Archive for 2009

Do Not Fly Zenair CH601XL and CH650!

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

ZenairThe more thorough review on the Zenair CH601XL and CH650 is now complete by FAA. Based on what we have learned at this point, the prudent action would be to not fly the aircraft until FAA’s recommendations have been fully complied with. For those just joining the conversation, the S-LSA, and E-LSA version of this aircraft have suffered an alarming number of in-flight breakups. The latest occurred November 6th resulting in one fatality.

I blogged on this last spring, “Light Sport Breakups” and the FAA just released a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin that stops just short of grounding the aircraft. The areas of concern: Wing Structure, Structural Stability, Flutter, Airspeed Calibration and Stick Force Characteristics. Any one of these should be cause for concern – collectively and given the extreme number of accidents – you can draw your own conclusions.

I hasten to point out that the safety record of S-LSA (Factory Built models) is not out of line and with the exception of the Zodiac, there has been only one other in-flight breakup that I’m aware of.

According to Zenair, there is a fix and it will be up to FAA to determine if it’s adequate. Usually, it’s pilots that are operating outside a reasonable flight envelope that brings grief. Based on FAA’s and NTSB’s review, there are some serious design issues with these aircraft and operators should voluntarily ground them until all of the problems are addressed.

Runway Safety – Again!

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Runway Safety 2009As you may have noticed, last week was AOPA Summit in Tampa, Florida. The weather was Chamber-of-Commerce perfect and there were literally hundreds of aircraft that flew in. All the local airports were busy and obviously we’re always concerned about safety. Runway safety, while not the most exciting subject, is one of those basics that just has to be reviewed regularly. The news has been full of runway safety close calls lately; a Delta airliner that landed on an adjacent taxiway in Atlanta, and a Cessna that wandered onto a runway in front of a landing airliner in Hawaii. The fun just never ends!

Here are two references to raise awareness:

1) An interview at AOPA Summit with Wes Timmons, Head of the FAA’s Runway Safety Office and Jason Blair, Exec. Dir. of NAFI.

2) ASF’s brand new Runway Safety Course– we highly recommend it. New scenarios, new online technology and a great refresher to keep you from doing something you’d regret.

GA has a disproportionate share of incursions with pilot deviations. We can do better!!!

Hypoxic but saved

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

hypoxiaLack of oxygen causes brain fade or incapacitation. It happened again last week when the pilot of a Cessna 400 mentally dropped out but fortunately his daughter, who was not a pilot, was able to talk to ATC. The Corvallis was cruising at FL230 and had been cleared to descend but the pilot didn’t respond.

ATC and the daughter were able to work out a descent plan and finally got the aircraft down to a more oxygenated atmosphere. Even then, it a took awhile before the pilot was really with it and able to land uneventfully.

This is the second time this year that ATC have been “hypoxic heroes.” A Lear 35 crew also dropped out of reality and were barely functional. Controllers talked them down safely and all ended well.

A few thoughts: First, FAA should reward controllers for getting pilot certificates as they become far more capable of assisting in an emergency and are much better able to understand what they’re controlling – we could have a long discussion on that point.

Secondly, these incidents should be looked at closely for the potentially deadly consequences that would likely ensure without outside intervention. Did the C400 pilot run out of O2? Was he using a cannula above FL180 where a mask really is required. What is the monitoring system to let the pilot know immediately that he or she is about to become a vegetable?

As an aside, ASF offers both an online Pinch-Hitter course and a wonderful DVD that make great stocking stuffers for your cockpit companion.

As we ply high altitudes in light aircraft, it’s essential that both pilot and equipment are up to the challenge. High altitude training is essential even if you don’t fly a pressurized aircraft above the mandatory FL250. In my view, if you’re flying anything that is consistently above 14,000 get some solid training.