As the old saying goes: “Learn from your mistakes, but better still, learn from someone else’s”.

This forms the basis of one of the main pillars of aviation safety and one way to achieve it is through the reporting and investigation of aircraft incidents and accidents.

In this regular series of blogs, we will be looking at a few items each month from the most recent AAIB and UK CAA GA safety reports and, hopefully, generating some thought and discussion around them! We hope you enjoy…

Do you know your speechless procedure?

The pilot of a Cessna 150 was returning to Humberside Airport. The RADAR controller noticed his squawk change to 7600 and asked if the pilot was familiar with the speechless procedure, but nothing was heard in reply. He then asked the pilot to change his squawk, which he did – so he was receiving OK. There then followed a lengthy process whereby the controller had to ascertain that his instructions had been received by getting the pilot to change squawk each time.

Even though this was one of the methods included in CAP 413, it was not only lengthy, but required the pilot to keep looking in to change his transponder code, when all he really needed to do was press the transmit button once or twice for “yes” or “no” – a much easier and safer process. Nevertheless, a good example of both pilot and controller dealing with the situation and leading to a successful outcome. What would you have done in the same situation?

For more information about the speechless procedure, see CAP 413

Please avoid the fences!

Chipmunk Formation

A Chipmunk was taxying back to parking when the wingtip was allowed to hit a fence. Yes, it was a tailwheel aircraft, but it was the wingtip and not something in front.

Another of those well-used sayings in aviation is “if there is doubt, there is no doubt!” If you’re not sure whether you have enough space, then stop and seek assistance (or shut down and push). Asking for help is much less embarrassing than having to report a dented aircraft. If you do have to taxi in a confined space, then do it slowly. This gives you more time to think about and assess the space available to you (and if the worst did happen, would at least help to limit the damage!).

What would you do if the trim failed?

There are a couple of reports of trim failures this month – one on the ground and one in the air. What would you do if the trim jammed whilst flying? It may depend on where it jammed: pitch down, pitch up, or somewhere close to cruise speed.

A handling check at height would be a good starting point, to see how the aircraft handles at approach speed, and how much stick force you will need to deal with. Try this with and without flap, then decide which configuration is best. In any event, a long, straight-in approach would give you the best opportunity to settle into it.

Finally, don’t forget to tell someone! The last thing you want to do when dealing with a handling issue is have to work your way into a busy circuit on a Saturday afternoon with everyone else!

To Go-Around or not to Go-Around. That is the question!

The pilot of a PA-28 joined the circuit to land. He reported “downwind”, but on final found that he was closer in and faster than expected. The aircraft bounced on contact with the runway, but the pilot thought the aircraft was settling down and was surprised when it bounced again. He was unaware of propeller damage and initiated a go-around.

When would you have first considered going around in these circumstances? Perhaps at the “closer and faster” stage? Once he had bounced, then that was certainly the time to initiate it: select the landing attitude and smoothly apply full power (carb heat etc. can wait). Remember: it is never a good idea to pursue a poor approach.

Airspace Infringements

Planning Aids

This latest set of reports is full of pilots telling of airspace infringements. The CAA are so concerned about this that they have recently released an airmanship guide (along with a questionnaire to be completed by infringing pilots).

One of these reports was from an AA5 that flew into conflict with a Dash-8 inside Southampton’s airspace. The pilot appeared to have been using only a GPS to get him around the route and, when it lost it’s fix, he misidentified one town for another, as he was not monitoring the route on a chart. The rest, as they say, is history! The pilot sums it all up well himself:

“Salutory lesson learnt…don’t assume, check heading on a chart, ensure any GPS functioning correctly and DON’T rely on them! I have arranged for a refresher with my QFI to go through some exercises to polish up on my navigation. The main lesson that I learnt from this incident is to not rely overly on GPS, keep my basic nav skills up to speed and always double check any nav aids for functionality.”

If you feel like your basic nav is getting a little rusty, or your R/T could do with a bit of a brush-up, Horizon Aviation are happy to help, either with some flying, or just a bit of work on the ground. You can even do it in your own aircraft! Contact us to discuss your requirements.

That’s it for this one! We hope you found it interesting and a good reminder of some of the traps that we can all fall into as pilots!

Mike Stanway is Horizon Aviation’s Safety Manager. An experienced former RAF fast jet pilot and instructor, he is now a human factors and flying training consultant, working with organisations ranging from the Royal Aeronautical Society to international airlines.