Archive for the ‘Safety’ Category

Landing Attitude, Dude (or Dudette)

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

nyc-nose-gear-collapseWords often get in the way of explanations. This is especially true between students and CFIs. The video and picture here demonstrate that the problem sometimes migrates a bit farther up the pilot certificate food chain. It’s quite good, actually, to learn the basics of landing before moving on to larger aircraft.

Learning to land is one of those complex things where no two landings are exactly alike, and sometimes instructors toss off explanations like, “Just assume the landing attitude, dude (or dudette), and touch down on the mains.”

Like many things (but especially landings), stuff happens fast.

CFI: “Did you see that?  That’s exactly what I’m talking about!”

Student: “Whah, huh?”

CFI: “Pay attention this time,” etc.

So let’s slow things down a bit, and here’s one technique that might help. Try a high speed taxi down a long runway. CFI controls throttle so the aircraft doesn’t lift off, student manages pitch attitude (after CFI demonstrates) such that nose wheel is properly clear of the runway. (Note: not recommended in an Airbus or Boeing—they have simulators to help with that.)

There’s also the issue of where to look because peering over the nose, even if you could, isn’t going to yield that all-important depth perception between a kiss-down and a butt-buster. You’ve got to look slightly off to the left or right, depending on which seat you’re sitting in.

To learn more about our attitude towards takeoffs and landings, click here to download the Air Safety Institute’s Mastering Takeoffs and Landings Safety Advisor.

Landings are consistently the leading cause of mishaps. Usually they don’t result in fatalities, but we could save a lot of time, money, and aggravation by having the right attitude. I’m still working on mine—every touchdown!

Perhaps you have some observations…

When Mom Told You The Stove Was Hot

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

Mountain FlyingLast week the NTSB announced their Top Ten Most Wanted List to provide a clear path and set priorities for the coming year. It’s great the Board narrowed the focus from general aviation as a whole to a much narrower scope delineating GA and weather. Mark Twain properly noted that “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” So, what could we do?

A few questions:

  • Have you ever been told “VFR not recommended” only to find that the ceiling, visibility, or the timing of that prediction were not quite right?
  • How about an airmet for icing?
  • What about an airmet for moderate turbulence below 10,000 feet?
  • How about the converse of all the above—nothing was forecast and whammo—the flight became a lot more complicated or even dangerous?
  • Do you think that some pilots build up a tolerance to imperfect forecasts based on past successes?

In the cautious words of the folks who sell financial products, past performance is no predictor of future success. And so it is with busted forecasts. Note to self: The weather is what is seen out the windshield—not what was forecast—and this is no place for wishful thinking. When your posterior, and those of your passengers, is hanging in the balance, it’s a really good time to assess risk versus reward.

At this writing, the GA community is averaging about two to three fatal weather accidents a month. It’s not an epidemic when considered against a hundred thousand flights, but it’s certainly not good for business or the health of the accident participants by anyone’s metric. So what to do?

I’ll throw out a starter suggestion and you can chime in anytime. Putting out accurate and timely forecasts/updates when the weather gods are in a different mood than the forecasters would help tremendously. When Mom told you the stove was hot it only took once to learn. But weather isn’t like that. As Yogi Berra famously said, “You can observe a lot just by looking.” Our communication system is what’s lacking. If you saw the Air Safety Institute’s “Accident Case Study—Delayed Reaction,” this is an example of where more accurate and timely information might have helped. We’ll have more to say on this in April’s issue of AOPA Pilot.

Help Me—I’m Stalling…

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Proficiency Check…So said the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz. Maybe that’s slightly garbled, but it’s something that too many GA pilots mumble when headed earthward. An FAA-Industry group, the GA Joint Steering Committee, which I’m privileged to co-chair, has been looking at the number one cause of fatal accidents for several years. Not surprisingly, it’s loss of control—and stalls play a big part.

A long time CFI and friend had some interesting thoughts—different—and I’d like your opinions.

(With minor editorial changes…)

Here is the scenario: You’re in the back seat of a Cessna 172, with a newly certificated private pilot at the controls. After liftoff, the pitch is too high. Sure enough, pretty soon the stall warning horn starts screaming. As the passenger, I know what the pilot should do—push the nose down at least until the stall warning stops. (We could conjure up a similar scenario on the base-to-final turn.)

“So how do we teach stalls? The FAA has a lot to say about primacy, recency, and frequency in learning. What is learned best is learned first, repeatedly, and recently. So here is our pilot in training. His instructor says, ‘We’re going to practice stalls.’ You know what comes next. The airplane is put in a stall conducive condition and when the first indication of a stall commences (the horn), the pilot is instructed to pull back on the yoke and keep pulling back, through the buffet (stick shaker), until control is lost. Is that what you want your pilot to do in the real world?

“This happens repeatedly in preparation for a check ride. Almost never (maybe never) in PPL (private pilot license) training is the pilot instructed to respond to a stall horn by pushing unless the instruction is to practice imminent stalls.

“Seems like PPL training in this manner conditions a pilot to:  a) ignore a warning of imminent danger; and 2) respond to the warning by doing exactly the opposite of what one would want in the real world of flying. 

“When stall accidents occur, pilots all shake their heads and say, ‘Everyone knows that you pitch down to break a stall. This just doesn’t make sense.’ It does make sense, actually. Condition pilots to respond to an imminent stall by pulling back on the yoke, and never the opposite. What really do you expect them to do under duress?”

When asked how we should train pilots to recognize stalls and the whole discussion of AOA (angle of attack) my friend replied there should be an introduction to full stalls but not much more than that. In his mind it’s not about recovery—it’s about prevention. This sounds vaguely familiar to the whole spin/no-spin discussion that can be started in any airport coffee shop or purveyor of stronger beverages.

I’ve got my own views but would like to hear yours. Be kind to one another in discussion because we all want the same thing—fewer accidents. The question is how to best get there. Don’t just vote—how about some comments— we need some good thinking here!

Let the games begin…