February 28, 2022 | Susan Napier-Sewell

What Would You Have Done?

what would you have done?

Put yourself in the following situations and decide “what would you have done?” You may make an out-of-the-ordinary judgment; use your insight to determine a possible course of action; or devise a plan to resolve the situation. The situations are from CALLBACK, NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS).

To determine “What would you have done?” the selected ASRS reports may not provide all the information you want, and you may not be experienced in the type of aircraft involved, but each incident should give you a chance to refine your aviation judgment and decision-making skills.

In “The First Half of the Story,” you’ll receive information about a specific situation. In “The Rest of the Story,” you’ll find the actions that were taken by reporters in response to each situation. Bear in mind that their decisions may not necessarily represent the best course of action, and there may not be a “right” answer. The intent is to stimulate thought, training, and discussion related to these reported incidents.

The First Half of the Story

1. A Calculated Question of Takeoff  (Super Cub Pilot’s Report)

■ Another aircraft landed at ZZZ after I had landed. That aircraft had a nose gear failure, which resulted in that aircraft flipping over. This is a very remote airstrip in the backcountry. I helped secure that aircraft, but we were not able to move that aircraft from the runway. Approximately 1,350 feet of runway was available for me to depart.

What Would You Have Done?

2. ‘Weather’ or Not to Turn Around (Air Carrier First Officer’s Report)

■ ForeFlight did not show icing conditions where I encountered them.… The ZZZ1 [destination] live weather cameras looked promising, too. I should have used multiple resources instead of just ForeFlight. Years of multiple flights on this route gave me a false sense of security.… A small storm was moving in. I pushed my limits trying to arrive before the storm while taking advantage of tail winds.… I encountered MVFR conditions over the mountains…40 miles southwest of ZZZ2 at approximately 14,500 feet. I noticed light rime icing . . . . at -20 degrees C. I climbed and notified ATC that I would return to ZZZ due to weather. While heading back at 17,500 feet, it [now] appeared I could make it safely over the top of the weather [to ZZZ1].

What Would You Have Done?

3. Grass Strip Precision (Light Sport Aircraft Pilot’s Report)

■ I was attempting to land at ZZZ, an unfamiliar airport described in the chart supplements as a short grass strip that is unattended and has no services. Approaching from the north, I misidentified a small, unrelated field as the airport environment. The field was located about one half mile due north of the [intended] airport. I overflew the field, and noted that it was oriented the same as the listed runways, was about the same length, and appeared to have tire tracks and ruts at both ends consistent with a grass runway.

The proximity of new housing subdivisions to each end of the field was peculiar but . . . consistent with the description of ZZZ being close to…power lines and a suburban environment. I circled overhead, several times observing the approach, and concluded the landing would definitely require full and well-executed short field techniques.

I performed a normal short field approach, which brought me within 30 to 40 feet of the roof of the nearest house to the field and within 10 feet of the fence bordering the field. A workman was attending a truck near the end of the field, and he ran away in a path perpendicular to my approach.

Once I began my round-out, and at a height of about 10 feet, I could see that the field was not mowed grass but was some sort of vegetation about 1 to 2 feet high.

What Would You Have Done?

4. The Landing Environment (Lear 35 Pilot’s Report)

■ We…flew the ILS…approach and had a visual on the runway at 100 feet above minimums. Airspeed was Vref plus 20 [knots] due to strong, gusty crosswinds. [The Captain] initiated the flare on centerline, and at 1 to 2 feet above the runway, a wind gust, of what I estimate as 35 to 40 knots, lifted the right wing, rotated the aircraft nose right, and began to push the aircraft toward the left edge of the runway. The aircraft altitude increased 10 to 15 feet.

What Would You Have Done?

5. On the Runway (Pilatus PC12 First Officer’s Report)

■ We were scheduled to fly . . . out of ZZZZ to ZZZZ1. While at cruise, my Captain noticed the rudder pedals on the pilot side did not mobilize as they should when pressed. My Captain requested for me to step on the rudder pedals to see if I could notice any anomalies with the brakes on the Pilot Monitoring side. I did not notice anything unusual about the rudder pedals. We then proceeded to set up for the approach at ZZZZ1. We did an approach and landed on the runway. On the rollout, I noticed that we were not slowing down like we should. The plane seemed to stutter as if the brakes were engaging and then disengaging.

The Rest of the Story

1. A Calculated Question of Takeoff

■ The conditions left a safe margin for my departure over the flipped aircraft. I was off the ground in about 500 feet. I departed the airstrip and returned to ZZZ1 to get additional help to move the aircraft from the runway.

2. ‘Weather’ or Not to Turn Around  

■ I planned to overfly ZZZ2 and look for a safe opening in the weather. I…was still feeling complacent and confident. I informed ATC of my plans to turn around [again]. This was NOT a safe or intelligent decision. I should have acknowledged my original weather concerns and continued back home [to ZZZ]. While close to ZZZ2, clouds rapidly built up vertically. I started icing up and informed ATC of my situation and need to climb to FL185. I was at my service ceiling with few options. Despite pitot heat and MVFR, my pitot tube froze up. I lost all primary instruments, switched to secondary…gauges, and my oxygen tank malfunctioned…all…in a matter of minutes. Lack of practice on partial instrument panel failures did not help my situation. I informed ATC that I was unable to copy IFR clearances.… Maneuvering around building IMC icing conditions on [secondary] gauges at my service ceiling without oxygen, and now fighting headwinds, was very challenging. Flying the plane had to be my sole focus, and ATC understood. ATC made me a priority aircraft. As I headed southwest, my instruments came back online, the weather improved, and I subsequently picked up an IFR clearance. I requested lower, plus cancellation of IFR. Center asked if I was still in distress. I assured ATC that everything was fine now. A good preventative measure would have been not to fly at all that day.

3. Grass Strip Precision

■ I added power and executed a normal go-around. I flew a traffic pattern at 1,000 feet AGL attempting to further observe the field and orient myself to the sectional chart using my panel mounted VFR GPS and by visual landmarks. I concluded that I had misidentified the airport and [subsequently] landed at a nearby larger airport instead.

When planning to arrive at such a small unfamiliar airport in a dense suburban setting, I should…consult Google maps and other aerial views…to be able to visually identify the airport. I’ll definitely do this in the future.

4. The Landing Environment

■ For approximately 5 to 7 seconds, an attempt was made to re-initiate landing. It became obvious that the aircraft was not in a position to land on the remaining runway, and a missed approach was performed. Upon contacting ATC, a diversion to [an alternate] was requested. While running the approach checklist, we noticed very little fuel in the left tip tank with approximately 500 pounds in the right [tip] tank. The imbalance was confirmed in control feel. An addition was made to Vref for both wind and lateral imbalance. The landing was uneventful until ramp arrival revealed fuel leaking from, and damage to, the left wingtip area.

5. On the Runway

■ The Captain performed a go-around. After the go-around, we both agreed that we were in a position to safely try again. This time, we came in a little bit slower, and once again on the rollout, my Captain was pressing the brakes and we were not decelerating as normal. After the second go-around, we both agreed that our best option was to divert to ZZZZ2 where there was a significantly longer runway. We landed at ZZZZ2 without incident and deplaned the passengers.

Source: NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), CALLBACK, Issue 500, “What Would You Have Done?”

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Accidents, Human Performance
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