Good instructors strive to create realism while not creating an actual emergency that they or the student may not be up to handling. Last June a Beech Duke crashed on takeoff as it collided with trees adjacent to the airport. The 49 year old owner, a commercial pilot of some 20 years, was taking an instrument proficiency check (IPC) with a CFI. According to the NTSB’s preliminary report, an hour was spent discussing general procedures and aircraft systems (an unorthodox approach to an IPC which is a review on IFR procedures) followed by an hour of flight instruction. At the end of the hour, the the 69 year old CFI and pilot discussed finishing the check and the pilot opted to continue.
According to the accident report,” A second flight segment was initiated, and the pilot commenced the takeoff while the flight instructor controlled the throttles. The pilot reported that after liftoff, about 200 feet above the ground, the flight instructor retarded the left throttle at 85 to 88 knots. The airplane began to veer to the left, and the pilot reached for the left throttle to add power; however, the flight instructor’s hands remained on the throttles. The pilot recalled a visible split in the throttle positions. The airplane continued to roll to the left and the pilot was able to level the wings just prior to the impact with trees. After ground impact, the airplane caught fire.” Sadly, the CFI did not survive.
The minimum control airspeed on the Duke is around 85 knots and typically the safe single engine speed (Vsse) will be about 10 -15 knots faster. This is the slowest that one should be intentionally demonstrating or practicing to prevent what happened above. During my multi-engine instructor training as a Cessna factory demo pilot we adhered to this religiously to keep things from getting out of hand. You want to get closer to the edge? Get into a good simulator.
Cessna used Vsse as the target rotation speed and then it was only a few knots to go to blue line, best single engine rate of climb speed. At that point there was perhaps a fighting chance to continue. Other twin manufacturers often used VMC plus 5 knots. That ostensibly helped their marketing departments claim a few hundred feet shorter takeoff run but that’s a fool’s game and most experienced twin pilots value their posteriors more.
The other noteworthy item regarding this accident was a comment made to the local newspaper; ” Beechcraft 60s are difficult planes to fly” said XXX, who has been a pilot for 35 years. “They’re short; they’ve got big, powerful engines, which makes them pitch-sensitive,” he said. “They’re definitely not for the novice.” That’s not at all media-savvy so, to improve the image of GA a few recommendations:
- After an accident – don’t speculate on the cause or the talents of the pilot(s) involved.
- All certificated aircraft have to meet specific standards and they are all controllable when flown inside the envelope. They are not controllable outside the envelope.
- Unsubstantiated opinion, rumor and innuendo, while the staple of so-called news outlets these days is just that – DON’T feed the beast! GA will be better off even if you didn’t get a juicy soundbite on TV or in the paper.
Don’t create actual emergencies in training. Reach an understanding with the CFI before takeoff. With a sophisticated aircraft that you likely know it better than the CFI unless he or she is a specialist. Choose your training provider carefully. Some emergencies are practiced safely only by simulation regardless of the knowledge or talent of the instructor.
Much better not to voice opinions to media, other than to offer concern for the victims. Early pithy “analysis” seldom adds anything to the investigation and is often wrong. A good story with compelling video is literally golden and factual veracity is often a casualty.The public interest of future prevention is best served first through investigation – then is the time for accurate dissemination!