Saturday, May 29, 2010

Some reminders to help you have a safe Memorial Day Weekend

Rather than deal with just one area of concern, I am going to explore and revisit several topics. My first subject is timely, as lately there have been several bad crashes involving runway overruns. Last December I covered some of the things a pilot must consider as they line up on final approach or before.

For the non professional, the main consideration is runway length. The other physical consideration is whether obstructions are present, either on the approach or the departure end. Wind, rain, ice etc. must be taken into account as they affect stopping distance. Wind is perhaps the most common problem encountered. One must add 10% for required landing distance for each 2 knots of tailwind, up to 10 knots. So, a tailwind will significantly increase the amount of runway needed for a landing. Therefore, before lining up on final at your favorite strip, decide whether the weather conditions will allow you to safely land. Don’t forget to have a spot on the runway picked out to make your go around decision in a timely manner. A late decision may mean ending up in the woods or worse.

The recent unfortunate death of a jogger on Hilton Head prompted me to reflect on some training maneuvers I did years ago while on final approach to short runways. The sideslip is a very useful cross control maneuver to lose altitude quickly. I remember well, being able to look out the pilots side window at what lay beneath and ahead as the plane was skewed around because of the slip. That would come in handy if the windshield became obscured, as was the case in the recent mishap.

I still wonder at the number of wheel up landings that are cited on the FAA accident lists. It is so avoidable if one just adopts a routine before and while landing. On April 10, 2009, I wrote about just this, in “Three In The Green Or Else”. A more technical article discussing gear problems was written on March 31, 2010. The main thing to do is to adopt a check procedure that can be used in almost all situations. By saying to yourself, either silently or out loud, something as: three in the green, or down and locked, after checking the lights, you can save yourself from a gear up landing. No lights, time to review your emergency procedures.

Well, that’s it for now. A few words to the wise on some old topics: runway length, forgetting to lower the gear, and what to do if you can’t see out of your windshield.

Have a happy and safe Memorial Day.