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Weekend Edition

IMC Weekend Edition

Peter Conant                                                                                                 

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  • 14 Nov 2013 1:06 PM | by IMC News Service (Administrator)

    New to instrument flying?*

    By Chris Hope, Master CFI Looking back, I realize that my transition to becoming an instrument pilot was so much easier than what most of my students go through, and so much easier than for most new instrument pilots.  When I attended USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT), I already had a Private Pilot’s license.  I received the same instrument training in the T-37 and T-38 that all USAF students received.  And then I was assigned to an Air Force squadron to fly the Lockheed C-141 cargo aircraft.

    I was not wild about the assignment.  Like all new military pilots, I felt that I was the service’s best fighter pilot.  Or, at least I would be as soon as I finished my F-4 training.  But even then I realized that I was not as good at instrument flying as I needed to be.  And I knew that an assignment to the Pacific northwest, flying all over the world, would give me an opportunity to hone those skills.

    And the opportunities came in the best possible way.  In addition to the standard ILS that ended many of our flights, I flew ADF circling approaches into Navy and Marine bases tucked into little seaports.  I flew radar approaches (GCA) to minimums.  I flew ILS approaches, Category II and III to touchdown, both manually and fully coupled to the autopilot and auto-throttles.  I made takeoffs where we could only see one set of runway lights.  And the best part of this experience is that during my tenure as a copilot in this real-world flying, I had a pilot with me who had gone through all of this many times.  So, whether he flew (it was always a “he” back then) and I co-piloted, or I flew and he co-piloted, I was secure in the knowledge that an experienced someone had my back.

    So, let’s compare that to the training and transition that most civilian instrument pilots receive.  Part 61.65 requires 40 hours of instrument experience, including 15 hours of actual training.  For most students, this becomes 40 hours of training, about nearly all with a hood, but maybe two or three hours in actual weather.  And then, we instructors send our students off to a flight examiner who again puts a hood on them and watches and evaluates.  And then, at the end of that ordeal, pronounces them fit to fly in the weather.

    So, about a month later our new instrument pilot has an opportunity(?) to fly a cross country trip where the weather is less than VFR.  Whether he or she is looking at an approach in Class B airspace or one to a small rural airport, the feeling is the same – near terror.  “What have I gotten myself into?  Can I really do this?”

    Airline pilots and military pilots train and train, practice and practice.  In addition to flying the paid mission about twenty days each month, they get to demonstrate their abilities several times each year to some senior flight examiner.  And then, when anything slightly different is on the horizon, they are off to a simulator, or off to find an instructor to practice the new technique.  Us GA folk?  We say, “I read about it in the magazine.  I can do this.”  Professional pilots do not have the same attitude as us GA folks. 

    We general aviation pilots, however, are an odd lot.  While the flying magazines would like to picture us as fully safe, measured, law-abiding citizens, we all seem to have a bit of a wild streak within us.  We hate for the FAA or any other government agency to tell us how to fly our planes.  In some cases I swear, just a like a teen-ager, we sometimes do just the opposite of what we know we should do just because we can

    But let’s be honest here.  It isn’t just that we are authority-adverse.  We GA people are also generally holding full-time jobs, raising kids, going to school, and trying to find a few extra dollars to put toward training.  There just are not enough dollars and hours to do everything we wish.

    AOPA and the FAA have gone a long way with their on-site seminars and their on-line training topics,   But sitting in an audience, or watching a video, no matter how well produced, just is not the same as talking to someone who has faced the same issues as us.

    Radek Wyrzykowski (yes, that is spelled correctly) had that “what have I gotten myself into” experience when he made his first instrument flight in the New England area.  He had just completed his instrument checkride, and headed for home.  With weather deteriorating, he landed at an airport to wait out the weather.  It was not improving.

    The next day, with the weather solidly IFR, he decided that his one-day old instrument ticket gave him sufficient knowledge and experience to head for home.  After all, home was not that far away. 

    He took off from a non-towered airport after calling Flight Service from a pay phone to get his IFR clearance. (Yes, for our younger pilots, it was not too long ago that we did not have cell phones, GPS systems, and moving maps.)  The clearance he received was not what he was expecting.  There was no “Cleared as filed. Climb and maintain, etc.”  Instead, he heard. “Cleared into controlled airspace direct to the XYZ VOR.  Climb and maintain 3,000.  Contact Boston Center for further clearance.”  Is that intimidating or what?

    So he takes off, heads to the VOR, and contacts Boston Center on the assigned frequency.  Savvy instrument pilots know what will come next.  Radek was rated but definitely not savvy.  He was not ready to hear “Piper 43243, radar contact, are you ready to copy your further clearance?”  Had he been a savvy instrument pilot he would have pen and paper available.  Or at least, he would have said, “Stand by. “  But he wasn’t, and he didn’t.  Instead he said, “Ready to copy, and was grateful to get a very simple clearance direct to the final approach fix to his near-by destination.

    The weather at his destination was a bit above non-precision minimums.  And although he was returning to his home airport, and although he was flying a circling ADF approach that he had flown a dozen times before under the hood, this was the first time he had done this for real.

    Now most of us, having lived through this experience, would have eventually turned it into a good hangar story.  And I am sure that Radek did as well.  But eventually, unlike many of us who said, “There has to be a better way than throwing pilots into the deep end,” he actually thought of a better way.  And then he did something about it.

    I met Radek at Oshkosh this past year.  And I was totally impressed with his solution.  He created an atmosphere where new and experienced instrument-rated pilots could talk to each other, face to face, about their experiences.  And thus, www.ImcClubs.org was born.

    The idea behind IMC Clubs is simple.  Instead of listening to a local pilot’s story, how about having the opportunity to listen to a lot pf pilots’ stories, of actual situations.  And then, instead of listening to one person’s solution, how about experiencing an environment where we can share that experience with a roomful of instrument pilots, some with more and some with less experience, and discuss how the situation could have handled differently? 

    Radek and the IMC folks have taken these real stories and polished them into a professional video.  Then, once a month, under the guidance of a local instrument flight instructor, the pilots can take a situation and talk about what options the pilot could have chosen at different points.  And then, they can change the situation a bit and talk about how this affects their decisions.

    Additionally, IMC Clubs have created a web-site that is truly member-driven. Members have asked for a lot of info, and a lot of info is available.  Want to ask an instructor any question?  If it is not already in the ‘FAQ”, just ask and a CFI-I will answer within a day.  Looking for an on-line manual or training aid?  Check this section out before you spend a lot of time with Google.  (And if they don’t have it, and you do find it on Google, drop them a note and ask that they post that link.

    The price for all of this? $3.00 per month.  But not sure if you want to commit?  Check to see if there is a club in your community.  If so, find the time and place of the next meeting.  In most local chapters, there is not charge to sit in on a (single) meeting.  No club in your community?  Form one.

    I’m convinced.  I think that this is one great way for the serious instrument pilot to stay plugged into the world of IMC.

    Don’t just practice until you get right.  Practice until you don’t get it wrong

    Chris Hope has taught fledgling and experienced pilots for more nearly 40 years, mostly in the Kansas City area.   Chris holds flight instructor certificates for single engine land and sea airplanes and multi-engine land planes, as well as for instrument training.  He holds ground instructor certificates for advanced and instrument training.  Chris is an FAA Gold Seal Instructor and a Master Certified Flight Instructor.  Chris serves as a member of the FAASTeam in the Kansas City area.  His website is www.ChrisHopeFAAFlightInstructor.com

    Published in "Aircraft Owner", November 2013

  • 21 Sep 2013 11:17 AM | by IMC News Service (Administrator)
    IMC-PALS Association

    By Peter Conant
    - "We're not trying to fly the most missions" says PALS founder Joe Howley. "We're interested in creating the best experience for the clients we serve." This is echoed by PALS board member Mark Hanson. "We're interested in the total life-cycle of the mission, from inception through the final handshake."

    I was privileged to talk briefly with these two passionate members of Patient Airlift Services, Inc. about their well thought-out and well-funded organization. PALServices Inc. provides medical flights, flights for wounded veterans and humanitarian flights. For example, PALS teamed up with Crisis Response Team last year to transport volunteers to the New Jersey coast, where the devastation wrought by hurricane Sandy required massive cleanup and stabilization efforts for residents and businesses.

    Founder Joe Howley flies a Pilatus PC-12 and Mark Hanson flies an Eclipse 500 jet, so I asked if there was any room for a typical GA aircraft to help with the missions. "Absolutely" said Joe. "The typical mission is handled by Bonanzas, Cirrus airplanes, Cessna 182s and such." PALS currently serves east coast locations from Maine to Virginia and west to Ohio, with affiliations with other groups to handle more far-flung destinations. "We have a great need for trips to Maine" said Joe, mentioning locations such as Presque Isle and Bar Harbor. "Many people have to settle for the local hospital to treat their special conditions, whereas other medical centers are better equipped to handle their needs but are too far away for reasonable travel times."

    PALS and the IMC Club seem like a natural fit. Mark Hanson is on the PALS safety committee and thinks their pilots would profit from being associated with an organization focused on IFR safety and proficiency. "We also like the idea of making this into a pilot community, letting the pilots know that the service is centered around them and not treating pilots just as a number to call when we need a flight" said Joe. Local meetings and get-togethers are planned, including a November fundraiser at HPN, Westchester County Airport in New York.

    The list of sponsors is astounding, include Major League Baseball, Cape Air, Southwest Airlines, The AirCare Alliance, and more. Barely three years old, PALS has flown over 3,500 mission to date.

    Patient Airlift Services, Inc. is a great way to make use of your airplane and flying skills for a much needed service. "We are always looking for more pilots" said Joe. If you are interested, intrigued or motivated to join this highly professional organization, go to www.palservices.org and sample their wonderful library of videos. Prepare to be wowed by the dedication, thoughtfulness and enthusiasm of this passionate group of pilots and volunteers.

  • 27 Jul 2013 3:48 PM | by IMC News Service (Administrator)
    Off to Oshkosh!

    By Peter Conant
    - Yes, it's two days of driving from Boston, 18 hours each way, but still cheaper than flying and then having to rent a car. The weather looks fantastic and I will enjoy the trip with my bride. This year, I want to find out all I can about the growing number of aviation apps available (love that alliteration) for my new Android tablet by Nexus, along with the latest developments in Jet-A burning piston diesel technology for general aviation.

    If a drop-in replacement for 100LL were available in the near future I'd certainly consider buying another piston airplane. On the other hand, I'm told that drop-in replacement engines for Jet-A diesels from SMA are about double the cost of a factory re-manufactured unit from Continental or Lycoming. I talked with someone whose club in New Jersey tried this and the original quote from Continental for one of their SMA's ended up growing to around $80,000 (!), so I'd certainly wait a while before considering this. Cessna says their JT-A Skylane costs about $60,000 more than the standard 230 HP Avgas burner. But Continental recently bought the assets of Thielert Engines in Germany, so they would seem to have a leg up on the competition and a fast track toward certification (to mix a few metaphors there).

    Since a gallon of Jet-A has so much more energy available than a gallon of 100LL, and since the price of jet fuel is roughly equivalent (and often much less) than the ever-rising price of Avgas, it does seem to me that in the long term a diesel piston would make the most sense. Autogas replacements for Avgas top out at 93 octane, so although the price would be more reasonable the power loss has to be a factor too. Diesels have a longer TBO. Just as I was wise (in hindsight, at least) to wait for reasonably priced portable glass cockpit technology, I think I'll follow my own advice and wait a while to see how costly and how difficult the transition to diesels will be.

    And in looking over the aviation applications for a tablet, my cursory examination shows that there is almost nothing that is NOT available. Flying magazine rated their choice of the top 10 apps which for me is extremely helpful, and there are many apps out there which are either free or ridiculously inexpensive (in the $1 to $5 range). Again, I'm planning to go slow, get Garmin Pilot for my primary app, and then slowly wade into the unknown waters of weather, flight planning, graphic displays and such. I see where a member of our Norwood, MA IMC Club has even brought his flight tracking software, Cloud Ahoy, to market. This allows a pilot to graphically track and observe his recently completed flight in three dimensions. How cool is that?

    One reason I will never have cable TV in my home is that I know I would waste incalculable amounts of time watching it. So I'm preparing to guard myself against every "gee-whiz" product available now for a tablet device. That said, I'm planning to enjoy this research project immensely. Stay tuned!

  • 21 Jul 2013 4:57 PM | by IMC News Service (Administrator)
    Joining The Club

    By Peter Conant
    - I've finally joined the world of modern technology! With a Nexus 32 Gig Android tablet and Garmin Pilot as my software, my flying will be assisted by such benefits as XM weather, TCAS, in-flight weather, Safe Taxi, terrain and more. Although Garmin's ADS-B antenna is necessary, the hardware and software to accomplish this will still be extremely affordable. Whereas portable products such as Garminís Aera and 796 looked attractive, shelling out several thousand dollars was still beyond my comfort zone. Waiting apparently was the right thing to do.

    Although I can't yet report on my success in the cockpit with these devices (I'm still evaluating Garmin Pilot under a 30-day free trial), there is no doubt that the Nexus tablet will find a permanent place in my flight bag. Just the security of knowing where the traffic is in my area will be a huge relief. My biggest worry has always been running into someone, which is why I always ask ATC for flight advisories (flight following) on every VFR flight, no matter how close my destination. I'm well read enough to know that TCAS on a tablet is not foolproof, and that false readings can be generated from airplanes on the ground, but it's still an enormous improvement from flying around with an IFR clearance on a skuzzy (a technical term) afternoon while transitioning to a circling approach at an uncontrolled field and hoping no one is nearby.

    At one of our IMC chapter meeting a while back, a pilot described his decision to divert to an airport on Long Island and wait out the approaching rain, rather than pushing on south through a growing line of thunderstorms toward North Carolina. I wondered how he could have made that decision based on EFAS reports as I would have. But now, having XM weather right there in the cockpit (yes, I know the radar returns can be up to eight minutes old) and weather graphics for surrounding airports showing up with a push of a button, a whole lot of useful information will be available that I've never had access to. Early in my IFR training I listened to a newly minted instrument pilot lament that he was never going to be able to use the rating, always being doubtful of what lay ahead in the clouds. Getting a weather briefing, however thorough, from Flight Service at 9 AM was not really good enough to penetrate a line of clouds with confidence after a three hour flight. I feel, after all these years, as though I've unwrapped the present and now I can see the contents. And it's a great feeling.

  • 29 Jun 2013 1:31 PM | by IMC News Service (Administrator)
    On The Other Hand

    By Peter Conant
    - Although I've written about misunderstandings with controllers and their instructions, I should also point out that I also have had excellent service from ATC on many, many occasions, often greatly exceeding my expectations of what a controller is capable of. A few examples:

    Late one night, just south of JFK at six thousand feet on the way back to Boston with my family, a New York controller called me to say that a heavy jet which had just departed would be climbing toward my position with his landing light shining right into my eyes. "You will see a swiftly climbing airplane headed up toward you. The plane is restricted to five thousand feet and will stop his climb one thousand feet below you." Talk about a controller going beyond his regular duties! When I saw the landing light racing up toward me, I realized I probably would have taken evasive action had I not been warned. As Wayne Gretsky says, "you don't want to skate to where the puck is, you want to skate to where it's going to be." Or in this case, where the GA aircraft is going to be relative to a departing jet. I am grateful to New York Departure Control for a great example thinking ahead.

    Another occasion was an afternoon in the summer flying south from Boston and waiting for the ILS clearance into Martha's Vineyard. A Cessna also on the frequency was almost inaudible with a very scratchy carrier. The controller at Cape Approach called me to ask if I had heard any of the Cessna's transmissions. "Very faintly" I responded. The controller then asked if I would accept a clearance to circle south of the Vineyard and relay transmissions. "You're going to be my best friend if this works out" he said. By this time I was hearing the Cessna a bit better, and told Cape Approach. The Cessna had departed New Bedford enroute to Nantucket, and Cape Approach wanted me to tell him that his radio was unreadable and to return to New Bedford and "have his radio repaired before entering controlled airspace." I was impressed that the controller had thought to use me as a relay station.

    Other small kindnesses include a controller monitoring transmissions from airplanes ahead of me, coming down Victor 139 (affectionately known as the "shark route" over the ocean from Long Island to the Maryland shore) and asking if I had their heard reports of icing. I told him I had also been listening and was "very interested" in their continuous reports. Sure enough, as I cleared the shoreline, light rime began building on the windscreen and leading edges. I asked for a lower altitude and after a few minutes the ice began to slowly melt away. Keeping ahead of the airplane and out of the ice was easy. I've heard it said that when you encounter a surprise when flying, it's usually not a pleasant surprise. Forewarned is forearmed.

    Or the thoughtfulness of a controller who suggested a heading to avoid a line of thunderstorms while I was flying down to Raleigh, North Carolina to visit my daughter. Or the controller near Bradford, Pennsylvania who on a cloudy, chilly winter afternoon reacted to my decision to avoid the ice and snow by detouring to Williamsburg by saying "I'll give you a few minutes to pull out that approach chart." What a gentleman, and one who must have been a pilot familiar with all that goes on in the cockpit when plans change.

    Or the laconic controller in South Dakota who, hearing my distress at having flown with my family into a building line of thunderstorms (thanks to a terrible weather briefing at the Mason City, Iowa FSS), gave me a block altitude to ride out the updrafts and, when I asked him about just turning around, said "You should be out of it in less than ten miles." Comforting words indeed, especially while rocking and rolling through the massive and unpredictable updrafts.

    And someday soon, I might even tell you about the subsequent DOWNDRAFT we experienced as we flew out of the South Dakota clouds and into clear air. I have never flown through anything like it, before or since. If we easterners think we've seen bad thunderstorms, just try flying near a summer thunderbumper in the Midwest or the South. We don't know turbulence at all.

  • 22 Jun 2013 1:31 PM | by IMC News Service (Administrator)
    What Would You Have Done?

    By Peter Conant
    - I'm sure I'm not the only pilot who has ever gotten confused over a clearance, an assigned heading or an approach procedure. Here are a few situations I have found myself in, wondering what I should or might have done differently. What would you have done?

    The first was a relatively straightforward clearance to fly the ILS Runway 24 approach at Nantucket. The weather was clear but it was after dark so I had requested the ILS procedure. Cape Approach had assigned me a heading (I think it was 210) and as I watched, the localizer needle came in from the left , crossed the center, and began drifting off to the right. I didn't say anything, having never heard "join the localizer" or "cleared for the approach." Cape came back a few seconds later and I was given "turn right to 270, join the localizer, contact Nantucket tower."

    Should I have said something? It was not a busy night and as far as I knew the controller at Cape Approach might have just forgotten about me. Should I have joined the localizer anyway with the weather being VFR, telling Cape what I was doing? What would you have done? I never did hear "Cleared for the approach."

    The second was at Teterboro, New Jersey. I was flying my daughter and a friend down to New York from Boston and was cleared to land on Runway 24. Turning left base, I noticed a Cessna holding on the numbers at the approach end. I called the tower, saying "Teterboro tower, this is Arrow N824ND. Looks to me like there's a plane on the runway. Are you sure I'm clear to land?" I was immediately told to go around, and then heard the tower say "Cessna N12345, what part of 'taxi for takeoff' don't you understand?" Perhaps the Cessna had heard this non-standard language for the first time, which probably indicated an inexperienced controller and a low-time pilot. I mean, when have you ever heard the words "taxi" and "takeoff" in the same transmission? Was there something else I might do? What would you have done?

    Next was an IFR flight to College Park, Maryland. I had crossed over the Delaware River and was talking to Dover approach ("Over to Dover"). The weather was solid IMC, visibility nil. As Dover handed me off to Baltimore approach, I heard "Bonanza 1016W, radar service terminated, frequency change approved." Uh huh. I'm ashamed to admit that I was just a bit testy, saying something like "Dover, I'm in IMC here on an IFR flight plan. Can you do something better than terminating me?" Obviously, this was an inexperienced controller thinking I was VFR, but I regret that I snapped at him. Now, older and (hopefully) wiser, I think I could have just calmly pointed out the situation. I mean, there was no immediate danger involved here. What would you have done?

    The Baltimore controller, as I remember, gave me a heading and went off to talk with someone else. The heading had no termination limit (fix or waypoint) and I was just flying down the Chesapeake Bay, dumb and happy, waiting for the next heading. Which never came.

    By this time the weather was good VFR, so I called Baltimore and asked if I could proceed GPS direct KCGS. "Oh yeah, sorry about that, proceed direct College Park" was next. Again, not a serious problem although an experience that always reminds me that controllers can forget things. Should I have requested direct sooner? What would you have done?

    Next was the ground controller at Centennial Airport in Colorado. I had just completed a long cross country to attend my nephew's wedding in Englewood and was a bit bushed when I landed. Taxiing clear of the active, I called ground control for taxi instructions (progressive taxi) and was told rather curtly that the ramp was "uncontrolled." No further information at all. I finally found the transient tiedowns but was a bit put out that, tired as I was, I had only the airport diagram to work with. This of course was before anything like the GPS Safetaxi feature on an iPad. I didn't feel like arguing with a ground controller but perhaps should have said something like "Unfamiliar, request taxi to transient parking" or some such. When I am tired I don't think as well as I might. So, what would you have done?

    And then there was also an experience, early in my IFR days, when coming back from Maryland to Norwood I found myself over Long Island monitoring EFAS and hearing about thunderstorms between New York and Connecticut. I was given a heading along an airway that I was pretty sure would take me close to the reported storms. I declined the clearance, saying I wanted to go north to avoid what I had heard were storms along the route. The controller, clearly put out, gave me a heading and an airway up to New Hampshire(!). I didn't know and still don't know if approach control radar would be showing the lightning and heavy rains, but I didn't want to be the first to find out. Should I have relied on the controller to keep me clear? Was I being too cautious? Should I have asked him about the weather ahead? What would you have done?

    I'm sure there are other stories like this out there. I know I have quite a few more. So, I'd be interested to hear your comments. Now that we all have XM Weather in the cockpit and can read all about real-time trends, are we better off than blindly trusting to ATC? Should I have contradicted a New York TRACON controller in busy airspace? Given what you can now see on your iPad, what would you have done?
  • 07 Jun 2013 8:26 PM | by IMC News Service (Administrator)
    Man-Machine Interface

    By Peter Conant - I enjoy reading accident reports, if only for the cautionary tales contained in the analysis of what went wrong or what the pilot assumed or the chain of events leading up to the accident. This week I was re-reading an article in last November's issue of Business and Commercial Aviation which I hope to summarize here. I believe it contains several faulty "pilot assumptions" that we can all relate to. The article was written by Richard Aarons

    Back in December of 2010, an American Airlines Boeing 757-200, attempting to land at Jackson Hole, Wyoming (JAC), ran off the departure end of Runway 19, coming to a stop in deep snow some 730 ft. beyond the runway's end. None of the 179 passengers or six crewmembers was injured and the airplane sustained only minor damage. Richard writes "The accident is worth reviewing not so much because someone erred, but rather because it points out that multiple system failures can occur when least expected."

    "The pilot of a corporate jet than landed on Runway 19 at JAC about one hour before the incident airplane, reported "poor" braking action on the last one-third of the runway but "good" braking on the first two-thirds. The American crew obtained the most current friction values for the runway when the flight was 18 minutes out. Both pilots later told investigators that they were familiar with the challenging landing conditions at JAC, including slippery runways and high landing weights, which were common during the ski season.

    "The pilots decided they would touch down within the first 1,000 feet of the runway and then make efforts to slow the airplane using automatic wheel brakes and thrust reversers as promptly as possible to maximize braking effectiveness while on the "good" braking action portion of the runway. To this end the pilots armed the speed brakes for automatic deployment after touchdown and selected the automatic wheel brakes to MAX AUTO setting.

    "Investigators determined that the approach to the runway was normal and that the airplane's touchdown point was "firm" and about 600 feet beyond the approach threshold, after which the struts unloaded momentarily. The captain called "Speed brakes deployed." Seconds later he announced, "Two in reverse." But the first officer responded, "No reverse."

    "The first officer tried to deploy the thrust reversers promptly after touchdown, but they did not deploy. After he made several attempts to get the reversers out, the captain took over the thrust reverser controls and eventually succeeded in deploying them with about 2,100 feet of runway remaining. The pilots worked in a coordinated fashion to stop the airplane and the CVR indicates that they had no idea what had gone wrong."

    What follows is a detailed explanation of a manufacturing fault in this particular speed brake system, wherein when the system sensed an unloading of the landing gear (during a bounce, for example) the speed brakes automatically would retract. Further, the thrust reversers sensed the bounce or unloading of the landing gear and locked in transit, remaining only partially deployed. Normally, the thrust reversers would continue their deployment, since bounced landings are fairly common. But it was discovered that in the instant after touchdown, this particular set of reversers locked in transit and needed to be manually restored to their "stowed" position before being again commanded to fully extend. "During post-incident interviews, both pilots indicated that they were unaware of a circumstance in which the thrust reversers could be locked in transit and were unaware of the actions needed to correct the situation."

    One of the NTSB's findings was to fault the captain's calling out "deployment" and "reverse" when in fact these had not occurred. For myself, I find this fascinating and disturbing. If a professional airline crew is overloaded and therefore not noticing that a mechanical sequence has gone wrong, shouldn't there be, at a minimum, some training to alert pilots to this possibility? Something as simple as a checklist, perhaps?

    Which brings me, at long last, to my point. Routines are established early in our training to deal with normal, expected conditions and sequences. Checklists are so familiar that I'm sure many, including myself, don't slow down every time we run them and concentrate on each item. The sequence of checks for landing is so familiar that "staying ahead of the airplane" becomes second-nature. But what you don't know can bite you, especially during times of heavy workload or needing to focus on multiple items. And if an airline crew has only a nodding acquaintance with problem-solving with their automated equipment, what does that say about the rest of us? Surely, regularly scheduled training in emergencies and system failures would help knock some of the rust off our flying activities. For me, when I read stories like this it's a powerful reminder to seek out recurrent training each month, partial panel exercise, and develop a sense of "What would I do now if...?"

    The NTSB report ends with a rather generic set of recommendations, including: "Establish best practices for conducting both single and multiple emergency and abnormal situations training" and "Require that all pilot training programs be modified to contain modules that teach and emphasize monitoring skills and workload management."

    Isn't that what our loved ones and passengers expect of us on every flight? Do we really need to read about accidents before we begin to internalize the importance of regular exposure to emergency training and dealing with system failures?

  • 04 May 2013 10:40 AM | by IMC News Service (Administrator)
    Weight, Balance and Density Altitude

    By Peter Conant - This past Wednesday I listened to a small part of the Plane Talk webcast on IMC Radio, with Radek, Derek and Dave discussing performance charts. The topic is near and dear to my heart since I've had a few experiences flying at gross weight (and even over gross) in high density altitude conditions which hammered home the need to "run the numbers" when I am near the limits of the chart. As Derek said at one point, "Flying at gross weight is like you're flying a whole different airplane."

    Which is a good way to put it. Those of us who fly out of sea-level fields can get a bit blasé about those performance numbers. On one hot and humid afternoon in Maryland, soon after earning my PPL, I offered a high school friend along with his wife and daughter a sightseeing flight in my Archer. I checked the weight and balance but didn't look too closely at the performance numbers. Sure enough, we were slow to accelerate, took fifty percent more runway to lift off and sort of staggered up in the warm moist air. If you've never had the opportunity to fly at or near gross weight on a hot day (even at a sea level airport) you don't really know how your plane performs (or doesn't perform) at the limits of the envelope. It's truly like flying "a whole different airplane."

    Or try this: head out to the Rocky Mountain states and see how things are done. I was in Albuquerque some years ago and was sightseeing in a Skyhawk with an instructor. The runup procedures were unique and something I hadn't seen before. Rather than departing with the mixture at full rich from a high altitude field, the instructor held the brakes, ran the engine up to 2,200 RPM, and then leaned the mixture from rich down to a point where the RPMs increased to around 2,350. He then throttled back, pushed the mixture knob in about 1/8th inch, and said "Now the engine is leaned for max power." I think I had read about this but never seen it done before. And on approach to landing, he never went "full rich" as I expected. Something to remember.

    Likewise, flying out of Centennial Airport in Colorado, elevation about 4,500 MSL with a friend and my daughter on a clear cool morning, my daughter asked ìWhy is it taking so long for us to get off the runway?î Same deal. The Bonanza A36 I was flying supposedly had an altitude-compensating engine driven fuel pump so that, according to the POH, the need for leaning at a high altitude takeoff was not necessary. Uh huh. I think I'll do the "leaning on the ground" drill every time I'm in high country.

    But the all-time weight and balance winner in my logbook is my ferry flight in a Cherokee Six from Maine to Greece back in 1996. This was a delivery to a Greek buyer who had learned to fly in Massachusetts and bought a plane which he promptly outfitted with new interior, avionics, engine and paint. I've written about this before but thought I would repeat the experience here since it certainly got my attention. My co-pilot and I had an extra 100 gallon ferry tank behind the front seats, so with 180 gallons of fuel we could comfortably fly for fourteen hours, meaning at any point we could do a 180 back to our point of departure. (That's 180 degrees, not 180 gallons.) Anyway, the morning of our departure out of Reykjavik Iceland was chilly and cloudy but with clear skies forecast over the North Atlantic enroute to Norway, passing over the Faroe and Shetland Islands.

    We were near or slightly over gross weight with our six hundred pound ferry tank, though we made sure that we were within CG limits and knew we'd be flying out of airports with long runways. We had had no problems flying in and out of Labrador and Greenland the day before so we did not anticipate any problems. The clouds were forecast to contain a "chance" of ice.

    Turning east and climbing to our assigned altitude of 9,000 MSL, we entered the clouds at 4,500 feet. And there was the ice. Our plane had the 260 horsepower engine and we were a bit over gross weight, but now we were picking up a bit of rime along the leading edges and wrapping around the VHF antennas strung from the top of the vertical fin to the left wingtip and from the wingtip to the top of the fuselage.

    Our rate of climb began to decrease: 600 FPM, 400 FPM, 200 FPM. At 100 FPM, we were barely climbing at 65 knots indicated and 7,000 feet. It felt like trying to coax a reluctant elephant up a ramp! And then came the point where the climb stopped. Any further back pressure only produced a loss of airspeed (60 knots), with a distinct pre-stall rumble felt through the yoke. Time to activate plan B. We were cleared to descend down to 4,000 where we were out of the clouds, ice melting off and clear of terrain. As we crossed the coast and headed out over the ocean, the clouds parted and clear skies prevailed.

    Flying over gross weight in IMC while picking up ice over hostile terrain is not one of my fondest memories. Thankfully my "co-pilot" was a pilot in the Norwegian Air Force who had made over a dozen Atlantic crossings. And the only ice we saw during the entire 35 hours of flying was in Iceland. Go figure.

  • 27 Apr 2013 11:06 AM | by IMC News Service (Administrator)

    By Peter Conant
    - We don't think a whole lot about our radios. Our communications with ground, tower, departure, center and EFIS are automatic. I started carrying a portable radio after an incident in Lansing, Michigan where I lost communication with the tower on final, but the second radio in the panel made this event a non-event. And ever since packing a portable comm I've never once had to use it. Complacency? You bet.

    Now that I'm renting things with wings, a lot of different panel equipment connects to my headset jacks. Sometimes the plugs need buffing (I'm told using a soft pencil eraser helps burnish the contacts) or often the plug receptacle is loose or wobbly, resulting in a sporadic connection. I carry a Leatherman to help tighten any loose bolts and often have to contort my frame under the panel for a proper fix. Sometimes there is bleed over on the audio signal from the ADF identifier or transponder, or perhaps the audio panel gives off a mysterious rhythmic clicking, which often drives me nuts.

    Staying ahead of the checklist, going through the familiar motions we all take for granted, is a potential trap. Just as we cycle the prop, check the mags, carb heat (if you fly a carbureted engine) and ammeter, I believe that checking the radios and their connections is just as critical. My "plug in and go" mentality is now undergoing some serious revision, especially now that I'm thinking more like a flight instructor. Do I really understand all the intricacies of this particular audio panel? Do I check each light, switch, marker beacon and annunciator before EVERY flight? I think the trap is when our checklists are seen only as something to be completed before we fly and our focus is getting into the air instead of exploring in detail all the items that could malfunction while we're still on the ground.

    A friend of mine who learned to fly at a non-towered field south of Boston would always, before launching, check with Unicom to confirm both radios were operational. A good idea for any pilot, but especially when you are about to launch into the clouds. At our last IMC Chapter meeting here in Norwood, MA we were presented with a scenario where an IFR flight in low clouds was cleared into Teterboro, NJ for an approach and promptly found the radios had died. What to do? I realized this "what if?" question rarely crosses my mind, intent as I am on frequencies, altitudes, speed and chart profile during an approach. So here was this pilot, coming into some of the busiest airspace in the country, with no means of communication. I suppose squawking 7600 would help, but that was about the only transmission available. Several scenarios were presented: exit the terminal area, descend and find a VFR airport (bad idea), go to the filed alternate, complete the approach, and so forth.

    After the discussion, I realized I would be definitely behind the airplane if something like this happened to me. So I am now becoming a zealot when it comes to studying accident reports containing communications failures and committing to memory the procedures specified for such an event. As we all know, it's much nicer being on the ground wishing you were in the air, than being in the air wishing you were on the ground. My radio check is now a much more detailed process than just seeing if I can transmit and be heard.

  • 07 Apr 2013 1:11 PM | by IMC News Service (Administrator)
    IMC Club Expands Board of Directors

    By Peter Conant
    - When EAA's Sun-N-Fun starts next week in Lakeland Florida, your IMC Club will be there to celebrate our growing numbers of Chapters around the country and indeed around the globe. We are especially pleased to report that our Board of Directors now includes some big name aviation personalities from the worlds of manufacturing, flight training, aerobatics and more. This year, Redbird Flight Simulations has generously agreed to share their exhibit space with us at Lakeland-Linder Airport.

    Our board meeting next week in Lakeland will be the first time all the new directors will have the chance to meet together and plan for your IMC Club's continuing expansion. "Organized Hangar Flying" is our method of involvement at the Chapter level, and with the addition of people like Jack Pelton, Michael Goulian, Joe Brown and Jerry Gregoire we are poised to expand into new areas of pilot training and continuous sharing of experience.

    Jerry Gregoire is the founder and Chairman of Redbird Flight Simulations, Inc., the worldís largest manufacturer of full-motion flight simulators for universities and flight schools. Jerry holds an Airline Transport Pilot rating and a single-pilot type rating for Cessna Citation 525 jets.

    Joe Brown is Chief Operating Officer of Hartzell Propellers. Joe has a passion for the principles of lean manufacturing, waste reduction and development of self-directed work teams. He is an instrument rated pilot and a Lifetime Member of the IMC Club International, Inc.

    Millions of airshow spectators around the globe have witnessed the ferocity of a Mike Goulian airshow performance. He has won the United States Unlimited Aerobatic Championship and was honored to represent the United States at the World Aerobatic Champion on three separate occasions.
    As an airshow superstar, Mike continues to redefine what is possible in the air.

    Jack Pelton retired as Chairman of Cessna Aircraft Company in 2011. In his career Jack has had more than three decades of extensive aviation experience. He is now the Chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) and serves on the boards of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Corporate Angel Network. While at Cessna, Jack was responsible for new aircraft design and development, flight testing and improvements, and certification.

    Other board members include Steve Sullivan, Chairman of the Board and founder of Wild Blue Flight Simulators; Gary Oberstein, Managing Partner at Nixon Peabody, a national firm of attorneys; Radek Wyrzykowski, IMC Club's Founder and President Founder and President; and myself.

    As you can imagine, we are thrilled to have this caliber of aviation professional available to us at the IMC Club. And if you're at Lakeland-Linder Airport next week, please look for the Redbird Flight Simulations display booth. We look forward to your stopping by to say hello to the Redbird staff and the IMC Club International's people. See you there!

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