Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Minimal Experience

What’s appropriate in terms of experience may not be found in the FARs

Browse through the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs), and you'll see specifications for experience in many areas of piloting. These include items such as three takeoffs and landings within the preceding 90 days in order to be legal to carry passengers in daytime, and 50 hours of cross-country pilot-in-command time with 40 hours of logged real or simulated instrument time to apply for an instrument rating.

What the FAA says is appropriate minimal experience for pilots may be overkill for those who have inherent talent and skills, yet be wholly inadequate for others who still have trouble with arithmetic and parallel parking.

While the FAA believes its objective measurements are the way to define minimal experience required for safety, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigations sometimes demonstrate that pilots operate in a world requiring continual subjective assessments on top of experience measurements.

Cessna 340
In the crash of a Cessna 340 at Port Clinton, Ohio, the NTSB said that the pilot's minimal experience in twin-engine airplanes and his history of flying the airplane too slowly likely led him to fail to maintain sufficient airspeed to avoid a stall during the landing approach. The pilot and his three passengers were killed in the accident.

The airplane was on approach for landing on runway 27 at the Carl R. Keller Field Airport (PCW). The daytime visual flight rules (VFR) flight had originated from Mansfield Lahm Regional Airport (MFD), Mansfield, Ohio. An employee at PCW told investigators he heard the pilot call on Unicom about 10 miles out to request traffic advisories. The employee later heard the pilot announce that he was on downwind for runway 27.

An FAA inspector, who was a pilot, witnessed the accident and told investigators he was in his car when a twin-engine airplane caught his attention. He reported, " appeared to be flying very slow(ly) eastbound. The plane appeared to be level, but slowly descending with the landing gear extended. The aircraft continued to slow, then stopped flying and stall[ed]. The nose and left wing dropped sharply as the plane entered a counterclockwise spin."

The private pilot was certificated for single-engine and multi-engine land airplanes and held an instrument rating. His third-class medical certificate was current. He had logged approximately 1,160 hours. He accumulated about 27 hours of flight time in the 90 days before the accident. He had about 252 hours in multi-engine airplanes, with 12.6 hours in the accident airplane. Of those 12.6 hours, 7.7 were dual instruction. In addition, he had 10.3 hours on a desktop training device.

An investigator interviewed the instructor who had given the pilot training in the Cessna 340. The inspector asked whether the pilot "...utilized or was able to maintain a stabilized approach platform during landings for both single and two-engine approaches." The certificated/chief flight instructor (CFI) said he had to remind the pilot "...not to get slow... but noted some improvement..." and thought departures and approaches would continue to improve with experience.

According to control tower employees at MFD, when the airplane arrived there on the day of the accident, it landed long on runway 14 (9,001 feet by 150 feet) near mid-field and stopped at the end of the runway. The pilot asked the tower if he could get out of the airplane and push it back because he couldn't make the turn on the remaining runway. The pilot was given clearance to do that.


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