AVmail: May 6, 2013
Letter of the Week: Dangers of Rearward C of G
Regarding the speculation that shifting cargo caused the crash of Boeing 747 in Afghanistan, I have some experience with flying an aircraft with rearward center of gravity.
Years ago, I was flying a C-47, and the urinal in the head froze up. The co-pilot and several other people were trying to thaw it out with cigarette lighters. The head on the C-47 is in the tail end of the aircraft.
In all of my years of flying, this really scared me. I asked them all to slowly back out of the area one at a time, and to leave only one person in the head. We would always load the aircraft with as far aft CG as we could. In doing so, we could get another 10 to 15 knots of cruise speed out of the C-47.
The controls on a DC-3 are rather heavy. In this case, with all of them stacked in the tail end of the aircraft, all I had to do was touch the yoke, and the aircraft went into wild gyrations, nose up and down. The aircraft was no longer statically stable.
I knew if we should hit turbulent air we would be toast and the accident investigation board would want to know why so many people were in the toilet. I can just imagine the different theories on that one.
While there has been speculation that a load shift may be to blame for the crash of the National B-747 at Bagram Air Base this week, clues from the video cause me to wonder if an engine failure may be to blame.
From what I've read online, aircraft departing Bagram use an intentionally steep climb profile to avoid small arms fire, likely leaving the aircraft with little airspeed margin should an engine failure occur. In the video, the aircraft banks slightly to the left, as the pilot might do to aid in directional control upon the loss of an engine on the right wing.
Soon after, the aircraft begins a yawing rotation to the right, as if driven by asymmetric thrust. This was truly a tragic crash, and I extend my sympathy to the families of the victims. It will be interesting to read what the accident investigation reveals.
I'm a big fan of AVweb. I read it on my tablet every morning before I even get ready for the day! But I did want to share some reader feedback. That 747 video crossed a line into inappropriate.
Dissecting a crash as a learning exercise is very useful. Running graphic video of a plane crash that cost seven lives, with no lesson attached, is sickening. I would like to see AVweb stay away from promoting such video in the future.
As an aside, I witnessed a plane crash in a landing incident that happened 50 yards from where I was standing. My last memory of the three individuals alive was the look of sheer horror on their faces just before the explosion. My next memory was three dead people, frozen in a sitting position, completely shriveled and blackened — and the stench that went with that. I hope the families of the people who perished never see the video you ran and begin to imagine what I just described.
Everybody's Aviation Association?
Regarding EAA interim president Jack Pelton's column about the make-up of EAA: I have thought for some time that EAA, the Experimental Aviation Association, is a long way from what it was at its beginning. I think it would now be more appropriate for EAA to stand for Everybody's Aviation Association.
John King, Ovid, NY
I beg to differ with Jack Pelton. EAA has a label. It's "experimental." It was for people who build their own airplanes. Trying to be everything for everybody just isn't what my EAA was all about.
After many years of being a member, I've had enough of the direction EAA is headed so I've let my membership lapse.
I can still build my experimental aircraft without the "new" EAA. The organization should either accept the label or change the name.
Advancing as a Pilot
Regarding the "Question of the Week" on advancing myself as a pilot: I plan on completing a phase of Wings under the FAA Safety Team program. The advantage of this is it also counts as a flight review!
I will continue to fly Pilots-N-Paws rescue missions. They are emotionally rewarding flights, creating great scenario-based missions to build time and competency.
While I plan on and have been doing more flying this year, my more significant commitment to flying is a complete refurbishment of my P-210, including a full panel upgrade, new paint, and interior. This, I believe, is the wave of the future, considering the passing of limited product liability and that LSA certification failed to lower the cost of new aircraft as promised.
I am a casualty of the prohibitively high cost of flying. Unless I win the lottery, I'll never exercise my license again.
My wife has promised that as long as I don't do anything stupid, like buy another Corvette, I can resume my flying lessons this summer. They have been on hold since our son was born 25 years ago.
Girl Scouts Discover Aviation
Junior Girl Scout Troop 25066 and Brownie Troop 25160 in Lakeville, MN had a special aviation lesson in April. This was special because less than six percent of all pilots are female.
This unique experience exposed them to a wide range of career possibilities not normally sought out by women. Four local flight instructors presented the science of flight, famous women aviators, practical knowledge on obtaining a private pilot license, and how to plan a flight. Girls rotated through the stations armed with questions and eager faces.
The day was the first event that will help the girls earn a Discover Aviation badge. The second activity will take place on May 18 at the Airlake Airport, where the girls will get an opportunity to go on an airplane ride, learn to pre-flight a real plane, and have conversations with representatives from the 99s, Civil Air Patrol, Red Tail Squadron, and others. Space is still available for other young females to take flight. Visit PenguinFlight.net/girls-aviation-day for more information.