A fatal plane crash last month in rural Alaska left many unanswered questions, that the National Transportation SafetyBoard will take some time to investigate. The Preliminary Accident and Incident Report stated that the aircraft, N9725Z, a 1966 Cessna 185 Skywagon, crashed on February 4, 2021, under unknown circumstances in remote mountainous terrain near the Wrangell-St Elias National Park and Preserve, northeast of Chitina, Alaska. The aircraft was operated by the family-owned Copper Valley Air Service, based at Gulkana Airport in Glennallen. It was en route from Gulkana (PAGK) to McCarthy Airport (PAMX) when it crashed. Read the Kathryn’s Report summary here.
Unfortunately, there were no survivors, and rough terrain made it difficult to locate the wreckage. According to Alaska Native News, it took two days for Alaska State Troopers and National Park Service to reach the scene of the crash, which was located in a wooded area on a slope.
On January 25, 2021, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued a news release stating that the agency has proposed a $1,001,000 civil penalty against Weathervane Aviation Services. The Feds allege the company operated an illegal charter and used unqualified pilots.
Steve Barnes’ last five words to Air Traffic Control(ATC) were, “Yes, sir, everything’s fine 965 Delta Mike…” Clearly, and sadly, from the events that transpired next, everything was not fine. Somewhere between 11:42 AM, when the the Socata TBM700N was at 28,000 feet, and 11:56 AM, when it crashed into the ground, something went very, very wrong.
By the night of October 2, 2020, news of Steve Barnes’ death was covered by dozens of local news outlets on the east coast, and even nationally on People.comand other outlets.
What makes N965DM’s crash so mysterious? We really don’t know what happened. It’s common for pilots to issue a Mayday call and announce an emergency. Especially at 28,000 feet when there are several minutes to descend before impact. Steve Barnes had time to say something… but he didn’t.
Yesterday, my husband Zach flew the Robinson R44 at Upper Limit Aviation and I tagged along. It was a cross-country flight from French Valley Airport (F70) to Montgomery Field Airport (KMYF) to Palomar Airport (KCRQ). Although I’ve been to all those airports many times, it was fun to enjoy as a passenger – and in a helicopter! Great views of San Diego the whole flight. I was able to see as far north as Big Bear, to as far south as Mexico. Saw I-15, I-8, I-5, CA-76, CA-78, CA-67, and many lakes: Lake Mathews, Lake Murray, Lake Miramar, Lake Hodges, and more.
The preflight is often covered on the first or second lesson, and then CFIs put students in charge in determining if an aircraft is ready for a flight. And while a checklist should always be used, not everything is defined on a checklist.
In another article, I discuss the preflight on the CFI checkride, and things that applicants should specifically mention. I created a quiz (free printable PDF right here) which tests some of these things. The quiz is also below. It is by no means comprehensive, but designed to check some of the basics.
If you don’t know what to look for, you definitely won’t know what to talk about. A good preflight goes well beyond kicking the tires, wiggling the ailerons, and swinging the rudder before you hop in the aircraft and taxi merrily along to the runway.
So what are we looking for? In this article, I talk about a number of things you should plan to mention on your checkride preflight, but you should check these on every flight. Even if particular terms not specifically named on your checklist, they are definitely part of a larger item.
The principle of ground effect explains why airplanes float during landing. It is a concept that pilots need to be familiar with because ground effect affects how aircraft act on takeoff and landing. If you’re preparing for a checkride, you should know how to explain ground effect. You should also know that ground effect can cause your airplane to float and float and float down the runway when you’re trying to have a nice landing.
In some takeoff situations, ground effect can be used to an advantage to improve acceleration if the runway is long enough. In soft-field situations, where you want to take the weight off the wheels during the ground run, ground effect can be used to get off the ground before true flying speed is reached.