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 Wisdom of the Wolf - Roles

Alexander Wolf
A graduate of the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. Holding both a Commercial Multiengine Instrument Rating and a Certified Flight Instructor Instrument Rating has racked up more than 800 hours since 1993. As a proficient CFII, researcher and writer his dedication has always been his love of the aviation community. Based on practical experience, Alex shares his wisdom to the benefit of new and veteran wings alike.

   
:: ROLES OF THE ROAD :: | :: DEFINING YOUR THOUGHTS ::

:: KNOWN ICING ::

 

FLIGHT INTO KNOWN ICING CONDITIONS


Perhaps one of the most misunderstood and under emphasized area’s of flying – simulated and real world is no matter how many systems the federal government deploys and no matter the regulations written behind those deployments, pilots and aviators always manage to coax themselves into the false sense of security that somehow the rules were not written specifically to apply to them.

Often 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 candoism might seem like a remnant of the bygone days of World War 2 aviators, but folks – it’s very much alive and kicking.

The 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 into contorting 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.

The weather wasn’t 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 were filed were certified for flight into known icing conditions present today and had little or no trouble circumventing the trouble spots.

With 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.

The 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.

The 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 subsequent feeling of dread that followed. After what seemed an eternity, the Skyhawk pilot regained control; I gave him a turn back to 270 for the 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 an aircraft.

Passing the compass locator and descending onto the glide slope, the Skyhawk got the handoff to Tower which was advised of the emergency.

What 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.

Now, there’s nothing inherently dangerous in most of those situations—given adequate training on the student’s part. What makes the subsequent adventures hair curling is the blissful unawareness with which the young student charges ahead. To the knowing, it is somewhat akin to watching a blindfolded person walking briskly toward the rim of a cliff. I only wonder if innocence is what protects them from harm.

For 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 the outcome.

 

 

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