Issue Number 222
December 1997
A Monthly Safety Bulletin from The Office of the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System
P.O. Box 189, Moffett Field, CA 94035-0189

"Weighty Decisions" with Packages

Pilots sometimes take weight and balance matters for granted, especially with a familiar aircraft or an "average" payload. A general aviation pilot, overestimating the aircraft's performance and underestimating the passenger load, reports on the effects of an overweight takeoff in a six-place airplane:

Pilots also need to consider the trade-off between the performance gained by "cleaning up" the aircraft immediately after takeoff versus the safety of leaving the gear in place until there is no longer a chance of the aircraft settling back onto the runway. Additionally, on some aircraft the gear doors open to allow gear retraction; this temporarily increases drag and decreases lift, reducing aircraft performance.

The Bod Squad

Air carrier crews can find their aircraft overloaded when cabin weights are incorrectly calculated - or estimated - by company dispatch. A Captain tells of the flight of his "heavy" aircraft, a B-727 laden with a football team.

The reporter's point is relevant to both the previous report and this incident: the use of "average" weights for passengers, luggage, and carry-on items can lead to gross inaccuracies in calculating gross weight.

Hurry Up and Weight

In the rush for a quick departure, this air carrier crew apparently overlooked the takeoff weight limitation for their assigned runway. The First Officer reports:

When faced with schedule pressures or other time-related constraints, flight crews need to take an extra moment to ensure that potentially critical information does not pass unnoticed.

Keep The Big Picture

An air carrier pilot provides a final thought:

"Assits and Commendations" with a Helicopter

Many of the "flight assist" stories that ASRS hears about involve observant ATC personnel who come to the aid of pilots in trouble. Sometimes ATC gets help from other sources - as in the case of this general aviation training flight that suffered a loss of engine power over unfriendly terrain, at the approach of dusk.

Contributing to superlative efforts by the police helicopter and ATC, this flight instructor earns a "well done!" for clear communications and cool decision-making under pressure.

"Getting There" Was An Experience

In another nighttime emergency, this one experienced by a corporate flight crew, all ended well­but getting there was an isolated and frustrating experience, especially for the Captain.

This crew's experience highlights the need for training in equipment familiarity (oxygen mask and communications radios) in a darkened cockpit. The Captain's suggestion about turning up the runway lighting is also one that ATC facilities may want to consider in reviewing their night emergency procedures.

The Bottom Line...

A general aviation pilot was persuaded by a business associate to undertake a flight into known icing conditions, against his better judgment. After a harrowing in-the-clouds icing experience, an emergency declaration to ATC, and an unscheduled landing, the pilot humbly reported this new resolution to ASRS:

ASRS Recently Issued Alerts On...
Inflight speed brake failure on an FK-10
EMB-120 inflight engine cowling openings
B757 inflight fuel loss due to a hole in a fuel line
Sabreliner 65 engine failure due to gear door separation
Blending of a Nevada airport's background and PLASI lights
October 1997 Report Intake
 Air Carrier Pilots
 General Aviation Pilots