Discuss the problems and solutions to all of the situations that Pilot X finds himself in.
By Echo Delta
One extra drag

Ian Seager looks into the mind of Pilot X - a pilot with a compulsion and a heavy aircraft...

The violent movement stopped and the chaos was replaced by silence. X sat motionless in disbelief. Wisps of smoke could be seen coming from the cowling and the left wing had crumpled as if it were made from paper. Looking out of the window, X could only see mud and grass where the undercarriage should have been. It could have been seconds or it could have been minutes, but when X finally registered the familiar smell of avgas it provided more than enough motivation. X lifted the handle and pushed the door which moved half an inch or so; he pushed harder but it wasn’t going to open, presumably jammed in place by the combination of a distorted flap and the ground.

As the heavy avgas fumes filled the cabin, X’s disbelief gave way to a sense of urgency. His door still wasn’t moving, but fortunately the passenger door opened and X clambered out while cursing himself loudly. It had gone from control to chaos very quickly. He knew that he only had himself to blame, but he still reached into his empty pocket for his cigarettes.

X was up early that morning, and while the tea brewed he fired up the laptop to check the weather. There was no TAF for his home airfield, but someone had conveniently built a military base close by and their forecast suggested the last of the overnight rain would clear through in a couple of hours. X poured himself his first cup of tea and took out his second Marlboro of the morning. Whenever he lit up on a flying day he could see his AME frowning and worse could hear himself promising the doc that the habit would be a thing of the past come his next medical – not much chance of that.

With the time pressure gone, thanks to the rain, X decided to take his time over the flight planning. He knew he wasn’t as current as he’d like to be, and, if he was honest with himself, his last flight hadn’t exactly been a demonstration of the finely-honed skill and precision he thought he once may have had, so X dragged a crumpled chart from his flight bag and set about refolding it. How was it the chart-folding fairies manage to get the destination just beyond the crease every time X flew?

X took his scale and drew a nice, fat, 40nm long red chinagraph line on the laminated surface, something he hadn’t really bothered with for a while, and even though he knew the area well he studied the chart intently, looking for obstacles 10nm each side of his track in order to work out his MSA. X was enjoying the nostalgia, and could almost smell the musty Portakabin that had been his world as a PPL student all those years ago. X managed to find an old blank PLOG and although he’d long since sold his CRP-1, he filled in the headings and times that the software on his laptop calculated for him. The planning process had been strangely satisfying and before setting off for the airfield X rewarded himself with another cup of tea which was accompanied by the mandatory Marlboro.

X stood in the clubhouse and looked out at the row of parked aircraft between him and the grass runway. So far nothing had moved that morning and the aircraft, including the C210 in which he had a share, were all sat there with their damp covers presumably protecting the paintwork and avionics from the worst of the weather. X knew that it made sense to cover the Centurion, but the thought of doing battle with the big damp canvas didn’t fill him with joy. He put off the struggle for a bit longer by making himself another cup of tea and chatting over the upcoming flight with the club’s CFI. He really wanted another cigarette but he’d left them in the car. The pair grumbled about engineers, the cost of engineering and of course the CAA – well, it was traditional. The 210 had only just returned from a lengthy Annual so it was a bit galling to have to fly it back to its maintenance base, a hangar on a grim airfield in the middle of nowhere, to get a few minor problems sorted – but X wasn’t too unhappy, it was free flying after all.

X pulled out his mobile and hit speed dial 2. X chuckled to himself; the fact that his engineer came second only to his wife in the speed dial rankings was probably not a great sign. The engineering company assured him that it had a couple of people ready and waiting, and that he’d almost certainly only have to leave it with them for a couple of hours.

He wandered over to the aeroplane to begin taking the cover off. By the time he’d put it away and completed a thorough pre-flight, not only were his feet and the bottom of his trousers soaking wet but he’d nearly fallen off the ladder when it dug into the soft ground while he was checking the fuel contents. This earth-bound stuff was starting to get very tedious indeed.

X cleaned the mud and grass from his shoes as best he could and climbed in, closing the door behind him in a symbolic gesture of moving from one world to another. He plugged in his headset and started the engine – master on, beacon on, mixture rich, throttle full, 5 bananas on the aux fuel pump, return throttle to about 50%. X turned the key, the engine started and he brought the throttle swiftly to idle.

It took a while for the Ts & Ps to come up, but as soon as they were there, X made his way to the threshold. During the power checks the brakes were holding but the tyres were sliding on the grass runway. He lined up, went to full throttle and accelerated. X could feel the extra drag each time the big Cessna crossed the softer ground. He glanced at the almost static airspeed and realised his cigarettes were still in the car. It took less than a second for him to decide to pull the power and go back for the Marlboro, but rather than decelerating the big 210 seemed to accelerate and despite pushing with all his strength, the brakes had no effect, the ditch at the end of the runway was coming towards him at about 45kt…

1 Could X have done anything differently to stop quicker?
2 What else might he have done as part of his pre-flight planning?
User avatar
By KNT754G
The aircraft was almost certainly sliding with wheels locked soild on the wet grass, pumping brakes on/off may have actually achieved some retardation provided he had not been so heavy footed each time on the pedals.

Runway performance calculation, with particular reference to increased distance on wet grass/soft ground and density altitude calculation, might have told him that firstly the runway just might be critically short for the planned take off and also might have been impossibly short for a rejected take off.
User avatar
By fishermanpaul
The opposite of get-there-itis?

<sigh> got to move the bloody thing <sigh> cost more than it's bloody worth <sigh> Can't even remember the last time I thought this was worthwhile <sigh> done this a million times before <sigh>

For those of us still weeing themselves driving to the airfield it seems a bit strange that someone could appear quite so bored with the whole flying magic. Taking the cover off the shareoplane is one of the many highlights for me. "Hey - I own (abitof) this!". There is a definite feeling of naughtiness - "this is ME flying... surely this is not allowed!". But, I suspect, there must come a point where it is no longer special.

Fwp hates me flying and has made me promise that, if I ever have a "funny feeling in my toe", I'll abort. Don't tell her this but I get some of that before every flight - only once have I ever followed the toe.

If I ever feel that taking-off (SEP, single-pilot, PPL) is bog-ordinary I hope I'll notice my poo-brown, lack-of-SOP, no-P2 situation and do something about it. In a couple more hours I'll pass 300 so several thousand more before I stop being scared, I hope.
A bit of cadence braking instead of standing on the brakes.

If possible, you'd like to think he'd have inspected the strip and realised he'd be slip-sliding all over the place, particularly if heavy braking was needed. Also with the help of performance graphs (if available, which they should be for a 210) he should have worked out an abort point, especially taking into account the ground conditions and his lack of currency.

We also don't know the t/o technique our hero used - short field with weight off the nosewheel would have seemed appropriate before he binned it.

The day turned into a bit of a fag for him, didn't it?
By jane
What about wind? Did he have a bit of a tail wind? What was the runway length? Did he do his calculations of increased stopping distance for wet grass etc?

He would have done better putting more power on, getting in the air and doing a circuit and then coming to a stop after landing. Even better deciding that this was the day to spend money on aviation rather than rotting his lungs. Hence flying to the maintenance place and doing his full stop there.

Sounds a bit of a w........... to me.
User avatar
By Gertie
Look, this is a grossly unfair question, if you're expecting non-smokers to answer it!

How on earth are we expected to be able to get our heads round a smoker's attitude to risk?
By Thermic Rick
I don’t think it has that much to do with smoking personally, you could forget anything, a mobile phone, wallet. Personally forgetting something wouldn’t have been a good enough reason to abort the take off for me. I would have followed the take off through and completed a circuit if needs be, but then I check, check and check again that I have everything I need for that particular flight.

As for the questions, there were plenty of indicators of the condition of the runway, his wet trousers, muddy shoes, nearly falling of the ladder and the wheels slipping on the grass during the run-up, so a proper analysis of the take off distance required should have been done taking into account wind, surface, safety margins and so on.

Pumping the brakes may have helped, as others have noted, but the poor planning prior to takeoff might have already sealed the aircrafts fate.
User avatar
By Keef
Exactly so! Everything was screaming at him that the runway was going to be hopeless for stopping.
A circuit is always easier than a late-aborted takeoff.