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Top 5 Most Common Mistakes Among Pilot In Training

by GlobalAir.com 27. September 2016 15:06
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I want to first off begin this post by saying that I highly encourage everyone to go see the movie Sully now playing in theaters. In fact, this past weekend I went with the Sooner Aviation Club to see the movie at the Warren Movie Theater in Moore, Oklahoma. Here’s a group picture that we took right before we went and saw the movie.

Now onto more important things. With the semester in full swing and everyone trying to survive there first major exams and essay, I’ve also noticed that a lot of private pilots are taking a major step in their aviation career by soloing for the first time. I will never forget the first time I soloed back of October 13th 2015, and it’s a day that sticks with you for the rest of your life. As these students begin to work on the cross county portion of their private pilot’s license, I want to share my top 5 most common mistakes that students, and even myself, have made and continuously make.

#1- Forgetting the Checklist- By now I’m sure everyone has heard their flight instructor repeat this phrase multiple times “Are you forgetting to do something?” and 99% of the time they are referring to a checklist. Believe me I’ve heard this multiple times when it comes to flying and it’s definitely something that is easy to forget; however, it’s there for a reason and that is for the safety of yourself, your passengers, and the aircraft so if you are constantly forgetting a checklist this is a habit you need to break ASAP especially when it comes to a check ride.

#2- Landing too fast or to slow- When it comes to landing on final it’s all about your airspeed and making sure you are keeping it constant which means you absolutely need to be working the throttle constantly; however, never add too much power or pull it out when you are on final. This can lead to floating down the runway for a long time, or in the case of taking too much power out, you risk the chance of stalling the aircraft. In any case you feel like it’s going to be a bad landing it’s okay to call a go around, in fact it’s the best option. Remember you aren’t forced to land the aircraft on your first try if it looks like it’s going to be an unsafe landing.

#3- not flaring or over flaring- Along with the speed of the aircraft, a lot of people forget to flare the aircraft before hitting the runway which can lead to a hard landing, bouncing down the runway and even possible damage to the aircraft. Believe me if you don’t flare you could possibly damage the front of the aircraft or worse the propeller, so make sure you add that flare once you are over the runway to ensure not damaging the front. Equally as important is not to over flare since it could lead to a tail strike damaging the back of the aircraft and damaging the landing gear. The biggest thing I’ve noted when it comes to flaring is to just add small amounts of back pressure as I get closer to the ground preventing me from damaging the front or the back of the aircraft.

#4- wind corrections- So this is by far the biggest thing I always get harped on, not going to lie. Remember as pilot in command you are responsible for adding any wind correction because at any time a sudden burst of wind can hit your aircraft and possibly cause for you to flip over. It’s also important you add wind correction during takeoff and landing for the exact same reason, you don’t want to end up upside down like this aircraft.

#5- Situational Awareness- When it comes to flying it’s very easy to get fixated on your instrument especially during a maneuver. For example, when I use to do steep turns I would always focus on my turn coordinator to make sure I rolled on the proper heading. Next thing I knew the nose of the airplane was facing down and I was losing 500ft per minute and it took me a while to break that habit. While your instruments are a great resource, guess what? Your eyes are a better resource and you should always be aware of what’s going on around you. For all you know there could be another aircraft in your area, you could have a bird strike, or in my case you could be losing altitude so always be looking out outside to make sure you are aware of your surroundings.


By Cameron Morgan

The Rise of the Angle of Attack Indicator for General Aviation Airplanes

by Sarina Houston 1. October 2015 21:24
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Earlier this year, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) added the prevention of loss of control accidents in general aviation to its Most Wanted List, a list of advocacy priorities the organization releases yearly.

Loss of control accidents (stalls, spins, etc.) made up 40 percent of fatal fixed wing general aviation accidents between 2001 and 2011, according to NTSB statistics. More than 25 percent of all fatal general aviation accidents occur during the maneuvering phase of flight, and more than half of these maneuvering accidents result in a stall/spin scenario. The NTSB continues to emphasize an industry-wide need to focus on preventing these accidents in order to reduce the accident and fatality rates for general aviation pilots. Preventing loss of control accidents should include awareness, as well as educating and training pilots, says the NTSB, and the organization is taking their own advice - in October the agency will host a forum to discuss some of the ways the industry can improve. The topics of discussion will include a statistical review, new training techniques, and equipment and technology improvements, and will most certainly include the installation and use of angle of attack (AOA) indicators in light general aviation aircraft.

Over the past few years, the NTSB, FAA and General Aviation Joint Steering Committee (GAJSC), with support from industry groups like AOPA, have been working together to advocate the use of AOA indicators in light airplanes as a way to encourage recognition and prevention of stall accidents. In the past, pilots and aircraft owners haven’t been all that eager to install them, though, based on cost and the red-tape problems associated with the installation process. In 2014, the FAA streamlined the process of installing AOA indicators, making it easier for aircraft owners to enjoy their benefits.

We know that a stall will occur any time the wing’s angle of attack - the angle between the chord line and the relative wind – exceeds its critical limit. But historically, pilots have been trained to monitor and fly precise airspeeds in order to prevent stalls. This is helpful, but only when the aircraft is in straight and level, coordinated, unaccelerated flight, when the aircraft’s stall speeds are quite low and where they are known and familiar for that particular flight configuration. But an aircraft can – and will - stall at any airspeed, any weight, any configuration, and any attitude when the critical angle of attack has been exceeded. While airspeed is a good guideline to use, it shouldn’t be the only one. Pilots should understand that the angle of attack, which is invisible, matters much more than the airspeed.

Enter the much talked about angle of attack indicator. It’s designed to help pilots determine the aircraft’s true angle of attack in real time, allowing the pilot to “see” the angle of attack in a way that’s not possible otherwise. This will be especially valuable to new pilots, who, through its use, will better understand the concept of angle of attack as it relates to different aircraft configurations and phases of flight.

So what will it take to install an AOA indicator? According to this article on AvWeb, not much. After the FAA approved the more streamlined process, most general aviation aircraft will not require an STC and the modification can be done by any A&P mechanic with just a logbook entry. AOA indicators for small general aviation aircraft like the Cessna 172 cost between $400 - $2000, depending on whether it’s electrical or mechanical, heated or not, pressurized or not, and other variables.

The Importance of Checklists: 4 Accidents That Checklist Use Could Have Prevented

by Sarina Houston 17. September 2015 06:11
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Photo 1981 by J-E Nystrom, Helsinki, Finland/CC 3.0

It’s human nature to be complacent. We’re all lazy, right? But aviation isn’t an industry that welcomes complacency, and even the slightest oversight on behalf of a pilot in command can mean the difference between a successful flight and an unsuccessful one.

My flight students get tired of me reminding them about checklists. Before we even get into the airplane, I can often be heard saying: “That preflight checklist is there for a reason.” And on downwind, every single time: “Before Landing Checklist.” Some people understand the tedious nature of checklists and accept it; others defy it.

Why don’t pilots use checklists? Probably because they don’t expect anything bad to happen when they don’t. After all, they’ve skipped a checklist- er, many checklists - before and nothing bad happened. Maybe they remember all of the items, after all. Or maybe it’s true that 999 out of 1,000 times, a forgotten checklist item still results in a successful flight, which reinforces the pilot’s belief that it isn’t complacency, but skill, that gets him back on the ground safely. Unfortunately, this couldn’t be more wrong.

We’d all like to think that we’d never end up crashing because of a forgotten checklist item. But here are a few examples of average pilots who failed to accomplish checklist items or otherwise got into trouble for a checklist-related item. We’re not any different. We’re not immune. At the very least, it’s embarrassing to end up like one of these pilots; at the worst, fatal. If using a checklist can potentially prevent you from embarrassment or death, shouldn’t we just use it?

Here are four accidents where proper checklist use would probably have prevented the accident entirely:
Gear Down and Locked
As seen on YouTube, the pilot of this Piper Aerostar twin-engine airplane landed without gear at Aero Acres Air Park in Port St. Lucie, Florida. And then, to everyone’s surprise, he took off again. You can see from this video that the airplane is coming in too fast and unstable, and the pilot decides to go around only after touching down. Unfortunately, the pilot not only forgot the gear, but he forgot his go-around procedures. The pilot claims that he intended to go around, retracted the gear and all of the flaps prematurely and sank to the runway. Once airborne, the pilot is said to have flown the aircraft all the way back to his home in Ft. Lauderdale- about 100 miles.

This is only one report of many, many gear-up landing situations. Pilots: Don’t forget your GUMPS checklist!

Flight Controls Free & Correct

Earlier this month, the NTSB released an animation highlighting the crash of a Gulfstream IV in Bedford, Massachusetts last year. The aircraft skidded off the runway after a failed rejected takeoff, killing seven people on board - two pilots, a flight attendant and four passengers. The reason for the crash? Failure to check that the flight controls were free and correct before takeoff, and subsequently failing to expedite a rejected takeoff once they determined the problem.

The NTSB report states: “A review of the flight crew’s previous 175 flights revealed that the pilots had performed complete preflight control checks on only two of them. The flight crew’s habitual noncompliance with checklists was a contributing factor to the accident.” Sadly, seven lives were lost because basic checklist procedures were not followed.

Water Contamination
There are several ASRS reports from pilots who have lived through off-airport landings due to engine failure. Many of these emergency situations are due to engine failure from fuel starvation. In many of those cases, water contamination was the culprit. In this ASRS report, a man describes his lackadaisical preflight habits after his Grumman Tiger engine quits due to water in the fuel tanks:

“Although I did not discover the water prior to takeoff, I have learned a valuable lesson. I feel that I had gotten complacent in my approach to the pre-flight in that I never found condensed water in my tanks before due to keeping them full at all times.” He admits to failing to sump the fuel carefully to check for water.

In the early days of flight training, it might not be apparently obvious why a student’s flight instructor emphasizes the importance of getting a current altimeter setting. If the flight is conducted in VFR, the altimeter can be off by 100 feet and it might not matter much. It’s not until a pilot flies an approach to minimums that he realizes the value of setting the altimeter correctly. Being 100 feet lower than you intend when you’re descending on an approach can mean crashing into the runway or just short of it.

Knowing how an altimeter works and accounting for altimeter error will only keep you out of trouble if you set it correctly. We’ve all heard stories of pilots being to low or too high during an approach into IMC. This compilation of NASA ASRS reports tells how altimeter errors can lead to altitude deviations, traffic separation violations and landing accidents.

The NASA report states, for example, that, “A helicopter accident resulting in four fatalities was attributed at least in part to an incorrectly set altimeter during a period of known low barometric pressure. The report from the Canadian Aviation Safety Board states: ‘The helicopter was being used to transport personnel to work sites across a large frozen lake. An approaching low pressure area with snow and high winds...reduced visibility to near zero in some areas. The pilot most certainly encountered adverse conditions and altered course to circumvent the worst areas. The aircraft was later found...wreckage was widely scattered. The altimeter showed a setting on impact of 30.05; the correct setting would be about 29.22, causing the altimeter to read about 800-850 feet high. The altimeter had obviously been set two days previously [apparently during a time of high barometric pressure-Ed.].’”

Incorrect altimeter settings can be fatal. Checklist procedures should always include getting the current altimeter setting occasionally during flight and always before landing.

Mastering the Go-Around

by Sarina Houston 3. September 2015 23:09
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Every pilot knows that a good landing always begins with a good approach. But how does a pilot know when an approach is unstable? And what happens when the approach is unstable, but the pilot thinks he can salvage it? We all preach that a go-around is the simplest way to prevent a landing accident, but when was the last time you performed a go-around? Are you confident that you’ll respond the right way after a long flight, when you just want to go home, when you’re low on fuel, or when you just botch the landing?

A stable approach is one in which the aircraft is on glide path, on the desired approach airspeed, and configured appropriately for landing at a descent rate that will allow for a normal transition to land. Sounds easy enough, right? So why do so many pilots continue an approach to a landing, even after all of the warning signs of an unstable approach? And why are there still so many loss-of-control accidents during the approach and go-around procedures?

The stable approach is so important that most commercial operators require a go-around in the event of an unstable approach. For most airlines and commercial operations, if the approach is not stabilized by a certain height above the ground (sometimes 1,000 feet and sometimes 500 feet, and sometimes there are requirements for each), the pilot must execute a go-around. Stable approaches are a big deal, and one that the professional aviation world does not want to tangle with. In general aviation, however, we often don’t have these standard operating procedures written out for us by a company. Most of the time, we’re on our own. If we’re IFR, we can and should use the FAA’s guidelines, which state we should “…depart the FAF configured for landing and on the proper approach speed, power setting, and flightpath before descending below the minimum, stabilized approach height; e.g., 1,000 feet above the airport elevation and at a rate of descent no greater than 1,000 feet per minute (fpm), unless specifically briefed.” For light aircraft pilots, the FAA basically tells us to maintain a proper glidepath visually. But we should still note that an unstable approach means one that is too high, too fast, or not in a normal position to land (i.e., excessive maneuvering is needed to land) and if any of those conditions exist, we should execute an immediate go-around.

We all want to make the first landing work. We don’t want to go around, maybe because it wastes time, wasted fuel, or just because we have too much pride and want to be able to land in any condition. But perhaps part of the problem is that we just don’t practice go-arounds very often, and not often enough. We don’t get familiar with them. We’d rather sacrifice the aircraft, sometimes even our own life, to get the airplane on the ground rather than waste a few more minutes to try again, or risk a go-around, which seems like a hazardous maneuver to those who have not mastered it.

Going around isn’t always the best option, but most of the time it won’t hurt. And when it’s the better option, you should absolutely be ready to accomplish one.

Commonly a student or a certificated pilot doing a flight review will blow off the go-around as if it’s an easy maneuver not worth practicing. Be careful about this; I’ve found that many pilots will bust a check ride or flight review for bad go-around procedures. To simplify this maneuver, I teach the 5 Cs, which work well for many types of general aviation aircraft (but check your aircraft POH for proper procedures!)

  • C- CRAM:Full/climb power, props forward, carb heat off
  • C- CLIMBSet the Vx or Vy climb pitch attitude and CLIMB! So many of us get distracted during a go-around procedure and we fail to climb! And keep in mind that if you have the aircraft trimmed for a slow-airspeed descent, adding full power will cause the nose to pitch up. Be ready to add forward pressure on the controls to counteract this pitch-up moment and prevent an elevator trim tab stall.
  • C- CLEAN Retract gear and flaps as necessary. In some aircraft, you’ll want to retract the first 30-40 degrees of flaps right away. For many common training aircraft, you’ll wait until you get to a safe altitude and airspeed, after the climb has been established, and retract flaps in increments, stabilizing the aircraft in the climb each time. Many people get excited and want to retract the flaps either all at once or just too early in the game. Cram, climb, and thenclean it up.
  • C- COOLOpen the cowl flaps and lean the mixture, if necessary.
  • C- CALL You’ll probably need to make a radio call, whether it’s to notify other traffic in the pattern at a nontowered field, or to announce your missed approach with the towet or with approach, but radio communication should only come after flying the airplane to a safe altitude at a safe airspeed and navigating to where you need to go.

Often, I witness students or certificated pilots botch not just a landing, but the resulting go-around procedure, as well. Practice this maneuver to proficiency – a bad landing isn’t something worth salvaging, but you’ll need to keep flying the airplane and properly execute the go-around if you want to be successful the second time around.

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Aircraft Accidents | Aviation Safety | Flying | Sarina Houston

The Importance of Accident Investigation

by Tori Williams 31. August 2015 22:34
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This semester I am taking a class that is required for my major called “Aviation Safety Programs.” I did not know much about this class before the first day, besides that we would be learning how to be safer and more cautious pilots in our flight operations. Now that the first week of classes has come and gone, I am looking forward to this class more than most of my others. The basic setup of this class is that we will be reading and watching videos about aircraft accidents and analyzing what went wrong. We then write 250-500 words a week about a factor of the accident that stuck out to us. A large percentage of our final grade is calculated from a presentation that we each give about an accident that is randomly assigned to us.

This may sound grim, but it is so important to sit down and work through exactly what caused a deadly accident to happen so that you can avoid the same mistakes in the future. Whether it is pilot error, instrument malfunction, or an accident caused by ATC, knowing how to understand and avoid the same fate is paramount to creating safer skies.

For example, the first accident that we investigated was Colgan Air flight 3407. As 40+ aviation students anxiously watched the projector screen, we were shown a video that recreated the accident with a 3D model of the aircraft and instruments visualizing what the black box had recorded. Additionally, this video had real audio from ATC communicating with the copilot shortly before the accident. It was disturbing to hear, as it made the accident seem so much more real.

After watching the video, we opened discussion to what we believed went wrong. Was it icing? Was it the captain who had previously failed stall awareness training? Was it the first officer who had been working so much between flying and being a waitress that she was deliriously tired? It is important to consider all of these factors and logically work through why this was a bad decision/scenario. We then read the NTSB report and discussed how they came to their conclusions.

This is the infamous accident that lead to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee introducing the “Airline Safety and Pilot Training Improvement Act of 2009.” Many things changed in the world of professional aviation after this law was passed. Regulations governing pilot training became much more strict. Additionally, the hour requirements for a pilot to earn their ATP rating changed from 250 to 1500. Although both pilots had several thousands of hours of training, the distraught families of the victims who pushed for these updates to regulations simply wanted to try and ensure something like this never happened again.

As you can see, the aftermath of this accident was colossal. It had a huge impact on the aviation industry as a whole, the effects of which aviation students will witness firsthand for years to come. Had the NTSB reported that the cause of the accident was icing with minimal other factors, perhaps the outcome would have been different. However, we cannot be sure of this. The important thing to gather from this is that the entire accident could have been avoided if the pilots had stopped the sequence of bad events from early on.

The "Decide" model is often used to evaluate in-flight emergencies. Having a prior knowledge of events that have lead to accidents can assist with logical thinking when evaluating impeding danger.

Each accident starts as a chain of events. Imagine dominos in a line. When you knock down one, others start following after quite quickly. One of the things we will be doing in my class is identifying which moments leading up to the accidents are dominos. We will analyze where it starts, what makes it worse, and what the ultimate result is. I think that this is fascinating, and it is extremely important for all pilots to examine aircraft accident reports to become better informed and prepared in case they recognize something that could be a domino.

I want to encourage every pilot out there, whether it is their profession or they fly for fun, to begin paying attention to accident reports. It can be difficult, as most pilots have an “it won’t happen to me,” attitude, but doing so will help make flying safer for yourself and everyone around you.

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Aircraft Accidents | Tori Williams


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