Posts Tagged ‘Pilots’

Electrical Failure Anyone?

Wednesday, May 7th, 2008

Just keep flying the plane…it doesn’t mean the engine quits! 

The story unfolds on a dark winter night, in IMC, in a 1972 Piper Cherokee Six, with two souls on board.  What I am about to share with you has not been shared with my wife so let’s keep it that way, she might not appreciate it.  It was a calm misty night with an overcast at about 500 feet AGL, smooth IMC with a beautiful moon lit night on top at about 4,000 feet and I was headed to Dallas for a business meeting.

I did my run up before I left Wiley Post Airport, everything seemed fine, mag check good, pitot heat good, alternator seemed fine, nothing really to speak of, maybe a slight dimness when I did the alternator check, but nothing concerning.  My dad (Veteran Naval aviator who flew the F2H ‘Banshee’ during the Korean War) decided he would go along to keep me company so we set out for our 1.5 hour flight to Alliance Airport in Fort Worth. It was a good first flight with nothing memorable per se and I went off to my meeting.

My meeting lasted longer than expected as they always do and we got back to the airport as the FBO was shutting down for the night. The tanks were topped off and our bladders were drained and we were ready to go.  I did my pre-flight we boarded, got our clearance and headed for the end of the runway to do our run-up.  Again the Run-up seem normal a little dim on the Alt check, then a POP!  So we sat there discussed it and I ran through it again to see if anything appeared to be amiss.  You know old planes, strange things, but…you have to be aware when things aren’t right (apparently I disregarded or didn’t notice the Alternator gauge was flat. 

Well the second go around on the run up and everything seemed to be fine to me!? Dad and the plane all seemed to be fine spending the next hour .5 in the air.  We called departure since the tower was closed made our take off roll and started our climb out through the peaceful mist and 500 foot ceiling headed to 6,000 feet for our flight back.  High enough to be out of the soup most of the time and give us some options if we needed them too.

It was a November night 3 days after my IFR Check ride and my first born child a son was due in the coming January and there we were, tired, in a single engine plane headed back home from a late meeting at 12am.  A beautiful night for flying though not much going on, just us, the gourgeous moon, with an occasional interruption from FTW Center to break the serenity.  Now at 40 miles out from PWA we call OKC approach and the controller had us start our decent to 4,000 feet and put us smack dab in the middle of the muck.

Please note when heading on any cross country, before you leave when you check the weather always note where the overcast ends and know how much fuel you have so you can make it there if you have to.  Also, extra flashlights (plural), handheld radio and even a battery back up gps are good to have as well, for any flight at night or certainly in IFR conditions.

So we start our decent, the we get cleared to start the approach, which passed South of Will Rogers World Airport and then around to the West for a straight in on 35R at Wiley.  So now we are in the clouds, cleared to start the approach and then POP everything goes black! Well at least the engine was still running! Now we are trying to start the approach from 4,000 and in the middle of muck and its dark! 

So I scramble for the flash lights and the portable radio and my dad looks like we just started taking enemy fire.  We level off in the soup as directed in my last radio communication waiting to start the approach. I get my headset back on and plugged into the handheld radio and try to transmit. 

OKC Approach Cherokee 15667”, I listen for a voice in the dark and I hear her, but she doesn’t appear to hear me.  Then the screen goes black on the handheld raido (at this point I think the battery goes dead, it has the delay to turn off the light on the display, but I don’t realize it).  So I turn it off and then on to try and transmit, then listen, she can’t hear me…I kept turning it back off and on trying to transmit, while trying to keep it straight and level because the autopilot is not helping me at all – it’s electric!  On one of the ‘ON’ stints I hear her say to a Continental Flight “I was talking to a Cherokee, but I lost his transponder and communication with him” they respond “we have him on TCAS”, about that time I get a quick break in cloud cover and see that I am on a 45 degree (Southwest corner) and about 4-5 miles from the end of runway 35 at Will Rogers.  Then I think ‘great, my handheld battery is dead or intermittent and I am going to get hit by another airplane!’

Fortunately I had just finished my instrument course with good ole Ken from Professional Insturment Courses- PIC (which if you don’t know is a 10 day – cram it all in and get your instrument ticket in your plane at your place) so that is to say, the previous 10 days I had logged about 6-8 hours a day in my plane or on the simulator and even got in about 10 hours of actual instrument.  Great training and what a blast!  So if this was going to happen, it couldn’t have been at a better time at least as far as training, being prepared and conditioned is concerned. 

So for what now seemed like an eternity I was flying blind in the clouds hoping for the best.  Then POOF! I am out of the clouds and in clear air with not a cloud in the sky in front or on either side and I am about 3 miles from the end of 35R at Wiley Post (Thank you LORD!)

Gear was down (check – couldn’t screw that up), fuel pump didn’t work (electric) going no flaps (like it that way), no runway lights to queue (pilot controlled after the tower closed and no radio to queue them) so now it was figure out how to plant it on the runway and be safe.  Probably not my best landing, but certainly not my worst and now that we were on the ground my dad could extract his finger nails from my newly redone glare shield.  We pulled off the runway and taxied to my hanger. 

As parked at the hanger and shut down the engine the line guys drove up in a big hurry and practically greeted us at our door to let us know we need to come to the FBO and call OKC approach. I put the plane up and drove to the FBO and explained to the very understanding and concerned controller what had happened and she said she was glad we were safe and sound and she would close my flight plan. 

Well all is well that ends well! However, training and preparedness along with the grace of GOD kept us safe that night in those dark skies over Oklahoma.  I truly hope that if nothing else, you will know that nothing makes up for:

  1. paying attention to the signs your airplane gives you, that’s what the run up is for! I should have further investigated the POP in Fort Worth apparently my alternator was out then and it would have shown on the gauge, must have been overlooked?
  2. no reason to push it at night or in bad weather, especially when you are tired – rather be late than ‘the LATE Mr. Pilot’
  3. be prepared, radios, flashlights, or whatever (note to self – know how to use them and their features)
  4. follow your check list and know your emergency procedures, you don’t want to think in an emergency, you just want to execute the plan

Love to hear feedback or your stories.  Happy flying and don’t tell my wife I nearly missed the birth of our first child.>

Stay Current on your emergency Training – as this student showed

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Whether it be driving, flying, or life sometimes we forget to practice or plan for situations.  I am always asking my wife what she would do in that situation or this situation or if this happened. This couldn’t be more true in anything than flying.

As thhis student proved that even if you are a novice at something, but you apply yourself to study the procedures and know your decisions are made or the check list is immediately referred to and followed then when an emergency occurs your chances of a postive outcome increase exponetially.

He made a safe emergency landing with no fuel, so maybe the lesson is way to follow the emergency check list, but hey did you follow the pre flight checklist about adequate fuel?

Denver Post Article

Older, Not bolder make good pilots

Sunday, March 16th, 2008

Well the saying goes, there are old pilots and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots.  Well older pilots may be better though not all the current FAA data supports that or at least they should be.  Please reference earlier post regarding higher retirement age for pilots. 

Definitely we here at what-to-fly.com we think the gray doesn’t necessarily mean your flying days are over and until recent years of the dot com boom and the not so recent past of mortgage and real estate boom most of the people who could coordinate the time + money equation were usually older.  They had built their businesses, raised they’re family’s and now had the time and money to enjoy it.

Such results possibly in the past or even now could put an unfair light on accident data according to age.  I mean potentially an older pilot may not have much time overall or in the type of plane he or she just built or bought, so that could tend to skew the numbers. 

Article Citing Pilot Health Issues doesn’t even touch the subject

Article by Pittsburg Tribune studying the same results in their area

Commerial Airline Pilot Age Increase

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

Well it’s nice when government goes our way! We all know, young and old alike that there is nothing magic about 60 and certainly many people are healthy, happy and strong way past 65, but at least now experience and desire can align for those pilots wishing to stay employed until the “traditional retirement age” of 65 when they can apply for full social security.

Flying is about good decision making, not just reflexes!  The balance of the two can make for a good pilot regardless of the age.  As the saying goes an ounce of preparation is worth a pound of cure. So a seasoned pilot with good habits and decision making ability is definitely who I want in my cockpit, not the daring young lad who is willing to test the limits of the plane we are flying with albeit faster reflexes, but not such good planning and decision making abilities.  Read More

10 Tips for Avoiding Runway Incursions

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

A couple of simple tips.

1) Even if you are a VFR pilot, download the approach plates and airport diagrams for the airports you will fly to/from…they’re free on the aopa.org website. Study the airport taxiway diagram before you call for taxi clearance. On an XC flight, make it part of your pre-descent checklist.

2) If you land at an unfamiliar towered airport, once you switch to Ground, simply say, “Ground, , Request Progressive Taxi”. This is professional code which means…
“I’m not familiar with this airport, can you give me turn-by-turn taxi instructions?” You’ll still sound like a cool Pro on the radio, and Ground controllers are happy to help you.

3) It’s all about S.A. (situation awareness)–knowing where you are at all times, and knowing where you are going, and watching the whereabouts/listening to the instructions given to other aircraft. Anticipate that controllers other pilots will make mistakes.

4) Knowing where you are means you need to stay sharp regarding runway markings. Review them annually.

5) Crew coordination. If you have a fellow pilot sitting next to you…delegate all the housekeeping tasks to him/her while you taxi the airplane. If it’s a non-pilot, you can still offload small tasks like looking up a freq, folding a chart, looking up a checklist, or dialing in a squawk.

6) Communicate! Read back ALL taxi instructions (it’s required anyway). Study and review what taxi clearances mean. For example, “Taxi to runway 5 via taxiway Alpha, Bravo, and Echo” means you have clearance to taxi across all intersecting runways you might cross enroute to runway 5 while on A, B, and E. (There are two military airports where this does not apply, but everywhere else, it does). More importantly, anticipate what other aircraft given these instructions will be doing.

7) Monitor TOWER frequency while taxiing. If you’ve got 2 radios…USE ‘EM! Listening to tower while on the ground has saved my hide more than once.

8 ) Taxi at a reasonable speed. Most pilots taxi so fast, a good wind gust would get them airborne. Slow down!

9) On short final, EXPECT that an aircraft on the ground is going to taxi out onto the active runway in front of you. Are you ready for the Go-Around?

10) NightTime TIPS…if you are given a “Position and Hold” prior to takeoff. Position yourself left of the runway centerline. It makes your plane’s lights easier to distinguish from the runway lights centerline lights, and may keep you from being landed upon. We pick left of centerline because most two-place aircraft have the PIC on the left, so he has a better chance of seeing you. Navigate back to the centerline as you start your takeoff roll.

11) Bonus night time tip: Except when landing in a signficant crosswind…After landing…get OFF the runway centerline as soon as you are on the ground and rolling out comfortably under control. Here, just get to the exiting taxiway side of the centerline, and off the active runway as soon as practical. Don’t get so close to the side of the runway that you ding your wing on a runway light or marker. See, Avoid, LIVE.

NOTE: Obviously, both 10) and 11) apply to wide runways only! Common sense applies.

Get Additional Tips from AOPA