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You secure everything in your cockpit, right? I mean everything - pencils, pens, the Go-Pro suction cupped to the window, that jar you use when the flight's too long and the bathroom's too far - everything. So do I.
We've all heard the dangers of FOD on the runway. The posters of FOD debris and damage are a common sight in FBOs and flight schools across the country.
And, you probably check the engine for an out-of-place wrench before you take off. (If you don't, you should. I've pulled several tools out of the cowl on preflight that could have added excitement to my flight plan.)
How about in the cockpit? Do you strap down all of the luggage? How about your flight bag and your iPad?
A quick survey of NTSB reports picked up a great example of what can go wrong when even little items are out-of-place.
A pen and a "relief jar" came loose during the takeoff roll in a Vans RV-8. What's the worst that could happen?
At rotation, the airplane pulled "hard" to the left, and pitched up "more aggressively" than a standard takeoff. The pilot applied full down elevator, "but the nose would not come down." The airplane then pitched nose down, the pilot applied full up elevator, and the airplane attained a level pitch attitude prior to ground contact. (NTSB Report IAD05LA072)
An ink pen lodged beneath the rudder bar - jamming it. And a 50-ounce glass jar was found beneath the front seat, next to the forward control stick, with new dents in the lid.
The pen and the jar caused an accident that seriously injured one and, luckily, left the other occupant uninjured. But it could have been much worse.
You're know the cabin call, "flight crew, prepare the cabin for arrival" - why not make it on your flights? Lower the pitch of your voice, add a few "uh's" and you're good to go.
"Uh, flight crew, please, uh, prepare the cabin for arrival."
It's just as important to do on a small aircraft as on a large one.
A flight attendant on an ERJ-190 during a repositioning flight didn't secure the cabin - and ended up seriously injured by the aft galley cart.
She left the cart unsecured during landing. During rollout, the cart traveled up the cabin and struck her while she was standing. (ERA13CA147)
I've never had a problem with a galley cart in the cockpit (Seminoles never came with a galley), but what about a flight bag or chart case? During rollout, what happens if it flies into the rudder well, or hits you from behind?
Most of these items are on our checklist - checking the cockpit before preflight and securing items before landing. But, when you're preflighting and it's 10 below out, are you really checking those control assemblies? When you're rushed into a landing because you have a pale passenger who looks ready to reappoint your interior with their lunch, did you take the time to make sure everything's secure?
It's worth a thought - accidents usually happen when we're not expecting them...
Everything's better with a video; and, in this case, the Thunderbirds help us out. I can't think of a better trained, more diligent set of pilots - who can also have cockpit FOD problems. Check it out.
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Aleks is a Boldmethod co-founder and technical director. He's worked in safety and operations in the airline industry, and was a flight instructor and course manager for the University of North Dakota. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.