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Thread: Open letter from NTSB Jim Labelle

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    Member faithnhim's Avatar
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    Default Open letter from NTSB Jim Labelle

    I saw this post on the supercubs web site last night and thought it was worth sharing for those of you who have not run across it yet. -Float pilots- safety post reminded me that we should all share lessons learned and good information when we come across it or have something worth sharing.
    I'll just copy and paste the text for easy viewing but there is a thread on SC's if you want to see it. Great reminders from a very qualified advisor.

    Article written by Jim LaBelle National Transportation Safety Board


    There have been many times in my career as an NTSB investigator that I wished I could reach out and literally grab one of my fellow airmen by the lapels and shake them, shake them back from the dead, give them another chance at life. Of course that's impossible, but the frustration is palpable when you see life wasted time and time again, often over lapses of basic airmanship and judgment. Winding up in a zippered bag is not the way to close your flight plan.
    So, after 26 years of accident investigation and thousands of accidents, what stands out as shakable offenses? You probably know them, but I'll tell you again. I warn you, you may not like the implications or some of the direct language, but if only one of you reads and heeds, and it saves a life, then it's worth whatever offense someone may take.
    Forewarned, read on, if you will...

    In no particular order of consequence, as they'll all kill you:

    Returning to the airport after a loss of engine power.Below 600 feet or so, don't even think about it. Go straight ahead, or select an area roughly between 10 and 2 o'clock.Given enough altitude, you MAY be able to make a turn to 3 or 9 o'clock using something less than a slam-it-to-the- stops steep turn-maybe. Every takeoff should be accompanied by actively thinking where you'll abort, and where you'll go in case of a power loss. Turning around is NOT usually an option. You'll lose time, altitude and airspeed deciding what to do, and a steep, low altitude turn without power is probably going to end in a stall/spin and a lawn dart into something a lot harder than air, with you taking up space in a yellow bag.
    Go online, and search for "The impossible Turn." It is good reading, has pictures, and may save your butt.

    Pushing weather. Bad weather causes accidents, right? Nope, it's the decision to fly in such weather, or the decisions made when in the weather, that results in accidents. The NTSB rarely finds weather as the principal cause of accidents; rather it's usually a contributor to the chain of events leading to the accident. The good thing about weather is that it changes; don't get antsy and think you have to be somewhere at a certain time. I can recall so many serious accidents where waiting a few minutes or a couple of hours and the flight would have ended with a cold beer instead of a cold shiny metal slab. As an investigator going to the site in a helicopter, it's often blue and beautiful-you can see all the obstacles, look down and see that burned smudge that was an airplane, and wonder how it got where it was. I'll share with you a sight I saw years ago but won't forget--as we approached the landing zone close to a wreck that was in a blind canyon off the pass, I saw an arm sticking out of the wreckage, seeming to point to the west, towards the correct drainage and safety. If the pilot would have
    waited an hour or so, or elected to turn around when he saw the lowering clouds, he wouldn't have needed posthumous directions from a passenger.

    Overloading. Want to be a test pilot-overload your aircraft. Aft center of gravity loadings are particularly challenging, with handling thrills assured, particularly during takeoff and approach. Flying safely requires discipline and a belief in the aircraft handbook. Years ago in Alaska, 18 people, 16 of them passengers, didn't make it home for Thanksgiving because of a significant overload coupled with an aft CG. And I assure you, the tally increases every year. Read the book, plot the points, and stay inside the lines.

    406 ELTs. Come on, what are you thinking? That it won't happen to you? My job exists because it DOES happen to people like you. We've already had several missing aircraft since the plug was pulled on the 121.5 analog satellite receivers. Yes, occasionally someone, a high flyer or a FSS facility, or a tower may be within range of the 121.5 signal, but usually not. 406's are digital, send a signal immediately on impact or manual activation, and tell rescuers where you are within a few yards. A pilot got his Cub stuck on a glacier earlier this year, turned his 406 on and had a rescue helicopter over him in 25 minutes. Ditto on a couple of other accidents this year. By contrast, there are at least two missing airplanes out there this year that have 121.5's that may never be found.And here's one argument I hear:"I don't care about rescue; if I crash it's my problem."Hardly. A crash or missing aircraft generates massive searches and cost, not to mention putting many others at risk during the search. By not having a 406 ELT, you are being very selfish and uncaring of others.
    Think about it like this: If you or one of your passengers is lying in a wreck in the wild with some non-disposable body part broken, wouldn't that $1,500-3,000 that a 406 cost look like chump change for an almost assured rescue?

    Moose Turn Stalls. You know these. You're fixated on a moose, bear, what have you, and roll into a steep, tight turn over the object. As you continue the turn, it steepens ever so slightly, and you unconsciously add top rudder to keep it from getting too steep. Your airspeed decays, there may be a slight buffet, and in a heartbeat, probably one of your last, you've flipped over the top and are now pointed straight down with the stick sucked into your lap (a natural reaction that close to the ground) with an unwelcome embrace from Mother Earth a second or two away. That kind of stuff makes my phone ring a couple of times every year; I'd love for it to stop.

    Okay, I could go on, but I've run out of space.
    Thanks for listening, and may I be privileged to shake your hand someday, and not your lapels!
    Jim La Belle

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    Great, GREAT post, Jim. Your reminder should make all of us think a little bit. Thanks for taking the time.

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    Great post Jim
    You are well respected and your perspective should be heeded

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    Great post Jim - I only wish our wisdom did not come from experience.

    Drew Young
    Normal people believe that if something ain't broke, don't fix it. Engineers believe that if it ain't broke, it doesn't have enough features yet.

    Scott Adams

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    I am of the philosophy of dont look for moose and dont put stuff in your plane and dont fly unless its beautiful out. I have had air speed bleed off almost as if I lost engine power but from wind and I instinctively nosed it down, I was happy about that.

    Hopefully thoes 406 ELT's will start comming down in price or start showing up on alaska list a bit cheaper as time goes on. But as long as all im doing is touch and goes im not too worried about having one.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rppearso View Post
    I am of the philosophy of dont look for moose and dont put stuff in your plane and dont fly unless its beautiful out. I have had air speed bleed off almost as if I lost engine power but from wind and I instinctively nosed it down, I was happy about that.

    Hopefully thoes 406 ELT's will start comming down in price or start showing up on alaska list a bit cheaper as time goes on. But as long as all im doing is touch and goes im not too worried about having one.
    Can you explain the part in bold for me? I am not a pilot but have been reading up on it in spare time. Quoted below is what I read on this topic. I am trying to understand what was different in your situation and why you reacted the way you did?

    An airplane flying eastward at an airspeed of 120 knots in still air, will have a groundspeed exactly the sameó120 knots. If the mass of air is moving eastward at 20 knots, the airspeed of the airplane will not be affected, but the progress of the airplane over the ground will be 120 plus 20, or a groundspeed of 140 knots. On the other hand, if the mass of air is moving westward at 20 knots, the airspeed of the airplane still remains the same, but groundspeed becomes 120 minus 20 or 100 knots.
    Thanks!

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    Quote Originally Posted by LuJon View Post
    Can you explain the part in bold for me? I am not a pilot but have been reading up on it in spare time. Quoted below is what I read on this topic. I am trying to understand what was different in your situation and why you reacted the way you did?



    Thanks!
    You have to have the air comming in at the proper angle for the pitot tube to pick it up. When you have a cross wind or you are flying in a slip your air speed is not accurate. This was the case when we were doing cross wind landings and take offs, the wind was very strong but was at a partial cross wind. Also when your indicated air speed bleeds off to nearing stall speed right over a golf course with people playing you dont start doing academic calculations in your head you react in the best way possible. Also on take off you can gauge your ground speed pretty well because your so close to the trees and terrain features.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rppearso View Post
    You have to have the air comming in at the proper angle for the pitot tube to pick it up. When you have a cross wind or you are flying in a slip your air speed is not accurate. This was the case when we were doing cross wind landings and take offs, the wind was very strong but was at a partial cross wind. Also when your indicated air speed bleeds off to nearing stall speed right over a golf course with people playing you dont start doing academic calculations in your head you react in the best way possible. Also on take off you can gauge your ground speed pretty well because your so close to the trees and terrain features.
    Your aiplane responds to AIRSPEED, and pays little attention to GROUND SPEED unless and until it's on the ground. As for airspeed in a slip, that airspeed is telling you what your plane's forward speed is through the mass of air that your airplane is at that time traveling in [or through]. Also, since this is a cross-controlled maneuver, the stall speed is increased. I would recommend paying close close attention to your AIRSPEED and the increased STALL SPEED when slipping for a landing in crosswind conditions. But what do I know . . . .


    On takeoffs, you'd better be paying attention to the AIRSPEED, since gound speed doesn't mean much to the plane. DENSITY ALTITUDE however does. And if that confuses you, try a few touch-and-goes at someplace like Lake Tahoe, where the ground elevation is above 6,000-feet. On landings, your IAS may be 70-mph on approach, but your GROUND SPEED may be up there around 85- or even 90-mph. Looking out the window at such times in order to gauge the plane's speed is not a really good idea.

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    The main motivation to point the nose down was due to a dramatic drop in indicated air speed from extreme wind on take off. Air near the ground is doing strange things like creating vorticies and such. My point was that just becuase there was a sudden head wind does not mean that air would nessicarily be rammed into the pitot tube giving me a higher indicated air speed than my actually ground speed was since it was gusty and at a slight cross wind.

    It is true that if you are cruising at altitude and you are hiting a head wind your indicated air speed will be much higher than your actually ground speed, but all thoes simplified calculations go out the window when you are near the ground at gusty cross wind conditons. You can also feel when the plane is getting too slow and about to stall and you have to nose it down.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rppearso View Post
    the main motivation to point the nose down was due to a dramatic drop in indicated air speed from extreme wind on take off. Air near the ground is doing strange things like creating vorticies and such. My point was that just becuase there was a sudden head wind does not mean that air would nessicarily be rammed into the pitot tube giving me a higher indicated air speed than my actually ground speed was since it was gusty and at a slight cross wind.

    It is true that if you are cruising at altitude and you are hiting a head wind your indicated air speed will be much higher than your actually ground speed, but all thoes simplified calculations go out the window when you are near the ground at gusty cross wind conditons. You can also feel when the plane is getting too slow and about to stall and you have to nose it down.
    omg ..........................

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly 2 View Post
    omg ..........................
    +1.........

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    Quote Originally Posted by faithnhim View Post
    In no particular order of consequence, as they'll all kill you:

    Returning to the airport after a loss of engine power.

    ...
    Pushing weather.
    ...
    Overloading.
    ...
    406 ELTs.
    ...
    Moose Turn Stalls.
    ...
    With deep respect for an outstanding letter, this minor slip is simply too funny not to point out: I never would have thought I'd see an NTSB investigator list 406 ELTs as something that will kill you!
    Inspiration is simply the momentary cessation of stupidity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly 2 View Post
    omg ..........................
    Im sure you have seen more extreme conditions in your time, I highly doubt that my situation warranted omg. But if so maybe we really were in a bad situation. We fly aerobatics as well so we dont get too shook up over stuff like that.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rppearso View Post
    Im sure you have seen more extreme conditions in your time, I highly doubt that my situation warranted omg. But if so maybe we really were in a bad situation. We fly aerobatics as well so we dont get too shook up over stuff like that.
    Uuuuuh - the OMG had more to do with your appraisal than with the situation.

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly 2 View Post
    Uuuuuh - the OMG had more to do with your appraisal than with the situation.
    Like my decision making to even fly in that? It was a one time thing that will never happen again.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rppearso View Post
    Like my decision making to even fly in that? It was a one time thing that will never happen again.
    No, not your decision to fly that day. Your interpretation of pitot tubes, airspeeds and ground speeds. Along with your appraisal of ELTs, of course.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly 2 View Post
    No, not your decision to fly that day. Your interpretation of pitot tubes, airspeeds and ground speeds. Along with your appraisal of ELTs, of course.
    Oh ok, well I can not think of any other reason my air speed would have bleed off like that and it felt like the plane was about to stall at full power on take off.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rppearso View Post
    Oh ok, well I can not think of any other reason my air speed would have bleed off like that and it felt like the plane was about to stall at full power on take off.
    It's possible that you briefly enccountered a spot where the headwind had dropped a bit. At your low airspeed (just after takeoff), the airplane might well have temporarrily stalled. Still, consider that tendency a blessing, since it keeps rough air from becoming a wing loading that might have deleterious structural ramifications. That's the reason for "maneuvering speeds." The airplane will momentarily stall before any structural damage can occur.


    It's also possible that you encountered a bit of wind shear, though that isn't all that common in Alaska's cooler air. Does happen, though. It's usually more apparent on final when airspeed is low and wind shear will steal airspeed [not groundspeed]. In that case, the pilot usually reports that he "has run out of air."

    The same thing may occur when taking off from a bush strip that sits atop a cliff with a body of cold water below the departure end. Especially on a sunny day, the cooler air will settle over the water body and the airplane will tend to settle with it. There's one such bush strip in your neck of the woods. It lies between Peters Creek airstrip and the hills SSE of it. It isn't shown in the Anchorage Sectional, of course, but that's where it is.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly 2 View Post
    It's possible that you briefly enccountered a spot where the headwind had dropped a bit. At your low airspeed (just after takeoff), the airplane might well have temporarrily stalled. Still, consider that tendency a blessing, since it keeps rough air from becoming a wing loading that might have deleterious structural ramifications. That's the reason for "maneuvering speeds." The airplane will momentarily stall before any structural damage can occur.

    It's also possible that you encountered a bit of wind shear, though that isn't all that common in Alaska's cooler air. Does happen, though. It's usually more apparent on final when airspeed is low and wind shear will steal airspeed [not groundspeed]. In that case, the pilot usually reports that he "has run out of air."

    The same thing may occur when taking off from a bush strip that sits atop a cliff with a body of cold water below the departure end. Especially on a sunny day, the cooler air will settle over the water body and the airplane will tend to settle with it. There's one such bush strip in your neck of the woods. It lies between Peters Creek airstrip and the hills SSE of it. It isn't shown in the Anchorage Sectional, of course, but that's where it is.
    We were on the run way that takes off over the bluff at palmer, I have also experienced it a bit at goose bay where there is a cliff at the end of the run way.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Grizzly 2 View Post

    It's also possible that you encountered a bit of wind shear, though that isn't all that common in Alaska's cooler air.

    Thats interesting - I would have thaught that where cold glacial air sliding Katabatically down a valley and meeting a ( relatively ) warmer sea breeze would create wind- shear situations commonly as it does here, and is pretty common, although not necessarily glacial.

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