Top Letters And Comments, December 7, 2018


Southwest 737 Overruns Runway

I was once taught (by my friend who turns 50 today), don’t think ‘how could they,’ think what got them to that place. That is how accident reports make you a better pilot. The first just makes you dismiss the incident. The report places weather at 1m vis, 1300 ovc, wind 9 gusting 13. Oh, and at an airport SWA previously overran so you can image its part of indoc/local training to discuss the overrun.

Unlike airports you’re thinking of, BUR’s minimum visibility is 1 mile… on the ILS, RNAV-Y. Its higher for other approaches (RNAV-Z = 1.5). So visibility is at minimums for this airport. Circling requires 1500 or 1600 ft ceilings – so circling’s not available. Assume OpSpec limits to 10mph tailwind… wind check – 9. OK, we’re good, let’s get on our game… Except you missed, came in 5 kts over minimum and floated…. into the EMAS. In fact, they may have landed exactly where they land every time and at the speed they land every time… except the runway was wet… Other options? Divert – a possibility, but weather officially within minimums… Chief Pilot’s not going to be happy about that… Go around? You realized too late you were too late. [For those learning from this experience, think about going around when you cross the numbers 5 kts too high…]

So, think about the pilots and how you could be in that situation. It’s within OpSpecs at an airport you land at consistently (Likely given the # of pilots I flew from OAK to BUR at the end of their runs). Seems like a busy day, but not a crisis. It can change in an instance. It doesn’t look like they went far once they hit the EMAS. My guess, they almost made it. ‘What now’ is a different question.

Karl S.

Implement a “NO TAILWIND” policy at KBUR. If not, then just except the occasional/reoccurring overrun and pray nobody gets hurt.

Tom O’Toole

Sumping Fuel Tanks

I’ve had water show up in the fuel samples several times; purging it can be problematic because you don’t ever really know if you got it all out. Leaky vented caps in rain/storms and overnight condensation from aircraft parked outside with near-empty tanks is usually the culprit. I check it every single time unless it’s a hot turn-around. But 150 gals in the underground tank is ridiculous.

A. Richie

I only sump the tanks every couple of months and at condition inspection. I have been buying gas at the same place for 20 years and have never had a problem with it or heard of anyone having a problem. The plane is kept indoors and I have never found an anomaly.


Several years ago, I flew my son to a paradrop area in our 1974 C172. It was located on a grass strip and the taxiway where I parked was on a slight incline, so I turned the fuel lever to off to prevent any cross feeding. On departure, we were in a bit of a hurry (ain’t it always the case), so I skipped the pre-flight, fired up, taxied to the runway and took off. Halfway down the runway and at an altitude of around 50 feet, the engine died. Thankfully, this was in my pre Alzheimer days and I, without thinking, quickly reached down and turned the selector to BOTH. The engine surged back to full power and we continued our climb. I don’t think we lost any altitude. I instinctively lowered the nose and we stayed pretty much level with the tree tops. I don’t think I was even breathing hard. But I sure was on the flight home when I thought about how close we had come to ending up in the trees. Time from engine start including a 30 sec taxi and maybe 15-20 sec at full power–maybe a minute. That’s with a 150 HP C172

Peter Millard

I sump all tanks before the 1st flight and after any re-fueling, but not on subsequent flights the same day when there has been no change in the fuel status.

Stephen C. Field

I never skip the sumping, maybe because I have found water in my fuel tanks. After refueling my 210 at a decent-sized airport in Illinois I drained three full testers of water. Something about the appearance of that first tube made me suspicious. If you’re in a hurry it wouldn’t be too hard to mistake 100% water for 100% fuel. Beyond just the color, which isn’t that obvious in a small fuel tester, the surface tension is different, and contaminants act differently. Tiny bubbles of water in fuel fall to the bottom, but tiny bubbles of fuel float up in water.

David Finamore

Years ago my company was assessing different aircraft to fulfill a feeder freight role. One aircraft considered was the Cessna 402, so the company entered into a lease agreement to evaluate a 402 in daily operations. The aircraft was delivered and the next day it was my job to go fly the plane, check out what we have to work with. Preflight didn’t go well. The first fuel sample from the left sump filled my fuel tester with…mud. The second and third samples were mud also. The fourth sample was not mud and I thought, “Finally, fuel.” Nope. Water. Got to fuel after 2 more samples of water. The right sump was the same story. End of preflight, the airplane was turned over to maintenance to have the tanks and fuel system drained and flushed. Obviously the sumps hadn’t been checked in some time, and the scary part was that the airplane had been in scheduled part 135 passenger ops right up to the day before it was delivered to my company.

Bob Bostick

Volvo: Self-driving Cars Will Compete With Air Travel

Riding in a train, bus, or shuttle along with the great, unwashed masses, in non-ergonomic seats, dragging bags into overheads or stuffed under the seat, doesn’t come close to riding in your own car, with your own A/C controls, your own snacks, and your own music. Personally, I think autonomous cars are farther away than most people realize. As one Toyota engineer put it, “the more we work on self-driving cars, the more impressed we are with how well people drive.” But, once they ‘solve’ the problem, even if it’s only for limited-access highways and major cities, then short-haul airline flights are in serious jeopardy.

Kirk Wennerstrom

Airline companies need to think of themselves as transportation companies, and extend themselves into rail, bus, and auto. Intra-urban trains are much more convenient and efficient than schlepping to some airport an hour or more away from a city center, the same could be said for intra-urban busses if the highways weren’t so inadequate. The real problem is too many people occupying too little space. Human population is exceeding it’s natural limits. And in the process, consuming and destroying the very planet on which it depends. Yeah, I know off topic, but heck, this is an issue which underlies many of the problems society faces, and which sits like the elephant in the room that no one talks about.

Richard Katz

Unless there is some big breakthrough in the next couple years, self-driving cars are not likely by 2021. Just too many variables. Designing a car to self-guide down a freeway is one thing, but dealing with all the idiots on the road and the unexpected things that pop up is another matter. Also, I’m not sure how large their design must be if it could be used as a “living room”. Sounds larger than a Lincoln Navigator is today. Not exactly fuel efficient.

John McNamee

“The car will come in several versions–a sleeping pod, mobile office, living room and entertainment space–enabling travelers to spend their time en route as they wish.” Can you imagine the condition of the sleeping pod, mobile office, living-room and entertainment space after John Q Public has inhabited them for a few hours? Each pod will become a science project. I can’t hardly wait to climb into the sack of a sleeping pod depending upon some sort of attendant to clean everything prior to me. Oh, I forgot…their will be autonomous cleaning to take care of autonomous driving pod, over-seen by an autonomous dispatcher, after taking one’s money autonomously via credit card I wonder if we can autonomously work? Then we don’t have to do anything thereby not have any need for travel…problem solved…No one does anything…life will be autonomous!

Jim Holdeman

Instructor Gets A YouTube Code Red

Before making the switch to flying GA, I flew and instructed in hang gliders for 30+ years and 2,000 hours. Tandem flights were a regular occurrence for either advanced instruction or to help demonstrate maneuvers.

Rule number one was ALWAYS HOOK YOUR PASSENGER IN FIRST! This basic failure should indeed warrant a Code Red for that instructor, IMNSHO.

Ric Lee

I can only hope that the Swiss officials who oversee hang gliding throw the book at the pilot that failed to make sure his passenger was clipped in before taking off. The pilot has proved himself unfit to either teach or carry passengers and should be banned for a very, very long time if not for life.

I started flying hang gliders in 1974 first in Kansas (yes, in the state statistically proved to be flatter than a pancake) and then later in Washington and all over the Pacific Northwest. Even in the PNW I often flew alone using a small motorcycle stashed safely where I intended to land to retrieve my vehicle after landing.

I very well remember the Saturday morning in the spring of 1978 when I walked my glider up to launch at Dog Mtn. and asked the Observer who had signed off my Hang IV rating to give me a hang check. As Chuck grabbed the nose wires of the glider I went down on my knees and promptly lay down in the dirt. I wasn’t clipped in! My fellow pilots who saw the incident ridiculed me no end and I was suitably chastised and embarrassed.

It did get me thinking about what would have happened had I been at some cliff launch site by myself and I determined that I would never commit this sin against gravity again. I came up with the following rules for myself.

1: Never take the glider off the racks if I didn’t intend to set up immediately.

2: Never set up if I didn’t intend to fly immediately.

3: Never don my harness unless I intended to take off immediately

4: Always do a walk-through hang check immediately after clipping in. Never rely on another person for a hang check.

5. If, for any reason I needed to un-clip (forgetting to attach my instrument pack, not having my post flight materials, or just to wait for better conditions), take my harness off and restart the process at step number three.

6. After a walk-through hang check, pick up my glider, check to see that the wings path for the take-off run was unimpeded, yell “Clear” as loud as I could even if alone, and take off.

In all the years since that Saturday morning in 1978 I never violated these rules and never again had the rude surprise of readying for take-off without being properly attached to the wing.

In the intervening years, two of my friends ran off a cliff without being clipped in. Both lived, one with an ankle injury that left him with a lifelong limp, and the other fell 75 feet into a tree and escaped with only scratches and scrapes. Both had ridiculed me at least once for taking off my harness while being number one in line for take-off.

Rick Girard

My just before takeoff unpublished ritual in the Mach 2 F-105 Thunderchief (aka The Thud): “Throttle, Bottle, Visor, Blow, and Go”. i.e. useful things to remember to do INSTANTLY before punching out. While refueling at 14,000 ft. on a KC-135 tanker, unbeknownst to me, my Thud was on fire. Wingman firmly commanded; “You are on FIRE, EJECT, EJECT, EJECT.” Throttle (off), Bottle (intentionally skipped), Visor (down), Blow (the canopy), Go (squeeze ejection handle). A memorable experience being shot out of a cannon plus decelerating instantly from 425 mph to zero. But back to the plot. Total time from wingman noticing fire resulting in a 20,000 lb. JP4 FIREBALL was a scant six seconds. Wingman says I beat the explosion by one second. Analysis; Cost vs Benefit. The ritual cost nothing but 3.5 seconds of mental discipline. The benefit; age 83 and going strong.

Gary Barnhill

Since the hang point is a single point of failure, and there have been quite a few deaths over the years, most hang glider pilots are paranoid about checking they are hooked in. You’ll see pilots check their hang connection three, four, five times before launching – as Paul says he does with other items. It becomes a before-takeoff nervous tic – “wind is cross from the left, I’ll wait… – yes, I’m hooked in – Lull now, be ready for the gust behind it… nothing yet… – yes, I’m hooked in – leaves rustling, here it comes, whoa too much, nose down and wait, it’s crossing from the right, slowing now – yes, I’m hooked in – there’s the lull, wait for it – yes, I’m hooked in – here it comes… straight in and steady… clear! launching!” People have invented various hook-in alerts, from dangling flags (like “remove before flight”) to electronic alarms, but most pilots rely on old-fashioned paranoia and fear. It’s entirely likely the instructor in the video has himself reminded students, over and over, to check their connection. Two observations, then: – Sooner or later you will forget to check any given item. You just will. You already have – but you got away with it. I don’t have a fix for this. – There is simply no excuse for launching without having hooked in the passenger.

Thomas Boyle

County Vote Forecasts Airport Closure

There were two supervisors who utilized common sense in the meeting. One of which is whose district they want to move operations to (San Martin). He said, if lead is an issue, why are you moving it elsewhere… One of the supervisors in an interview said the site is a “Gold Mine” and it would essentially be foolish to not mine there. As we all know, it’s about $$$. I think it’s foolish to remove a community asset like this. SJC won’t take the aircraft, other airports are full, and San Martin is in no way a realistic location for those of us in the bay area. Watching the deliberations on the live stream were quite interesting.

Michael Luvara

RHV is an extremely active GA airport. That is why the measured lead levels are high. It’s busy because the only alternative in the “South Bay” is San Jose International. San Martin is much smaller and quite far away and is really not an alternative. For many years the “lead” issue at RHV was pushed by a single individual. Most took him for a crank! But he persisted and eventually gained a following, then a sympathetic administrator at the county, then real estate developer money…. Now that the tactic has proven itself, we can expect to see it used at other localities whose runways will be bulldozed just as leaded avgas disappears.

Kim Hunter

No doubt closing a multi-million dollar airport facility, doing extensive demolition, and then erecting ‘affordable housing’ makes perfect economic sense….only if you are taking advantage of the legalized marijuana available. This ranks right up there with ‘I’ll sell you the Brooklyn Bridge’. It’s difficult to argue against ideas that are this ridiculous because the other side of the table isn’t thinking in a rational way.

Steven Morton