Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
#1015872
Bumps in the Sunshine

Craig Reefers tells the tale of Pilot X’s first trip to the sun and freedom of America skies

It had taken X a bit longer than he’d expected to get his PPL, the usual combination of work, weather and aeroplane availability conspiring to add a couple of months to the target that he’d set himself. X had been frustrated at the time, in fact he’d almost got himself thrown out of the club for being ‘overly argumentative’ with the CFI, but none of that mattered now. X had promised himself a flying holiday as a reward and that holiday was about to kick off.
As X and his girlfriend stepped off the 747 and onto the jet bridge at Orlando, FL, they were struck by heat and humidity; Immigration took nearly 45 minutes, but the pair consoled themselves with thoughts of the cold, grey, damp England they’d left behind and the Sunshine State they were about to enter.
X had done his homework: he’d sent off the necessary forms, paid the CAA fee and made an appointment at Orlando’s FSDO. The following day it took less than half-an-hour to get everything sorted. X now had a Temporary Airman’s Certificate in his hands; the only thing standing between him and a week of flying sunshine was a quick checkout.

‘Mom and Pop’ school
Rather than hire through one of the bigger outfits, X had found himself a small ‘mom and pop’ school which rented out a tired old Cessna from an uncontrolled airfield south of Orlando. Judging from the pictures on its website, this school was more about relaxed flying than gold epaulettes and that suited X perfectly. Turning up on time, X was happy to find his instructor and the aeroplane ready and waiting – he’d left his girlfriend trying out the local nail bar – after all, he figured he’d only need a couple of circuits and a quick chat before being signed off as ready to go.
X’s instructor had other ideas. As far as he was concerned, the new licence meant a Biennial Flight Review (BFR) and that meant an hour on the ground and an hour in the air. If X did well, he was told it could probably double as a checkout too. The hour in the classroom passed slowly. X did his best to look interested but there was a lot to take in; the charts looked different, some airspace changed depending on the time of day, there was this ‘veil’ thing around big airports, ARROWs, talk of upside-down wedding cakes and even a ‘TFR for the mouse’ whatever that meant. It was with some relief that X agreed to go and check out the 172 while his instructor went to grab the headsets and a sectional.
The C172 had been built in the early 1970s and as X worked his way around he could see that not a great deal had been changed since it left the factory. Most of the external plastic trim was cracked and there were countless stop drill holes all over the place. Inside there was an early Garmin 430 in the stack, although X thought it would have been better had the screen not been cleaned with a Brillo Pad.
There was a bit of a problem clearing the plugs during the engine checks, but X felt that the flight went well. Stalling was fun, particularly as the 172 seemed to like dropping the left wing – anyway, after a couple of circuits, X got a pat on the back, his first BFR signed off and the aeroplane’s keys.
The following day, X drew some lines on a chart and flicked through the Garmin 430 manual he’d found on the internet. The plan was to head south with his girlfriend with the aim of flying her to a beachside restaurant for lunch. He did his best to look professional, and managed not to lose his cool when yet again the plugs needed clearing with a handful of power and heavy leaning. The flight progressed well – he managed to get a flight following service, and the Garmin worked.
X remembered the whole ‘join downwind on a 45’ thing, made a decent landing, parked by the FBO and borrowed a car to drive the pair for a seafood lunch, where after plucking up the courage, X popped the question, sealing the deal with a small shared glass of champagne.
The 172 just about started, but again took a lot of power and aggressive leaning to clear the plugs. This was getting tiresome. X announced on the Unicom frequency, “...taking off Runway 31, two on board and we’ll be turning left, heading north and climbing to 6,100ft.” Someone else transmitted, “Awesome dude,” and X smiled, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere.

A muffled thud
At about 800ft and just passing the coastline, things started to go wrong. There was muffled thud followed by instant vibration. X stared at the ancient, blurred dials not knowing what he was looking for but hoping for an answer nonetheless. The blaring stall-warner went off and X realised he was still trying to climb. He levelled the aeroplane, looked out and started a turn back towards the airport. The water might be warmer than the North Sea but there was no way he was ditching. X didn’t have enough power to maintain level flight and found himself heading for the airport, he even found himself positioning to join on a 45 to the downwind. His girlfriend was crying and he was annoyed at his inability to think and act. With the altitude fast running out, he made a turn for the runway and got the wings level but was too low and too slow. If only he could tease it a little further.
The stall-warner was blaring but he’d almost made the runway. He squeezed back a little more on the yoke, but from little more than 15ft the left wing dropped, dug in and cartwheeled the 172.

1 What could X have done differently?
2 Had this happened in the UK, what’s the legal position with the half-glass of champagne?
User avatar
By Jim Jones
#1015879
Persistent plug fouling probably a sign of worn engine, piston rings allowing oil through, and finally letting go at peak power at the climb out.

Poor preparation generally and over ambitious in his plans to "get there" probably an element in deciding to accept the aircraft. Add that together with a general arrogance (and meanness) indicated by his previous confrontation with the CFI at his school, and his personality may not have been one suited to safety.

His check out should have included some practice forced landings, but possibly didn't, so his reaction to engine failure was slow and he had no plan of where to go in the event of EFATO.

His check ride revealed a tendency to drop the wing, possible because the ancient Cessna had become poorly rigged after repairs etc. He then tried to stretch the glide to reach the runway, leading to the stall, triggering the wing drop at low altitude.

Half a glass of champagne in a healthy male adult would have taken 2 hours to be metabolised. Nevertheless the 8 hour 'bottle to throttle' rule is a good guide. ( And who just has half a glass of champagne? He may have been adjusting reality to suit his purpose, another indication of his personality). The post accident blood alcohol level may be interesting to his insurers.
#1015933
"I'm not sure I like this, I'm rejecting this aircraft" is a much easier decision to make if you've picked a rental outfit that does actually have another plane to give you.

So from this point of view the accident chain started back home in the UK.
User avatar
By DBo
#1015958
"he even found himself positioning to join on a 45 to the downwind"

As the engine had let go wouldn't he have been better joining in the shortest way rather than any kind of conventional join. A quick mayday would have sorted out any conflicting traffic. Also unless the wind was strong a downwind landing on a runway (assuming its not very short) is probably better than a field landing.
User avatar
By Steve R
#1016017
Runway 31, left turn out, 'heading North'?

800' when the bang happened?

Rejoining at 45?

I'm afraid I can't work out where he was in the circuit, or in relation to the departure runway, so I can't accuse him of breaking the 'never turn back' rule, but it sounds like he may have.
User avatar
By GrahamB
#1016024
To add to JIm's point about alcohol - it is illegal to be flight crew of an aircraft with a level of alcohol in the blood of one quarter of that for driving a vehicle in the UK (I forget what the actual figures are).
User avatar
By Jim Jones
#1016260
GrahamB wrote:To add to JIm's point about alcohol - it is illegal to be flight crew of an aircraft with a level of alcohol in the blood of one quarter of that for driving a vehicle in the UK (I forget what the actual figures are).



Drink drive limit is 80mg /100ml. Some people have a natural level around 10 without drinking; so 20 allows for this but is effectively zero as even a small drink would put you over.
Many people underestimate how much they have drunk and have no idea how long It takes to be eliminated. A bottle of wine or 4 to 5 pints drunk between 9pm and midnight will mean you won't be alcohol free until 7am at best. A 'heavy night' may need a full day to clear.
User avatar
By Rob P
#1018420
GrahamB wrote: it is illegal to be flight crew of an aircraft with a level of alcohol in the blood of one quarter of that for driving a vehicle in the UK (I forget what the actual figures are).


Any chance you can point me to chapter & verse on that one, particularly with relation to private flying - not hire & reward?

Rob P
User avatar
By GrahamB
#1018436
Rob P wrote:Any chance you can point me to chapter & verse on that one, particularly with relation to private flying - not hire & reward?

Blimey, that's a toughie. It was an EU thing passed a couple or more years ago, but I'm not sure whether it's in the ANO or somewhere else, as I don't know whether it's a Directive or a Regulation.

I'm absolutely sure it applies to all flights - even those by French pilots. :)

Edit: there you go - Part 5 of the Railways and Transport Safety Act 2003
User avatar
By stevelup
#1040158
This is interesting:-

Where a person sets out to perform an aviation function, anything which he does by way of preparing to perform the function shall be treated as an activity ancillary to it.


So if you're sat planning tomorrows flight on SkyDemon whilst sipping on the Chablis, you're breaking the law...
User avatar
By Gertie
#1040233
stevelup wrote:So if you're sat planning tomorrows flight on SkyDemon whilst sipping on the Chablis, you're breaking the law...

That's what I thought it meant, but one of the lawyers (either here or in the other place, don't recall) explained why that was not in fact the case in his opinion.

I do however regard it as prudent to double check any such flight planning on another occasion when I haven't been drinking.