Pilot Safety News
A Safety Journal for General Aviation
November, 2006 

 
by Max Trescott, Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
www.sjflight.com  (650)-224-7124

Index to Pilot Safety News
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Welcome!
I've started to write this newsletter multiple times over the last few months, but something always seemed to get in the way. Fortunately, most of the things have been good, like my trip to the Cirrus factory in June for the "M4" or fourth migration of Cirrus aircraft owners back to the factory. Or the week in August I spent in Bend, OR at the Columbia Aircraft, becoming a Columbia 400 instructor, not to mention the dozen of hours I've spent teaching in the Columbia 400i since then. Or the test flights I've done in the new Mooney, Symphony and Diamond TwinStar DA42. I also spent a few days last week at the AOPA Expo in Palm Springs, CA. There were many great things to see at the show and I'll share them with you in this issue.

There have also been a few not so great things. Our first story is about a Cirrus crash that you probably didn't hear about. It occurred in Colorado in August and fortunately wasn't fatal, though it easily could have been. That one hit close to home, since the plane belong to a club in California where I teach, and I'd flown the plane before. Since then, you have of course heard of another Cirrus crash, this one well publicized and unfortunately fatal. Oddly, I think there's a strong connection between these crashes and we'll talk about that more in this newsletter. 

Probably the primary thing that's delayed this newsletter was the release of new products related to the Garmin G1000. Early this month, we announced Max Trescott's Garmin G1000 CD-ROM Course, which sells for $99.95. You can see a free five minute sample of the course at www.g1000book.com and order the course by calling 800-247-6553. Click here to read more about the course or to order it online. In July, we announced the only online courses for learning to use the G1000 over the internet. There are two separate courses, one for VFR and one for IFR and each sells for $59. 

In the last issue we talked about Oshkosh. Recently, I was emailed a link that chronicles one California pilot's trip to Oshkosh in a series of beautiful photos. I hope you enjoy them and that it motivates you do to do more flying. Speaking of Oshkosh, that's where we saw the GloveLite, which we talk about here. What do you suppose is next? Flashlight dentures for pilots?

Finally, we share an interesting incident I witnessed at a local airport: a pilot told to "hold short" takes off instead! How would you handle the incident? How would you want it handled if it were you?  

I'm starting to get busy giving seminars again, including one in Florida. Here are a few coming up:
Nov 15, 2006   Flying G1000 Glass Cockpit aircraft   7PM Advantage Aviation, Palo Alto
Nov 16, 2006   Risk Management                              7PM  99's meeting            Palo Alto
December 2, 2006  Flying the G1000  PilotMall.com Open House                      St. Petersburg, Florida

Have fun and fly safely!
best regards,
Max Trescott, Master CFI
650-224-7124


Cirrus Crashes in Bad Weather in Colorado
Pilot's low "time in type" may have contributed

Photo by Rodney Johnson, Grand County Sheriff's Office

Here's what the NTSB had to say about this crash:

On August 15, 2006, approximately 2230 mountain daylight time, a Cirrus Design Corporation SR20 single-engine airplane, N8127J, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain while maneuvering near Mc Elroy Airfield (20V), Kremmling, Colorado. The commercial pilot sustained serious injuries and the passenger sustained minor injuries. Dark night visual meteorological conditions prevailed, and an instrument flight rules flight plan was filed. The flight departed Cedar City Regional Airport, Cedar City, Utah, approximately 1830, with a planned destination to Jeffco Airport, Denver, Colorado.

According to the pilot and preliminary air traffic control communications, prior to departure from Cedar City, he obtained a standard weather briefing via telephone. While en route at 16,000 feet mean sea level (msl), the airplane encountered rain and moderate turbulence. While in communication with Denver Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC), the pilot requested to "reroute around the weather." Due to the continued rain and turbulence, the pilot requested to divert to an alternate airport. Denver ARTCC informed the pilot that 20V had an instrument approach. Subsequently, the pilot elected to attempt to land at Mc Elroy Airfield (20V), Kremmling, Colorado. During the approach, the pilot stated the airplane "broke out near the decision height altitude;" however, he could not see the runway and elected to initiate a missed approach. During the missed approach, the airplane impacted mountainous terrain approximately 4 miles west of 20V. Search and rescue operations located the airplane approximately 0615 on August 16, 2006.

The airplane impacted rock and sagebrush covered terrain and came to rest upright at an elevation of 8,350 feet msl.

According to newspaper reports published on the internet, the plane's landing gear clipped some trees and then skidded into a field. Rescuers found the plane at sunrise on a private ranch. Undersheriff Walt Eldridge was quoted as saying "My opinion would be they were very lucky, because, needless to say, as you look at the crash site, if the pilot would have been a little lower, it could have been a totally different outcome." We agree.

Decisions, decisions. 
The story by itself suggests some poor decision making. The pilot was flying at night, in an area with thunderstorms, over high terrain, at close to airplane's service ceiling. How's that for multiple risk factors? He might have been better served to spend the night in Cedar City and continue on the following day. 

Look at the crash photo and note how nice the weather looks. Every time a pilot elects to take a trip and crashes because "he had to get there today," he proves himself wrong. Invariably, plane crashes occur in lousy weather and recovery efforts occur the following day in good weather. If you're facing bad weather, don't fly. You often will only have to wait a day and then will be flying in beautiful weather. 

Diverting to an alternate airport may have been a good choice. Whether going to Kemmling made the most sense is open to question. It has two instrument approaches, both of which have high MDA's. The pilot was almost certainly flying the GPS Runway 27 approach, since this is the only approach that has a missed approach that goes in the direction of the crash site. The MDA for this approach is 9,180 feet, which is 1,780 feet above the airport. Ideally, when the chips are down and you need to get on the ground, you'd want to choose an approach with relatively low minimums, so that you have a better chance of seeing the airport and landing. In this case the pilot did not see the airport, even though he was apparently below the clouds (The ASOS was reporting a scattered layer at 3,300 AGL).

Whenever you reach the missed approach point and don't see the runway, it's imperative that you climb! Note that the crash site was at 8,350, or more than 800 feet below the MDA! Clearly something didn't go right. Perhaps the pilot initiated the go around properly and encountered a downdraft preventing him from climbing. While that's entirely possible (especially in the mountains with storms nearby), it's also possible that he spent a little too much time looking for the airport and may have descended below the MDA while searching for the airport. 

It's very common for instrument rated pilots to not start a proper climb at the missed approach point--I see it all the time while giving instrument instruction. Pilots add full power, but they often don't pitch for climb. Believe me, flying straight and level while in the clouds, 200 feet above the ground is not a best practice! Unfortunately, the somatogravic illusion makes this likely to occur. Whenever our bodies are accelerated, such as when you add power, fluid movement in the ear's semicircular canals causes us to experience the sensation of "tumbling backwards," which we often interpret as a climb. Also, mechanical attitude indicators have built-in errors, one of which is to show a slight climb whenever that instrument is accelerated! So it's critical when going missed that you crosscheck your instruments to verify that your speed is at Vy and that you have a positive rate of climb.

But there's more to the story...
My understanding through informal conversations is that the pilot had about 10 hours of time in Cirrus aircraft at the time of the crash, which is remarkable when you consider that he was already perhaps 4 hours away from where he started. While it's not unusual to get checked out in many planes in just a few hours, the Cirrus is more complicated than stepping up to a C182, and requires more time to fully understand the airplane, it's avionics and its limitations. For example, one club I visited in Southern California last week told me that checkouts in their Cirrus typically require 10 to 20 hours. Our club now has a minimum 15 hour checkout requirement, which is right around the number of hours it's typically taken me to check out pilots in these planes. 

The other thing I heard is that the pilot was in a very big hurry to complete his checkout in time to take his long trip to Colorado. Rushing the learning process, particular in an unfamiliar plane, is not a good thing. As we all know, it's possible to "cram" information before a test, but often the knowledge disappears soon after the test. Any time you find yourself in a big hurry in aviation, whether it's to get checked out in a new plane, to finish a preflight, or to deal with an emergency, SLOW DOWN! 

Military pilots often talk about how the first step in an emergency is to stop and "wind the clock." Whether they actually stop what they're doing and physically wind the mechanical clock in the dash is moot. The whole idea is to decouple themselves from the adrenaline rush that comes with an emergency and take a moment to pause, and think rationally about what they need to do. Train yourself to recognize when you're rushed. That's a red flag that should tell you to take a moment to "wind the clock" and slow down so you don't end up making bad decisions.

Frankly, this pilot was very lucky to survive. He was surrounded by rising terrain and was "lucky" enough to skim the top of a flat section of land, rather than plow straight into one of the nearby hills. Most CFIT (controlled flight into terrain) accidents have a worse outcome. Next time you see one of the "red flags" or risk factors mentioned in this story, take action to avoid becoming a statistic yourself!


 

 


AOPA Expo 2006 -- Palm Springs
I'd always thought of AOPA Expos as being smaller, regional shows than wouldn't offer nearly as much as the large shows like Oshkosh and Sun-N-Fun, and I'd never attended one before. On the face of the numbers--typically 10,000 attendees versus more than half a million at Oshkosh--you might reasonably draw that conclusion. But the quality of the show far exceeds  expectations based upon numbers alone. Being small, it's easier to talk to the Presidents of Columbia and Cessna without being a big wig, and you'll probably run into a lot more of your friends. Also, all of the major vendors are there, so you can still find most anything your want. What a great concept!

As you may know, AOPA Expo alternates coasts each year, and often alternates north and south, meaning that the show doesn't usually return to a particular area for four years. In California however, the show has remained in southern California for 10 years, alternating between Long Beach and Palm Springs every two years, due to the perception that the city of San Jose, where the show was last held in 1996, is "unfriendly" to General Aviation. Like most generalizations, this one was probably never more than 97% true. Funny how a city can acquire a reputation by forcing most of G.A. out of their international airport and then trying to close their closest reliever airport (Reid-Hillview)! But apparently all is forgiven (and Reid-Hillview is still open) and AOPA Expo 2008 will once again be held in "our fair city" San Jose. If you live in Chicago, however, I wouldn't count on this show coming to your area anytime in the next few decades! Or at least not until after the current mayor is out of office. But enough about politics.

What's New
Having been at Oshkosh only a few months ago, I didn't expect to find much new at this show, but I was wrong. Here are some interesting tidbits.

The Head Fed
FAA Administrator Marion Blakey spoke for an hour at the general session on Friday morning. She flew out of the way to get to Palm Springs, having started in Washington, D.C. Immediately after her session, she was flying back toward the East coast to get to India by way of Europe. It would have been easy for her to cancel coming to AOPA, but she'd make the commitment to come four years ago and she honored it. I talked with her at Oshkosh in 2005, and I think she's a class act.

The Administrator started by mentioning that the fatal accident rate, for the fiscal year just ended, was the lowest in history. She also cited the use of technology, particularly ADS-B, for reducing fatal accidents in Alaska by 50% since 1995, and Part 135 commuter accidents, which used to average six per year in Alaska, to zero accidents since 2004. 

She also talked about the "Next Gen" for controlling airspace in the future, for which a blueprint is due out in the Spring. With air traffic levels expected to rise by 3X in the future (in part due to the airlines use of more, smaller regional jets and the emergence of VLJ jets), she said that Next Gen is needed to keep General Aviation from being squeezed out of the system. Next Gen will probably recommend full scale implementation of ADS-B, but at present the system isn't funded. She also pointed out that the FAA would be developing 300 new GPS approaches and, that as pilots, we needed to be "buying the WAAS boxes" to assure that the agency continues to invest in this area.

One urgent issue is future FAA funding. The current fee structure that funds the agency, based upon taxes added to airline ticket prices and to the price of avgas, expires in September, 2007. Aviation Trust funds could keep the agency running for two more months, but after that they'd run out of money. The airlines have been pushing for G.A. to shoulder more of the cost through user fees; the Administrator said that there wasn't a need for "broad user fees" from G.A., though left open the possibility that there might be some "narrow" fees--whatever those are. A cost allocation study, currently under way, may shed some light on what level of fees are necessary to keep the agency running while allowing it to implement whatever Next Gen plan emerges.

Nearly half of the hour was spent fielding questions from the audience. One aerial towing operator talked about the TFR's over major stadiums in the U.S. and their inconsistency. For example, planes are excluded over baseball stadiums, but are allowed over a Bruce Springsteen concert with 40,000 fans. His contention was that the TFR's were pushed by the major leagues as a way to control the advertising over their stadiums, but that they had put many banner towing operators out of business. The Admistrator pointed out that the stadium TFR's were legislated by Congress, and that with a new Congress, we as pilots might start lobbying to have this law changed. 

The Administrator's position is limited by law to five years, so we may not be seeing her at future Expos unless she's reappointed. She did leave what may be her last Expo with a good send off, however. The many hundreds of people who attended the session gave her a standing ovation.

Walking around
I have fun walking around these shows to unearth new tidbits which are less newsworthy but equally interesting. Here are few that I observed.

Parade of Planes
Palm Springs is unique in that when AOPA Expo is in town, they hold a "parade of planes" the day before the show to move a large number of planes to the Convention Center. Funny, you never hear about another parade after the show, but somehow they must get the planes back to the airport. I wasn't able to get to town in time to see the parade, but it's apparently quite popular with local residents. I'm hoping there's a way to hold a similar parade at Expo 2008 in San Jose. The challenge will probably be finding a way to get through all of the fences that were erected at the airport in 1991 during the first Gulf War. But we can still hope there's a way to make it happen.


NYC Cirrus Crash
Choosing your CFI
It's hard to imagine that there's anyone who hasn't heard about the NY Yankees pitcher who, along with his CFI, flew a Cirrus SR20 into the side of a building in New York City in October. What's more important than the crash itself is the issues it raises. Training Flights--those with a CFI on board--have the lowest accident rate of any type of flying. No surprise, since most CFI's are very dedicated to minimizing risk so that both they and their client survive each lesson. So with perhaps only a dozen training accidents occurring each year, this one bears more scrutiny since on the face of it, this accident shouldn't have happened.

I'd been home briefly earlier in the day, and happened across one of the first few stories about the accident on the internet, so I was familiar with it when the local television news crews started calling later in the day. The focus of both crews that came out to the airport, as it was with the national media, was on the parachute. How could this have happened to an airplane that has a parachute they wanted to know. The answer is fairly simple. If it's too late to maneuver out of the way of a building, it's too late for the parachute to do anything other than to slow down your impact. The parachute is an excellent solution for certain problems, such as pilot incapacitation or mid-air collision, but it's hardly a panacea and most people (including many pilots) don't realize that. If one's strategy for mitigating risk is to just pull the parachute whenever there is trouble, they may be more likely to get themselves into deeper trouble than other, more prudent pilots.

A more relevant question is how did this accident occur with a CFI on board? And, how much is it worth to hire a CFI who specializes in a particular area? Also, how do you get local knowledge when you're flying outside of your home area? On the evening of the accident, I was teaching an FAA safety Wings seminar on "Flying the San Francisco Bay Tour," which is an example of where it pays to have some local knowledge and a plan before you launch. With an audience of about 40 people attending, I'd asked how many pilots had flown the VFR corridor in New York and was surprised to find that about seven of us had done so. Next, I asked how many had flown over the Hudson river portion of the corridor and how many had flown over the East river portion of the corridor where the accident occurred. All of us (including myself) had flown over the wider Hudson river, but NONE of the attendees had ever flown the more narrow East river portion of the corridor! 

The reason comes down to a simple risk/reward analysis. Most of the benefit of the trip is flying the Hudson, where you can fly by the Statue of Liberty. The risk is low, since the Hudson is very wide. By contrast, the East river is very narrow and there's not that much more to see there.

Local Knowledge is Invaluable 
If you think that, because you have dozens of ratings and thousands of hours, you know all you need to know about aviation, I like to suggest you look up the word hubris in the dictionary and make sure your picture isn't displayed there! No one can know everything there is to know, and the truth of that becomes more apparently the farther away you are from home. 

When I heard about this accident, my very first thoughts were "how odd that this should occur when flying with a local instructor." A local instructor would know that the risk/benefit of flying the East river and suggest that there was no need to do it. Or, a really savvy local instructor would know to talk with ATC while flying the East river, so that when they turn back, they could legally invade the adjacent airspace. 

Later, we learned that the instructor was from Southern California. Suddenly, the accident seemed a lot more plausible. You can imagine a non-local instructor being concerned about making a turn toward nearby LaGuardia airport, and letting a client turn toward Manhattan instead. Yet everyone in the seminar who'd flown in the NYC area would have done the exact opposite, since there are fewer obstacles--particularly tall buildings--over Queens on the east side of the river. Would a little local knowledge have prevented this accident? Quite possibly.

Here's a case in point. About a month ago, I was flying with the new owner of a Cessna T182 to San Diego, with a stop in Santa Monica. Although I'd flown in and out of Santa Monica from the North, I'd never departed to the south and wasn't sure of the best way to transition the nearby LAX airport. I sent an email to a fellow Master CFI in SoCal and quickly got back a detailed answer on how best to accomplish this. It worked like a charm, and we had no doubts about what to do (thank you Robert Moss!). Anytime you're flying in unfamiliar territory, ask a local expert!  

Choosing the Right Instructor Could Save Your Life!
I'm always amazed that some people will spend a half million on an airplane, but then choose to save a few dollars by not hiring an instructor who's specialized in their aircraft. After all, what's the point in paying money  to drag along a CFI who knows less about the plane than you do?  Wouldn't you rather actually LEARN something on each flight? According to internet posts I've read, the CFI in the New York accident was not a Cirrus factory trained CSIP. That's not to say that a CFI can't be knowledgeable about a Cirrus without being a CSIP--many are--but it certainly increases the odds.

Another major resource are the aircraft owner associations. Examples are the Cessna Pilots Association and the Cirrus Owner Pilots Association (COPA). These organizations are staffed with experts who can not only save you time and money with maintenance decisions, but can identify issues associated with a particular aircraft and share best piloting practices. 

How does this relate to the Cirrus accident? Well, there were four fatal Cirrus accidents in a recent six week period. After the third accident, Cirrus Design and COPA both sent out emails to their mailing lists encouraging pilots to take advantage of free Critical Decision Making seminars and other resources available. The COPA email included the following: "You can also help by talking to any Cirrus Pilots you know who are not COPA members. The fact is that over 87% of the pilots of the fatal accidents to date were among the 30% of so of pilots who do not belong to COPA." Of course most people who join COPA are already safety oriented--but they probably learned even more after they joined the group. Spending $50 a year on a COPA membership could save a Cirrus pilot's life.

Common Threads?
The biggest common thread in the two Cirrus accidents discussed is probably poor decision making. There also may have been some lack of knowledge about the nature of the threats they faced and the best way to deal deal with them. None of which should surprise you. After all, about 80% of all accidents are the result of poor pilot decision making. What could help? When choosing an instructor, choose a specialist for the type of flying you're doing. Consider joining an aircraft type organization for the plane you fly most often. And always seek out local knowledge whenever facing a flight under conditions with which your unfamiliar!


The Glove Lite
Hit someone while wearing this and you'll leave an impression
Here's an item left over from my Oshkosh trip. While wandering the show in search of the practical, the noteworthy and the occasionally nutty items to share with you, I came across the Glove Lite. I'm not sure in which of the above categories it falls, since I haven't actually tried it, but I was intrigued. Check out their website at www.glovelite.com and you can see a picture of a glove with multiple embedded LEDs that let you shine a light by pointing your fingers. Oddly, three and a half months after Oshkosh, their website still says "online purchasing will be available soon," so maybe it's not quite ready for prime time. But if you fly much at night, it might be just what you need. Just don't blind yourself when scratching your nose!


"Hold Short" Confused with "Cleared for Takeoff"
Everyone makes mistakes. How should this one be treated?
Like stamp collectors, we often "collect" memorable events in our aviation career and add them to our collection of experiences. Some events, just like stamps, are more common than others. But some are once in a lifetime occurrences that really make you sit up and take notice. 

I fly with a client who's witnessed a remarkable number of events prior to solo. First we witnessed a gear up landing. But it was planned, which is why we were able to walk over to the runway to observe it. Only one of the main gear legs of a Cessna 172RG extended, so we knew ahead of time that the plane was coming in. As it touched down, the one extended gear leg bent back and the plane settled nicely onto the pavement. No big deal really, but how many gear ups have you actually witnessed? More recently, we were on final at a local airport when the plane ahead of us ground looped and left the runway. The airport was closed so we went elsewhere to practice landings. Again, no big deal for anyone involved, and it certainly isn't the rarest of occurrences. But the third event left me stunned. While we were on final and cleared to land at an airport, a plane on the ground was told to hold short, but instead took off without a clearance. Now if we were stamp collectors that would be a rare one to add to our collection. 

We all make mistakes and one of the main differences between experienced and inexperienced pilots is that the former tend to notice their mistakes sooner and correct them earlier. Fortunately, there's no Part 91 prison to which pilots are sent whenever they break a rule nor should there be. If there were, there wouldn't be any pilots left to fly as we all occasional make inadvertent errors. But some errors are more equal than others, and this one seemed like it might warrant a trip to the proverbial woodshed. After all, if we can't rely on other pilots to get a definitive clearance before taking a runway, do we really want to fly in the same airspace with these bozos?  

When questioned by the FAA, the pilot explained that he had headset trouble and thought that he had indeed been cleared to take off. The pilot had about 200 hours of time. So lets take a survey and see what you feel should have happened. Send an email and tell us which of the following should have occurred:
A. If the pilot was contrite about the incident and safety wasn't comprised, that should be the end of it.
B. The FAA should require remedial training with a CFI for this pilot.
C. The FAA should take enforcement action. Suspending his license for a month or two makes sense.
D. Other?

You be the judge. Let's us know what you think should happen and next month we'll update you the story. And if there's anything in your rare stamp collection that you'd like to share, please do!


Presidential TFR's still Tripping up Pilots
Check NOTAMs before Flying!
The following was forwarded to me in October, after President Bush made a brief visit to the Stockton, CA area. It's allegedly from a NorCal TRACON controller. I don't know if it's genuine, but it wouldn't surprise me if it is.

As you remember, Pres Bush was here in El Dorado Hils to help Doolittle's campaign. Well, before he landed at Mather he was in Stockton and there was a TFR in effect. Well, some 38 pilots did not check the NOTAM and ventured into this TFR. Each and every one of them was tracked, intercepted by F16 and forced down where the local police arrested them until the Secret Service got there. One guy was flying at 2700 feet and was intercepted by one F16 coming right at him at 2800 feet. He was on guard frequency asking for help and screaming that this jet was trying to land on him, that's how close the F16 was. From what we heard, the Secret Service is asking the FAA to pull the pilot certificate for one year for each pilot.

Regardless of the veracity of this email, it's only prudent in this day and age to call FSS before EVERY FLIGHT. If you do nothing else, ask whether there are any TFRs or NOTAMs affecting your route of flight.


Upcoming Events

Nov 18        99's Flying Companion Seminar   Call 805-550-8882 to register         Paso Robles, CA  

Dec 2          PilotMall.com Open House. Albert Whitted Airport (SPG).                St Petersburg, FL

Dec 9          Cirrus Design Open House.  David Wayne Hooks (KDWH).             Spring, TX


On the Air
Sent in by a friend (Thanks Andy!) who heard the following at PAO, a 2500 foot airport located 4 miles from Moffett Federal airport.

Tower: 34 Bravo, number two, cleared to land.

34B: Cleared to land, looking for traffic. Is he on final?

Tower: 34 Bravo, Look for traffic turning in your vicinity, a C130.

34B: We have the traffic.

Tower: 34 Bravo, follow the traffic and cleared to land.

34B: Do you want us to follow the C130?


Pilot Safety News
2006 by Max Trescott
Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
Please contact me with your feedback or if I can be of service to you.
www.sjflight.com  (650)-224-7124  Subscribe or email Feedback on Newsletter