An Accident that Never Should have Happened

An Accident that NEVER should have happened

On June 7, 2018, a Mooney M20C was repossessed from the previous owner. It continued to gather dust on the ramp at the Phoenix Goodyear Airport (GYR), in Goodyear, Arizona. On September 27, 2018, almost four months after the repossession, the Mooney was purchased by the mishap pilot.

Personnel at Lux Air, the fixed base operator (FBO) at GYR, reported that in the preceding weeks before the accident, the new owner/pilot had been working on the Mooney, filling it with fuel and installing a new battery. According to Lux Air personnel, he asked to borrow a bucket and an air compressor. From his requests, they assumed that he most likely changed the oil and checked the tire pressures. No FBO personnel or A & Ps helped the new owner with the maintenance.

The Timeline

Sunday evening, November 25, 2018, the night before the accident

The new owner/pilot sent a text message to a friend stating that he planned to be “in the air” tomorrow [November 26th] by 1030 (10:30 am) and at the Colorado Plains Airport, Akron, Colorado (AKO) about 1400 (2:00 pm).

Monday, November 26th, time unknown

The pilot started the engine. After start, while taxiing on the ramp, another pilot noticed that one of the cowling access panels was open. This pilot was able to get the Mooney pilot’s attention. The owner/pilot shut down and determined that the panel would not latch normally. So, he returned to the FBO, acquired some blue tape and taped the access panels closed. 

Nov 26th, 1500 (3:00 pm) – T.O.

The pilot took off from the Phoenix Goodyear Airport (GYR), Goodyear, Arizona. He was destined for the Colorado Plains Airport (AKO), Akron, Colorado, which is 600 nautical miles northeast of GYR. The pilot did not file a flight plan.

The tower controller asked the pilot if he wanted to stow the speed brakes before attempting to take off. He thanked the controller and stowed the speed brakes. Several times after takeoff, the controller tried to tell the pilot that the landing gear was still down and that the transponder was not being received. Finally, the pilot responded, “I can’t hear you, it’s really loud in here“.

1652 (4:52 pm)

Sunset occurred almost two hours later, at 1652. Night visual meteorological conditions prevailed.

1836 (6:36 pm) – 3 hrs. 36 min. after T.O.

Three and a half hours after takeoff, the pilot texted a friend indicating that he was over Colorado Springs. If this was truly his location, the pilot would have been about 107 nm southwest of AKO. Was he lost? We will never know.

1914 (7:14 pm) – 4 hrs. 14 min. after T.O.

He texted his friend and asked for the Akron VOR frequency (AKO). She texted him the frequency.

Did he fly without the appropriate paper charts or an Electron Flight Bag (a tablet / iPad with a GPS powered pilot app)?

Around 2000 (8:00 pm) – 5 hours after T.O.

A witness near Santa Fe, New Mexico (SAF) stated that he observed the airplane twice shortly before the accident. Initially, he heard the airplane but did not see it. He was only able to locate it from the ambient lighting surrounding the airport because there were “no lights whatsoever” on the Mooney. The airplane appeared to be on an “abbreviated” left downwind for runway 20 at SAF, then turned and crossed over the approach end of the runway before he lost sight of it. About 2 or 3 minutes later, he saw the airplane again on the same approximate flight path with no lighting and then he again lost sight of it. The landing gear and wing flaps appeared to be retracted. The engine sounded as if it was at a “medium” power setting, and he did not suspect any issues with the engine. He did not witness any portion of the accident sequence.

Just before 2000 (8:00 pm) – 5 hours after T.O.

The Mooney crashed in a ravine about 1/3-mile south of the SAF airport and was destroyed by impact forces and a postimpact fire. The pilot was killed.

Lots of Unknowns

SAF is about 305 miles southwest of AKO, the intended destination.

Investigators were not able to determine the flight path taken by the pilot nor were they able to determine the intended route of flight for the original destination of Akron, Colorado (AKO).

Based on the available information, the reason the pilot was circling the airport and the reason for the airplane’s subsequent impact with terrain could not be determined.

The NTSB determined that it is likely the pilot became lost at some point during the flight and the airplane was probably near its fuel endurance limit at the time of the accident. The pilot may have been trying to orient himself by circling the airport or was attempting to alert the tower controller before setting up for a landing.

The investigation was unable to determine whether a loss of control preceded the impact with terrain or whether the pilot became low on a landing approach.

Information Concerning the M20C

Airplane maintenance records were located with the wreckage. Both the airframe and the engine had accumulated 2,189 hours.
The most recent annual inspection occurred over five years ago, on July 7, 2013.

There was no record that the pilot requested a ferry permit for the flight.

The M20C fuel capacity is 52 gallons. True airspeed is 140 knots. Performance data contained in the airplane owner’s manual indicates that fuel endurance at 75% power is about five hours.

Information Concerning the Pilot

The 73-year-old pilot had not held a current medical certificate for eight years. His most recent application for a medical certificate, dated May 4, 2010, was denied because he did not provide additional information as requested by the FAA. No subsequent applications were on file. At the time of his medical certificate application, he had a total flight time of 1,200 hours.

The pilot’s daughter told a news outlet that her father was a certified flight instructor (CFI). She stated, “He was a very safe pilot. Unless something was very wrong, he never would have crashed an airplane.” 


As our friend Phil Corman has stated many times, “In aviation, if one negative thing happens, be alert for other negatives. If another negative thing occurs, we are not going!”

This accident was preceded by so many red flags.

The Aircraft and Pilot must be Airworthy

Before undertaking a cross county flight, this Mooney should have undergone an Annual Inspection to determine airworthiness. After the inspection, the Mooney should have been test flown, and if anything was found to not be working properly, the problem should have been resolved.

In addition, the pilot should have been current and “legal”; with a valid FAA medical or BasicMed.


Crosswinds and Mountain Turbulence

On March 3, 2013, in the early afternoon, a Mooney Pilot and three passengers arrived at the Angel Fire, New Mexico, airport (AXX). They had been enjoying the local ski resort and it was time to return to their homes in the San Antonio, Texas area.

The automated weather observation system (AWOS) was reporting winds out of the west from 250 degrees at 33 knots gusting to 47 knots, visibility 10 miles, a clear sky, temperature 47 degrees Fahrenheit, dew point 17 degrees F, and a barometric pressure of 29.93 inches of mercury. The density altitude was calculated at 9,549 feet.  (The north/south runway at Angel Fire is 8,900 feet long, and the airport elevation is 8,379 feet).

Airport manager, Harvey Wright said, “We had all kinds of warnings posted at the front desk, plus we questioned the pilot as to whether he really wanted to go in that weather.”

However, the pilot indicated that he planned to fly and that the winds would not be a problem.

At about 1:20 pm, the pilot taxied his E model Mooney to Runway 17. An FBO employee relayed the current wind and altimeter to the pilot, who repeated the information.

When the Mooney was airborne, it had a significant crab angle into the wind, about 40 degrees right of the runway heading. The airplane rose and fell repeatedly as its wings rocked. Then the airplane’s right wing rose rapidly. The airplane rolled left and descended inverted with the airplane’s nose pointed straight down.”

A witness driving by the airport reported that the Mooney was struggling and only reached an altitude of about 100 feet, hovering momentarily before the left wing dropped and the aircraft descended nose-first to the ground. There were no survivors.

John Verhalen had 459 hours total flight time with 384 hours in type. His occupation was engineering. He had previously worked at Mooney Aircraft Co., and Boeing. At the time of the accident, he was employed by SyberJet.

An old copy of the airplane’s weight and balance found in the wreckage was used to estimate weight and balance. Luggage was destroyed, but the NTSB estimated that it had weighed 60 pounds. With approximately half fuel, takeoff weight was calculated at 2,519 pounds, about 56 pounds below maximum. However, the center of gravity was computed slightly aft of the envelope.

FAA Type Certification Requirements: Maximum Demonstrated Crosswind

Every airplane type certificated by the FAA must first be flight tested to meet hundreds of airworthiness requirements. One of those requirements is a demonstration of crosswind controllability, and more specifically, how the aerodynamics of the airplane allow pilots “with no exceptional skill or alertness” to safely take off and land in crosswind conditions.

The test pilot must be able to control the airplane in 90-degree crosswinds not less than a velocity equal to 0.2 Vso, or the stalling speed of the aircraft in a landing configuration. That is a wind speed equal to at least 20% of the power-off landing configuration stalling speed.

Manufacturers can and often do, test aircraft at crosswind velocities higher than 0.2 Vso, but that’s the minimum speed. In addition to the 0.2 Vso limitation, “The airplane must be satisfactorily controllable in power-off landings at normal landing speed, without using brakes or engine power to maintain a straight path until the speed has decreased to at least 50 percent of the speed at touchdown.” (FAA).

According to former Mooney engineering test pilot Bob Kromer, regarding crosswind landings, “I think you will find a common consensus of test-pilot opinion that most Mooneys can be operated in 90-degree crosswinds up to 15 knots with an acceptable level of pilot workload. Fifteen- to 20-knot winds can be handled but require a much higher level of pilot proficiency and skill in crosswind landing techniques. Twenty knots or above, you should consider finding another airport to land.” Takeoffs might be slightly more forgiving, but this is a good guideline.

Welcome to the Mountains

Angel Fire Airport is in a basin surrounded by mountainous terrain. According to the NTSB, “Mountains to the west and northwest of the airport have peaks between 10,470 and 13,160 feet.

Accident Weather

A weather study was compiled for the accident site. An upper air sound for 1400 mountain standard time (MST) depicted an unstable vertical environment, which would allow mixing of the wind on the lee side of the terrain. Winds as high as 55 knots could occasionally reach the surface. Satellite imagery at the time of the accident, recorded a large amount of standing lenticular clouds near all the mountainous terrain around the accident site. These clouds indicated the presence of a mountain wave environment. At 3:22 a.m. and 11:34 a.m., the National Weather Service issued wind advisories for the accident area that warned of a west-of-southwest wind between 25 and 35 miles per hour (mph) with gusts to 50 mph.”

A weather model predicted a “turbulent mountain-wave environment, with low-level wind shear, updrafts and downdrafts, downslope winds, and an environment conducive for rotors.”

There was no record of the pilot receiving a weather briefing. Airport manager Wright noted that no other flights had arrived or departed that day.

Departing Angel Fire, you must gain altitude quickly or circle around. The mountains to the south are closer to the airport than those to the north. This might be a challenge for a heavy or overloaded aircraft.

Wind can be merely uncomfortable, or disastrous. High winds in the mountains require an appreciation for the power of updrafts, downdrafts, wave action, shear, and rotors.

Twenty-five-plus knots in the mountains is far nastier than similar winds in the midlands and coastal plains. Flying early or late in the day may be a much better strategy than taking off in the middle of the day.

Many pilots use a wind chart to determine the crosswind component. But what if a chart is not readily available? You can use the degree/percentage rules of thumb:

Yes, the degree/percentage rules of thumb are slightly conservative, but they will give you a good understanding of what the winds are about to do to you and your airplane.

METARs from the day of the accident show that a departure at 7 a.m. would have encountered winds of 120 degrees at 8 knots. At 6 p.m., winds were 200 degrees at 8 knots with a lower temperature, lower density altitude, and a far safer scenario.

What’s Your Strategy?

No matter how experienced you are, remember, you are not paid to be a test pilot!

 If the local pilots and airport staff are questioning your intent to fly and looking at you like your head is mounted backwards, that is a red flag. Listen to the voices of experience. Your family will appreciate your caution and professionalism.

Why Should You Consider Monitoring Guard?

The AIM encourages all pilots to monitor Guard while in flight and all air carriers are supposed to monitor 121.5 if they’re not using the radio for another purpose. Military aircraft radios are designed so that Guard is always monitored.

For Mooney pilots, we don’t have it that easy. We must actually tune in 121.5 on the second radio and then physically push a button to monitor it. Whew!

Why should you monitor Guard? Here are a few great reasons:

You Might Help Save Someone

ELTs, which broadcast on 121.5 VHF (Civilian) and 243.0 UHF (Military), are no longer monitored by the SARSAT system. So who does listen to these frequencies? Both frequencies are “guarded” by:

  • Military Towers
  • Most Civil Towers
  • Flight Service Stations
  • Radar Facilities

If you add yourself to that list of listeners, someday, you might be the only person in the world who can receive an important ELT transmission or a “Mayday” cry for help. What a great feeling that would be, to know that because you were monitoring “Guard”, you were able to save a life or two; turning someone’s terrible and tragic day into a timely rescue.

If You Hear an ELT, What Information Will Help ATC?

  1. Your position at the time the signal was first heard
  2. Your position at the time the signal was last heard
  3. Your position at maximum signal strength
  4. Your altitude and position relative to a navigational aid

Guard Might Come in Handy Some Day

Some day, you might be the guy who needs help. If you already have 121.5 set up, you can quickly, with the flick of a switch, transmit a Mayday call.

Sometimes, ATC Forgets to “Hand You Off”

If the controller forgets about you and allows you to fly out of his or her radio range, the next controller, might try to call you on Guard. Why? Because he or she would want to give you the new and correct frequency. If you are monitoring 121.5 (Guard), chances are, you’ll soon be with the right controller.

A Cheap Source of Amusement/Entertainment

When a Southwest pilot forgets to select “Public Address” (PA) and accidentally gives his passenger announcement on the emergency frequency, you’ll be listening and most likely you’ll be amused! In addition, lots of stupid stuff is broadcast on “Guard”. You wouldn’t want to miss any of that!

Pop Up TFR Insurance
Here’s a great scenario. Let’s say that a new TFR has popped up and dang, you’re about to fly right through it.

If you’re monitoring Guard, the controlling agency may try to contact you on 121.5. There’s a good chance that you’ll hear the controller’s call and he or she might be able to help you avoid the restricted airspace.

If you failed to receive the first warning, but are still monitoring Guard, you can learn lots of great information. Stuff like, where the F-16 on your wing wants you to land and park your Mooney for the next six months.

Why not monitor “Guard” for at least six months? See if you like it. Chances are, you will and in the process, you’ll be able to better serve aviation.

Rules of Thumb You Should Know

1) 10% Weight Increase = 20% Increase in Takeoff and Landing Distance

While this rule is far from exact, it gets you in the ball park for a normally aspirated plane.

Obviously, when it comes time to calculate your actual performance, you’ll want to pull out your POH.

2) Estimating a Crosswind Component

There’s an easy way to calculate the crosswind component.  If the wind is 30 degrees off the runway, your crosswind component is about 50% of the wind speed.

If the wind is 45 degrees off the runway, the crosswind component is about 75% of the wind speed.

And if the wind is 60 degrees or more off the runway, the crosswind component is roughly the same as the total wind speed.

3) Takeoff roll increases about 10% for every additional 1,000 feet of density altitude

For most normally-aspirated airplanes, you can add about 10% to the takeoff roll distance for every 1,000′ increase in density altitude (DA).

For example, in Denver, with an increase of 3,200′ of density altitude, you’d increase your takeoff roll by about 32%.

So if you have a 1,500′ takeoff roll on a standard day in Denver (3o C or 37o F), you’ll increase the takeoff roll to almost 2,000′ on a 30o C (86o F) day.

4) When Should You Start Your Descent from Cruise Altitude to Pattern Altitude?

A three degree glide angle will give you a comfortable descent rate in just about any aircraft. A three degree descent equates to a gradient of 318 feet per nautical mile. Unfortunately, 318 is not a mathematically friendly number, so we’ll just use 300.

When you’re approaching an airport, you simply plan your descent point:

Divide the altitude you want to lose by 300.

For example, if you’re at 11,500 feet, and you need to get down to a pattern altitude of 2,500 feet, you need to descend 9,000 feet.

9,000/300 = 30 miles.

If you start a 3 degree descent when you are 30 miles out, you’ll hit pattern altitude as you reach the airport. You’ll want to be at pattern altitude four to five miles before reaching the airport, so let’s start down at  35 miles.

5) Descent Rate from Cruise Altitude to Pattern Altitude

You’ve started your descent at 30 miles (see #4). But, how do you know if you’re descending towards the airport on a 3o glide path? Easy peasy! Simply multiply your ground speed by 5. For instance, if you are descending at a ground speed of 150 knots, for a 3o glide path, you should have a rate of descent of 750 FPM.

 6) Approach Descent Rate

What a coincidence! It turns out that a comfortable descent angle for landing just happens to be 3 degrees. In fact, most ILS and VASI/PAPI glide slopes are set for a 3 degree glide slope.

Check your ground speed on final and multiply it by 5. This will give you a target feet per minute descent rate. For instance, if your ground speed is 80 knots, you should be descending at about 400 feet per minute.


You don’t need to have Einstein’s intellect to realize that rules of thumb are not meant to replace performance charts or good judgment. They can, however, help pilots understand the influences of different performance factors on their aircraft, and perhaps save a life or an ego. Whether helping you arrive at pattern altitude at just the right point, or preventing the continuation of a takeoff that could have gone awry, rules of thumb can be excellent additions to a pilot’s mental flight bag.

Mag Checks and More

One of the readers of The Mooney Flyer wrote: I remember my instructor, an ex WW II pilot, giving me instructions on how to test the magnetos.  He advocated testing the magnetos in flight.  His premise was that in flight, the magnetos are under greater stresses and loads than they are during a run up.  If there were problems developing with the magnetos it would show up at that time rather than when they are lightly loaded.

REPLY: Frank Setzler, owner of Chandler Aviation, Inc. Chandler, AZ (a Mooney Service Center), agrees with Rich and his instructor from long ago. That’s because, when checking mags, it’s all about the pressure, stress and loads.

If you have an engine analyzer, you should watch the exhaust gas temperatures (EGT’s) to ensure that they rise about 50 degrees when the L and R mags are checked, compared to when the switch is in the “both” position.  With an even increase of all cylinder EGT’s, you can assume the magnetos are working internally at peak efficiency.

Pre-departure mag checks (Run-up)

These are more effective if they are checked under pressure by using a higher power setting (at least 15” of manifold pressure – or an RPM above 2,000).  Look at your individual EGT temps to verify that all injectors are firing properly by observing that all EGT’s are reading approximately the same.  One clogged injector reduces more than one cylinder worth of power!  Often times the operator must lean aggressively to keep from flooding the remaining good injectors with too much fuel.   Many “bad mag checks” can be caused by spark plug problems. A faulty spark plug affects the EGT drop on just one cylinder and one EGT bar. A faulty mag affects all EGT bars.

After the flight mag check

A high percentage of mag failures occur in flight. Prior to engine shutdown during taxi back, it’s a good idea to check that both mags are operating. Do this by selecting R/BOTH, then L/BOTH, while observing a slight drop in RPM.  There is no need to heat the engine up to run-up RPM’s at this point.  If you want to be on the safe side, Frank’s shop will always verify that when the MAG switch is in the OFF position, that indeed the engine will start to spool down.  This is only done at idle RPM.  To prevent backfire, it’s important to SLOWLY turn the key back to “R” from the OFF position.  You will notice the engine RPM coming back to life again, then “L”, and then back to “BOTH”.  If at any time the IGN Key can be removed from the mag switch in any position other then OFF, this is an unsafe condition and the IGN switch must be replaced.


Frank has observed engines running rough or with a slight miss at high power settings; often at high altitude.  If the normal engine controls don’t help the engine run smoother, try a mag check in the air.  If you find that by going to the L and R mags, that the engine performance improves, then there is an internal problem with the mag that is OFF.  Fix that mag problem when you get back on the ground!  NOW.  It won’t get any better.

After Shutdown

Frank also recommends that owners add one more post flight task – drain the Gascolator and both wing tank sumps. This will get the water and debris out of the system so it doesn’t remain in the tank or Gascolator for an extended time. Water and debris can cause corrosion issues that Frank often sees with inactive aircraft.

Fuel Starvation – What can we learn?

On March 18, 2016, just before 3:30 pm, two teens were returning from a Nashville, TN Spring Break trip, when their rental Mooney M20C Ranger experienced engine failure. The pilot crash landed near the 14th hole of Wichita’s Tallgrass Country Club Golf Course. Both the pilot and his girlfriend sustained minor injuries.

The 17 year old Private Pilot had two years of experience. He reported that he conducted a preflight inspection of the airplane and noted that both fuel tanks were “filled to the rim.” (The M20C holds 52 gallons of usable fuel, 26 in each tank). They departed Dickson, Tennessee (M02), and headed for the rental Mooney’s home, Wichita’s Col. James Jabara Airport (KAAO), This was at least a 481nm flight.


The pilot extended the downwind leg, due to inbound instrument flight rules (IFR) traffic. On that extended downwind, the engine suddenly lost power. The pilot reported that he used the ALARMS checklist, Airspeed, Landing site, Air restart, Radios, Mayday, Secure plane, as he prepared for an off field landing. The Mooney flew over the top of some houses lining the Tallgrass 14th hole, then clipped a tree before striking the ground.




















An examination of the wreckage revealed no preimpact mechanical anomalies. The fuel tank selector was positioned to the left fuel tank, and the electric fuel pump was in the “OFF” position.

No fuel was found in the left tank. There was no smell of fuel, no evidence of fuel spillage, and the fuel tank did not appear to have been breached.

Some fuel, about 2 to 3 inches deep, was found in the right fuel tank.

If the pilot had switched the fuel selector from the left to the right fuel tank and turned on the electric fuel pump, the engine would not have been starved of fuel.

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause(s) of this accident as follows:

  • The total loss of engine power due to fuel starvation, which resulted from the pilot’s improper fuel management.



As they approached James Jabara, a simple GUMPS check might have saved them from this accident. First on this check is “Gas”.


Fuel gauges are notoriously inaccurate. In fact, the FAA requires that fuel gauges only need to be accurate one time. Yup! They must read “zero” when the fuel remaining equals the unusable fuel. Every other indication is the fuel gauge’s best guess.


Because we can’t rely on our gauges, we really need to know our airplane and what’s happening in our fuel tanks. For instance, we should know how much fuel our aircraft burns the 1st hour, the 2nd hour, etc. With that knowledge, we can keep a good fuel record on our knee board. We’ll then know how much fuel is in each tank. If you’re keeping a good fuel record, you’ll know which tank has the most fuel for the approach and landing.

If you haven’t been keeping track of your tank quantities, then when an engine fails, the first thing to come into your mind should be, “Oh (insert your own choice word(s)! I let a tank run dry!”

THEN . . . Switch tanks. That’s the first item on most Engine Power Loss Checklists. The next steps are:

  • Mags – BOTH
  • Throttle, Prop and Mixture – FULL FORWARD
  • Boost Pump – ON

If those steps fail to restore power, you have no choice but to fly the aircraft all the way to the crash site.

Fly Safe, Jim


Check Your ADS-B Installation

The FAA is targeting non-performing ADS-B equipment that transmits incorrect flight identification codes and erroneous position reports, among other false data.

The FAA has provided a service that allows operators to verify the proper functionality of ADS-B equipment by sending a Public ADS-B Performance Report (PAPR) request. This request can be filed using a specific date from a flight along with ADS-B equipment information here. You can also verify that the Mode S code for your aircraft is correct by searching the FAA database here.

Fly Safe,


A MOSt Excellent Forecast Tool

MOS stands for Model Output Statistics.  A MOS forecast is derived from the output of weather prediction models developed and run by research meteorologists at NOAA. It determines the statistical relationship between that which is to be predicted and variables forecast by a numerical model at a particular time projection. The use of MOS has actually been around for decades, (since the 1970s) but has only recently been introduced for aviation use. ForeFlight included the MOS imagery in December, 2014.

When planning a flight, the FAA does not recognize MOS as a valid forecast. For instance, you must use the TAF (Terminal Area Forecast) when  you are determining if you will need an alternate airport.

ForeFlight contains MOS imagery in their “Imagery” section, listed under “GFS MOS” (Global Forecast System).

MOS ceiling imagery is depicted from 6 hours and every 3 hours through 84 hours.

MOS imagery is also available for Visibility.

Below is a ForeFlight MOS Ceiling image.

At the bottom of the image, you’ll see the legend. The lighter the green, the higher the ceiling predicted. The browns and yellows indicated ceilings that would not be appropriate for a VFR flight. Dark green indicates possible marginal VFR.

If you don’t have an iOS device, no problem!

FREE and Valid Weather Briefings

You can use It’s free and it has a good selection of weather imagery, but lacks the MOS imagery. If you are logged into and receive their weather briefing, the FAA will consider your briefing valid, as if you had logged into flight service’s website or called flight service for a weather briefing. The same is true if you receive a weather briefing using ForeFlight. In fact, ForeFlight gets your weather briefing from Flight Service.


You can also see the MOS images at NOAA’s website. Just use the following URL:













The “Ceiling Height/Sky Cover” option has a drop down menu.




I’ve selected the first drop down menu option, “Ceiling Height (Cat)”, shown below. Times are in Zulu.

“Ceiling Height (Cat)” is the same imagery that is displayed on ForeFlight.

As you can see in the drop down menu, NOAA provides many Probabililty (Prob) images that are not found at ForeFlight.

The next time you have a trip planned, as you approach 84 hours prior to your takeoff time, you can watch the ceiling forecast. You’ll have a good idea of the probability that you’ll need to find alternate transportation. It’s just another great tool in your pocket to help you fly safely and have a MOSt excellent adventure.


The Brasher Warning

In 1987, in an NTSB case entitled Administrator v. Brasher, Mr. Brasher (the pilot) contented that the controller who found his piloting skills unsafe, had failed to give him a “possible pilot deviation” notification. As a result, Mr Brasher contended that because of that omission, the FAA waived its right to impose any sanctions against Mr. Brasher. The Board held that “the pilot deviation notification provisions “prescribe a duty, . .   imposed on FAA employees and instituted, at least in part, for the benefit of pilots”.

Hence, we have what is called the Brasher Notification, or Brasher Warning. It’s something like your Miranda rights, as in, you have the right to know that the FAA is not happy with your flying skills.

When an air traffic controller determines that pilot actions affected the safety of operations, the controller must notify the flight crew as soon as operationally practical using the Brasher Notification phraseology:

(Aircraft identification) POSSIBLE PILOT DEVIATION, ADVISE YOU CONTACT (facility) AT (telephone number).

The “Brasher Notification,” or “Brasher Warning” is intended to provide the involved flight crew with an opportunity to make note of the occurrence and collect their thoughts for future coordination with Flight Standards regarding enforcement actions or operator training.

If you receive a Brasher call from ATC, there are some things to know.

  • There is no need to make the telephone call immediately. Take time to think.
  • Call an aviation attorney before you make the phone call to ATC.
  • Your call will almost certainly be recorded. The AIM specifies that such calls are recorded and since you have the AIM memorized, legally that is sufficient notice. There is no tone or announcement. You may ask if the call is being recorded and to speak on an unrecorded line instead. The request may or may not be honored.
  • Anything you say can be used as an admission in court against you. Be polite, but not prolific when speaking. It’s discourteous to not return a call, but nothing says you have to spill your guts.
    • “This is N1234X. I was asked by __________ to call you after I landed. Can you tell me why?”
    • “I’d rather not say anything about it right now.”
    • “I’d like an opportunity to hear the tapes before I say anything.” (Pilot’s Bill of Rights)

What happens when a Brasher Warning is not issued and out of the blue, a pilot receives a letter or call from an inspector? Sometimes an inspector will contact an airman about a flight that occurred weeks or months earlier that was, from the airman’s perspective, completely uneventful.

In this case, it may not be too late to file a NASA form. According to Advisory Circular 00-46E, the 10-day clock starts ticking from the violation date, “or date when the person became aware of or should have been aware of the violation.” If it is debatable whether the pilot should have been aware initially, an argument may be made that the pilot was not aware of any problem, until he or she was contacted (or ambushed) by the inspector, making the report timely. A late filed report will not prevent the FAA from imposing a certificate action or civil penalty, but even a late report is evidence of the airman’s constructive attitude that may prevent future violations. Therefore, filing a report, even if late, may still be advisable as long as the event was not done in the spirit of criminal activity or if an accident occurred as a result of the action.

Keep in mind that even if you hear from the FAA unexpectedly, you are entitled under the Pilot’s Bill of Rights to the air traffic data, such as recorded audio or radar data. Since you were not on notice at the time, you may have missed the opportunity to preserve your own data that could be useful in your defense, such as GPS tracks or GoPro footage. This makes it even more important that you exercise your right to review the FAA’s data.

In addition to considering a NASA filing and requesting ATC data, please, do not make any admissions. One pilot received a letter six months after the flight in question, and he had no memory of the flight since it seemed routine at the time. Since you may not even remember the flight, it is important not to speculate on what may have happened.

It may be encouraging to know that unintentional pilot deviations that are the result of issues such as minor mistakes or diminished skills are within the scope of the FAA’s Compliance Philosophy, which focuses on resolving these matters through education, training, or counseling. Nevertheless, it is wise to keep your rights in mind and seek legal advice early in the process.

Mr. Proactive

A pilot received a Brasher Warning and before the FAA contacted him, he proactively started to do something about it. The FAA Inspector called the pilot about a week later. The pilot was very “humble” about the matter and had already logged some remedial ground and flight training with a CFI. This proactive attitude impressed the inspector and he asked the pilot to send copies of those logbook entries containing the CFI training. Upon receipt of the logbook proof of training, the case was closed.

The Value of Wings Participation

If you are a FAA’s WINGS Program participant, and find yourself are in “trouble” with the FAA, inspectors look upon your WINGS participation quite favorably. Man, you’re a righteous dude!

Legal Advice

You can join AOPA and sign up for their Legal Plan. If an Inspector calls and you say, “I will need to consult with my attorney”, that’s not looked upon as being uncooperative. No, it’s just smart.

Remedial Training

If you are offered a plan wherein you receive some remedial training from a CFI, and you refuse to participate in that plan, then you will be looked upon as uncooperative and nothing good will come from this.

Know Before You Leap

I hope you never hear a Brasher Warning directed at you. But, if you do find yourself in trouble, protect and arm yourself with knowledge and good legal advice before you leap into a friendly conversation with the FAA.

FAA To Block Erroneous ADS-B Signals

 About 20% of all ADS-B out systems are installed incorrectly. To help owners identify incorrect installations, starting January 2, 2018, the FAA filter these aircraft from the system. The filter will catch ADS–B equipped aircraft that are broadcasting erroneous or improper information that could affect the safe provision of air traffic services. Any aircraft subject to the filter will not have its ADS–B information sent to an ATC facility nor will the aircraft be a client for Traffic Information Services (TIS-B). “Affected aircraft will continue to receive ATC services within radar coverage using secondary radar information.

For those aircraft transmitting erroneous information, the Public ADS-B Performance Report (PAPR) will search for the flight ID matching the entered U.S. registry number if it cannot locate the corresponding mode-S code. The FAA could also use the filter for aircraft that are discovered to have other issues, including transmitting non-compliant codes, that could reasonably result in erroneous ADS–B information affecting the safety of ATC services.

The FAA intends when possible, to provide individual notice to owners/operators before implementing the filter. This notification would describe the reason for applying the filter and steps that must be taken before an aircraft can be removed from the filter. If an aircraft owner/operator does not respond to an FAA notice of finding regarding an ADS–B avionics issue, the agency might subject that aircraft to the filter without further notice. Owners and operators can identify the ICAO address filtering status of their aircraft by requesting a Public ADS-B Performance Reports (PAPR). This is available for aircraft operations within FAA ADS-B coverage areas. To use the tool, aircraft owners or operators simply input some basic information about a particular aircraft, including tail number, ADS-B equipment make/model and flight date. The FAA then sends the PAPR to the user’s provided email address, typically within 30 minutes. Users should understand that operations close to ground level or near the fringes of ADS-B coverage areas might not yield accurate results.

If the report includes an error message, the aircraft owner or operator can use that information to have the problem rectified by their avionics shop.

All aircraft operators with ADS-B equipment installed in their aircraft should take a few moments to use the PAPR tool. It’s critical that aircraft owners and operators verify the health of their ADS-B equipment and ensure the FAA is receiving accurate data. To request a PAPR, go to