Be the safest pilot you can be by knowing your flying Limitations. "A man has to know his limitations" - Dirty Harry.
You can't hoot with the owls all night and Soar with the Eagles the next day.
For the Newly Certificated Pilot
By Louis Mancuso
The Personal Limitations Checklist By Louis Mancuso
"A little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest of men." - Willie Wonka.
I think this is great advice and try to live my life by Willie's motto, but not when it comes to Flying. Flying is serious business. While soaring above the earth like an Eagle, you and your special passengers will see many wonderful sights. You will explore many new and exciting destinations.
The Eagle symbolizes adventure, strength, wisdom, and respect. When the Eagle has its wings open, the symbolism is the protection of family and friends. Read what I have to say and let me help protect you and your friends.
This manuscript is directed to the newly certificated Private pilot. Congratulations on earning your pilot certificate. You are now part of a very special fraternity, the one percent of the population that that are certificated to pilot an airplane. You worked hard to obtain your certificate and I wish you many years of safe, joyous flying....and this is the purpose of the PLC. This is a collection of stories about aircraft incidents involving general aviation aircraft. Its purpose is to allow you to learn from the mistakes of other pilots and how to avoid putting yourself into similar situations.
Planes collide on runways and over runways many times each year. When you are within 10 miles of the airport you must demand a sterile cockpit. A sterile cockpit is one in which all conversation is only about other traffic. No chatting, no small talk. The sky is huge and your chances for hitting another plane in the sky are miniscule. In the vicinity of the airport and at the airport itself, the chances of hitting another plane goes up substantially. Recently, two planes collided over Republic airport on Long Island.
A Cessna 152 on a training flight and a twin engine aircraft entering the pattern. Fortunately, both planes landed safely which is very rare. Also this year, at Oskosh, two P-58 Mustangs landed on top of one another during landing. Both pilots died. Flying around the airport requires your constant vigilance.
You can deputize your passenger to help you find other aircraft.
KEEP YOUR HEAD ON A SWIVEL AROUND THE AIRPORT!!!
Listening to the radio transmissions of other pilots in the pattern is a big help to your situational awareness of the location of other aircraft. The FAA has standard pattern entrees and departures so all pilots know where one another are located. I always enter the pattern 50 feet below the recommended traffic pattern altitude so the planes in the pattern stand out against the blue sky and are much easier to see. Once in the pattern I maintain the recommended traffic pattern altitude.
Proper announcement of your location is helpful to other pilots.
Proper: "Brookhaven Airport, Cessna entering left downwind, runway 33, Brookhaven."
Also announce turning base leg, final, and clearing the runway.
This landing Piper Cherokee did not see the Stinson about to take off.
In Cincinnati, Ohio in 2004 a Cessna 152 and Cessna 172 collided on final approach. The 172 made a normal approach. The 152 made a short approach, turning final at 300 feet and very close in. The 152 did not announce turning final and did not listen to the 172 transmissions. The 172 descended onto the 152 and the collision happened. There were serious injuries.
The lessons to be learned are:
Fuel exhaustion is when you run out of gas. Fuel starvation is when you still have gas but the engine quits because you did not switch tanks or did not put on the electric fuel pump after the engine driven fuel pump failed. Most small low wing aircraft require the electrical back up pump be used for takeoff and landings.
If you put on the fuel pump for landing in a plane that has a high pressure pump that is only to be use in the event of engine driven pump failure it can also cause the engine to fail. The fuel system is a Beech Baron has a high pressure pump that will cause the engine to quit if used during landing.
The FAA states that for Day-VFR your minimum landing fuel requirement is 30 minutes.
A new pilot should always land with 1:30 minutes fuel still remaining!
"A top off is not a Top Off" - says Lou Mancuso.
A typical top off in a car is one that leaves a few inches left. All the signs in gas stations say do not top off. They do not want fuel spills that contaminate the ground and the air. Most of us are trained not to completely top off a tank. The aircraft manufactures endurance numbers are based on a tank that is topped off to the brim. There is room for no more that a shot glass fill of fuel. It is rare to get this type of top off, especially in the summer when lineman leave room for some heat related fuel expansion. Most tanks have room for a gallon or two more fuel after a top off. Depending on the type of aircraft, a typical top off could result in an endurance number one half hour less than published in the Pilot Operating Handbook for that aircraft.
A NEWLY CERTIFICTED PILOT SHOULD ALWAYS PLAN TO HAVE ONE AND ONE HALF HOURS FUEL AT TIME OF PREDICTED LANDING!!!
We had one of our renter pilots land in a farm field after he ran out of gas. He had fuel in one tank, but failed to switch to that tank. This is fuel exhaustion verses fuel starvation. We had an instructor with a student take off with empty tanks. They requested a top off and thought the tanks were full. They did not visually check the fuel quantity. They safely landed on a highway after flying for only thirty minutes.
When using your take off check list, you should touch the fuel gauges and fuel selector valve with your finger to assure you have enough fuel. The touching helps keep you mind focused and is better than a quick scan.
I was taught C.I.G.A.R. for my take off check list and I still use it when flying small GA planes.
VERIFYING ADEQUATE FUEL IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THIS CHECKLIST.
In 1978 we had one of our Pilots flying a 152's make an off airport landing in North Carolina.
There was nothing wrong with the plane. Upon further investigation it was learned that the engine quite after three hours of flying. It still had about 6 gallons of fuel on board. After the flight the FAA found water in the fuel. The engine quit due to fuel starvation, but not fuel exhaustion.
It was February and it was an unusually cold winter. The temperature had remained below freezing for weeks. There had been frozen water in the tanks and it melted upon reaching the warm weather causing the engine to quit.
Lesson to be learned:
If it has been below freezing for weeks, you need your plane to be put in a warm hangar prior to safe flight.
FUEL STARVATION IS MORE LIKELY THAN FUEL EXHAUSTION.
I recently talked at an FAA safety seminar about Light Sport Aircraft. Part of the presentation was showing the attendees the Rotax engine. After the seminar I pulled the Tecnam Sierra out of the hangar, started the plane and began taxiing to the runway. I got about 100 yards away from the hangar and the engine quit.
The mechanics had shut off the fuel valve while the plane was in the hangar. Some planes will run for much longer after the fuel is shut off. If you make a quick run up you might even get to 300' AGL before the engine quits.
Following are a couple of NTSB accident reports for pilots who attempted to take off with the fuel valve
in the OFF position. Before I share the NTSB reports, I will advise you on what you should do so this never happens to you.
Here are two NTSB reports where a Cessna 172 had enough fuel in the lines to allow a pilot to takeoff even though the fuel selector was in the off position.
3/21/2004 Creswell, OR. Beautiful VFR weather
Pilot Experience 535TT 135TT in C172s
4 hours in the last 90 days.
After a previous flight the pilot turned his fuel selector to the off position. He had never done this in over twenty years, but decided to shut off his fuel for some reason this day. Eight days later he was going flying by himself. The fuel valve happens to be 180 degrees in the opposite direction from both, when in the off position for a C-172. When the pilot glanced at his fuel selector, it appeared normal. He took off, the engine quit at a few hundred feet above the ground. He did not try to switch tanks. He landed straight ahead in a field. He hit a tree and a fence but was not injured.
6/15/2003 Gridley, IL Good VFR weather
Pilot Experience 302TT all in C172's
Hours not known in last 90 days.
Last BFR in log book...1997
Pilot took off and the engine quit on climb out. Pilot did not attempt to switch tanks.
Plane was substantially damaged when it pitched over after an emergency landing. Pilot sustained minor injuries.
If you go the NTSB web site, www.ntsb.gov and type in Fuel Starvation you will find dozens of similar accident reports.
10/27/2005 JOLIET, IL. Good VFR.
Middle age pilot flying a VANS RV-6A
After a long cross country flight and successful arrival at his designated fuel stop the pilot learned that the pumps were closed for the day.
Another pilot offered to drain 5 gallons from his plane for the stranger. The pilot declined saying there was another airport 10 miles up the road.
The RV 6A pilot departed, ran out of gas, and was killed in the forced landing.
Some lessons to be learned about fuel management are:
Living on Long Island, summer Fog is a local weather condition that pilots must deal with on a regular basis.
Flying on a Foggy night may have been the reason for JFK Jr.'s fatal accident.
A contributing factor was trying to accommodate the schedule of one of his passengers. Let's talk about Fog.
Fog can be accurately predicted and avoided. When the temperature and dew point meet you get Fog every time.
When the sun goes down the temperature drops about five degrees.
If you check the weather before you fly and compare the temperature and dew point you can avoid fog.
You want to have a minimum of five degrees spread between the temperature and dew point. This spread must be ten degrees at sunset, because you know the temperature will drop five degrees when the sun sets.
Is there any way you can tell if you are safe from any fog encounter without checking weather?
YES: If you look up to the sky and you see a deep blue color, you will not have fog. If you look up and see a gray misty looking sky, there is a chance you may get fog. It is that simple.
As you gain experience as a pilot you will learn that you may take a chance and fly on certain misty looking days if you have an 8 degree temperature dew point spread and a solid gold out.
"A SOLID GOLD OUT"
"A SOLID GOLD OUT"
"A SOLID GOLD OUT"
These are powerful words that will keep you and your loves ones safe.
Regarding Fog, what would be a solid gold out?
Having enough fuel to fly to an area where the temperature dew spread was well in excess of ten degrees would be your solid gold out.
Fog is usually associated with summer time flying and very common on Long Island.
Plan your departures for late morning at which time the sun has caused the spread to widen. Plan your arrivals to be early afternoon before there is any cooling from the setting sun.
If temperature dew point spreads are less than 5 degrees during the day and 8 degrees at sunset, then you should not get very far from an airport.
It will be safe to fly in the traffic pattern, but not wise to venture off on a cross country.
Some lessons to be learned about Fog are:
It was 1980. John was thirty years of age. He was a private pilot with 300 hours, fifty at night. He rented our Piper Tomahawk twice a month after work. He was very comfortable flying a night as he did most often. It was VFR, ceiling 4000 feet, visibility 5 miles. It was a dark night. The weather was well above VFR minimums and John had flown on many nights in similar weather conditions. He made his flight to a small airport in southern New Hampshire without incident. Upon his return flight home he crashed shortly after takeoff. He died. Everyone at our FBO knew John and we were all heartbroken.
What went wrong? How did this happen?
The NTSB, National Transportation and Safety Board, did a thorough investigation, as they do on all accidents, especially ones with fatalities. They found the engine to be in good running condition. They ruled out carburetor ice. The airframe showed no sign of problem. The autopsy showed no sign of problem with John's physical condition. The accident remained a mystery. I discussed the accident with many experienced pilots. We came to the following conclusion, which I believe to be accurate.
The airport was a small rural airport that was a good distance from any town. The airport was in the hills. Even though the visibility was five miles, there was nothing to see within five miles. It was overcast, so there were no stars visible. There was no moon, so the overcast remained total black. When John took off he had no ground reference. He was not instrument rated and did not know enough to refer to his artificial horizon on climb out. He attempted VFR flight on a very dark night and probably just loss control of the aircraft
The United States is one of the few counties that permit night flight without an instrument rating. Night flying is serious business. Night flying can be fun and the sights you see can be beautiful. How can a newly certificated pilot fly safely at night?
John, like JFK Jr., found himself in a night flight situation where he had no ground reference. He did not have the training to use the instrumentation he had on board to fly the plane safely. They both met an unfortunate death.
Newly certificated pilots can enjoy night flight when the following conditions exist:
The bottom line is night flying in the USA is a privilege. The newly certificated Pilot must have very good meteorological conditions to fly at night. The new pilot must also be more conservative regarding wind speed when landing at night. I recommend that a newly certificated Pilot set wind limitations about one half his/her daytime limitations.
I also recommend you do not fly into an airport at night that you have not flown into during the day time. You should know where the towers are. You should know where the hills are.
I recommend you only fly into a large multi runway airports with full FBO services available for all of your flights, but especially night flights.
I recommend you fly into airports that have VASI, Visual Attitude Slope Indication. Following the VASI will always assure obstacle clearance. Red on the bottom and white on the top and you are on the correct glide path.
Now let's look at some of the similarities between John's accident and JFK Jr's accident. Both pilots flew regularly and were confident in their flying abilities. Both were night current. Both were flying on hazy nights, there was no moon, there were no visible stars. At the time of the accidents there were no ground lights in sight. These are conditions that require reference solely to the aircraft's instruments.
VFR RATED PILOTS CANNOT FLY ON HAZY NIGHTS AND DO IT SAFELY!!!
Some lessons to be learned about Night Flight are:
FLYING AROUND THUNDERSTORMS MAY BE THE SCARIEST PART OF ALL FLYING.
Summertime means not only fog, but also thunderstorms.
How do you protect yourself and your passengers from the dangers of flying when thunderstorms are predicted?
First of all, Thunderstorms are predicted on most summer days. If you never try to fly when thunderstorms are predicted, you will miss many great summertime destinations.
It is a wonderful time to be a pilot as we now have better thunderstorm predicting and observing information than ever before.
To aid you in the prediction of thunderstorms, we have numerous weather sites you can visit for free. We have the weather channel. We have NOAA weather. We have TIVO so you can tape the weather channel and fast forward through the commercials and get right to the radar summary charts showing all the storms, where they are and what direction they are moving.
Garmin makes a hand held, battery operated, GPS that combines with XM radio to give you real time weather. The GPS is only $1800 and the XM basic weather subscription is about $30 per month.
You can look at the Garmin 396 screen at home and see if there are any storms in the vicinity. Is it safe to go boating, flying, golf, or have a picnic? What an amazing, life saving device.
You can see where the storms are, which way they are moving, and predict when they will be gone.
On many days that Flight Service predicts thunderstorms, there will be no storms at all. Not even one. As long as you have a solid gold out it is safe to begin a flight when thunderstorms are forecast. Sure, on occasion, you will have to turn back home and scrub the mission, but numerous days you will make the entire flight without even one drop of rain.
Some lessons about thunderstorms are:
Flying when the wind is strong is dangerous.
Like fog and thunderstorms, wind can also be predicted accurately.
The isobars on the weather charts show the wind. When the isobars are very close together it will be windy. When strong storms pass though and area, the next day may be bright and clear, but the wind may be unsafe for safe flight. You must discuss the amount of wind you can fly in safely with your CFI. Write it down on your personal limitations checklist.
If you have been flying a lot recently, you probably can handle a little more wind. For the newly certificated pilot I would suggest flying in no more that 20 knot steady winds. If it is gusty, I would suggest the newly certificated pilot not fly when the peak wind gusts exceed 5 knots. For example: If the forecast winds are 10 knots gusting to 16 knots, I suggest you wait for another day or wait until late in the day when wind will often time diminish.
Airports with only one runway should generally be avoided. If you have the perfect weather with a gently 10 knot breeze right down the runway, then you can certainly enjoy flying into an airport with a single runway. The single strip runways are often only 60 feet wide vs 200 feet wide at larger multiple runway airports.
You must also know your limits regarding crosswinds. I would suggest the newly certificated pilot limit him/her to no more than a 10 knot cross wind when attempting to land on a 200 foot wide runway and only 5 knots if the runway is short and narrow. (Only 3000' long and only 75' wide)
Here is a simple formula for crosswinds that you may find useful:
For example: The wind is reported 270 degrees at 18 knots. You are planning to land on
runway 24. The wind is 30 degrees off the nose. You have a crosswind component of one half
or 9 knots.
If you and your instructor agree that you can safely handle a 10 knot crosswind, then you should be safe to attempt the landing. Remember you always need a solid gold out. If you are having trouble controlling the airplane because of the wind, you must go around and find an airport with a runway in line with the wind.
For this example if you were trying to land at Brookhaven Airport (HWV) on runway 24 and you were struggling with an 18 knot wind out of 270 degrees, you would divert to Islip (ISP) where there is a runway 28.
A good pilot knows the runway headings at other airports close to her/his destination. If you have numerous options, you can attempt flights in slightly higher winds. If there are few runway options in the area of your destinations, then you must be more conservative in your go-no go decision making process.
One last tip for flying in crosswinds:
I know of two people who have stopped flying because they practiced departure stalls without an instructor on board. In both cases they inadvertently entered a spin. They scared themselves and stopped flying.
My daughter Kari had soloed and was heading to the practice area to do some stalls. She did a departure stall. By herself in a Cessna 152, the nose can get very high during a departure stall. The Cessna can easily enter into a spin as it did on this particular day. Fortunately Kari began her stall at 3500' AGL. The 152 entered a spin. She did not know how to recover.
She finally let go of the controls and the plane flew itself out of the spin. She was only 500' AGL when the plane recovered. She has not flown by herself since.
My friend Chuck was also practicing departure stalls when he inadvertently entered into a spin.
He also gave up flying after that incident.
My thoughts regarding departure stalls are:
We had a salesman bring home a brand new Cessna from Kansas to Long Island. He had an appointment with a prospective buyer and was excited to get home. The weather was deteriorating and he decided to continue the flight across the Appalachian Mountains. He stuck a tower and the result was a fatality. This was thirty years ago before we had developed the PLC. Maybe if he had a PLC he would have realized he did not have a SOLID GOLD OUT.
Maybe he would have landed and waited for the weather to improve.
I flew with another couple to Atlantic City thirty years ago. When it was time to return on Sunday afternoon, the weather was below my personal limitations. I told my friend I did not feel I could make the flight safely. He rented a car to get home because he had to get to work the next day. I felt bad that I could not get him home on time, but I am still flying thirty years later. I made a good choice.
Get Home ITIS can also be Get There Itis. During JFK Jr.'s decision making process on whether or not to make the flight to MVY, he had pressure from his passengers to get to MVY and he wanted to get to MVY. I am sure this influenced his poor decision to fly in weather beyond his capabilities.
The incidents in this booklet are to help you develop more situational awareness without having to experience the incident yourself. The incidents are usually because pilots exceed their limits or the limits of the airplane they are flying. "There are Old Pilots and Bold Pilots, but there are no Old Bold pilots."
Keep your friends and family safe by pledging to adhere to your own set of personal flying limitations.
Take the time to complete a Personal Limitations Checklist (PLC) with your CFI.
If you would like to talk about flying with limitations or the new Light Sport Aircraft
please feel free to call me at 516-658-1847
Happy and Safe Flying!
Louis Mancuso Jr.
The Personal Limitations checklist (PLC) was developed in order to help new pilots increase their situational awareness by reading about other pilot incidents and thereafter fly more safely. The PLC will help you to become a very safe pilot if you and your CFI commit to developing your own customized set of limitations. Once created, you must then make a pledge to continually update your PLC and adhere to the limitations you and your CFI have set. The numbers in parenthesis are suggested for the new pilot.
Your limitations will increase and decrease depending on currency, total time and experience.
Date _______________ CFI ______________
Back to the Top Revised 09/03/2010
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