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What's The Worst that Could Happen?

By Ian Brown, Editor, EAA 657159

October 2020 – Pilots know the answer, but there are some subtleties. From an engine out on takeoff to an improvised landing in the middle of the wilderness, there are some dangers in this wonderful world of aviation to be aware of — and prepared for.

I learned two important facts this month. The first is, when the engine dies, it's not a failed attempt at returning to the airport that could result in a crash, it's stalling the aircraft. Yes, turning costs you valuable altitude but it may be better than landing in densely packed housing. You can watch this very thorough webinar on the subject and make your own conclusions.

A couple of other ideas that came out of this webinar apart from the mantra "don't stall"was the idea that you should practice this and gather data. You should also know what you would do before you take off, for any given runway. How many of us have done a conscious analysis of our airport and figured out best options for each runway? How many of us know that light winds are a bad thing when it comes to engine failure? A strong headwind gets us higher while still close to the airport, and a tailwind is helping us get back to the airport if the engine dies.

The second thing I learned was that ADSB-Out is a lifesaver, especially the antenna diversity type being installed in Canadian aircraft. Read the article originally written by Mike Collins and published in the September issue of AOPA Pilot Magazine starting on page 87. I'd mentioned in our spring issues of Bits and Pieces that I'd installed the uAvionix SkyBeacon version for the Canadian market. Initially I didn't perceive much of a safety advantage but wanted it for flying in US airspace. The article concludes, after recounting several near-miss saves, "If someone is going to do an ADS-B installation in the future, and wants to increase their chances of being found, I suggest they go with 1090ES, ideally with antenna diversity." It also states that in 2003 the average time to find the location of an aircraft was 6-8 hours. Now it's four to five seconds. Data is integrated from ADSB, Aireon, FlightAware, Flightradar24, and legacy radar. Hopefully you'll never need to learn the meaning of all those acronyms such as NRAT and ALERT but just rest assured that there are some great data integration things happening out there to keep us all safe.

Lastly, a confession. I don't aggressively climb out at best angle, Vx, out of habit. Do you? Sometimes I just enjoy the scenery and I'm in no hurry to climb. I now realize that the full power climb at Vx suddenly takes on a whole new significance in the event of an engine failure. Best climb rate, Vy gets you higher quicker, but it also gets you farther from the airport.

Back to this month's edition of Bits and Pieces or, as the aircraft it was named after was called, "Bits 'N Pieces." We have a multitude of contributors to thank this month. Gaetan, Bill, Mike, Andy, Jeff, Leonora, Chris, John, Richard, and Ted. Phew! Note that Richard has promised to do a series of articles on his DarkAero build, which should be fascinating. Thanks also to new contributor Andy Blanchard for his RV-10A article. Enjoy the October issue, and safe flying to all.

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