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Getting into a barely airworthy aircraft

How do you instructors feel about that, and what precautions do you take?

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

How do you instructors feel about that, and what precautions do you take?

Define “barely airworty”

For me, it is either airworty (documentation complete, inside and outside inspection satisfactory, required com/nav equipment operational) then I will fly it. With my usual single engine piston safety margins like no overcast below 1000ft along the route. If it is not airworthy I will not fly for any other reason but maintenance. With the necessary permit(s) and under meteorological conditions of my choice. I had to do that occasionally, until now without incident.

EDDS - Stuttgart

Was going to say – airworthy is surely a binary concept. Different from pretty, comfortable etc.

EGTK Oxford

I’m pretty sure Peter wasn’t referring to FAA experimental category aircraft, but each of them is a prototype that has at least one flight initiated with less than 100% certainty of airworthiness.

Regardless, I bet there’s not one aircraft in the world that somebody, somewhere wouldn’t declare unairworthy on the basis of inspection. When piloting I think its useful not to dwell on that, but they are all collections of problems in partial development. It seems to me the job is always to make sure that none of those partially developed problems emerge as a factor on the next flight.

I think it depends a lot on who’s involved.
A freelance / spare-time instructor will have an easy game and just stay away from that type of school.
However, there are many full-time flight instructors who have to feed a family. That creates a lot of pressure. If he goes to the owner too many times to say “I won’t fly this aircraft” he will probably lose his job soon…and the job will be done by another instructor (a younger one who’s looking for hours). And: often, there is no “choice” between several flight schools if one is constrained to stay in one geographical area…

What I just want to say is that it would be too easy to blame the instructors for continuing to do their work on aircraft that have the eventual “issue”.

That said, I don’t think that there is too much flight instruction going on in central Europe with aircraft that have very frequent serious airworthiness issues. Nowadays, in times of the internet and forums like this one, the word would spread far too quickly and eventually result in a visit from the local CAA. Also, customers will tend to stay away.

As an anecdote, I just returned from Bristol, where I flew with the local aeroclub during the weekend. First off, a very nice bunch of friendly people, who are very accomodating even to non-members. They do their PPL training in a couple of Cherokee 140s, which are very…, let’s say…, antique. Apart from very “used” aestetics, most of what is not legally required for day VFR flying (nav lights, landing lights, ADF, mode-C…) did NOT work. But still, I have no reason to think that the aircraft might not have been airworthy.

Last Edited by boscomantico at 19 Nov 17:47
Frankfurt (EDFZ, EDFE), Germany

Many years ago our flight school used an aircraft that just looked and felt tired and neglected. Its required equipment and the paperwork was ok (somehow), but we did not like it and tried unsuccesfully to persuade the owner to improve it a little. Then, after a (succesfull) PPL Skill Test in that aircraft, and after the happy student-just-turned-pilot had left, the examiner stated that he was not going to do another test in that aircraft, in that condition. That was actually a relief for us instructors, who should really have stopped using it, but just did not have the experience or guts at the time.

I do not care if the ADF is working, but I get uneasy if several pieces of equipment are u/s, unless I know the aircraft and/or the owner and there is a reassuring story behind it.

On a slightly different note, I have once turned down night instruction in a night-approved aircraft because of marginal equipment and very poor internal lightning. Later I reversed that decision, after getting to know the aircraft and the pilot better. Also a Garmin 296 was installed. We agreed on the aircraft being marginal, and then planned accordingly: brought head lamps and several other lamps, and a handheld VHF, and tightened our weather requirements. I was happy with that, especially as we then had a common understanding of the challenge. It worked out ok I think, although we were actually caught out once, away from home, because we could not file, or safely fly, IFR. I do prefer IFR aircraft for night flying.

huv
EKRK, Denmark

…and very poor internal lightning.

That reminds me of a flight about 20 years ago. I was supposed to give night instruction in a C152. The internal lighting did not work at all, replacing the bulbs has no effect, the fault was somewhere in the wiring. The weather was nice and in order to save the flight, the flight school owner simply put a stronger bulb into the beacon on the tail fin. It was bright enough to illuminate the panel through the rear windows, but only one second at a time, then off again… Of course we could have used our flashlights, but that would have taken all the fun out of it (and I would not remember the flight today!).

… the examiner stated …

This one brings back yet another memory from those days… I was about to do my pre-course checkride as an aspiring instructor cadidate. When I started the engine of the C150, there was no oil pressure. Nothing, zero. As I reached for the mixture lever to shut down again, “the examiner stated” that it has been like this all morning (he had done checkrides with two or three other future intructors from our course of seven) and that it must be a faulty indicator. So we did our checkride and all was OK. After us, a student ferried the aircraft solo for about an hour to a small airfield in the vicinity where it was awaited for a 100 hour check. Soon thereafter, the mechanic called the flying school: “For how long have you been flying already with that broken oil pump?”

Last Edited by what_next at 20 Nov 13:25
EDDS - Stuttgart

To give credit to the organisation where I free lance, the CFI will admonish you if you do not tech the a/c if not airworthy.

I am pretty sure all flying schools in the UK require a signature in the tech log confirming A check, and a further signature on return confirming, or otherwise, nil defects during the flight.

There is therefore a paper trail evidencing not snagging an a/c with defects, and the CAA audit this trail, including checking why an outfit might not be suffering any loss of dispatch due to 30~40 year old a/c never going tech.

Enstone (EGTN), Oxford (EGTK)

There is therefore a paper trail evidencing not snagging an a/c with defects, and the CAA audit this trail, including checking why an outfit might not be suffering any loss of dispatch due to 30~40 year old a/c never going tech.

My experience, 11-12 years ago, was that a student was strongly discouraged to report defects.

I once reported fuel gauges that never moved. The instructor (the “CFI” – a honorary title in the UK system) made a special charade out of calling the other instructors and loudly asking them if they say anything wrong with the gauges, saying “young Peter here is saying our gauges are not reading”. Of course all wanted to keep their hour building jobs… It got worse when I did report an intermittently jammed door lock in a PA28 (which could stop you getting out); he “got” an engineer to look at it but actually that never happened. I didn’t rent that one again, and bought the TB20 soon afterwards and thus made a total escape from the system.

So any system can be got around. An old joke is that lamps on AOC aircraft last for ever, because the paperwork takes so much time that they get changed off the books.

OTOH it must be obviously hard to keep 30-40 year old planes going. One cannot maintain them to perfection. So where do you draw the line? Are for example cabin lights not a mandatory item even for day VFR?

What would concern me more is that if say the lights don’t work, it could be because a wire has come off somewhere and it is about to short to something and ignite a fuel leak. That’s why I don’t fly with such a defect myself even if apparently trivial. Once I found a wire had come right out of a connector, under the cowling of a PA38 (the preflight includes lifting the cowling on that one). The wire had a bare end which was just waggling around among the metal components near the engine. The instructor said “don’t worry about it – it goes to the landing light, so don’t switch on the landing light”.

Last Edited by Peter at 20 Nov 13:47
Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I am pretty sure all flying schools in the UK require a signature in the tech log confirming A check, and a further signature on return confirming, or otherwise, nil defects during the flight.

There is no tech log in training aircraft here in Germany. We have a simple journey log and the only thing you can sign there is the “daily inspection” which should be done before the first flight of the day. Hardly anybody signs there, because it is really useless, as you are required to do exactly the same inspection before every flight. There is a field for reporting defects that occurred during the flight, but again, unless it is really serious hardly anybody writes anything there. And if, then in pencil so that the next instructor can decide for himself if he wants to fly or not…

Peter: … it could be because a wire has come off somewhere and it is about to short to something and ignite a fuel leak.

Until not so long ago, it was allowed to smoke on board our training aircraft. So there can be no fuel leaks for certain

Last Edited by what_next at 20 Nov 13:48
EDDS - Stuttgart
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