September 2022 CESSNA 200 Series Tech Article By TONY BRAND

Article submitted by Andrew Hogarth FYI

I would like to raise awareness to a few basic facts that are a must especially when we are operating an aircraft below 500 feet AGL.

Unfortunately the result of inattention or simply not being taught or aware continue today just as much or even more than when I started looking at / reading Aviation Safety Digest back in the mid-sixties.

We must always remember and never neglect the following

  • A wing requires speed (IAS) to work. So, the vital rule is the three SSS’s SPEED, SPEED & SPEED. . Not necessarily an excess of it but enough to handle the aircrafts situation (ie Straight & level or in a turn). Without enough speed the aircraft will turn into a brick and the aircraft occupants into meat bombs. The lack of the 3 SSS’s continually catches pilots out because of the following.
    • An engine power distribution / failure on take-off. The average reaction time in this unexpected event is in the area of 3 to 4 seconds. In which time the aircraft may de-accelerate and stall unless the stick / elevators are briskly moved forward ideally to achieve an initial split second point of zero gravity. I personally just after take-off when at a safe height just above the runway lower the nose of the aircraft and let it accelerate up to at least 105 knots in my C210. If I need a good rate of climb I will maintain at least this 105 knots (due obstacles) until its safe to increase the speed up to 120 knots. This extra speed gives me a safety margin and some reaction time, thus reducing the risk of stalling the aircraft close to the ground should an unexpected problem arise.
  • So, as we have / should have been taught the stall speed increases with angle of bank. The turn on to final is all too often where pilots get it wrong. Generally, its due to overshooting the base leg with a greater turn then required to align the aircraft with the runway. Once again carry some safety speed during turns when close to the ground.
    • Gravity always acts vertically down
    • Lift always acts perpendicular to the wings
  • Keep that slip & skid ball centred (its good practice to do this through all stages of flight except when you are intentionally slipping the aircraft for any reason). If we do not keep the ball centred on the turn to final there is a notable risk that one wing will stall before the other and the aircraft will suddenly roll uncontrollably on its back (even when we have an IAS just above the stated stall speed for that angle of bank).

A good minimum safety margin speed to use when we are below 500 foot is 1.404 times the aircrafts clean stall speed Vs (in the case of a P210R its 1.404 X 73 knots = 102.5 knots). Remember this speed (1.404 x Vs) for your aircraft as it’s a good minimum speed to use  in my opinion to provide a safety buffer for up to a 30° turn onto final, an engine failure and as an initial climb speed. Once we are established on a stabilised final approach, we can then adjust our speed to our normal / desired final approach speed.

Through my job as a LAME and after hours as a RA-Aus instructor / CFI I fly regularly with a wide range of both young & old pilots. The young ones will either get it right or not ( generally if not they haven’t yet learnt the basics). It’s the same with the older pilots but as they have aged it appears they have forgotten or they have just been simply lucky to date. About 1 in 5 I fly with actually scare me to a point where I will say my bit and if required physically correct the circumstance. These statistics are not good. I watch / you can see daily reviews on aircraft crashes that have just happen around the world on You-tube. About 50% of them have been caused by not observing the basic points I have covered.

Yes, it all comes back to the 3 SSS’s – SPEED, SPEED & SPEED.