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One of my favorite parts of "Flying" magazine is the "I learned about Flying from That" section. Perhaps Iâ€™m stating the obvious here but the best ones combine an interesting and engaging story with a truly valuable lesson.
I can appreciate the fact that the perfect truth occasionally gets in the way of producing a truly engaging story. Iâ€™ve read many stories where the circumstances surrounding the impending incident were suspect and have often wondered if the some, if not all the articles are just manufactured rather than based on real-life incidents.
In the July 2006 issue, Larry â€œChrisâ€ Graham posts No. 795 which deals with an iced pitot on a Piper Chieftain. This is one â€œILAFFTâ€ that I suspect is missing some details that the writer assumed wouldnâ€™t be missed. It seems that the story was fabricated to support the lesson.
I wonâ€™t bother doing a detailed assessment, rather Iâ€™ll zoom in on the serious issues. Correct me if Iâ€™m wrong (please), but Iâ€™ve never seen a PA-31 of any flavor that wasnâ€™t fitted with two independent airspeed indications systems, complete with itâ€™s own heated pitot tube. Why didnâ€™t the pilot glance over at that indicator? The narrative provided implies there wasnâ€™t one.
The pilot states he was in a descent with the engines at â€œfull powerâ€ and after discovering the problem made and providing us with the final â€œlessonâ€ he makes no mention of any communication with his maintainers letting them know he may have exceeded the various airspeed limitations and that perhaps an â€œexceedanceâ€ inspection is in order.
And, last but not least, he states he continued on his IFR localizer approach using â€œpower and pitch settings as referencesâ€. This is a serious situation that just wasnâ€™t afforded the criticality it deserved.
The lessons learned here shouldnâ€™t emphasize memorizing coffee shop chatter, it should deal with the chain in events that lead to this potentially fatal incident.
1) Before launching into IMC and icing conditions, did the pilot do a proper pre-flight checking to see if (both) pitot tubes were heating?
2) Did he take off with the second altimeter unserviceable?
3) Did he mention the possible speed exceedances to maintenance?
4) Did he declare an emergency as he lined up on the localizer with no airspeed indication?
5) No mention was made about the various abnormal airspeed indications due to partial and total pitot blockage. We are led to believe that the only outcome is a reduced airspeed reading.
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