Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Please Stay On The Runway.......

After reading over this week’s accidents on the daily FAA accident reports, it again impresses me how many of these involved the runway environment. By this I mean simple taxiing , take-off or landing.  

Now I can understand having a landing incident, as this is the most difficult phase of basic flight. But taxiing is another story. Really, how difficult can it be to keep a small plane, especially with a nose wheel, moving in a straight line? Now, I’m not talking about taxiing during a hurricane or tornado, just normal mild to moderate winds. Ok, I’ll give a little on a 20 to 30 knot crosswind, especially in a high wing plane like a C-150. But under usual conditions there shouldn’t be a major challenge. Remember to move the control wheel or stick so as to drop the wing that is encountering a quartering frontal wind. This will help keep the plane from wildly veering into the wind. Also, keep a light pressure on the brakes to help keep the plane straight down the taxi-way. Also the rudder will help keep one straight if applied to offset the turning force of the wind. That means applying some left rudder when the winds are from the right side.

This same technique applies to landing, although it is a bit more complex, so I won’t go any further on that now.

Now I was struck by how many accidents involved landing a plane and failing to keep the plane
on the runway. Several went off into the grass without apparently much damage. But some managed to get mired in mud, while others turned over or bent some structural parts. One managed to strike a building, and two others rammed into fences. That is just poor flying ability and can get rather expensive, or worse involve serious or fatal injury. One in particular must have dampened the pilot’s enthusiasm for piloting, as they ended up in a pond.

Reflecting on some of my experiences brings up two examples of what I’m writing about. Early in my flying career, I was piloting a tail dragger on a cross country trip. When I got to the first airport there was a strong wind on the order of 15 to 20 knots in a direct cross wind.  I lined up on the runway but was dismayed to find it almost impossible to hold the plane in line with the runway. I tried to compensate for the cross wind but was unable to keep the plane in line with the runway. I had to give up after two attempts and head for the next airport.

One other comes to mind. I was flying a Beech B-55 Baron in the New England region and needed to land at a field in Rhode Island. The wind was strong but fortunately right down the runway. After landing without a problem, I noted that our speed dropped much faster than usual. Taxiing was no problem. After shutting things down I tried to open the cabin door which was facing into the wind. I could hardly muster enough force to open the door. Getting out on the wing was scary too. I found out later the wind had been over 50 knots. If that had been a crosswind, I couldn’t have landed there.

So always keep the wind in mind when either taxiing, taking-off or landing. It can either be helpful or a major problem. So learn to deal with it.

Happy Flying and watch out for the Goblins.