Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I Hate It When That Happens

Someone on my twitter feed recommended a video on flying missed approaches, and I was all set to cut-and-paste it into the blog right here. But I watched it first and decided to reject it. The video, not the landing, that is.

Missed approach - when you get to the bottom of an instrument approach and don't see what you need to see (which, in the USA, is set out in 14CFR91.175, or, more colloquially, "THE RUNWAY") - is a tricky maneuver. From my first day as an instrument instructor I emphasized what was at stake: you are low and lost. But this does not mean that you panic: every approach ends in a missed approach, and "briefing" [airline pilot talk for "preparing"] the missed approach is part of briefing the approach. In fact, during my one-and-only-airline interview, some of the pilots in the sim check had to fly the missed approach, because they had not briefed it. A clear case of appropriate consequences for misbehaving.

With this in mind, the missed approach is not a panic maneuver. But this video recommends "cramming" the throttle forward, and the pilot's hand reaches for the flap handle much too quickly. Plus, my sensibilities are offended when someone in training utters the phrase "going missed." This is no time to sound cool; this is time to be cool, meaning disciplined, and using the proper phraseology.

What's wrong with cramming? A lot of my IFR time is in Senecas and King Airs; in either one of those, "cramming" the throttles (or power levers, as appropriate) will hurt something. Advance the power slowly and smoothly.

And the clean up? Barring engine failure, there is no hurry to reconfigure. In fact, you often have to wait. In the Seneca we typically flew the ILS indicating 120 knots, but the maximum gear retraction speed is 107. If you try to raise the gear right away, you will hurt something.

As for flaps, raising flaps induces a pitch change and, in some airplanes, causes some sink. Neither one of these is much fun when you are in the clouds down low.

So, climb to a safe altitude, then clean up.

I'm flying some practice approaches tomorrow, for the first time in a while. That is an appropriate time to cram!

[Addendum] After the original post, I checked some other videos of missed approaches on YouTube. One in a B737 simulator has the Pilot Flying calling "Flaps Up! Gear Up!" while the voice from the radio altimeter is saying "100 feet [AGL]." Now I'm not qualified in the 73, so maybe this is correct, but I doubt it. Correct me if I am wrong.

I was once a passenger on an MD-80 that had a bird strike seconds before touchdown at Oakland. The crew went around, and flew the whole visual pattern with gear down and landing flaps. Why? They were afraid of structural damage, so wisely decided to leave the airplane in a known flyable configuration.

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At July 8, 2010 at 6:41 AM , Blogger ddf said...

I watched the same video and came to the same conclusion. They have a core of an idea, a memory checklist, a standardized procedure, etc, but the implementation is poor."Cram" the throttle will just never do, even though it does start with a "C". I thought the OBS discussion was well done.


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