GAARMS Report: August 2017
I love reporting good news!! But certainly NOT the infamous fake news! Unfortunately this newsletter contains some bad news. The last 30 days or so have not been good days, with two fatal accidents occurring in those 30 days. We are now 7 months through 2017. Our Luck-meter has moved from “Doing really Good” with only 2 accidents and 6 fatalities to “Back to an average Year” moving up the scale to 4 accidents with 10 fatalities. The two latest accidents were:
Vans RV-7, N731RV out of Buckeye
On June 27, 2017 about 0850 Mountain Standard Time, a Vans RV-7, N731RV, was destroyed when it impacted mountainous terrain near Arlington, Arizona. The pilot, who was the registered owner of the airplane, and a pilot-rated passenger, sustained fatal injuries. The flight was operated under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 91, as a personal flight. Visual meteorological conditions prevailed at the time of the accident, and no flight plan had been filed. The local flight originated from Buckeye Municipal Airport, Buckeye, Arizona, about 0835.
Later that day, at 1316, an Alert Notice (ALNOT) was issued for the airplane after family members of the pilot became concerned when he did not arrive at his intended destination. At 1810, the airplane wreckage was found by the sheriff's department in the Gila Mountains. There were no reported witnesses to the accident. The airplane was recovered to a secure location for further examination.
Lancair Evolution out of Falcon Field
Two people were confirmed dead in a fiery airplane crash at a northeast Mesa golf course late Monday afternoon, with one official describing the scene as "a ball of fire.'' The Lancair Evolution, a single-engine light aircraft, crashed at 4:52 p.m., about a half-mile east of Falcon Field Airport, according to Eric Weiss, a spokesman for the National Transportation Safety Board. Allen Kenitzer, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman, said that the aircraft reported mechanical problems before the crash. (NOTE: There was no mention or indication of what the problem(s) were.)
Mesa fire officials were notified of the aircraft down at Longbow Golf Club by the Falcon Field Airport tower, Mesa Deputy Fire Chief Forrest Smith said. Smith said crews arrived to find the aircraft had crashed and burned on a fairway at the course. The golf course is at the northeast corner of Higley and McDowell roads in Mesa. The airport is southwest of the intersection. "It was a pretty horrific scene,'' Smith said. "When crews first arrived, they were met with a ball of fire on the course itself.'' Officials confirmed the 2 people aboard the aircraft were killed.
Just for the sake of argument, let’s talk about the category the NTSB tends to “lump” accidents into, the “Loss of Control” category. I believe that category, or action, is the final result of many mistakes or inactions taken when things start to go wrong. I have said, and continue to say, there is usually NOT ONE single thing that causes an accident, but a chain of events that leads you down the “Primrose Path.” Break that chain somewhere, and you may most likely prevent an accident. For instance, does the weather look questionable? You need to make a decision BEFORE you press on into it, not stick your nose into it to see just how bad it is!! If you stick your nose so far in that you determine it is bad, you have already gone too far, and you may be in deep trouble! The story goes that a non-instrument rated pilot who ventures into IMC only has 3 minutes to survive once immersed in the weather!
Airplane doesn’t sound right or feel right to you? Land NOW, and have it checked out, and most importantly, DO NOT take off with that dark cloud of uncertainty hanging over you. Remember, there is no such thing as an emergency takeoff!!! Problems encountered during the takeoff phase of flight can be, and usually are, deadly. There is no time for contemplating a course of action, no airspeed to save you, and no altitude below you to give you time, and we all know you can never make that turn back to the airport. On top of everything else, a forced landing on departure is probably one of the very few times you can have too much gas in your airplane!!!
On a different subject, just in case you have not noticed, monsoon season is here, with lots of thunder boomers, heavy rains, poor visibility in the rain, dust storms, and many other weather issues to make your day exciting, so be careful out there. ADS-B In is a great situational awareness tool, but not to be used to dodge thunderstorms. Remember, ADS-B In data is a picture of what the weather was, and where it was, NOT WHERE IT IS NOW!!! I got to use it this last weekend flying from Scottsdale back up to Flag. Between the ADS-B In weather radar depicting the precipitation in 3 colors (YES, there was definitely some RED around), compared to what the controller was telling me about the precipitation he was painting on his ATC radar, and what I saw by looking out the windshield (a very critical part in the decision making process), I was able to easily and safely make my way home to Flag staying in VMC the entire way. The only precipitation that I got on my airplane was the light drizzle at the Flag airport while pushing the airplane away. It was utilizing all the tools and services available to me that made the flight easy and successful.
Another subject – With the installation of all the “stuff” I have installed into my airplane, is my 1973 Bellanca Super Viking now considered a Technically Advanced aircraft (TAA) under the definition of a TAA aircraft?
It used to be that only professional pilots like corporate or airline pilots needed to be trained in modern avionics and other modern on-board technologies. Today, this same high-tech equipment is being used widely in small aircraft, which means that pilots of these small aircraft must be trained in TAA, or run the risk of being inept at using this equipment, or worse, a safety hazard to themselves and others.
What's Makes an Airplane a TAA? The FAA defines a TAA as an airplane that is equipped with the following:
- A moving map display - I have an 8 inch screen iPad mounted on my yoke that is Bluetooth connected to my permanent mounted FAA-approved TSO’d ADS-B In that displays other ADS-B equipped aircraft and weather data.
- An instrument-approved GPS - I have a Garmin 430 WAAS unit
- An autopilot - I have a 3-axis autopilot coupled to my HSI with GPSS steering
Additionally, I have a new Garmin G5 artificial horizon that is just like a glass cockpit display that shows attitude, airspeed, altitude, and turn coordinator information all in one instrument, giving me a ton of information in one place, improving my scan.
Many aircraft are equipped with all of these and even more complex systems, making it difficult for even the best of pilots to navigate through their aircraft's avionics, let alone the airspace they're in. Many pilots are familiar with the term glass cockpit. An aircraft that is considered to be a TAA is not always a glass cockpit aircraft, but a glass cockpit aircraft is always considered a TAA. A glass cockpit goes beyond the description of a TAA, and is generally defined as one with a Primary Flight Display (PFD) and a Multi-Function Display (MFD), both of which replace most of the old-style gauges in an aircraft. According to AOPA, more than 90 percent of new aircraft today are coming off the line with glass cockpits. These aircraft are all considered TAA.
New Avionics in an Old System
The FAA has come under fire because of the influx of TAA and the FAA's lack of a modern flight training program. The current flight training standards have been in place since 1973, and were designed with basic stick-and-rudder flying in mind. Current training syllabi do not leave room for TAA training, but that could change in the future. As of right now, pilots are training on both the old style instruments and the new glass panel displays. The old six-pack displays are still very common, but as glass panel displays become more commonplace, we'll see the old six-packs disappear.
TAA are generally a good thing for the average pilot, as long as the pilot knows how to use the equipment correctly. Still, many accidents are attributed to the pilot's lack of understanding of the aircraft's avionics. When a pilot doesn't fully understand the avionics on board his aircraft, he can quickly become task-saturated trying to figure out how it all works. This task-saturation, coupled with excess heads-down time in the cockpit, can lead to disorientation and loss of aircraft control.
The criticism of technologically advanced airplanes being more of a distraction than a helpful tool holds merit, though. For this reason, the FAA created the FITS program, and new training program that supplements the old one, created specifically for use with TAA. The FITS program is designed to assist flight instructors and flight schools in training pilots for TAA, and includes a more scenario-based training environment.
So, when all is said and done, when I fly my 44-year old tubular steel, fabric and wood airplane, can I legally log that flight time under the TAA column??? I certainly believe so!!