|Issue Number 215||
P.O. Box 189, Moffett Field, CA 94035-0189
Airport Construction Hazards
Construction activities at an airport are sure to complicate normal procedures. To maintain safe operations, local controllers must sustain an unusually high degree of vigilance, particularly when dealing with construction equipment in their midst. Some controller reports explain:
Construction-related vehicle traffic in aircraft movement areas can also be a major cause of workload, as another controller reports:
Another problem that surfaces near airport work areas is the temporary signs directing pilots to alternate taxi routes.
On Your Mark Stop!
Pilots also report problems with airport construction area signage and surface markings. Temporary or painted-over markings may be difficult to see, particularly at night or in wet weather. Or, as in the next report, extraneous objects may be mistaken for markings.
Fortunately, this crew's aircraft incurred no damage. Others did not fare as well with their "short field" landings: one pilot damaged a flap and the fuel tank on a barricade across the runway.
Another crew apparently was on "mental autopilot" during takeoff, and forgot that the airport construction had caused a change in their usual departure routine.
Our reporter's advice applies to everyone operating near an airport construction areaflight crews, controllers, ground crews, and construction crews.
Spring Sprucing Tip
Spring is the time of year when airplane owners think of getting that aircraft spruced up after a long, cold winter in the hangar or out on the ramp. But let the "sprucer" beware:
The reporter suggested that the paint shop be requested to jack up the aircraft and exercise the landing gear several times before releasing the aircraft to the owner.
Low-Level Flight A Growing GA Hazard
Editor's Note: The following article was researched and prepared for CALLBACK by Betty Hicks, an ASRS Consultant and retired head of the Foothill College Aviation Department in Los Altos Hills, California.
Weather-related fatal accidents once topped the light aircraft accident list. However, according to the 1996 Nall report, an annual safety report published by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Flight Safety Foundation, low-level maneuvering has jumped to number one as the cause of fatalities in single-engine fixed-gear aircraft, with 36.1% of fatal accidents. More than half of all maneuvering fatalities occurred during buzzing or other unauthorized aircraft operations.
As every student of Aerodynamics 101 knows, low and slow is one of the most hazardous aerodynamic conditionsthe "slow" bringing the aircraft close to stall, and the "low" putting the aircraft and its pilot in an area where recovery is altitudinally limited. In recognition of the low-and-slow flight hazard, FAR 91.119 prohibits operation of an aircraft at an altitude which, in the event of a power failure, does not allow a safe landing without hazard to persons or property on the surface.
Reports submitted to ASRS by general aviation pilots illustrate a broad range of low-level flying incidents, many of them resulting from impromptu, unplanned flights.
Sectional charts and the Airport/Facility Directory depict many, but not all, the hazards associated with low level flight. For example, "sparsely populated" areas may suddenly become populated, as they did for this reporter.
The next reporter was planning aheadto the next weekend's activities.
Unfortunately for the reporter, a park ranger issued a citation requiring an appearance in U.S. District Court. An ASRS analyst notes that it is important to stay high over recreational areas to avoid restrictions that may be in excess of the FAR minimum requirements.
Favors for Friends
One moral of the next report is always check the PQ (Popularity Quotient) of your passengers before you fly.
Our reporter made an arbitrary decision that the corn fields on either side of the condo complex constituted an "uncongested" area. They did not.
Distraction by objects or activity on the ground is a common problem in low-altitude flying. The next reporter set the scene for an incident by sight-seeing at only 500 feet AGL, then got caught up in the fun on the ground.
This reporter was very lucky. The softball teams were also most fortunate that they didn't have to scrape the airplane off the outfield.
Low Level Missions (Coyote-1; Humans-0)
In our final report, a wily coyote won the day, as the pilot of a predator control aircraft pursued. The co-pilot marksman was having an off day:
Any empathetic reader can fill in the balance of the scenario. The airplane struck the tree and damaged its wing, as the unscathed coyote trotted down the dry creek bed. In this case, maintaining obstacle clearance should have been the pilot's highest priority, since the aircraft was operating so close to the ground.