2020 TO DATE:
As of mid-November, as I write this article, there has been no change in the NTSB’s report of fatal accidents here in Arizona; in fact, I am unable to actually access the data at all. However, I am aware of another accident, a Lancair with 2 fatalities, that occurred in October, as well as a crash up in Nevada involving an Arizona-based pilot and airplane, with another two fatalities, but I have no further information or confirmation on this accident. The NTSB report, shown here, is what I was able to download in October and does not show the latest accidents.
CORDES LAKES, ARIZ. (AP) — Early November. Search crews found the wreckage of a small plane in a remote area in Yavapai County on Monday, but there was no immediate word on survivors. County Sheriff’s officials said an Arizona Department of Public Safety helicopter located the aircraft about 5 ½ miles east southeast of Cordes Lakes shortly after noon Monday. Federal Aviation Administration officials said the single-engine Lancair 235 had been reported missing after departing Saturday from Deer Valley Airport near Phoenix for Page Municipal Airport. They said two people were believed to be aboard the plane, but it’s unclear if they survived the crash. Sheriff’s officials said medical personnel had a hard time accessing the crash site because of its remote location. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will be investigating the crash.
FOR INFORMATION ON ALL ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED LAST MONTH, REFER TO JIM TIMM’S ACCIDENT SUMMARY HEREIN.
A welcomed response to last month’s article –
I’m a 39 year old pilot who went to high school in Cottonwood and traveled to Flagstaff for basketball games; I never noticed any affects from the altitude back then. Over the years I’ve flown gliders (I stopped climbing at 14,000’ one day since I didn’t have oxygen with me), plenty of time in an RV-7 (routinely traveling long distances just below the levels that require oxygen), UH-60 Blackhawks (we crossed the Grand Canyon at 14,000’ just to say we went as high as possible without oxygen), and now a C-12/King Air 200. I remember having a discussion about Army oxygen requirements, which are based on pressure altitude. Given Northern AZ altimeter settings are routinely higher than standard, I claimed we could fly IFR routes at 10,000’, 12,000’ and 14,000’ for longer than you might otherwise assume since we were technically ~20’ below those limiting pressure altitudes.
My mentality changed a few years ago when an uncle and cousin convinced me to get a Mountain High oxygen system. I flew a couple long and high flights using oxygen and still felt great after landing. That hadn’t always been the case, and I thought back to flights affected by mild hypoxia. During my highest glider flight I got sick; I blamed lots of circles while thermalling and my habit of getting airsick as a kid. On more than one trip in the RV-7, I landed feeling tired, queasy, and certainly not 100%. But back then I was convinced as a physically fit 30 year old, it MUST have been something other than hypoxia.
More recently, I attended a reduced oxygen breathing device (ROBD) “altitude chamber” for recurrent training as an Army aviator. I appreciated getting to fly a simulator while hypoxic instead of just doing mental puzzles. It really struck me how I struggled to just read back my simple clearance of "turn left heading 135 and climb to FL250.” I won’t detail how much I overshot the turn and altitude. While I drove home, the bad habit of ignoring hypoxia in the past was certainly on my mind.
Hypoxia isn’t cited as a cause in many incidents, unless it was catastrophic, like Payne Stewart’s jet or the TBM that lost pressurization and flew towards Cuba on autopilot. But imagine this scenario: A new pilot from Yuma takes a trip to Colorado, complying with all regulations. The pilot doesn’t recognize the effects of hypoxia, since they can be subtle. The flight generally is okay, but the pilot is behind the aircraft and ATC calls, plus the mountain flying experience is more than bargained for due to a windy day. The new pilot hears a jet cleared to land on the runway with a 12kt quartering tailwind, so the new pilot accepts the same landing clearance. After touchdown, a gust causes the airplane to veer off the runway; fortunately, the only damage is a flat tire. No one would point to hypoxia as the cause, but did it contribute? Maybe if the pilot was a little more alert in cruise, the radio calls would have gone better, concluded with a confident request to use a different runway, and the flight would have ended as a complete success. Returning from hypothetical to history, I know a glider pilot who admitted that being fatigued after a long, high, legal flight without oxygen was a major contributor to a gear-up landing. Was it 4+ hours in the cockpit? Or the time in the sun before and during the flight resulting in a little dehydration? Or a mild case of hypoxia? I suspect it was a combination of all three.
Instead of being a “bold pilot” skirting on the edge of oxygen use regulations, I now realize the better option is to use it early and often. After having the conversation with other pilots, I’ve heard many use oxygen regularly at lower altitudes. With a pulse-demand system, oxygen use is minimal at low altitudes, automatically compensating when climbing. The consensus I’ve heard is it keeps pilots more alert during long flights and is relatively inexpensive once you have the equipment. Fortunately, I never had a significant incident with hypoxia, but if using oxygen would have prevented the use of an airsick bag in a glider, I should have started using it years ago. Happy flying.
NOTE: all comments welcome, and if you do, please advise if OK to use in my articles.
Last month’s article left off with us departing Eagle, CO, enroute to Aspen, but, unbeknownst to us, there was a “fly in the ointment” that would eventually foil our plan to land at Aspen. That flaw was self-induced and introduced another “aha” moment, another “won’t do that again” teaching moment.
We had checked the weather, i.e., METARs, TAFs, Winds Aloft, the GFA product, all using the G1000 and the weather function. BUT it failed to provide any NOTAM information, and WE failed to follow up and check NOTAMs. We assumed all was well with the world! Well, guess what: ALL WAS NOT WELL WITH THE WORLD! As we approached Aspen, we tuned in the ATIS only to hear that the runway was closed! REALLY? The Aspen airport was closed? Could that really be true? A call to the tower confirmed that it was so. There was runway work being done and, YES, the airport was technically open, but the runway was closed for the next several hours. YUP, see what can happen when you assume! Fortunately, it did not impose any danger or hazard to our flight, with still 4 hours of fuel on board and weather clear as a bell. But under other circumstances, it could have been a whole lot different! So, we just flew over the airport at pattern altitude, told the tower what we intended to do, and then departed off to the west to our next destination, Grand Junction. The approach path down the valley to runway 15 at Aspen is a real eye opener. High terrain all around, and a big hill off the end of the runway that could make any go-around …um, interesting. I have a video of a night approach into Aspen by a F-16, with one half of the screen the visual picture out the windshield and the other half the infra-red heads up display. The visual picture is a black void, with nothing to see except a very few lights and NO terrain, while the Infra-red sight picture shows the runway, the VASI, the terrain and even the car headlights on the highway leading into Aspen. When Aspen’s weather is bad, any approach into Aspen is NOT for the faint of heart!!
So off we went to Grand Junction for lunch and a pit stop. Then we launched for Telluride, where we did a full stop taxi back landing (which Doc got a bill for later!). Being turbocharged sure does make a BIG difference in performance out of Telluride. We flew direct to the Red Table VOR out of Telluride then followed the VOR radial to Montrose, did another full stop taxi back landing, and headed out for Durango with another full stop taxi back landing there. Doc’s landings were improving nicely. We were now on the final leg home, with only two more landings to go before touching down at Flagstaff. Farmington, NM, proved to be a little challenging. The ATIS was saying runway 25 was the active, but with two runways almost the same heading, i.e., a runway 23 and a runway 25, approaching the airport from the north made it hard to determine the active runway. Doc turned inbound for the obvious runway (23, the big black runway), but we were cleared to land on 25! A quick check of the DG showed us lined up on 23, and then Doc finally saw the other runway and adjusted accordingly. Another “Aha” moment - runway diagrams for strange new airports are a must! A touch and go, and we were on our way, and I decided it was time for a slightly smaller airport now that Doc had the hang of landing. We were going to pass over the Chinle airport out there on the reservation, so a quick stop there would give Doc a taste of a much smaller airport. He pulled off that landing with no problems, and we were now inbound to Flagstaff and home.
All in all, the trip was very worthwhile, giving Doc almost 15 hours experience in his new airplane, 15 hours G1000 time, a fair amount of Rocky Mountain flying time, and lots of landings. Back home in Flag, he has added a high performance endorsement to his logbook, 15 hours of Technically Advanced Aircraft time, and we are now working on his instrument ticket. Looking back, it was a great trip, a great experience, and an enjoyable 3 days with a good friend!
Ever wonder how Santa makes it around the world so easily on Christmas night??
With a little (or a lot of) help from all of his friends!!
Quiz for my readers –
(1). It is mid-summer here in Arizona, temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius, and I want to go fly, but the POH performance charts only go to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), and it is hotter than that, say 116 degrees Fahrenheit. Can I still legally fly?
(2). Applicants for which of the following certificates or ratings can take a practical examination using BasicMed in lieu of an FAA medical?
- Recreational, sport private only
- Recreational, sport private, instrument
- Recreational, sport private, instrument, Glider
- Any practical exam can be taken under BasicMed as long as the aircraft and operation fall within BasicMed limitations.
(3). To demonstrate slow flight IAW the ACS, the aircraft should be configured
- As specified by each examiner
- With full flaps
- With retractable landing gear extended
- Both B and C.
ALL RESPONSES WELCOME!