MITSUBISHI MU-300, CLEVELAND, OHIO, FEB. 10, 2002–Substantially damaged aircraft and uninjured pilots do not often go hand-in-hand but two pilots remained just so in an overrun at Cleveland Cuyahoga County Airport (CGF). The crew was landing after a Part 91 positioning flight from Palwaukee (Ill.) Airport (PWK) in night IMC, with snow and high winds.
A little known FAA policy statement, dated June 1 of this year, stands to dramatically change the helicopter industry as we know it. Helicopter pilots and manufacturers have long known the unique capabilities of rotorcraft, but have always been obligated to follow regulations and policies set forth and to operate in airspace designed for the much more prevalent fixed-wing aircraft.
The FAA has said it might raise decision heights on instrument approaches at Hanscom Field, Boston’s primary general aviation reliever airport in Bedford, Mass., because of tall trees infringing on the runways’ extended centerlines. Local citizens’ groups have retained an attorney to try to block FAA plans to trim the trees–perhaps indefinitely.
The Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) successfully passed a critical 60-day test that prime contractor Raytheon said proves the reliability of the signals for ILS-like approach procedures to thousands of airports not served by precision instrument approaches.
At press time, the FAA’s GPS local-area augmentation system (LAAS) appeared to be hanging in the balance while agency officials were attempting to determine whether there really was a firm industry need for the system.
Swearingen SA-227-AT, Beaver Island, Mich., February 8, 2001–Two people were killed, two seriously injured and two sustained minor injuries when the SA-227 (N318DH) crashed into trees while circling to land during a night, nonprecision instrument approach at Beaver Island Airport (SJX). The airplane was on a Part 135 charter flight operated by Air Taxi & Commuter Northern Illinois Flight Center.
With its 5,000-ft runway, Weslaco (Texas) Mid Valley Airport (T65) may not be a beehive of jet activity, but the local authority recently spent $2.1 million in improvements to attract business to the field. Located about 30 mi west of Brownsville, near the Mexican border, Weslaco expanded its parking apron to 280,000 sq ft, added two new taxiways and installed pilot-controlled lighting.
It is usually easier to find fault with a flight crew during an ensuing accident investigation than it was for the crew to make the right decisions instantly as the event unfolded. However, some accidents reveal procedural flaws that forge the first link in a chain of events long before a critical situation arises.
On March 29, 2001 a series of operational and instrument approach procedural errors led to the crash of N303GA, a Gulfstream III, just 2,400 ft short of the approach end of Aspen-Pitkin County Airport (ASE)’s Runway 15 while attempting to complete the VOR/DME C circling approach. Eighteen people, including three crewmembers lost their lives in the accident.
One of the things that most infuriates Jim Morton when he’s on his job is when he hears ATC telling nearby traffic, “Caution: FAA practice instrument approaches under way.” Morton is an FAA airspace system inspection pilot, and he and his crew must frequently emphasize to ATC and pilots that “we are not shooting practice approaches.” His mission is flight checking the accuracy of electronic navaids in the U.S. and abroad.