Pilot Safety News
A Safety Journal for General Aviation
March/April, 2007 

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

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As I’m writing this, I’m in the Tampa airport waiting for my flight to return from Sun-N-Fun in Florida. It’s been a fun trip, though it did take two days for my luggage to catch up with me. Got to love flying on the airlines! We’ll talk more about Sun-N-Fun next month, as we have a large backlog of articles to share with you.

In this issue, we talk about the case for selecting a CFI who specializes in the type of aircraft that you fly. I imagine when you go for surgery, you don’t seek out the cheapest surgeon who has a license to practice medicine but only knows a little about the type of surgery you need. We highlight an interesting incident that highlights why it pays to select a CFI who’s an expert in the type of aircraft you’re flying.

In the past year, we’ve discussed two accidents that occurred to pilots departing the S.F. Bay area that crashed in the mountains at night. In one case, the pilot was a very new private pilot and in the other case, the pilot had very low time in the type of plane he was flying. Apparently not everyone is getting the message, as another newly minted private pilot recently crashed in the mountains at night killing himself and passengers. Somehow, CFI’s are not letting student pilots know that in passing the checkride for their private certificate, they met the FAA’s minimum standards for a pilot’s license. It doesn’t mean that they are instantly capable of successfully handling all situations in which they’re not legally allowed to attempt flight. Remember, there’s a difference in flying between what’s legal and what’s safe. One out of two is not sufficient—you need both!

In March, I instructed in the first ever Columbia Recurrent Training Program for owners of Columbia 350 and 400 aircraft. It was an excellent learning experience for all involved. You can read more about this program here.

The Aero-News Network is a popular website for pilots that continuously feeds aviation related news. If you haven’t seen the site, you may want to check it out. They do a round up of the best products each year. I was shocked flattered and humbled to find that two of the products on the list were mine. You can read what they had to say about our Max Trescott’s G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook and Max Trescott’s Garmin G1000 CD-ROM course.

It's not too early to be thinking about Oshkosh, as it's barely a month away. If you have never been, you owe it to yourself to go at least once in your life--so why not this year? If you do go, wander by the National Association of Flight Instructors tent, which is where I like to hang out. I'll also be speaking several times on Night Flying and on WAAS, the Wide Area Augmentation System that's bringing ILS-like performance to GPS instrument approaches. Go to the Events Calendar for a list of speaking times and other events.

In the last two issues, I’ve talked about an incident that unfolded while I was on short final in which a pilot cleared to hold short took off instead. The first round of reader response largely supported the position that the pilot needed either remedial training or a license suspension. Interestingly, publishing those reader comments elicited another round of comments that were kindler and gentler. Interestingly, my own view on this has softened somewhat. It may have something to do with a couple of errors that I’ve made since the incident occurred last year. In my case I’m glad the FAA didn’t throw the book at me—which makes me a little more sympathetic to others who have major screwups while flying. You’ll find the latest inputs in our Reader Response section.

Have fun and fly safely!
best regards,
Max Trescott, Master CFI

What’s Wrong with this Picture?
The Case for Factory Training of CFI’s for Glass Cockpit Aircraft

Several months ago, one of the aviation magazines had an article arguing whether it was necessary to have a “factory trained CFI” to teach people to fly in TAA, or Technically Advanced Aircraft. Cessna, Cirrus, Diamond, Columbia and probably others all have factory training programs where CFI’s spend, on average, three days learning all of the intricacies of their modern glass cockpit aircraft. While these programs are excellent, they’re not inexpensive and the CFI’s who attend usually incur some of the programs, unless they attend the training with a new owner who chooses to pay for some portion of the training cost. At this point, I should take a moment to thank the several owners who’ve paid for a portion of, or all of my training costs when I’ve attended factory training. You know who you are—thank you very much!

Unfortunately, not all CFI’s can attend for a variety of reasons, including the cost. CFI’s who’ve taken the training may, justifiably, charge more for their services. Cost conscious owners sometimes question whether they need to pay an extra $10 or $20/hour to fly with a factory trained CFI.

The article drew the range of responses that you might expect. One was a letter from a fellow Master CFI (no not me, but it was a friend) who argued that factory training really is essential for CFI’s teaching in these aircraft. I don’t recall his exact position, but I’m sure it related to how there are many details essential to safe flight in these aircraft, and that non-factory trained CFI’s wouldn’t be aware of them. Another letter from a CFI with many years experience brought the opposite viewpoint. He flat out said that with his experience, he could fly any airplane out there and that it was just a myth that one needed factory training to fly TAA. But that’s the nice thing about opinion; everyone gets to have one!

What’s Wrong with this Picture?
The article, and it’s divergent opinions, came to mind when I read about a recent incident in a TAA. First, let’s take a moment to play a typical kid’s game called “What’s wrong with this picture?” Take a look below at this picture of a Columbia 350, study it carefully, and see if you can figure out “what’s wrong with this picture.”

I’m sure you noticed that the baggage door is open. No big deal there. The pilot’s door is also open. Again, no big deal there. There is, however, a little piece of something sticking up from the top of the plane by the pilot’s door. It’s hard to identify it, but it does seem a little out of place with the otherwise sleek lines of this aircraft.

Give up? Not sure what’s wrong with this picture?
First, remember that the Columbia has gull wing doors, which rise up above the aircraft when they’re open. Hmmmmmm. Don’t see a door rising up above the aircraft? Perhaps that little piece of unidentified material sticking up above the plane is what’s left of the door? As you can imagine, there is a story behind this.

First, this picture appeared on Ebay. The story that I read posted elsewhere about this incidence is as follows.

Apparently while climbing out through about 2000 feet, a Minnesota based Columbia 350 driver noticed that the door strap was flapping outside the door. The strap is what pilots use to pull the door down when seated in the aircraft. Since the gull wing doors rise up so high, the strap is the only way to reach the door and pull it down after you’re strapped into the seat belt. The typical start procedure in Columbias is that, prior to engine start, you either lock the door or loop your arm through the strap while resting your arm on the armrest.

If you’ve ever flown a Cessna, you may have had a piece of seatbelt sticking out the door at one time or another. The solution is simple. Open the door—even in flight—retrieve the seatbelt or other material sticking in the door, and close the door. No big deal.

Perhaps our Columbia driver was thinking the same thing, because he decided to open the door to retrieve the strap. Unfortunately, the moment he opened the door, it separated from the airplane, injuring him and damaging the aircraft. You see, as the door departed the aircraft, it hit wing and the tail of the aircraft. Fortunately the aircraft was still flyable, and the pilot landed the aircraft.

What’s this have to do with CFI’s getting factory training? All CFI’s trained at the Columbia factory are trained that the doors of a Columbia cannot be opened in flight (for reasons that should now be obvious). How many CFI’s that weren’t trained at the factory would know that? Actually, all of them would IF they carefully read the entire POH before giving instruction in the aircraft. And hopefully a few more now know, having read this article.

You gits what you pay for
Am I a believer in factory training for CFI’s for TAA? You bet. Otherwise I wouldn’t have gone to training at three factories. Can CFI’s who haven’t been through factory training safely teach in TAA? In many cases, yes. But, they need to do their homework before accepting an assignment to teach in an aircraft with which they’re unfamiliar.

How many times have I heard TAA owners complain that they knew more about their aircraft than the CFI they hired to fly with them. Many. In life, you don’t always get what you pay for. But when it comes to flying TAA, you’ll generally find that CFI’s that specialize in these aircraft know more about the little “gottchas” that can get you. No question just about any CFI can “fly” these airplanes. But there’s more to flying an airplane than just pushing and pulling on the yoke or stick.

Newly minted Private Pilot has Fatal Accident
Dark Night + Mountains + Private ticket = Formula for Disaster

It’s odd how some airplane accidents are widely covered in the press and others are not. I observed this in Mexico in 2000 when a close friend of mine crashed in Ensenada, killing all six people aboard his twin engine Cessna 320. The crash instantly made headlines around the world, probably because a video crew was on scene immediately, and the tape quickly reached CNN. Yet within a year, another crash in Baja, that also killed 3 or 4 Americans who were also providing volunteer medical services, barely made headlines in a few local newspapers. The difference, I believe, is that since the latter crash occurred just offshore, after a loss of control in IMC shortly after takeoff, there were no crash photos available and hence little press coverage.

You probably haven’t heard about this particular crash either, even though it happened just a few months ago, and the aircraft involved departed from the Nut Tree airport in the San Francisco Bay area. After all, no cameras were on hand when it crashed at night in the mountains of Wyoming. On the other hand, this same crash seems to happen over and over. You’ve read about it as the John Kennedy crash. We talked about it again last February in Pilot Safety News as we discussed the low time pilot that took off from San Martin, CA at night and crashed in the mountains on the way to Fresno. It’s the same story each time, though some of the circumstances and the pilot’s name differ. Still, it’s a story that’s worth repeating to everyone who’s a pilot.

According to an Associate Press report dated January 20, 2007, “A plane that left Vacaville's Nut Tree Airport en route to Chicago Wednesday, crashed in Wyoming and was found high in the Snowy Range Friday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration… The plane found in the Snowy Range was a single-engine Piper Cherokee that had been headed from Vacaville when it disappeared from radar around 10:15 p.m. Wednesday, authorities said… the pilot, a Hercules man whose name was withheld pending official notification, had just received his license in October.”

According to the NTSB report, “a Piper PA-28-180, N43630, registered to Archer Nevada LLC, and piloted by a private pilot, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain during cruise flight, 6 miles northwest of Centennial, Wyoming. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed.” The pilot and his two passengers were killed.

Legal versus Safe
I always tell my students that there’s a difference between what’s legal and what’s safe. Just because something is legal, doesn’t mean it’s safe. The opposite is also true. As we all know, John Kennedy was perfectly legal to be flying over the ocean on a dark, hazy night with just a Private certificate. Unfortunately, it wasn’t safe. With the sky blending into the ocean, it would have been impossible to determine where the horizon is located. Even an instrument rated pilot—which he wasn’t—would need to refer to the instruments to remain safe in this situation.

I sometimes wonder whether the FAA does a disservice to Private pilots by requiring them to have 3 hours of instrument time. To the extent that any private pilot then has a notion that they can now safely fly on instruments, we have done them an enormous disservice that can have fatal consequences. There’s a reason it takes 40 hours to get an instrument rating. Having 3 hours may be more dangerous than having no instrument time at all, if it leads private pilots to believe that they can fly safely when they cannot see a horizon.

The same may also be true for the 3 hour night requirement. Do newly minted private pilots feel that since they have 3 hours of night training, that they are now capable of making any night flight?

Flying in the mountains at night is even more dangerous than flying over the ocean. Not only can you not see the horizon at night, but you can also fly into rocks that you cannot see. Having a moon at night does help—a lot. According to the NTSB, 90% of fatal accidents occur in dark night conditions, where the moon is not visible. I ran a moon calculation program with the date, time and location of the Piper Archer accident in Wyoming. No surprise—the moon has not visible at the time of the accident.

Both this accident pilot and the one last year at San Martin were low time pilots—but these same kind of accidents also happen to high time pilots. The simple truth is that humans cannot see well at night (duh!). If you cannot see a horizon and you’re not instrument rated, the chances of crashing go up tremendously. While it’s perfectly legal for a Private pilot to fly in the blackest of nights, it’s hardly safe. If you’re a CFI, make sure you burn this into your students brains. If you’re a pilot, talk to fellow pilots planning night trips about the dangers of flying in dark night conditions. Afterall, the friend you save may be your own!

Cirrus Personal Minimums Checklist
Now a part of the Avionics!
You have to give Cirrus credit where credit is due. They’ve brought a lot of innovation to general aviation. Among other things, they were the first certified aircraft with a glass cockpit, when they introduced the Avidyne Entegra into their planes in 2003. Now they’re the first company to build a personal minimums checklist into the Multifunction display (MFD).

Although Cirrus has the innovative built-in parachute, they still have an accident rate which is slightly, though not significantly higher than the industry rate (about 16% higher, based on the most recent numbers I’ve seen). Most of the roughly 25 fatal accidents in Cirrus aircraft were due to poor pilot judgment. Obviously, there’s no way to ensure that good judgment always occurs. But now Cirrus has at least way devised a way to raise the issue one last time before pilots take off.

Cirrus pilots are familiar with how the first page on the MFD allows them to reset the fuel totalizer. Now, a new second page appears with the CIRRUS “Envelope of Safety.”  This is a graphic which displays the weather and experience limitations used by Cirrus whenever their corporate or sales aircraft depart for a flight. We’ve reproduced a portion of the Cirrus chart below, and you can download the entire chart at www.cirrusdesign.com/Pilotsworld.

As you can see from this chart, Cirrus requires their non-instrument rated pilots (or those that are not instrument proficient) to have at least 3000’ foot ceilings and 5 mile visibility in order to depart on a flight. Anything less, and the flight is a No Go.  For instrument proficient pilots, they provide different minimums, depending upon how many “hours in type” the pilot has in the aircraft. That makes sense, since accident data shows that pilots have fewer accidents, and hence are more proficient in aircraft in which they have more than 100 hours of experience. The chart has additional minimums (not shown here) for pilots with ILS experience in the past 60 days and for night flying.

The third page on the MFD now discusses density altitude. Finally, the fourth page covers passenger briefings and the IM SAFE checklist. If you’re not familiar with IM SAFE checklist, it stands for Illness, Medication, Stress, Alcohol, Fatigue, and Energy. Each of these categories are things that a pilot should consider when pre-flighting themselves prior to a flight.

Our hat is off to Cirrus for doing more than just talking about Personal Minimums. I hope you also take personal minimums seriously and download the Envelope of Safety chart at www.cirrusdesign.com/Pilotsworld. You can also download a copy of the FAA’s Personal Minimums checklist by going to http://www.sjflight.com/Safety.htm and looking for P-8740-56. 


First Columbia Recurrent Training Program
Lots of lessons learned when Columbia owners and CFIs meet in Phoenix
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of being one of the eight instructors in the country invited to teach and fly with Columbia 400 owners attending the first Columbia Recurrent Training Program in Phoenix, Arizona. These weekend proficiency programs have been available for years for Bonanza owners and, for the last few years, for Cirrus SR20 and SR22 owners. Now Columbia owners also have the option of taking this training at four locations around the U.S. during the year. Based on this first program, we think a lot of owners will take advantage of the it.

The formula for the training sessions is similar. Owners fly their aircraft in from around the country and arrive sometime on Friday. A kick-off dinner in the evening allows everyone to meet, and for CFI’s to meet the owners with whom they’ll be flying the next day.

The real work begins on Saturday. In our case, CFI’s met at 6:30AM for a briefing on the Phoenix airspace, practice areas, and suggested instrument approaches to fly. Also, a set of charts were distributed to each CFI.

Ground school started at 8AM. This was a general session which everyone attended. Among other things, the first session reviewed accident data for both Cirrus and Columbia aircraft. There have been only 3 fatal Columbia accidents to date, (remember, the Columbia fleet is relatively small), but already the accident profile is looking similar to those of Cirrus. Most appear to have been a lapse in pilot judgment.

Last year, Pilot Safety News, brought you details of a Columbia that crashed in southern California while being flown by a Columbia dealer and demo pilot. The brother of the pilot was one of the attendees at the session, and he told the group that a camera was recently recovered from the wreckage, and the photos, taken a few minutes before the crash, confirm that the pilots were “skud running,” or flying in marginal VFR conditions. He also felt that neither of the pilots would have taken off in these conditions themselves, but probably did so only because there was another pilot in the plane.

It’s often said that the most dangerous flights are those with two CFI’s flying, since both relax and neither is fully responsible for the flight. I’ve had pilots I was teaching tell me that “they wouldn’t take off by themselves with the current conditions” but they felt safe to do it because I was in the plane. While I suppose that’s a compliment, it also sets up a potentially dangerous situation. Never fall into the trap of flying in poor conditions just because there’s another pilot or CFI on board!

The Flying
At 11:30, there was a break for lunch and CFI’s left to prepare to fly with their first group of owners. We had a three hour block to fly from noon to 3PM with the “A” group of owners, while the “B” group continued attending ground school. At 3PM, the groups switched and we flew with the “B” group for three hours while the A group attended ground school.

Since we’d met with the owner/pilots the night before, we had a good idea of what the owners wanted to work on and were able to customize a plan for each flight. We also were working with a set of recommended maneuvers from the group that organized the program. So for, example, almost every owner got to experience flying an “engine out,” landing, and autopilot pilot stall recognition.

Autopilot, what you say? There have been a couple of Cirrus parachute deployments that were believed to be caused by stalls induced by the autopilot. In fact, one of the Columbia owners I flew with experienced an unusual attitude in IMC while flying to Arizona, and after discussing it, it appears that it was autopilot induced.

Most autopilots have a vertical speed mode which allows you to set the climb rate that the aircraft will try to maintain. Say for example, that you take off in a non-turbocharged Cirrus SR22, and engage the autopilot after takeoff and set a 1,300 fpm climb. The airplane can handily achieve this near sea level, but as you get higher, the plane must pitch progressively higher, with a commensurate lower airspeed, in order to maintain that rate. At some altitude, the autopilot will actually pull the aircraft up into a stall, leading the autopilot to disconnect and leave the stunned pilot to figure out how to recover. So much for automation being man’s best friend.

The solution is simple. As you climb, you need to progressively lower the climb rate programmed into the autopilot. Thus, above 10,000 feet, you might only be climbing at 500 feet per minute. Or some autopilots, such as the Garmin integrated autopilot in some G1000 aircraft, allow you to program a climb speed, rather than a climb rate. So instead of programming in 1,300 feet per minute, you could program 110 knots, and the autopilot would maintain this speed in the climb. When operating in this mode, the aircraft will never fly slower than the programmed airspeed, and hence stalls are avoided.

Regardless of what you fly, it pays to get recurrent training, and you don’t need to spend an entire weekend doing it. Simply find a competent CFI and put together a training program that meets your needs. If you own a Bonanza, Cirrus or Columbia, you may want to attend a weekend program. Not only will your flying improve, but you’ll also get to meet and swap stories with other owners of your aircraft type. Regardless, continue to build your proficiency and fly safely!

Top Dozen Products of 2006

A few months ago, the Aero-News Network recently came out with their top dozen products of 2006. Imagine our surprise to find two of Pilot Safety News’ editor’s products on the list.
Among the top products were things that you might expect:

o The Garmin 496 handheld GPS

o Columbia eVade anti-icing system

o Theilert diesel engines

There was only a single book or training product on the list, so we were delighted to hear that it was ours. So we’d like to thank the academy, Aero-News Network, and the many people that helped us design and produce these products.

Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook

To quote the Aero-News Network, “Max Trescott, a Master CFI who’s trained and taught extensively in glass cockpit aircraft, takes a narrative approach to explaining the G1000 in ways that both beginners and experts can understand. In "Max Trescott's G1000 Glass Cockpit Handbook," the author not only explains every system feature, but also provides information on when and why you’d use a particular function are also included. The book is loaded with illustrations and “tips” gleaned from leading glass cockpit instructors around the country.

“Instrument pilots will find the book valuable, since it explains how to fly instrument approaches with the G1000, and integrates the proper use of an autopilot throughout the approach. Data link weather and Stormscopes® are popular G1000 option, and the book details how the weather data is gathered and delivered to the plane, so that you’ll understand the limitations and proper use of the information.

The book is $34.95, soft cover, 244 pages, 40 in color, and illustrated with more than 275 computer screen shots and photographs, glossary and index. If you prefer your information in the digital format, Trescott also offers a two-disc CD-ROM for $99.95. Either way... this should be required reading for all G1000-jockeys out there.”

If you're interested in getting a copy, of either the book or the CD-ROM set, call 800-247-6553. The phones are staffed 24x7, and shipment if via Priority Mail, or the method you specify. If you're interested in finding a place where you can rent a G1000-equipped aircraft, go to www.glasscockpitbooks.com and click on the Rental Locations link.

Upcoming Events

June 28 - July 1   M5 - Fifith Annual Migration of Cirrus Owners & Pilots to the Cirrus factory        Duluth, MN

July 23-29       The World's Largest Aviation Event - Airventure 2007         Oshkosh, WI

July 27 8:30 AM Max Trescott - Night Flying Safety - What Your CFI Forgot to Tell You Oshkosh, WI

July 28 11:30 AM Max Trescott - Flying Instrument Approaches with WAAS and GPS Oshkosh, WI

Hi Max,
Thank you! BTW, HNY.
In regards to "Hold Short" Confused with "Cleared for Takeoff,"A little harsh, don't you think! Trust me - It even happens in the "big leagues" where the rice beaters don't fly. I have seen some pretty stupid stuff. In fact, I have to admit, if it wasn't for the co-pilot - I might have made some potential errors. Like wise, I have caught some mistakes myself. I guess that is why there are two of us required. So, things will, and are going to happen. No finger pointing here - please! ALL PILOTS MUST STAY AWARE OF THERE SURROUNDINGS. The FAA calls it "situational awareness". As an extremely active flight instructor, the occurrence you speak of has happened in front of me. I just acknowledged what was happening and avoided the other aircraft. I have also taken off without a clearance. It was at KSJC. Nothing happened! I guess working out there seven days a week the controllers get to know ya. A simple I'm sorry kept me out of FAA jail. Haven't you ever made any errors?
Dean W.
P.S. I have always said "Class Delta" is the most dangerous!

Hi Max,
Great newsletter. One additional comment on the guy pulling out in front. He forced the PIC on final to slow his approach. Suppose the PIC on final had an engine out at that exact moment? And suppose he had to land short, and suppose there was damage and/or injury? At that point would safety have been compromised? Just a thought.
Best Regards,
Scott A.

Max -
I'm doing a study right now on runway incursions, and I taught graduate level safety classes at Riddle for two years. My data on surface errors shows many instances of confusion with hold short / position and hold, and sometimes those are misinterpreted as cleared for takeoff, as in the case you mentioned. From a training point of view, sure, hang the bastard. That would have been my opinion, too, before learning modern safety engineering theory.

But, from a systems engineering / systems safety point of view, why does the system allow so many of these kinds of events to occur? There's no point in hanging the bastard if he's just one of a steady stream making the same mistake. And it's a given in safety science that if your proposed solution is more training, you haven't addressed the real problems.
In a way, this kind of error is like a stop sign hidden behind a tree. You can write tickets, or you can make the stop sign more visible.

Of course now I have to deal with Aussie controller lingo... they say "Hold short", then "Line up and wait" then "Cleared for takeoff" - at least the words are different...
Peter L.

"Lest you delude yourself into believing that accidents only happen to “bad pilots” consider this: How often have you heard someone say that an accident victim was a “good pilot?”"
As always, thanks for the great newsletter. 

Your quote above reminded me that I have recently moved on from the NTSB reports. They are good, don't get me wrong, and I definitely learn from reading about the accidents, but it is too easy to say, "I wouldn't have done that." Obviously, I wouldn't, because the pilot that did THAT is in the accident database and I am not, so it's always easy to say, "That's not me."

So I graduated to reading the ASRS reports from NASA. Oh dear. That's me all over the place. "While performing the pre-flight inspection I left the gas cap undone. I landed before it was a problem." Check. "I thought the canopy was locked tight, but the handle slid closed when a seatbelt was in the opening, so as I took off I could hear it and returned to land without incident to re-secure the canopy." Check. MUCH more interesting, because they are near-accidents and narrow misses. A lot of airspace and AIM/FAR violations. Most of them within my abilities (or lack of), so a lot are very educational.
Anyway, just in case you want to use it in the next issue. 

Hi Max,
I just read your article re: icing.  There may be some basis for claim: "Some people have suggested that it is less capable of carrying ice than some of the older, all metal wing designs used by other manufacturers."

I believe Cirrus uses a laminar flow airfoil, specifically an NLF airfoil.  My recollection from many years ago when I was building a Wheeler Express kit, also using a NLF airfoil, is that the laminar flow airfoils are more sensitive to any surface imperfections than the more conventional airfoils used on metal airplanes.  Ice would qualify as a surface imperfection in my mind.
best regards,

Thanks Max,
Good to see you when you presented in Watsonville in February. Regards the dialogue about the pilot who did not "Hold Short", I had a situation occur just recently in Sacramento.

I would have sworn I heard the controller say "Position and HOLD" but as I was rolling out to do so, I saw a plane turning final. On an uncontrolled field like Watsonville, no sweat, just roll and go. But I thought it odd that he had cleared Position and Hold with a plane coming turning final, controllers are too conservative for that. All this is, of course, just a flash in the thought process. Meanwhile I am rolling and thinking he had better clear me to take off quickly or I am going anyway.

Sure enough, either he said "Hold SHORT" and I misunderstood the instruction, or he gave it to me wrong, because he quickly said cleared for an immediate take off. Then when safely clear we had a brief discussion about what happened on the radio. He says he told me to Hold Short, I heard differently. (If he had been inclined to press further, I would have requested the tapes be reviewed.)

We are all human, we will all misunderstand occasionally, radio transmissions are stepped on, or the controller will make a mistake, etc, In the case you described, the controller did not make a mistake. Nevertheless, I believe a discussion between the pilot and the controller was probably quite adequate. But of course I was not in your airplane either!

Slightly off the subject, what we really need are more clear runway and signage. Airport signage is not at all intuitive, certainly not as clear as highway signs, with arrows pointing the way, or descriptions such as "Taxiway A next right". The present system requires one to think too much when there is a lot going on. There is not enough use of arrows for example. There could easily be red and green lights at major entrances to active runways. To me, it is little wonder that there are runway incursion problems. To have to take a course to understand the meaning of a black background on a sign versus yellow background is ridiculous and dangerous. My two cents. :-}
Glad to hear all is well and it was a pleasure to see you in Palm Springs.

I am late to the party on the 'hold short' story, but the inclination of the tower chief is not at all unusual at smaller towered airports.  I witnessed a similar event while conducting a Private Pilot practical test at a small towered airport in Central Indiana.  The 'offending pilot' operating a Piper Cherokee received taxi clearance to the runway.  However, the Piper simply taxied into position on the runway--past the runway hold short sign--and, despite calls from the tower, proceeded to accomplish a run up. He finally came back on frequency and requested take-off clearance. This lead to a well-deserved 'what didn't you understand about the clearance' upbraiding exchange from the controller. The offender pilot eventually apologized, explaining that he must have done something wrong with his radios. There was no traffic involvement or other immediate danger.

In later conversation, the tower chief expressed the same sentiment as the chief in your story: he would spend half his day doing paperwork if all possible violation events were reported.

The silver lining? I was able to use the event as a basis for healthy 'oral questioning' of my applicant on radio technique, cockpit workload management, and runway incursion. He was duly impressed by what he witnessed and will never, in my estimation, violate an ATC clearance!

Had this been reported, I would like to see the FSDO use the 709 option.  It's expensive for the airman, causes him/her to meet with and to be lectured and impressed by FAA Inspector, creating an indelible impression that best accomplishes the goal of future compliance.


Pilot Safety News
© 2007 by Max Trescott
Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
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