Thursday, October 13, 2011

Taxiing May Be Taxing And More

Recently, one of the daily accident reports listed on the FAA site dealt with quite a few accidents involving taxiing. Yes, the phase of a flight that should be the easiest and least likely to cause a wreck. But not this particular week. Here are some of the types of mishaps: ..went off the side of the runway (into the weeds or worse), ..hit runway lights,
…wing or tail struck another aircraft,..ground looped (common in tailwheel types), ..completely flipped over (hard to imagine). Here I must interject my own mishap. While still a young pilot (a bit wet between the ears), as I was taxiing a Cessna 172, my right wing tip struck a parked plane’s left wing tip, causing minor damage. Easy to do if you are not paying attention or wandering off the yellow line, if one is present.

Reading the accident reports, minor collisions between taxiing airliners are more often between airliners and service vehicles and are quite common. Airliners are a different beast from the smaller prop types I write about. Accidents happen merely due to the force of the blast from the engines, usually as they taxi from the gate areas. Things such as vehicles blown over, people injured and other types of property damage.

Before changing course, how about this? A pilot last week took off in his single engine plane with the tow bar still attached to the nose wheel. It was a noisy, sparky landing. Anyone believe in doing a preflight check? Not a taxiing accident strictly, but close.

I will close by relating a synopsis of a horrific accident due apparently at least in part, to the pilot’s inability or unwillingness to abort a flight after successive take-off attempts. The plane was a twin Beechcraft. The pilot was older with a spotty flight history. The flight began by landing at the wrong airport and asking whether he was at airport A (real names are not being used) The airport A was in fact on a nearby island, something hard to miss. I’ve been there. Any way he proceeded there only to have to return to airport B for fuel, as airport A had none. Remember the 6 P’s-Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Then back to A to pick up his passengers. Now the awful part, almost unbelievable. The pilot made three attempts at take-off. On the first two he aborted about midfield. According to witnesses after each of the aborted take-offs no engine run-up or apparently other type of diagnostic was done to explain an apparent loss of power. On the third attempt, again according to a witness the left engine appeared to be running slower. Nevertheless, the pilot determined to take-off kept on going, the engine sputtering and spewing black smoke. The plane barely got airborne, impacting the center structures of a nearby interstate with disastrous results. The plane ended up inverted and in flames. One of the four on board survived, the rest including the pilot perished.

The lesson here is that if it isn’t right the first time, rather than just try again, find out what the problem is and fix it if you can. If you can’t find out what’s wrong, cancel the flight and make other arrangements. I’ve been there and done just that. I rented a car and lived to fly another day. Be wise and safe.

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