accident with no injuries.
What are the odds of two planes in California catching on fire on the same day? I just checked my logbook, and while I flew on March 6 and 8, I didn't fly on the 7th, so maybe I just got lucky. In the second fire that day, a Cessna 210L, N2044S, caught fire on the takeoff roll from runway 25 at Oxnard Airport (OXR), Oxnard, California. The airplane sustained substantial damage to the interior during the fire. The private pilot and four passengers were not injured. Instrument meteorological conditions prevailed for the flight that was scheduled to terminate at Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO), Santa Monica, California. An instrument light rules (IFR) flight plan had been filed.
According to personnel from OXR airport operations, the tower issued an IFR clearance to the accident pilot. Prior to the accident airplane's takeoff roll, the tower closed (2100). Airport personnel heard a radio transmission from the pilot that he was taxiing to the active runway. A short time later, airport personnel were notified that Oxnard fire department was responding to a call of a burning airplane at the airport.
The Cessna 210 had started it's takeoff roll and was about 1000 feet down the runway when the pilot noticed smoke in the cockpit, aborted the takeoff and called the fire department. In both cases, these pilots were lucky the fire didn't occur a few minutes later after they were in flight.
for Night Flying
I was a little surprised that the part of last month's newsletter that drew the most comment was the section on LED Flashlights. Flying at night is tough enough (and has a much higher rate of fatal accidents) so you might as well make your night flying as easy as possible with some of these new solutions.
My friend and now neighbor Andy M. is a private pilot
and he passed along these suggestions.
Tikka LED Headlamp
Provides “hands free” preflight. I feel I do a better preflight a night than in the day. Putting the beam on the item I’m inspecting seem to make me focus.
It looks like this is from the REI website and sells for $28.95
I have a an elastic band under my kneeboard that holds a mini MagLight with a red lens. I can twist the light on without removing it from the kneeboard. It illuminates the switches and fuses below the yoke. I can also easily pull it out of the kneeboard but is very hard to get back in.
Utility: I use this flash light for everything else. The cool thing is I can stick it into the Lightspeed headset. It fits between the head band and my head. It works like a head lamp. The on/off knob is large and is easy to find.
The light switches from red to white and is at Sporty's for $33.95
I also carry chemical light sticks for emergency lighting.
My friend Tony S. wrote the following:
solution (in addition to my belts and suspenders D-size flashlight + maglite):
headlamp with red and white LEDs costing 1500 cents (US) available at Target.
I have several of these and they are great! Good for pre-flight and also fits
- a finger
light (available at the PAO and RHV pilot stores), mounted on the finger.
Great for reading an instrument that is poorly lit. Green. Unfortunately
uses button cells (environmental problem), and switch goes on too easily in
flight bag. I use a rubber band.
Andy and Tony, thank you for passing these ideas along. And to everyone else, keep those cards and letters coming!
NDB approaches going, going,.....
The FAA recently finalized a list of NDB approaches that it is considering canceling. The list includes a number of local NDB approaches in the S.F. Bay Area that are frequently used for training, including:
Monterey NDB Rwy 10R
Oakland NDB Rwy 27R
Sacramento NDB Rwy 2
Stockton NDB Rwy 29R
At first blush, I thought all of the local NDB approaches would
be gone and that there would be none left for training (or checkride) purposes in
area. I'm sure everyone will be cheered (?) to learn that is not the case,
as I've rooted out the few approaches that will still remain, assuring that we
continue to teach this arcane approach for at least a few more years. They
Concord Rwy 19R
San Jose NDB/DME 30L
Tracy NDB Rwy 12 and Rwy 25
The Tracy approaches will probably become more busy, but I'm guessing it will be tough to get the San Jose approach unless you promise to "keep your speed up" or train at off-peak hours for air carriers, which would be late at night, Saturday afternoons and Sunday mornings.
For those who fear a NDB approach on a checkride, consider
this. One local examiner told me that the first time pass rate for people
going on an Instrument checkride is about 50%, but that it's even lower if they
have to do a GPS approach! Also, take note that the revised PTS for the
Instrument checkride now says that if you take the checkride in a GPS and/or
autopilot equipped aircraft, you must use this equipment on the checkride.
So make sure you're sharp on your avionics skills. Or use an old airplane
without a GPS and become a master of the NDB (uggg).
approach to LOC02 WVI
Speaking of approaches, I've seen several people make the same error on the LOC Rwy 02 approach at Watsonville. The Final Approach Fix (FAF) is at NALLS which can be identified via Radar (NorCal's approach radar that is, not any weather radar your plane might be equipped with) or the Salinas VOR. As people track inbound on the Localizer approach, I've asked them how they are going to identify NALLS, and they tell me when the DME reads 16.5 miles.
While it's true that the DME will read 16.5 DME at NALLS, it will also read 16.5 long before and after NALLS, since that's the distance from the Salinas VOR, not along the Localizer final approach course (see chart). The correct answer is that you're at NALLS when the VOR needle centers, assuming you've dialed in the Salinas VOR and set the CDI for 293 degrees on your #2 VOR receiver (the #1 receiver would be set to the Watsonville Localizer frequency that you're tracking inbound).
So why do they even list on the chart that you're 16.5 miles from Salinas? The answer is that if you're flying from Salinas toward the localizer, you may encounter a false localizer signal somewhere along the shoreline, which is around 9 or 10 DME from Salinas. Knowing that the true localizer signal is at 16.5 miles DME, you'd continue flying west until you intercepted the true localizer signal at that distance.
So now you know.
on the Radio
I'm often listening to ATC while working in my office, and I just heard this today while finishing the newsletter.
RHV tower: 32Gulf, can you check and see if there's a line at the IN-N-Out burger.
32G on downwind: Uh, it appears there are two cars in line.
RHV tower: Thank you, I'm going on my break in a few minutes.
Pretty funny, since I've seen and talked with that controller when we were both at IN-N-Out!
April 9, 2005 10AM - 2PM Young Eagles Day - Free Rides for teenagers, Reid-Hillview Airport EAA Chapter 62
April 18, 2005 7:00PM Sheraton Gateway, Burlingame, CA Air Safety Foundation Seminar on Weather
April 23, 2005 All Day Reid-Hillview Terminal 99's Flying Companion Seminar Call 510-673-4505
Pilot Safety News
© 2005 by Max Trescott
Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
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