one of the most misunderstood and under emphasized
of flying – simulated and real world is no matter how many
systems the federal government deploys and no matter the regulations
behind those deployments, pilots and aviators always manage to
coax themselves into the false sense of security that somehow
were not written specifically to apply to them.
times I found myself sitting on the flight line at the edge
of a squall that was
about to unleash, watching in amazement as a Corporate
crew hurriedly readied the plane and passengers that were already
late to get in the air before the weather came down. This macho
might seem like a remnant of the bygone days of World War 2 aviators,
but folks – it’s very much alive and kicking.
evening of January 11th 2005 was a normal evening, except for
the 45 IFR flight
plans that were filed for the New York Blizzard Bash
2005. Rob Shagrue was getting his feet wet for the first time in
the tower position. Jason sat at his consol twisting his fingers
positions waiting for some traffic to come his way. I sat alternating
between monitoring Rob’s progress with flight plans and coordinating
with Jason on Center and Rob in the tower.
good, but at the same time it was not terrible. 600 broken
up to 9,000, moderate chop in the clouds with occasional
moderate icing in clouds and precipitation. Winds were heavy
out of the west 37 knots gusting to 45. Most aircraft that
certified for flight into known icing conditions present today
and had little or no trouble circumventing the trouble spots.
departures running from all across the country into New York’s
Kennedy and La Guardia, there were few moments of pause for everyone.
That all changed suddenly: departing off Williamsport PA was a Cessna
172 going to New York. The pilot had filed for 9,000 enroute on a GPS
direct course. Rob gave him a turn and handed him off to me passing
through 5,000 feet. The Skyhawk driver reported nothing out of the
ordinary – but the controllers kept a close watch on him
just incase he ran into any trouble.
Cessna 172 as many a pilot knows is a robust airframe that
has taken punishment
in its 40 years of existence from pilots of all walks.
You can load it up with the doors bursting at the seams and it
will still be within CG limits. At 160 hp, it is the Ford Explorer
of aviation – not
getting you there quickly, but being reasonably comfortable and
tolerant of mishandling. What it is incredibly intolerant of
is being asked
to perform missions for which it is not properly equipped to
handle: today called for FLIGHT INTO KNOWN ICING CONDITIONS – for
which under 14-CFR-91 it was not certified.
172’s flight tag continued east towards the outer limit
of the localizer to 27 at Williamsport when the radio opened up with
a desperate cry “I’m out of control, I’m stalling!” My
heart sank into my stomach, and I’m sure anyone who was on
the frequency at the time can attest to the collective gasp and
feeling of dread that followed. After what seemed an eternity,
the Skyhawk pilot regained control; I gave him a turn back to 270
ILS back into Williamsport. I did not want to descend him early
fearing his wings would be so loaded up that he would fall short
of the runway,
he stayed high until I was reasonably assure that even in his state,
a brick would glide. For all of its aerodynamic innovations, the
172 with ice is more closely related to riding a pregnant yak then
Passing the compass locator and descending onto the glide slope, the
Skyhawk got the handoff to Tower which was advised of the emergency.
motivates perfectly good pilots to commit heinous acts
of stupidity is what separates the pilots from the
aviators. Students of flying
are unlike students in any other realm of endeavor; what sets
them apart is their habit of plunging gaily ahead into
situations that would
turn a veteran of the trade ashen white.
there’s nothing inherently dangerous in most of those
adequate training on the student’s part. What makes the
subsequent adventures hair curling is the blissful unawareness
the young student charges ahead. To the knowing, it is somewhat
watching a blindfolded person walking briskly toward the rim
of a cliff. I only wonder if innocence is what protects them
most students, that first encounter with hazard, alone, with
only one’s judgment to match against the wiles of nature and machinery,
eclipses any and all close shaves to follow. This leads to the reason
why it is sometimes more difficult for the students to tell their story
rather then it is the advanced pilot: students know that the outcome
is frequently entirely out of their hands, that there is reliance only
on luck and none on self. The veteran can at least reasonably argue,
if only with them selves, that they’re skills determined