Thirteen Lucky Ways to Prevent
Your Aircraft from Coming Apart in Flight
from PocketLearning, July 2003
A few of
important things are never taught in flight training. Many are
unaware of the many ways an aircraft can fall apart. Here's your
chance to clear up any confusion, to remove any doubt, and to
the many ways the bits of an aircraft can fall off when you're flying
have wimpy brackets holding the vertical stabilizer to the
The most common way for those brackets to fail is to perform a high
slip with the flaps extended.
action: check all the cables, pulleys, hinges, bolts, and cotter
pins of your favourite flight control surfaces. The loss of even
one can make you miserable. Remember the a coke can is not very
with a dent in the side. The same can be said of the wing &
with a high cross wind component. Check your POH for the maximum
demonstrated cross wind component and remember who it was who
it. Don't know? It was the factory test pilot who had
30,000 flight hours more than you. Think you can measure up to
skill? Exceeding that number is a great way to prove how much
a pilot you are than he. Doing so, however, may earn you extra
at the local aluminum recycling plant.
to look both ways before turning offers a great opportunity to meet
pilot mid-air. Remember, no one survives a mid-air collision and
the aircraft are particularly vulnerable to falling out of the sky with
the traffic pattern or climbing on downwind in high wing aircraft is
dangerous. Flying above the traffic pattern or descending on
in low wing aircraft are equally dangerous. Definitely another
to meet other pilots in unique places.
down both ends of a runway, especially the approach course when you
the runway for takeoff or turn base to final for landing is another way
to have a mid-air collision and accounts for some 28% of all mid-air
that annual and 100 hour inspections are completed is a great way to
that all the parts stay connected as they should. Assisting your
mechanic with such inspections is a great way to learn more about your
aircraft and build your preflight inspection skills.
maneuvers in aircraft without the appropriate certification can lead to
early failure of important parts, such as wings and flight control
If those don't fall off, inverted flight will most certainly cause
stoppage providing you new challenges. Obviously, spins are not
in aircraft not certified for such maneuvers.
re-assembly can usually cause bits to fall off in flight. How
this happen? Typically this kind of thing occurs after a visit to
a mechanic. Particularly important to ask your mechanic is:
1. What do you do if you have extra screws after you finish a
and 2. What do you do if you're missing a tool after you finish a
in bad places. This can be as simple as flying into turbulent air
while in the yellow arc or as complex as flying into a thunderstorm
doesn't seem nearly so complex to me). Other bad places that also
qualify: Presidential TFR zones, Military training routes, or "hot"
where F-16s are dog-fighting.
fatigue is a big cause of parts coming off during flight. Metal
It means every hard landing, loud bang in turbulence, ground loops,
Vne causes the aircraft to remember you in a very special way. If
you knew how small the bolts are that hold the wing on, you'd never be
rough with an aircraft. You never know when it can happen, but
its just a matter of time with an abused airframe.
on the nose wheel. The nose wheel is arguably the weakest part on
an aircraft save the armrest you use to pull the door closed. A
good nose wheel landings nearly guarantee that pesky nose wheel will
off on its own accord.
out flaps at an airspeed higher than Vfe is a good way to get rid of
When was the last time you practiced a no-flaps landing? Better
up if this is one of your bad habits.