From The South Ramp --Hank Bruckner
Article from the April 2001 edition of the GACH newsletter 

My Goof
Regretfully, I omitted to acknowledge a very important entity in my article on the Great Hawaiian Air Race—the Coast Guard Auxiliary.  Every year, the Auxiliary has provided superb support, and this  was no exception.  An auxiliarist, usually Carter Davis, will launch just as the sun is thinking about coming up so as to be near Hana and provide an en route weather report prior to launch.  This year, due to the exceptionally early race departures, Steve Chock and Alan Agor, in Steve’s C-185, had to launch especially early to cover the first day’s course.   Auxiliary pilots also provided high cover, watching over us all and ready to respond should any emergency or contingency arise.  Carter Davis and Ron Stewart covered the Madam Pele for us, and Steve and Ron covered Sunday’s race back to O’ahu.  In all, over twelve hours were flown in support of the GHAR.  Interestingly, Steve and Alan also assisted in the Ehime Maru search with some Japanese language expertise.  My apologies for not including the Auxiliary in the original article.

Getting Wet
Getting wet is something we all face as we fly inter island and something for which I suspect most of us are ill prepared.  Most of us have read about ditching in the AIM and other pubs and have even listened to lectures on the subject at safety meetings (well, some have, anyway—those of you who bother to attend).  Very few of us have actually practiced ditching since it is so hard on the aircraft.  Enter the Interior Department and the FAA Aviation Safety Program.  Interior’s Office of Aviation Services (OAS) manages a ditching awareness program that is geared toward employees of various government agencies who travel in light aircraft or helicopters.  Through Scott Allen’s good offices, about fifty pilots were able to take advantage of this excellent, in-water training.   After viewing some inspirational video that highlights the importance of the will to survive, a comprehensive ground school drills the keys to surviving a ditching into the participants’ heads.  Then the fun begins, as you strap into a PVC tube cube and are tossed into the pool--not once, but at least three times (forward, sideways and backwards).  Couples that fly together also got the opportunity to ditch together.  We also jumped into the pool wearing a typical life vest, craftily equipped with one live and one dud CO2 cartridge.  The drill was to inflate the vest, discover which compartment needed to be orally inflated and do so.  We practiced some survival techniques in the water, including swimming to, righting, and climbing into a life raft, helping someone else into a life raft, and lifting an injured person into the raft.  

Once it has become evident you are going to ditch and you’ve made your distress radio calls the following steps must be followed:  Snug your seatbelts/shoulder harnesses and unplug your headset (or remove it); crack the doors or canopy and establish your reference point.  For a passenger, that might be the side of the seat, or an armrest.  Body position is with one hand on the reference point, chin tucked, and the other hand across the chest, holding the shoulder harness.  The pilot will be busy flying until all forward motion is gone, and then will hold the seatbelt/harness as a reference point.  The key here is that you do not release your reference point from your grasp until you either are outside the aircraft or have established another reference point.  

After impact with the water you must wait for all motion to cease.  Most aircraft will skip at least once, and the last one is likely to be much more violent as the structure digs into the water and comes to a sudden stop.  Once you are in the water, take a count of five seconds or longer.  This helps you focus and suppress the urge to act out of panic, as well as wait for things to stop thrashing around.  Then, with a good grip on your reference point, release your seat belt/harness with the other hand, and follow your reference point out of the aircraft.  If you are submerged, hold your hand up over your head as you surface to protect your head from debris or fire.  Once on the surface, you’d assess the situation, and once you were sure you didn’t need to go back under water for anything or anyone, then you’d inflate your vest. Needless to say (though I will), any vest in the back, or even in a seat pocket in a single is not going to do you any good at all because you probably won’t be able to don it in time, especially if you are the pilot.

So, where’s the life raft?  If you had it between the seats or on the floor, it won’t be there any more once everything stops moving.  If the plane partially or fully submerges, the raft will float to the highest point (likely the tail cone—where you’ll wind up if you release your belts without holding on to a reference point).  If you want it to be where you can get to it after a ditching, strap it down where it won’t become dislodged.  Then, as you take your five count, you can locate it and decide whether you can retrieve it and egress.

This type of hands-on, water-up-the-nose training is priceless (oh yeah, and free).  Until you do it, just reading about it is only an academic exercise.  You don’t have to be a swimmer to do it either.  I can’t thank Scott and the guys from OAS and Interior enough.  They may have just saved my life.  

Last Flight
Vivian Fagan, of the Aloha Chapter of the 99’s, embarked on her last great journey in early November of last year.  Vivian earned her wings in 1940 and went on to fly as a WASP during World War II.  After the war, she ran an airport in Washington State before coming to Hawai’i in 1949.  She was an avid supporter of general aviation and flew until she was 80.  Vivian wrote of her time as a WASP in a book called Zoot Suits and Parachutes.  Vivian will long be remembered as a gracious, classy lady.  Blue skies.

Rust to Dust
It pains me to witness the lingering death of an airplane.  Tires go flat, struts deflate, controls sag, fabric tears, skins corrode, paint fades, plastic cracks, and the windows lose their transparency.   Inside, hoses harden, seals shrink, lines go brittle, cables slack, and throughout, rust and corrosion eat away structure and components.  The possibility of flight-- the very spirit of an airplane-- recedes and it becomes just another artifact awaiting its inglorious end. 

Those of you who fly out of HNL see the three DeHavilland Herons slowly melting into the South Ramp, recently joined by two Islanders, as you motor down Lagoon Drive.  It’s been about a decade since the Herons turned a prop.  These once proud planes and their smaller siblings, the Doves, used to ply our skies, full of eyes eager to take in the unrelenting beauty of towering sea cliffs, misty valleys, windblown waterfalls, forbidding fields of a’a and laupahoehoe, and even the glowing, liquefied heart of the islands, all hewn in an almost unbelievable palette of colors and shades.  All this without leaving so much as a footprint on the ground.  And not just the Herons and Doves.  Our skies were filled with Beech 18s and Chieftains and Islanders from companies that all faded away.  Scenic, Panorama, Circle Rainbow, HATS are but a few of the more prominent air tour outfits no longer extant.  Most of the planes are gone, although a precious few soldier on in other roles.

Back to the Herons, for a moment.  Product of the late ‘40s and early ‘50s, the Heron could seat 18 in comfort, with expansive windows and a stand-up cabin.  The cockpit is surprisingly cozy for a four-engined transport.  The quadrant has only four throttle levers.  Mixture and prop is automatic.  A feathering button lies beneath each throttle.  Simple and elegant.  The cockpit side windows bulge out slightly, improving crew visibility.  There’s really nothing else like it, and you’d be hard pressed to come up with a modern equivalent.  Perhaps a Beech 99 or 1900 might come closest.  And the Herons just rot away, silent testament to the outcome of unresolved disputes, debatable decisions and neglect.

Clearly the fixed-wing air tour business is moribund, and the further we get from affordable insurance and aircraft and an enabling regulatory and business climate, the less likely its revival.  Each company had its own set of circumstances that lead to its eventual demise, and it is certainly not my intention to taxi down that lane.  However, the value of the air tour business to Hawai’i as a source of income, revenue, attraction and even as a public service should not be understated, and the industry deserves to be allowed to flourish and not impeded by officialdom.

Blowing in the Wind
As I write this, the trades are blowing 15, gusting 28 knots, and similar conditions are likely to occur from time to time through at least the end of April.  Moreover, as the High that fuels our trades gets pushed around by late winter storm Lows, we often find ourselves battling fairly strong southeasterlies and northwesterlies.   Knowing both your and your airplane’s crosswind limitations is a very useful thing, especially at some of our more challenging airfields, such as Lana’i, Moloka’i, Kalaupapa, and, of course, Upolu.  And, you might want to add Kalaeloa to that list, since that excellent crosswind runway is not available.  If you feel a little rusty on crosswind technique, ask an instructor to take you to either Lana’i or Moloka’i.  At Moloka’i, ask for runway 35/17, if the wind isn’t outrageous.

When the air is full of energy, and especially when it’s gusty and blowing across the runway, I like to transition to the side slip (“wing low”) early—say at 50’-100’ or so—rather than crab all the way down and “kick” it straight right in the flare. There are a couple of reasons:  If I wait until just prior to touch down, it may be too late to both realize that there’s too much crosswind for me and the airplane and also effect a safe go around.    Also, by going to the slip a little early, I get into the mode of correcting drift with aileron and alignment with rudder.  As I get closer to the ground, if I run out of either rudder (common in Cessnas) or aileron (common in the Seneca I) and cannot either stop the drift or align myself with the centerline, I have time to start my go around before I’m way back behind the power curve.  Late go arounds claim their fair share of aluminum.  Starting the slip a little early will require careful power management, since by slipping you are increasing drag and thus, rate of descent, and I may have to carry a little more power longer into the landing than normal.

Tailwheel aircraft present their own unique set of challenges in a crosswind.  Since the center of mass is aft of the pivot point (main wheels), any sideways motion will only get worse if not corrected immediately, unlike a nosewheel craft that tends to be self-straightening (up to a point, of course).  Most tailwheel airplanes have relatively large rudders to help in controlling the aircraft on the ground, but this, too is a double-edged sword:  More vertical fin presents more of a sail to the wind in a crosswind.  It’s often not so much the landing as the roll-out that gets you.  With a strong enough wind, virtually all tailwheel airplanes will reach a point where directional control on the ground becomes impossible—especially in a quartering tailwind, which greatly reduces rudder effectiveness.  When that happens, you may become a passenger along for a nasty ride.

The wind also impacts your en route comfort.  Now that I may go back and forth across the Kaiwi Channel five or six times in a day, I’ve been able to experience some pretty crazy wind games.  One day, while HNL was using Trades procedures with a southeasterly wind, I landed at Moloka’i on runways 5, 17, and 23 on successive flights.  Kalaupapa was blowing strong trades throughout.  Some days, moving a half mile one way or another will get you a smooth path and other days the air is lively and there isn’t a smooth patch to be found.  Point is, you’ve got to be aware of what the wind is doing right now, because what it was just doing a minute ago is history and irrelevant and not the least bit of help.

Just Don’t Have Nuthin’ Better to Do
Fortunately, there apparently are so few significant issues to explore and problems to solve in Hawai’i, that our state legislature has enacted House Bill No. 1679, with its companion Senate Bill No. 500. These bills change the name of Dillingham Field to Kawaihapai Field.  The house bill says it’s effective July 1, 2020; however the senate bill says it is effective “upon approval”.  As if Kalaeloa wasn’t enough of a mouthful, how does “Kawaihapai UNICOM” roll off your tongue?  Oh, well…

Still Trying to Kill
You guys are still trying to kill each other (and me) out there.  The other day I had five round trips to Moloka’i.  On three of them, I had to take evasive action because of opposite direction traffic at my altitude.  I was at the correct altitude for my heading.  I know that the altitude separation below 3,000’ AGL that we use in Hawai’i is only recommended and not regulatory the way it is above 3,000’.  But it’s recommended for a reason.   It isn’t a “big sky” when you are in a relatively narrow corridor, such as between Koko Head and Ilio or La’au Point, and the chances of a midair are disturbingly high over the Ka’iwi Channel.  It’s kind of like driving in the wrong lane.  Please, spread the word:  scratching the paint while airborne is not cool at all.  And from my vantage point, killing me isn’t, either.

Kalaupapa Fly-In
I guess it wasn’t a complete bust.  We had five airplanes there at one time, and one came a little later after some of us had left.  Two crews, from the Big Island, got there in time for a tour with Richard.  The rest of us enjoyed being there and our lunches.  Kalaupapa is an amazingly beautiful place—worth visiting just to be there.  Next year, maybe we’ll get a few more of you to enjoy it with us.

In the meantime, plan now to attend the big Hana Fly In on June 16th, where we’ll have trophies for the accuracy landing event.  And again, in September, plan to go to the Poor Man’s Fly-In at Port Allen, Kaua’i. 

Be careful out there, please!

Hank’s Ratings: Frank Diranna and Donn Yeager   CFI Spin Endorsement.