Smoothing out those unwanted dents may have gotten easier
It’s a problem most of us with metal airplanes face at one time or another—dings, those small dents that seem to go hand in hand with owning an aluminum flying machine. Unless you own a wood-and-fabric airplane, you’re almost bound to develop some minor dings in your airplane’s aluminum surfaces. Rag and spruce designs aren’t totally immune from hangar rash, but almost.
Whether real or imaginary, these obstacles keep us in and others out
Yesterday evening, a friend and I were flying across the desert a few miles south of Phoenix, when my fellow pilot asked, “Hey, wanna look at the horses?”
A wing dropped, and I found myself looking down at 30 horses that ignored us as we spiraled down around them. They were in a loose bunch in the sagebrush. Some were grazing, others were lying down, while a couple chased each other around in what appeared to be an equine game of tag. Every color and pattern was represented and spring had obviously arrived, as a number of colts frolicked about.
The latest NTSB statistics suggest a decrease in general aviation accidents
This past March, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released preliminary accident statistics for 2004. The numbers show a welcome overall safety trend for general aviation (GA), with total accidents going down from 1,741 in 2003 to 1,614 in 2004. The accident rate decreased from 6.77 per 100,000 flight hours in 2003 to 6.22 in 2004. That’s a drop of more than 8%.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by birds. I remember sitting on the beach during family vacations to Venice, Fla., as a kid of seven through 13, entranced by pelicans in ones and twos patrolling the roiling Gulf of Mexico surf for fish. The big-beaked birds seemed to have total command of the sky, gliding soundlessly or climbing for an instant with hardly a movement of wing, then diving straight down into the water faster than I could think about it.
Running out of fuel and crashing is something you might expect from an inexperienced private pilot, but not from a crew of professional pilots or even experienced pilots. Yet that was exactly the case when it came to an accident that occurred on April 8, 2003. It involved a Dassault DA-20C Fan Jet Falcon that was being vectored by ATC in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC) for another approach.
Tomorrow has a way of becoming yesterday entirely too quickly
As I’m typing this, my little red airplane is in the hos-pital for a 100-hour inspec-tion that is going to cost nearly 1⁄5 of what the air-plane is valued new. Every time the phone rings, it’s another one of those $1,000 calls. Yesterday, I was in a funk when I figured out that I would have to fly it another 100 hours just to pay for that inspection and then it would be time for yet another inspection.
Alleviating a non-pilot’s fears of little airplanes
As one who is sometimes asked to speak before pilot groups, I was struck by a column written by fellow editor, retired airline captain and general-aviation bon vivant Dave Gwinn in the February 2005 issue of Plane & Pilot. Gwinn was lamenting that some of the experiences we relate to live pilot audiences and write about to 300,000 readers each month may only serve to turn off non-pilots.
The other night, at the urging of a friend, Marlene and I did something we rarely do: We went to see a band play at a local watering hole (I would have said “dive,” but didn’t feel it necessary to be that accurate). The actual reason we went was because we kept hearing about Nick Sterling, this unbelievable local guitar player that everyone, from MTV to Gibson Guitar, was falling all over. We weren’t disappointed. He was an experience not to be missed, and this was just weeks after his 14th birthday.
Current ELT systems can make life difficult for search and rescue
Sometime in 2009, the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system will no longer be receiving distress signals on today’s common distress frequencies, 121.5 MHz and 243.0 MHz. Instead, the satellites will monitor only 406 MHz, a frequency that’s being phased in for civilian use.
Flying this aerobatic trainer across the Southwest makes for a fun and wild ride
Recently, I had a chance to fly a considerably less-ambitious Pitts delivery—pick up a 1999 S2C in Texas and ferry it back to Tom’s Aircraft in California. Not a big deal, only 1,100 nm across the Southwest with airports everywhere, and the weather was forecast to be good for the entire trip.
Using too much rudder can create structural in-flight failures
On November 12, 2001, American Airlines flight 587 crashed at Belle Harbor, N.Y., shortly after taking off from John F. Kennedy International Airport. All 260 people on board the airplane and five people on the ground were killed. The investigation began pointing to the likelihood that the airplane’s vertical stabilizer and rudder broke off because of full-rudder deflection.
Making friends with those who share the same passion for flight is time well spent
It’s mid-morning on the first day of the new year as I’m writing this, and I’ve already managed to put myself in a serious funk. I just did something really (as in really) stupid: I looked at last year’s list of resolutions. The list wasn’t that ambitious, but looking back at it makes me wonder exactly what I did with my time for the last 12 months.
Learning acrobatics can help you straighten up and fly right
Every job has its perks. Airline pilots, for example, fly practically free all over the world, doctors and nurses have the inside track on good health care, Formula One drivers are privileged to drive some of the most exciting cars available and are well paid for it, building contractors can live in lavish luxury at a fraction of the cost you and I might pay, and so on.
A friend of a friend knew the pilot of a King Air that crashed, killing six of the seven people on board, so I was asked to be on the lookout for the NTSB’s final report on the accident. The thinking among those who knew the pilot was that there had to be some sort of catastrophic mechanical failure or a series of problems with the plane and avionics, far beyond the coping capabilities of any mere mortal.
“Baron Zero-Two-Foxtrot, the biplane ahead of you is in the pattern and will be turning on crosswind shortly. Turn inside and above him,” said the tower at SDL Airport in Scottsdale, Ariz. “Pitts Papa-Bravo, when you turn, you’ll see a Baron inside your turn and above you, but he should be no factor.”
There are a few airplanes that deserve better than they got, and I’ve always felt the Shrike Commander is one of them. I flew the big twin for the first time on a ferry to Europe 20 years ago, and I was impressed with its handling and comfort.
It hurts when even the simplest things make you feel stupid
What’s the tennis ball for?” asked one of my students. Almost every one of them ask the same old question. I answered, “That’s one of the IQ tests that came with my hangar. You can’t be issued a passing grade around here until you figure it out.”
When it comes to figuring out what caused an airplane to crash, the first and most obvious clues often lead to a plausible, but ultimately incorrect, explanation. A case in point is an accident that occurred on June 15, 2003, at Jeannette, Pa. A Cessna 205 went down, killing the pilot and three skydivers.