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statement in all of flying (well, with the possible exception of
"there are no old, bold pilots.")
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something we might never have considered before, or something that
didn't "stick" the way it should have the first time we memorized
it for the practical test.
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We've been reviewing the FAA's list of the Top 10 causes of
pilot-error accidents, which includes failure to attain or maintain
flying speed. We've already discussed speed control for takeoff and landing. Now let's discuss
airspeed control in abnormal situations, and in emergencies.
Fly the Plane
This is the cardinal rule of all aircraft emergencies --
concentrate first on basic control of the airplane, then deal with
the emergency. "Fly the plane", more than anything else, means
"maintain bank and airspeed control". Hold a constant speed, and
you won't trend toward either a spiral or a stall.
The Need for (Air)Speed
From the NTSB:
The pilot obtained a full Direct User Access Terminal
(DUATS) briefing the night before the accident. The briefing was
not valid for the time of the accident. The National Weather
Service (NWS) issued AIRMET Zulu update 3 for icing and freezing
level data valid from 1445 CST until 2100 CST. The advisory warned
of occasional moderate to mixed icing-in-clouds and in
precipitation between 3,000 to 8,000 feet. The departure airport
and the accident site were within the boundaries of the advisory.
The pilot requested an abbreviated DUATS weather briefing at 1244
EST for his route of flight…. The in-flight advisories were
to expire at 1500 CST. The briefing provided several adverse
weather phenomena impacting the route of flight from icing,
turbulence, and thunderstorms. The pilot stated he was not aware of
AIRMET ZULU UPT 3…. The AIRMET was transmitted …over
the XM radio installed in the airplane…. The airplane
entered the clouds at 5,000 feet on autopilot climbing at 120
knots. Upon reaching 7,000 feet the airplane encountered icing
conditions. The pilot informed the controller that he would like to
climb to 9,000 feet which was approved. As the airplane reached the
cloud tops in visual flight conditions at 8,000 feet the airplane
began to buffet. The pilot looked at his airspeed indicator and it
indicated 80 knots. The airplane stalled, entered a spin back into
instrument flight conditions. The pilot deployed the ballistic
parachute system and informed the air traffic controller….
The airplane descended under the parachute canopy into the trees.
Probable cause: The pilot's inadequate preflight planning, failure
to obtain a current weather briefing, and his decision to operate
the airplane into a known area of icing outside the airplanes
certification standards resulting in the aircraft accumulating ice,
a loss of airspeed, an inadvertent stall/spin and subsequent
collision with trees.
The "Impossible Turn"
From the NTSB:
The airplane departed runway 33. During the initial climb
out, the airplane made a steep roll to the left, pitched down,
descended and impacted terrain. A witness said he saw the airplane
"in a high left bank like it was trying to land on runway 15.
Suddenly, the plane made an abrupt (steep) descent (approximately
45 degrees) nose down. About 50 feet above the ground, it seemed
the pilot tried to level off. The plane impacted the ground at a
lower angle of attack (I would say 15-20 degrees). An FAA
inspector…found the fuel selector valve on the left tank and
the left fuel tank was empty. The right fuel tank contained
approximately "one inch" of fuel…. There was no fuel in the
engine-driven fuel pump, electrically-driven fuel pump, or fuel
injectors. Probable cause: the pilot inadvertently stalling the
airplane and descending into the ground. Contributing factors were
the pilot's inadequate preflight planning/preparation and his
failure to refuel the airplane, resulting in a loss of engine power
due to fuel exhaustion.
Aero-tip of the day: More than any other time,
when in an abnormal or emergency situation airspeed control is key
to success and, often, survival.