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Vectors for Safety-June 2020

Always Fly Like Your Life Depends on It!

Safety Initiative Update

Gone West: Rudy Frasca

Flight simulation icon Rudy Frasca passed away on May 11. This is important to note in an aviation safety blog because Frasca simulators have played an important role is making pilots safer for many years. Recognizing the value of simulation in aviation training, Rudy developed a line of simulators that were within the budget of collegiate flight training programs and the larger private flight schools. Making simulation available to a large segment of flight students undoubtedly contributed to safety. Personally, I have been a big fan of the Frasca products. I have given more than 1,000 hours of instruction in Frasca simulators and I found them to be outstanding.

Recordings of Previous Pilot Talk Events are Available

Most of the previous Avemco Pilot Talk series webinars have been recorded and are available for viewing on Gene Benson's YouTube channel. Find the links on the website in the Videos section.

Pilot Talk Glitch - Disaster Averted

The last week in May was interesting, but not in a good way. With our "Flight Operations in Mountain Wave" scheduled for Thursday, I logged into my Zoom account on Tuesday to check on registration. What a surprise awaited me! All three of the scheduled webinars I had scheduled had disappeared. I did the usual glitch-hunting things like refreshing my browser, logging out and logging in again, and cursing at technology. Nothing worked so I sent a Mayday support request to Zoom, marked as "Urgent." The automated email arrived assigning a ticket number and explaining that they were very busy but would address my issue as soon as possible. Recreating the webinars was not a solution since the log-in links would be different. Since I could not access the webinars, I could not retrieve the list of those registered to let them know that they needed a different registration link. After a few hours with no reply from Zoom, I decided that I would go back to my old standby platform, GoToWebinar. Some of you might recall a few years ago when I was doing webinars regularly on that platform. I did a few hundred events on GTW without ever having a serious glitch. I set up all the previously scheduled webinars on GTW and attempted to notify as many people as I could via an email blast, tweet, and LinkedIn post. My sponsor, Avemco, sent out blasts on their social media accounts as well. My apologies to anyone who was registered for the event on Thursday and missed it due to the change of platform. The recording of the event is posted on my YouTube channel. You can find it at

All of the upcoming events had to be rescheduled, so anyone who registered for them on the Zoom platform will need to re-register on the GoToWebinar platform. Click here for the list of events and registration links.

Now for the rest of the story of the Zoom fiasco. On Thursday evening, several hours after the scheduled time for the presentation and three days after sending the "Urgent" support request, I received an email from Zoom indicating that they were overwhelmed with support requests and that it would be an extended time before they would get to my request. Note that I was not on one of their free plans. I had paid $160/month for the 500 seat webinar subscription. I cancelled my subscription and though I doubt anybody will take the time to read it, I made some ungentlemanly comments about their company.

Next Event Thursday June 4 at 8:00 PM Eastern - Better Decision Making

After a discussion of how we make decisions and how we can do better at that, Layne Lisser will tell us about his experience with a catastrophic engine failure and how he handled it. We will identify his decision points and the decisions that he made given the available information. Register on the website in the Pilot-Talk section. (Remember if you registered previously on the Zoom site you must re-register.)

Three Additional Events for Avemco Webinar Series

We have added three additional webinars to the Avemco series. that brings our number of scheduled presentations to six for June. All will be recorded for later viewing if the days and times for the live events are not convenient.


On Thursday, June 11 at 12 Noon Eastern time, Kurt Kleiner will again be a guest presenter with his presentation, "Temporary Flight Restrictions - Avoiding and Managing the Risks."


Shawn Benson will be a guest presenter for two events, both on aircraft engines. These are the same presentations he was scheduled to do at AirVenture this year but with that event cancelled, we win.

Shawn's first presentation is scheduled for Friday June 19 at 3:00 PM Eastern. The title is "Engine Health Monitoring - Fly with Confidence." The second one is scheduled for Friday, June 26 at 3:00 PM Eastern and is titled, "Aircraft Engine Longevity and Reliability."

Complete information and registration links for all upcoming events are posted on the website in the Pilot-Talk section.

Gene's Blog

Legal vs. Safe

By Gene Benson

Most, but of course not all, pilots try to keep their airplanes and themselves legal. We will define “legal” as meeting applicable federal regulations for our purposes here. If an accident occurs and the airplane and/or the pilot is determined to be not-legal in some way, the door is opened to much greater liability, the possibility of the insurance company denying a claim, as well as certification action and possible fines from the FAA. While having an accident is bad enough, adding the potential fallout from something not being legal can be devastating.

But having an accident, even if the airplane and the pilot meet the standard of being legal, can still be devastating. So, let’s look at whether being “legal” is good enough.

We will start with the airplane. Considering an airplane used only for personal flying, the FAA requires that we have an annual inspection. Any inspection is only as good as the person conducting the inspection. Most inspectors are conscientious and maintain standards. But some pilots seek out the local IA with the reputation of not looking too hard as opposed to a thorough IA or to the local repair station that might find more discrepancies. A signed off annual inspection makes the airplane legal in regard to the regulation. But what about those items that were glossed over? What about something that was worn but could be addressed later? If the standards can be stretched to let something barely pass, will it hold up until the next annual inspection?

The annual inspection must include a review of applicable Airworthiness Directives. The ADs are often critical matters that must be addressed, and in most cases, they are. But what about service bulletins? SBs are not regulatory but are important enough to be issued by the manufacturer. Since there is no regulatory requirement to comply with service bulletins, many go by the wayside. Then there are recommended life limits or recommended time between overhauls. Though these are recommendations and not required under the regs for personal use airplanes, they are not frivolous and should not be ignored. It might be acceptable to stretch the TBO on some items. The key here is to set a personal limit and then stick to it. I used to stretch my engine TBOs by 10%. If everything was looking good as TBO approached, I would add 10% to the TBO and continue on. But I considered the increased number to be a hard limit, regardless of how good the engine seemed when it was reached. *

Frequently, component manufacturers place a time limit on parts. For example, hoses may have recommended replacement after a certain number of years. Yet again, these are recommendations and not regulatory requirements for personal use airplanes.

And now let’s think about the pilot. Like it or not, we are the weakest link in flying safely so our own maintenance is at least as important as the maintenance on our airplanes. Once we are issued a certificate or rating, it is ours for life unless we do some egregious act and the FAA takes it away. We are required to complete a flight review or a phase of the Wings program every two years. My apologies to the Feds and to the alphabet organizations who vehemently oppose tightening that ridiculously lax requirement. On the surface, the requirement sounds like it might be sufficient. But like most regulations, the devil is in the details. Regarding the flight review, a pilot can be rated in airplanes (single and multiengine) , helicopters, gliders, airships, and balloons. Flight review time is approaching so the pilot can find a friendly flight instructor who will fly around the pattern a few times in a Cessna 150 and endorse a flight review. That will count for all categories and classes for which the pilot is rated. How long has it been since the pilot had any recurrent training in engine-out procedures for the Cessna 310 that is owned by the family, or autorotations in the Robinson R-22 owned by the company? Yet, the pilot is now legal to act as pilot-in-command in all categories and classes for the next two years. The same shortcut exists in the Wings program. The pilot can set the profile to indicate single-engine land. All activities will then apply to that class and again, only the Cessna 150 is needed. The pilot is again legal to act as pilot-in-command in all categories and classes for the next two years.

And then there is the whole spectrum of being fit-to-fly. Complying with Basic Med or having a medical certificate in our pocket makes us legal. There are some caveats in the regs that tell us not to fly under certain circumstances, but any indications we may have that point to us not being fit are frequently undocumented and we are legal, at least on paper.

We all need to take a breath and a step back to look at our airplanes and ourselves. Are those little squawks about the airplane adding up and waiting for better financial circumstances to be addressed? Is the engine or other components seriously beyond the manufacturer’s recommendations? Was the last annual inspection thorough or was it more of a preflight inspection that earned a signature at the end? It might be legal, but is it safe?

As pilots, are we really proficient in the aircraft we are flying today? Have we had any training or practice that applies to what we are flying and the conditions in which we are flying it? Are we prepared for any emergencies that are specific to this aircraft? Are we really fit-to-fly or have we taken some OTC allergy medication containing diphenhydramine in the previous couple of days? Did we forget to tell the AME about that intermittent chest tightness we have been experiencing? We might be legal, but are we safe?

In the Accident analysis section, we will look at two accidents in which legal and safe were clearly not synonymous.

*There are some truly knowledgeable people who disagree and say that I am too conservative in my engine overhaul plan. They say that if you (or your mechanic) know what to look for, you can take an engine well-beyond TBO. While that may be true, I like to move decisions from the subjective to the objective whenever possible. By setting a hard, fixed limit, I make the decision to do the overhaul based on a predetermined number and not on the balance in my checking account. Also, if an accident occurred due to engine failure, I do not want to find myself on the witness stand trying to explain how I thought I knew more about when the engine should be overhauled than the folks who built it.

Accident Analysis

This accident fortunately did not result in any personal injury. It involved a loss of engine power in a Cessna occurred in July of 2016 in Illinois. the airplane received substantial damage. According to the NTSB accident report, "The private pilot was conducting a cross-country flight when the airplane had a partial loss of engine power during cruise flight. The pilot stated that the engine continued to run but that there was an excessive vibration and significant loss of power. The pilot's corrective actions did not restore normal engine operation, and he made a forced landing in a nearby field. The airplane's nose landing gear collapsed when it impacted a berm during the landing roll, and the airplane came to rest in a nose-down attitude with structural damage to the lower fuselage."

The NTSB report continues with the following:"A postaccident engine examination revealed a failure of the No. 4 cylinder exhaust valve. About 1/2 of the No. 4 exhaust valve was located during the examination, and the recovered portions exhibited significant impact damage. The failure of the No. 4 cylinder exhaust valve would have resulted in a significant loss of engine power during the flight. The engine had accumulated 2,146.9 hours since its last major overhaul, which was completed more than 27 years before the accident. According to available maintenance documentation, the No. 4 cylinder exhaust valve had not been repaired or replaced since the last major overhaul. According to the engine manufacturer, the recommended time between overhaul (TBO) is every 1,800 hours or 12 years, whichever occurs first; however, the operator was not required to comply with the recommended TBO interval under current regulations due to the type of operation."

The airplane was legal to fly because the regulations under which it was flying did not require with the manufacturer's recommendation regarding overhaul. But it was nearly 20% over the specified hours and about 125% beyond the calendar recommendation. It was legal, but was it safe?

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NTSB Accident Number: CEN16LA297 Click here to read the NTSB report on the NTSB website

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This accident involved a Mooney M20F. It occurred in Arizona in August of 2014. It resulted in one major injury and one minor injury. The NTSB accident report includes the following, "

The private pilot reported that he obtained weather briefings for the cross-country flight and that, during the flight, the weather was not improving as anticipated. The visibility was above visual flight rule minimums and the ceiling was greater than 2,000 ft above ground level, but he wanted to land and obtain an updated weather briefing.

The pilot decided to land at the nearest airport. He reported that he had not landed at this airport before and did not know the runway was sloped downhill. Further, the runway was wet. When he applied the brakes during the landing roll, the airplane started to skid. He decided to go around but did not get the flaps up before the airplane traveled off the end of the runway and impacted terrain, which resulted in substantial damage to the wings and fuselage.

The pilot reported that there were no mechanical malfunctions or failures with the airplane that would have precluded normal operation. Thus, it is likely that the pilot failed to maintain control of the airplane during the landing roll and then made the decision to go around before the airplane was configured for takeoff."

We must commend the pilot for his decision to make a precautionary landing rather than to fly into instrument conditions. His intent to get on the ground and sort out the weather was good. Had his choice of airports for the landing been better, there would likely by no accident to report. But we must question his proficiency in landing on a small runway and in executing a go-around.

Many accidents occur during go-around attempts. Often, there are serious injuries such as in this one and sometimes there are fatalities. A go-around is not a difficult maneuver to perform. That is, of course, if the pilot is prepared for it and has practiced it recently. This pilot had a flight review in the same make and model airplane about eleven months prior to the accident. Were go-arounds discussed and practiced during the flight review? Had the pilot reviewed the go-around procedures for this airplane during the past eleven months? The pilot left the Flight Time section of the NTSB Pilot/Operator report blank so we do not know how recently he had flown. This pilot was legal, but was he safe?

Click here to read the full NTSB report on the NTSB website.

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NTSB Photo

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NTSB Photo

Safety Initiative Support

There are many costs associated with the operation of our Safety Initiative. Those costs include a webinar subscription, website hosting, commercial email service, software subscriptions, and more.

We are grateful to our guest presenters and volunteers who donate many hours to support our efforts to reduce general aviation accidents. We also want to thank our readers who have made financial contributions to help defray expenses and we also especially thank those of you who have set up a monthly contribution through PayPal. We want to thank and applaud Avemco Insurance for their support of the FAASTeam and also for their sponsorship of our Pilot Talk webinar series.

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