Archive for 2008

Verify, Verify, Verify.

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

NTSB is just finishing a preliminary investigation on what has to be the closest call we’ve had between a GA aircraft and an airliner in years. On September 19, 2008, at 1938 local time, a runway incursion resulted in a near-collision on Runway 6 at the Lehigh Valley International Airport, Allentown, Pennsylvania. Mesa Air Shuttle flight 7138, a Canadair CRJ aborted takeoff at 120 knots skidding around a Cessna R172K that had just landed and was still taxiing on the runway. The RJ crew estimated the distance between the two aircraft at 10 feet.

Click here for an interactive recreation of the incident, provided by the FAA.

The conditions were night VMC. The Cessna had just landed on Runway 6 and the tower cleared the RJ into position and hold. Tower then discussed with the Cessna pilot where he wanted to park, and cleared him to exit the runway at A-4 taxiway. You will note from the airport taxi diagram that A-4 is the first turnoff and unless the Cessna touched down right at the end, and was moving slowly, making the first turnoff might be difficult. Some 35 seconds later, the tower, assuming the Cessna was off the runway cleared the RJ for takeoff. 23 seconds after the RJ was cleared, the Cessna pilot advised the tower that he’d missed A-4 and would like to exit on Bravo taxiway.

Allentown Runway IncursionThe skid marks speak for themselves!

There are multiple factors in this incident which both pilots and ATC should consider:

1. ATC apparently did not visually scan the runway prior to clearing the RJ and assumed the Cessna had cleared. It might also have been prudent to give the Cessna pilot more runway to get the aircraft slowed to taxi speed.
2. RJ crew apparently did not visually scan the runway prior to accepting the takeoff clearance- assumed the Cessna had cleared. It’s always good to verify that the runway is clear and if you can’t see for yourself, ask the tower.
3. The Cessna pilot should have notified the tower that he’d missed A-4 taxiway quite a bit sooner in my opinion. AIM section 4-4-1 and FAR 91.123 make it clear that you don’t have to roll it up in a ball to stop at the next taxiway if that cannot be done safely but you DO have to let the tower know, on a timely basis, that an amended clearance is needed. It would also be smart to SPEAK UP immediately if tower clears another aircraft to takeoff while you’re still on the runway.

Everyone was lucky – this time. Remember that no matter how routine something may seem, it can turn ugly faster than a speeding RJ can leapfrog a slow-clearing Cessna.

For more information on runway safety, take our Runway Safety Online Course and Runway Safety Quiz.


Thursday, November 13th, 2008

How do you say you’re sorry to a passenger who just walked into the prop? It happened this week at our airport when the pilot/CFI of a Cessna 172 neglected to shut down before dropping off a passenger. Our local paper, of course, put the story on top of Page One which doesn’t help GA’s image. The lady walked forward and her arm was partially severed – I probably don’t need to be any more graphic.

This happens about twice a year on average, often with a fatality, but always with serious injury. I will admit to having boarded and dropped off other pilots without a shutdown but always with a briefing beforehand. No one ever approaches or disembarks ahead of the wing – I make that absolutely clear and in retrospect, it’s probably not such a great idea. With non-pilots there is no question that the engine(s) will be shut down.

As instructors, and pilots it’s a sober reminder that the business end of the aircraft is just that and we should discuss it with those less aware. Please be mindful. Here are a few links to ASF materials on the subject.

Online course:
Safety Advisor:
Real Pilot Story:

This will be more than you wanted to know about the oft neglected, very reliable and very dangerous propeller. Ramp safety is just as critical as flight safety.

ASR Approaches – a vanishing breed

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

One of the first things a pilot in trouble is trained to do is ask for help. Often, ATC is the lifeline for a lost VFR pilot or an IFR flight in distress by getting them to a runway. But sometimes they can’t help.

The Maryland State Police lost a medevac helicopter last month in some rapidly deteriorating foggy conditions. With two car accident victims aboard the helicopter was unable to land at the original hospital helipad and was diverting to Andrews AFB. The pilot, for reasons yet undetermined, was unable to receive the ILS and asked for an ASR approach. The controller on duty was not certified and no one else in the facility was able to help.

Long ago, our flight school used to take instrument students over to Andrews almost every evening when traffic was light to practice ASR and PAR approaches. In the era of faster, easier, cheaper it appears that the availability of such skills is dwindling.

But, as the excerpt from Air Traffic Saviors shows, there are still times and places where ASR skills would save lives.

“Great Lakes Region—On the evening of January 3, 2007, Detroit Tracon controller Patrick Eberhart noticed that a Beechcraft Bonanza inbound to Pontiac, Michigan, was off course in its initial approach. As the aircraft was being re-vectored to start the approach again, the pilot declared a fuel emergency and advised of a flight instrument malfunction. Eberhart cleared his frequency of other traffic and provided no-gyro vectors to the Bonanza, a procedure that hasn’t been used in Detroit for more than 10 years! It worked, and the pilot descended below the clouds perfectly aligned with the runway.”

Has anyone had occasion to use, or could have used, an ASR in the last several years? Is this something we should concede to efficiency or should the FAA should consider reinstating/ retaining ASR at more locations?