Minor, Major and Critical Errors … and the Highly Qualified Pilot

Maybe one of the best "flying lessons" I ever got took place 60 feet below ground level! Back in the Bad Old Days of the Cold War I served as an Air Force Minuteman launch control officer. How I came to do that for a living, when I took command of the Air Force's Precision Sitting Team, the "Thunderchairs," and why I actually launched an ICBM in 1987 are all stories for some other forum. But the pressure-cooker environment of potential total nuclear war, 60 feet under the Missouri plains, strangely did much to prepare me for the single-pilot cockpit of a piston airplane. One thing the "missile business" did for me was to teach the concept of minor, major, and critical errors.

Point Of Diversion 5 — In The Dark

Should the title of last week's accident report be, "When you gotta go, ya gotta go." Or, "Always know where the nearest airport is." A pilot who needed to make a restroom stop crash-landed instead of landing at an airport 2 miles away. The pilot was not thinking straight -- but he was dealing with a big distraction.

No Flaps, No Problem

Flaps are a pretty standard device on airplanes, and one that many pilots take for granted. Whether we have manual flaps actuated by a lever on the floor, or fancy electric driven flaps that move at the touch of a switch, flaps can and do fail in flight.

Forced Landings: Preventive Measures

Not every engine-out need take you by surprise and even if there's nothing you can do about the problem, having some warning that its coming and some knowledge of its nature will always help. Generally speaking, your mission as a safe pilot is not simply to fly the airplane but also to account and compensate for those variables that might otherwise do you in. This means you must acquire knowledge of and / or take the proactive steps that will minimize or remove those threats. The steps listed below, are designed to help you prevent a forced landing due to engine failure, and survive one should it happen anyway...