By Fred Gibbs
Fred’s Perspective: A bad day flying!
Just to be clear, the opinions and statements made within my articles are strictly mine and may not necessarily reflect any policy or position of the Arizona Pilots Association.
NTSB Preliminary Report Includes PIC Testimony In Fatal Copilot Plunge
The NTSB’s preliminary report on the July 29 fatal flight of CASA 212 N497CA includes input from the still-unidentified pilot in command (PIC), who landed the damaged skydiving aircraft after his copilot, second-in-command (SIC), exited via the aft ramp, falling to his death. They had previously flown two groups of skydivers and were returning to pick up a third load when the hard landing occurred.
The twin-engine turboprop was damaged in a hard landing at Raeford West Airport (NR20) in North Carolina. The NTSB report reveals that the second-in-command pilot (SIC) was at the controls when the hard landing occurred that substantially damaged the fixed right main landing gear. The PIC stated the SIC was “on heading, altitude and airspeed” as the airplane descended below the tree line and “suddenly dropped.” Both pilots called for a go-around, and the PIC assumed control at about 400 feet AGL. After overflying the field for ground observers to verify the aircraft’s condition, the PIC directed the SIC to declare an emergency and request a diversion to Raleigh Durham International Airport (KRDU). The heavily damaged right landing gear was recovered from the runway. During the flight to RDU, the SIC communicated with air traffic control. The PIC told the board that both pilots participated in coordinating with ATC and their Part 135 office, while also briefing the approach and emergency landing procedures.
The PIC told the board the flight encountered moderate turbulence enroute to RDU. After about 20 minutes into the diversion, the PIC said the SIC became “visibly upset” over the hard landing. The PIC said the SIC opened his side window and “may have gotten sick”. The PIC took over radio communications. The SIC then lowered the ramp in the back of the airplane, indicating that he felt like he was going to be sick and needed air. The SIC then got up from his seat, removed his headset, apologized, and departed the airplane via the aft ramp door.
Just some insights into the good ol’ Flight Review: Each flight review should include the fun challenge of selecting landing touchdown points. They should meet the Airmen Certification Standards (ACS) commensurate with the rating(s) on his/her pilot certificate. For private pilots, normal, crosswind, soft field, and slips to a landing should all result in touching down on or within a 400-foot-long box from the designated point of touchdown. If this sounds awfully small, for perspective, it is 100 feet longer than a football field!! In the case of short field landings, the ACS tolerance is a 200-foot-long box, 2/3 the length of the football field (66 yards)! And, it goes without saying, all touchdowns should occur with the aircraft centered over and aligned with the runway centerline (and NOT on the nose wheel!).
It may be tempting to endorse a flight review for a pilot who seems safe but demonstrates skills that aren’t up to standards. If additional training is required, it is not necessarily a negative outcome, but could cause some, um, friction between the pilot and the CFI. “I got 8000 feet of runway at my home airport, what is the big deal about landing so accurately??? I turn off on Alpha 7 taxiway 5000 feet down the runway right into the ramp in front of my hangar, so I never land short!!!”
The past couple of months I did a flight review with 2 different pilots, one in a C172, the other in a Mooney M20J. Although both pilots had flown approximately the same amount during the past three months, the one in the Cessna C172 was able to accurately target his landing point with a smooth touchdown, while the other, in his Mooney, consistently overshot due to excess airspeed. He explained that he had recently gotten into the habit of maintaining higher airspeed on final since it seemed inherently safer. As a result, he had formed the habit of floating down the runway and simply landing, quite smoothly I might add, whenever the excess speed had dissipated. This did not bother him one bit, nor inconvenience him, as his turn off taxiway was over 5000 feet down the runway, and he simply coasted up to it and turned off! Besides, he never takes his Mooney into an airport with less than 4500 feet. His personal minimum… “So, what’s the big deal”?
OK, sure, one could make the argument that come the day you need to put the airplane into a short field you need to be accurate. If I were to require someone’s flying capability to fit into every “What if” situation, the flight review could take several days! There is a training mantra that says “Train like you fly, fly like you train.” A businessman who owns a Cirrus SR-20T and uses it for business travel into and out of primarily class Bravo or Charlie airports is not gonna be at 700 feet doing a turn around a point or lazy eights. His “train like you fly” is different than a newly minted private pilot who only flies for fun around the local area.
Other things, like density altitude, grass field operations, small airport operations, crossing runways, towered vs non-towered operations, etc., all need to be taken under consideration vis a vis the individual pilots “Train like you fly” mantra.
Think about these “little things:” hands-off taxiing, incorrect flight control position during taxi, neglecting flight control checks, inconsistent checklist use, doing your checklist while taxiing, not clearing final before pulling out on the runway, takeoff briefings, poor radio phraseology or inaccurate radio/position calls, non-standard/incorrect or just plain lousy pattern entries, poor or no radio calls at non-towered airports, landing off the centerline, a few excess knots of airspeed on final. They may seem immaterial and may rarely result in accident or injury. But when the day comes when you need these skills, any of those seemingly innocuous little things could rise up and bite you: good habits might very well prevent an incident or accident. It is easy to slip into cutting corners and therein lies the danger.
Remember, as the PIC, you can either be the hero like Capt. Sullenberger or the goat, like the captain of the Titanic!!
QUIZ TIME -
- Here you are, on a short field approach in your trusty C172, and you determine you are still a little too high, but right on airspeed with the power pulled back almost to idle. You need to lose more altitude to get your approach slope right on to hit the numbers, and you decide this is a perfect place for a slip. But staring you right in your face is a placard by the flap indicator gauge that says “Avoid slips with full flaps”. Now what to do???
- BUMMER! Can’t slip so go around and try again.
- Shove nose down to get to numbers.
- Just accept long landing and hope you can stop in time.
- Go ahead and use slip to correct altitude and approach.
- OK, here you are at Flagstaff on a beautiful summer day after playing 18 holes of golf at the club, and it is time to load up the airplane and go back home to the valley. You are loaded up to within 100 pounds of max gross weight. You check the weather, and notice that the current altimeter setting is 30.42 and the temperature is being reported as 28 degrees Centigrade by the ATIS, which also states “check Density Altitude”. How do you do that??
- Whip out my trusty E6B and calculate it.
- Fire up mt ForeFlight and calculate it.
- Call the AWOS via telephone.
- Ask Ground for a Density Altitude readout.
- Any or all of the above.
- You would like to enter Class B airspace and you contact PHX approach control. The controller responds to your radio call with "N125HF standby." May you enter the Class B airspace?
- NO, You must remain outside Class B airspace until controller gives you a specific clearance.
- Yes, you may continue into the Class B airspace and wait for further instructions.
- Yes, you may continue into the Class B airspace without a specific clearance, if the aircraft is ADS-B equipped.
- Yes, if you had originally requested the west transition while getting Flight Following from your departure airport.
- In the following METAR/TAF for HOU, what is the ceiling and visibility forecast on the 7th day of the month at 0600Z?
KHOU 061734Z 0618/0718 16014G22KT P6SM VCSH BKN018 BKN035
FM070100 17010KT P6SM BKN015 OVC025
FM070500 17008KT 4SM BR SCT008 OVC012
FM071000 18005KT 3SM BR OVC007
FM071500 23008KT 5SM BR VCSH SCT008 OVC015
- Visibility 6 miles with a broken ceiling at 15,000 feet MSL.
- 4 nautical miles of visibility and an overcast ceiling at 700 feet MSL.
- 4 statute miles visibility and an overcast ceiling at 1,200 feet AGL.
- 6 statue miles visibility with a broken ceiling at 1,500 feet MSL.
- When conducting a go-around, the pilot must be aware that.
- radio communications are key to alerting other aircraft in the pattern that a go around maneuver is being conducted.
- the airplane is trimmed for a power-off condition, and application of takeoff power will cause the nose to rise rapidly.
- flaps should be raised as quickly as possible to reduce drag and increase airspeed for a successful go-around.
- On a post flight inspection of your aircraft after an aborted takeoff due to an elevator malfunction, you find that the elevator control cable has broken. According to NTSB 830, you
- must immediately notify the nearest NTSB office.
- should notify the NTSB within 10 days.
- must file a NASA report immediately.
- No notification is required, just a repair by a certified mechanic.
(Answers at bottom of Safety Programs)
There are NOT a lot of FAASTeam safety programs on the schedule over the next couple of months around the state, but hopefully that will change in the near future. Simply log on to the Internet and go to WWW.FAASAFETY.GOV , click on “Seminars” and start checking for any upcoming seminars. Masks are optional but are recommended.
There are also a lot of great webinars online, each about an hour long, and worth credits towards your WINGS participation. You might find one that is really right up your alley or “tickles yer fancy”!!
Quiz answers: 1.d, if you are competent with slips. The placard says avoid, not prohibited, 2 d, 3.a, you must hear the magic words “Cleared into Class B airspace”… 4. c, 5. b and 6.is a.