The January 24, 2008 Weekly Accident Update is now posted at <> .

C2008 Mastery Flight Training, Inc. All rights reserved

FLYING LESSONS suggested by this week's report:

Lessons learned from Beech experience are universal. Consider them in
any make and model of airplane.

Feel free to forward this message for the purpose of pilot education.

This week's lessons:

** Systems knowledge and familiarity with the airplane are vital to
properly handling unusual situations that aren't specifically addressed
in the Pilot's Operating Handbook. Do all you can to learn more about
the airplane you fly-read the POH, participate in "type clubs" and users
groups as an active member, taking advantage of any training programs
available, and seek out the experts in your specific model of airplane
to learn the collective wisdom of that type's owners.

** Take a very close look at the airplane and engine when accepting it
after inspection, maintenance or repair. Mechanics are subject to the
same sorts of human factors issues as are pilots; ultimately it's the
pilot's responsibility to determine airworthiness, not to mention he/she
and his/her passengers are the ones who depend on the airplane's
airworthiness for their safety.

** Departures over dark land and water at night can quickly lead to
"dark hole" instrument conditions, even in clear skies. Fly a night
departure over dark surfaces just like you'd fly a departure in low IFR
conditions (for more on LIFR departures see my article "On a Mission:
Low IFR Departures" in the February issue of Aviation Safety
<> magazine.).

** Based on 45 years of data, you can avoid virtually all scenarios
leading to in-flight structural failure by:

+ avoiding attempted visual flight into instrument meteorological

+ giving thunderstorms and building/towering cumulus clouds a very wide

+ staying away from airframe icing conditions

+ maintaining solid instrument skills, including division of attention
and partial panel flight

+ diverting away from areas of reported or forecast severe to extreme

+ defeating the inexcusable temptation to attempt aerobatics in an
airplane not designed for aerobatic flight.

Based on the Beech record, almost all in-flight break-ups fit into one
of the categories above. Read more discussion
<> of in-flight
structural failures.

Questions? Comments? Send me a note at


The FAA Runway Safety Program has created an information card that (in
hard copy) will fit in your approach plate book. The two-sided, single
page card makes a good aid for flight instruction and flight reviews.
Single-pilot operators will need to adapt the "Coordinate Crew
Communications" section to their needs; I'd add "Program avionics
(including GPS) prior to taxi or when stopped in the run-up area" to the
list. Instructors might create a similarly designed card for nontowered
airports to use with their students. Download the FAA's Runway
ram_Chart_for_Pilots.pdf> Safety Briefing Card.


Referencing a recent FLYING LESSONS discussion about nonprecision
approaches, a reader wrote:

Truer words were never printed re: your latest blurb about landing in
minimum WX conditions. But your caution reminded me about something that
I have been wondering about for years. I'm a 10,000 flying hour
commercial pilot and most of my flying has been in the bush - hinder
land and arctic - in northern Canada. Many of the aircraft I flew on
mineral - geological survey and photo-mapping flights looking for new
ore bodies, had installed on the panel along side of the primary flight
instruments, a functioning radio/radar altimeter. I seldom hear of these
electronic altimeters being carried anymore. But I can tell you that
they spoiled me to such an extent that to-day I would not think of doing
an instrument approach in my Bonanza down to minima without one of these
functioning altimeters. There have been countless fatal accidents due to
aircraft flying into the ground on an ILS approach just short of the
runway, etc. But the subject device enables a pilot to know exactly -
almost to the inch - his height above terrain during the approach. I
have had to conduct a nonprecision approach at night with fog moving in
on the runway (with no alternate to go to) and the only thing that saved
my neck was the radio/radar altimeter functioning so well. I knew
exactly my height clearance above the ground directly below me and would
not let down to near published airport elevation until I had the
approach lights in view and then is was back on the throttles, full
flaps, etc. But I could never have conducted such approaches safely
without these electronic devices. As I understand it - the difference
between the functioning of a radio altimeter and a radar altimeter is in
the frequency range they are designed to operate. Keep up the good

I replied:

Great point--we almost never see radar altimeters anymore. I think in
the era of IFR-certified GPS and terrain mapping we should be able to
have a HAT (height above terrain) warning feature as standard equipment
in IFR GPS aircraft and perhaps even as a requirement for approaches.

And the reader wrote back:

Good point, Thomas.

But what we have to worry a bit about, is having too much vital

information stored in one black box. When I first started IFR flying
over 50 years ago, - we had to have two of everything, i.e. two ADFs,
two VORs, etc. These units were all independent of one another and each
had their own power supply. The radar altimeter was also a 'stand-alone'
item. But what I fear is that if GPS manufacturers tries to attach too
many 'bells and whistles' into one avionics package, and if for any
reason that one multi-unit has a failure and has to be shut down, then
the pilot may lose several aids. In the old IFR days, there was no
problem as none of the sets were integrated to the extent that each one
could not operate independently by itself. Although I can see a radar
altimeter read-out being displayed on a glass cockpit panel, maybe its
electronics should be self-contained in order to have redundancy.

Excellent point, reader, and I agree! I feel that, despite the great
gains made with GPS, moving-maps displays, all-electric cockpits and
"glass panels" dependent on a single AHRS, we may have taken a big step
backward in redundancy.

Radar altimeters have their limitations-they report height above
obstacles directly beneath you, they cannot predict what lies ahead
beneath your flight path, and they generally are accurate only within a
few hundred feet of whatever you're overflying. Radar altimeter
manufacturers warn not to use their device as the primary means of
determining the missed approach point. GPS-driven devices might be able
to eliminate some of these limitations. But given the frequency of
controlled flight into terrain caused by descent below minimum
altitudes, some sort of radar- or GPS-based altitude alert ay be an
important back-up to altitude awareness.

Thanks, reader, for sharing your insight.

Do you have something to talk about? Send me a note at


** A B36TC's engine lost power on descent..

** A Baron 58 crashed into Lake Erie shortly after takeoff..

** A V35B lost its wings and tail in clear, calm skies..

For more information, commentary and analysis see the Beech
<> Weekly Accident Update
link at <> .

Fly safe, and have fun!

Thomas P. Turner, Master CFI

Mastery Flight Training, Inc. <>

I welcome your comments and suggestions. Contact Mastery Flight
Training, <> Inc.

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LESSONS sent directly to you each week, tell me
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C2008 Mastery Flight Training, Inc. All rights reserved.

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