GAARMS Report: September 2018  

fred-gibbsFred Gibbs 

(Your guy in Flagstaff) 


We are now 8 months into 2018, and that 8th month was not a good month.  We had two fatal accidents, both experimental category aircraft, with 4 fatalities.  Thus, as of August 31, the count stands at 4 fatal accidents with a total of 11 fatalities for the year. 

gaarms 2018 september acroduster deer valley aircamper camp verde

Unfortunately, as of the day I wrote this, there were no NTSB preliminary reports available.

Fred’s  Perspective…

True  confessions; The  great potato chip affair…                                 

gaarms 2018 september potato chips

On one of my many trips over the years to Oshkosh, long before ever moving out here to Arizona, there I was, right seat in my friends’ Mooney, cruising along at 12,500 feet in beautiful clear skies, on a direct line from south Jersey to Oshkosh.  It was me, my friend, who I’ll call JP (who I promised to never reveal his true identity to avoid the embarrassment!!), and his son in the back seat.  Like most of my long cross country flights, it was a smooth, almost boring flight. There was no autopilot, but the wing leveler was working great, altitude was easy to hold, not a lot of chatter on the frequency although we were getting flight following.  Both of us were ATC’s at the time, and we, and our airplanes (by N number), were fairly well known at the time by a lot of the controllers we worked with or actually hired during the controller strike, and it gave us the opportunity to actually evaluate the system from the pilot perspective. (We were working like dogs back then!) Anyway, it was all quiet in the cockpit as we cruised along, just enjoying the view over western Pennsylvania.  Our route of flight took us right across Lake Erie, the long way on an east-west line, heading for Lake Huron and into Michigan for our planned fuel stop. Both JP and I were enjoying the fabulous scenery, but being creatures of habit, we were paying very close attention to all the gauges, especially the engine gauges, because we all know engines go into automatic rough and develop strange, mysterious sounds any time you go over open water!  JP’s son, a young teenager at the time, was restlessly - and uncomfortably - dozing off in the back seat. FYI, back seats in a Mooney are not the same plush seats you get in a Cadillac!! On top of that, he had to share (or was stuffed into) the back seat with all of our gear and baggage we were hauling to sustain us for a week at Oshkosh!! Actually, it was almost stacked to the roof in the other seat and the baggage compartment. It was, by design, all carefully loaded; all the snacks and the cooler, full of ice for the water, and of course, my diet Pepsi, all had to be reachable by all.  The planned fuel stop in Michigan was driven by the weight and balance calculation for the 3 of us and all of our stuff.  

Now, JP and I had been friends for several years by now.  We met in 1981 during the air traffic controller strike when we ended up working in the Air Traffic Operations Branch for the Eastern region.  We were operations specialists responsible for the oversight of the ATC facilities spread across the Eastern region and the re-building of the ATC workforce in those facilities.  Those were exciting days, and friendships made during that period of our ATC careers remain steadfast to this day.

Anyway, there we were, in our element, cruising along up where the eagles soar, right over the middle of Lake Erie (of course), when suddenly, there was this very loud 

KA -whump!  



gaarms 2018 september plane interior

It sounded like someone had just popped a gigantic blown-up paper bag right there in the cockpit. It was startling, really weird and surreal! It was snowing potato chip pieces throughout the cabin; it was everywhere. The cockpit – the inside of the airplane – suddenly became IMC due to restricted visibility as a result of floating potato chip dust! And, in an instant, it had everyone’s attention.  Were we all going to die due to potato chips????  

Well, needless to say, we did not die, although we could have died from the subsequent laughter!  Lesson Learned: Taking a sealed giant-size bag of potato chips from sea level to 12,500 feet in an unpressurized airplane is not a good idea!  That bag expanded like a giant balloon right up to when the seal finally gave out, and, well, it snowed potato chips. However, I can honestly say that potato chips have no effect on the flying capabilities of a Mooney. Oh yeah, it did wake up JP’s son in the back seat.  Being seated right next to the offending bag, he was coated in “Tater chip dust” like nobody’s business. It certainly was an auspicious start to our week in Oshkosh, and a memory we still laugh about to this day.

PS – it took months to get all of the potato chip pieces out of the airplane…


There are a lot of FAASTeam safety programs on the schedule over the next couple of months all around the state, so go to WWW.FAASAFETY.GOV and click on “Seminars” and check them out.  You might find one that interests you.  Should you desire a particular safety or educational program at your local airport or pilot meeting, simply contact me directly at  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or call me at 410-206-3753.  The Arizona Pilots Association provides these safety programs at no charge.  We can also help you organize a program of your choice, and we can recommend programs that your pilot community might really like. 



By Howard Deevers
Do you ever worry about getting lost while flying, either locally or on a cross country flight? Sure we do. Beginning pilots are always worried about that. I remember some of my first flights as a student, wondering where we were and how we were going to get back to the airport. Many of my new students are lost as soon as we leave the traffic pattern of the airport. That is part of learning to fly; learning how to find your way around in the sky.
On the ground, we have road maps. Aviation has Sectionals. Remember those? Of course, now we have GPS in our cell phones and can get directions to almost anywhere, and it’s the same with aviation. We have GPS in panel displays or even on iPads. Air Traffic Controllers are telling us that since GPS there are fewer lost pilots, but those that are lost are really lost.
I have always had a good sense of direction and knowing where I was. My flight instructor was fond of trying to get me lost. He would take the plane and make a series of turns, and then give the controls back to me as ask me to get him back to the airport. I did that easily. On one particular flight, going north from Pittsburgh to Erie, he asked, “Do you know where you are?” I said “Sure, we are coming up on Butler, PA.” He followed up with, “How do you know?” I pointed to a large steel plant and said, “That’s the Armco Steel Plant, just south of Butler.” He said that I knew the landmarks, but that he would get me lost later in the flight. 
We flew north toward Erie. That part of Pennsylvania is totally forested. Looking down from a few thousand feet, all you can see is a sea of green trees. He took the controls and flew the plane down low. We made a low pass to a grass airfield that if you didn’t know it was there, it would be very difficult to find. After flying a valley for a few minutes, he gave the controls back to me and said to climb up to 3500 feet. I climbed and was back looking at an ocean of green. He said, “OK, get me back to Allegheny County Airport; your sectional just blew out of the window, and your radios don’t work anymore. What are you going to do?”
At that altitude everything looked the same, but we were on a northwest heading. So, I said that we flew north to get here, so I’m going to fly south. I knew that we had done several maneuvers and course changes and were not in the same position as when arriving in the area. My instructor was sure that he had me lost. After about 15 minutes he asked, “Do you know where you are?”
I looked around and saw no towns, or roads buried in the forest, “No, not yet,” was my reply. My instructor said, “So what are you going to do?” I replied, “Well, we crossed over Interstate 80 on the way up here and that was easy to see, so I’m looking for that.” Interstate 80 crosses east and west across close to the center of Pennsylvania. 
He said, “I-80 goes east and west, what are you going to do when we get to it?” 
“When we get to I-80, I will follow it east.” 
“Why east?” 
“I-80 crosses over the Allegheny River, and when we get to the river I’ll follow it south; since it will take me to downtown Pittsburgh, I know I can find Allegheny County Airport from there.”
After that, my instructor gave up on getting me lost. Actually, I did not know exactly where I was while over the large forest of northwestern PA, but at least I had a plan for finding my way back. The Interstate highway and the river gave me all of the guidance I needed to find my way back.
I don’t try to get students lost, but I do try to teach them the things they will need to know to find their way around. One hundred years ago, pilots had to rely on ground features to find their way. Many followed the rail roads and used rivers and other features to find their path. As aviation became more popular, better navigational aids were available, but some were nothing more than a concrete pad with an arrow painted on it. As crude as they were, at least it was a beginning.
After becoming an instrument instructor, I took a student/friend on a business trip that I had headed to Buffalo, NY. It was an IFR morning, so I flew left seat on the way to Buffalo. We landed at the non towered airport south of the Buffalo Niagara International airport. After I finished with the business I had to take care of, the weather had cleared up and I suggested that he fly left seat on the way back to AGC. We took off VFR with no flight plan intending to fly direct to AGC, a heading of southwest. I was enjoying the ride and the scenery of western New York. The Piper Archer had a Loran. After about 15 minutes, I put AGC into the Loran and got the distance. After one minute, the distance was a mile further away, not closer. I realized that we were not on the course for AGC. I quickly looked at the heading indicator and compass. They didn’t agree. 
I asked Tom, “Wasn’t there a large lake (Lake Erie) on our left side when we flew up here this morning?” He said, “Yes, Lake Erie.” I replied, “Have you seen a lake since we took off?” “Nope.” What had happened was the directional gyro was not reset to the compass heading before we departed. So looking at the DG it would seem that we were heading southwest, but we were heading more southeast, and moving farther away from our intended goal. It was a nice afternoon and we had plenty of fuel, so the problem turned into a lesson: Where exactly are we? I asked Tom if he could figure out where we were. I helped him a little by getting the radials from two VOR’s and showing him how the lines crossed to show exactly where we were. It was easy to plot a course to AGC after that.
If we had been on an IFR flight, or even getting flight following from ATC, they would have quizzed us about our heading shortly after departure or even in route. It took us a few minutes longer to get back to AGC, but at least it was a nice day, and an error turned into a lesson on navigation and lost procedures.
Arizona is a great place to fly, and your ARIZONA PILOTS ASSOCIATION has a safety seminar somewhere in the State every month. Why not navigate to a WINGS safety seminar in your area, or fly to one somewhere else in Arizona? And, don’t forget to “Bring Your Wingman.”