For much more on flying safely see www.thomaspturner.net
C2008 Mastery Flight Training, Inc. All rights reserved
FLYING LESSONS for May 22, 2008
suggested by this week's mishap reports
FLYING LESSONS uses the past week's mishap reports as the jumping-off
point to consider what might have contributed to accidents, so you can
make better decisions if you face similar circumstances. Although most
Flying Lessons are suggested by piston Beechcraft mishaps, commentary
arises from significant mishaps in other aircraft types as noted. In
almost all cases design characteristics of a specific make and model
airplane have little direct bearing on the possible causes of aircraft
accidents, so apply these FLYING LESSONS to any airplane you fly.
Feel free to forward this message for the purpose of pilot education.
This week's lessons:
. A tower fly-by is effective in determining landing gear status
only if the observer on the ground knows precisely what to look for on
your make and model of airplane. For instance, with retractable-gear
Beech piston airplanes the landing gear locks down only after the inner
main gear doors fully retract against the underside of the wings. Older
Cessna 210s have fuselage gear doors that fully retract when the gear is
locked. Know (or find out) the precise gear door position when your
gear is almost, but not quite, down and locked so you can communicate it
to untrained observers should you ever attempt a fly-by to confirm gear
. A binocular-equipped observer may be able to tell if gear
doors is/are drooping, virtually guaranteeing a gear collapse on
touchdown, or if the gear doors are flush, providing as much assurance
as possible from the ground that the gear legs are all locked. Making
this level of determination would be close to impossible at night.
. Consistent with any precise manufacturer guidance, follow any
incomplete landing gear extension with the emergency/alternate/manual
extension procedure, to push the gear into its downlocks.
. Off-airport landings in the immediate vicinity of the planned
destination or alternate airport are usually fuel-related engine
failures that cannot be recovered before the pilot must commit to
preparing for impact. These engine stoppages, in turn, usually result
o selecting a tank with insufficient fuel for landing;
o selecting a tank not approved for takeoff or landing (e.g., an
auxiliary fuel tank);
o exceeding maximum slip duration limits with low fuel level,
"sloshing" fuel away from intake ports and cutting off fuel flow to the
o changing tank selection close to the ground (to land on the
"fullest tank"), only to miss the fuel detent or for any other reason
interrupt fuel flow to the engine(s).
. We unfortunately have a history of serious or even fatal head
and face injuries resulting from minor or even otherwise uneventful
impacts when shoulder harnesses are not installed and properly used.
. Prevent approach-and-landing fuel starvation events by
selecting a fuel tank at top-of-descent (TOD, just before beginning
descent to approach or pattern altitude), choosing a tank with
sufficient fuel for approach, landing, go-around and/or missed approach
to a safe altitude.
. Despite the admonition to always "land on the tank with the
most fuel", if approach and landing fuel takes your TOD selection below
the fuel level in the other tank, it's much more important to remain on
a tank with sufficient fuel than to attempt changing tanks close to the
Questions? Comments? Send me a note at
A NEW PERSPECTIVE ON SAFETY
The online aviation press has reported extensively on this week's Cirrus
Design announcement of its new Cirrus Perspective
<http://www.cirrusdesign.com/perspective/> SR22 variant. The CP22 (my
abbreviation, not theirs) sports a first for Cirrus, the Garmin G1000
with larger screens and a number of enhancements over other versions of
the hegemonic G1000.
New features of the CP22 herald what may be the safest general aviation
airplane ever produced. But there are as-yet unanswered questions about
the operation and limitations of the new additions. The optional
upgrades result in an airplane with:
* Dual AHRSs.. No longer does everything hinge on a single-point
failure of the Attitude-Heading Reference System (AHRS, the "brains"
behind the glass-cockpit flight data displays). If data comparison and
switching is automatic, with some way of determining which AHRS data are
correct and overrules a discrepancy with the other, then this is the
answer to lost redundancy when moving from "steam gauges" to glass.
Cirrus' website says the dual AHRS "automatically recognizes failure and
switches (the AHRS source) without disengaging the autopilot." 2008 FAA
CFI of the Year, G1000 expert (and FLYING LESSONS reader) Max Trescott
blogs that "Should one AHRS fail, a pilot can switch AHRS by pushing the
SENSOR softkey on the PFD, a feature previously found only in the G1000
version shipping in the Cessna Mustang." That's a big difference in
"automatic" recognition and recovery from an AHRS failure, one that
Cirrus marketing, pilots and the training community need to resolve
before flying at night or in IMC.
* Autopilot LVL (Level) button. This is a life-saving innovation
we've waited for but to date no one has delivered. It may be more
significant than the ballistic recovery parachute (BRS). When toggled
the LVL control engages the autopilot for wing-level flight on the
airplane's current altitude. Designed according to Cirrus to give
pilots "a valuable few extra minutes to recover from spatial
disorientation," the obvious application is recovery from unusual flight
But will it work? Spiral entry in an aerodynamically slick airplane
builds speed extremely rapidly. In the recovery excessive G-loading may
well occur in the pull-out. Putting students through unusual attitudes
scenarios in the FlightSafety simulator I learned it's not "unusual" at
all for a pilot to let the pitch come up excessively in the recovery,
leading to excessive speed loss and either a (1) wing-over-like
transition to a new, nose-low attitude or (2) an aerodynamic stall.
Cirrus states the LVL function "can recover the aircraft from an
attitude of 75 degrees of roll and 50 degrees of pitch, even if they
occur simultaneously." Can LVL do this without overstressing the
airframe, or turning a nose-low attitude into a nose-high and another,
perhaps stalled or nose-low in the recovery? Can it recover without
exceeding control-force limitations that will disengage the autopilot?
Or does the LVL function (like the CAPS parachute) have a fairly low
maximum airspeed limitation for safe operation?
Lastly, in an (as marketed and trained) almost-100%-autopilot-operation
airplane like the SR22, the most common cause of an unusual attitude is
an autopilot malfunction and/or trim runaway. I've already commented in
FLYING LESSONS and elsewhere about the challenge of hand-flying
following an autopilot or trim malfunction without means to manually
adjust for a radically out-of-trim condition. Obviously LVL would not
work in this scenario.
With all these considerations in mind, the LVL function is potentially a
life-safer at least as significant as CAPS. But like CAPS it has
limitations, and does not replace the need for a pilot competent in
hand-flying to include unusual attitude recognition and recovery.
* Synthetic vision. We've known this is coming for years, but
(despite an excellent albeit not widely retrofitted Highway in the Sky
[HITS] system from Chelton Systems
<http://www.cheltonflightsystems.com/default.htm> ) now it's part of the
Garmin offering. Diamond Aircraft <http://www.diamondair.com/> beat
Cirrus to the skies with the Garmin's Synthetic Vision Technology (SVT
<http://www.diamondair.com/news/2008_05_16.php> ), but it's a natural
for the CP22 as well. The only hazard? Like many cockpit technologies,
SVT threatens to pull pilot's attention even further into the cockpit
when taxiing and when flying with visual reference.
Admittedly I'm writing this within three days of Cirrus' announcement,
without benefit of reading any POH supplement covering operation and
limitations of the Perspective enhancements. (Any reader from Cirrus
wish to help out by sending me a copy? I called Cirrus to buy one but
there's nothing on the website and no one answered at the store phone).
All this potential comes in an airplane already equipped with an
emergency parachute system and TAA enhancements that have now been
demonstrated to make a big (positive) difference in accident rates (see
"Are TAAs Safer?" in the June 2008 issue of Aviation Safety
Overall, congratulations to Cirrus Design and Garmin on the safety
enhancements of the new Cirrus Perspective. Used within their design
envelopes (whatever they might be) these additions should provide a new
standard of operational safety for pilots of piston-engine airplanes,
and the passengers who fly with them. Nonetheless, Norm Komich of
Cockpit Concepts <http://www,aviation.org> (as well as FLYING LESSONS
reader) reminds us of a U.S. Naval Aviator who told him: "Automation is
a SUPPLEMENT, not a SUBSTITUTE for your basic airmanship." I'll be
addressing the larger issue of the pilot-as-backup to cockpit automation
in the July 2008 issue of Aviation Safety
NEW PISTON BEECHCRAFT REPORTS THIS WEEK
The May 22, 2008 Weekly Accident Update is now posted at
www.thomaspturner.net <http://www.thomaspturner.net/> , including these
* A Baron 58's gear collapsed on landing..
* A K35 landed gear up..
* A C33 landed gear up..
* A Queen Air's nose gear collapsed on landing..
* A B23 crashed under unknown circumstances..
* An A33 went down three miles out on final approach..
There are also NTSB updates on a B55 inadvertent gear retraction, a C23
hard landing that broke off its nose gear, and an E55 that crashed into
a parking lot during a dual-instruction touch and go.
For more information, commentary and analysis see the Beech
<http://www.thomaspturner.net/WAU%202008.htm> Weekly Accident Update
link at www.thomaspturner.net <http://www.thomaspturner.net/> .
Fly safe, and have fun!
Thomas P. Turner, M.S. Aviation Safety, Master CFI
2008 FAA Central Region CFI of the Year
Mastery Flight Training, Inc.
I welcome your comments and suggestions. Contact Mastery Flight
Training, <mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> Inc.
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