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The six accidents that occurred in 2020 within Arizona plus the one in Nevada match pretty well with the ongoing statistical analysis year-by-year, both in the total number of accidents and fatalities. In other words, our general aviation accident rate remains essentially the same year-to-year!!! Are we doomed to keep repeating history? Will 2021, with the introduction of the coronavirus vaccine, only get worse as more pilots return to the sky, quite rusty from not flying very much during 2020? And please remember, WHEN, NOT IF, you get the vaccine shot, you must avoid flying for 48 hours to ensure no side effects. That is also true for the second follow-up shot, wait 48 hours before flying to ensure no side effects! And if you have not flown for a while, might I suggest you contact your local CFI and just update your flying skills and your flight review all at the same time…
January started off quite well, with NO fatal accidents, always a good sign. Now, don’t get complacent; we still have 11 months to go. Like last year, there will most likely NOT be any GAARMS safety programs until at least mid-year when we start seeing this pandemic coming under control. Even with the vaccine becoming more available, it will take a while to get sufficient numbers of folks vaccinated to begin impacting the spread of the coronavirus. Even after you get your first vaccine shot, you need to keep wearing your mask, maintain social distancing and wash your hands often. So, stay and think positive, but continue testing negative!
FOR INFORMATION ON ALL ACCIDENTS/INCIDENTS THAT OCCURRED LAST MONTH, REFER TO JIM TIMM’S ACCIDENT SUMMARY HEREIN.
So, here I am, sitting at home here in lovely Flagstaff, looking out the window at the snow falling, wondering what to write about. Lots of things are running through my mind, from good to not so good. The good? Well, it is “beautimous” (sic) outside! The not so good is that soon I will not only have to go shovel that “beautimous” stuff, but then trek down to the airport to shovel out the airplane. The good? Well, with the airplane under the shade, not much shoveling will be required. But the not so good is the repeated trips to the airplane to bust out the berm created by the continuous snow melting and falling off the roof right in front of the airplane! OMG, my wife just advised me that NOAA is forecasting 11 to 24 possible inches of the white stuff over the next several days! Ugh, that also means NO Corvette traveling! It does not do well in snow – AT ALL! It will be safely tucked away into the back of the garage so I can get the snowblower out easily.
The airport will be busy plowing to keep the runway and taxiways open throughout the event. The tower will remain open, although these may be a couple of boring days. The FBO will be busy plowing and clearing off its ramp space and parking lots. When the snow stops flying, and you decide to fly up to Flagstaff, be sure to check NOTAMs for field condition reports on runway and taxiway conditions.
The past week was a week of 3 different, umm, “adventures” as a flight instructor. First was a press-to-talk (PPT) failure on the instructor’s side with a brand new student out in the practice area. Now that is not a big deal in and of itself, but it does/did make for some interesting acrobatics in the cockpit. We simply swapped, plugging in our headsets to different sides, me into the pilot side and the student into the instructor side, and all future transmissions were made by me reaching across the student and awkwardly pressing the PPT on the student’s yoke. Just another day…
Then there was the flight out of Flag towards Williams for some airwork and hoodwork in a non-flight-school, privately owned aircraft recently put back together after an accident. Cruising along at 9500 feet, we suddenly lost power, not totally, but a lot. “Now what?” I wondered, and “where will I put this thing down if I can’t figure out what is wrong?” You might think 9500 feet is a long way up there and will give me a whole lot of glide distance, but you would be wrong. You see, 9500 feet is only 2500 feet above the ground up here, and this particular airplane is not exactly the most aerodynamic with respect to gliding! Since we were in clear and unlimited visibility conditions, I did not believe it was carburator ice, but I pulled carb heat on just in case and adjusted the mixture a bit to compensate for the richening of the fuel/air ratio; and to my surprise, the engine came back to life. Conditions did not exist for carb ice to form, and I suspected something else had to be wrong, so I pushed the carb heat knob back in, anticipating the engine would lose power again. And, yup, it did, just like before! I pulled carb heat back on, and the engine came back alive again, as if nothing was wrong. All the while doing this, I had already instructed the pilot to turn back towards Flagstaff, pick up the ATIS, and have the radios all set up to communicate our potential plight. After a quick analysis of what was happening, I believed something was wrong with either the air filter, the air filter inlet or the air filter box, making the carb heat now the primary supplier of air to the engine. By now, we were only about 8 miles west of the airport, still at 9000 feet, and I was confident we could make it back into the airport. We communicated our plight to the tower, and were cleared to land on runway 21. We did so with little fanfare and parked it on the ramp at the FBO. The next day the maintenance shop opened the cowling and it only took about 1 minute to determine the problem.
The culprit was the scat tube connecting the air inlet to the air filter box. It had collapsed and choked off the air flow to the carburator. My assessment was essentially correct. How that scat tube ever got past inspection is a story for another day. But the point I wish to make to all pilots, and especially instructors, from this real life experience is that you really need to know how things, including systems, in your airplane really work to help you understand just what might be wrong and how to handle such situations.
And then there was the cancelled IFR training flight just the other day due to a malfunctioning pitot tube heating issue discovered during the preflight. No big deal you might say, but in this particular scenario, we were planning an IFR training mission in IMC, or at least MVFR conditions consisting of 800-foot ceilings, in January, on a very cloudy, ugly and cold day, surface temperature 34 degrees. Now, on a summer day in August with clear skies and 80 degrees, perhaps not a big concern, but certainly not today! The student who preflighted the aircraft did a thorough preflight as taught and brought the issue to me. I then double-checked his report, confirmed the pitot heat INOP, and congratulated him for his thorough preflight. I grounded the aircraft on the spot. The maintenance shop later confirmed a broken wire connection on the pitot tube assembly, repaired it, and returned the aircraft to service. We finished the lesson on the ground doing an oral review of the flight we would have done, especially the potential weather-related issues we could have encountered, and how we would/could have handled them had the pitot tube heat failed during the flight. Sometimes a cancelled flight can lead to an even better lesson on the ground!! Every flight or ground lesson is an opportunity for both the student and the instructor to learn something new…
Fred’s pop Quiz…
- A parcel of air rising when plotted on the Skew-T can only _______ as it rises.
- Remain Isothermal
- The __________ is the pressure level of the cloud bases when surface heating results in positive buoyancy of surface-based parcels of air.
- Convective condensation Level (CCL)
- Level of Free Convection (LFC)
- Lifted condensation Level (LCL)
- Equilibrium Level (EL)
- If the temperature is -5 degrees Centigrade and the Dew Point is -10 degrees Centigrade, then the Dew Point depression in Centigrade difference is:
- A line of equal temperature is called a(n) ___________.
- Height contour
- Isogonic line
- A clockwise turning of the wind with altitude is call a ___________ wind.
- Rain that freezes after hitting the ground is called ___________.
- Freezing rain
- Ice Pellets
See bottom of article for the correct answers.
Quiz answers: 1.B 2.A 3.C 4.D 5.B 6.B