There have been NO general aviation (GA) pilot fatalities to date! That is absolutely outstanding, but we still have 2 months left in this year. Is it possible to go an entire year without a GA pilot fatality?

Fred’s Perspective…


During my travels around the area over the past couple of months, I came across several gear up/gear failure landings: Two single engine aircraft and one twin engine aircraft, and each at a different airport.

One of those was a Bonanza down at Cottonwood. Never got a straight answer whether it was an “OOPS” gear up landing or if the gear failed upon landing. They picked it up and moved it off the runway. I did not get a close up and personal look at it to see if the gear was actually damaged, i.e., the gear doors mangled, the gear struts bent up or whatever, just saw it sitting there lonely and dejected, sadly pondering its fate. – “Am I ever going to fly again or am I going to be torn apart and just become an organ/parts donor?”

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Then, up here at Flagstaff, we had a nice Mooney actually do a gear up landing. It was truly an “OOPS” landing. The pilot apparently became overwhelmed or frustrated by his inability to get on the ground after making several approaches to both the Flagstaff and the Clark-Memorial airport in Williams. On his return to the Flagstaff airport after those several tries, he apparently just forgot to put the gear down on his last attempt to land.

The result was a nice landing, right on the centerline, but without the benefit of wheels! The unconfirmed story goes that he had just recently bought the aircraft and was on his way from back from somewhere in the southeast to somewhere out on the Pacific coast, and had never been out in country like northern Arizona, had never dealt with high altitude airports or density altitude issues. It had to be, no doubt, a very disappointing day for him. The aircraft sits here on the airport still on its belly, awaiting its fate.

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And then, just a couple of weeks ago, on a flight training flight into Sedona, there it was, sitting on the ramp badly injured, one of my favorite airplanes, a Ted Smith AeroStar 601. It was quite obvious that this was NOT a gear up landing. You could see the gear mangled up under the aircraft. Looking at all of the damage, it must have been a fun ride. There were big skid marks on the runway leading off the runway to the right side, and you could clearly see the right main took the brunt of that runway excursion, as did the wing and right flap. Both engines had prop strikes, surely necessitating teardowns, and with all the damage visible (and NOT visible), I believe this AeroStar will never get to experience the thrills of going back up into the wild blue yonder. What actually caused the accident is still under review.

And just to add to the story, Wiseman Aviation, where most of you all know I instruct, just bought a damaged C182RG that had a gear collapse incident in Gallup. We are in the process of rebuilding it. The engine is off for overhaul, a new prop secured, and structural repair is underway. We are looking forward to adding this airplane to our fleet of training aircraft to make available high performance complex aircraft training as part of our training curriculum.

Now, we have all heard the old wives tale that only two kinds of pilots fly retractable gear aircraft:

Those that have had a gear up landing, and those that WILL have a gear up landing!

Well, I have been flying my trusty ol’ Bellanca Super Viking – “The Monster” - since 1988, and have never had a gear issue one way or the other. QUICK, knock on wood!!! So, I guess I fall into the latter group. PS – I check gear down lights (3 in the green) on downwind, base, final and short final, every time. Sort of a habit after 25 years…

And YES, in all my flight instructing time, I have had to pump the gear down in other aircraft, like the C210 I instructed in for a while, a couple of Mooneys, (YES, with the electric gear, NOT the reliable ol’ manual Johnson bar) and the C177RG I trained my friends in when they purchased it. It had its share of micro switch glitches, and we often final pumped the gear just to make sure it was down even tho’ the lights said it wasn’t. It took about a year and several, ummm, shall we say tense, landings to sort out all that, but it works every time now, just like it is supposed to. Anyway, I never intend to join that club, but am always aware I am not invincible and the “Monster” and other retracts are not infallible…

True confessions :

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I am beginning to think I am getting old. Some days my get up and go has already got up and left! I know some of you will find this hard to believe, but sometimes there are days when I DO NOT want to go flying! Is that blasphemy or what??? Some days I have to drag myself to the airport because I made a commitment to a student to go fly, but what usually happens is once I am strapped into that machine, I come alive. All my cares and aches and pains leave, and I am at peace with myself. I have escaped the surly bonds of earth and am up where the eagles soar, and all is right with the world. I know I am no longer invincible, and I do not suffer from get-there-itis, because I am never in a hurry to get somewhere anymore.

On a different subject, every once in a while I pass out some kudos. Well, in this newsletter, I want to pass out kudos to the guys who work up in the control tower here at Flagstaff. In case you did not know this, the tower here is a contract tower, not an FAA tower. And just in case you did not know this, the tower here at Flagstaff does NOT have radar. These guys are good, really good, with lots of experience and backgrounds, both civil and military. They make life easy for me as the active flight instructor and flight school on the airport. I am sure, on occasion, when they hear the flight school aircraft come up on frequency, they wince, and say to themselves, “OK, what crazy thing does Fred want to do now?” And 99 times out of 100, they accommodate me, whether doing overhead emergency descents from 10,000 feet to a simulated engine out landing and even on occasion (when traffic is non-existent) a simulated loss of engine on departure and a demo of the “180 degree impossible turn back to the opposite direction runway.” Sometimes they ask me to do something to help them move traffic more efficiently, and I am glad to oblige. Flagstaff gets a huge variety of traffic, and putting a student out for first solo here can suddenly become very challenging, for both the student and the tower. Flying the pattern here requires a lot of training and a lot more exposure to “things” than you would think. Having a first time solo student become number 3 in the pattern behind a MEDIVAC and a CRJ-700 suddenly becomes a significant challenge for both the student and the tower controller. The tower controllers do a great job of separation and communication, and we have never had an issue or a dangerous situation. So, my kudos and thanks to the terrific tower controllers here in Flagstaff!


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