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Volume 25, Number 34c
August 24, 2018
 
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FAA Revokes Certificate Of Sensenich Repair Station
 
Mary Grady
 
 

The FAA this week issued an Emergency Order revoking the repair station certificate for Sensenich Propeller Service in North Windham, Connecticut. The FAA alleges that the repair station and its accountable manager, between March 2015 and at least February 2017, “knowingly and intentionally” performed maintenance on 47 McCauley propellers for 45 separate aircraft that was contrary to instructions in the manufacturer’s overhaul manuals. The FAA further alleges that Sensenich and the manager certified that on 47 separate occasions, the work was performed in accordance with the manufacturer’s overhaul manuals and the FARs, and approved the props for return to service. Sensenich officials knew, however, that the propellers were not properly overhauled, the FAA alleges.

“Due to the seriousness of the alleged violations, the FAA determined that emergency action was required to immediately revoke the certificates of the company and the accountable manager,” the FAA said. Both surrendered their certificates to the FAA, and neither appealed the order. AVweb has left messages for the manager listed at the repair station’s website, but so far has not heard back. Two other maintenance facilities operated by Sensenich, in Pennsylvania and Georgia, are not affected by this order, the FAA said.

In its Emergency Order, dated August 2, the FAA alleges that workers overhauling props at the shop failed to perform a spring-load test or replace the propeller return springs, as required by the manufacturer’s manual. The shop didn’t own the equipment necessary to test the spring loads, the FAA says, and managers told employees to reuse the springs without doing the test, as long as they passed the required limits on visual and nondestructive testing. The shop then approved the propellers for return to service, the FAA says, “when Sensenich knew it had not overhauled the propellers as required” by the manufacturer’s manual. The Order also cites a number of instances when the shop failed to replace springs, retaining rings, studs and screws, as required, and nonetheless approved the props for return to service. 

The FAA order does not apply to Sensenich Propeller Company. Although the two originally shared ownership, Sensenich Propeller Service become an independent company in September 1995. Sensenich Propeller Company says there has been no connection between the two businesses since then. 

Chagrin And Bear It
 
Paul Berge
 

It was a Tuesday and, while stopped at a traffic light, I watched an average man step off the curb, unaware that Karma was about strike. The light was in his favor but entering the crosswalk he froze. “That average man has a problem,” my wife of 35 years, who understands men with problems, said. But she was wrong, and I knew why.

The crosser was embarrassed. About what, the other drivers waiting at the intersection and unable to look up from texting, will never know. But I suspected this man was having a flashback, because I’ve had them, too. Not the lysergic kind—that’s a whole different thing, I’m told, triggered by the whiff of a jasmine-scented candle atop a Jefferson Airplane album. This man—I’m positive—had been struck immobile by an unshakeable humiliation from his past. Perhaps, some indiscreet phrase uttered decades ago at a funeral was returning to haunt; or the time on Jeopardy when he confused Paraguay with Uruguay, now compromised his gross motor skills. Impossible to say, but when our defenses are down a rogue memory of something inconsequential can lock up the controls.

As with this ATC memory: In 1980 I was a trainee air traffic controller at Oakland Center, working a data position in a sector that included San Francisco (SFO). It was a Tuesday when an SFO tower controller called, asking me to input a flight plan he couldn’t access. He gave the callsign, whatever it was, I can’t remember 38 years later … OK, it was Citation 900GC. Tattooed on my bruised memory.

I disconnected, noticed that N900GC was in a suspense bay (a computer bin for inactive flight plans, not a Dewey Decimal[1] category) and thought, “Easy, I’ll forward him this flight plan.” And did, proudly so.

Ring!

It was SFO on the line. “Hello?” I answered. Controllers don’t actually say, “Hello,” but, instead, state their control position, such as, “Tower,” “East (Radar)” or in my case, “Two-three,” for Sector 23. The same controller, sighing, explained that the flight plan in suspense wasn’t valid, so would I, please, input a new one? “Odd,” I thought. “Must’ve got clogged in the Univac Host computer." So, I agreed and resent the same flight plan with the same result.

Ring!

“Hello. Sector Twenty-three. How may I misdirect your call?” Same voice at the other end, only now with the you-idiot tone Oliver Hardy employed whenever Stan Laurel didn’t get it, “No, no, no, (Stanley), put in a whole new flight plan!” I pictured him making typing motions with chubby fingers. “The other one, the one you keep sending me, is no good, no es bueno.”

Imagine a split-screen display here. There’s me at my data position in the smoke-choked Oakland Center, experiencing a painfully slow, “Ohhhh, so you want me to put in a whole new flight plan...!”  

Cut to split-screen, where my friend, Scott—an Oakland Center controller visiting SFO tower that day—was witnessing my data breakdown. “You know this moron?” the SFO dude asked Scott, who denied any relationship, although the following day had no trouble retelling the story to an attentive Center audience in snickering detail.

No harm. No airplanes crashed. But I’ve repressed that embarrassment until recently when I was teaching a student pilot how to file VFR flight plans with AFSS. The SFO incident bubbled through my sub-conscience like an oil globule, long trapped inside a sunken freighter, now making its filthy way toward the surface to befoul my lesson plan. Blindsided, I admitted that filing a VFR flight plan to fly across Iowa made little sense, because 1) you’re not going to crash; we don’t teach crashing, and 2) if you did crash, a farmer would find you before the CAP search party could don its camos.

I drag a ponderous weight of embarrassing ATC flubs that cling like the chain on Marley’s Ghost. I forged it link-by-link in my controller life. Consider this minor link from the time I said, “Radar contact,” to a TWA DC-9, then put it on a snappy vector while adding, “… when able, direct St. Louis.” To which the captain replied, “That’d be a good heading, if we were going to St. Louis, but we’re filed for Sioux Falls.” Captains can be so smug when right. And, yeah, TWA, so long ago. Still, embarrassing.

Or the time, when working tower as a newly certified controller, I launched a King Air followed by a Lear, without first turning the King Air. Inevitably, as the Lear ran up the King Air’s butt like a surface-to-air missile, the Lear pilot asked, “Now what?” Since the Lear pilot admitted he saw the King Air, I commanded, “Maintain visual separation.” Visual separation is the ATC magic bean. With it, 10 pounds of air traffic can be stuffed into a three-pound bag. Without separation the controller incurs a “deal.”

A deal is a big thing. It’s slang for when a controller loses approved separation and enters the nether world of shame and decertification. In a long career it’s rare for a controller not to have, or be peripherally involved in, a deal. Rarely are deals lethal, most are merely embarrassing, because fail-safes delay the controller from totally balling things up.

I can’t speak for other air traffic controllers, but I didn’t think about the souls on board those aircraft represented by radar slashes on the scope. To me, the objective was to move the targets without screwing up. The more experience I gained, the less I worried about failure. Any deviation, though, held the potential of professional disgrace, a potent motivator. Even if no one said anything about your poor vectoring technique or boneheaded sequence choices, you knew the whole radar room was thinking, “That was lame.”

Early in my ATC career I had my only deal, but it was a stinker. I was working alone at my scope in perfect harmony with the air traffic universe. On this ordinary day, a Tuesday, I had an IFR Cessna 182, in the clouds at 3000 feet MSL (2000 feet AGL) and on a radar vector to an ILS final approach course. The assigned heading, I estimated, would clear a pair of 2000-foot (3000 feet MSL) TV towers located south of the Skylane’s projected track. A seasoned controller would’ve known to keep the arrival at 4000 feet MSL (3000 AGL) until clearing the 2000-foot pikes. But I had a young man’s confidence in my vectoring skills. That bravado evaporated as I turned my attention to handle a Navy P-3 and missed the Cessna’s track drifting south, until the pilot noticed obstacle beacons flash past his windows and questioned the anatomical location of my headset.

No one died, but I’d had a big deal that had to be dealt with. I was removed from position, which is far worse than the manager asking for the ball. An investigation revealed what I already knew: I’d screwed up and damn near killed a pilot, making this the first time I considered the human cargo. The professional humiliation was crushing, but the ordeal honed a keen awareness of lurking calamity that accompanied me the rest of my career.

Years later, long after leaving ATC for teaching the Zen of tailwheeling on grass runways, whenever I spot an offending communications tower and feel the slimy tentacle of dormant memory wiggling into my head, I think, “How much C-4 explosives would it take to bring that sucker down?” And, then, like the average man momentarily frozen in the crosswalk from repressed personal chagrin, I dismiss those thoughts and carry on, knowing only I can hear that chain rattling in my wake.

[1] Named for Thomas E. Dewey, New York librarian who defeated Harry Truman in 1948

Vice President Pence Discusses Future U.S. Space Missions
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Vice President Mike Pence visited NASA’s Johnson Space Center on Thursday and spoke about human spaceflight and the future of U.S. space exploration. The vice president reiterated intentions to provide support for manned missions to the moon and eventually to Mars. The administration’s space exploration goals were initially laid out in Space Policy Directive 1, which President Trump signed last December.

Pence said he believes that it is time for the United States to “establish a permanent presence on and around the moon.” To reach that goal, he discussed the necessity of NASA projects including the Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway, Space Launch System, and Orion spacecraft. The vice president also spoke about the administration’s plans to develop a space-oriented branch of the armed forces, saying that the U.S. Space Force will be a reality by 2020. The complete speech can be seen in the video below.

In addition to giving his speech, Pence toured the laboratory housing the moon rocks collected during the Apollo program’s lunar missions and the Sonny Carter Training Facility Neutral Buoyancy Lab where astronauts practice spacewalking techniques. 

Boeing Tests Synchronized Autonomous Flight
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

Boeing has announced the successful completion of its first series of synchronized unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) flight tests. The tests were completed using new onboard autonomous command and control technology that the company says is designed to automatically perceive, processes and react in coordination with other UAVs. The new system was developed and tested in Australia as part of Boeing's Advance Queensland Autonomous Systems Platform Technology Project.

“What we’ve created here in Australia has the potential to transform the use of unmanned vehicles for civil, commercial and defense applications—whether that be in the air, on the ground or out at sea,” said Shane Arnott, director of Boeing Phantom Works International. “By safely teaming unmanned systems with human-operated systems, we keep people away from dull, dirty and dangerous tasks so they can focus on activities that machines can’t or shouldn’t do.”

Five UAVs were equipped with the new technology for the test flights. According to Boeing, the drones were able to safely complete preprogrammed missions as a group without human input once they were airborne. For the next step, the company says its Australia team plans to test more complex behaviors with high-performance UAVs.

Goodyear Hangar Recognized As Historic Landmark
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company's blimp hangar was officially recognized as an Ohio landmark and historic site with the unveiling of an Ohio Historical Marker at the facility last week. The company says that this year marks the hangar’s 100th anniversary. The facility, which is located by Wingfoot Lake in Suffield, Ohio, is regarded as the oldest airship hangar in the country.

“The Wingfoot Lake hangar has a rich history of contributions to aviation in Ohio and our nation,” said Goodyear senior vice president and chief communications officer Paul Fitzhenry. “From training the first class of United States Navy pilots in lighter-than-air to building of airships for the defense of the nation during WWI and WWII and serving as the home base of our current airship fleet, this facility is an Ohio and American treasure.”

In addition to providing housing for Goodyear’s iconic airships, the Wingfoot Lake facility has also served as the construction site for many of the “more than 300 lighter-than-air vehicles” built by the company since 1917. Goodyear has announced that it will be holding a christening ceremony for the company’s newest blimp, Wingfoot Three, on Aug. 30, 2018.

Negotiating With ATC
 
Ted Spitzmiller
 
 

Effective and efficient use of the IFR system requires you to know the essence of the FARs and AIM. Essentially FARs are typically written to define what the controller cannot let you do. But only your imagination and operational needs will determine what the controller can let you do. So, you must be somewhat creative, and negotiate with ATC.

Often negotiation is a simple process of communicating to ATC what you want to do and working around the limitations imposed by what the controller cannot legally let you do. Too often pilots fail in negotiation because they don’t fully understand the legal limitations under which the controllers are working. We’ll explore four areas of negotiation: approaches, altitudes, departures and routing.

Departures

Departing airports surrounded by high terrain often requires procedures that fly you away from your intended course, or require a climb to the MEA in holding during the initial part of the flight. Here is where negotiating with ATC can often save time. If you can maintain visual terrain separation for an on-course climb, let ATC know. Remember, the controller doesn’t know what you are able to see. If you understand why a controller has asked you to do something “inconvenient,” you can often come back with an alternative that will save time and money

Another example of working VFR into the IFR system involves the IFR release. On a particularly nice VFR day, a Learjet announced that he was ready to depart IFR. The tower advised there would be a ten-minute delay prior to release because another aircraft was executing an instrument approach. The day was CAVU and the inbound was an IFR training flight.

Yet that Lear captain, although annoyed that the “training flight” refused to cancel, didn’t think to depart VFR. An “unknown source” suggested that perhaps the Lear should consider departing VFR, maintain visual separation from the incoming, and then contact center to get into the “system.”

I was surprised to hear the Lear ask the tower if he could really do that. The answer was affirmative, the Lear departed, and a few people learned a bit more about the system.

With respect to this example, it is important for IFR pilots to recognize that, even though they have received a clearance, there may not be a space in the system for them when they announce, “ready for take-off.” If you do elect to depart VFR, you must remain VFR until accepted into the system by the departure or en route facility. If that facility is not able to accept you as IFR, you will be advised to “remain VFR.” This of course requires that you know the VFR minimums for the type of airspace you are flying. Obviously, you would not consider accepting a “maintain VFR” restriction if you are dealing with low ceilings or visibilities even if the Class D airspace is VFR.

Altitudes

Occasionally, I will choose to go VFR on-top during an IFR flight (conditions permitting, of course) to take advantage of several interesting options. When bucking a headwind or without oxygen, sometimes a lower IFR altitude is not available. Requesting VFR on-top allows me to use more favorable altitudes that would otherwise not be available. Switching to a VFR altitude can usually avoid a “hold” for conflicting traffic or an undesirable dogleg around traffic.

Block altitudes represent another area. Trying to maintain an assigned altitude during significant up and downdrafts can be tiring and dangerous. If you find yourself constantly reducing and then adding power to maintain altitude, request a “block altitude” from center. Again, this might not be approved in high density locations, but I have never had it refused in sparsely populated airspace.

Another reason for requesting a block altitude is the desire to provide “actual” IFR time when the clouds aren’t in the right places. Requesting a block from center and then picking a non-standard altitude may permit you to remain in IMC—and log the time.

A discussion of IFR altitude requirements can generate an argument at any hangar flying session. Recall that 14 CFR §91.179 defines altitude requirements for the direction of flight in uncontrolled airspace and VFR on-top operations. It doesn’t require “east odd” and “west even” for controlled airspace, although this practice is typical. In the western portions of the country, the MEAs are quite high and it’s often difficult for normally aspirated singles to reach higher than the MEA, especially in the summer. I often file for—and receive—the MEA, regardless of the direction of flight.

Routing

Flying aircraft with the equipment code ROMEO or GOLF indicates Performance Based Nav (PBN) or GPS aboard. Controllers tend to use that capability at every opportunity. I am often “cleared direct” to intersections and airports that would have required doglegs to the navaids themselves. Short-cutting an airway may require a higher off-route altitude, but requesting VFR-on-top can be the secret to this scenario.

Requesting direct routing is not a prerogative that belongs only to PBN or GPS systems. You can request direct based on radar coverage. I had filed to Bakersfield, California, from Livermore one stormy morning as the first leg of a “let’s see how bad it really is” flight. I wanted to press on to Prescott, Arizona, but ice and severe turbulence had been forecast over the Sierras.

As I reached the decision point it was obvious that, based on pilot reports and our current conditions, I could continue. I called Los Angeles Center and advised them that I would like to amend the flight plan to continue to Prescott. As I prepared to read-off the Victor airways and VORs that would be needed, the controller said, “I can give you direct HECTOR at this time. Would you like a vector?” Not only did a vector to HECTOR cut off two VORs and a big chunk of time, it also moved me through the restricted airspace over Edwards Air Force Base.

The most trying aspect of accepting vectors is that not everybody you get handed-off to knows what’s going on. On occasions, I’ve been given a vector by one controller and then handed off to another, who doesn’t know that I’m IFR traffic, and I get “what is your request” response. Sometimes when transiting approach control facilities, they try to get me to land at their airport. It can be an uncomfortable feeling to realize that this controller doesn’t know who you are and what you’re doing. When you are handed off while on a vector, advise the new controller that you are “IFR on a vector of 090, en route to Podunk.”

Negotiating a “direct” clearance can save time during the approach phase. Often, the published approach shows feeder routes to an IAF. It may be advantageous to request direct to that IAF from your en route position rather than flying to the navaid and then via the feeder route to the IAF. The key here is to tune and identify the navaid/intersection/waypoint you want to use. Then advise ATC that you are receiving that navaid and would like to go direct.

Approaches

During our IFR training we’re exposed to the terms Contact Approach and Visual Approach. But we have few practical examples of how these two procedures can realistically be used. We often get cleared for a visual approach when the conditions are good VFR, so we have seen that side of the coin. But many pilots don’t really know what can be done with each and under what conditions.

I was involved in a situation going into Dayton a few years back while being vectored for the ILS when I descended below the cloud layer and spotted the airport off to my left. I kept waiting for the controller to issue me a visual approach, so I could save some time. Only after I had been turned onto the localizer did it dawn on me that the controller was not aware that I had made visual contact with the airport and if I had advised him of this he might have approved a visual approach.

There are different criteria for the issuance of a visual approach depending on the ATC facilities. In general, you cannot expect the controller to issue a visual approach if the reported ceiling is less than 500 feet above the minimum vectoring altitude (MVA). In a radar environment the lowest minimums under which the visual approach could be approved would be a 1,500-foot ceiling and three miles visibility; Because the MVA varies with the terrain and radar coverage, some airports have considerably higher minimums for visual approaches. It is a good idea to know the MVA for the airports you frequent as they are not the same as the MSA (minimum safe altitudes) shown on the approach charts.

On one occasion I was on frequency with an IFR aircraft making an approach to a towered airport. The pilot was “cleared for the approach.” While en route to the IAF he suddenly popped out of the clouds and caught sight of a portion of the airport. He immediately requested a visual, but because the Class D airspace was reporting 800 and five it was technically not VFR, thus requiring an instrument approach procedure. Had the pilot requested a “contact approach” it might have been approved.

Closing Thoughts

Negotiating is a more difficult proposition when there is heavy communications flow. Controllers often have well-defined plans for their targets and might not be interested in your creative genius unless it is apparent that they can benefit from your suggestion. With few exceptions, negotiation must be made with the facility that can grant the request. Sometimes when a request can’t be approved they will provide a reason, at other times they use that ubiquitous word “unable.” But it never hurts to ask and those on frequency might learn a bit more.


Ted Spitzmiller is the Editor of IFR Refresher and recently released his new book The History of Human Space Flight.


This article originally appeared in the March 2018 issue of IFR Refresher magazine.

For more great content like this, subscribe to IFR Refresher!

 

NTSB Cites Corrosion In FedEx Accident
 
Kate O'Connor
 
 

A landing gear collapse that caused a FedEx cargo jet to skid off the runway and subsequently catch fire in 2016 was caused by corrosion that led to fatigue cracking, the NTSB said in a report released on Thursday. The accident occurred shortly after the MD-10-10F touched down at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport (FLL) on Oct. 28, 2016.

According to the report (PDF), NTSB investigators found that the failure of the left main landing gear was the result of an undetected metal fatigue crack within the gear. The NTSB also found that the aircraft was nearly a year overdue for an overhaul on its main landing gear. The report states that the oversight was a contributing factor in the accident since the crack in the gear likely would have been found during the overhaul.

After the gear collapsed, the aircraft veered off to the left side of the runway and came to a stop. A fire started, fed by a broken fuel supply tube, and the left main fuel tank exploded. The two flight crewmembers—who were the only people onboard—were able to evacuate with only minor injuries sustained. The aircraft was “damaged beyond economical repair.”

Cessna T206H HD Stationair Demo
 
Larry Anglisano
 
 

Cessna's load-hauling 206-series Stationair has always been a working pilot's airplane. With an increase in useful load, Garmin's G1000 NXi integrated avionics, leather seating and a cowling design that helps manage engine heat, the 2018 T206H HD is the flagship product in Textron Aviation's single-engine Cessna piston lineup.

Colorado Now Has A Spaceport
 
Mary Grady
 
 

The FAA has designated Front Range Airport in Colorado as a spaceport, local authorities announced this week. The general aviation airport, located just outside Denver, is now the 11th spaceport in the U.S. and the first in Colorado. “Leaders across our state made the case that Colorado—with its robust aerospace and tech industries, strategic location and highly skilled workforce—was uniquely positioned for a spaceport," said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. "We welcome today’s news and know that Spaceport Colorado will play a key role in the future of commercial space transportation around the country.” The spaceport’s license does not allow for vertical takeoffs. Rocket-powered aircraft can take off from the runways.

Local officials are looking for partners in the aerospace industry who will develop the site, now known as the Colorado Air and Space Port. The site comprises 3,200 acres and abuts another 7,000 acres of privately owned industrial property. “When combined with other developments planned for the area, this part of Adams County is poised to become a major international commercial hub,” said Adams County manager Raymond Gonzales. Other U.S. spaceports are located in California, Florida and Texas, which have two each; and Alaska, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Virginia, which each have one.

Picture of the Week, August 23, 2018
 
 
Flying my Rans S-12S Light Sport on final for 26L Brown Field Municipal Airport (KSDM). Taken with a GoPro mounted under tail and set to take a photo every 2 minutes. Photo by Peter Sigrist.

See all submissions

Brainteasers Quiz #246: Let There Be No Confusion
 

Before beginning a flight, FAR 91.103 says that a pilot must become familiar with all available information concerning that flight, plus anticipate the weird unavailables that could pop up, making it possible to ace this quiz.

Click here to take the quiz.

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General Aviation Accident Bulletin
 
 

AVweb’s General Aviation Accident Bulletin is taken from the pages of our sister publication, Aviation Safety magazine, and is published twice a month. All the reports listed here are preliminary and include only initial factual findings about crashes. You can learn more about the final probable cause in the NTSB’s website at www.ntsb.gov. Final reports appear about a year after the accident, although some take longer. Find out more about Aviation Safety at www.aviationsafetymagazine.com.


May 8, 2018, Valparaiso, Ind.

Piper PA-34-200 Seneca I

The airplane collided with terrain following a go-around at about 1315 Central time. The flight instructor was seriously injured, and the pilot receiving instruction had minor injuries. The airplane was substantially damaged. Visual conditions prevailed.

According to information provided by the flight school, the instructional flight was practicing approaches. The second approach was a simulated engine-out approach to a planned go-around. During the go-around, the airplane’s speed dropped below the single-engine minimum controlled airspeed as the pilot advanced the throttle of the operating engine to full power. He lost control of the airplane, and the airplane descended and collided with terrain.

May 10, 2018, Julian, Calif.

Beechcraft Model 76 Duchess

At about 2031 Pacific time, the airplane collided with mountainous terrain while maneuvering. The flight instructor, pilot receiving instruction and student pilot-rated passenger were fatally injured. The airplane was destroyed by a post-impact fire. Visual conditions prevailed.

Preliminary FAA radar data show the airplane’s altitude ranging between 6,600 feet MSL and 5,600 feet. Groundspeeds from 50 knots to 133 knots were recorded. The last radar return was recorded at 2031, with the airplane at an altitude of 5,700 feet MSL and a groundspeed of 67 knots. The accident site was located less than one mile southeast of the Julian VOR in mountainous terrain near the bottom of a draw at an elevation of about 4,200 feet. All structural components were located at the accident site.

May 11, 2018, Lone Tree, Colo.

Cirrus Design SR22

The airplane impacted terrain at about 2019 Mountain time. The solo private pilot was fatally injured; the airplane was destroyed. Visual conditions prevailed.

The airplane was cleared for a left downwind departure from Runway 35R and to remain west of the final approach path for the runway due to inbound traffic. Radar data showed the airplane initially was west of the runway at 6,900 feet MSL. The airplane then flew through the center line. The controller asked the pilot his intentions; the pilot requested to return to the airport. Radar data then showed the airplane westbound, back toward the runway, at 7,500 feet. Radar contact and voice communications were subsequently lost. The airplane impacted an open field 2.5 miles south and west of the approach end of Runway 35R. Weather at 1953, from the departure airport’s automated facility located at 5,885 feet MSL, included wind from 350 degrees at 14 knots with gusts to 21 knots, visibility of seven miles and a broken ceiling at 1,500 feet AGL. An airplane flying the ILS approach to Runway 35R reported breaking out of the clouds at 6,800 feet MSL.

May 12, 2018, Whittier, Alaska

Piper PA-28-180 Cherokee 180

At about 0940 Alaska time, the airplane impacted remote, snow-covered, mountainous terrain and was substantially damaged. The solo student pilot sustained fatal injuries. Visual conditions existed at the departure airport.

Images from the FAA aviation weather cameras along the airplane’s route depicted low cloud ceilings with obscured mountain tops in the area near the accident site. An ELT signal was received about 0940. A U.S. Coast Guard MH-60T helicopter located the 2000-foot-elevation accident site at about 2100 and determined the pilot was fatally injured. The airplane was equipped with a 406 MHz ELT registered to a foreign government entity and placarded with a country code for Ireland.

May 12, 2018, Jacksonville, Ala.

Beechcraft Model 35-A33 Debonair

The airplane collided with trees during an engine-out forced landing at about 2005 Central time. The airplane was destroyed; the airline transport pilot was seriously injured and the passenger was fatally injured. Night visual conditions prevailed.

While in cruise flight, the pilot smelled smoke and was troubleshooting when the engine sputtered and quit. He turned on the fuel boost pump on and established the airplane’s best glide airspeed, then maneuvered toward a pasture. During the glide, flames entered the cabin through the firewall. The passenger climbed into the rear seats while the pilot discharged an extinguisher but the fire persisted. The pilot had to open a window to clear smoke from the cabin. The airplane collided with a hill in a forested area on a westerly heading. A majority of the main wreckage was consumed in a post-crash fire.


This article originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of Aviation Safety magazine.

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