Filling the Gaps

Efficient in quickly developing pilots, traditional aviation training nonetheless leaves significant knowledge gaps that contribute to the vast majority of aircraft accidents. It’s up to pilots to seek out knowledge to fill those gaps…here are three ways to increase your knowledge and safety.

PIREPs: Word from Above

I was in the right, front seat of a 1999 A36 Bonanza as we launched on an IFR training mission in northern California. A gloomy overcast had rolled inland off San Francisco Bay and we heard traffic holding overhead when Center gave us our clearance to go. My student, new to the Bonanza, did a superb job of holding attitude as he arced over the now-unseen hills while we turned inland; the holding pilot, now cleared for his approach, asked the Center controller about the weather at our departure airport.

Deviating from the POH

An instructor friend of mine wrote: You mentioned in a recent presentation that the only things that are of a legal nature in the Pilots Operating Handbook (POH) are those things listed in the Limitations section. Otherwise the pilot can basically do as they please (or words to that effect). I think I get the general idea of what you meant. One of my students, however, interpreted this to mean it is quite acceptable to:

RG Factor: Gear Check

Nearly half of all reported mishaps in retractable-gear airplanes are related to the landing gear system. The vast majority of those appear to be related mainly to pilot action or inaction, often under the stress of distraction. There is a small component of the Landing Gear-Related Mishap (LGRM) record, however, that is a function of aircraft maintenance.

RG Factors: Wind

Gear-up and gear-collapse accidents (what I call collectively 'Landing Gear-Related Mishaps,' or LGRMs) account for nearly half of all reported incidents in certified, piston-powered retractable gear (RG) airplanes. There is a fairly strong correlation between these LGRMs and, of all things, a weather phenomenon-strong or gusty surface winds. How might surface winds exceeding 15 knots contribute to gear up and gear-collapse accidents?

The RG Factors: Dual Instruction

Landing gear-related mishaps (LGRMs) account for nearly half of all reported accidents involving certified, piston-engine retractable gear aircraft. Up to 15% of these gear up and gear collapse mishaps happen when you'd least expect it: during dual flight instruction. Certainly much less than 15% of all RG flying happens with a CFI on board. How can we account for this high rate of dual instruction LGRMs, and more importantly, how can we use this knowledge to avoid this sort of mishap?

The RG Factors

It can happen to anyone. And it does with alarming regularity. At minimum, nearly half of all mishaps involving piston engine, retractable-gear airplanes result from failure of the pilot to properly operate the landing gear.

Look Out Below

A friend of mine has a turbocharged, single-engine airplane. Part of the appeal of the turbo is the ability it provides to “overfly the weather.” He and his wife were happily cruising at Flight Level 200 (20,000 feet) when something happened…and manifold pressure dropped in half. Where seconds before they were racing above a bank of clouds 15,000 feet thick, now they were sliding down into the deck with but a fraction of their available power…and the clouds were full of ice.

The Propeller Unfeathering Trap

Propellers on most multiengine airplanes, and even some singles, have an unique capability to feather, to be brought to a stop in the event of an engine failure. This dramatically reduces drag, as the stopped blades twist to nearly align with the slipstream and no longer present a disc to the relative wind. The result is substantially improved glide performance for those few feather-capable single engine airplanes, and the difference between a slight climb capability and a steep descent in most piston twins. But there's a trap that may befall the pilot of a feather-capable airplane if an in-flight engine restart isn't successful. How can we avoid the propeller unfeathering trap?