Top Letters And Comments, April 16, 2021


Reminder: PIC Authority Is Absolute

Years ago, I recall on my second student cross country into a controlled airport with parallel runways. I was on final in a Cherokee about a mile from touchdown. Suddenly the controller instructed me to do a left dog leg to land on #L runway. I was extremely uncomfortable doing so and refused. I was not certain about a dog leg at that stage of my flying experience. Also, I was nearing touchdown. He was agitated. After I had my logbook signed and requested clearance to taxi etc. I took off. As I did the controller told me to get out of his airspace, not in a friendly manner. When I returned home airport, I had a briefing with my instructor. I thought I would be in trouble. My instructor agreed with my actions. I learned three things: know your limits and do not exceed them, as PIC I am in charge with best knowledge of plane/my limits, and controllers can be cranky given their job pressures.

Dennis Noah

A very good point, Paul. It is always nice to do as controllers may ask (emphasis on ask), but if things go south and metal gets bent, we are the ones that will face the proverbial music. Unfortunately, the FAA would surely remind us that, as 91.3 says, we are ultimately responsible for conducting a safe flight to its conclusion. ATC is not responsible even if they make life difficult for the pilot. Speaking as one who will definitely need some refresher time with an instructor, it is good to be reminded of our responsibility to be the one in charge.

John Mc.

As a controller for many years, I heard and saw some crazy stuff. One comes to mind about PIC. At ORD one day, controller sitting next to me said, “American 283, decent to three, slow to 170 and do it now, use your speed brakes if you got ’em.” (Actually, the controller was just being his zany self saying that). The Captain came back and said, “Son, the speed brakes are for our mistakes, not yours!” I liked that.

Roger Anderson

Survey Looks At Pilot Medical Attitudes

I have had many patients, in my private practice and my aeromedical practice who have compromised their health care due to fear of FAA repercussions. In one case, a friend of mine that I cared about very much, an IA with CFI experience from Luscombes to DC-3s, who died rather than work up his chest pain.

Thank God my health remains excellent, and I ride a bicycle 150+ miles a week, all year long, and I’m vegetarian, but someday my health will give out also. As long as I’m safe to fly, I will transition to Basic Med.

William Kalichman

I visit my family doctor four times a year for “wellness checks”. I make sure that one of those visits (the one just prior to my biennial visit with my AME) includes a full physical workup with EKGs and bloodwork. I am not a commercial pilot, but he’s quite aware of my desire to maintain my medical, and I want to know about anything before my AME does.

About two years ago, an unusual combination of external stressors so affected my sleep that I mentioned it to him and he prescribed a medication I had never heard of. His description was basically that it would let me get better and longer sleep at night (and make me less grumpy). I specifically asked him if it would have any effect on my medical when I reported it on my next AME visit. His response was, “I don’t see how. More likely they’ll take that as being pro-active when dealing with a temporary problem.”

I filled the Rx and went home to do a little online research on the FAA Aeromedical site. This was a complete waste of the entire afternoon. Finally, I dropped a note to the AOPA to ask them what they thought. A very helpful response arrived the next morning, consisting of (slightly paraphrased) “Hell, yeah. They’re gonna revoke it immediately and you’ll have to prove that you haven’t taken it for a year before you can reapply, submit all sorts of lab results to Oke City, then sacrifice a black chicken under a full moon and use its blood to sign the forms.”

I took the full bottle back to my doctor, told him to note on my medical record that I had done so, and let him know of my dissatisfaction with his prescription. He was dutifully chastened and we both learned something.


Poll: Have You Had an Engine Failure?

  • Nine in 59 years and 30,000 hours. Four of them were IO-470s (including one on a Cessna 210–and the VERY NEXT FLIGHT in a Baron to pick up the prop for flushing–back-to-back!) All of the 470s were after cylinder work–for 3 to 100 hours later. One was on a Franklin-powered Bellanca–broken crankshaft. One was on my Cessna 120–broken throttle cable–got only 1600 rpm. If you think that turbines never quit, I had a 731 on a Falcon jet throw a fan blade–25 hours after a factory overhaul. I had a FACTORY LOANER on a Citation–it quit on the climb at 15,000–started a return to the airport, it relit–climbed again–every time we passed 15,000, it quit. We got a different engine. Third one–PT-6 on a Caravan on amphibs–coming back to South America (El Calafate) from Antarctica–engine suddenly over-torqued–fuel topping governor shut it down–secondary throttle didn’t work–established a glide–engine started coming back to life–over-torqued–and shut down. Went through 5 of those before I was within range of the airport–shut it down, and dead-sticked. Fuel pump had disintegrated, affecting the fuel controller. The GOOD NEWS–every one ended up on an airport! – Jim Hanson
  • (Single engine jet aircraft) Engine went on strike at 200 feet AGL; aircraft and I parted company shortly after, each of us returning to earth separated in time and distance… – John Swallow
  • This survey, technically speaking, is anecdotal, not exactly statistical. I’ve just started reading “Mike Busch on Engines”. Based on what I’ve read so far, 10 out of 49 chapters, it appears that most engine failures are due to poor operating procedures, often unintentional, and/or due to less than diligent application of known good practice. Nonetheless, this survey is, to say the least, eye opening, especially for someone considering the purchase of used aircraft. – Rich K.
  • First failure due to bent exhaust valve pushrod/valve. Shut down the engine due to vibration. The second failure due to a broken over-torqued through-bolt; shut down the engine due to vibration. Third, a partial failure due to suspected fuel manifold fault. The partial failure was (loss of 50% power – fluctuating fuel) in some ways the most difficult to deal with as it was on take-off and the engine continued to give some power. I did not shut down the engine as no vibration or temp/oil pressure problems. Very difficult to troubleshoot even with a digital engine monitor as it did not happen on the ground! – John S.
  • Yes, in a T-210 that was destroyed in the resulting off-airport landing.
  • Not yet.
  • In the late 70s, I flew for a supplemental air carrier out of San Juan, PR and over a period of 3 years lost 7 engines flying our fleet of 5 DC-3s.
  • 13 total.
  • Precautionary shutdown in a twin due to engine smoke.
  • Two at the same time, ice ingestion.
  • Engine stop due to fuel mismanagement, restarted okay.
  • Never a failure but inflight shutdowns for reasons that would have led to engine failures.
  • 2…both in twins.
  • Inadvertently selected a position between detents on a PA-28 while switching tanks, leading to a momentary interruption of power.
  • Several, but spread over 32,000 hours in a wide variety of aircraft.
  • Magneto failure.
  • 15
  • In a simulator, probably a hundred.
  • Precautionary shutdown after ingesting a seagull.
  • Quit on rollout.
  • Engine driven fuel pump failed. Had to switch on backup electric pump. Not a problem.
  • 2 partial failures.
  • Not even the towplane.
  • Rough operation at cruise power, smooth at 60% power.
  • I had one in an ultralight.
  • On the ground.
  • In a pure glider, an “engine failure” would be the spontaneous appearance of an engine. Never happened yet.
  • Many simulated by the CFI.
  • Second engine failed to restart as a result of shock cooling even after advising the instructor to close the CFs immediately post shutdown
  • 3
  • Glider only, no surprises.

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