A few weeks ago, New York was experiencing an extended period of rainy weather, accompanied by what seemed like constant low overcasts, reduced visibility and winds that were designed to test the quality of airplane tiedown ropes. I was really looking forward to the break in the weather that had been forecast for the coming weekend.
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%.
Is there life after the check ride? The obvious answer is a re-sounding yes, there is definitely life after the check ride. Before the check ride, you’re a student; after it, you’re a pilot and the world is open to you.
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.
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.
In most cases, the first question a pilot must answer is the obvious one: How much money are you willing to spend on an airplane? In the majority of cases, this will be a finite number that will make the selection process easier. In others, a prospective buyer may be willing to spend as much as he or she needs to buy the airplane he or she wants. One way or another, a smart purchase, like a small fight, begins with gathering all the important information.
Final numbers for general aviation’s 2004 financial year have been released by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), and the news is great. Piston singles sales hit a 20-year high. “Bonus depreciation, coupled with the continuing growth of the U.S. economy helped make 2004 a turning point for our industry,” says GAMA chairman Jim Schuster.
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.
In a long-awaited move, Lycoming general manager Ian Walsh said that his company will be introducing a new diesel engine. While the company hasn’t released details of the new engine, Walsh did say that it would be dramatically more efficient than today’s gasoline-powered engines and would solve other problems, including the use of lead in aviation fuel. The diesel, when introduced, would run on standard jet fuel.
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.
Old home week, I reminisced, as I sat in the left front seat of the 2005 Seneca V. Well, perhaps not exactly. The panel of the new Seneca V has about as much resemblance to my old company airplane’s as does a new Ford Thunderbird’s to a Model T’s.
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.
Many private pilots who were trained in airplanes using manual trim wheels, cranks or knobs have transitioned to aircraft equipped with electric trim without being trained to recognize a runaway trim condition. A malfunctioning trim control switch, relay or other electrical component can cause the trim motor to run out of control, ultimately moving the trim surfaces to dangerous positions.
In slightly more than a decade, the World Wide Web has gone from being a mere novelty to one of the most important tools available. Now, with a click of the mouse, pilots can access live weather, plan flights with previously unheard-of flexibilities, check fuel prices, find aircraft values, search databases, take virtual tours of museums and study volumes of hard-to-access aviation product information. In the proceeding pages, Plane & Pilot has assembled the best online sites for pilots who are searching for excellent resources on the Internet.
When the new sport-pilot rules, which came into effect on September 1, 2004, were under development, one aspect that received loud applause was the proposed relaxation of medical-certification requirements. The promise was that a motor vehicle driver’s license could be used in lieu of the FAA medical certificate under the assumption that if you’re medically safe enough to drive, you’re also healthy enough to fly a light, low-powered, relatively slow aircraft in day-VFR conditions.