Archive for November, 2009

Turkey of a Pattern

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

turkeyAs our thoughts turn to Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that a maneuver I witnessed last weekend at a very busy non-towered airport didn’t test Newton’s second law . As I was waiting in the lineup for takeoff , the frequency was abuzz with everyone reporting various legs in perfect VFR weather. A Mooney on base leg apparently didn’t see the Cirrus flying a much wider base. He should have but didn’t.

The Mooney turned final as did the Cirrus and both announced but nobody, it seems, was looking or listening.  The Cirrus rapidly overtook the Mooney and it looked like there would be widely scattered composite and aluminum in the forecast. I advised the Cirrus pilot that he had a Mooney at his 12 o’clock low on final.

Most pilots would have acknowledged, sidestepped to the right to keep the traffic ahead in sight and started a climb straight ahead to re-enter downwind at least midfield or beyond.  This particular runway has right traffic. The Cirrus pilot announced he was starting a left 360 so as to re-enter on final from the left side. I probably overstepped my bounds by again advising the Cirrus that he would come head-to-head with another aircraft on right base. Unfazed, the Cirrus pilot tucked in closely behind a Cessna that was following the Mooney. The second aircraft may have “just” cleared the runway when the Cirrus touched down. It was an astounding piece of airmanship!

After reflecting on this for 48 hours, here are some observations:  Midair collisions are rare – average less than 10 per year. They are often serious with fatalities on one or both aircraft. They frequently result in significant reactions from media and the non-flying public even if the wreckage doesn’t cause significant ground damage. Remember the Hudson collision?  It was the first one in the corridor in 45 years and the changes are far reaching. This situation had huge negative potential for this airport based on this pilot’s spur-of-the-moment decision to take a shortcut.

Here are two Safety Advisors for review:

Operations at Non-Towered Airports ( PDF) and

Collision Avoidance ( PDF)

I’m asking for your opinions as a sounding board:

1. I should have kept quiet after the first warning. Nothing wrong with a 360 – There’s no rule against it -and it all worked out.

2. The Cirrus pilot should have flown a normal miss and re-entered the downwind. Get out the tar and feathers – track down the miscreant and make him read the AIM cover to cover!

3. Other — you’ll have to do some writing here.

Don’t lurk -lock in your votes and if you have a chance,  go flying this holiday. Heads up – eyes out!

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!!!