Acknowledgements: Thomas P. Turner (Mastery Flight Training Inc.)

(Ed. Note – Another good practical lesson from MFTI)

“The pilot of a single-engine, piston-powered aircraft found one of the airplane’s brakes hanging up while taxiing for take-off. Take-off was normal, however, as was landing at another airport after a short cross-country flight.

Taxiing to parking, however, the pilot had significant difficulty controlling direction. While being marshalled into a tie-down spot, the pilot did not have braking on one side at all. The airplane’s movement was erratic and the marshaLler had to run to avoid being hit by the aircraft!

After a short break the pilot considered whether to fly home. She even called her instructor, but apparently failed to relate the difficulty she was having with directional control. The instructor suggested she fly home. The pilot elected to go.

Taxiing out, she was unable to maintain directional control and went off the taxiway into the grass. She shut down the engine; several airport bystanders helped push the airplane back onto the pavement.

The pilot then restarted the engine and taxied to the runway. She was able to take off without further incident.

Returning to her home airport, she landed and began braking to make the midfield taxiway turn-off. The airplane again went out of control and departed the edge of the runway. The airplane collided with a fence, damaging a wing and resulting in a sudden propeller stoppage.

Did you see that one coming? Of course, you did. It’s easy in retrospect, but in real-time it’s always hard to make a no-go decision, even when conditions clearly call for it. It’s especially tempting to decide to “go” when the flight is taking you home - toward your house, your car, your family, your job, your hangar and your mechanic.

There are other facts in this particular event, but the main LESSON is to make two go/no- go decisions on every cross-country flight - one before you leave home, another before you launch toward home. In reality, you need to be making go/no-go decisions almost constantly in flight, evaluating the airplane, the weather and yourself to determine if you can continue, or if you should divert, turn around, change altitude or land.

Put another way, work to objectively decide whether to go or not, regardless of whether the trip is the flight out or the flight home. Would you delay or cancel if just starting out? Use the same criteria for the return trip as well.

The day will come when you need to call a mechanic, get a hotel, or leave the airplane and find another way to destination or to home because of an aircraft mechanical issue. Knowing that it will happen makes it easier to plan for the inconvenience, and to make the no-go decision when the time inevitably comes.

Most pilots who survive an airplane crash admit that they knew something wasn’t right. There’s almost always a precursor to a mechanical failure. The airplane will talk to you  - it’s up to you to listen, and decide!”

Tony Birth