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Authorities on both sides of the border are investigating the apparent ghost plane crash of a Michigan-based Cessna 172 in a remote area of Northern Ontario. According to the Wawa News, the plane crashed about 11:30 p.m. about halfway between Sault St. Marie and Thunder Bay near the north shore of Lake Superior, and there was no sign of a pilot. Local police reported the plane was empty, there were no tracks in the snow, no gas in the tanks and the autopilot was on. The crash site is about 400 NM from Ann Arbor, pretty close to the full-tanks range of the 172.

The University of Michigan Police have reported the aircraft is related to a missing person case they’re working on. They’re also not releasing any details of that investigation except to say that the plane was rented. Canada dispatched a military search and rescue aircraft and dropped search and rescue technicians to the crash site. Its Transportation Safety Board has joined the head scratching on the crash.

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The Aviation Herald is reporting that the European Aviation Safety Agency is about to issue a safety information bulletin about high-altitude wake turbulence after a Challenger 604 business jet was written off after flying 1,000 feet below an A380. According to the Aviation Herald, the incident happened Jan. 7 over the Arabian Sea. The vortices from the Emirates super jumbo jet reportedly caused the big business jet to roll three to five times as it went out of control and lost 10,000 feet before the pilots wrestled it under control and restarted the engines. The Challenger headed for an emergency landing in Oman and there were serious injuries to some of the nine people aboard. The G forces on the airframe damaged it beyond repair.

The Aviation Herald, which says it has had some trouble verifying some details, said German authorities are leading the investigation because the bizjet was registered there. Canada’s Transportation Safety Board is also taking part because the plane was built there by Canadair, which was taken over by Bombardier. EASA is preparing its safety bulletin because reduced vertical separation minimums (RVSM) make 1,000-foot separations standard in most of the world and the airspace is getting more crowded. High-altitude wake turbulence lasts longer than the landing and takeoff variety and can affect aircraft up to 25 NM away. The advice to pilots hit by wake turbulence is also counterintuitive in that it says the best immediate reaction is none. “Be aware that it has been demonstrated during flight tests that if the pilot reacts at the first roll motion, when in the core of the vortex, the roll motion could be amplified by this initial piloting action,” EASA says in the draft. “The result can be a final bank angle greater than if the pilot would not have moved the controls.”

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Officials at a Montreal flight school say they are at a loss to explain how two Chinese students flying school-owned Cessna 152s collided above a busy shopping mall and crashed on Friday, killing one of the students and severely injuring the other. One of the aircraft went through the roof of the mall; the other crumpled in the parking lot and the pilot flying died at the scene. No one on the ground was hurt but two witnesses were treated for shock. “The cause is not obvious,” Daniel Adams, operations manager and director of flight safety of Cargair, told the Montreal Gazette. “There was no reason to think something like this could happen. The conditions were perfect. It was a storm of good weather: there was no wind, it was magnificent, the visibility was excellent. So what happened?”

The flights originated from St-Hubert Airport and the students, among about 150 the school trains annually for Chinese airlines, did all the normal flight planning before their flights. The only anomaly was that one of the pilots inexplicably and without making a radio call suddenly changed altitude. The conflict was noticed by a controller who tried four times to raise one of the aircraft on the radio to tell him to maintain 1,600 feet and that the other aircraft was taking off a mile away. There was no response from the pilot, who had previously had routine contact with the tower. Although they were both from China, the pilots were fluent in English and had no difficulty communicating with ATC, Adams told the Gazette. One of the students had 40 hours on his student permit and the other was a private pilot with 140 hours working on his commercial ticket. The dead pilot was in the aircraft that was taking off, according to the Gazette.

A man who rode a lawn chair suspended by 100 large helium balloons into the approaches of Calgary International Airport in a 2015 publicity stunt was described as “unconscionably stupid” by a judge who assessed $26,500 CAD in financial penalties but no jail time. Daniel Boria, 27, of Calgary, pleaded guilty to dangerous operation of an aircraft last December and was before Judge Bruce Fraser for sentencing and a tongue lashing on Friday. "The stunt was unconscionably stupid," Judge Bruce Fraser said at the hearing. "There was nothing fantastic, fun or exhilarating about it as the offender was quoted describing it. It was dumb and dangerous.” Boria’s day in court didn’t dampen his apparent enthusiasm for what he called “the greatest story to tell for the rest of my life,” and laughed off the gravitas with which Fraser and the local media appeared to view the case. "It's pretty hard to take it seriously when you guys are asking me these questions based on me flying a lawn chair lifted by helium balloons,” he told local media.

Boria cooked up a scheme to parachute into the main arena of the Calgary Stampede, a rodeo and western festival held every July, to promote his cleaning business. When he couldn’t find a pilot willing to violate a host of regulations to get him over the grounds, he came up with the balloon idea. After launch, the wind blew him away from the rodeo and toward the airport, where he was spotted by the crews of several airliners, and controllers estimated he reached 14,000 feet. He jumped without achieving his business promotion plan but he certainly drew attention to himself. He was dubbed “the balloonatic” in Calgary and was arrested and charged. After the sentencing, Boria continued to make light of his actions, saying he caused “a little bit of danger” but it was worth it for him. He was fined $5,000, ordered to pay a $1,500 victim impact fee and required to make a $20,000 donation to a veterans food bank and he clearly disagreed with the sentence. "When you text and drive, they don't charge you as if you were to hit a whole bus of kids."

The last remaining tools and equipment are being installed at Icon Aircraft’s composite production facility in Mexico, and the company says the factory is scheduled to be fully completed in April, with the first set of parts sent to the Vacaville, California, assembly line in June. The carbon fiber parts for the Icon A5 were originally to have been built by Cirrus Design in North Dakota, but Icon has since decided to manufacture all the key airframe parts internally.

The Icon A5, seen by many as a potential savior of sport aviation, has been plagued by production delays, on which AVweb has reported in the past. The company was founded over a decade ago, and the first Icon A5 prototype took flight shortly thereafter in 2008. Although the company reports 19 aircraft have been produced, Icon told customers that these aircraft would all go to Icon training centers, while the company worked out kinks in the manufacturing process. The company says it expects to accelerate production in September, producing 30 airframes in the last quarter of 2017. With as many as 1,850 customers reported to be in line to purchase the amphibious light sport, buyers who have not already placed deposits should expect to wait well into the next decade before Icon hands over the keys.

Photo: Icon Aircraft

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A while ago I had a long, interesting discussion on the topic of preparing for inflight emergencies with a pilot whose day job was as a surgeon who trained surgeons. He had an interesting perspective on the subject based on how he taught aspiring cutters: He had them sit down and write down everything that could go wrong during an upcoming operation and then set out what should be done to deal with each anomaly. He asked whether flight instructors engaged in such a practice.

My answer was equivocal; some flight instructors do the "list-everything-that-can-possibly-go-wrong-and-what-shall-we-do-about-it" exercise, but most do not carry it out in a formal manner. From early on, student pilots are taught to deal with emergencies in flight. They are introduced gently to the aeronautical bogeymen, with an understanding that the concept of floating around above the planet does generate a certain level of trepidation among most mortals. A balance is usually struck between reassuring the fledgling pilot that this endeavor has an adequate level of safety, forecasting gloom and doom, and teaching her or him how to parry the thrusts of ill fortune.

It's A Start

By the time someone is sent for the private pilot checkride the applicant is expected to know the emergency procedures in the appropriate POH, most of which are recited at some time or other and parroted during the oral portion of the exam. Once in the air, some form of engine-out emergency and forced landing will be wrestled with, and maybe dealing with a simulated fire in flight will be assigned. If a multi-engine airplane is involved, the "many-motor" student will spend a great deal of time flying around with one engine developing little, if any, power. He or she may even get to pump the gear down once and will probably talk about fires. Beyond that, not a lot else is usually explored.

Once the desired rating is obtained, what do most of us do? We begrudgingly take a flight review every 24 months and try to keep it as short as possible, because it costs money and we want to get that check entered in the box so we can keep flying. We probably look forward to it about as enthusiastically as we do our flight physical.

The comments raised by my surgeon friend kept nagging at me; are we practicing the right things? What can we do to increase our chances of becoming an old, garrulous bore in a nursing home rather than looking stupid in an NSTB accident report when it is published about 18 months after we die in an airplane?

Practice the Wrong Thing

We practice engine failures in twins for the purpose of a checkride, but the accident data indicate we are far more likely to hurt ourselves in a twin due to pressing on into deteriorating weather and flying into the ground. When it comes to non-fatal accidents, we are most likely to do damage to a twin during a landing-gear event—malfunction of equipment or pilot—than we are to have an engine pack up. Even though engine failures are not at the top of the list of real-life problems on twins, we go through intensive, initial training for them, and talk endlessly about what we'd do if one ceased operating; but, when it happens, as a group, we don't handle it very well. Far too many pilots go west a fairly short time after an engine goes south.

What about singles? The big killer is controlled flight into terrain (I don't care how often I hear that phrase, it still just plain sounds weird); we push on into crummy weather and crash or hit something. We lose control when landing in crosswinds because we fly way too fast on final; we don't have a lot of engine failures, but if it does happen shortly after takeoff we have an alarming propensity to try to turn back for the airport, which kills a huge percentage of those who make that attempt. I'm willing to bet large sums of money that every single pilot who killed himself by trying to turn back had been counseled not to do so during training and had practiced landing straight ahead at least once before getting certified.

So, when we have to face the real world—and the "real world" is where we spend large sums of money to engage in our passion, flying—how should we identify and practice emergencies in a way that gives us the best chance of dealing successfully with the risks we face, but without spending so much money in the process that we can't fly?

Start With A List

I like my surgeon friend’s approach, to sit down and make a list of everything that can go wrong; create a parade of horribles, as a law-school professor used to suggest. As you are reading this on your computer, why not open up your word processing program and start your own list? Does your list include being aware of the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning. (I think that risk is far higher than we realize: After getting a good CO detector from Aeromedix, I've observed that far more airplanes than I realized have CO in the cabin. It's not from the heater; it's from engine exhaust being pulled into the tailcone and then flowing forward with the general airflow.) I suggest you think of things that will shake up a pilot who hasn't seen them before, such as getting cut off in the pattern when at fairly low altitude, a circuit breaker popping audibly, a controller speaking too fast to be understood and such a thing as a passenger suddenly becoming airsick during a time of heavy workload on the pilot.

Because it doesn't cost us anything to think about flying when we are home with a fire in the fireplace—or at least somewhere that a Hobbs meter isn't running or there's no instructor sitting across the table keeping track of time -- it's a very good time to think about emergencies and how we'd handle each one. An amazing number of the things that can go wrong or just fluster us as pilots can be rendered "ho-hum" rather than "omigawdimgonnadie" by just sitting in a comfortable chair and thinking them through before they happen. Visualizing such things as being cut off in the pattern, having an alternator fail, a fast-talking controller or a circuit breaker popping loudly, lets you come up with a solution and store it in the memory banks. It's not a bad idea to look at the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Nall Report of General Aviation accidents to see the most common ways that pilots find to hurt themselves. If we consider those problems and outline solutions for ourselves, we are that much further along toward a happy ending when something does go wrong. It helps to have a copy of the POH or Owner's Manual for the airplane we normally fly handy, as it may just have the best way for dealing with the emergencies we are considering, so it's a good reference for the exercise. The reality is that how we handle an emergency depends upon whether we've ever thought about it before it happens. If we've considered it, we're halfway home, because we know what we want to do and then it's just a matter of doing it.

Intellect vs. Skills

When we start thinking about emergencies and how to handle them, we can split the potential crises into two general groups. First are the ones that we can visualize and deal with intellectually; they take no particular level of skill to handle. We deal with the fast-talking controller by assertively demanding that a transmission be repeated slowly, and we deal with an alternator failure by following the appropriate procedure to get it back on line or, if that doesn't work, to shed electrical load (deciding on what items to shut down) and then coming up with a suitable airport on which to land. The other type of emergencies require us to attain and—this is the big one—maintain a certain level of skill. Those are the ones we have to practice in the airplane (or simulator), usually with an instructor. Sitting on the couch and visualizing the engine failure on takeoff at 300 feet AGL is a great idea, but it's also necessary to go out and practice it with some frequency, because the intensity with which the nose has to be shoved downward, against all of those urges to pull it up (while resisting the ones that are insisting we turn back toward the comfort of the airport), is something that just plain has to be practiced.

We want to practice this stuff realistically and regularly, because we know in our heart of hearts that our skill level atrophies horribly fast. But, practice is expensive; so how do we find and maintain an acceptable level of competence for ourselves without going broke?

I suggest that whether we are VFR or IFR pilots we schedule a session of dual every six months, and that we set up a standing appointment and keep it. We're going to fly anyway, so budget an extra hundred bucks or so every six months for that session. However, before we go, pull out that list of emergencies and go over it. Alone. Where we won't be interrupted and where we can give ourselves enough time to visualize what is happening and what we would do about it. Then go through the emergency section in the POH and visualize each problem and solution. Where is the circuit breaker we will pull? Where exactly is the fuel selector for that airplane and which way does it turn to the "off" position and do we have to move a tab or push down or do something else to get it to "off"?

Go through the memory items on the you-gotta-do-it-right-now checklists. If the engine quits, make sure we know all of the items that we should do, the ones for just after takeoff as well as the ones at altitude. There are items that we have to commit to memory, because we won't have time to pull out the checklist. For most emergencies, once the memory items are completed there is enough time to pull out the checklist and take care of the other stuff.

For those of us who fly more than one type of airplane, we have to find some way to make sure we know the critical differences in emergency procedures between them. There are some things that are pretty generic: For most airplanes in the event of an engine fire, an immediate action item is to shut off the fuel supply to the engine. After that, things may vary; most airplanes call for the cabin air and heater vents to be closed, but not all. In some airplanes the cabin air vents are to be opened in the event of some types of fire. What exactly is the procedure in the airplane you are going to fly today? For example, in the Cessna Corvalis 400, the engine failure checklist is different if it quits above 15,000 feet than for a failure below that altitude. Little differences in emergency procedures can loom very large when we don't know that they exist.

Practice On Your Own

Before we go for the session with an instructor, we can also notice that there are items on the emergency checklists that require some level of skill, but that we could probably practice on our own, such as landing with a flat tire. If it's a main gear tire, we touch down on the other one, as we would in a crosswind, and hold the suspect tire in the air as long as possible. If it's the nose gear, the nose is held up as long as possible. Practicing both of those situations is actually kind of fun. We might even experiment to find the minimum speed at which we can hold the nosewheel off the runway on landing and we may find that it's lower if we land with the flaps up rather than with the flaps down due to the effect of flap deployment on the angle of attack of the tail.

As pilots, we should know ourselves; and if we are willing to be honest with ourselves we can make an informed selection of those emergencies that we should be practicing in the airplane (or in a simulator, if we have that luxury). By and large they are going to be the ones that require skill maintenance, or the ones that frighten us -- a realistic concern. So, to keep the cost of that recurrent training down, it might be a good idea to talk over the syllabus we are going to follow with the CFI before the dual session. We will probably have a list of emergencies that is long enough that we can't do them all in one recurrent session and still remain financially solvent. As a result, if we practice half of them each six months it's a heck of lot better than omitting some completely.

Oh, yeah, another technique for getting ready for that review session is to go out and sit in the airplane when no one else is scheduled to fly it. Use the emergency checklist and walk through each of the emergencies, reaching for and physically moving the controls (don't just point at that prop control—pull it to feather) as we do so to help remind our bodies what they are going to do when it happens.

We can work with our CFI to set up a true learning experience. We can do the flight when the weather is marginal—say, 3 to 4 miles visibility—so that we get a chance to see what it's like when we have a risk of controlled flight into terrain, but we have that safety valve there in the right seat to help us experience the kind of weather that we would get into when we pushed VFR into deteriorating weather. Having experienced something gives us a better chance of getting out of it. We can divert to a small grass field and fly the pattern at 500 feet, close in so we don't lose sight of the runway. While we hope we are smart enough to cancel flights in crummy weather or land before it gets crummy, if we do screw up someday and have to divert when it's for real, we've got a better chance of surviving than if we're doing it all for the first time. Afterwards, the discussion we have with the CFI about decision-making in marginal weather will be more informed.

Go to the nearby airport that isn't busy and practice power-off landings from a couple thousand feet up and see if we can hit a spot that we've selected on the runway. As an instructor, I’m amazed at how many pilots blow that one on the first try. With the instructor we have a chance to prepare for the real-world in a safe environment; we can make that landing on the narrow taxiway (it’s legal, assuming it doesn't interfere with traffic and people on the ground) so we can see what it's like if we have to do it someday because of a strong crosswind on the runway.

After one or two of those six-month sessions, you may just improve your chances of living to enjoy the nursing home. Once you get there, give me a call ... I'm hoping I'm still around so I can come over and we'll see who can tell the more boring story of our flying days.

Rick Durden is an aviation attorney, is a CFII and ATP with type ratings in the Douglas DC-3 and Cessna Citation and is the author of The Thinking Pilot’s Flight Manual or, How to Survive Flying Little Airplanes and Have a Ball Doing It, Vols. 1 and 2.

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I got a haircut this week so my special interest hat fits just right. Also, my choir robe is back from the cleaners to I can preach in the full resplendence of sartorial perfection. Yes, that’s right, I’m going to yammer briefly about the bid for ATC privatization that popped up—to no one’s particular surprise—in the draft budget President Trump revealed to the voting public this week.

Will this profoundly bad idea come any closer to fruition than it has in the past? No one really knows, but the stars are more aligned than they ever have been. With a Democratic president in the White House, the chances of a successful privatization bill were lower because Democrats are seen to be the party of big government. Republicans, however, animated by groups like the Reason Foundation, which never met a government function it didn’t want to privatize, are big on so-called 3Ps—public-private partnerships. Breaking ATC out of the FAA as a discrete corporation isn’t quite that, but it’s in the same corral.

But congress, even a Republican congress, is to homogeneity what politics in general is to truthiness. Which is to say there isn’t a hell of a lot of it. Regardless of the tribe, congress people like to retain control and oversight and the very word “independent” makes them recoil in horror. They’re not the only ones. No sooner had the budget been parsed than press releases opposing it fell like snowflakes from the aviation alphabets.

While it seems like a knee-jerk reaction, it’s also the appropriate one. The more I learn about the prospect of privatization in the U.S. context, the more horrible it sounds. I like the idea of shaking things up and pursuing new ideas and I’m not philosophically opposed to the concept of privatization. In certain areas of government services, you can imagine benefits from the efficiencies of non-governmental operations. But ATC isn’t one of them.

In my view, it’s not about the money general aviation would have to pay in a privatization scheme nor the money the industry might or might not save. It’s about access and access of two kinds. The simple kind of using airspace and the darker kind of access to the decision-making process. Anyone who believes the so-called “independent” board overseeing ATC Inc. wouldn’t be entirely dominated by the airlines is delusional. Why do you think they’re salivating over the prospect of cozy, in-house control of the air traffic structure? So they can remake it in the image they consider ideal and if that includes shutting out GA wherever and whenever they please, that’s exactly what would happen. I’m sure the airlines would try the same thing with the budding UAS industry.

Recall what happened last summer when ALPA tried to screw us on the Third Class medical relief bill. They protested it for “safety reasons.” And that wasn’t even the airline companies, but the pilots. To be fair, it was the pilots’ union leadership. Many of its own members opposed that harebrained stunt to argue against the medical bill because it hurt many of their own rank and file.

You don’t need me to give you a reading list of successes and failure in P3s. Suffice to say, they’re neither universally successful nor universally losers. The ostensible argument in favor of an ATC Corp. is that it would be more efficient and, if allowed to fund itself, it would address the perennially broken process of uncertain FAA funding from year to year, which plays havoc with capital investment programs and even staffing. If you could force yourself to believe the bill authorizing such a thing would keep the sticky fingers of congress out of its actual funding and running, maybe you could believe it would work. I can’t so I don’t.

Would privatized ATC kill GA? No, it wouldn’t. GA has survived against stiff headwinds for so long that I’ve come to believe nothing can kill it. It’s so fueled by passion and dedication that GA in some form will always exist. In a world where people write checks for $900,000 airplanes, there will always be some kind of market. But user fees and lack of access would just hasten the shrinkage of what broad base remains of the industry, it would stress airports and generally just make thing worse. And for what? That’s the kicker. There’s no clear benefit in privatizing, maybe even if you’re Delta or American Airlines.

So call your representative and tell him to kill this turkey before it ever reaches the legislative stage. I’ll be doing same myself. Here’s the directory.  

Avidyne has been slugging away on a new upgrade for the IFD series navigators and at the Aircraft Electronics Association convention in the New Orleans this week, the company rolled out software changes that add synthetic vision and wireless capability for iPad support for these navigators. In this AVweb video, Avidyne's Tom Harper walks us through all the details.

Picture of the Week
Picture of the Week

The winner is an airplane and water again but not technically a floatplane. Edgar Tello took this beauty of a Seabee testing the waters on a pond at Sugar Valley Airport in North Carolina. Nice work, Edgar.

In six weeks BasicMed will take effect and AOPA President Mark Baker updated us on what he's hearing from members and how he hopes neighboring countries will see the benefits of recognizing it.

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Regional Approach: Citation 123, please give a cloud description on your descent.

Citation 123:  They're white.

Regional Approach: ...

Citation 123:  Just kidding. Tops were jagged 5,000 down to 4,500.

Regional Approach: I literally had nothing to say to that.

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