What a difference a year makes!! As of August 26th (the day I wrote this), there has only been one general aviation fatal accident in the state of Arizona since January 1st, that being the crash of a Piper PA-22-160 south-southeast of Kingman, back in January. The pilot survived, but the one passenger on board died.
GAARMS maintains the auspicious goal of trying to reduce the fatal accident rate through education to zero, or said a different way, to remind you to operate every flight safely, with a 100% success rate. That rate means NO fatal accidents with NO fatalities, including passengers. You have often heard me tout “The Four 9’s Program”, where we try to operate at a safety rate at or above 99.99% for any given year versus the pilot population here in Arizona, currently at approximately 26,000 pilots. As of August 26th, we actually stand at a pilot safety rate of 100%. That is really outstanding, but the real challenge facing us is to stay at, or greater than, the 99.99 percentile for the rest of 2019!
When is the last time – or ever – you actually aborted a takeoff for real? No, not practicing, but a real reason that required you to make that quick decision to either continue and go around or really abort the takeoff and land – IMMEDIATELY!!!
Does a door coming unlocked need a snap decision to land immediately? Me thinks not. Just grin and bear it, make a nice, but noisy takeoff, calm down your passenger or blame your instructor for not closing the door properly, and just go around and come back in and land. Forget about trying to close and lock it in flight, especially if it is a non-pilot in the right seat. In some airplanes you can open the vent window to relieve the inside cabin pressure a bit to pull the door closed, or, if you are lucky enough to be in a Cessna with a window that opens on the door, you can slow down, pop the window open and reclose the door. Piper, Mooney, Bonanza and Bellanca doors are especially hard to reclose in flight. And YES, blame the dumb pilot (and NOT your instructor) for not making sure the door is latched properly. Me thinks it is part of the PILOT’s takeoff checklist, is it not??
But what if it is the baggage door? Same as above, but now the procedure may become a little more complex. Case in point… We were out in a Cessna Cardinal RG doing training when on the 2nd takeoff the baggage door popped open. (No, I do not know why it did not open on the 1st takeoff!) Fortunately, the baggage compartment was essentially empty, so all that happened was it got noisy. But in a Cardinal, the baggage door opens upward and is held there – wide open – aerodynamically. (see picture.) We left the gear down and 10 flaps, slow flighted (is that really a word?) around the pattern, went to 20 flaps on base and when we went to full flaps on short final, the aerodynamics of the airflow over the wing and off of the flaps – at the full flap setting - actually blew the door back closed! Amazing! Who Knew!! As a side note, with the baggage door fully up, like in the picture, the flap will actually hit the door, or vice versa. In a 172 or a 182, the door just trails slightly open in the airstream like a cabin door, with minimal effect on the airplane. It will have a much larger effect on unsuspecting rear seat passengers!
For you Piper drivers with Cherokee Six’s and Saratoga’s, with that baggage area between the windshield and the engine, you have a much bigger concern. If that baggage door pops open in flight, you got a problem. Not so much with control, but with possible structural damage to the door and the hinge mount area. The door may well bend up near the hinge, and almost anything in that baggage area will vacate the airplane. If you can safely abort the take off, do so to minimize any damage. If at cruise, slow down – a lot. I remember old timers telling me if that happens, try flying the airplane in a gentle slip to get the aerodynamics to work for you by pushing the door down. However, having never experienced that, I do not know if it actually works!!
As an old timer myself now, I got lots of those little tricks of the trade, so fly safe and keep the shiny side up….