Archive for September, 2009

Towers in flat Terrain – They’re out there!

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Comm-TowerIt was with great discouragement that I read of what appears to be another VFR into IMC accident this past weekend. A doctor flying with his wife, two of their children and a physician friend were on their way to Dallas. They made it all of eight miles after departing Jones Airport in Tulsa, Oklahoma, apparently betting on the flat terrain of the Sooner state to allow a quick trip to an Oklahoma University football game. Unfortunately, a tower guy wire only 150 feet AGL ended the flight. Witnesses noted very low clouds and fog in the area. Weather at Jones airport was reported at 600 OVC and 4 miles.

Football is a religion for some but it’s not a good reason to lose your life in an aircraft and take 4 other trusting souls with you. Pilot-in-command is an awesome responsibility that a few of us may take a bit casually. It’s not intentional but the results are the same.

It is premature to be too outspoken but I’ll make a strong bet on what the probable cause will be. We don’t yet know the pilot’s experience or ratings but this type of weather is exactly why there are instrument ratings and IFR flight plans.

Within our flying community, we have to start being a little more outspoken, in a respectful way, when we learn of someone pushing the limits. In most cases, the accident doesn’t occur the first time they try an end run. Success breeds contempt and the pattern of flirting with disaster may go for years before the last link in the accident chain is complete.

Fly VFR when it’s prudent to do so and IFR when you must! An  IFR flight plan was on file butclearance apparently was never received.

FlyBlindI can’t say it more eloquently that this ASF Pilot Safety Announcement - Please forward to anyone you think might benefit. These accidents are tremendously expensive, monetarily, emotionally, and politically.

Bits, Bytes & Weirdness

Thursday, September 3rd, 2009

High-tech-CockpitAs many of us gain exposure and flight hours with high tech flight decks, the more I am reminded of the need to still retain some of that “pilot stuff.”

An Airbus 319 recently lost all comm and transponder output in Europe due to a malfunction of the primary and backup electrical system. That’s supposed to be impossible in a Part 25 (air carrier) aircraft.

An ASRS Report on a Beechjet descending from the flight levels lost all airspeed indications, including back up. Perhaps this was what happened to the Air France Airbus in convective weather leaving Brazil. Total loss of airspeed indication – couldn’t happen – could it?

Closer to home, on return from Oshkosh, the database in my panel-mounted GPS got a little dyslexic. The plan was to go over Toledo, Ohio but the fuel computer advised that not only was I not going to have enough fuel for the trip but that the ETA was some 40 hours hence. The revelation came during cruise flight so there was plenty of time for head scratching.

Even more surprising was that TOL (the Toledo Vortac) had migrated some 4,000 miles to Southeast to somewhere in Brazil. Ahhhh, that would explain the mileage, time and fuel discrepancies. However, the TO NDB in Brazil had moved northwest to where Toledo had been in sort of a “sister cities” swap.

I loaded the TO identifier into the box and all the time, speed, distance and fuel parameters magically resolved themselves. It doesn’t take much imagination to see that in the terminal area this could be a major distraction.

Upon return, to query the database provider, Jeppesen pretty much said ” Well, why don’t you wait til the next update and if it doesn’t go away, call us back.” Interesting response for a flight safety critical piece of equipment.

Which brings me back to the blog title. Bits, Bytes and electrons can occasionally go haywire and we need to be sure that we always trust but verify. Single point failures are increasingly rare which means our ability to deal with them may need at least some occasional practice.

Anybody else had a similar experience?