November 1, 1998

Partial Panel

Wow! Alton K. Marsh's " Instrument Insights: Partial-Panel Emergencies" (September Pilot) was right on. The callout on page 129 alone is golden: "Learning all the quirks of a compass makes for an interesting classroom exercise; but in an actual emergency, count off seconds to make turns."

During my instrument training, I received perhaps half an hour of airborne compass work with minimal emphasis on timing. During the instrument checkride last month, we went to partial panel at 1,000 feet agl and remained that way through the entire flight with the exception of perhaps 10 minutes of a holding entry and lap in the holding pattern. All was "passable" until we got radar vectored what seemed like all over the Los Angeles basin without an attitude indicator or heading indicator. Notifying ATC of this simulated emergency was not an allowed option. I got so far behind the airplane that we went 100 feet below the approach minimums while I was trying to interpret the compass and capture the needle for the VOR into Santa Monica. Busted! The examiner discussed the flight, offered some pointers, and gave me a pink souvenir of this momentous occasion. I retested the following week and passed but still didn't appreciate the value of a very simple instrument - the clock.

Every flight will now consist of some sort of timed turns to keep these vital skills sharp, in the likely or unlikely event of a vacuum failure.

Greg Dranow AOPA 938476
Ventura, California

I flew yesterday partial panel in my Grumman AA5B and was very rusty - big heading changes, flying through the localizer. After coming home and thinking, I realized that I had a panel-mount GPS (II Morrow GX60) and a backup Garmin 195 handheld. Each of these gives headings to 1 degree. I just spent an hour flying my simulator with the moving map GPS turned on, and I can fly a more stable approach partial panel. Just see the track on the GPS, turn with the turn-and-bank until you approach the desired course, and level out. On an ILS, just maintain the track to the exact heading required - a quarter-standard-rate turn for a couple of seconds makes a degree's correction, or a rudder-only for three seconds also makes 1 degree. The digital readout is steadier for me than the artificial horizon.

The article spoke of the redundant systems on Boeing 747s and Air Force airplanes - now we have similar backups and should use them.

Donald Mitchell AOPA 1358701
Newton, Massachussetts

I enjoyed your article on partial panel. In 20 years of instrument flying, I have lost a horizontal situation indicator, an artificial horizon, a couple of vacuum pumps, and an airspeed indicator, as well as experienced an assortment of radio failures, all in solid IMC.

However, if you want to know what real terror is, try losing your one and only altimeter in solid IMC, especially during an approach. Typically, the altimeter will just stop at an altitude and not indicate any further descent. Your first reaction is that you have encountered some sort of thermal and perhaps you need to increase your rate of descent. Not a good idea. I first knew of the failure when I noticed buildings passing on the left side at 2,500 feet.

The altimeter is the only instrument whose reading cannot be verified by other instruments, except in a very gross way. The altimeter is the simplest, cheapest, and easiest instrument to duplicate in the panel, and yet few light aircraft have a backup altimeter. I sometimes wonder how many fatal accidents in IMC have been caused by a malfunctioning altimeter that is either destroyed by the crash impact or that "resets" itself from the jolt. I made sure that a second altimeter was installed in the last two airplanes that I bought. It's the best and least expensive insurance you can buy.

Peter A. McLean AOPA 914753
Tega Cay, South Carolina

Defending Ford

I would like to respond to the gentleman who criticized Harrison Ford's piece that appeared in your June issue ("Letters," August Pilot). What better advertisement for flying could there be when the most successful movie actor of all time spends his spare time flying airplanes? Hats off to Mr. Ford for chasing a dream.

Dennis Preshlock AOPA 1087099
Crystal Lake, Illinois

I disagree with Perry Barinowski's criticism of your article on Harrison Ford ("Letters," August Pilot). Although Mr. Barinowski states that he doesn't begrudge anyone's success, the remainder of his letter does exactly that.

I retired eight years ago at the age of 35, and the first thing that I did was to pursue my pilot certificate on a full-time basis. I purchased a Cessna 182RG, which is allowing me to have some "Indiana Jones" mini-adventures of my own. With all of the social progress that has been made in this country in the last 50 years, there still remains one group of people that it's OK to pick on - the rich. Many of the roles that Harrison Ford portrayed dramatized a point that if you're going to have a life with adventure in it, you must learn how to fly.

If I want to hear stories about the "average guy," I can just walk over and talk to the people who hangar their airplane next to mine. I really appreciate your publication for bringing to your readers stories about interesting airplanes, interesting places, and interesting people.

Danny W. Pote AOPA 1114785
Plano, Texas

Pattern perspectives

Barry Schiff's columns are always of great interest to me. " Proficient Pilot: Pattern Evolution" (September Pilot) strengthened my theory of pattern entry and maneuvering to a safe landing at nontowered airports. This procedure could be used at most towered fields except heavily trafficked and radar-controlled airports.

I flew for 27 years as a United States Marine Corps pilot, and the procedures for all traffic, except some transport aircraft types, used what we called the "overhead and break" procedure. A complete squadron could land comfortably and safely. Can you imagine 12 or so aircraft trying to enter the pattern at 45 degrees?

An improved procedure is long overdue. I wrote recommending the overhead and break pattern entry a few years ago, but not as detailed and professionally as Schiff. I wonder how many pilots use the antiquated 45-degree entry today?

James Shank AOPA 837618
Havelock, North Carolina

The prompt and proper use of the radio is by far the best way to avoid collision with another aircraft.

It is absolutely true that if an airport is not your destination airport (maybe a weather-related stop), a pilot flying VFR wants to get all of the information that he needs from a sectional. So, runway length, field elevation, and unicom frequency are about it.

As soon as I decide on an airport, I - as I am sure many pilots do - assume a safe entry altitude to the pattern to be 1,000 feet agl. But I tune in the unicom frequency and call in to see if anyone is monitoring the station. If I get a live person, I can get all of the necessary pattern information. If not, I can announce my location and intentions and monitor the frequency for other traffic.

If everyone in the area knows where I am and what I'm doing, any entry procedure I choose (correct or incorrect) will be a safe one.

David Pitts AOPA 1342725
Chicago, Illinois

Issues with oxygen

I wanted to compliment Thomas A. Horne on the thorough and well-written article on oxygen and delivery systems (" 0 2 Issues," September Pilot). I myself am a physician and pilot with an interest in aviation physiology. Horne's article was very useful for the average pilot; it's the best overall treatment for the general reader that I have read.

Michael Sebastian AOPA 1285118
Collierville, Tennessee

The oxygen article did contain two minor errors. FAR 91.211 states that pilots must use oxygen when flying more than 30 minutes at altitudes above 12,500 feet, not at "altitudes of 12,500 feet or higher." Also, oxygen itself is not flammable; it is an oxidizer that supports combustion. Nevertheless, smoking should not be allowed around oxygen equipment - Ed.

Supporting the ticket program

It is of interest to me that all the people commenting on the ticket program are against it wholeheartedly (" Letters," September Pilot). I, for one, agree with the principle but not the method of doing it. If it were handled like a traffic ticket and the ticket were just an invitation to explain it to a judge, it would be a lot more palatable.

During my 27.5 years as an aviation safety inspector for airworthiness, there were many times when I would have liked to use this option. Even the warning letter as now used must be able to stand up in court, and its only use is to eliminate some of the paperwork for relatively minor infractions. Even that item had to be issued with the consent of the alleged violator.

In the case of Scott Adams' letter, he makes some very valid comments. However, he provides no evidence that the inspector is the one who tried to get into the aircraft. Inspectors are trained not to get on or into the aircraft without the owner's permission. I do know that some have, but I think that is the exception.

His comment about the experience level is very valid. At the time of my retirement, a year and a half ago, the average experience level was about five years. This was brought about by retirements and a rather large hiring push during the last five years or so. The result is that on-the-job training, which is an important part of the inspector's overall training, is given by inspectors who have only very recently completed their training.

Most of the new inspectors whom I have met are competent people, but they will need three to five years to get their feet on the ground.

William D. Fey AOPA 216959
Fort Worth, Texas

Selective perception?

We just returned from a weekend campout in an Oregon state park. (It was our first campout in years, not counting Sun 'n Fun.) I can't believe that the government and people complain about aircraft noise in parks. The park lies under an approach route to Portland International Airport, and occasionally a small airplane would fly over. The sound from airborne sources didn't begin to hold a candle to radios, boom boxes, pickup and car "boomers," generators, etc. People hiking can't exist without a blaring radio breaking into nature's outdoor quiet. People can't picnic without a blaring radio.

Airplanes are not a problem. If airplanes are restricted over any park, every other non-nature noise-producing element - i.e., those cited above (plus the braying pack mule, which is not native to a park) - should be banned.

Harry E. Bladow AOPA 249197
Salem, Oregon


" Waypoints: The Truth About True Airspeed" (September Pilot), contained a half-truth. True airspeed does increase as you climb higher, but only when you maintain the same indicated airspeed at the higher altitude. Doing so requires more power and more fuel, so it's not as free as described.

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