The Magazine Articles
My bottom line is "spreading the word" and there are a few magazines out there that give me that privilege.
Business & Commercial Aviation Magazine, in particular, has a lot of good operational content and I collect a lot of their articles from other writers. I think they are the finest aviation magazine for pilots out there and I can't recommend them enough.
I've always aspired to become the top instructor in any squadron, flight department, or other group of pilots. But quite often I had to take another path as a standards captain. The title varied: check airman, flight examiner, or standardization/evaluation pilot. But in each case I learned that being a standards captain didn't mean the instruction had to stop. In many ways, a standards captain is the top instructor.
I spoke at the annual Pilatus Owner's and Pilot's Association meeting in 2015 and was alarmed by all the stories of FAA violations against these single pilot operators. That got me interested in to figuring out just who was on whose side and how much good those NASA ASRS forms really do.
What does a "demonstrated crosswind" really mean? How about V1? This and many other items of performance are decoded here.
We often used the term "assumed risk" in Air Force safety circles to describe the fact we, as pilots, assume a level of risk everytime we fly. I've explored that here, using the friendlier term "assumed safety" because our passengers are making that assumption.
Just because an approach plate says "TERPS" or "PANSOPS" on it doesn't mean you can fly it to minimums. Sometimes that approach will be impractical, improbable, or even impossible.
I think we should treat our cockpit automation as fairly competent, but imperfect, student pilots. Trust but verify.
The pilot shortage is real and that means a generation of aviation gurus are too busy to mentor. We need to fix that.
There is no shortage of bad ideas out there, but the ones that concern me are old sayings that have a history of being wrong yet are still embraced by some pilots. Let’s look at a few.
In military circles you probably heard, "Murphy was a grunt." That isn't true, he was an Air Force engineer. But much of what you heard about Murphy's Law is wrong, including how it is phrased. Looking at the law's origins can help us to fly more safely. I think we aviators are better off rephrasing the law this way: "If something unsafe can happen, it is up to us to be ready for it in case it does happen.”
The editor at Airways Magazine heard about me and asked for an article on whatever I chose. This is the story of my first domestic flight as the PIC on an EC-135J (Boeing 707).
I was asked to do this for Jeppesen and was happy to see it widely disseminated.
This is something we in the USAF grew up with where the two airplanes involved were both F-4 Phantom IIs "beak to beak" with a closure speed of 900 knots. Pretty scary stuff. I tamed this down to a GV at 200 knots and a Cessna 172 at 100 knots and guess what? It is still pretty scary.
The full title of this article is "Checklist Discipline: Against the Flow." Can you guess where I stand on the issue of flowing a checklist or doing it by following the "Challenge-Do-Verify" procedure? Well here is why I feel so strongly about this.
I've heard from early on you have 8 minutes to fight a cabin fire before it is no longer controllable, and you have to get the airplane on the ground in 15 minutes or less if you want to do so under you own terms. This article explores both of those ideas.
Do you get nervous before a check ride? It’s only natural. Have you ever made a mistake early during a check ride and then had to worry about it as you tried to concentrate during the rest of the flight? That’s a natural reaction, too. But dealing with nerves before and during a check ride is a skill you can master.
If you find yourself circling at minimums, especially on an older style TERPS approach, the odds are stacked against you.
This is the "I'm blind" story I've told in public a few times. The editor really wanted it in print, so here it is.
Our manuals aren't very friendly on the topic of contaminated runways, but there are things we can do to demystify how the snow and ice impact our landing distances.
I've had more than a few readers dispute the contention that "dive and drive" is dangerous. I wrote this article hoping to put an end to that idea.
I continue to see Gulfstream pilots who insist the "wing low" method is how we deal with crosswinds. But the "crab" method is wrong. Chances are, if you are flying a business jet, you may need to revise your crosswind landing technique.
When we get comfortable in an airplane or operation, we tend to let our guards down and can become undisciplined and sloppy. There is a way to prevent this.
I'm told there is too much math in this article and I suppose that may be true. But if you use obstacle analysis software, you need to read this to understand the risks you are assuming.
There is a theory in military aviation that enemy flak, anti-aircraft rounds, or even missiles don’t matter because only one is meant for you. And if it was your time to go, the “Golden BB” bearing your name was going to get you no matter what action you try to avoid it. My theory is a little different. I do believe there are Golden BBs out there, but they don’t bear anyone’s name. Rather they adhere to a first come, first served policy. Your job as a professional pilot is to learn how to dodge them. And after you do, it is your duty to teach others the lessons you have learned.
How did the pilots of N121JM, slip through the SMS audit process and pass so many recurrent checkrides when they were guilty of, as the NTSB put it, "habitual, intentional non-compliance," and (in my view) worse? More importantly, how can we fix such pilots?
If you are not a U.S. pilot, how do you prepare for your first flight to the USA? Well, it is just like what we do when flying to your country. You look for the AIP. You read through the Jepps. And then you call a friend who has been there before. Here are a few hints from us. The U.S. is a friendly foreign destination, but there are a few things you should know that you can't find out reading an AIP.
One of the writers at BCA asked me how I deal with obstacles and I told him "with paranoia." He added a page to his article about that paranoia. (Those mountains really are out to get me.)
Getting the most miles or time from a drop of fuel, the techniques depend on what kind of wing and engines you have.
The new Runway Condition Assessment Matrix gives us three numbers, such as "5/5/5" and from that we are supposed to be able to use to assess our stopping capability. But is it really a precise number? Your manuals probably do not translate those runway condition codes into distances. But even if your books understand these RCCs, you need a healthy dose of skepticism if you want to stop your airplane on the available pavement.
Not every aircraft has AFM Immediate Actions; but even many that do could be improved. In either case, how do you commit these things to memory? You might consider taking a page from an old Air Force trick.
I don't have a "touchy feely" education but this article seemed to have struck a nerve. I got calls from industry and academia alike about this one.
Talking about fear in the cockpit was something that was verboten in my Air Force flying and perhaps that instilled in us a kind of fearlessness, the idea that you deal with problems as they come and dwell on the emotions later (if at all). So when I hear someone say they were scared it gets my attention.
When I found out the other pilots in my flight department didn't have a lot of zero-G experience, I sent everyone (including me) to upset training. This article dives into that subject.
I had always wanted to do an article about pavement strength (PCN/ACN) and here it is. The editors usually choose very good titles, but this one can be misleading.
It took me a year to write this and while I was working on it another writer came up with an article that covered "what happened." My article covers more about "why it happened" and "how to prevent it from happing again." That resulted in his article becoming "Part 1" and mine "Part 2." But they both stand on their own.
I've always thought that most business jet instructors just assume the skills needed in the left seat just happen, we get them by osmosis. I wanted to put into writing many of the techniques.
It has always bugged me that we don't have minimum duty rest or maximum duty day limits for mechanics. And that's not all the ails us when it comes to maintaining our airplanes.
The "Normalization of Deviance" became a vogue term after the May 2014 crash of Gulfstream GIV N121JM. In fact, I wrote about it in 2017. But after three years what has changed? I think it is time to rethink the problem so as to make compliance the norm.
I've always called this the "Good Pilots Gone Bad" phenomenom. Whatever you call it, it is a real problem we need to be on guard against.
I've been hiring pilots for decades and usually the philosophy is to the hire the best person available. Now I am in an organization that says hire the best, and if you can't don't hire at all. So it has taken a while. Along the way there have been lessons learned.
Saying "No" to the person signing your paycheck can be difficult. But using a few examples I hope to provide a few techniques on just how to do that.
Paper in the cockpit has been a fact of life almost from the beginning, especially when flying internationally. Those days are over for many of us, especially if you know the rules and have the right tools.
When it comes to aviation, I can be paranoid about a great many things. I am paranoid about fuel, pressurization, gear pins, the list goes on and on. But this paranoia has served me well over the years. Here are a few techniques to help you capitalize on your membership in the Parnoid Pilots Club.
Regulatory fuel minimums will hardly get you from your destination to alternate, much less allow for traffic delays or holds. You need to raise those quite a bit.
Not all pilot errors are created equal; some are critical and others less so. Understanding the difference will allow you to place your focus where it needs to be and to learn. Admitting to a pilot error in front of your peers and those who look up to you is hard word. But the more often you do that, the less often you will have to.
The Central Japan Railway Company System, the Shinkansen, has carried over 20 billion passengers since 1964 without a single fatality or injury. And they've done that in one of the most densely populated countries in the world. How is that possible? Some credit belongs to their "Shisa Kanko" method, Pointing and Calling. It is a technique that can pay dividends in your cockpit.
I've always thought investigating an operation before the crash could prevent the crash.
As a unique demographic, it seems we pilots never run out of ways of to be, well, stupid. (Me too.) I think the best way to learn how to avoid that is to examine the actions of others who clearly did not.
What defines professionalism among pilots? Dr. Atul Gawande describes professionalism using three terms: selflessness, skill, and trustworthiness. When describing pilots, he adds a fourth: discipline. We would do well to examiner ourselves under a microscope with a filter for those characteristics. You can also apply them to any accident where pilot error was implicated. For example, the May 15, 2017 crash of Learjet N452DA.
Have you ever found yourself in the cockpit wishing you could read the other pilot's mind or struggling to find the right words to let the other pilot know what you need? No, I haven't found the magic required to read minds. But I do think there is a way we can all facilitate cockpit communications to a point where it seems we can read each other's minds. And that is a good thing.
Is dividing the captain's command authority ever a good idea? The margin of error during a high speed abort can be pretty thin and having a well-trained first officer can be a life saver. Or, alternativley, it could introduce a level of confusion in the cockpit. The answer, as with many things in aviation is: it depends.
The informal motto of the 89th Airlift Wing was once "safety, comfort, reliability." (It has since changed slightly.) But that motto was often corrupted. Here is how I would change it and how I would apply it to our civilian flight operations.
If you turn a blind eye towards your passengers when they operate their PEDs, perhaps you should read up on the greater flexibility given to us in the last few years.
Airways Magazine features airliners and really wanted another article about a Boeing 747. So I gave them an article about three.
Like most people my age, I can re-call exactly where I was on Jan. 28, 1986, when I heard the news that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded and broken apart just 73 sec. after liftoff, killing all seven crewmembers. The investigation revealed that NASA had succumed to operational complacency. In the five years I flew my own Challenger (a CL-604) I found myself giving into the operational complacency that seems to be inevitable. Thankfully I've learned how to sidestep that complacency. Here are a few tricks on how to do that.
How many airplanes have been lost due to a rapid depressurization? None, that I know of. How many due to a failure to pressurize? At least five.
Ever since "stabilized approach criteria" became fashionable I thought the rules were unworkable. My flight department tried to build a better mousetrap.
The dirty little secret about the duck under is that it works. You can aim for brick one and flare so your wheels actually make the runway. And it almost always works. Almost. The other secret is that your eyes normalize the picture of below glide path. That can bite you.
This is an article by B&CA writer David Esler who contacted the FAA for a better understanding of the Strategic Lateral Offset Procedure. They referred him to me and he pointed me out to the editor. And thus began my stint as a magazine writer. (Thanks Dave!)
When is a circling approach not a "circling approach?" More importantly, when can attempting to fly within an instrument approach's stated visibility minimums be a bad idea? The answer has to do with your understanding about what air traffic control means when directing you to circle. And this distinction is about as important as it gets at Teterboro Airport, NJ (KTEB). I elected to divert on May 15, 2017 because I was uncomfortable with having to circle from Runway 6 to Runway 1 with an overshooting wind. Another aircraft crashed later that day attempting to do just that. The non-circle, circling approach is a skill unto itself. Let's learn how to do it properly.
Diverting from an oceanic track to an alternate requires a plan; you cannot escape a track by simply pointing the nose to your alternate, especially if you need to descend. Following most oceanic driftdown procedures requires you do that to maximize fuel, but risks a midair collision. But if you follow the diversion plan specified in ICAO Doc 4444, you will end up using more fuel than you might have. What to do? There is a solution.
We non-fighter pilots can learn a great deal from the graduates of the Navy's Fighter Weapons School ("Top Gun") that will yield great dividends to our lives flying passengers from Point A to Point B. The key is to learn how to debrief every flight to maximize the lessons learned.
If you suffer an aircraft upset or some kind of mechanical malfunction that impacts the aircraft's controllability, how confident are you that the aircraft will remain controllable as you configure and slow for landing? Perhaps you should take a page from military aviation and execute a controllability check first. Here are a few hints on how to do that.
The first rule of aviation is "Fly the Airplane!" You should never forget your basic flight duties, never cede control of the aircraft to someone not in one of your pilot seats, and never let CRM takeover.
Windshear is no longer the mystery it once was; technology helps us to forecast and detect it. But it remains a fundamental truism in aviation: the best plan is to avoid it in the first place.
Landing at the wrong airport is not only embarrassing, it can be dangerous.