I am excited to announce two new domains which will make finding the new forum easier! Members Welcome!
Signup is easy and I look forward to see you there!
On 4/21/2010 the International Seaplane Pilot Forum launched off my website. I am in the process of securing a domain for it to make it easier to find for pilots. After my resignation as SPA Forum Administrator, I made the decision to offer a standalone, easy to use forum that could be used as a platform for seaplane pilots to congregate and communicate seaplane specific topics. The forum is launched in a non competitive, non political environment that offers greater flexibility and the opportunity for members to network. It will have a “sponsors spotlight” that enables members to show their fellow members what they do and why they do it. People buy from people they know, and print advertising is quickly becoming a thing of the past. The forum is set up in several categories, which makes browsing for interesting content easier and tailors more to the target audience. There are several categories already pre-selected – however members will have their say in how categories will be used. Even though our industry is an extremely hard place to find employment in, there is a Seaplane Employment section. Further, features include a WTB/ For Sale section. The goal is to keep the forum from requiring advertising in the form of google ads, so supporters and sponsors are cordially invited and much appreciated.
The current plan is to offer industry support sections that can be used by seaplane related businesses to attend to their customers. My hope is that the new forum will be perceived as non competitive with other forum spots across the web. Please sign up today!
Thanks for reading!
The goal of this long article is to provoke and encourage pilots thoughts about the respective “Preflight Inspection” of their aircraft. Many of the preflight checks we get to see in the field are abbreviated, cut short for added convenience and to save time. Valuable time, we could be taxiing or flying, or talking on the cellphone. But, like with many things in aviation, the desire to save time, can and will come back to bite us, in the long run.
I recently heard an old hangar story about an older gentleman (lets call him Grumpy) who had extensive work performed on his older Piper Cub. The aircraft was pushed out of the maintenance hangar and Grumpy went on to check things out. He walked around the plane, wiggling here, touching this, looking at that. He then continued to load the seat with himself, fired up the engine and taxied to the grass runway. The airplane was observed doing some erratic flight maneuvers before being dug into the ground. A short time later, Grumpy was dead. Very dead. What had happened was an unintentional mistake of connecting the linkeage on the elevator upside down. It is safe to assume Grumpy wiggled all the controls around and listened for grinding sounds, making sure nothing is blocked. He just never looked and verified the CORRECT application of control inputs.
However, what supposedly happened to Grumpy, has happened to other people before, sometimes it was caught, sometimes it was not. Some DPE’s may have a habit of wanting to see their applicants not only check that certain controls are “FREE” but that they, as stated on many checklists “FREE AND CORRECT”.
What does Grumpy have to do with Seaplane Preflight Checks?
The first point I am trying to make is that a checklist is a pretty nice tool to have when it come to getting to know your aircraft better. It deserves some attention and some careful studying and is usually (even though not always looking like it really needs more handling) happy to be grabbed and handled by pilots. We should spend some time and go through each section of the document looking where there are things that could be better or more extensively covered. Example: I am looking at the POH checklist of a 1980 Piper Warrior, for an upcoming flight and noticed that it reads on the outside check:
Control Surfaces…….Check for interference, free of ice, snow, frost.
Inside, just before Takeoff, we are reminded:
A perfect example, in my humble opinion, for CFI’s and Pilots alike, to read any and all checklists without being mentally limited to what exactly the document says. We should “look for things to be wrong” and be positively surprised if they are fine. Period. Some may call it paranoia, some do not. Pick your spot.
Having said that a checklist is not an all inclusive document, we may feel inclined to work our way through it, maybe together with a CFI or other pilot with experience on type, maybe even with a A&P and pinpoint hotspots and weak spots on the list. I guarantee that there will be “News” we did not know about!
Lets try set up a few “good rules” for the future performance of our preflight inspections. We assume the pilot is briefed on WX and TFR’s and is just walking out to the plane. He/ She has spent time with POH & Checklist and is ready for the flight. The focus is now squarely on the plane – the pilot is mainly trying to find an excuse not to fly. The expectation should now be to find something wrong with this airplane, before the airplane does it, in flight.
FLOATS & AMPHIBS:
Just like the wheels and undercarriage of land planes, seaplanes are exposed to some pretty rough living. Subsequently we should pay extra attention to the floats and what keeps those attached to the fuselage of our aircraft.
Start by paying attention to how the plane sits in the water. Having the aircraft lean to either side or back and forth may be a good indicator of a possible leak which may have filled one or more of the float compartments. Obvious defects, deep scratches, loose rivets, dents and the general condition of the skin of the floats are usually indicative of trouble. When we pump the floats with the bilge pump, we should pay attention to the amount of water we remove. Having no water at all is either a sign of brand new bone dry floats, or could be meaning that the pump is defective, but could also indicate that the connecting tube or funnel is defect. The issue should be to get the floats as free from water (and weight) as possible. Storage compartments should be inspected as well. Links and connecting bolts, wires and nuts, burdened with keeping everything neat and together should receive attention as well. Wires and water rudders should be free of obstructions, correct in direction of movement and properly greased or lubricated where applicable. Unless the aircraft is beached it should be possible to quickly hop in the plane and listen and feel for the grind or possible obstructions to free movement, prior to firing up the noisy engine. Letting the water rudder down (if left up) or vice versa should be exercised as well. How bad would it be to figure out that all looked well, except the water rudders would be blocked, shortly after pushing out into this faster flowing river?
Amphibs & their gear retraction systems are prune to the same issues as their purely land based sister ships. We should pay attention to the same things, except, on amphibs we should also be on the lookout for missing mirrors (gear indication) proper markings and gear position indicators and the function of the subsequent possibly optional warning bells and whistles. The gear wells should be free of obstructions, switches and stops should be in serviceable condition. Once floats, attachements, wires, bearings and rudders have been found to be safe for flight, we should spend our time with having fun on, in and above the water. Even when flying straight floats in a 65 H.P. Piper, we can and maybe should include a few callouts to our repertoire, to avoid embarrassment and possibly death in the future.
“Gear UP for WATER Landing” & “Gear DOWN for RWY Landing” accompanied by a visual check will only sound and feel silly for the first couple of times. Fostering a good habit early on may save thousands of dollars and possibly some body bags in the future. Accidental gear down water landings seem to remain popular among the best of us. Maybe it’s time to start attacking this sort of accident a bit more fiercly.
Not too long ago, I met with a young pilot, who is in the process of finishing his commercial pilot certification. We talked briefly about how he was studying and preparing for his oral exam and flight test. He had asked me for a short oral quizzing session, but it appeared like he quickly regretted the motion. When he handed me his “Oral Exam Prep” book I said that I would like for him to run through one of his usual passenger briefings with me.
“There is no usual passenger briefing I use. I only have to explain the seat-belts!”
I asked him if he had ever flown with passengers, family or friends as a private pilot. While he had, he was only aware of having to show/ explain how to open and close doors and the use of safety belts to his companions. In his flight tests so far that had proved sufficient and he stated that he had never been asked any questions in addition.
“Usually my examiners told me that they where fine, when I started to speak and just asked me to start the engine and get going.”
I had him look up 14 CFR 91.519 Passenger Briefing and try to produce a briefing that would accomplish two things:
Note that the referenced FAR applies only to Large and Turbine powered airplanes in Commercial service, but there is no legitimate reason that we can’t VOLUNTARILY adopt that procedure for Part 91 operations.
(a) Before each takeoff the pilot in command of an airplane carrying passengers shall ensure that all passengers have been orally briefed on—
(2) Use of safety belts and shoulder harnesses.
(3) Location and means for opening the passenger entry door and emergency exits;
(4) Location of survival equipment;
(5) Ditching procedures and the use of flotation equipment required under §91.509 for a flight over water; and
(6) The normal and emergency use of oxygen equipment installed on the airplane.
This picture stems from Australia. The 185F was flown by a high time pilot on a charter flight. 3 people occupied the aircraft, which was struck by wind shear, causing the wing to touch the water, eventually flipping this aircraft on it’s back. Except for the pilot, all passengers reported disorientation and had a some struggles getting out of the submerged cabin. The pilot stated that he believed a previously (and recently) accomplished Helicopter Egress Training to have helped him to stay calm and organized. Consider taking one of these classes. Read and work through Advisory Circular 91-69A “Seaplane Safety for Part 91 Operators”
We need to make sure our passengers are properly briefed on how to egress in case of emergency. They need to know that the way of entering the cabin may not be the way out. Passengers must be aware and should be familiar with where to find flotation devices and how to use them. There is nothing wrong with having them demonstrate closing and opening seat- belts. One of the few things we need to pay attention to, is to place passengers with physical disabilities, so exiting the cabin is easily accomplished. It is imperative to brief and instruct our passengers with clear and concise commands, to ensure that they know exactly, what is expected from them. Further, explain the use of seat belt cutters, axes, fire extinguishers, and how to get these tools out of their compartments or holders, in case you are incapacitated! They need to know, that sometimes, letting water in, is the only way out. Spend some time alone with your airplane, and try to think of all the tricks you would try, to get out of a submerged cabin.
This posts intention is to refresh the thought process in your mind. Preparation is key. Make an effort and fine tune your passenger briefing. Exercise it with a pilot buddy or a CFI and tailor it for your specific airplane. A briefing card is a nice thing to have, as well. If you are going for a new pilot certificate, don’t let the examiner tell you that he/ she’s fine. Just like a pretakeoff briefing (which is usually not cut short) your passenger briefing may serve as this last minute rescue rope. Having the information reviewed and refreshed may make the difference, one day. Remember, the examiner is just a passenger – on this check ride!