This is the second of our series of short pieces, which will look at recent incidents from the most recent GA Incident Reports.
Again, the most prevalent incidents were airspace infringements. These consisted not only of lateral entries into airspace but also vertical infringements. It can get quite difficult to read the vertical limits of airspace on cluttered areas of the map. It is essential that you carry out a thorough planning process, which will highlight where you may have difficulties seeing the information. Add the airspace vertical limits in bold on the map so you can see them easily in the cockpit.
Don’t be afraid to ask if you are unsure of where you are or what the airspace limits are. Nobody will criticise you for asking. Not asking and infringing would be foolish! Furthermore, if you are in receipt of an air traffic service, they will likely give you a warning, if they notice you getting close to CAS – yet another good reason to talk to ATC. We’re fairly sure they won’t bite!
The crew of a Cessna 510 was returning to base. On climb out from their departure airfield, they felt strong vibrations through the airframe. There were no abnormal indications, so they decided to ‘…wait a few minutes’ to see if the vibration went away. Reducing the power on level-off had no effect, nor did switching off various services. After five to ten minutes, the vibrations stopped followed immediately by a ‘L GEN’ caption. The crew diagnosed a quill drive failure of the left generator (The quill drive connects the generator to the engine gearbox and is designed to shear if there is a mechanical fault with it). With CAVOK weather and no IMC or icing, they decided to carry on home.
The crew diagnosed what they thought the failure was. However, with strong vibrations and potentially a sheared mechanical part in the gearbox, was this a good decision? If the aircraft is not performing as you would expect, or doing something it hasn’t done before, then it is often by far the safest option to land and sort it out on the ground.
Taxi back with Red OIL Caption showing
In a similar piece of pressing on, the pilot of a Cirrus carried out what he thought was a normal landing. However, the aircraft ‘kangaroo-ed’ a few times so he went around – good decision. The same thing happened on the second attempt and, again, he went around. The third approach and landing were fine and the aircraft coasted to a halt about two thirds of the way down the runway. It was at this point that the red oil pressure warning light came on. The pilot says that, as there had been no previous indication that the oil pressure was falling: “I was reasonably unconcerned and taxied to and parked on the apron.” As the passenger left the aircraft he drew the pilot’s attention to a large quantity of oil below the aircraft.
It will now be a time consuming, and, perhaps, expensive exercise to determine if any damage has been caused to the engine. It transpired that the nose wheel strut may have fouled the oil drain quick release when at full travel on the bounced landings. We often forget this (especially if used to the apparently “dodgy” gauges installed on many legacy GA aircraft!), but the warning lights and gauges in the cockpit are there for a reason. There was absolutely no reason for this pilot to taxy back with an indication of an engine malfunction. If you have indications of a malfunction on the ground then tell ATC and shut down to investigate. You can easily be pushed back.
Another Bounce on Landing
The pilot of a DA40 landed heavily and the aircraft bounced repeatedly between the main wheels and the nose wheel, which the pilot tried to correct, before recovering to a normal landing. On inspection, the tips of all 3 propeller blades were found to be missing.
Your instructor will have told you many times to go around if the landing, or the approach, is not good. When you’re flying a number of circuits, with touch-and-go landings, the mindset is there to go around if all is not well. However, as in this case, if you are planning a full stop landing the mindset may definitely be geared towards getting on the ground. Just remember to try and think of every approach as leading to a potential go-around, with landing being the bonus at the end of a good one!
Loss of Control During Taxying
Whilst taxying to the runway, the pilot of a single piston aircraft lost control and crashed into a fence causing damage to the propeller, wings and fuselage. There are a number of reasons why you might lose control on the ground: Taxying too fast, too much power against the brakes, or failure of the brakes or steering.
Do you know what you would do in this type of situation? Firstly, don’t taxy too fast! However, if this is not the issue then select power to idle and, if the toe brakes have failed, then use the hand brake, if possible. Failing that, stop the engine (using the ignition rather than the mixture, as the engine will stop more quickly). Finally, do your best to avoid obstacles (or at least the more solid or expensive ones!) until you come to a stop. If you are on a hard surface and there is a clear area of grass nearby, consider steering onto it, as this will obviously stop you more quickly.
There are several reports this month of pilots taxying further than their cleared limits, with some ending up crossing active runways. Having good SA on the ground is just as important as in the air. Listen out to all transmissions. Read back clearly. Make sure you know the taxi routes to and from the runway; if you’re not sure where you should be going, or how far, then ask. If you become distracted when taxying then stop and check where you are and where you should be.
At around 1NM final, a PA28 was struck by a bird, which dented the leading edge of the wing, just inboard of the wingtip. The damage extended for about 18in between two of the ribs. It is not just fast aircraft that the birds can’t avoid!
In this situation, it may well be the best option to continue the approach, assuming that you detect no change to the handling of the aircraft. However, having a dent close to the wingtip could result in the airflow being disturbed to such an extent that the wingtip stalls before the root, causing the aircraft to roll, so bear this in mind. Perhaps consider landing a few knots faster? If you are at height when the birdstrike occurs then carry out a low speed handling check in the approach configuration before descent for landing.
Why Do I Need So Much Power to Taxy?
Whilst moving around the airfield, an engineering vehicle spotted a tie down block on the taxiway and reported this to ATC. It was thought likely that the aircraft responsible was still on frequency. On returning the block to it’s home, the engineer found another block in the middle of the apron with a frayed piece of rope attached. This information was passed to the pilot who stated that, in hindsight, it was probably him, as he may have forgotten to check the tie downs as part of his pre-flight checks! A flypast of the tower was carried out where a length of rope was seen attached to the rear of the aircraft.
It doesn’t need much power to move off from stationary, even if the aircraft has been parked for some time. If you are using a lot of power to move on the ground then something is not right. However, before you have to make that decision, make sure you complete the walk-round correctly! The nights are drawing in so, if it’s dark then use a torch and check thoroughly.
That’s it for this month. Safe flying everyone!