LESSONS MY COMANCHE TAUGHT ME
REMEDY FOR A RALEIGH RUNWAY OVERSHOOT
by George R. Jones
The saga is over, I hope, but it's been a long haul!
Remember, back in early January 2003, I ran my Twin Comanche off the end of runway 32 in Raleigh-Durham, NC, after landing long and fast. As a result, the FAA "requested" that I take a 44709 ride to re-evaluate my competency.
Let me start by saying that I just recently took the checkride and passed -- after several months and a variety of reschedulings due to maintenance and weather.
My case was given to the Greensboro, NC, FSDO office, based on the location of the original incident. Almost immediately, I had the case moved to the Birmingham, AL office because I work in Alabama during the week and am rarely in North Carolina other than on the weekends.
During several conversations with the FAA, it was suggested that I study the practical test standards for private, instrument, and multi-engine aircraft operation, as well as aircraft takeoff and landing performance.
About a month after the original incident, we scheduled the checkride. The weather was decent and I flew from Alexander City, AL to Bessemer, AL. I was met by two examiners, one of whom would be going through my aircraft logbooks, making sure the plane was airworthy. Turns out, it wasn't, and we eventually came to the conclusion that we could not fly, nor could the plane be ferried back to my mechanic. Now, the worst part was that because of the time since the original incident, my license was temporarily taken away and replaced with a 30-day certificate, prohibiting me from carrying passengers… basically a student pilot certificate.
So, here I was, in Bessemer, AL, couldn't fly and couldn't get hold of anyone. I ended up renting a car to drive back home and brought it back a few days later.
My plane spent about 2 months in the shop at Bessemer, during which time I was issued another 30-day certificate, although the examiner mentioned at the time that this was probably the last one I could get. As it turns out, it too expired before the plane was ready. I finally was able to have a friend of mine pick the airplane up, only to find another maintenance issue not addressed by the first A&P. This time I was at another airport, preparing to receive some dual instruction with a CFI.
Another month or so went by and finally, the plane was ready to fly. I spent approximately 10 hours with an instructor, practicing everything from private pilot maneuvers (steep turns, climbs, descents, etc) to multi-engine procedures. Keep in mind, though, I no longer had any solo privileges, so I had to fly with an instructor.
My next scheduled meeting with the FAA ended in cancellation, due to the lack of VFR weather. I had spent a great deal of time with an instructor, plus a ton of hours in the books so, I was pretty upset (to say the least).
One thing I should reiterate is that I live in North Carolina and work in Alabama, so I depend on my plane regularly. Any downtime creates headaches, alleviated by either flying commercially, or driving about 600 miles each way. Flying commercial is not a problem, unless you have to book at the last minute, which can be expensive. Flying "George Air", as my friends call flying in my own Twin Comanche, is the only way to go!
Finally, about five months after the original incident, I was able to meet with the FAA examiner. After three hours of questions, one hour to pre-flight and remove fuel for weight and balance, and one point five hours of flying, he handed me back my original certificate. I had passed! He did mention some areas, though, mainly in the oral questions, where I had been a little rough.
Two weeks later, a letter came from FSDO stating that my checkride had been satisfactory. They sure have a way with words! Actually, I will say this: Like everyone else, the FAA examiners are just doing their job. They treated me extremely fair, and did show some sympathy in regards to my issues. In fact, on several occasions I was told, "This is not all your fault, but most of it is."
The lesson learned …one more time:
So, again, the moral to this story is: Complacency kills! Pay attention to every detail of flying and aircraft ownership. I learned a great deal about the system, and fortunately have survived.
Please don't hesitate to call or email me with any questions or comments about this story. (256) 212-4250 George.firstname.lastname@example.org
Born in 1966, George Jones lives in Clayton, NC. He is president and owner of Phoenix 2000 Incorporated, a computer consulting and placement company, and holds a private pilot certificate with ASMEL and instrument ratings. George flies a 1969 turbo twin Comanche, N8692Y, for both business and pleasure