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Bad Piloting Decisions?

by John M. White |

Flying an airplane is the ultimate multi-tasking job, particularly when it is a multi-engine aircraft begin flown single pilot in bad weather. One wonders if the recent accident in Palo Alto, CA with the 3 Tesla employees on board would have turned out differently if there had been a second pilot in the Cessna 310. According to what has been reported the pilot had over 2,000 hours of flying time, but it appears he experienced a major problem immediately after liftoff. When you experience a problem immediately after takeoff there is not a lot of time to react correctly unless your are well prepared and planning ahead.
These thoughts are not to assign any blame on the pilot because we don't really know what happened yet. However, one can certainly understand that, given the flight path of the aircraft, something went terribly wrong. Cessna 414 In Icing Conditions Recently the AOPA Air Safety Foundation conducted a discussion with more than 100 pilots in which they dissected an aircraft accident that occurred on December 27th, 2006. This was a flight in a Cessna 414 that originated in Morgantown, W. VA to Teterboro, NJ with a female pilot and a female nurse on board. The weather briefing indicated light to moderate rime icing with the freezing level beginning at 2,000 feet and icing at 3,000 feet and above. The flight filed for 13,000 feet and departed Morgantown. Enroute the pilot reported difficulty with icing stating that the airplane's de-icing boots were not able to keep up with the accumulation of ice. While the aircraft was properly certificated for flight into known icing conditions the pilot asked for lower altitudes in an attempt to get out of the icing conditions. Soon the pilot decided to land at Johnstown, PA due to the heavy icing. During the approach the aircraft broke out of the clouds at approximately 300 feet but the landing gear had not been extended. The propellers of the aircraft struck the runway just as the pilot decided to abort the landing and go around. The result was that the aircraft crashed killing both persons on board. The NTSB's final report blamed the accident on the pilot's improper decision to abort the landing with a damaged aircraft. The question is - why did the pilot try to go around? What was not included in this conversation was the discussion between the pilot and the tower. Apparently the pilot was unsure what to do having decided to make a missed approach, then to land, then to go around. The discussion asked if the pilot understood the aircraft had experienced a prop strike, or if the pilot had a "save the approach and go around" mentality? Because of so many changes taking place in a short period of time the proper checklists were assumed to not having been used. This is probably because of the prop strikes. What I wonder about is if the gear was left up because of all the ice on the aircraft and a concern about stalling the aircraft. I wonder if the tower advised the pilot at the last second that the gear was not down and this caused the pilot to make yet another change in plans. To learn more about icing effects on aircraft be sure to watch the video on the upper right hand side of this page. It is hard to know exactly what went wrong, but clearly the amount of icing started the problem. Were there any pilot reports about the icing? The flight was in the afternoon, so there should have been some. Was there some urgency to get the nurse passenger to NJ? One thing is for sure - if you have a serious problem with the aircraft and have the runway in sight to heck with the airplane and get on the ground. A belly landing will not normally result in injuries, and it is more important to save the people than the airplane, but sometimes we forget that. What do you think? Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7 What is the cause of most aviation accidents: Usually it is because someone does too much too soon, followed very quickly by too little too late. — Steve Wilson, NTSB investigator, Oshkosh, WI , August, 1996.

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