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Wednesday
Jun162010

Aviation Celebrations: Up Close To Those Fascinating Flying Machines 

By Anthony Nalli

/>Close Calls is a column detailing the “close call” experiences of fellow pilots. I invite you to contact me at CloseCalls@TheAviators.TV or CloseCalls@PCAS.ca to anonymously share your stories. The experience shared and lessons learned will be of benefit to all readers. Confidentiality will be assured and I will not use your name or aircraft ident without your permission. If your submission is used in Close Calls you’ll receive an official cap of the upcoming TV series The Aviators 

Public aviation events such as air shows, exhibits, and expos are very important to the continued viability of aviation. They are an opportunity for enthusiasts young and old get up close and personal with any number of fascinating flying machines, an experience that stokes the flames of the passion burning within us all.

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Wednesday
May052010

Close Calls - May 2010

Well, We Made It

By Anthony Nalli

Close Calls is a column detailing the “close call” experiences of fellow pilots. I invite you to contact me at CloseCalls@TheAviators.TV or CloseCalls@PCAS.ca to anonymously share your stories. The experience shared and lessons learned will be of benefit to all readers. Confidentiality will be assured and I will not use your name or aircraft ident without your permission. If your submission is used in Close Calls you’ll receive an official cap of the upcoming TV series The Aviators  

It was 1985 when our passenger was asked by his close friend and new pilot to accompany him on a leisure flight. Our pilot was a Palo Alto, CA area renter of Cherokee 150s and 180s. The two flew around the bay area having lunch at a spot in the central valley before returning home. Both enjoyed the short flight so much they immediately planned a weekend trip with their wives.

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Tuesday
Apr132010

Close Calls - April 2010

Getting Back on the Horse

By Anthony Nalli

Close Calls is a column detailing the “close call” experiences of fellow pilots. I invite you to contact me at CloseCalls@TheAviators.TV or CloseCalls@PCAS.ca to anonymously share your stories. The experience shared and lessons learned will be of benefit to all readers. Confidentiality will be assured and I will not use your name or aircraft ident without your permission. If your submission is used in Close Calls you’ll receive an official cap of the upcoming TV series The Aviators.

Our pilot was a student pilot who experienced his close call during a flight lesson. The occurrence was enough to have him seriously consider the acquisition of a portable collision avoidance device immediately… the very next day, in fact, with little time to spare before his next flight!

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Thursday
Mar112010

Close Calls - March 2010

The Aviators FAQ

By Anthony Nalli

As many of you may be aware, for more than a year now I have been working with my friend and mentor John Lovelace (creator and 10-year host of Wings Over Canada) on a new television series entitled The Aviators.

With production now in full swing, I thought I’d take an opportunity to answer some questions that I’ve been getting with increasing regularity from pilots and fans of aviation from across North American and around the world.

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Sunday
Feb212010

Close Calls - February 2010

A Hard Day’s Flight 

By Anthony Nalli

Close Calls is a column detailing the “close call” experiences of fellow pilots. I invite you to contact me at CloseCalls@TheAviators.TV or CloseCalls@PCAS.ca to anonymously share your stories. The experience shared and lessons learned will be of benefit to all readers. Confidentiality will be assured and I will not use your name or aircraft ident without your permission. If your submission is used in Close Calls you’ll receive an official cap of the upcoming TV series The Aviators.

Professional pilots are required to track their duty times in an effort to reduce the risk of errors that may be brought on due to pilot fatigue. No such mechanism formally exists for private pilots but then again, seldom do most private pilots fly long enough to warrant one. But that’s not to say that there isn’t a point where the skills and attentiveness of a non-professional pilot, not used to a long and taxing day of flying, might begin to suffer. On any given day, how much flying is too much?    

One day a few summers ago, that number of hours for our pilot was somewhere between 8 and 9.     
The trip had been planned for months. Our pilot was going to attend a fly out with some friends to join up with a group of other aircraft from the northeastern United States. It was an early wake up call that Saturday morning with the usual pre-flight routine – weather briefing, flight planning, gathering the gear, pre-flighting the aircraft, and meeting up with the passengers.

Their journey across upstate New York and the New England states was the longest of all the planes participating. Their flight time would be a little more than four hours each way. With a fuel endurance comfortably more than five hours, the capacity of the bladders of those on board had more of an effect on the decision whether or not to break the trip up into two legs than fuel. Our pilot decided that with full tanks – switching every hour – fuel wouldn’t be a problem. As for passenger bladders, well, that second cup of morning coffee was discouraged.

It was a perfect flying day and the trip in was pleasurable for all on board. Their anticipation peaked as their destination airport came into sight. Our pilot landed and parked and the four of them joined their comrades in the lobby of the FBO.

It was now early afternoon so the group carried on to their planned spot for a late lunch/early dinner. Eating and socializing, hours and hours went by as the entire group shared stories and had a great time. Most of the group was either staying the night or making a very short return flight home. Our pilot and friends though had planned on making this a day trip from the start and found themselves heading back to the FBO preparing for the return flight just as the sun was setting.

The trip home under the moonlight was quiet and peaceful. During the latter half of the trip home our pilot hummed to himself as his passengers slept. By now, our pilot was himself feeling tired and happy to be within an hour or two from home, but still felt more than sharp enough to carry on.

Approaching their base airport, our pilot woke his passengers and landed his faithful bird between the welcoming lights of the otherwise dark runway. They parked the aircraft and headed to their respective beds, all happy to be home.

So where was the close call? Well, a few days later our pilot was preparing for a short pleasure flight. As he was performing his walkaround and dipping the fuel tanks he found that the right tank had more fuel than he was expecting and was shocked to discover that the dipstick emerged from the left tank dry! He checked inside the aircraft to find that the fuel tank selector was on (you guessed it) LEFT.

Thinking back, our pilot determined that on the late and quiet trip home from the flyout, he must have neglected to make the last switch of his tanks. He was astonished that during the left turns in the circuit, considering just how little fuel remained in the left tank, that there was just enough fuel to feed the engine.
Of course, this wouldn’t have been an issue if he had switched tanks in the last hour of the trip as he should have. What if the trip was just a little longer… enough to run the left tank out? What if fuel flow was interrupted during a low- altitude turn in the circuit?

So much potential for an entirely avoidable engine outage caused by fatigue-induced pilot error? Such as simple missed step: a tank switch. Our pilot feels lucky to have learned a valuable lesson without having had to pay any more than a startling discovery after the fact. Our pilot now sets a fuel timer on his GPS and, more importantly, is much more cognizant of human factors and personal limitations.

Fly safe(r).

 

 

 

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