29 November 2008

How Rude!

Following a couple days of rainy weather here in the desert, we had a bright sunny day. 70F and little or no wind.

I told the boy to get his shoes on. The SCQueen asked where we were going. "To wash the airplane" I announced. She agreed the boy needed to go along and help. With a warm sun but cool air temps, it was a very nice day to give it a bath.

Following the wash it's customary to take it for a flight, also known as "the dry cycle". I decided to head down to a nearby airport with the $2.95/gallon AvGas. However nearing the airport we were advised the runway was closed due to a gear up landing.

How Rude!

We flew by on downwind and sure enough the runway was fouled with emergency vehicles and a stuck airplane. Someone had forgotten one of the critical factors in aviation.

There a several schools of thought on how to ensure the critical tasks are completed prior to touchdown:

The GUMPS check is a common one (Gas on fullest, Undercarriage down, Mixture rich, Prop forward). Some add the S but I don't know what it's supposed to stand for. Perhaps Speed. Conjured acronyms don't work for me. Also, when I was taught GUMP, it always seemed the tasks needed to be done at different times.

A USAF trained pilot related they were taught to check aircraft configuration at every turn in the pattern and again on short final. IOW, Entering the pattern: Gear down three green, Flaps 10. Turning base, Gear down three green, flaps 20. Turning final, Gear down three green flaps 30. Short final confirm gear down full flaps. Great, but what happens on a straight in approach?

I was taught by an airline pilot to fly a speed schedule. The arrival process starts back at the top of descent from cruise with a power reduction schedule which is designed to get the plane to flap speed and pattern altitude 6 miles from the airport. There we drop in 15deg flaps which slows the plane to gear speed. As the plane slows to gear speed now about 4 miles from the field the gear comes out. I don't let go of the gear handle until we have 3 green. As we enter the pattern we drop to 20deg flaps. Turning final, recheck three green and drop full flaps.

Find a method that works for you and your plane. (If you have another method, feel free to chime in via the comments)

Some say, there are those that have and those that will. They say the same thing about taildraggers and groundloops. I don't subscribe to such fatalism. My goal is to prove the adage wrong and go to my grave having done neither.

Still it was a beautiful day for a nice flight with the boy. On the way back he asked if we could fly over the SandCastle. Since the airport owning the airspace over the SandCastle wasn't busy they were happy to oblige. He found his school and the house. Completing the first turn we noticed the SCQueen waving out front. We waved back with the wings. Finishing the second turn we headed back to home field.

There may be better moments in life, but this one will be tough to top.

Update: Here's the boy's drawing of the event. Obviously this is a bird's eye view as we flew over the airport at about 1000 ft AGL (Above Ground Level).
So we have a twin engine aircraft disabled on the runway. The large vehicle in the upper left is a fire truck with a firehose at the ready. The smaller vehicle is a police cruiser.

(Interesting... when editing an existing post, it apparently pulls down the original until reposted. I did not expect that. Stay tuned for update 2 tomorrow when the preliminary report is posted. The plan was to do one update covering both, but apparently blogger doesn't work that way).

Update 2: FAA Preliminary Accident Report:
** Report created 12/1/2008 Record 1 **

Regis#: 12VB Make/Model: BE95 Description: 95 Travel Air
Date: 11/29/2008 Time: 2035

Event Type: Incident Highest Injury: None Mid Air: N Missing: N
Damage: Minor

City: CASA GRANDE State: AZ Country: US


INJURY DATA Total Fatal: 0
# Crew: 1 Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:
# Pass: 1 Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:
# Grnd: Fat: 0 Ser: 0 Min: 0 Unk:

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