Good Piloting for GA Safety

Pilatus PC-12
Pilatus PC-12

By Earl Weener

Last Friday, I gave a presentation at the Pilatus Owners and Pilots Association (POPA), the organization, or “type club,” for people who fly Pilatus airplanes. Pilatus is a leading manufacturer of single-engine turboprop aircraft, notably the PC-12.

My talk focused on weather, in particular icing.  NTSB investigators see proof again and again that  flying in icing conditions can be deadly.  Different aircraft are equipped with different ways to combat inflight icing, but there is one defense that applies to all pilots of all aircraft, whether GA or commercial: training.  Pilots should be able to detect changes in performance of their aircraft as icing develops.  Pilots should hand-fly the airplane frequently to have a continuous understanding of what the icing is doing to the airplane and to avoid having the autopilot mask controllability degredation.  They should know how to monitor and maintain appropriate icing speeds.  They should train for stalls and approach to stalls with and without ice protections systems and be aware that the airplane with ice on the wings and tail can stall at angles that are as little as half those of a clean airplane.  This can be a very nasty surprise to find oneself in a fully developed stall.  Preparation and training are key to safe flight, particularly in icing conditions.

Which brings me to my second point. Membership and participation in type clubs can be extremely valuable for pilots in maintaining their knowledge and skills in flying.  Many type clubs host discussion forums, publish magazines, and keep libraries of technical information. Many clubs are great about keeping members informed about service issues and can be a resource for all kinds of information about restoring, maintaining, and operating specific types of aircraft.

No matter what type of aircraft you own, operate, or maintain, chances are there is a type club for you. Check it out. I belong to a type club for pilots of Bonanza airplanes.  Maybe I’ll see you at an upcoming meeting. Here’s a link to a talk I gave last year at the American Bonanza Society:

Honorable Earl F. WeenerEarl F. Weener, Ph.D., took the oath of office as a Member of the National Transportation Safety Board on June 30, 2010. Dr. Weener is a licensed pilot and flight instructor who has dedicated his entire career to the field of aviation safety.

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