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Winging It! With Dr. Paul

War Stories

Do you know the difference between a fairy tale and a war story? Each forms an integral part of any good hangar flying session, but fortunately, they're easy to tell apart. Fairy tales all begin "Once upon a time". War stories start "Now this is no sh..."

Toni Wakes drawing We learn a lot about safety in our hangar flying sessions, hence I will from time to time resort to both forms of story in these pages, to illustrate a point. It will be up to you to determine which is which.

I had a really nasty icing encounter over the Siskiyous a few weeks ago. Over gross, in the clouds, tumbled gyros, iced over static ports, the works. Got to squawk 7700, call "mayday" on 121.5, the whole enchilada. I'll spare you the details of my emergency landing at Redding (makes better telling in person, at the hangar, anyway), but should note that I had ample warning, which I blithely ignored. Flight precautions at my earlier weather briefing read "occasional mixed icing in clouds and precipitation from the freezing level to 16,000 feet; occasional moderate to severe turbulence in the vicinity of rough terrain."

"But they always say that, this time of year", I thought. "I've never had a problem yet; I won't this time." WRONG!

Afterward, while meeting with the FAA Safety Counselor (yes, sometimes even safety counselors need safety counselors) I was asked about that weather briefing. "Did they say 'chance', or 'occasional' icing?" I inquired as to the difference, and was told 'chance' implies less than a 50% likelihood; 'occasional' means the odds of encountering the specified hazard are more than 50%. So 'chance' really means 'possible', while 'occasional' means 'probable'. An important distinction which I had never heard before. Perhaps it's a new one to you as well.

Next time your weather briefing forecasts gloom and doom, listen to the exact language. Know the difference between 'chance' and 'occasional'. One means "once upon a time"; the other implies "this is no sh..."

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