Well, at least in the law, there is. NFL I 143/07 is about the markings and referring to "Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zur Kennzeichnung von Luftfahrthindernissen" in Part 5, where the necessity to report those obstacles to the DFS for publication is mandatory. So the AIP and Notams are, indeed, an official obstacle database. But as I know the DFS, you have to pay big time to get the data in a GPS understandable format. (http://www.lba.de/DE/Oeffentlichkeitsarbeit/AZ/AZ_Luftfahrthindernisse.html?nn=20286)
But as most wind engery power plants are built to 499 ft GND, I'd not dare to fly under a 500 ft ceiling. Thus turning when there was enough space left. No question IFR is safer.
@PilotDAR: Impressing story. I think your host had learned from that. Did he continue flying?
Oh yes, we licked our wounds, and went on after that. He happily went on to higher performance planes, VFR only, and no problems, and I continued along wiser too!
Yeah, those wind turbines can be kinda prickly. I was jump seat in the turbine DC-3 a year or so ago, during low level test research test flying over the north sea. While the pilots we both momentarily attending to something else, I noticed a whole flock of them sticking out of the ocean in front of us. I proposed a climb, and they readily agreed! At 600 feet we cleared them, but not by much!
As I review my notes, there are many lessons learned...
One beautiful summer day, after dropping off the owner at his “cottage”, I was out puttering around in the Cessna 180 floatplane. I decided that some forced approaches, and touch and goes would be good practice. The shoreline waters of Georgian Bay, off Parry Sound would afford me the space and privacy, and the water conditions were perfect! As the story always goes, the first few were just fine…
After another decent landing, I put up the power, and reduced the flap setting from 40 degrees to 20 degrees, which would be my takeoff flap setting. The flap lever had an unusual feel to it as the flap position was reset. Oh well, I was on the step, with the power up, so I was going, and I took off.
Once safely (or so I thought) airborne, I selected the flaps to zero. The flap handle just would not move to a lower setting than 20, and I did not want any more than that! Nothing I could do would retract the flaps. After fussing for a while, I elected to just fly home that way.
I set up a 20 degree flap landing into the bay, and in I went. Once down on the water, I could see that the right flap was trailing at a funny position on the inboard side. I taxied in and tied up.
Examination revealed that the inboard flap track, which is riveted to the rear spar, and upper aft wing skin, had completely come loose. The flap and track were just hanging there….
How lucky was I that the flap had remained in a somewhat correct position for my flight home. If it had suddenly changed position, released, or retracted, the flight would have ended very differently. There is enough lift of a Cessna flap at 20 degrees, that it would be very hard to overcome more than a few degrees of asymmetry.
I would not trust the obstacle database in my Garmin, even if I updated it recently. It just takes too long for a wind turbine to get recognized as an obstacle.
I hope SERA solves the issues with G in Germany. DFS seems not to be very happy about. There is no LARS and they are not prepared how to handle that. They can just not accept your flight plan.
UK has changed the class A airspace above FL245 to class C, but lowered it to FL195 in preparation of SERA. I contacted NATS whether there is a way to fly there VFR, but no reply yet. They treat it like class A still and you need a permission.
The DFS is never happy. Airspace D(non CTR) EDDG is just being transformed to a TMZ and they are all moaning about how safer it would be, if every IFR approachable airport had at least D, if not C or B. One has to remind them, that UK IR doesn't even need a flight plan and at least I haven't heared of high airprox numbers with that system. Funniest thing is that I never got a VFR clearance though that airspace, whatsoever and instead I had to descent and cross the CTR EDDG and they always let me pass as requested, often even crossing the approach line between two ILS approaches at exactly their altitude.
Most of my lessons learned seem to revolve around the radio.
A friend and I were ambling back to home base one delightful afternoon, through the Class D of a busy regional airport, having been cleared to transit the zone on a specific routing. My friend is flying, I am operating the radio. We knew the route well and were quite relaxed, taking in the scenery and chatting to each other.
Mid-way through the zone, I suddenly noticed that I could hardly hear my pal through the intercom anymore. I assumed it was some incompatibility between our headsets, or the old intercom, or some other minor idiosyncrasy. Some jiggling of the headset leads ensues but there is no improvement. Never mind, we are nearly home. We can solve it on the ground.
As we approached the zone exit point I called the controller to advise him that we are leaving controlled airspace - he can see us on his radar, so already knows perfectly well where we are.
No response. We call again. Still nothing.
I make a blind call, reporting our position and the frequency for home base that we are changing to. No reply. Meh.
I dial in the new frequency and make the next radio call. No reply.
I get it now… our radio is playing up and that's probably why I can barely hear my friend sitting beside me. Come to think of it, I don't remember hearing any aircraft on the previous frequency for quite a while. Ok, try Box 2. Still nothing. Try the handheld (not mine)… dead batteries. Oh, drat... blast... flip... fiddle-dee-dee. Or words to that effect.
What to do? After some discussion, we decide that as home base has radar and already knows we're , we will proceed towards the airfield, squawk 7600 and look for light signals. At this point I'm feeling doubtful about our ability to see and recognise any light signals. Backup plan, if we get no signals, is another airfield that has no commercial traffic.
As we approach the ATZ, aiming for the overhead, I'm feeling doubly nervous. My eyes scour the area around the tower for any sign that they know we were coming. And then… there it is. White flashes. Or did I imagine them? There they are again. I exclaim, point, and we both agree they are what we think they are. My pal turns us downwind and descends to circuit height. On final, we get a steady green signal from the tower - aimed directly at us and unmistakable. Elation.
On landing, we vacate the runway and are met by a Follow-Me vehicle who leads us back to our usual parking area. On shutting down, we get out and are greeted by the beaming driver of the Follow-Me van. We start to explain our problem… "oh, it's ok", he says… "I know all about it. I heard every word you said. EVERY word".
The warm feeling suddenly turns to a chill as the reason we couldn't hear each other on the intercom dawns on us. The transmit button was stuck. Every word we uttered had been heard by home-base tower and before that, by the radar controller and every other aircraft on frequency at the regional airport whose zone we had crossed. Oh dear.
The radio was old with no indication that the transmit function was active - a missing feature I now value highly whenever I fly something nicely equipped. At the time, it never even occurred to me that this could have been the problem. And I certainly never even considered turning off the radio.
Embarrassing and potentially dangerous. How long do they keep ATC tapes for?
Lesson learned: Intercom not working? Turn the radio off and see if that solves the problem.
My other favourite, and one that, embarrassingly, I have repeated several times is not checking the volume of the radio before my first radio transmission. This happened several times when I rented, but the fault was always mine for not checking before transmitting.
The usual scenario: I call for a radio check and taxi, get no response, call again, still get no response and then look at the volume knob and when I finally increase the volume, the tower are asking if I can hear them… or telling someone else that their transmission was stepped on. Doh!
Now my SOP is to use the test function on the radio if I haven't already heard another transmission.
Lesson learned: assume other people will not leave the aircraft the way you would like to find it. 100% ownership would solve this problem. ;-)
Modern radios (I think most or all made in the last 15 years or so) will cut off the transmitter after about 30 seconds of continuous transmission - to guard against a stuck PTT switch. This also means one has to momentarily un-press the button periodically if making a long radio call.
It's a lesson to perhaps not discuss certain people by their name when in the plane
Note for those who, like I, only occasionally fly planes fitted with G1000-series avionics: the "receive sound volume" on each of the two radio transceivers must be adjusted separately! Do not select BOTH radios (to listen to) without first making sure that the suitable receiving level had been selected for each radio. One can only adjust the "receive volume" of each radio after selecting it as the active transmitter (i.e. MICrophone of each radio must be selected in turn). I recently missed some CTAF traffic when, still talking to the Melbourne Centre, I mistakenly thought that I was also listening to the local CTAF (the Aussie equivalent to a local traffic UNICOM frequency) on Com2 (:
My first – and hopefully last – Mayday call
The below article was prepared for publishing in one of the aviation magazines but have been lazy since then and kept in my records. It was published in a Greek aviation magazine but the English version never went public.
It was a weekend of mid May 1999 when during that period I was renting aircraft for recreational flights in my 200 hours of experience with my PPL license.
My base for aircraft rental was the then General Aviation (GA) airfield of Athens, Greece – closed nowadays – Marathon LGMR – in the northeast suburbs of the city on the coast of south Evoikos bay.
The aircraft I was renting from that Flying School were an 80’s Socata TB9 Tampico SX-ANY and a 70’s Cessna 172 SX-AKP with long range tanks. I preferred to fly the sleek looking TB9 but I was checked out in both aircraft since the C172 was a better for touring purposes with longer range.
Back then I was doing my best to find excuses to fly (as if I don’t do it nowadays 800 flying hours later and with a Socata TB20
Trinidad I regularly fly !) and during that weekend an excellent opportunity to fly friends in the Greek islands had come up which would include sharing the cost of the flights.
The mission was to fly the Tampico from Athens, alone, pickup two friends from Skiathos LGSK to the north, fly southeast to Santorini LGSR, drop them off, fly back northwest to Athens Marathon LGMR, pick up another group of friends and then all together fly southeast to Mikonos LGMK for a weekend break. The weather that day was excellent, as always for 11 months of the year in the Mediterranean Sea, and under all the flights would be under VFR.
The day before the flight a maintenance issue came up with the TB9 and I was notified that the next day I would have to fly the Cessna which was booked though for a flight to Mikonos LGMK by another renter early in the morning. The school boss arranged for me to fly with the other renter as a passenger, drop them off at Mikonos and then pick up the aircraft myself from there and to continue onwards with my day’s planned flights. I was not too happy with the change, neither was the other renter, but this was the only solution for both of us to fly the same day with the TB9 being grounded in Athens and the Cessna not to remain useless in Mikonos apron for the weekend. We compromised and the other renter agreed to return to Athens by ferry on Sunday evening, me loosing some of the day’s available flight time to fly along with him as passenger but in the end of the day I would have my flights completed.
I was not flying the Cessna too often but I was “typically” current on it. The night before, I reviewed some of the facts regarding the Cessna of the flight school just to update myself with the aircraft I had not flown for more than two months. My flight planning calculations showed that that the set of flights, would take some 6 hours of flying time. The particular Cessna had 7~7.5 hours to dry tanks fuel range if memory serves me well. Lots of Greece’s island airports do not have AVGAS and so does (not) Santorini, the 3rd stop, where upon landing I would have spent already 4~5 hours flying and would be a sensible thing to refuel. Mikonos (the first stop) had AVGAS in 1999 but only during the (busy) summer period and not the day of flight. Therefore all of the day’s flights until returning back to Athens Marathon LGMR would have to be on one single fuel fill before refueling again and setting off to Mikonos for the day’s last flight.
With the VFR flight logs & charts ready and a primitive portable text display GPS on board for navigation support we were ready to launch.
Everything went smooth on the first flight and 50 minutes after take off from Athens Marathon we were parking at Mikonos LGMK. The couple left and now the C172 was free for me to continue with my day’s scheduled flights. The northwesterly Mikonos to Skiathos flight flown at 8500ft took 1.7 hours. As I approached runway 02 at Skiathos I saw once more how marvelous this island is and especially the final approach of that runway through the funnel of two hills over the bay of the central harbor of the island. My friends were at the airport waiting for me and half an hour later we were ready to depart for Santorini LGSR. The southeasterly flight to Santorini at 7500 ft took me 2 hours passing again over Mikonos. Upon arriving via north of the island, my friends asked me to veer off our course to the West so that they could admire the “caldera” of the ancient volcano that created the island itself and its stunning island terrain as it is
nowadays with its steep cliffs providing the romantic views of the sunset comparable to none.
At this point as I checked the fuel gauges I saw both indicators at less than half. I therefore assumed I have fuel for another 2.5~3 hours of flight and politely declined the detour on fuel saving grounds. Upon arriving in Santorini I wished my friends a nice time and headed for the airport authority for the paperwork of the next flight to Marathon. During the preflight check I verified visually the fuel in the tanks. Indeed it was somewhere between 2 and 3 hours of flying left. The flight was calculated to last 1.5 to 1.7 hours.
With all my checks complete and alone in the aircraft I took off from Santorini (picture from that departure) and headed northwest over the Aegean sea towards Athens passing over the Caldera. It was the first time in my flying experience that I was passing over the area and I was stunned by the views. During the cruise at 8,500 ft I did face some headwind but nothing significant. The whole flight was over the Aegean Sea, passing abeam some of it’s nice islands for vacations but with no diversion field at close range.
As I approached Athens TMA and had to descend for the prescribed VFR routes and altitudes within it I crossed KEA (Tzia Island) reporting point at 6,500 ft. There were another 30 minutes of flight left to Marathon. At this point I got my first uneasy thoughts of the day’s flights. I checked the fuel gauges and to my surprise both indicators were flirting with the empty indication. A sour feeling conquered me at once. The needles were still moving but they were both far left. I was not happy about it. Immediately I took my kneeboard and recalculated the day’s flight times to make sure I had not done something wrong. They all worked out correctly and based on my calculations I would land at Marathon with ~1 hour of fuel on board.
Still I was not happy at all with this sight and it was the first time I encountered it in an aircraft I was flying on my own.
As I got closer I entered southern Evoikos bay 30~40 nm south of my destination and descended further as per TMA VFR routes requirements. At this point I check again the fuel gauges and they were both at EMPTY by now. This really started to worry me. Scary thoughts started crossing my mind. Did I assume the C172 had larger tanks? Is there a leak in the fuel tanks? Did the engine consume more than documented? shall I start considering the remote chance of having to ditch in the bay before I reach destination ?
At this point I decided to switch the fuel selector from BOTH tanks to LEFT tank so that if the engine started to leave out on me in few minutes I could switch immediately to RIGHT and know that I have some more time of fuel (as much as it took from the moment I switched from Both to Left).
As I contacted the local nearby (Kotroni LGKN) Navy Heliport approach they asked me, as usual, to descend for 1000 ft above the Cape of Schinias beach abeam Marathon traffic pattern. The “1000 at Cape” was a usual procedure they had regardless of their helicopter traffic which was useful for Marathon aircraft with Kotroni Helicopters separation only if they had traffic. That day though, as in almost all weekends, they had no traffic but still requested me the standard descent without any reason. I mention this because this type of descent would always bring the light aircraft of Marathon abeam the airport to the East without any gliding distance to reach the airport in case of engine failure and I later thought that nobody ever declined it simply on safety grounds and nobody from the helicopter base considered it was useless when they had no helicopter traffic. So even that day with my remaining fuel concerns I descended as requested without second thought simply because “this is the way we always did it”.
I was 10nm south of Marathon east abeam Rafina port when I reduced power to start my final descent from 2000 ft down to 1000. The bay was calm and humid without the usual northeasterly wind. When I contacted Marathon Information (AFIS) the radio operator reported runway 16 in use and a light southerly wind. That meant that area would be slightly more humid than usual.
At that point all of a sudden the engine choked and quit igniting at an instant. No warning, no prior signs of fuel starvation, no rough running, nothing. Suddenly all I was left with was the propeller wind milling and the wind’s noise from the airframe. I immediately switched the tanks switch to RIGHT being confident that the reason the engine quit was that the remaining fuel on the left tank exhausted as I had foreseen minutes earlier and now I had the same amount of fuel remaining on the right tank. Few seconds pass and nothing happens …. I then switch to BOTH tanks … again the engine was still dead.
In the few seconds that followed dozens of thoughts went through my mind at the speed of light. Could I have been so dumb and all my training and practice few years ago gone in vain?
They say that every one thousand hours something will happen in your flying life. Was I so unlucky to have it happen in my 200 hours?
I took a deep breath and immediately evaluated the situation. I was alone in the aircraft, at 1500 ft descending straight towards the water at ~500 ft/min without any emergency landing area in gliding distance. The sea was calm. There were no ships in the vicinity even though that area is a busy ship channel for all the ships that come and go to the Aegean islands from Athens’s second largest port of Rafina. Straight away I pull back the yoke and pitch up to reduce to best gliding speed and trim the aircraft for that speed. Next I think that being at 1500 ft above sea 3 minutes before reaching the water I’d better prepare for a successful ditching FIRST and THEN start performing the checks in case I could revive the engine. I thought of this because in case nothing worked out I would rather be ready for a successful ditching than to panic the last seconds for it, after all it was something we had not trained for in practice but only in theory.
So with my mind fixated on the fuel starvation as the reason of the engine failure I said to myself “[explicit word] you made it, now you’re going to be on the 9 o’ clock news, just make sure you do a nice job with that ditching and prove that single engine General Aviation is safe after all”. Next I realize I am not wearing a life jacket and that it is in the rear stowage area of the Cessna. I unbuckle by seat belt, swing over behind, over the rear seats and reach for the life jacket in the rear stowage compartment. The aircraft pitched up due to the swing of the load (myself!) but as soon as I sat back, I quickly grasped the yoke and pitched down again to maintain speed. I then quickly wore the life jacket, did not inflate it off course and grasped the seat belt to rebuckle it. I still remember the palms of my hands in a slight tremble and being cold by anxiety by then while I tried to match the two pieces of the seat belt.
I buckle up, remove any items behind my head from the rear seat and drop them off on the copilot’s floor to avoid any stuff hitting me on the collision with the water. Next step was to unlatch the doors in case they blocked upon ditching.
I checked the progress of the glide and I was passing 800ft with ~400ft/min vertical speed. By now I could see the small waves of the sea alarmingly close and I was thinking of the steps to follow for a nice flare and a stall just a couple of feet above the water which would happen within the next two minutes.
Now that I had the aircraft and myself ready for the emergency landing I considered it was about time to let someone know about it and to check what’s wrong with the engine in case I could revive it.
shouted the radio operator with a loud shocked voice
That day the radio operator on shift at the tower was an inexperienced new member of the tower staff and I could hear her from early on (before my May Day call) that she had trouble dealing quickly, simultaneously and efficiently with the rest of the 4~5 aircraft which were in the airfield’s circuit and the immediate vicinity. One of these aircraft was with a pilot doing his first solo circuit and, as in most such cases, his instructor from one of Marathon’s most active flying clubs was in the tower about to talk to him once airborne.
As soon he heard my call, which I repeated word by word as requested, he grabbed the microphone and tried to provide any immediate help he could. He asked me quickly and in an assertive voice (waiting for my replies each time), “how did it stop ? do you have fuel in the tanks ? switched on fuel pump ? moved mixture to full rich ? changed tanks ? pulled carb heat ?”
The truth is that as soon as he was asking me I was responding and checking all I could but in reality I hadn’t had the chance to do the complete and proper emergency check list. The answers were all “affirmative” while at the same time I was checking all I could. The Cessna did not have Fuel pump, it did have Carburator Heating (CH) lever and a Carburator Inlet Temperature (CIT) gauge on the copilot’s side of the panel. The CIT would be the first thing to look for a suspected ice formation blocking the carb. inlet. And still, most probably I did not check it.
NOTE: The engine of the TB9 Tampico I usually rented from that flying school was not as prone to carburetor ice as Cessna’s engines are. It as well had a CH lever which I was always pulling in the descents but did not have a CIT gauge to detect the “dangerous” inlet temperature range zone. Therefore I was not used in checking a CIT instrument to check for potential icing.
Never in these few minutes of anxiety and reversed actions (prepare for ditching first and then do the checks) did I check the CIT gauge and I still can’t remember if I pulled the CH lever or not.
So buckled up, seat belts tightened, life jacket on, doors open, loose objects dropped to copilot’s side floor, mentally prepared for the flare, wild deceleration and immediate evacuation I was heading for the calm sea below me within the next 60 seconds prepared for the last action of pulling the flaps. I was just thinking, keep calm and focused and you’ll make a nice job.
As I was passing through 300~200ft above sea in to the descent and ready to pull the flaps for the ditch, the engine all of a sudden came up to life again first with a couple of bursts and then with full ignition giving out full power !
I immediately climbed up to 2,000ft+ at full power and headed above the airfield by cancelling the emergency. The other aircraft were still put on hold by the AFISO at ground and air until I landed.
The engine did not produce any problems until I taxied in and parked at the apron for shut down. The aeroclub’s engineer came to inspect the engine. In the process we restarted the engine and checked that the CH was indeed working by the slight RPM drop. So that killed the doubt of me having actually pulled it in flight but the mechanism not functioning.
So we all came to the conclusion that it was certainly carburetor icing that chocked the engine and the ice simply melted away on its own (without the CH lever) as I descended in lower, warmer, air.
After the incident I refueled and left for the last flight of the day from Marathon to Mikonos with another couple of friends who were waiting and initially – until I explained – they could not understand what all the fuss was about!
By looking at my logs at the apron of Marathon after shut down I calculated that with these tanks since last (full tanks) refueling the engine had operated for 6 hours 14 minutes and actual airborne time had been 5 hours 30 minutes.
On refueling by checking the fuel bowser’s counter against the tank’s fuel quantity (visual in tank marks) I confirmed that my fuel calculations in the previous flights were correct. I had not burnt more fuel than forecast and the fuel gauges were wrongly showing empty when actually the tanks still had more than an hour’s worth or fuel inside. Actually the calculation was of 1:15’ flying time at cruise consumption left in the tanks when I shut down.
Mistakes – Lessons Learnt:
Correct actions – Lessons Learnt
This incident along with some other inconveniences later – mainly related to non availability of rental aircraft when mostly needed – were amongst the main reasons of deciding in 2004 to purchase and co own a, fuel injected, retractable landing gear, low wing, Socata TB20. One aircraft, close follow up of maintenance and parts, no dependence on carburetor icing, more ditching friendly, not flown by “any” pilot and almost always available. It costs more but IMHO it pays back in objective and mostly subjective values related to flying. Never back to rental again.
SX-AKP at Marathon:
SX-AKP main panel
Petakas well written, thanks for posting, interesting how tunnel vision can develop when you are focused on one issue as the likely cause.
The Cessnas, 182 more than 172, have a potential gotcha where fuel from starboard can siphon over to the port tank through the fuel interconnect. I thought it was recommended to alternate tanks above a certain altitude, instead of using the selector on BOTH, but can’t find this in the POH – I also thought this might have happened to you, the starboard fuel had siphoned and there was none there when you switched tanks! So your writing communicated the tunnel vision as I never thought carb icing.
Ahaa, Tunnel Vision was the term I was looking for. Thanks Robert for that, I’ll amend the description.