AVwebFlash - Volume 13, Number 18b

May 3, 2007

By The AVweb Editorial Staff
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FAA Reauthorization: New Bill In Play

With the FAA's proposal to restructure the way it's financed facing a broad array of opposition, Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Trent Lott, R-Miss., have come up with their own solution, The Hill reported on Tuesday. Their bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate later this week. It exempts piston-driven aircraft from user fees and new taxes, but would shift a considerable share of costs off the airlines and onto smaller turbine aircraft. The Alliance for Aviation Across America, a recently formed alliance of groups opposed to user fees, has already expressed "grave concerns" about the new bill. "This proposal would include a tax cut for the commercial airlines that would be offset by additional taxes on general aviation, the small businesses, farmers, fire-fighters, air medical services and flight schools around the country that use small planes," the Alliance said on Tuesday.

Air Taxi Startup Point2Point Suspends Ops

Point2Point, the regional air-taxi service based in North Dakota, has suspended operations, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday. The company had shown exponential growth in several quarters last year, and last July, at AirVenture, had placed an order for up to 100 Diamond aircraft, including DA42 Twin Stars and D-Jets. Company founder John Boehle told AVweb in an e-mail on Wednesday that the company's main problem was that revenues fell over the winter due to "the inability of P2P to reliably dispatch aircraft due to inclement winter flying conditions." Boehle said he had hoped that adding DA42 Twin Stars to his Cirrus SR22 fleet would address the airline's winter dispatch deficiencies in the Upper Great Plains. "We recognized early on the need to address the question of winter reliability with an all-weather/low-cost aircraft to supplement the very capable Cirrus SR22," Boehle said. "However, delays in the FAA's certification of the Diamond DA42 for air carrier operations and for flight into known icing conditions combined to impede Point2Point's ability to effectively address winter weather flying constraints on service availability to customers." Boehle said the airline is engaged in a "corporate and capital restructuring process" and is seeking new backers. "Point2Point's commercial air carrier certificate and top-flight operations team offer tremendous value to investors in the market for such an opportunity," he told AVweb.

The city of Bismarck had given the company a federal grant of $1.25 million to start the service in 2005. Other charter operators in the state were critical of the government-subsidized airline from the start, saying it duplicated existing service but at taxpayer expense, the Associated Press said. Paul Vetter, general manager of Executive Air Taxi Corp. in Bismarck, told the AP that Point2Point's choice of airplanes shows the company didn't understand the airline business in North Dakota. "The airplanes they chose are great airplanes, they just have their limitations," Vetter said. "If you pick an aircraft, at least pick one that's compatible with our weather conditions."

NTSB Blames Pilots In Manhattan Crash, Suggests VFR Limits

The pilots' inadequate planning, judgment, and airmanship in performing a 180-degree turn in a limited space was the probable cause of the Cirrus SR20 crash last October that killed Yankees pitcher Cory Lidle and his flight instructor, the NTSB said on Tuesday morning. The B oard's final report says it was not possible to determine who was manipulating the controls at the time of the crash. "This accident is a great tragedy in which a pleasure flight went horribly wrong and ultimately cost the lives of two young men," said NTSB Chairman Mark Rosenker. "The pilots placed themselves in a precarious situation that could have been prevented by better judgment and planning." The Board told the FAA that it should permanently prohibit VFR flight for fixed-wing, nonamphibious aircraft in the New York East River Class B exclusion area, where the accident took place, unless those operations are authorized and being controlled by air traffic control. An animation posted online shows the aircraft's flight path. The NTSB also noted that, due to the lack of a cockpit voice recorder or a flight data recorder, it was not possible to determine who the pilot in control was during the accident flight or if flight instruction was being given. Further, the Board said it didn't find any system, structural or engine malfunctions in the aircraft. Both pilots were also properly certificated to fly the airplane. The pilots should have recognized, during preflight planning or while they were considering flying up the East River after they were already in flight, that there was limited turning space in the East River exclusion area and they would need to maximize the lateral distance available for turning, the NTSB said.

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NTSB Says TCAS Must Warn Pilots When Offline

Traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS) should be designed to ensure that flight crews know when they are not operating, the NTSB said in a safety recommendation issued on Wednesday. The recommendation is based on preliminary findings in the ongoing investigation into the midair collision between an Embraer Legacy bizjet and a Gol Airlines Boeing 737 in Brazil last year, which killed all 154 aboard the airliner. The NTSB said its findings indicate that, for reasons yet to be determined, the collision avoidance system in the Legacy was not functioning at the time of the accident, disabling the system's ability to detect and be detected by conflicting traffic. In addition, data from the cockpit voice recorder indicates that the flight crew was unaware that the collision avoidance system was not functioning until after the accident. "A flight crew's ability to mitigate the risk of collision is significantly degraded if the collision avoidance system becomes inoperative and the failure is not quickly and reliably brought to the crew's attention, as this accident demonstrates," the Safety Board said. Therefore, the Board wants the FAA to require, for all aircraft required to have TCAS installed and for existing and future system designs, that the airborne loss of collision avoidance system functionality, for any reason, provide an enhanced aural and visual warning requiring pilot acknowledgment.

Santa Monica Votes To Restrict Runway Despite FAA

City commissioners in Santa Monica, Calif., voted last week to cordon off nearly 1,200 feet of a runway at the Santa Monica Airport, despite assertions from FAA officials that such restrictions would not be allowed. The move is the latest effort from the city to restrict jet traffic. The airport has become increasingly popular over the last two decades, much to the dismay of neighbors. A few hundred residents and politicians rallied at the airport recently to protest noise and air pollution. The new resolution would block 600 feet at each end of the 5,000-foot runway as a "safety area." Commission vice-chair Susan Hartley told The Lookout News she voted for the measure because "it will protect Los Angeles and Santa Monica residents." FAA officials have told the commission that any action that would restrict access is "not acceptable." The FAA has asked the city to reduce its existing "safety area" on the west end of the runway from 300 feet to 165 feet. More than 18,000 jet movements occur at the airport each year.

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EPA Recognizes Eclipse's PhostrEx

Eclipse Aviation on Tuesday said the Environmental Protection Agency awarded the company with a 2007 Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award for the development of its PhostrEx fire-suppression system. “PhostrEx will transform how our industry protects against engine fires while simultaneously guarding against the depletion of the ozone,” said Eclipse President and CEO Vern Raburn. PhostrEx was patented by Eclipse and is the first new commercially viable aircraft engine fire-suppression system in 50 years, the company said. Aircraft fire-suppression systems are currently exempt from the Montreal Protocol and are allowed to use Halon, an ozone-depleting substance, until a workable substitute is found. PhostrEx could very well be that substitute, but the EPA has yet to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking t o ban Halon for aviation applications.

When the PhostrEx agent is released from its hermetically-sealed canister, it works in less than one-tenth of a second, then, after extinguishing the fire it combines with moisture in the air and quickly becomes inert. Because of this rapid reaction with moist air and surfaces, the agent cannot be transported to the stratosphere where ozone depletion could occur, Eclipse notes. In a fire, PhostrEx decomposes 1,000 times more rapidly than Halon and undergoes three sequential losses of bromine atoms, which are the power behind this agent. These atoms then catalyze suppression of the fire, according to Eclipse.

Blind Pilot Completes U.K.-to-Sydney Flight

Miles Hilton-Barber, 58, a British pilot who has been blind for 25 years, landed his microlight aircraft at Bankstown airport in Sydney, Australia, on Monday, after flying more than halfway around the world. His 59-day trip through 21 countries raised money for a charity that works to prevent blindness in poor countries. "It's the fulfillment of an amazing dream," Hilton-Barber told reporters. "I've wanted to be a pilot since I was a kid. Now I'm totally blind and I've had the privilege of flying more than halfway around the world." Hilton-Barber controls the aircraft with the help of talking instruments and computerized sensors. He flew with a sighted copilot. They encountered snowstorms, freezing temperatures and torrential downpours along their 13,500-mile journey.

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FAA OKs Tutima Academy To Offer Columbia 400 Upset Training

Pilots now can train to recognize and recover from unusual attitudes in a Columbia 400 at Sean D. Tucker's Tutima Academy of Aviation Safety in King City, Calif. The school's Columbia 400 is a stock factory model, but has been reclassified as an experimental by the FAA to allow it to be used for aerobatic flight in the Executive Pilot Awareness Training program. "All the instructors here are approved to offer that training," Tutima instructor Ben Freelove told AVweb on Tuesday. "So, this is the only place you can get it." Air show pilot Sean D. Tucker will fly aerobatic maneuvers in the 400 at several events this summer (including EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wis.) to demonstrate the airplane's capabilities. "The Executive Pilot Awareness Training program will prevent accidents and save lives because it teaches an advanced level of pilot proficiency previously unavailable through other programs," said Tucker. "The strength, durability and handling of the Columbia 400 is remarkable. It's a safe platform for this type of training, easily withstanding the stresses of upset attitude flying." Students will practice recovery from extreme attitudes and control-system failures, and will experience exposure to high G-loads and dizzying rates of rotation. They will gain confidence that they can control the airplane and recover, according to the flight school.

New AOPA Publication Outlines Rules For Sightseeing Flights

If you conduct sightseeing flights, whether for charity or for profit, new FAA rules affect you. AOPA has updated its "Charity Flying Safety Brief," posted free online, to reflect those changes. For example, flight schools that give sightseeing rides under the Part 91 25-mile exception must now apply for a "Letter of Authorization" from the FAA and show proof that they have an FAA-approved anti-drug and alcohol program. Private pilots who conduct sightseeing flights to raise funds for charity now must have a minimum total flight time of 500 hours, up from 200. However, the rule changes don't affect all forms of charitable flying. Volunteer private pilots still may transport a sick or injured person and take a charitable tax deduction for their expenses, says the Air Care Alliance. The FAA originally wanted to make all sightseeing operations fall under Part 135 charter rules, but AOPA successfully opposed that. AOPA offers more info on the topic at its Web site.

Safety Alert: Do You Know How to Transit through Class B and A TRSA?
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Now Is The Time To Plan For EAA AirVenture

Yes, it's three months away, but the official FAA NOTAM is now available, and if you are planning to fly in to EAA AirVenture this summer, it's not too soon to start studying up on the event's unique arrival and departure procedures. The NOTAM provides details for the many types of aircraft that fly to Wittman Field in Oshkosh, as well as to nearby airports. You can print out all 28 pages of the PDF booklet online right now or call EAA at 800-564-6322 and they will mail you a free copy. Changes this year include that the fly-in procedures start a day earlier than usual, taking effect Friday, July 20. The FAA will also use a new, higher-powered frequency for the Arrival ATIS this year, 118.75, so pilots can start to listen in from farther out. Additionally, a new landing area has been established for helicopters, and flight hours in the North and South Flight Service Briefing Annexes have been expanded. Events at the show that have so far been confirmed include visits from the U-2 spyplane, U.S. Air Force F-22 Raptors, the Beach Boys, all the usual aircraft and aerial events and more to come. "Over the next three months, through the spring and into the summer, the excitement will build as we prepare to welcome the world to Oshkosh once again," Tom Poberezny, EAA president and AirVenture chairman, said on Monday. "While the aircraft lineup already committed to AirVenture is outstanding, over the next few months announcements of other airplanes and personalities will round out the event's lineup to make it truly 'The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration.'"

New Executives At Mooney

Mooney Airplane Co. of Kerrville, Texas, has named two new executives to its staff, with the appointment of Jon Greenwood to the position of vice president and chief financial officer and John McCoury as vice president of engineering. Greenwood previously worked for M7 Aerospace. McCoury has worked with Aviation Technology Group (ATG) and Eclipse Aviation. "Jon Greenwood brings outstanding credentials to his new role at Mooney," said CEO Dennis Ferguson. McCoury's experience in new product development will be valuable as Mooney considers future projects, Ferguson said. Both new hires will be based in Kerrville.

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News In Brief back to top 

On The Fly

Penton's Aircraft Bluebook has launched a new Web site that provides an online database and tools for determining the value of business and general aviation aircraft...

Aviation growth in Vietnam is stymied by lack of clear regulations...

Vero Beach, Fla., officials will meet with Piper Aircraft next week to make a pitch to be the home to the PiperJet manufacturing plant...

Northrop Grumman's E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, the newest Navy aircraft, made its first public appearance on Monday in St. Augustine, Fla....

A lawsuit filed by Columbia Air Services alleges trademark infringement by Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corp., which makes the Columbia 350 and 400. The former company seeks unspecified monetary damages for brand dilution and confusion, and in addition asks for the latter company to be barred from using "Columbia" in its corporate name and any associated products…

AOPA will host its 17th annual fly-in and open house at its headquarters in Frederick, Md., on Saturday, June 2. The free event features aircraft displays, more than 100 exhibits, seminars and tours of the AOPA home base.

AVweb's Newstips Address ...

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Probable Cause #31: Test Pilot

A pilot picking up an airplane from maintenance discovers a problem after takeoff. Could better planning and weather have changed the outcome?

Click here for the full story.

he said, it was less than five minutes from the time he unhooked the tow bar until the airplane was taxiing.

Turning Back


FAA tower records show that the pilot called for his clearance at 4:15 p.m. -- probably while the airplane was being towed out of the hangar -- and called for his taxi clearance at 4:23 p.m. He taxied to Runway 18 and at 4:26 p.m. the tower cleared the Citation for takeoff with instructions to proceed on course.

Less than two minutes after issuing the takeoff clearance, and with the Citation just airborne, the tower controller told the Citation pilot to contact departure control. But instead of acknowledging the hand-off, the pilot said, "We have a little problem here. We're going to have to come back."

The tower controller replied, "Roger, and what approach would you like?" The pilot responded, "We'd like to keep the vis."

Not sure what the pilot meant, the controller asked, "Like the contact approach? [Is] that what you're saying?" There was no response and repeated attempts to contact the airplane were unsuccessful.

The Citation crashed into a building at a dairy processor just southeast of the runway, destroying the building and damaging another. The pilot, who was the only one onboard the aircraft, was instantly killed, while seven workers on the ground were injured, including three with serious burns.

Several witnesses on the ground told the NTSB investigator that they saw the plane approaching the dairy processor from the south, low to the ground and in an increasingly steeper left bank. According to their accounts, the wings were nearly perpendicular to the ground when the Citation slammed into the building. The witnesses reported a loud explosion followed immediately by flames and heavy black smoke.

The aircraft was privately owned and operated by another individual. (The NTSB report does not explain the relationship between the aircraft's owner and the accident pilot.) The owner told investigators that he had delivered the airplane to Green Bay from Springfield, Ill., about a month earlier so that Phases 1 through 4 inspections and some maintenance could be performed.

A mechanic told investigators that they corrected several discrepancies that had been identified to them by the aircraft owner. One involved the autopilot, which would porpoise the airplane when it was placed in altitude hold mode. The autopilot pitch drive, vertical gyro and autopilot computer were removed and sent to an avionics shop in Lincoln, Neb., where they discovered that the vertical gyro rotor was failing. The vertical gyro is an integral component of the attitude director indicator (ADI), an advanced attitude indicator that displays command signals from a flight-director computer. The gyro was repaired and recalibrated before being sent back to Green Bay. There, the repair shop reinstalled the parts in the airplane and checked the autopilot system twice, each check showing that the autopilot functioned normally.

The pilot held an Airline Transport Pilot certificate for multiengine land airplanes, as well as a Cessna 500 type rating. He also held commercial privileges for single-engine land and sea airplanes. His logbook revealed that he had 4,547 total flying hours, 3,567 hours as pilot in command, and 244 hours in the Citation 501. He took a Cessna 550 simulator checkride in April 2000 and had completed Cessna 650 recurrency training in February of 2001.

The weather at the time of the accident was far from perfect. At 3:56 p.m., KGRB reported ceilings of 600 feet broken, 1,200 feet overcast with 3/4-mile visibility in light snow and mist. The temperature was 34°F, dew point 32°F and the winds were from 160 degrees at five kts.

At 4:38 p.m. -- nine minutes after the accident -- the weather was reported as a broken ceiling at 200 feet, 800 feet overcast and 1/2-mile visibility in snow and fog. The temperature was now 32°F, as was the dew point. The winds were from 120 degrees at three kts.

Mystery Problem


So, what was the "little problem" the pilot reported he had?

The NTSB was never able to determine that because the impact and the fire that followed destroyed much of the airplane. The pilot's instrument panel was found fragmented, charred and melted and investigators found little useful information from its components. The co-pilot's attitude indicator was examined by NTSB personnel in Chicago, and while the instrument was badly damaged, scoring marks on the inside of the case and the front of the gyro indicate that it was operating at the time of the accident.

The engines were sent to their manufacturer for examination and no faults were found. The main cabin door was broken, fragmented and charred, but the handle was found in the closed and locked position.

Lacking any physical cues that could have contributed to the accident, the NTSB determined its cause was the pilot's failure to maintain control of the aircraft while maneuvering after takeoff, and his inadequate preflight planning and preparation. Other factors included the pilot's diverted attention while maneuvering after takeoff and his attempt to fly the aircraft under VFR in IMC conditions. The NTSB stated that visual lookout was not possible due to the low ceiling, snow and fog. It's a determination that does not address the problem that began the accident sequence. This is through no fault of the NTSB; from the condition of the aircraft remains and without a flight data or cockpit voice recorder, there was little accident investigators could use to determine the source of this "little problem."

As is the case in many general aviation accidents where hard evidence is lacking, we are left to speculate about what might have happened that so distracted the pilot that he lost control of the aircraft. First, let's look at the time line.

The aircraft was cleared for takeoff at 4:26:52 p.m. At 4:28:17 p.m. the controller instructed the pilot to switch over to the departure control frequency. Four seconds later the pilot stated that he had a problem and wanted to come back. The crash occurred at 4:29 p.m. or slightly more than two minutes from the time it was cleared onto the runway. Whatever occurred was likely to be a problem that existed before takeoff and may have escaped notice during a ground check.

The first thing that comes to mind is the ADI that had just been repaired. The mechanic who installed the unit stated that he checked the system twice and that it functioned properly, but that was on the ground when the airplane was stationary. It's possible that this masked another problem that would only become evident when the airplane was in flight.

Immediately after takeoff in a turbine aircraft is a busy period for a pilot. The gear is coming up, the flaps are coming up, the aircraft's speed is increasing rapidly and the power is being pulled back to keep the speed below 200 or 250 kts and to make the initial level-off, in this case 3,000 feet, which comes up quickly. This is a critical time, especially when conditions are IMC, and anything not directly related to flying the aircraft becomes a distraction.

Assuming an ADI failure, problems could manifest themselves in different ways. Perhaps the whole ADI, including the attitude indicator, failed. Or maybe the command bars were displaying wrong or contradictory information, either as a result of a mechanical failure or because of an error in setting up the flight-guidance controller. This can be difficult to determine in an already task-saturated environment.

There are two other things to consider relative to the ADI. If that instrument had failed, wouldn't the pilot have declared an emergency rather than telling the controller that he had a "little problem?" Or was this the blasé reaction that often comes with experience? Still, his decision to attempt to return to the airport visually when the weather was clearly not suitable for it indicates that there was something more than a little problem. Unfortunately, we'll never know what the real issue was.


So, where does that leave us in our quest to insure that this type of accident does not happen again? First, you cannot practice partial-panel flying enough, even if you have a second panel in the aircraft. That is a vital skill, even in this day of EFIS. Of course, most EFIS-equipped aircraft have standard instruments for backup, but like partial-panel flying, those spare instruments are not what the pilot is used to using. Their location and configuration may require constant practice to insure a satisfactory scan rate.

The Citation accident is classic in that it points out the need to always fly the aircraft first, no matter what else is going on around you. The emergency, no matter what it is, will require your attention, but if you don't fly the airplane, especially when you are close to the ground, there is little need to deal with it.

Since we don't know what occurred on the Citation that day, we don't know how much the pilot's hurry to get home contributed to it. If the failure of the ADI was imminent, would he have noticed it before takeoff? Perhaps he did check it and found it to be functioning properly. Perhaps in his walk-around he did check all the external features that could have caused a problem right after takeoff.

However, another thing to take out of this accident is that you should never be pressured into flying an airplane right after maintenance is completed without a thorough preflight. Allow yourself plenty of time to do it right. Try to get to the shop early in the day instead of late in the day, with time built-in so that any defects that are discovered can be taken care of before you fly.

If the maintenance was invasive, fly the aircraft in VFR conditions first to make sure all of its equipment is operating properly. Any equipment failure is much easier to handle when you can fly the aircraft visually and when the airport is nearby.

More accident analyses are available in AVweb's Probable Cause Index. And for monthly articles about IFR flying including accident reports like this one, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, IFR Refresher.


Losing It

Your only engine, that is. Here are three pilots with happy-ending engine-failure tales. Their advice: Plan for it, train for it and fly the airplane.

Click here for the full story.

in a farm field. I repeated that we did not have much choice anymore. There was no way I was leaving the safety of our nice big field!

The field appeared at least 2500 feet long, so it wouldn't be a real challenge on a normal day. It did have the proverbial 50-foot trees at the end, but the real obstacle was excess adrenalin that reduced my flying skills quite a bit. We were a little hot when we cleared the trees, so I did a full slip all the way from the treeline to the flare.

After landing and bumping along through the winter wheat, I shut down and we climbed out. We pushed the airplane out of the middle of the field and sent two people out to find someone to give us a ride. I stayed with the airplane and used the radio to ask another airplane to relay to ATC that we were all fine and no one was injured.

Eventually the FAA showed up and the inspector really thought the fuel valve being turned off had something to do with our farm field excursion. I reminded him that this was a standard pre-landing procedure for off-airport landings and invited him to try and run the airplane. The awful grinding convinced him the engine had really failed and he went away without writing any violations.

The engine turned out to have a failed oil pump. The engine was swapped out and the airplane flew out of the same field with no damage.

Swallowed Valve


by Jeb Burnside

It was a fine afternoon in early April over north-central Florida. I was flying my Debonair with two pilot-friends (one of whom was my mechanic) back to Virginia after our annual pilgrimage to Sun 'n Fun. On an IFR flight plan, we had just leveled at 9000 feet and were settling in for the three hours it would take to get home.

Without warning, the engine started running rough -- really rough. A glance at the engine analyzer told me that all cylinders on the IO-520 engine's starboard side were acting up, with #5 the worst. As I tried to find a power setting that worked better, I glanced at my friends -- they were a couple of shades paler than when we had taken off and their faces wore the same look of concern that I felt.

A call to say that we "had a problem" shut off chatter on the frequency I was using and the controller asked who was reporting the problem. We were a few miles south-southwest of Jacksonville, Fla., and looking out the windshield at one of the longest runways on the eastern seaboard, Cecil Field, a former Naval Air Station. The controller offered Cecil as a safe haven; we accepted and confirmed that, yes, we were declaring an emergency and to have the emergency equipment roll.

By this time, I had punched off the autopilot, pitched for the plane's best glide speed and re-trimmed. The engine was still running, very roughly, but there was no way to know how long that would last.

After the obligatory recitation of souls and fuel on board, I got busy trying to land. We still had power and actually had too much altitude. As we descended out of 4000 feet close to the field, I picked a spot I determined as a "key" point from which I could make the runway if the engine quit for good. Maintaining our best glide speed, I made two 360° turns to lose altitude but stay in the same area. Then, we were down to about 2000 feet AGL and I began a wide downwind for Runway 27L, which is slightly shorter than the monster Runway 36R, but still gave me 8000 feet to play with. I saved the gear and flaps until short final, still high, and ended up pulling off all the remaining power. We touched down uneventfully and taxied to the ramp, trailed by the emergency vehicles.

Subsequent investigation revealed that the #5 cylinder had swallowed its intake valve, breaking it into at least five pieces. A few days later, after hanging a new cylinder and doing some test flying, I flew the plane home, a week later than planned.

Student Cross-Country


by Katie Jarrett

On my first student cross-country solo, several mistakes on my part added up to an emergency off-airport landing. I was flying a Luscombe 8F with an upgraded 150-hp engine on a 90-mile trip from La Porte, Texas, to Palacios, Texas. The trip to Palacios was uneventful, with the exception of the steadily lowering clouds. Once I had the airport in sight, however, things started to go sour. The airport looked abandoned and, while it was supposed to be my destination, I worried about fuel availability and a myriad other "what-ifs."

After circling a few times I tried to raise someone on the radio. Another Unicom operator was monitoring the frequency and reported that no one was at Palacios. I elected to turn around and fly back home.

About 15 minutes later, I tried to switch fuel tanks. In the Luscombe, there are two fuel valves, one on either side of the cabin. Because I could not reach the right one while wearing the shoulder harness, my standard procedure was to start the flight on that one and then turn on the other one later. As I reached down to turn on the left tank's valve, I discovered that I couldn't move it. I tried repeatedly to turn it on, first one way and then the other. No joy.

About halfway home, between airports, the engine quit as the right fuel tank ran dry. Horrified, I renewed my efforts to turn the valve. I was at less than 1000 feet AGL and the view outside my windows held only trees and railroad tracks. I turned south for reasons unknown.

I was intent on trying to get the fuel valve opened until, for whatever reason, a memory flashed through my mind of an airline crash resulting from its crew becoming distracted. At that point, I decided to quit messing with the valve and fly.

I spotted a small field when I was at about 300 feet AGL. But, as I got closer to it, I realized it was too short and there was a canal at the end in which I would end up. At 50 feet, I just barely cleared some trees into the next field. I did my best to set up a three-point landing, but must have stalled the last few feet -- I really don't remember. That and the subsequent roll through a series of ruts weakened the gear legs.

With all the weight on the left side of the airplane (me and the other fuel tank), the next few ruts caused the gear to collapse completely. At that point, the airplane swung around almost 180 degrees and came to an abrupt halt. The plane, with the exception of the landing gear, was fine.

It took me a while to get back in the cockpit after what I perceived as really stupid actions on my part. I wasn't afraid of airplanes, I was afraid of myself. It's something with which I still battle.

Lessons Learned

Several common themes run through these three engine-failure tales. First, fly the airplane. All of them were successful because the pilots' training took over; no one tried to stretch a glide and stalled in a turn to final. Accept the likelihood of damaging the airplane and do everything you can to maintain control until it comes to a stop.

Second, altitude is your friend. It gives you time to run checklists, communicate, troubleshoot and find the "key" position from which to make a deadstick landing if you have to.

Third, use all the resources available. Despite one controller suggesting that an airplane with a failed engine has to land at an airport, controllers can be a great deal of help. Don't forget the passengers, either. As one event recounted here demonstrates, a backseater devoted his sharp eyes and concentration to spotting wires.

Fourth, pay attention to where you are. In those bad old pre-GPS days, it was sometimes a lot harder to figure out the nearest airport's location. Without a GPS, follow along on your Sectional, just like your grandparents did.

Finally, don't be in a hurry -- the nearest airport might be within range if you immediately go to the best-glide airspeed instead of descending lower to survey terrain. Similarly, don't leave the area you're over if you have a good spot to land. There is no good reason to glide over wooded areas to try to get to an airport.

The ideal spot to suffer an engine failure in a single is in the landing flare at your home airport. With some altitude, hospitable terrain and good weather, an engine failure should be nothing more than what you practiced in the pattern, capped by an off-airport landing. Follow your training and fly the airplane.

More safety articles are available here. And for monthly articles about safe flying including reports like this one, subscribe to AVweb's sister publication, Aviation Safety.


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AVweb-Exclusive Audio And Video News back to top 

AVweb Audio News

AVweb posts audio news on Mondays, plus a new in-depth interview each Friday. In last Friday's podcast, you'll find part one of an interview with Rich Schrameck at Epic Aircraft. And AVweb's podcast index includes interviews with Cessna's Jack Pelton; Embraer's Ernest Edwards; LAMA's Dan Johnson; Piper's Jim Bass; DayJet's Ed Iacobucci; AOPA's Andrew Cebula; Hawker Beechcraft's Jim Schuster; Avfuel's Craig Sincock; Comp Air's Ron Lueck; and VistaNav's Jeff Simon. In Monday's special podcast, hear Pat Foley of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association on controller hiring. Remember: In AVweb's podcasts, you'll hear things you won't find anywhere else.

Exclusive Video: Our Ride-Along with Aerobatic Pilots Michael Mancuso and Matt Chapman at Sun 'n Fun 2007

Recommend a Video | VOTW Archive

AVweb (and you) ride along with Michael Mancuso as he flies his precision formation routine with Matt Chapman. The video includes narration by Mancuso, who briefed us after the show.

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If that doesn't work, click here to download the video directly.

To take a ride with Mancuso (and without dramamine), see also Glenn Pew's article, "The Day I Saw the Light."

Would you like to see more original video content from AVweb? Do you an idea that would make a great video? Let us know.

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Question Of The Week back to top 

Question of the Week Redux: Is AFSS Consolidation Affecting the Quality of Your Weather Briefings?

This Week's Question | Previous Week's Answers


Last week, we asked AVweb readers if they've seen any noticeable change in the quality of weather briefings since AFSS consolidation has gotten underway.  Unfortunately, a last-minute typo in the AVwebFlash newsletter meant that many readers never got a chance to participate in last week's poll — so we're keeping it open another week, to hear what everyone has to say.

We're very interested in your local AFSS experiences, and if you'd like to tell us more than you can in a simple poll, please feel free to e-mail us with more detail.


Now that automated flight service station (FSS) consolidation has started in earnest under contractor Lockheed Martin, have you noticed any changes in aviation weather briefing quality?

Click here to answer.

Have an idea for a new "Question of the Week"? Send your suggestions to .

This address is only for suggested "QOTW" questions, and not for "QOTW" answers or comments.
Use this form to send "QOTW" comments to our AVmail Editor.

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FBO Of The Week back to top 

FBO Of The Week: Atlas Aviation

Nominate an FBO | Rules | Tips | Questions | Winning FBOs

AVweb's "FBO of the Week" ribbon goes to Atlas Aviation at KTPF in Tampa, Fla.

AVweb reader Armand Bendersky says the FBO went above and beyond.

"I contacted them before flying to Sun 'n Fun, and they were friendly on the phone and went above and beyond in obtaining hotel reservations, printed directions and the right rental car. Their facility is clean and the staff is friendly and helpful to a fault. I highly recommend this small, but very convenient operation for anyone going into the Tampa area. Fuel prices are probably less than others in the area, and they treat you like they appreciate your business."

Keep those nominations coming. For complete contest rules, click here.

AVweb is actively seeking out the best FBOs in the country and another one, submitted by you, will be spotlighted here next Monday!

Pictures Of The Week back to top 

Picture of the Week: AVweb's Flying Photography Showcase

Submit a Photo | Rules | Tips | Questions | Past Winners

Each week, we go through dozens (and sometimes hundreds) of reader-submitted photos and pick the very best to share with you on Thursday mornings.  The top photos are featured on AVweb's home page, and one photo that stands above the others is awarded an AVweb baseball cap as our "Picture of the Week."  Want to see your photo on AVweb.com?  Click here to submit it to our weekly contest.


Too many pictures — it's a good problem to have!  Last week, we did our best to go through the deluge of photos that arrived in our submission box while we were traipsing around the show grounds at Sun 'n Fun, but we still couldn't narrow it down to fewer than 25 pictures we wanted to share.  (And the slideshow on our home page was only built to hold 25 — "more than we'd ever really need," right?)  This week, photo submissions dropped off a good bit, with only 78 new pictures coming across the 'net, but we still had a good 40 held in reserve from last week.  What this means is another jam-packed week, headlined by "POTW" winner Steve Gladwin of Pflugerville, Texas.  Take it away, Steve!

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copyright © Steve Gladwin
Used with permission

Doolittle Raiders

Steve Gladwin of Pflugerville, Texas snapped the venerable Special Delivery and Miss Mitchell flying in formation behind the Commemorative Air Force's Yellow Rose at the 2007 Doolittle's Raiders Reunion in San Antonio.

"Kelly USA, formerly Kelly Air Force Base, is in the background," writes Steve.


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Used with permission of Bill Pedlar

She Flies Like a Dream, Gramps!

Well, he's a little young, but we guess if he's certified and his medical's up-to-date, we'd fly with him.  (He is building a kit in his garage, and that takes some expertise — right?)

Courtesy of Bill Pedlar of Brights Grove, Ontario (Canada).


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Used with permission of Gary Sides

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copyright © Wings of Fury
Aviation Photography

Used with permission of
Brian Emch

Tributes to Lt. Cmdr Kevin Davis (Blue Angel #6)

Several photographs of Blue Angel #6 and pilot Lt. Cmdr. Kevin Davis have found their way into our "POTW" contest since the tragic crash on April 21.

We may share more as they come in, but these two from Gary Sides of San Angelo, Texas and Brian Emch of Lancaster, California seemed a fitting tribute to include in this week's edition.

The incredible aerobatic displays of the Blue Angels team have sparked the pilot instinct in thousands of youngsters over the years, and for that ambassadorship alone, we'd like to thank the U.S. Navy and its dedicate pilots and support staff.  Our very best wishes go out to the entire Angels team and Lt. Cmdr. Davis's friends and family.


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Used with permission of John Sperling

Night Flight

"My dad took this picture on a motorcycle trip in Adrian, Missouri," writes John Sperling of Wichita, Kansas.

What better way to sign off?

Remember:  There'll be more new pictures to see on AVweb's home page Thursday morning!

To enter next week's contest, click here.

A quick note for submitters:  If you've got several photos that you feel are "POTW" material, your best bet is to submit them one-a-week!  That gives your photos a greater chance of seeing print on AVweb, and it makes the selection process a little easier on us, too.  ;)

A Reminder About Copyrights: Please take a moment to consider the source of your image before submitting to our "Picture of the Week" contest. If you did not take the photo yourself, ask yourself if you are indeed authorized to release publication rights to AVweb. If you're uncertain, consult the POTW Rules or send us an e-mail.

Names Behind The News back to top 

Meet the AVwebFlash Team

AVwebFlash is a twice-weekly summary of the latest news, articles, products, features, and events featured on AVweb, the internet's aviation magazine and news service.

Today's issue was written by Contributing Editor Mary Grady (bio) and Editor In Chief Chad Trautvetter.

Click here to send a letter to the editor. (Please let us know if your letter is not intended for publication.)

Comments or questions about the news should be sent here.

Have a product or service to advertise on AVweb? A question on marketing? Send it to AVweb's sales team.

If you're having trouble reading this newsletter in its HTML-rich format (or if you'd prefer a lighter, simpler format for your PDA or handheld device), there's also a text-only version of AVwebFlash. For complete instructions on making the switch, click here.

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