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From Flight Operations and Safety


Jim Higgins, Director of Flight Operations & Safety WVFC


Don’t keep going...


Early last year I wrote in this newsletter about the perils and costs of careless taxiing. We had a bad run of 4 taxi mistakes that cost our insurance company over $100,000.  Unfortunately, we all share the financial pain equally so if you are paying a couple bucks more per hour now, you can guess why. Thankfully, in the 12 months that followed that article, we had exactly zero taxi incidents.  Maybe we got lucky?  But maybe we did a better job on the one task where being just a few inches off course can be so costly!  Regardless, we’re all thrilled with the outcome.


In that earlier article, I promised great fame for the next member to use a club airplane to hit a stationary object. Although I won’t put this member directly in the spotlight, this is an interesting case worth highlighting due to a series of unusual circumstances and responsibility shared among a number of people.


Here’s what happened:  the member was taxiing an SR22 back into one of the very tight rows outside the club where a C182 was diagonally sticking out partially blocking the lane — it was in the process of being pushed back into its spot, but the pilot had left it momentarily (hopefully because he was looking for a wing-walker).  


At the same time a member was returning a C172 a few minutes late so the next renter was already at the tie down ready to take over.  Together they all agreed not to tie it down so nobody realized that plane wasn’t quite all the way pushed back.  And because (of course!) both spots on either side of the 172 were empty, it was not immediately obvious that the plane was too far forward.  


So focusing on not hitting the original 182—you can see this coming—he kept going and hit the 172 instead.  The tip of the long-winged SR22 struck the spinner of the 172.  Remarkably, the damage was very minimal. And it’s interesting that so many pieces had to come together to make it happen.  It’s quite an incident chain:


182 paused while being pushed back

172 botched change of custody

Empty spots next to the 172

Long wings on the SR22

A narrow alley at PAO


This is not to let the member off the hook too easily though, as there is something he could have done to avoid the whole problem. It’s the same thing we all should do when faced with such a situation:  Stop. Shut down. Ask for help. Get out of the plane and look. Push or pull it by hand with the tow bar.  Ask Nate for help.  Heck, you probably wouldn’t even have to ask since he runs to help push back every plane he sees.  But whatever you do, please, don’t keep going.  For all you know there are four or five elements of an incident chain already there and waiting for you to contribute the final piece.