Chapter 790

Lake In The Hills Airport (3CK), Lake In The Hills IL.

Winds Aloft Blog

Avoiding Really Bad Days

Posted by EAA 790 Webmaster on August 22, 2012 at 12:15 PM

By Mike Perkins

These days when we think about cockpit distractions, we are apt think about texting and phone calls, and they certainly have their potential consequences. But there still are the aviation classics that occasionally reach up and smite us.

Departing Sun ‘n Fun this April 13, a Lancair Legacy experienced an unlatched canopy shortly after takeoff. Those on the ground observed the front-hinged canopy moving up and down 6 – 12 inches. Shortly after, the engine lost power. Continuing straight and level, the aircraft then nosed down 40 degrees. A nearby camper retrieved a Ziploc bag that she saw floating down moments after the smoke appeared. It contained the aircraft documents.

I recall an experience during my own early flight training, flight instructor aboard, on a day of touch-and-go’s. Back then, Crystal Lake Airport had a north-south grass strip that started just south and midfield of 08-26. Jack and I were on final for 18 grass when we noticed an aircraft on final for 26. There had been no radio calls, so its presence was a surprise to us. We were discussing our options and watching to see if it would be a factor. At about 400 feet, the cockpit noises got really quiet. The quiet was broken by a shout to get the nose down and add power – I recall seeing something like 45 on the ASI. Jack chided both me and himself, saying in a very unhappy voice,“That’s exactly how accidents happen.” Wordlessly, we went around like we should have in the first place.

Being distracted at altitude is less of a problem - conversations, stowage matters, lost items, long arguments with GPS units.There’s not a pilot that doesn’t sometimes get distracted en route – and most are not stories even worth mentioning.

But during our climb or during the glide to landing, it only takes a few seconds for something very hard to get in our path if we stray. We are low, and we are slow, and those seconds count immeasurably.

Here are the NTSB aviation reports from the last 12 months containing “distraction”, and their results:

Open canopy – Lancair described above

Other traffic – bad approach, landing roll longer than runway remaining

Argument with GPS – forgot to refuel and continued on (two errors for the price of one)

Other traffic – forgot to lower landing gear

Open canopy – crash on takeoff roll

Flashlight fell to floor – crash on takeoff roll

Pushing GPS buttons – forgot to look out the window

OV light and popped breakers – taxied into other aircraft

Open canopy –crashed during departure climb

Open door –crashed on takeoff roll

Think about making a pact with yourself about what you will do to handle any non-emergency or distraction when you’re not at altitude. What’s “altitude?” At or above the height above ground where you practice departure stalls.

Categories: Safety Corner

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.

You must be a member to comment on this page. Sign In or Register


Reply Ole Sindberg
12:10 AM on December 10, 2012 
This subject - distractions - is responsible for an awful lot of incidents and accidents. This is why the airline industry has had a "sterile cockpit" rule for a number of years. We - in general aviation would be well served to adopt and adapt this same philosophy to our operations.

Reply Shane Stolarik
8:31 PM on September 25, 2012 
Great article, Mike!
Hints for Homebilders videos at