Mayday at low altitude? Don't yip on the radio!

After over 43 years and 24000 hr of experience aerial spraying around the world, I respectfully feel that the plot is lost in this accident(Aviation Safety Letter[ASL]1/2007, p.4, "Return to the runway") and many more like it. I have conducted between 18 and 20 forced landings-mainly behind radial engines that have failed-dating back to the early 1960s, and all were successful. Why do nearly all training establishments and Transport Canada(TC) insist on calling "mayday mayday" at lower altitudes? The pilot-in-command is under intense pressure when the engine stops, so they don’t want to yip-yap on the radio. The three most important things to do are: 1. fly the aircraft; 2. fly the aircraft; and 3. fly the aircraft. At my stage of the game, I don’t need to look at the airspeed indicator anymore, but I still need to gork around to sort the mess out. Lower-time personnel must concentrate on one thing, and yipping mayday on the radio ain’t it, I believe. Once, on a helicopter check ride, during chip light drills or doing autos, I didn’t call a mayday, oops, naughty naughty...Right, but we will probably walk away when that chainsaw above hiccups or craps itself, as it is prone to do. Sorry for the opinionated tirade, but so many of these accidents should never happen, as the training in Canada is excellent. If the thing should haemorrhage at 5000to 10000ft, that’s a different story. I have never been that lucky; I would probably stuff it up-too many opportunities to change my mind. P.S. Really good publication.

Don Ussher
Vermilion, Alta.

Flashlight stuck under the pedal

On February20,2008, my friend and I planned a VFR round robin between St-Hubert,Que. and Gatineau,Que. We often rent a PA-28 with which we are quite familiar. We are both private pilots, each with just under 400 flight hours. We are both qualified to fly at night, and we are both quite diligent. As far as we are concerned, there is no room for complacency. I was the first to arrive at the flying club, and it took me approximately 45 min to complete the pre-flight check. This task is an integral part of our joy of flying, and we even talk about getting our office ready... The inspection did not reveal anything unusual. I did notice a very bright light below the instrument panel, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. The journey logbook showed several normal repairs, and I told myself that someone must have installed this light to better see the floor area or below the instrument panel. When I stood near the trailing edge of the right wing, I could see the light through the door opening.

I had trouble exiting the parking apron. It was particularly difficult to turn left on the ground. No matter how hard I pressed on the left pedal, I couldn’t get the aircraft to turn properly. I was headed straight for a parked aircraft. We then decided to reverse the starting sequence. We shut down the engine, so that my buddy could get out and reposition the aircraft. I had troubles again as I turned left onto the taxiway. I had to make a wide turn, barely avoiding the edge of the pavement, rather than following the yellow line running down the middle of the taxiway. As I was heading for my run-up area in preparation for takeoff, I asked the ground controller for a taxiing pattern, so that I could practise braking and turning exercises on the ground. After a few minutes, while my buddy was at the controls, I bent down to the left pedal to check out the problem. I discovered that the bright light I had seen was in fact a flashlight stuck between the pedal and the back wall! With some effort, I was able to dislodge the flashlight from its position. It was an oblique light in a tubular casing that fit perfectly behind the rudder pedal. Once I removed the mystery object, the aircraft handled with its usual ease.

You have to wonder what might have happened during the take-off roll, and even during the landing roll, if we had simply convinced ourselves that everything would be fine-since cold weather was a factor that night. It would have been easy to think that. The expressions "controls free" and "full deflection" that are found on a checklist make total sense to me now! I suggest that pilots check under the pedals before flying, to prevent an accident that would be both senseless and avoidable.

Robert Loranger
Sainte-Catherine, Que.

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