Issue Number 275
July 2002
A Monthly Safety Bulletin from The Office of the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System
P.O. Box 189, Moffett Field, CA 94035-0189


Self-imposed goals and peer pressure can lead to a troublesome twist on the "get-home-itis" dilemma. After a long winter, the desire to get away to a vacation destination or a fly-in event can offer as many pitfalls for the unprepared as the well-documented urge to "get home."

We've all got a compelling reason to "get there," but cutting corners or pushing prudent limits is more likely to lead to a compelling story for CALLBACK... or the NTSB.

Time to Hit the Road Airplane landing

A well-written ASRS report details how a Cessna pilot on a first long cross-country experienced an unexpected delay in departing. "Getting there" became an issue, and one of the links in a fateful chain of events.

  • ...I calculated that I would reach [my destination] with about two and one half hours of fuel remaining. This plan changed... when my engine had its first hiccup. I was speaking to Approach at that time and immediately asked for vectors to the nearest airport. About a mile and a half from the airport, the propeller stopped. I was only a mile [away] and heading straight for the runway when I realized that I was losing altitude too fast to clear the trees that surrounded the airport. Passing through 1000 feet MSL, I determined that the road to the right of the airport was the best option available to me.

Fortunately, neither I nor the airplane was hurt. I began inspecting the airplane to find out what went wrong, and soon discovered the problem ­ the tanks were empty. My forced landing on [a] highway... was not the result of some mechanical failure that was beyond my control, but rather had been caused by me alone.

Here is my analysis of what went wrong:

The Preflight - Getting out [of the plane] to check the fuel, another pilot offered to check it for me. I consented. This was my first and biggest mistake...

The Assumption - I made a major mistake by assuming that the fuel order had been filled.

Time - ...I was cognizant of the fact that I would be departing later than planned. Getting there should never influence the preparations for a flight.

Fuel Burn - Before this experience, I relied solely on my time and fuel burn calculations, trusting the accuracy of my calculations much more than the fuel gauges. My new policy is to trust whichever one says that I have the least amount of fuel, and act accordingly...

This experience... proved the importance of being able to stay calm and fly the plane. I also received a firsthand lesson of how important it is to utilize [the services of] ATC... The calm voice of the Approach Controller directing me toward the airport was invaluable at the height of this emergency.

I think the most important lesson that I gained from this experience is the importance of checking... and double-checking every aspect of the flight.

We thank our reporter for sharing an experience that may help other pilots "get (all the way) there.

Tired Pilot Comes to the Wrog Place Title

Many pilots have experienced the same self-imposed pressures that led the author of this ASRS report to get in a bind where the binders couldn't help. Fatigue was also a factor when this reporter paid more attention to the voice saying, "Get there," than to the one screaming, "Go around."

  • Same old story. Long day; tired; hot; anxious to get to [destination] to rest, relax, and take a shower. [I was] vectored for [a] right downwind to Runway 28L but was told on downwind to land [on] Runway 28R (much shorter) instead. [I] found myself way high and way fast on final... brain screaming "go around," but [my] desire to get it on the ground overrode common sense. Forced it onto the runway past midpoint and couldn't stop in time. Thank God Runway 28R has a paved overrun area. Moral of the story? Several:
  • Poor approaches lead to poor landings.
  • If it doesn't feel right, there's usually a reason.
  • Never ignore that voice in the back of your mind telling you something is wrong.

Responsibility? 100% mine. If I wasn't comfortable with the shorter runway, I should have refused the landing clearance on Runway 28R. [I] need more practice.

"No man who is in a hurry is quite civilized." "...Or quite safe" Quote

Another aspect of the desire to "get there" is the perceived need to "get going." When time is critical, that's the time to be especially vigilant and mindful of the task at hand. Rushing preflight procedures or checklists is more likely to lead to an embarrassing delay than an on-time departure.

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth, And..."oops! from "High  Flight" by J.G. MagerWhen the pilot-poet John Gillespie Magee "danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings," he was perhaps more vigilant in his preflight than the pilots who submitted these ASRS Reports. We thank them for pointing out two types of incidents that are all too common when pilots get rushed. If you don't slip all the "bonds," you'll never make it to the "dance."

  • When I received my weather brief, I was informed that my destination airport would be closed for two hours. Since my flight time [enroute] was only slightly less than the time reqAirplane trying to fly but still tied down uired to arrive at my destination prior to closing, I rushed the preflight to depart ASAP. Because of this, I overlooked one of the three tie-down ropes. When I began to taxi, the airplane moved slightly before coming to a stop. Believing my wheel had stuck in a pothole I increased power to 1700 rpm. Then I looked back and saw the tie-down rope.
  • After pulling the airplane out of the hangar with a metal tow bar, I forgot to remove the bar from the pulling studs. I entered the plane, went through the pre-start checklist, and started the engine. Within two minutes, I heard at least one bang, stopped the engine and exited the plane to find the tow bar in several sections. After inspecting the propeller, I placed the plane back in the hangar and proceeded to contact the next user and club officials.

"Now Hear This..." U.S.N. Boatswain's call for attention

Two air carrier flight crews rushed to meet the schedule and were not alert enough to catch a "change in plans."

  • [Our] departure was rushed to make the schedule... Computer flight plan was [route ABC]. However, ATC clearance was via [route D-E-F]... Original flight plan should have been crossed out or destroyed, so as not to accidentally revert to [the] planned route. [The] First Officer was very experienced and I had complete trust that he was capable of loading the correct waypoints, but both he and [I] failed to use a visible method of marking the computer flight plan. ...99% of the time, the cleared route is the same as the computer flight plan, but not always, as I found out the hard way. ATC caught my error.
  • The insidious nature of... [schedule] pressure was a factor in this incident... [ATC] asked us if we were proceeding on our cleared route. The controller gave us a route that was different than the one we were [flying]. I checked the route that we had been given on the ACARS before departure. It contained the changed route ATC was asking about. We were flying the original flight plan route. The copilot ... had written on the form "cleared as filed." The problem was that we weren't cleared as filed.

Dramatic Footage

Occasionally, dramatic footage of an aviation accident is the lead story on the network news, but there can also be dramatic images in ASRS reports. In the case of two runway incursions reported to the ASRS, haste was again a factor in the flawed decisions made by a controller trying to expedite an aircraft movement, and a flight crew that was running late. Both of these incidents came within 25 feet of being network news.

  • We were instructed to hurry across runway 22R at Intersection C for a Runway 22L departure. As we attempted to cross Runway 22R, I noticed [Aircraft Y] on [takeoff] roll... Hard braking was applied and [our] aircraft "shuddered" to a stop, but not before crossing the hold short line. [Aircraft Y] passed within 25 feet of the nose of our aircraft.
  • [Aircraft X] taxied across Runway 18L without authorization. [Aircraft Y], rolling out after landing, used full reverse thrust and brakes to avoid hitting [Aircraft X]. [The] wing tip [of Aircraft X] passed within 25 feet of [Aircraft Y's] nose. [Aircraft X] had been issued hold short instructions three times and acknowledged with a readback twice [Aircraft X]Appeared to be running late [and had] requested an intersection departure. Controller was working combined positions (Local and Ground) and was in communication with both aircraft.
ASRS Recently Issued Alerts On...
EMB-145 pitch trim failure
Airway similar-sounding fixes
B767 wake turbulence separation incident
Runway incursion at a major Southern airport
Lack of tower obstruction markings on an approach chart
May 2002 Report Intake
 Air Carrier/Air Taxi Pilots
 General Aviation Pilots