CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2 - 6

Green on green
BY DAVID JACK KENNY
NEW FLIGHT INSTRUCTORS—even middleaged ones—have to start somewhere. Often it’s by giving flight reviews and instrument proficiency checks, putting those first few hours into the “flight instructor” column of the logbook. A freshly minted CFI has a lot to offer, beginning with technical mastery of the curriculum. After all that practice and study preparing for the toughest checkride of a pilot’s career, the new instructor should be razor-sharp on the maneuvers and letterperfect on the regs. But, a novice CFI won’t have had much time to get used to the teaching environment, or much practice dealing with the attitudes and behavior of honest-to-goodness students as opposed to instructors or examiners playing students. It’s a pretty good bet that neither will take the roleplaying far enough to let you endanger the aircraft, but a student can’t be expected to recognize when you’ve wandered dangerously close to the edge of your expertise. Even one who knows enough to have misgivings is liable to defer to your presumably greater wisdom. On June 14, 2009, a 180-horsepower Piper Arrow (PA-28R-180) sank in the Mohawk River after attempting a soft-field takeoff from Runway 33 at Mohawk Valley Airport outside Scotia, New York. Seated in the front were a 42-year-old student pilot and his 52-year-old instructor; the student’s 11-year-old son was riding along in back. Despite the efforts of a witness who swam to the airplane and tried to open the cabin door, all three drowned. The single 1,840-foot turf runway at Mohawk Valley is described as being in good condition. The accident occurred halfway through its regular 10-day mowing schedule, and the NTSB investigator found the grass to be three inches long. Although it had rained the night before, there is no suggestion that the airplane’s takeoff roll had been impeded by any soggy spots. However, witness accounts make it clear that it hadn’t accelerated with authority:

Safety spotlight

"He started a normal takeoff. It appeared he did not have enough speed to get the aircraft flying. He got off the ground a couple of feet and then came back down on the wheels. He tried again, but was more aggressive, striking the tail on the ground. Again the aircraft stayed in the air a little longer but came back down again. He continued pulling the airplane into the air for the third time. By now he was farther down the runway, this time staying in the air, clearing the brush at the end of the runway. He had the nose a little high. The whole airplane then began to settle down into the river." The 180-horsepower Arrow offers simple, robust systems, predictable handling, and a reasonable trade-off between economy and speed. But while it has a lot of admirable qualities, short-field performance isn’t one of them. Three thousand feet of level pavement feels uncomfortably tight on a warm day, and it’s an awkward soft-field airplane because of a heavy nose that comes up abruptly when the elevator becomes effective. Some experienced Arrow pilots would view a 1,840-foot grass strip as suitable only for an emergency landing…and plan to have the airplane trucked out afterward. The accident instructor had a fair amount of flight experience—his medical application, submitted six months earlier, claimed 1,600 total hours—but he wasn’t an experienced CFI, and he wasn’t experienced in the Arrow. Although he’d passed his checkride the previous October, he didn’t work as a flight instructor. His logbook showed only two hours in the Arrow, and the student with him was his first. The student, on the other hand, had 85 hours in the PA-28R-180, which should

have given him a reasonable working acquaintance with the owner’s handbook (the airplane was a 1969 model that didn’t come with factory checklists). Page 24 notes “…for short field takeoffs, and for takeoffs under difficult conditions such as deep grass or on a soft surface, distances can be reduced appreciably by lowering flaps to 25 degrees (second notch).” Aftermarket checklists likewise specify 25

SEATED IN THE FRONT WERE A 42-YEAR-OLD STUDENT PILOT AND HIS 52-YEAR-OLD INSTRUCTOR; THE STUDENT’S 11-YEAR-OLD SON WAS RIDING ALONG IN BACK. DESPITE THE EFFORTS OF A WITNESS WHO SWAM TO THE AIRPLANE AND TRIED TO OPEN THE CABIN DOOR, ALL THREE DROWNED.
degrees of flaps for short- and soft-field takeoffs. Piper estimates that on dry pavement, this reduces the ground roll by 250 feet and obstacle clearance by 350. Divers recovered the airplane from 18 feet of water the next day. The flaps were up and the gear was down. Once it dried out, the engine started and ran to full power without hesitation. If poor decision making created the risk, bad technique cemented the outcome. Aviators are rarely served well by great leaps into the unknown. Professional test pilots proceed incrementally through the flight envelope, with each step carefully planned. A new CFI is almost back in the position of a student flying solo. You know— or ought to know—how much you don’t know. Safety depends on your good judgment, and if anything goes wrong, it’s going to be your fault. David Jack Kenny is manager of aviation safety analysis for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, an instrument-rated commercial pilot, and owner of a Piper Arrow.

6 | www.asf.org


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CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2

CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2
Contents
CFI tools: ASF's Flight Risk Evaluator
Checklist: Seats—Adjust and Lock
Safety spotlight: Green on Green
Chief's Corner: Mother Duck
CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2 - Contents
CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2 - 2
CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2 - 3
CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2 - CFI tools: ASF's Flight Risk Evaluator
CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2 - Checklist: Seats—Adjust and Lock
CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2 - Safety spotlight: Green on Green
CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2 - Chief's Corner: Mother Duck
CFI-to-CFI Newsletter - Volume 1 | Issue 2 - 8
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