Moral Ambiguities

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Several readers took exception to my comment in the Vashon Ranger review advising pilots to fly these airplanes beyond the 1320-pound limit. Said one message forwarded to me: “I just don’t think it’s right for someone who does so many reviews of so many aircraft to basically wink and nod and tell people it’s OK to fly outside the limits set forth in the regulations. He is setting himself … and AVweb up for potential liability if anything were to happen.”

This would be a valid point if I had actually said that. What I really said, in the narration of the video, is that the 1320-pound light sport aircraft weight limit is the mostly widely abused regulation in aviation and that I pass no moral judgment on this, but merely note that it’s reality.  

Actually, I think I was probably wrong anyway. The most widely abused regulation is FAR 91.155—the VFR cloud clearance requirement. I’m quite certain as I write this, someone—maybe a lot of someones—is skirting by a wisp of cloud that’s way less than 2000 feet away. No, we shouldn’t do this. No, I’m not going to scold you if you’ve done it or if you're reading this on your smartphone while you're actually doing it. You should be looking out the window. I’m pretty sure it’s up to you to make your own risk judgments independent of my thundered wisdom from the wizened perch of my office chair. And no, I won't invoke the slippery slope analogy.

I know why readers—and there were a handful—take exception to such seemingly mealy mouthed pronouncements and I certainly don’t fault them for it. Many pilots view aviation writers as opinion leaders but I long ago got over believing too much of that sort of outgassing. Aviation writers should inform, entertain and occasionally instruct and a few see themselves as moral beacons. I’m not one of those. And I’m definitely not one to pander to an audience by saying one thing while believing or doing another. So I occasionally get into trouble by describing realities some don’t agree with or haven’t experienced. I think it's important to see the world as it actually is—and to report on it—rather than describing it as we would like it to be. 

In my experience, some owners do fly light sport airplanes over their published gross weight because they have told me so and because many believe the airplanes are arbitrarily and artificially limited to lower weights. This is demonstrably true for some models, like the Cub types from CubCrafters and Legend. Both are based on Super Cub airframes originally certified to 1750 pounds. It’s an artifice to think flying an LSA version at 1350 pounds courts death. My last sweep of the LSA accident record revealed no accidents related to overweight ops. I've added another look to my to-do list. The much larger risk is pilots losing control of airplanes on landing or takeoff and balling them up as a result. Neither of these observations is a suggestion that you, as an LSA pilot, should take my lack of damning of such things as tacit approval. It's your show; play it as you wish.

But it’s a fact that flying overgross is a FAR violation and a further fact that this stretching of the rules doesn't apply equally to all airplanes. In a sense, in the LSA segment, this is an example of market forces at work. People want what they want and they’ll get there somehow. One hopes safely, but safe and legal aren’t always the same thing. Some pilots like to pound a moral guidepost into the ground by observing regulations to the exact letter and I pass no judgment on that, either. In fact, I admire the discipline. 

In my view, most of us got into aviation partly out of a desire to make these sometimes difficult risk assessments and not rely on others to tell us what to do nor necessarily agree if they make a different judgment related to risk. A writer smarter than I would just avoid these discussions altogether or would think one thing and say another. If I ever had the stomach for that, I don’t now. One thing I left off my list above of what aviation writers should do is to occasionally provoke. Whether you agree or not, at least examining why you think what you think is a good thing.

Just don’t look to me for an imprimatur either way.

Comments (38)

The LSA 1320-lb weight limit reminds me of the 55-mph national speed limit - a somewhat arbitrary number imposed for somewhat nebulous reasons that is at odds with the engineering reality (highways were generally designed for 75-mph travel using 1950s-era bias-ply tires and manual drum brakes).

The most egregrious example is the Jabiru 230. In Australia it's a 4-seater with a 1540lb gross-weight. But, remove the back-seat and reduce the "limit" to 1320lb and presto! chango! it's now a U.S.-legal LSA.

But, if an Ercoupe ever had a gross-weight increase STC 'installed', it can never be flown as an LSA. Even if the STC is removed.

Posted by: Kirk Wennerstrom | May 9, 2018 5:34 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I appreciate your acknowledgements of the real world. Nothing wrong with occasionally having an adult conversation. Count me in. In my otherwise pedantic life, I try to make a habit of it.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | May 9, 2018 7:30 AM    Report this comment

"Some pilots like to pound a moral guidepost into the ground by observing regulations to the exact letter and I pass no judgment on that, either. In fact, I admire the discipline. "

Though in my experience, pilots who do that tend to do so selectively, while blatantly ignoring other regulations that are stupid in their opinion. Or simply don't realize something is a regulation.

Another one I see violated/ignored is the full stop landing for night currency. Quite often while I'm doing my night currency, I'll find someone in the pattern doing touch-and-go (not stop-and-go) landings. If you ask me, a touch-and-go at night is actually more challenging than full-stop landings with a taxi-back, but the FAR says it has to be a full-stop, so I do them as full-stop landings. And it also requires 3 night takeoffs, which is another one I find people (usually inadvertently) coming up one short, forgetting that their takeoff earlier in the day was a day takeoff, so they need one more trip around the pattern than they think. But I don't pass judgement on these (unless I'm officially acting as instructor, in which case I insist), because there are other more serious ways of harming one's self in an aircraft.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | May 9, 2018 7:34 AM    Report this comment

"My last sweep of the LSA accident record revealed no accidents related to overweight ops"

If you have ANY accident in an LSA and ARE overweight, you just might:
1) get your ticket pulled for 60 days and have to take remedial training
2) get zero accident coverage from your insurance company
3) Have to answer "yes" on all future medicals and insurance premiums on the question "has your license ever been suspended or revoked"?

It's just not worth the risk to your flying career if you of found guilty of intentionally ignoring the FAR's.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 9, 2018 8:09 AM    Report this comment

Well said Paul. I figured it wouldn't take long for someone to completely miss the point of your piece.

Posted by: DeWayne Colombe | May 9, 2018 8:28 AM    Report this comment

2) get zero accident coverage from your insurance company

This is the biggest ill-informed myth in aviation. Insurance companies routinely pay to cover pilot stupidities related to all kinds of errors, some of which relate to FAR violations including lack of medicals and annuals.Reason: because the market is hyper competitive and companies don't want the bad rap for denial of coverage.

That's not an argument to be a skofflaw, but it is reminder for me point you at an article we just published explaining this:

"While pilots often claim that aircraft insurance companies do everything they can to keep from paying claims, the reality is just the opposite. We talked with Jon Doolittle, principal of Sutton James aviation insurance brokers, about denials of coverage. When we brought up the subject... he said it is something that is rarely seen in the aviation world. He told us that he cannot recall a single denial of coverage of a claim within his agency in the last decade.

Doolittle explained that violation of an FAR is almost never grounds for denial of coverage. Unless the violation was causally related to the accident, an insurance company would have a hard time convincing a court that it didn't have to pay a claim under its policy. Also, it's expensive for an insurance company to litigate a denial of coverage claim."

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 9, 2018 8:29 AM    Report this comment

Is your visual acuity failing? I actually can still read the fine print on my policies on my planes. It's NOT A MYTH if it's in the policy. Whether they chose to exercise that clause is why I said "you just might...get zero accident coverage from your insurance company".

What is for darn sure is that if you have an accident and get your ticket pulled/suspended, the insurance will go up. You've demonstrated that you're a risk and they will raise it. There again it's just not worth the risk to your flying career if you of found guilty of intentionally ignoring the FAR's because you will pay for it.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 9, 2018 9:04 AM    Report this comment

Appreciate the honesty, Paul, even if it is discouraging. My concern is the message that such overweight ops sends to a student.

I hope to be a CFI someday. By the time that happens, odds are there will be more LSAs than standard airplanes in the training fleet. It bothers me that the first time I teach a student to do a weight and balance, and we "discover" that we've been operating overweight, I'll have to say something like "Oh, it's okay to violate that rule, just not the others." Seems like it sets a student up for antiauthority behavior.

Obviously the weight limit needs to be increased, but that's still the tip of the iceberg.

I will again loudly proclaim: It's time to get the FAA out of the recreational and training aircraft certification business, if they won't prove themselves capable of operating at a modern pace. Leave it up to the insurance companies and industry standards. The recent Part 23 rewrite is a tiny step in the right direction, but it needs to go much further, in my opinion, if we want to have any hope of seeing the fleet recapitalized.

Posted by: Joshua Levinson | May 9, 2018 9:22 AM    Report this comment

Bottom line? The Vashon Ranger with full tanks has a woeful 270# useful load. Hardly a ground-breaking accomplishment in the industry and certainly a very 'poor' choice for any flight school. For their survival, IMHO the company would be better off ignoring the LSA market altogether. The aviation industry is known for a lot of hopeful start-ups that never materialize in the real world. - I'm inclined to put the Ranger into the hopeful but failed category.

Posted by: Randall Patka | May 9, 2018 9:31 AM    Report this comment

The 1320 lb gross weight limit (based on the Euro 600 kg limit) is discriminatory to big people! Not necessarily overweight, but big. If you are a corn-fed, 6'4' male and of average weight in America there is no way this is more than a one place airplane with any useful amount of fuel.

Therfore, I propose an amendment that the weight limit be appropriately scaled to the region. There is no reason why we should be using a standard that was written strictly for svelte people. For example, 1320 lbs. could be the allowed GW limit for the prototypical 170 lb pilot. If you weigh 250, that means you should get an additional 80 lbs allowance taking the GW to 1400 lbs. Same for passengers, so a second 250 should take the GW up to 1480 lbs. Voila, there you have your approx 1500 lbs GW limit. Many of the LSAs could easily handle this.

Posted by: A Richie | May 9, 2018 9:49 AM    Report this comment

"It bothers me that the first time I teach a student to do a weight and balance, and we "discover" that we've been operating overweight, I'll have to say something like "Oh, it's okay to violate that rule, just not the others." Seems like it sets a student up for antiauthority behavior."

Here's a not-so-far fetched hypothetical: you have a sport-pilot student in an E-LSA (which can be flown as a non-LSA (>1320lb max gross) requiring a BasicMed/3rd-class or better, or as an LSA (1320 max gross) requiring only sport-pilot privileges) and you compute the W&B of the two of you plus enough fuel to be safe and you find you are 1340 lbs. You've already determined that you have the minimum amount of fuel to be safe for the proposed flight. What do you do? Cancel the flight, or accept the technically-overweight condition? It's not exactly a straight-forward black-or-white answer. There certainly is the downside that you could be setting an example of "ignoring stupid rules", but also knowing that it's not an aerodynamic or structural limitation but rather a paper limitation, do you either not train the person (if they're a student pilot) or send them off on their own (if they're already a rated pilot) potentially putting them at risk because they needed the training?

On the record, I will say that if you calculate the W&B and find you are over-weight or out of balance, you correct the situation if you can, or you don't fly. But being honest, if you calculate the W&B to be within a dozen pounds of max gross weight, there's a good chance that you are actually over-gross, especially if it's an older aircraft that has had numerous modifications (avionics or otherwise) and hasn't been weighed in several years. Does that mean you treat X-pounds under max-gross as being over-gross?

Posted by: Gary Baluha | May 9, 2018 9:55 AM    Report this comment

"Is your visual acuity failing? I actually can still read the fine print on my policies on my planes. It's NOT A MYTH if it's in the policy."

My visual acuity is fine, Mark. It's your understanding of how the world really works that's flawed. While insurers have this option--my policy has it too--it's just that, an option. They don't look for reasons not to pay claims because it's bad business. Frequent denials will get around and competitors will use that against them. That's just the way it works.

On the other hand, your point abut not blowing off FARs because you could be sanctioned is spot on.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 9, 2018 10:04 AM    Report this comment

Kirk ... GREAT analogy comparing the 55mph speed limit of the 70's to the 1320 pound LSA limit. I'm gonna remember that one.

One of the reasons that I often comment so caustically or negatively is that I hope someone with half a brain at "The Administration" who can make a difference notices and maybe either takes action or does something proactively. In fact, on one occasion after such a comment a few years back, one of 'em tracked ME down personally and explained to me why they were doing something that displeased all of 'us.' As a result, I took action, called a political office only to find out they had a satellite office near my home. I called, quickly wrote a letter and told them it was a time critical issue. I asked that it be FAX'ed to DC ASAP. It DID make a difference. The 'problem' didn't resurface. I prefer not to ID the issue for fear it'll resurrect itself. That segues into my comment ...

It is now time for the FAA to wake up and start acting proactively toward GA. A good start WOULD be to get out of the way with respect to the LSA weight limit. It's been more than a decade and that segment of recreational aviation has proven itself to be relatively safe and worthy of the trust that was put on it. Imagine -- if you will -- what a great two place airplane could be built IF the limit was 2,000 pounds and the airspeed limit was, say, 150mph. It'd be able to carry full fuel ergo decent range, two crew, stuff and and still perform to a reasonable modicum of performance and have a robust airframe. Couple the production techniques Vashon is pioneering and you might even have a winner.

I know it's not usually PC to name another publication here but allow me poet's license. The current May 2018 issue of Avionics News has a good article by Ric Peri entitled, "The Certification Pathway to Las Vegas." He outlines how the current wave of non-TSO'ed avionics equipment is being allowed into certified airplanes. THIS frequent commenter feels that it is now time to -- likewise -- change the ridiculous LSA weight limit AND institute the tenets of Appendix G.4 of the Aviation Rulemaking Committee's Report to FAA instituting the Primary-noncommercial airworthiness category for existing airplanes. Along with BasicMed, a new day might actually dawn on aviation. We can only hope ... huh.

Just yesterday, I was in the maintenance facility of a flight school in NE Florida watching an old beat up C152 being annualed. Geez ... it IS time for a Vashon ... but one with reasonable performance numbers. There'd be no reason to be bemoaning the weight limit at all.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | May 9, 2018 10:13 AM    Report this comment

A question for the knowing comentariat:
IF the LSA weight limit were to be increased, would the new limit apply:
1. Only to vehicles designed and manufactured after the rules-change, or
2. To all already-manufactured LSAs whose manufacturers have not specified some weight limit that's lower than that permitted by the existing rules?

I ask this because I'm aware that there are other engineers besides myself who design-to-specification (rule). I'm imagining/ fearing a (need for a) new class of airplanes - an LSA v2.0, if you will - to address this issue.

Ultimately, this comes down to FAA certification versus ASTM compliance - as it should. But that camel's nose forfends a righteous query regarding where to fence in the latter, and yield to the former. The decade-long experiment with the LSA process suggests that we've learned that the success of that process and its resultant outcomes likely is independent of the gross weight of its participating vehicles. In other words, since the process works: why not a 6-place, 3,500-pound, 200 kt, ASTM-approved vehicle?

Irrespective of the wisdom of that proposition, there's a whole lot of ego (and not a little money) tied up in the new-and-improved Part 23. Does anyone really think that the FAA is going to render much of that irrelevant, by ceding more of the Monopoly board to ASTM or to anyone else?

Paul: You got some sense of the possibility of an alternative engine for the Vashon. Do you have any sense of their management's willingness to entertain certification?

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | May 9, 2018 11:49 AM    Report this comment

"Paul: You got some sense of the possibility of an alternative engine for the Vashon. Do you have any sense of their management's willingness to entertain certification?"

I can't recall if I asked and if I did, what they said. It would be a tall order to certify a clean sheet like that airplane. I gotta think $5M at least, if not double that. I have a better feel for what CubCrafters invested in the XCub, put it's not truly clean sheet.

Recall a few years there was a proposal to apply ASTM standards to airplanes up to 6000 pounds. No longer seems active, although I'm not sure why. It would be perfect for the Ranger. I'd put either an IO-240 or the Rotax 915 and jack the weight up to 1750 for a 600 useful. Killer for training if kept under $200,000.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 9, 2018 12:11 PM    Report this comment

My biggest problem with the ASTM standards for LSAs is the amount of control it gives the manufacturer over maintenance standards. Of course it's a trade-off compared to Part 23, but it concerns me that a manufacturer could basically choose to ground their fleet if they choose to do so in the future. I'd be worried about a case where a struggling manufacturer gets sold to someone who just wants the CNC machines, and they choose to make a replacement part "required" and choose not to supply it or price it such that its value exceeds that of the airframe.

Part 23's ability for the FAA to deny an AD, and making SBs non-mandatory for Part 91 operators, is a key right that owners need.

If ASTM standards become acceptable for more owner-flown airplanes (something I conceptually support), I think this needs to be addressed.

Posted by: Joshua Levinson | May 9, 2018 12:25 PM    Report this comment

I fail to see the moral ambiguity of Paul's comments. No on needs his "permission" to overload an airplane - they've been doing it since shortly after the Wright Brothers first flew. Perhaps under the rationalization that surely the designers built in some safety factor, or just because they needed to for some reason. 'Nuff said.

What bugs me is when the regulators, and I use that term loosely, make arbitrary decisions without good engineering or technical justification. To me that is the true moral ambiguity. Take the example of the 55 mph speed limit. It was supposedly to conserve fuel, but truckers tried to explain that it would actually increase their fuel consumption due to the existing gearing ratios on the engines. No matter, the well meaning members of Congress plowed ahead. Or, the FAA's decision to allow engine manufacturers to install single drive/dual magnetos and insisting they want two mags for "safety and reliability". It seems that the arbitrary weight restrictions on LSAs are actually counterproductive to safe operation. It makes them too easy to overload, and probably contributes to their infamously frail landing gear - the manufacturer has to cut the weight somewhere to get under the limit. Allowing higher gross weight would actually increase safety on both levels.

With regard to Yars' question on whether LSA 2.0 could be backward compatible, I imagine it could be left to the manufacturers to demonstrate their designs are structurally able to meet the higher limit. If so, then they qualify, if not, they stay with the old limit.

Posted by: John McNamee | May 9, 2018 5:46 PM    Report this comment

Joshua ... you bring up a very real problem with S-LSA. The example you cited IS real and should be a great worry for anyone who parts with their money for an S-LSA. As an example, I'm an A&P but I can't work on a Rotax -- which powers the preponderance of them -- until I take all the requisite classes. The converse advantage of having a Part 23 airplane and having the FAA act as a mediator between the manufacturers and owners is -- likewise -- good gouge. Believe me, it has saved us heartburn. It's one of the few advantages of certifying to Part 23. The problem is that they go TOO far with it. A Cessna 172 is not a Boeing 747 ... but they seem to think they're one and the same.

I have been yapping over the FAA patting themselves on the back over the FAR Part 23 rewrite when -- in fact -- it does almost nothing for existing legacy Part 23 airplanes. ONLY the recommended Primary noncommercial airworthiness category contained in the ARC Appendix G.4 would help those of us who own such airplanes.

I cited the article I talked about above predominantly because IF it is true, much of what the FAA is calling a "success" with the FAA Part 23 rewrite is actually AEA pushing the FAA to use EXISTING regulations to allow the non-TSO'ed avionics into certificated airplanes. Peri says that while the equipment is not TSO'ed, it is nonetheless "certified" IF it is STC'ed and PMA'ed or is part of a Type Certification. You'd have to read the article to understand. The bottom line is that the Part 23 rewrite did little for most of us. It's likely why Vashon chose to go with the S-LSA idea. As Paul opines, the cost to certify to FAR Part 23 -- even now with the "rewrite" -- is a mountain too tall to climb.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | May 9, 2018 9:02 PM    Report this comment

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | May 9, 2018 10:21 PM    Report this comment

Funny ... I don't remember that blog, Raf. Worth a re-read by all here. Thanks.

That blog -- placed in juxtaposition with this one and the Vashon 150 blog -- are excellent and compliment each other. Funny that PB talked about the third class medical exemption ... which never came to fruition but -- thanks to an OK Senator and a perfect storm opportunity last year -- subsequently morphed into a much better BasicMed rule.

A couple of important but innocuous points were made in that blog. Chief among them that "structural efficiency is antagonistic to durability and possibly safety and crashworthiness" as well as "crashworthy seats." And, better performance or capability would "add value" and more of 'em would sell. So, in like manner, it's now time to up the LSA limits. If safety -- as opposed to incessant stubbornness moving at the speed of molasses in Alaska -- is the FAA's ultimate goal ... start acting in accordance with, boys! ALL Class I airplanes should be able to be manufactured under ASTM standards and legacy airframes should be able to be relicensed as P-NC and treated in a manner equivalent to E-AB. Take a hands off approach and lets see how it shakes out.

How sad that the Congress had to order the FAA to implement BasicMed. Maybe THAT is what we need to do next with LSA? If THEY won't do their job, maybe we should give 'em a little 'help?'

Say ... how about this ... lets all wear red ball caps that say MAGA ... Make Aviation Great Again. :-)

Posted by: Larry Stencel | May 10, 2018 7:18 AM    Report this comment

There has been quite a bit said of flying over gross but no mention of CG. Most planes will fly decently over gross but CG can be a much more critical factor. During my bulletproof youth (statute of limitation) I did occasionally fudge a bit on weight but I learned real quick that CG is much more unforgiving. Say the LSA limit was raised to 1750 or more, has anyone run the weight and balance of a Vashon with two 250 pounders with 40 lbs of stuff in the baggage bin? Structurally or balance-wise you can't just assume that an LSA can fly at a heavier weight.

Posted by: Richard Montague | May 10, 2018 8:12 AM    Report this comment

While the importance of CG cannot be over-emphasized, the life work of Euclid and Bernoulli seredipitously constrains reckless abandon with regard to two-place, side-by-side designs. I consider this happenstance to be a virtue; not a vice - despite the complacency it might engender.

Example: In order to load a venerable Tomahawk out of its CG limits, you'd need a solo leprechaun pilot and a goodly pot of gold in the baggage area. That said...
Make sure that the underside of your PA-38's horizontal stabilizer features SIX water drain holes. If not, and if the stab loads up with rainwater that subsequently freezes... Danger, Will Robinson.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | May 10, 2018 8:34 AM    Report this comment

The 600KG limit was imposed specifically to exclude the vast number of existing trainers for political and business reasons. It was to jam force a market segment into growth that had no reason to be expanding. This was all political engineering, not mechanical engineering.

That's "why" it would be moral for pilots that plan their flights based on physics to be OK with 640KG. It's the same moral decision as flying without your current triennial registration on board. The only "risk" is from some enforcement agency who may use you as an example of their authority.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 10, 2018 9:34 AM    Report this comment

"Make sure that the underside of your PA-38's horizontal stabilizer features SIX water drain holes. If not, and if the stab loads up with rainwater that subsequently freezes"

In such a case, just stall it. The subsequent shaking verging on flutter will break up the ice and heave into lunar orbit. I watched the tail of a Traumahawk while a student stalled it. Once. I never did it again.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | May 10, 2018 1:42 PM    Report this comment

Just got this email from AVweb Legal:

"Dear reader! Please do not stall the Piper PA38 Tomahawk product intentionally or unintentionally. Stalls are very dangerous! Please perform a weight and balance prior to stalling the aircraft unintentionally. Please note that watching the rear part of any airplane during forward flight severely restricts your forward vision. Please note that departing aircraft parts or ice may or may not actually heave into lunar orbit. Please consult your psychiatrist with questions regarding the weight limitations of LSA aircraft, the recently unchanged ADS-B mandate or any other emotional distress experienced in relation to information or opinion disseminated on our website."

Posted by: Jason Baker | May 10, 2018 3:53 PM    Report this comment

"I watched the tail of a Traumahawk while a student stalled it. Once. I never did it again."
And now you know why Cherokees don't have rear windows! Their stabilators shake just as badly as the Traumahawk's T-tail does.

True story about the ice, though. As soon as the student broke ground, he looked at me and said "something's wrong," as he surrendered the controls. As soon as I touched the yoke, I knew three things:
1. He was very perceptive.
2. We had a BIG CG problem.
3. We were in deep shit.

I declared an emergency, and gently nursed the bird around the pattern at 300 feet AGL and 80 kts IAS. This took an amazing amount of effort; the vehicle was wildly divergent in pitch.
We sent Piper and the local GADO an SDR. And we drilled the extra four holes. Drained a LOT of water inside a heated hangar.

This is what happens when you design airplanes in Florida, but operate them in winter conditions. If shit CAN happen, shit WILL happen. Beware of empty spaces in unfortunate places. Glad that it wasn't a student solo flight...

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | May 10, 2018 5:27 PM    Report this comment

Define and quantify shit.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | May 10, 2018 5:50 PM    Report this comment

Yars ... was this water collection issue in a Tomahawk or a Cherokee?

How could these things happen? These are airplanes designed to meet FAR Part 23 (sic). Did you ever learn if it resulted in extra drain holes in the newly manufactured airplanes?

GADO! You're showing your age. :-)

Posted by: Larry Stencel | May 10, 2018 9:54 PM    Report this comment

Say ... how about this ... lets all wear red ball caps that say MAGA ... Make Aviation Great Again. :-)

I like that. (-:

Posted by: Tom Cooke | May 11, 2018 4:04 AM    Report this comment

Generally, shit comes in two varieties:
1. The merely annoying.
2. The potentially deadly.
In an unfortunate manifestation of aviation alchemy, pilots often demonstrate an almost-limitless ability to transform the former into the latter.

Shit oftentimes is measured in "loads." At one time or another, you've probably experienced 'a shitload" of trouble.
Shit is surprisingly adaptable: Most often seen in the form of a noun, shit also makes appearances as an adjective and as an adverb:
What color is your Edsel? "Shit brown."
How out-of-luck are you? "Shit-out-of-luck!"
Experienced flight instructors are familiar with this metaphor: "Shit-for-brains."
And of course, shit often is employed as a meal suggestion.

It was a Tomahawk. The event happened in 1984, so - in theory - PA-38s still were in production as "Tomahawk II" models (with the Cherokee-compatible 6.00 x 6 tires and wheels. Don't know if Piper started drilling extra holes, but since then I have seen other Traumahawks with the extra ones.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | May 11, 2018 7:59 AM    Report this comment

Your point is a very real item for ALL to include in their preflights in climes where H20 could collect, Yars. I'da thought if the tail was THAT heavy that maybe the airplane would have been sitting tail low but ... who knows. Being that high, it would be tough to inspect without a ladder.

Did you yell, "Holy Sxyz" during that evolution? :-)

Posted by: Larry Stencel | May 11, 2018 9:16 AM    Report this comment

The vehicle's CG can go far beyond flyability, well before it will settle upon its tailhook. No visual help, there.
The crux of the problem is its insidious nature: the ice is impossible to detect visually during a pre-flight inspection. Maybe a finger-thwack on the underside of the stabilizer, to detect the absence of its customary snare-drum response? (I'm 6'-3" tall, with 35" arms; I can reach up and manipulate the elevator by hand.)
I didn't say a whole lot during the trip around the patch. Just enough to reassure the student (I really didn't need to add passenger hysteria to an already-problematic situation). He was a "good shit" (there's that word, again), and mostly was politely absorbed by the visual provided by the low-altitude circuit.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | May 11, 2018 10:35 AM    Report this comment

PA38 Tomahawk Spin test 1979.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | May 11, 2018 10:57 AM    Report this comment

Moving back to the subject du jour, here's a question for ya, Yars .... during the emergency, your airplane was out of legal CG. If an accident had happened and the NTSB determined that -- yes, you had aft CG and maybe an over gross condition -- could Uncle Fed violate you OR ... could you claim that Sxyz happens and be cleared of any wrongdoing?

I bet RAF has a link for this? :-)

Posted by: Larry Stencel | May 11, 2018 7:23 PM    Report this comment

I do. Somewhat related. The pilot did not survive so he had no chance to claim that Sxyz happened. But the NTSB had their Sxyz wired tight on their report. I do research to prepare for ground instruction. I thank you for input as well as YARS and PB and many others.

OVERWEIGHT AND OFF BALANCE (Pilot did not survive)


Posted by: Rafael Sierra | May 11, 2018 8:21 PM    Report this comment

RAF ... you are the Google of Avweb :-)

Posted by: Larry Stencel | May 11, 2018 9:27 PM    Report this comment

Regarding getting violated for the ice-induced out-of-limits CG condition...
1. I consider the occurance to have been an instance of sabotage - committed by Mother Nature. Violate HER!!!
2. Neither I nor she is likely to get violated. Much like an assassin's ice bullet, the evidence disappeared. In a puddle. Leaving the investigators to conclude that "shit happened."

"Empty spaces in bad places..."

And this is why I advocate for load cells on all three gear assemblies..... Seriously.

Posted by: YARS (Tom Yarsley) | May 12, 2018 12:07 AM    Report this comment

Yars, the load cell idea is not bad at all. Given that most new FMS will record most flight parameters. Of course it adds another level of complexity but would it be of benefit? Good food for thought.

1) FMS can calculate W&B prior to takeoff
2) FMS can calculate W&B at landing
3) Data can be used prior to flight by flight crew
4) Data can be used after flight by maintenance to determine over weight landing.

1) FAA certification
2) $
3) System complexity increases
4) Empty weight increases (almost insignificantly)

Posted by: Leo LeBoeuf | May 12, 2018 3:59 PM    Report this comment

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