For those who may not know, GUMP is an acronym for Gas, Undercarriage (meaning landing gear), Mixture, and Propeller. Itīs a short, generic before-landing checklist used by some pilots.
This is the space where issues of flight proficiency, aircraft operation and ownership issues for General Aviation are discussed. Your thoughts, experiences and comments are welcome.--Ed.
SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW
by Carlton W. Austin
Remember the old saying, "Something old, something new; something borrowed, something blue"? Originally intended as a checklist for launching a successful marriage, it could just as easily be taken as a bromide for launching a safe flight. Consider....
Something Old. Well, this includes most planes most of us fly. With the average age of the general aviation fleet approaching something like thirty-five years, it pays to be mindful of the fact that everything wears out with age. We should take pains to closely monitor the signs of deterioration in faithful old Lizzy, our beloved four-banger, or whatever your pleasure happens to be. Have you let that nosewheel shimmy go on for too long? What about that buzz coming from under the instrument panel that wasn't always there? Could it have something to do with the droopy wing on your turn coordinator? And the fact that your vertical-card compass is no longer readable due to vibration just may have a connection to your propeller. When's the last time you pulled the spinner to look at the bulkhead? Cracked spinner bulkheads are common. When the bulkheads fail, the propeller often comes off in the process; the engine sometimes follows.
Don't wait for your next 100-hour or annual to pop the bonnet on the olī gal. If you don't already do it, you might consider starting a personal maintenance program. There is much the FAA allows owners to do. (Check FAR Part 43.) Begin by learning to change your oil; it's relatively easy, and it's a great way to stay in touch with those crucial innards. You'd be surprised what these little mini-inspections will turn up.
Something New. It's great to get new things. That's why Christmas, birthdays and Fathers' Days are such fun--at least if you like funny-looking ties. But with airplanes, anything that's new and different has the potential for disaster as well as delight. That's why the FAA mandates a test flight by at least a private pilot after significant maintenance before you can legally carry passengers. Post-maintenance accidents are more common than you might think, and it's because anything that has changed may have changed for the worse, even though the intention is always for improvement. More than one plane has been brought down by a pair of pliers left under the floor to later bind the elevator cable. And, yes, you've got new ailerons, but were they hooked up properly? Better not forget that preflight check of "controls free and normal."
Beware of anything that's changed, including changes to your normal routine. I once picked up a case of oil at a neighboring airport in my Decathlon. I strapped the case down in the back seat, using the seatbelts to restrain any movement. The runway was particularly short with trees at both ends. Remember that “controls check” above? Thank heavens I did. The rear stick didn't have full travel because it hit the case of oil. If I'd skipped the check, I'd have become airborne, all right, but I'd never have cleared the trees. Hmmm..... Again, watch out for anything you do that's not ordinary or well planned.
Something Borrowed. If you're like most pilots, you probably rent to fly. If so, beware. In over thirty years of being around aviation, including owning a couple of airplanes, I don't have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times I've seen or experienced first hand examples of shoddy maintenance. Most of these instances were not acts of criminal negligence—though some I could cite came mighty close. Most weren't even old-fashioned incompetence. No, most were just plain, garden-variety human error: Mistakes, the kind we all make no matter how good, diligent or careful we might aim to be. How do you protect yourself when you don't own and maintain your own aircraft?
Like you, I've read many articles that recommend looking at the engine and airframe logbooks of the planes you are about to rent (and, yes, there could be legal ramifications if something goes wrong and it's discovered that you didn't do your due diligence in this regard). The truth is that you should, at least the first time you rent from the FBO. But realistically, most of us don't do that.
What to do? At the very least, ask around. You'd check for references if you had someone watch your kids, wouldn't you? Well, you want to come home to the kids, don't you? Ask to see the shop that does the 100-hour inspection. Talk to the maintenance chief. Look at the airplanes. Improperly maintained aircraft often look that way. Be a camel trader; check the teeth.
Something Blue. I guess the JFK, Jr., episode suggests this rule of thumb: Stick with day VFR. Mostly blue or no can do. Fly when the sun is high and the sky is azure. At least until you're sure you can handle night cross-country. Night flying is fun. The air is smooth and the skies are less crowded. But build up your experience slowly, staying in the vicinity of the airport on clear, fog-free nights until you get to feel comfortable in the realm of darkeness—it's a different country. Especially if you don't have an instrument rating. Of course, this also means staying out of clouds, which aren't blue last time I checked, day or night.
So take a cue from the U. S. Air Force theme song and only launch into the "wild blue yonder." Until experience, good judgment and common sense say otherwise.-- CWA
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