Issue Number 270
February 2002
A Monthly Safety Bulletin from The Office of the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System
P.O. Box 189, Moffett Field, CA 94035-0189

Special Interest NOTAMS Pilot Peeking Over Ledge

Since the events of September 11, 2001, the National Flight Data Center NOTAM system ­ always an important source of timely flight information ­ has become even more crucial to flight planning. Many new NOTAMs are in effect, including but not limited to, the following:

  • Rules against circling or loitering over nuclear sites, power plants, dams, refineries, military sites, industrial complexes, and similar facilities

  • Monitoring of Guard frequency (121.5 MHz) and understanding of intercept procedures

  • Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs) over major professional or collegiate sporting events or other major open air assemblies

  • Special TFRs concerning flight in the Boston, New York, and Washington, DC areas

  • New rules for operating into and out of Mexico and Canada

  • New rules for foreign aircraft.

Because notices, restrictions, and advisories may change at any time and without warning, it is no longer enough to obtain NOTAMS before a flight. Pilots should now check NOTAMS before each leg of a planned flight. Current NOTAMs are available from Flight Service Stations at 1-800-WX-BRIEF. Recent reports drawn from the ASRS database illustrate some of the latest NOTAM nuances.

Check NOTAMS Before Every Leg

  • Departed for a non-Tower airport in same state. I did a little flying with a friend and then returned to [home airport]. When I had departed [home airport] there were no new TFRs in effect. However, during my time at non-Tower airport, the FAA had issued the TFR around all power plants. After returning I became aware of these TFRs. The non-controlled field was in a private community within the 10-mile ring of the power plant... I should check NOTAMS before every leg, not just the first I had 1200 in the transponder and Guard 121.5 in the com [radio] during my flight.

Rethink Training and Flight Routes

  • While conducting a low-level cross-country, our aircraft overflew what I thought was an auto salvage yard. There are a great number of these on the route we fly for this training. Coming over one of these 'junk yards,' I noticed a great number of people and realized it was a flea market! A part of [special NOTAM] is not to operate lower than 3,000 feet and within 3 nm of major open air assemblies. Not sure if a flea market falls under this, but there sure were a great number of people. We remained clear of schools, power plants, etc., but this one caught us off guard... No excuse, just some background... Maybe we need to rethink our routes for this training in light of the current security situation...

Our reporter's last comment is one that many training schools and flight instructors may take to heart.

"Can Anyone Hear Me?"

In the nation's heightened security climate, loss of communications by aircraft can have serious consequences, including intercept by military aircraft and other traumatic outcomes. Air carrier as well as GA aircraft are subject to lost communications events, as described by this ASRS report.

  • Suspect moderate turbulence caused multiple failures of Com 1 and Com 2 [radios]. At least 4 calls to ATC gave no response. Switching to Number 2 Com brought initial relief followed by further failure while descending into [destination airport]. Blind transmissions indicating our listening watch on Guard (121.5 MHz) were heard by ATC. [Our] reply again appeared to be unanswered. Approach Control, when communications were re-established, gave handoff to Tower about 30 nm from Runway 16. A follow-up call indicated that ATC had a brief security concern... due to lost com and aircraft altitude and progress toward airport... Further lost com could have launched a potential intercept.

The flight crew suspected a loose radio rack as the cause of the lost communications. Many air carrier and GA pilots are planning ahead for the possibility of radio failure by carrying backup communications devices on flights. The most common devices are cell phones and hand-held transceivers.

The Bottom Line

  • Better information gathering, and doubting one's 'old instincts' regarding airspace boundaries and the freedoms we have come to take for granted, is what...can personally [be done] to avoid any future incursions. Communicating this to other pilots will also create awareness.

Ballooning Hot Air Balloons


The ASRS database contains hundreds of incident reports submitted by commercial and sports balloonists (known as aeronauts). Recently, ASRS received this unusual report from a sports balloonist who made an unplanned air-carrier type landing in the middle of a special competition:

  • Launched balloon heading approximately WSW at 8 knots. Special event was in effect and I followed the special event balloon for approximately 45 minutes across the first section of the lake. The special event balloon landed, I threw at the target and flew on seeking the first available landing site. No sites were available and overwater once again, with 40% fuel remaining, I flagged down a 70-foot cabin cruiser to tow me 1/2 mile to shore. I landed on the deck, secured the basket and we proceeded for the marina. Once near the shoreline, I released the balloon from the deck and flew to the shoreline. I landed at a lakeside house without injury or damage to my aircraft. No emergency services were required or contacted.

    I believe that I used poor judgment concerning direction of wind and speed for this flight. I could have possibly landed safely prior to seeking the target throw, but failed to do so... I did feel that competition and restrictions to landing within 1,500 feet of the target area contributed to my situation...

At least this pilot was resourceful enough to use the cabin cruiser as a temporary landing site to avoid damage to the balloon and possible injury.

Rally Rash

"Hangar rash" occurs when an aircraft is damaged while being moved into or out of a hangar. Balloonists face similar "rash" hazards when trying to land or ascend with other balloons in close proximity.

  • Balloon rally, had 3 crew and pilot. I made a descent from about 800 feet AGL to go to about 300 feet AGL. Other balloon was on ground when I began descent. Other balloon apparently burned hard for steep ascent to my elevation. My crew and I saw the other balloon when separation was less than 200 feet. I could not burn enough to turn my descent around and get out of the other balloon's flight path. My basket impacted his balloon at center of top, went in +/- 3-4 feet. At this time my burning turned us around ­ his loss of heat around the parachute turned his ascent around and we separated. No damage was done to the other balloon's envelope or to my basket. Neither balloon had any other trouble with equipment on landing. A lower rate of ascent/descent on both balloons would have avoided the incident.

GPS to the Rescue

Having backup navigation capability can save lives, as attested by the grateful pilot of a GA aircraft that experienced engine failure over mountains, at night. The pilot and passengers were an hour from home on an IFR flight plan, cruising at 16,000 feet. A look ahead showed worsening weather conditions, but the plane was performing well as they cruised along:

  • ...Then, without warning, it all changed. Suddenly, it felt like I pulled the throttle back to "idle." I checked the throttle control lever and moved it back and forth, with no response from the engine. I tried the same with the mixture and prop controls, with no improvement. Even though I had plenty of fuel in both tanks, I switched tanks and turned on the electric pump. The magneto switch was in the "both" position. I noted that the manifold pressure had dropped to the bottom of the scale. All other gauges (including the oil pressure gauge) were in the green. My emergency training helped out because all of this was done in about 5 seconds. As I watched the airspeed bleed off from 170 to 150 (and decreasing), there was no mistaking we wouldn't clear the mountains ahead. We were going down into the darkness below...

    I pushed the "nearest airport" buttons on the GPS, hoping there would be some little airstrip out here in the middle of nowhere... Fortunately, ABC airport came up #1 on the list, only 9.7 miles away. Its altitude is 7,000 feet (9,000 feet below us), so it was easily within gliding distance. The GPS database told me that it has a long (and lighted) runway. A call to UNICOM told us that there were calm winds below. I called Center to tell them that we had a loss of manifold pressure, we were canceling IFR, and would proceed to the nearest airport. As we approached the airport, I made sure to keep my base leg in tight to avoid undershooting the runway.

    The landing was smooth and I exited the runway onto a taxiway with snow and ice on it The engine was still running, so I slowly taxied to the ramp. I got out of the plane, slipped on the ice and fell down. As I was lying there, I saw a steady stream of oil flowing out from under the cowling ...
This reporter told ASRS analysts during a callback conversation that the cause of the engine loss of power was the turbocharger, which had developed a cracked housing. The pilot vowed not to put himself again in the position of flying IFR over mountains, at night.

ASRS Recently Issued Alerts On...

F100 gear retract actuator rod failure

B767 cleared for takeoff on an occupied runway

SA227 Metroliner cabin door deployment in flight

Similar names for New York airports in close proximity

GA aircraft inadvertent violation of TFRs over power plants

December 2001 Report Intake
 Air Carrier/Air Taxi Pilots
 General Aviation Pilots