Pilot Safety News
A Safety Journal for General Aviation
May/June, 2007 

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

Index to Pilot Safety News
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So much to write about, so little time! Now that our new Max Trescott's WAAS and GPS CD-ROM Course has started shipping, I'm playing catchup on many things, such as getting this newsletter out. I'm also just about to leave for Oshkosh. If you're going to be there, come look for me in the NAFI tent or at one of my presentations on Friday or Saturday. One of those presentations is on WAAS, which lets instrument pilots use GPS to fly approaches with ILS-like precision. If you fly with a Garmin 430 or 530, it's inexpensive to upgrade these systems to WAAS. You can learn more about WAAS here.

Of course, as we report on events from a few months ago (Sun-N-Fun report in this issue), great new stories continue to pour in. For example, today, I see that Cessna has released final data on the new Light Sport Aircraft (LSA), a prototype of which was on display at Oshkosh a year ago. If there was ever any doubt about the legitimacy about the light sport market, it's gone, now that Cessna has stepped into the market.

Here are the details. $109,000 will buy you this new 2-seat "Skycatcher" aircraft. The engine is a 100 hp Continental O-200D, which should be more reliable than the Rotax engine found in many LSA. Not only that, it's available with a glass cockpit! It features the new Garmin G300 PFD and MFD. Never heard of that? Me neither. But it looks similar to the G600 glass cockpit displays that Garmin will start shipping later this year for retrofitting into existing aircraft. I imagine this will become a hot seller and that you'll find a lot of them at flight schools replacing the many tired looking Cessna 152s now in use.

I fully expect that Cessna will sell out their production for the first year very quickly. So, if you're in California and are interested in purchasing one of these aircraft, contact me immediately and I'll put you in touch with a dealer who can get your name on the list now. You'll find full details about this airplane at www.CessnaSkycatcher.com.

In this issue, we talk about a recent accident at Livermore, CA, where a pilot once again tried to do the Impossible turn after having an engine failure after takeoff. The results were predictable and two people who could have walked away from this accident are no longer with us.

We'll also give you an update on Airline Hiring and the difficulties that flight schools are having in finding and retaining CFIs. I also couldn't resist talking about the Arctic Air, which is a new product you can bring along to keep cool while you're flying

Oshkosh starts tomorrow. 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.

Finally, in our Heard on the Air department, we'll pass along an amusing exchange that one of readers heard on the radio.

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

The Impossible Turn
Another Pilot Learns too late Not to Turn Back to the Airport

Sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my time writing these newsletters when pilots continue to kill themselves doing stupid things that are well known in the aviation world to be bad practices.  Of course not everyone gets this newsletter or reads it, but for those who do, let me tell you again why You should not turn back to the airport if your engine fails shortly after takeoff. Because you may end up dead.

For those of you who live in Northern California, you may have heard about a recent accident that killed a pilot and his passenger shortly after they took off in an experimental aircraft from the Livermore airport. Coincidentally, I just read the current issue of Bob Miller’s excellent newsletter and he talked about a similar accident that killed a Mooney pilot on the east coast. So if you think these accidents are infrequent, think again. And if you think they cannot happen to you (as frankly I used to think), let me assure you that they can. It really pays to reflect for a few minutes how you’ll react when an engine failure occurs shortly after takeoff. Right now, while you’re sitting down and can thinking calmly, is a great time to develop your plan of action. The wrong time to formulate a plan is five seconds after the engine fails as you’re rapidly approaching stall speed and quickly running out of options.

Resist the Siren’s Call to the Runway
In Germany, legend has it that a siren, a beautiful maiden named Lorelei, would sing hypnotic songs to sailors, luring them their ships onto a rock along the Rhine River and the sailors to their deaths. Many ships were lost on this rock, though my guess is that it has more to do with the bend in the river at that point than the mythical siren, but I digress. For pilots who lose an engine on takeoff, the runway is the location from which the Sirens call out. Mystical forces seems to lure pilots back to the runway and often to their deaths. These recent crashes are prima facia evidence.

Why is the beckoning of the sirens from the runway so powerful that it can lure otherwise rational pilots to their deaths? Perhaps it’s because that for 99.9% of your flying career, you actively work to avoid any damage to your aircraft, to avoid paying for repairs to the aircraft and to your ego. That powerful motivating force is what makes you diligent about avoiding running out of gas and salvaging landings gone awry (hopefully by going around). The runway symbolizes a safe haven, particularly compared to an open field that may be hiding groundhog holes and other unknown hazards. Thus when the engine quits—unless you’ve planned your response in advance—the natural instinct is to turn toward the runway, which symbolizes a safe haven 99.9% of the time. And that natural instinct leads to death in many cases.

The accident at Livermore was particularly heart rendering. According to the preliminary NTSB report, when the pilot reached around 300 feet, he initiated a turn back toward the runway because of an apparent engine failure. Witnesses reporting the aircraft dropping from the sky—apparently due to a stall—about 25 feet from the end of the runway. What was left after the fire was a pile of rubble not much more than a foot high.

What was heart rendering is not that the pilot got so close to the runway before stalling. It’s that when the engine failed, he was over an empty field that extended for almost 2 miles straight ahead and was adjacent to a golf course. Had he landed straight ahead or on the gold course, he would have walked away from the accident and damage to the aircraft would probably have been minor. Instead, he threw away his life, holding out for the chance that he could reach the runway so that damage to the aircraft might be zero. What a lousy tradeoff. Is your life worth a few thousand dollars of damage to an aircraft???

The Impossible Turn
The FAA has an excellent brochure that describes why, after an engine failure, you don’t want to attempt this impossible turn back to the runway. To the casual thinker, only a simple 180° is required to return the runway. However, they forget that after a 180° turn, you’ll now be about a half mile laterally away from the runway and not lined up with the runway. Thus you really need about a 270° turn followed by a 90° turn in the opposite direction. And you also need a really long runway, because at best, you’ll be just making it to the departure end of the runway. And that’s if you had a really strong headwind AND did everything right.

If you think that you can perfect this maneuver by practicing it at low altitude, think again. In Southern California last year, a late model aircraft was lost because the pilot and his instructor decided to simulate turning back to the airport after an engine failure. After takeoff, they retarded the throttle and crashed on their way back to the runway. This is one maneuver that I refuse to simulate with anyone, except at thousands of feet above the runway. There’s no excuse for practicing this maneuver close to the ground.

One thing you should practice however, is pitching forward when the engine quits. I did this recently with a student and it’s instructive to see how much forward motion of the yoke is required and how quickly you’ll need to do this after the engine fails. After you pitch forward to best glide speed, then you need to choose a place to land that straight ahead or perhaps no more than 30° to the left or right. Do Not turn back toward the airport.

We simulated this maneuver while up at 4500 feet AGL just before doing stall practice. We pitched the aircraft for climb, added full power and climbed at Vy, which was 74 knots for the Cessna 172SP/G1000 we were flying. I then pulled the power and we left the controls unchanged as we watched the airspeed bleed away. We used those few seconds to simulate denial, by blurting out “What happened? This couldn’t be happening to us,” etc. It only took about five seconds for the aircraft to slow well below best glide speed and start approaching a stall. To reach best glide, the yoke needed to be pushed forward a couple of inches. Unless you try it, you’ll be surprised at how soon you’ll need to start pitching forward and the distance that you’ll need to move the yoke or stick.

In conclusion, we all make mistakes, but there are few mistakes you don’t want to make. Of altitude, airspeed and brains you always need at least two out of three. Plan ahead for that day when your engine fails after takeoff. Practice at altitude pitching forward after pulling the power during a climb. Examine possible landing locations off the departure end of the runways at airports at which you fly frequently. I’ve actually driven over to and carefully walked and inspected two fields off the departure end of one local airport. I’ve already made a plan for exactly which fields I’ll head to depending upon what altitude I’m at when the engine fails. During the climbout, I consciously monitor my ability to reach each field and tell myself one I’ll use at any given point in the climb.

Safety is no accident. Make a plan for the day when the expensive fan on the front of your airplane goes silent you need to glide to the ground safely. And don’t even listen to the siren’s call to the runway behind you. The runway is history. Any wishful thinking about trying to reach it can kill you. Remember to save yourself and not the airplane. That piece of junk just quit on you and you don’t owe it a thing!

Sun-N-Fun 2007
If you’ve never been to one of the two big air shows—Oshkosh in late July or Sun-N-Fun in Florida in April—you really owe it to yourself to go. I’ve just returned from Sun-N-Fun, and as always it was a great experience. Sadly, there’s no way to convey with words and pictures just how great these shows are. You’ll just have to trust me that the shows will most likely exceed your expectations (and how often does that happen in life?), and that you’ll find the experience richly rewarding.

Surprisingly, Sun-N-Fun is a very large show—about 160,000 attendees last year according to their media office—and yet it doesn’t feel the least bit crowded. The advantage of Sun-N-Fun versus Oshkosh is that you’ll see virtually all of the same exhibitors, but the pace is less frenetic and you’re likely to have a leisurely conversation with the president of one of these companies. Nothing like talking to the boss to find out the latest about your favorite product, whether it’s an airplane or an accessory.

User Fees
The hot topic at Sun-N-Fun was user fees—and the FAA knows it. Apparently in one internal document used to brief FAA management prior to the show, it was stated that there are three hot issues that the FAA would face at Sun-N-Fun: “User Fees, user fees, and user fees.” Well said.

The biggest symbol of this was the billboard size banner that more than 15,000 pilots signed at Sun-F-Fun protesting proposed user fees. If you ever see it, you’ll find my signature near the lower right corner. If there’s anything that can send scuttle general aviation as we know it today, it’s user fees.

In every example I’ve heard thus far, the introduction of user fees in other countries has increased the costs to pilots, promoted dysfunctional flying practices among pilots, and lead to a shrinkage of general aviation activity. I hear some sages say “Oh there will be user fees, but they’ll be small.”  That may indeed be the case initially, but I’m willing to bet that the user fees will grow, and at a rate that far exceeds inflation. Here’s what’s likely to happen.

If user fees are introduced, pilots will reduce whatever activity has a fee. In Britain, pilots have learned that it’s more cost effective to NOT practice landings, since each one costs money. Now that should promote safety.

Likewise, if pilots are forced to pay for every ILS approach, they will be more inclined to scud run in marginal VFR conditions to avoid a fee. An increase in the number of VFR into IMC and controlled flight into terrain accidents is inevitable.

Once pilots reduce the number of landings they make or the number of ILS approaches they practices, the revenues reaped by the FAA will fall. The obvious answer will be to increase the fees to recoup the shortfall in revenue. Higher user fees will lead to more pilots giving up flying as the costs rise in a vicious cycle. The first round of user fees may have a negligible effect. However, the end game of the inevitable cycle of revenue shortfalls and fee increases Will have a devastating effect upon general aviation as we know it today.

Now is the time to write your congressman or senator. If you live in California, make sure you include Barbara Boxer in the list of people you contact, as she serves on one of the committees that are reviewing the user fee proposals.

Social Networking
Sun-N-Fun is also a great meeting location for members of different organizations to meet. One example is COPA, the Cirrus Owner Pilots Association. This vibrant organization has a robust level of communication among it members throughout the year via the organizations website, member forums at www.cirruspilots.org and monthly magazine. But there’s nothing so satisfying as meeting like minded pilots face-to-face for dinner in a large tent (and I mean a really large tent) like COPA does each year at Sun-N-Fun. These kinds of meetings go on everywhere for all kinds of industry groups, joint FAA/industry groups and vendor/customer meetings. If there’s anyone you want to talk to in aviation, this is one of the few places where you can be fairly sure to find them during the year.

NAFI—National Association of Flight Instructors
Speaking of social networking, my favorite place to hang my hat at Sun-N-Fun is at the National Association of Flight Instructors tent. If you’re a certified flight instructor, you’re probably familiar with NAFI, as they are the national professional organization for CFI’s. Before I tell you about NAFI, let me tell you why I enjoy spending time at this tent. You'll notice from the picture that the tent also has a great view of the airshow going on in the background.

Last year, my friend Rod Machado said it best in the October, 2006 issue of AOPA Pilot magazine. “On the second day of the show, I walked into the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI) tent and couldn’t help but be in awe of the experience within its borders. Within the tent’s perimeters sat some of aviation’s most knowledgeable flight instructors….This tent has to be the biggest secret…..

“If I was a pilot looking for training advice, walking into the NAFI tent would be like a Catholic being given a key to the Vatican. Imagine talking with the instructor who was elected CFI of the year. Or think about talking with a full-time professional instructor who’s a Garmin G1000 expert. Or just consider the benefits of chatting with a wiser and older aviation sage who makes you feel like you’re sitting on his or her porch sipping iced tea. There were many such folks there. Meaningful advice was free and plentiful….Make sure you visit this “Sistine Chapel of flight instruction.” Well said Rod. That’s probably why the NAFI tent feels like my “home away from home” when I’m at Sun-N-Fun and Oshkosh.

For those CFI’s that really care about the quality of instruction they give, NAFI membership is a must. No where else will you find an organization dedicated solely to helping CFI’s stay at the top of their game. A major member benefit is their monthly Mentor magazine, that’s chock full of instruction ideas and tips from some of the most experienced instructors in the country. Other benefits include a bi-monthly email newsletter, an online website listing Master CFI’s, and their specialties, that you can contact for advice, and a Master CFI program for recognizing CFI’s that are broadly involved in promoting excellence in aviation.

The Master CFI designation is conveyed to CFI’s that submit a portfolio summarizing at least eight aviation activities performed in four different categories of service. Most credit is obtained in the education category, and is earned for a variety of activities including signing off pilots for checkrides, flight reviews and teaching ground schools. Another example is the media category, which includes activities such as writing a published article or creating a presentation.

Lest you think the FAA has no involvement in the Master CFI program—they do. For example, receiving the Master designation qualifies for an FAA renewal of your CFI certificate and is a great alternative to taking a weekend long renewal clinic. Masters are also now automatically granted the FAA’s Gold Seal CFI certificate, if they have a ground instructor certificate. Perhaps the best recognition comes from the FAA Administrator. For the last few years, she’s been the keynote speaker at the NAFI Master’s breakfast at Oshkosh. If you want to know more about NAFI or the Master CFI program, go to www.nafinet.org. And when you’re at Sun-N-Fun or Oshkosh, stop by and visit for awhile at this “secret tent.”

Experimental Aircraft  
Sun-N-Fun is not a part of the Experimental Aircraft Association that runs Oshkosh, though you wouldn’t know it by the large number of experimental aircraft on display and by the large number of forums that pilots can attend to learn basic aircraft building skills.  My favorite experimental aircraft on display at Oshkosh was the Phoenix. According to my notes, it uses the IO-550 engine, you you'd expect it to be fast an haul around some weight. Sure enough, It holds up to 125 gallons of gas and has a useful load of 1300 pounds.

Cost of this sleek aircraft is $149,000 for the kit plus the cost of engine and avionics. Total cost is estimated to be about $300,000. There's also a builder assist option for $49,000.

The gentlemen exhibiting the aircraft had a sample wing on display. They explained that they could pull the standard parts off the shelf, put them together with a glue gun and have subsections of the wing ready completed in two hours.

Here's the kicker. If you want to know more about this aircraft, you're going to have to do some research. I just spent several minutes googling and I couldn't find a website for this company. I guess because the name "Phoenix" has been used before.

The one clue I can give you is that these gentleman were from Ft. Pierce, Florida. If anyone finds a website, please send it to me and I'll update this article.

Light Sport Aircraft
Light Sport fever continues to spread, with no signs of it stopping, and that was true at Sun-N-Fun as well. My favorite new light Sport Aircraft was the SeaMax seaplane. This seaplane is built in Brazil, and a total of 55 copies have been built and delivered. Now, a new dealership is bringing this smart looking airplane to the U.S., and the first one to arrive was on display at Sun-N-Fun.

The plane uses a Rotax 912S 100 hp engine as do many light sport aircraft. Cruising speed is said to be 115 mph, and the specifications say that it will take off from water in about 500 feet. Of course it's limited to two seats as are all light sport aircraft.

Avionics in this aircraft on display were all glass! A Dynon Avionics EFIS D100 displays the primary flight instruments, and a panel mounted Garmin 496 provides the moving map. Interestingly, the front panel of this aircraft included a placard that the "minimum pilot weight" was 140 pounds. My guess is that's to offset the weight of the engine, which is mounted on a pylon above and behind the pilot.

For this one, we were able to find a website to which to refer you. You can find the U.S. distributor at www.seamaxusa.com.

Don't forget to bring along your fishing rod!

That's it for Sun-N-Fun. If you never been to this show or to Oshkosh, you owe it to yourself to go to either of them at least once in your lifetime.

Update on Airline Hiring
Good news for pilots; Bad news for flight schools

One of the things I learned from talking to the many people passing through the tent at Sun-N-Fun was that there’s an emerging shortage of CFI’s, at least in Florida, and probably around the rest of the country. Things must be getting better for the regional airlines, because not only are they hiring, but they are reducing the minimum requirements for the total hours required to get an interview. In general, it sounds like they will hire people with as little as 6-700 hours total time if they have at least 100 hours of multiengine time. Or, for candidates with at least 1,000 hour of total time, they’ll consider them if they have a multiengine rating and have 50 hours or less of multiengine time.

This is great news for anyone interested in working for the airlines, but bad news for flight schools trying to find CFI’s and to some extent for pilots trying to find a CFI for instruction. The dilemma for the top flight schools is that there are many people with CFI ratings looking for jobs, but relatively few of them have the writing and communication skills required to be effective educators. One large flight school manager told me that for every 200 resumes, he’ll interview two people and often won’t hire them. Another manager told essentially the same story, but that he interviews about one out of every 25 resumes he receives.

People always ask whether it helps to have a college degree when going to the airlines. There are two sides to the story. Success at the airlines has always been a seniority game, meaning that the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll have the seniority to move up to fly the heavy iron with its commensurate higher pay. In that case, if you skip college and can get a job at age 19, you may have an edge over the person who attended college.

The flip side is that all things being equal, at least some airlines (and I’m guessing most) would prefer to hire college graduates. One flight school Chief CFI told me that when one hiring manager for a regional airline visits, he places all of the resumes in two piles, and starts with the pile of college graduates first. If he can’t get all of the interviewees he needs from that pile, then he will look at the resumes of the non-college graduates. The Chief also confided that the airline hiring manager would never admit publicly that they screen candidates in such a fashion, but this was the reality of how it was done.

The way the numbers are working now, the typical retention time for a CFI at a busy flight school in now six months or less. A new minted CFI will arrive at the school with perhaps 250 to 300 total hours of flight experience. They may fly about 80 hours a month, which means in six months, they’ll have accumulated another four to five hundred hours. And then they’re gone. Is it any wonder that that many student pilots get frustrated when they have to change instructors multiple times while trying to obtain their private pilot license?


Here’s a Product that helps you keep your cool
Cheap alternative to air conditioning for any airplane

OK, I admit it, my airplane didn’t have an air conditioner for a variety of reasons. The primary reason was weight, since it added about 70 pounds and I needed every ounce when I flew volunteer doctors and dentists to Mexico to provide free services in underserved areas. Also, I’m lucky enough to live in an area where air conditioning is rarely required.

I first saw this product more than six months ago and loved the concept the moment I saw it. Why pay a huge price and weight penalty to have an air conditioner in your aircraft when you only need it some of the time? The beauty of this solution is that you can put it in the aircraft only when you need it, so you won’t be hauling around a heavy air conditioner all of the time. Not only that, if you’re a renter pilot, you can take your cooler with you in any airplane you rent. That’s really attractive, since most of the rental aircraft I’ve seen don’t have air conditioning.

Using the product is easy. Just fill it up with ice shortly before you leave and turn on the fan. Evaporative cooling does the rest. The fan draws warm air over the ice and cools it. The cool air is then blown out of the cooler and into the airplane. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. No installation required by your mechanic and no FAA 337 forms to be filled out.

In the name of full disclosure, I haven’t actually tried this product, so I cannot tell you firsthand how well it works. However, the same principle was used to stay cool in the South long before air conditioning was invented so I imagine it works fine. So if the heat cause you to lose your cool, take a clue from this cool dude and order this cool product.

Upcoming Events

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

Heard on the Air

Tower: "Cessna 4139G, be advised, other aircraft in the pattern has callsign 7239G, use full callsign."

4139G: "Use full callsign, 39G."

Pilot Safety News
© 2007 by Max Trescott
Master CFI & FAA Aviation Safety Counselor
Please contact me with your feedback or if I can be of service to you.
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