GAARMS Report: July 2016
We are now half way through 2016, and we’ve had 4 fatal accidents so far, with 6 fatalities, 4 pilots (including 1 CFII) and 2 passengers....
Three of the four accidents involved what I would call unique non-GA representative aircraft. One involved a P-51 Mustang, another a North American AT-6, both vintage Warbirds, and the third was a weight-shift “Trike.” The 4th aircraft, a Beechcraft G35 Bonanza, on a maintenance test flight with a pilot and a flight instructor, lost power and impacted some big trees during the forced landing. The flight instructor was fatally injured, but fortunately the pilot survived.
In the future, will we still have to fly the airplane, or will we just be along for the ride? Automation has crept into the cockpit piece by piece, and while I really do like some of it, I am still an old guy who likes “stick and rudder” flying. I like reading maps, I like knowing how to navigate by looking out of the window instead of just following the “Magenta Line.” I like being able to use an ADF (to both navigate and avoid thunderstorm activity), I like flying using only VORs and being able to actually cross fix my position, and I take great pride in my ability to read and understand aviation weather including NOTAMS and PIREPs in raw form, etc., etc., etc… Heck, I can even navigate by the stars if I have to… So, am I a dinosaur or what???
Today’s students show up with electronic E6B’s, smart phones, iPads, and all sorts of electronic gadgets. Even some of my instrument students come all “electron’d up,” and become totally reliant on their iPad for navigation instead of using all that FAA-approved electronic stuff in the instrument panel! With all of the automation in the cockpit, will the next generation of pilots be texting while flying? Will they be flying with their heads down looking at the iPad or their smart phone? What will happen to “see and avoid”? We have laws against texting while driving because it is NOT a safe thing to do, but I guess it is OK to text while flying!! What could possibly go wrong?
There is another change to both VFR and IFR flying coming out soon from the FAA. Domestic formatted flight plans will go away, and we will all be required to file International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) style flight plans. And, you ask, just what are these? Well, you need to start learning all about them now. Look in the Aeronautical Information Manual (that’s the AIM for you old timers) and read how to fill them out. They are much more involved than the current flight plan form, and require a lot more information. A question to ask is: Why is the FAA making this change? Is it to improve flight safety? Is it to simply give in to the ICAO influence? Or is it more devious than that, like maybe an effort to reduce the number of VFR flight plans (by making it harder or more complex), resulting in less work for flight service, thereby supporting the FAA’s position to reduce flight service staff due to the reduced number of flight plans being filed? See the logic?
Well then, just what is the purpose of a VFR flight plan? First off, there is no requirement to file one; it is not used by “Big Brother,” (i.e., the Government) to “track” you, nor is it a reservation to allow you to fly. Some might say it is there to help you meet the preflight action requirement of the FAR, etc. It is a tool to ensure safety by triggering Search and Rescue should you not show up at your filed destination. It is essentially a short term life insurance policy. With all of the new automation capabilities, like Spot, inReach, SpyderTrax, FlightAware, etc, plus the upcoming ADS-B tracking capabilities, who needs flight VFR plans? They are essentially unnecessary if you use flight following, which I highly recommend in lieu of a VFR flight plan. I like being part of the solution (in the ATC system), not part of the problem (an unknown target).
Just a reminder – The new rule for student pilot licensing is now in effect. All applicants must now apply on line through the IACRA system for a student pilot certificate – a new plastic license – that will be sent to the applicant after they’ve been vetted by TSA.
INSTRUCTORS – You may need to help the applicant through the IACRA process; it is NOT intuitive!!! Then you, the instructor, will then have to log in as the recommending official to approve it. NOTE: This does NOT replace the medical requirement. A student must still obtain a third class medical through a local AME using the FAA’s MedXpress system. The old paper student pilot certificate/medical is no longer in use. And speaking of the medical, perhaps that requirement will also disappear in the near future if Congress passes the FAA authorization bill that includes the medical issue reform, doing away with the requirement for a private or recreational pilot to have a medical certificate, and only self-certifying. Stay tuned on this issue and call your representative!
While working on this article, I had to stop and go to the airport to perform my CFII duties, you know, meet my students and maybe even fly. I looked at the sky and determined it was probably a good idea to put the roof on my car even though the sun was out over there. My first student was a returnee after an 8 year hiatus. Because I am anal about record keeping, I still had his training folder. So, with a copy of his new medical and a review of his logbook, we laid out a plan of action to complete his training. While we talked about that, the sky opened up and it poured like a race horse after drinking 8 gallons of water!!! And that’s when my 2nd student showed up, hoping to keep working on takeoffs and landings! Yeah, like that was going to happen! It was a perfect day for ground school, and it poured for over an hour! After the rain stopped, and my student departed the fix, I met my next student. He’s an instrument student with his own airplane, and we planned out a three approach night flight, departing via the published ODP, a DME arc to a VOR/DME approach, flying the published missed approach procedure, holding patterns and a partial panel approach to end the night. A look at the weather made me wary – lots of virga around (indicative of downdrafts), some cumulo mammatus just off to the east of the airport, and the windsocks totally opposite of each other. The winds were crazy variable with a slight tailwind for the runway in use as we lined up for takeoff, and a direct crosswind a quarter of the way down the runway at the lift off point. Ironically, another aircraft was in the pattern, but he gave way for us to take off because he was getting beat up by the rough air. (I think maybe he wanted to see what we were experiencing!) My student was about to learn a valuable lesson, experience the thrill of victory – OOPS, I mean the thrill of scary things that weather can do, and the agony of defeat against Mother Nature. We rotated at Vy, probably climbed 20 feet, and Mother Nature smacked us right back down to the ground, at which time I declared an aborted takeoff, landed the airplane (sort of…) and told tower we were done for the night. This, too, proved to be a good lesson why you need to track the centerline on takeoff! Mother Nature won this round, and I am not ashamed to admit defeat. More importantly though, my student learned an invaluable lesson – discretion is always the better part of valor. NO, we were not going to taxi back and try again!!! I passed a PIREP to the tower, who passed it on to the other aircraft (who I think was waiting to see how we did). I talked to him later while he was putting his airplane away, and he said it was a real rough ride out there and he was very glad to be on the ground, and really appreciated the PIREP. Quite a day, all in all…
July has two fly-in safety programs on the schedule that I know of right now – Saturday, July 16th is the “Dueces Wild Fly-In” at the Show Low airport, and Saturday, July 30th is the Winslow Fly-In at the Winslow airport. Watch FAASAFETY.GOV for the announcements coming out soon.