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(article) Directional Control

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We've been reviewing the FAA's list of the Top 10 causes of pilot-error accidents. Third on the FAA's list is failure to maintain directional control.




Weather plays a big part in aircraft mishaps. Depending on which study you're referencing, "weather" accidents may include those related to string or gusty winds near the surface. If you're reading one of these mishap studies, you'll learn that nearly half of all weather-related mishaps fall into the category of lost directional control due to surface winds.


From the NTSB:


During the landing roll, the aircraft departed the left side of the runway and the right main landing gear collapsed. Examination of the aircraft provided no evidence of brake or steering malfunction or failure. Probable cause: Failure... to maintain control of the aircraft during the landing roll.


High and high


High power settings, also, introduce forces that must be overcome with control input. High angles of attack exaggerate the effects of propeller torque, and in some designs may also limit rudder effectiveness as wings and fuselage block air flow over the tail. "High and high" together is a combination that has brought down any number of airplanes, especially in the first moments of an attempted go-around when the pilot's attention might be directed elsewhere.


From the NTSB:


During the takeoff roll, the airplane departed the left side of the runway and skipped across the ground before striking a 600-pound concrete block and coming to rest inverted. A post-impact fire ensued... The useable portion of runway was rough and uneven. Probable cause: the pilot's inadequate preflight planning and his failure to maintain directional control. Contributing factors were the pilot's failure to abort the takeoff, and the rough and uneven runway surface.


Whether in winds or as a function of high power and high angles of attack, directional control is a learned art -- it requires practice and recent experience.


Aero-tip of the day: Make a special effort to practice directional control in winds, and at high power settings at high angles of attack like takeoff and go-arounds.



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