There is a great article in the Post-Dispatch this morning about one of the aviation records set here in St. Louis during the Golden Age of Aviation:
“Dale Jackson and Forest O’Brine took off in the St. Louis Robin at 7:17 a.m. on July 13, 1929. They said they just wanted to check out a new motor, but the airplane had odd-looking catwalks.
When their goal became clear, Jackson and O’Brine zoomed onto the front pages and stayed there for two weeks of breathless reporting. After 420 hours and 21 minutes in the air – 171/2 days – they were cheered as heroes with a ticker-tape parade downtown Aug. 1.”
Here’s another thing that happened while I was away: The FAA partially shut down.
Here’s a comprehensive article from Christopher Hinton at CBS MarketWatch:
“The Federal Aviation Administration remained partially closed on Friday, putting tens of thousands of people out of work and depriving the government of more than $200 million in tax revenue.”
Here are the Administrator’s remarks at AirVenture:
“This is the place where the FAA becomes personified to many of you—not a web link or a button on a phone, but real people working with real aviators,” the administrator said.
“So I personally regret we don’t have the presence we usually have. Unfortunately, it’s not business as usual. We need the team managing the ramifications of the furlough.”
Aviation enthusiasts have been early adapters of the Ipad for charts, procedures and general flight planning. EAA’s video team at Oshkosh shows us some of the capabilities of a software named ForeFlight.
Our club has a variety of aircraft available for members. Airspeed Blogger Steve Tupper has a good post up about keeping fresh by flying a different aircraft occasionally.
Many of us are used to the aircraft that we regularly fly. We know how the engine sounds during all phases of flight. We know where all the gauges are. We know what kind of control pressures to expect. We know how all of the avionics work. And there’s a lot to be said about being familiar with your aircraft. You’re safer and more competent that way.
But sometimes it’s a good idea to break out of the familiar and go stretch the envelope a little.
Apologies to our regular readers about the blog being updated only once last week. During my vacation I had very limited internet access – but a great time none the less. I’m back home and ready to get back at it!
Circling Approaches – When and Where is it worth it?
Best-case scenario: You are coming back into a very familiar airport, ceilings are low and visibility is reduced. From any vantage point you are still familiar with where you are and have determined that you can turn final from circling altitude to descend and make a normal approach to landing. As long as nothing changes and you have placed the aircraft in the best position to make this happen, it should be a non-event, a great conclusion to an instrument flight.
Now to reality.
How often does the best-case scenario happen? We all wish for it, but the trick is to be prepared for the “worst case scenario!!”
Only planning for the best-case scenario leaves you vulnerable when anything at all is out of place. Being prepared for the worst-case scenario prepares you with options and a plan of attack when things do not work out as planned.
Now, to the point.
Circling approaches in low IFR makes no sense for anybody. If anything goes wrong, did you leave yourself an out? So many things are stacked against you.
Visibility is less than expected.
Airspeed is not as precisely controlled as needed.
Circling radius is further away than planned or protected.
“Get home-itis” has set in. You made it this far, and are so close to home, so pushing it a little makes sense. (not)
Motivation (external or internal) to complete the flight as planned has often prevented the pilot from exercising safe judgment.
The bottom line is that a circling approach at IFR minimums, or even close, is a dangerous proposition. Circling from an IFR flight in VFR conditions still needs to be considered well before making the approach.
Think about it, plan for it, but avoid making circling approaches when possible.
Every human has an occasional memory lapse. One of the things that is drilled into you during pilot training is to use checklists. Bruce Landsberg over at the Air Safety Institute blog highlights the potentially deadly consequences of neglecting to use a checklist and instead relying on memory.
A few weeks ago a Cessna 182 pilot suffered an engine stoppage after takeoff. They don’t run well without fuel and the fuel selector was set to the ‘off’ position. This is one of those killer items on the before takeoff check and this pilot had a momentary lapse.
How could such an event happen? Easy! The aircraft had been in maintenance and the technician personally told the pilot that the selector was off. It was the pilot’s personal aircraft and he always left the selector on “both.” In running the checklist by rote the check wasn’t actually made and there was just enough fuel in the lines to get up to about 300 agl before the quiet began.
The Smithsonian Air & Space blog has an interesting entry on all of the engineering that took place to ensure the mammoth A380 could stop in an emergency.
“With the Airbus A380 weighing in fully loaded at 1,265,000 pounds, you might think stopping it within a reasonable distance after landing would require a Phalanx of Heavy-duty thrust reversers.
Truth be told, in the megaliner’s braking system, thrust reversers are the least critical components. Airliners are not required to have thrust reversers, and only the two inboard engines on the A380 are equipped with them. The decision not to install reversers on the A380’s two outboard engines saved weight and lowered the chances that those engines, which sometimes hang over runway edges, would be damaged by ingesting foreign objects.”