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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pre-Flight Inspections

We all perform preflight inspections on our airplanes (right?). Check the fuel, check the oil, walk around the airplane, peering into spots when able, moving control surfaces, looking at tires and brakes (when wheel pants aren't in the way). I started using a flashlight when I saw an air carrier crew member walk under the wings, looking up into wheel wells far above his head, using one of those Maglight flashlights. Lighting inside the hangar is usually far from adequate, so the flashlight seemed like a no-brainer. My preflight checklist identifies an inspection of the cabin: Cabin door, flight controls, mag switches, fuel quantity, fuel shut-off valve, seat belts, ELT, loose items for aerobatic flight. That's it. Not near enough for me. The front pilot station has the occupant's legs a foot below an inverted fuel tank that has five fittings/lines going to/from the tank. Five opportunities for leaks. Of course it's dark up there, thus the flashlight. Always a part of my preflight is having a look at each fitting and line for fuel stains. Never found one in the many preflights I've done. That is until a few weeks ago!
This rascal had a blue stain on it. I took a wrench to see if it was loose. Whoa, that crack you see above, turned into a gusher! It was a fairly quick fix to replace the fitting. However, had I not seen the crew member peering up into that wheel well many years ago, I probably would have missed that cracked fuel line, with potentially disastrous results had it decided to let loose while aloft. Take your time on those "routine" preflight inspections, go the extra mile to ensure you're seeing everything critical to safe operation. Consider that flashlight!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Unconventional Recovery

Some (a few, well, maybe one) of you are familiar with the spin recovery acronym PARE. That's Power to idle, Ailerons neutral, full opposite Rudder, Elevator through neutral (and once rotation stops, rudder to neutral and recover to level flight). This procedure was a result of NASA spin research in the 1970's and is often referred to as the NASA Standard recovery that works for most all single engine, light airplanes. Other procedures work, too. For example the Beggs/Mueller goes like this: 1) Power off, 2) Remove your hands from the stick/yoke, 3) Full opposite rudder until rotation stops, 3) Neutralize the rudder, 4) Recover to level flight. Every airplane will respond differently and the procedure for recovery for those airplanes approved for spin is contained in the Flight Manual or Pilot Operating Handbook. While both procedures I note above work effectively in the Decathlon, a more unconventional, and some NOT RECOMMENDED inputs work also. Here's how one example goes: With plenty of altitude (5,000' AGL and above), enter a spin, let's say to the left. Allow the spin to develop past the incipient stage (Stages: entry, incipient, developed, recovery). While in the developed phase, add full anti-spin/out-spin aileron, i.e., full right aileron in our example. After a couple more rotations the less stalled wing's (right wing) drag increases enough (as a result of upward deflected aileron) to reduce the left-yaw component that propagated the spin enough to stop rotation, uncoupling yaw and roll. One then neutralizes rudder and aileron and push the elevator through neutral (to break the stall) to recovery. Once again, not recommended, but an interesting aerodynamic experiment (at altitude, in the Decathlon). Come on out to Gordonsville International and we can get you used to all phases of spin (especially the recovery phase)!