Issue Number 227
May 1998
A Monthly Safety Bulletin from The Office of the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System
P.O. Box 189, Moffett Field, CA 94035-0189

"Blow Off the Cobwebs" with an Aircraft in a Cobweb

Spring cleaning around the house requires clearing cobwebs out of hidden corners. Apparently the same holds true for pilots who have been flightless during the winter, or have been on vacation for a while. An instructor reports on his cobweb-clearing efforts with a seaplane pilot:

Trainees who "show a lot of cobwebs" bear extra monitoring, particularly when practicing advanced or difficult maneuvers.

Even highly-qualified pilots are prone to cobwebs if they lack recent flight experience, as an air carrier First Officer learned on a flight with a company Flight Manager.

I made the erroneous assumption that, despite the lack of current flight time, his proficiency would be good due to his position, and that this lack of time would not affect a Flight Manager as much as a line pilot. Also, I was reluctant to speak up as much as I should have, [due] to the position held by this individual...and my respect for him.
The reporter suggests that the Flight Manager's status may have inhibited the reporter's typical use of CRM skills, thereby inadvertently contributing to this minor altitude deviation.

Plan to Close that Flight Plan

Some pilots who have been out of the flying game for awhile may have lost the habit of closing a flight plan. Two reporters offer stories of unusual circumstances surrounding flight plans left open. First, a general aviation pilot relied on the Tower to close a VFR flight plan, as would be typical for this airport--except when the Tower is closed.

Several years ago, CALLBACK published letters from a number of readers who offered memory-joggers for closing flight plans. Suggestions included wearing your watch on the wrong wrist, rolling up one pant leg, leaving notes in your car, attaching a clothes pin to the aircraft ignition key or even your shirt collar, and, of course, adding a line item to the aircraft landing or shutdown checklist.

A flight crew on an IFR flight plan normally can rely on the mere completion of their flight into a Tower-controlled airport to effectively cancel their IFR plan. In our next report, from an air carrier Captain, a bit of a twist was at the heart of the failure to cancel an IFR flight plan:

The situation became non-normal the moment the Tower reported closing. That announcement should have given the crew a "heads-up" that they were now responsible for canceling their IFR flight plan.

"Operations at Uncontroller Airports" with a NO Tower Sign

Non-standard procedures at uncontrolled airports continue to be a frequent subject of ASRS reports. In our first report, a general aviation pilot preparing for a landing met transient traffic in an unexpected place at an uncontrolled airport.

The reporter concludes that the basic "see-and-avoid" rule is still the best defense against pilots who are not following good operating procedures.

An airport that normally has an operating Control Tower becomes an uncontrolled airport when the Tower closes for the night. Pilots then use the Tower frequency as a Common Traffic Advisory Frequency (CTAF). At least some pilots do. An air carrier Captain reports:

The preceding reports emphasize the importance of vigilance and radio communications at uncontrolled fields.

A Roast, But No Picnic

FAR 91.103 requires pilots to familiarize themselves with all available information about their flights. Our next reporter used several means to familiarize himself, but neglected a basic one--a current sectional chart.

Pilots need to review up-to-date publications to confirm frequencies, traffic patterns, and other relevant airport information.

(*Very Important Prohibited)

Lately, ASRS has received a number of reports concerning a very small patch of airspace that carries very big clout--Prohibited Area P-56, over the White House in Washington, DC. Some arrival and departure procedures for nearby Washington National Airport (DCA) may bring pilots very close to P-56 if they do not follow the routings precisely. A corporate First Officer reports just such an experience:

ASRS Recently Issued Alerts On...
Canadair CL-65 inflight windshield failure
SAAB 340B engine inlet fire during icing conditions
MD-90 inflight fuel leak from fuel pump access panel
Updated ARTS IIA generating erroneous low altitude alerts
Less than standard separation incident in S. American airspace
March 1998 Report Intake
 Air Carrier Pilots 2,081
 General Aviation Pilots 797
 Controllers 76
 Cabin/Mechanics/Military/Other 89
 TOTAL 3,043