May 14, 2007

GA Incidents Hit Close to Home

On Friday night I was made aware of two aviation incidents both of which hit close to home. The first was a multiple fatality accident that involved two planes in a midair collision in which they clipped wings just north of Blue Ash Airport in Cincinnati, Ohio. Blue Ash Airport was my home airport for a few years and where I earned my license.

I was relieved to learn it did not involve anyone I knew but scary none the less. Martha Lunken a retired inspector for the FAA was interviewed by the Cincinnati Enquirerand stated it was a classic situation - "It's within five miles of the airport on a nice sunny day...that's where airplanes congregate." I recall that on beautiful days the traffic around Blue Ash could get very busy and it required all the pilots near the uncontrolled field to fly defensively and to over communicate.

The second incident was here in Chicago in which a Piper Cherokee ran out of gas and needed to make an emergency landing on a highway. The plane clipped a power line and a car but landed without any injuries to the pilot or those on the ground. I don't know all the details of this incident but do wonder how it is pilots continually make the mistake of running out of gas. Incidents like these are scary and sad but would be a further waste if other pilots did not learn from them.

So, when I arrived at the airport on Saturday to fly on another beautiful day in Chicago I had those incidents in the back of my head. I flew with a CFI as I continue to work back to a level of proficiency that I had a year or so ago when I was flying more regularly. We decided to delay our flight for 10 minutes so we could top off with fuel, seemed to us to be well worth the time to ensure we had plenty of fuel for our flight.

As I flew northwest from Chicago Executive there was plenty of traffic and I ensured that I was doing a good job of scanning the horizon and working to avoid traffic. I also changed my checklist habits to ensure I could spend more time looking for traffic. In a recent episode of The Finer Points podcast Jason Miller talked about holding up your checklist so you are not having to divert your eyes so much to see it. So I clipped the checklist to a yoke clip so I would not have to look down as much as I did when using the lapboard.

After ensuring we found a safe area with little traffic around I performed a simulated engine failure. I was able to select a suitable place to land if it were needed and guided the plane down without power to the point it was obvious we could have landed there if necessary at which point we powered off and climbed away.

We finished the day with a series of crosswind landings at Dupage airport including one without flaps, simulating a flap failure. I continue to perform safe but somewhat sloppy crosswinds and am looking forward to flying more frequently so I can iron them out.

Posted by at May 14, 2007 7:32 AM