AVmail: July 28, 2003

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Reader mail this week about flash bulbs in the emergency kit, more about Meigs, and more.

On The Fly -- Flash Bulb Saves Men

That flashbulb (or was it a strobe flash?) could have easily caused a fire under the conditions described in the article. Warnings against cell-phone use in auto filling stations don't hold a candle (so-to-speak) compared to the danger involved in flash photography while the photographer is soaked in avgas. Both strobes and flashbulbs create a lot of heat, while the possibility of an arcing electrical contact are very high.

Mac Hayes

More About Meigs

I think it's about time that we showed Chicago what they really got. Let's let the EPA do a site survey to determine the cleanliness of the soil. They'll probably have to dig below lake level to find EPA-approved "clean" dirt. They shouldn't be given any more slack than the former owner of a now-defunct corner gas station, who has to find "clean" dirt before re-development.

Michael K. Vance

So now that Meigs field's fate has been decided, and it has been seen that a crafty politician can get away with closing the airport in the dark of night, what is to keep every other community fighting against an airport from doing the same? It's clear there is no penalty, and the FAA rules have no teeth.

It doesn't look good for the future of small airports under the scrutiny of the "anti-airport" folks.

Rodger Meads

ADIZ Flight Plan

The other day i was filing a VFR transition flight plan to exit the ADIZ in the Washington TRI-area class B and noticed the flight service briefer filed the plan as IFR. Interesting, I thought. I asked the briefer why he filled it out this way, and his answer got me thinking. For the system to generate a transponder code -- which is required by the NOTAM < ("the pilot operating in the ADIZ must be squaking this code and be in contact with ATC the entire time unless you're flying only in the pattern") -- the flight plan has to be IFR.

Now my huge question: How can a VFR pilot activate an IFR flight plan? I thought a person activating an IFR flight plan had to be "appropriately rated?" Is the flight plan activated when receiving the code from ATC and -- if so -- wouldn't this be contradictory to the FARs?

Here is FAR 61.3e:

(e) Instrument rating. No person may act as pilot in command of a civil aircraft under IFR or in weather conditions less than the minimums prescribed for VFR flight unless that person holds:

(1) The appropriate aircraft category, class, type (if required), and instrument rating on that person's pilot certificate for any airplane, helicopter, or powered-lift being flown ...

Kyle Riddle

In-Flight Jet Engine Breakup

Several years ago while on active duty with the Greenville County, S.C., Sheriff's Office, I overheard dispatch directing a unit to a local trailer park to investigate an airplane part that had come to rest on the property. No injuries reported.

The initial description was "a cone-shaped object." I immmediatly thought "prop spinner," and continued to monitor subsequent radio traffic. As a private pilot, my interest in the subject grew as I listened to the point where I made a couple phone calls to get more details and to see if the FAA and/or NTSB had been notified (they had not).

I learned that the part was cone shaped, about 18" diameter base, hot to the touch, and heavy enough to penetrate several inches into the blacktop driveway that runs through the park. Now that didn't sound like a prop spinner to me -- that sucker came from a jet engine!

I learned from an investigating officer that one of the trailer park residents was now using the cone as a doorstop. I wasn't able to visit the scene to secure the part, so I called a local FAA official and told him what had transpired so far. No, he hadn't heard about it. His tower people hadn't heard any emergency traffic regarding an engine incident. He left his office in one grand hurry and had that cone in his grubby little hands within an hour.

We learned later that several more parts had fallen to the ground near the trailer park.

One of our local A&Ps listened to my second-hand description of the piece, and said it was probably a concentrator cone from a jet engine. The loss of that part should have caused enough damage to shut down the engine, and be considered a reportable incident.

I made follow-up calls to the FAA guy, and even several months later he didn't know any more than he did the day I called him. I'm sure the investigation was turned over to a higher authority, but from what I recall, our local FAA guy hadn't even been contacted again by any government investigator (they may have -- I just don't recall him saying they did).

Does anyone know of a way to determine the final outcome of an incident such as this? Would the government tell just anyone the results of an investigation? If it was a military jet, would they have been required to report it to anyone other than their own maintenance people?

At this point it is only a matter of curiosity on my part, and I thought your readers might find the story interesting. If there are any investigative reporters out there who might want to follow up this incident, I might be able to dig up dates and times and maybe determine which federal airway the aircraft was most likely on when the incident occurred.

Skip Hughes

[Editor's note - to send a message to Skip, click here.]