"What in the wide, wide, world of sports is a goin' on here?"
— Slim Pickens
. . . In a word: updates. I write these things as events unfold, in reaction to questions, or just as matter of what strikes my fancy on any given day. I do this at least once a month but sometimes every week. How do you know what is the newest, freshest stuff? Right here.
If you are looking for updates to the International Operations Flight Manual, the are here: IOFM Updates.
Oh yes, one more thing. The magnifying glass (top left) is provided by Google. It will find what you are looking for within Code7700.com if it can, and will then move on the the rest of the Internet. But failing all that, click the "Contact" button on the top or bottom of the page. If I can help, I'll certainly try.
Case Study: SAS 751 — August 21, 2019
As pilots we cannot control every variable that goes into a safe, successful flight. We have to assume some risk. We have to, for example, assume the aircraft was designed properly. We have to assume our mechanics knew what they were doing the last time they worked on our aircraft. In an airline the assumptions go even farther. With some airlines, you leave the de-ice/anti-ice up to the ground crew and you have to assume they did a good job. Sometimes these assumptions are wrong.
These pilots were presented with a situation they were ill-prepared to deal with. You should never be content to learn only what the company (airline, simulator vendor, etc.) wants to teach you. These pilots could have been better armed with a little extra knowledge. As it was, they found themselves flying a very large glider; but they did a very good job salvaging a bad situation.
Attracting the Next Generation — August 13, 2019
Is it just me or does it seem the average cockpit is getting grayer? There seems to be evidence that the average age of professional pilots is climbing, not because there are more cockpits but because there are so fewer youngsters in line to take the places of us in the "seasoned" pilot class.
I do a fair amount of public speaking to aviation aficionados from entry level to highly experienced, and it does appear the ages across the spectrum are going up. That isn't good. Smaller numbers of newer pilots means the older pilots have to hang on and there will be increasing pressure for single pilot transport category aircraft and, dare I say it, pilotless aircraft. We — all of "we" — need to do something about this.
Connected! — August 3, 2019
Do you have high-speed Internet access in the cockpit? Do you have Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) or do you leave this up to your better judgment? I am placing this in the "psychology" category because it pits our inner demons against operational safety. But that doesn't mean I'm against cockpit Internet usage. Far from it . . .
I’ve heard from my more connected peers about pilots who quickly bring up social media accounts just a few minutes after the wheels are in the well. Some started out saying the Internet was for flight related purposes only, then they added aviation magazines – that’s flight related, isn’t it? – and then came an aviation flick or two. On the other hand, most of the aviation world has turned to the Internet so we can now negotiate slot times, adjust ETAs, arrange destination support, get maintenance help, and do just about anything from the air that was once reserved for after landing. We will have broadband Internet access in our next cockpit. The only thing left to do is come up with a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to avoid all those horror stories.
Wet or Contaminated? — July 25, 2019
Have you ever landed your airplane on a wet runway and thought, "that was just like it was dry" and then, on another day, "that might as well have been ice." Me too. For years, I've known that 1/8" is where wet becomes contaminated. But when tower says the runway is wet, I assume it is the less than 1/8" variety of wet.
Even on short final, unless I can see swimming pools of water, I think (and hope) we are just dealing with wet. Besides, 1/8" is hardly anything at all. You could stack two quarters and that would hardly be . . . no, wait. A recent SAFO tells us that an analysis of recent contaminated runway "incidents/accidents indicates that the braking coefficient of friction in each case was significantly lower than expected, and that 30 to 40 percent of additional stopping distance may be required if the runway transitions from wet to contaminated based on the rainfall intensity or reported water contamination (greater than 1/8-inch depth)." Maybe I should pay more attention to this.
Introducing Eddie's New Jet — July 10, 2019
After ten years it is time to retire my trusty Gulfstream G450 in trade for a brand new Gulfstream GVII-G500, or simply a "Gee Seven" or "Gee Five Hundred." We take delivery in a few months.
The minute I first laid eyes on the airplane I knew it was something special. As I started to learn more and more about it, I knew it was the right answer to our company's quest for a newer airplane. I signed the paperwork to buy it a year and a half ago. Now that I finally have the training under my belt, I am looking forward to it more than ever.
Course Corrections — June 26, 2019
How often do you make a mistake and wish you had a chance to do it all over again? Well I had that chance through this reader's situation. Perhaps it can come in handy the next time you need to make a course correction when it seems you have little to no control.
Changing the course of a very large organization is difficult if you aren't the captain. Even offering a small course correction can be a challenge for the newest member of a flight department when "we've always done it this way" is the answer. Here are a series of emails about just this. I had experienced the exact same situation from a different location in Texas flying to the same locations in Asia and Europe. I got the organization to stop doing what they were doing but it got pretty ugly for a while. So, when offering advice, I finally figured out how to get it done without the loss of political capital.
How to Chief Pilot — June 15, 2019
If your title is the director of aviation, the flight department manager, or anything else that involves keeping all the pilots of an organization pointed in the right direction, that makes you a chief pilot in my book.
The uniqueness of the role cannot be simply explained because each organization tailors the uniqueness further still. As with many things in life, a way to understand how to do something correctly is to observe it being done incorrectly. Perhaps a few examples will help.
(more) Q and A — June 6, 2019
It has been a few months since the last question and answer article and we have six more q's . . . and six more a's.
Our questions include: Is an electronic flight manual okay? How do you set a sea level cabin in Gulfstream G450/550/G50? Do you need an LOA to fly the RNP(APCH) into Nice, France? What is the difference between an RNP AR and other RNAV and/or RNP approaches? How do you service hydraulics in a G450/550? Are smaller aircraft required to cross published runway threshold height nunbers?
Record Setting (Intentional Noncompliance) — May 24, 2019
Many of us have done things in the cockpit that we aren't proud of; it is a burden we have to carry and hopefully learn from. In the best case, you've learned from it and can use it as a teaching tool for others. This is a case of two pilots who have positions of authority at a major manufacturer behaving badly and posting the results on YouTube.
I think setting a city pair record (fastest time) should be more about the airplane and the luck of the conditions, hardly a matter of pilot skill. But in this case two company pilots managed to do this by ignoring rules, regulations, and common sense. And they invited a reporter to document their transgressions. Another way to set records in noncompliance for all to see is in front of an airshow crowd. As you will see, I am not with my own sins.
Settled Science — May 15, 2019
Have you ever been told: "Ninety-seven percent of all scientists agree that - - -, therefore it is settled science!"
That is intended to stop debate and end all discussion, ignoring the facts that (a) no science is ever settled because science is a process of hypothesis-testing-proving/disproving-rehypothesizing, and (b) statistics claiming percentages of approvals are often skewed to favor the theories of whomever is paying for the statistic. This holds true in all endeavors, aviation is no exception. Let's look at the crux of the problem, a few examples from "settled science" and then apply that to the settled science that is pilot procedures and technique.
Sidestepping Complacency — May 4, 2019
Like most people my age, I can recall exactly where I was on January 28, 1986 when I heard the news that the space shuttle Challenger had exploded and broke apart just 73 seconds after liftoff, killing all seven crewmembers. I was driving onto an Air Force base getting ready for instrument instructor pilot training. The guard at the gate asked if I had heard. I didn’t even realize there was a launch that day. The shuttle launches had become, in a word, routine.
Writing about Challenger, Professor Diane Vaughn coined the term “The Normalization of Deviance” to describe what happened at NASA. That makes her book an excellent case study for all pilots, even those of us who confine our aviation to the atmosphere. I ended up flying a Bombardier Challenger where I learned how to finally conquer the demon of the Normalization of Deviance by anticipating its arrival, and stepping out of the way.
(more) Q and A — April 28, 2019
It has been two months since the last question and answer article and we have eight more q's . . . and eight more a's.
Our questions include: "Is it true the bottom message of your top color CAS is where the problem came from?" "Do you really need to drift down between the tracks before turning around?" "How do I adjust my en route timing when ATC says I have a mandatory oceanic entry time?" "Is it a good idea to zero out your FMS fuel quantity now and then?" "Why don't the runway distance numbers on the 10-9A always add up?" "When do you enter 29.92 during a climb?" "What are those cross hairs on my instrument panels?" "How do I compute an MDA on a very steep approach?"
Abort Authority — April 19, 2019
If you are the Pilot in Command (PIC) and the Pilot Flying (PF) in the left seat, can the Second in Command (SIC) / Pilot Monitoring (PM) call abort? If he or she does that, will you abort? Even more interesting (and controversial) is the opposite scenario. If you are the PIC / PM in either seat, can the SIC / PF initiate an abort without your consent? You probably think both answers are obvious. You may be surprised that not everyone thinks you are right.
The answers depend more on who you are flying for than what you are flying. At one extreme, the captain has total and absolute abort authority and the first officer can do nothing more than offer an opinion. On the other extreme, both pilots can call for the abort and the other pilot must abort. Which way is right? It depends. So let's look at that.
Case Study: LR35 N452DA — April 09, 2019
As an Air Force Safety Officer, I was taught my prime purpose in life was to prevent recurrence. We investigated accidents, figured out what happened, and made recommendations to ensure it never happened again. The NTSB usually does a good job of this. But in this case, they did not.
If you read the NTSB Final Report, you come away mostly with deficiencies in the operator's 135 program, which were indeed deficient. You come away with the deficiencies in the pilots, and they were deficient. And you find out the operator didn't have wind additive guidance in their SOPs. That is all true. But they missed the cause, which was the pilots failed to understand the purpose of the circling maneuver and how to safely execute that maneuver.
Oceanic Contingencies — March 25, 2019
The ICAO cleaned up the disparate procedures for oceanic contingencies nicely about 2007, but the procedures in the North Atlantic change March 28, 2019.
There are two basic procedures now. For everywhere in the world except the North Atlantic, you should remember 45 degrees and 15 nautical miles offset. In the North Atlantic, it is 30 degrees and 5 nautical miles. But in both cases there are other complications. Confused? It is all summarized in easy two page guides you can download in PDF or DOC format.
Speech: Paperless Oceanic — March 15, 2019
I mentioned that my flight department plots paperlessly while on stage at the 2018 NBAA International Operator's Conference so they invited me back to talk about it at the 2019 IOC.
This speech created quite a stir because, in part, it was presented entirely on an iPad. I was told this had never been done at an IOC before. The speech was very well received. I don't think it was recorded, however. There has been some demand to have it online, so I've recreated it here. I go into much more detail here: Paperless Oceanic.
Q and A — February 26, 2019
Over the years I've probably got several thousands of questions on the web and, I am afraid to say, I hardly ever make a record of them. I know this because sometimes when I am researching an answer, I realize that I once answered the question before. If only I had captured it the first time! Well let's see if we can fix that.
I think I average five to ten "Eddie" emails every day and usually one or two questions. I try to answer everything but it quite often takes me a while. I think my record so far is two years to find an answer. I hope I can do better if you have a question for me.
Skipping Complacency — February 16, 2019
I attended the 10th anniversary of the SOCAL Aviation Association in 2018 where the theme was "Safety 2.0: Succeeding in the Future."
It was a great event with very good turnout and a very engaged audience. I spoke about "Skipping Complacency" by studying history, improving one's expertise, inviting critique, and considering a new way to train.
Sitting Duck — February 1, 2019
When I started flying big airplanes, it seemed the accepted technique for getting stopped on a short runway was to fly about a dot low on an ILS or "slightly below glide path" on a Precision Approach Radar (PAR) approach, hoping to spot the runway early and then aim for brick one once visual. This was called the "duck under" and was officially frowned upon by all parts of the Air Force except at some squadrons where it was the accepted way to land on short runways.
That was a long time ago and that airplane didn't have a lot of technology to automate the landing in poor weather. But modern aircraft are not immune to the duck under. Every few years we have another victim of the duck under. Fortunately, there are antidotes to the disease.
Ivan's Notes (G450/550/650) — January 22, 2019
If you are flying a G450, G550, or a G650 you are lucky to be flying well designed aircraft, with lots of systems redundancies, and a wealth of information in very complete Airplane Flight and Aircraft Operating Manuals. It can, however, be tough learning and keeping all that knowledge in your head. Fortunately, for you (and me), Ivan Luciani has devoted himself to distilling all that knowledge into easy to digest notes.
Using the application Noteshelf 2, his system's knowledge, and a deft hand, he produced wonderful notes on the G550 and then the G650. I was always jealous of these notes and hoped one day he would qualify in the G450. Fortunately, a friend of his (and mine) provided the extra expertise. He worked with Steven Foltz to produce notes for us G450 operators that we can call our own.
Stick and Rudder in an Age of Ones and Zeros — January 11, 2019
The idea that we have become too reliant on automation and have let our basic stick and rudder skills atrophy isn't new. Every few years there is a noteworthy crash, hand wringing, and the call for pilots to take a little more stick time. This has been around for almost as long as I have been flying. But I don't think more stick time will answer the problem. What we need is better stick time, hand-flying the airplane when it is safe to do so and then do so in a way that helps us improve.
I have to admit I am guilty as the next pilot. These days most experts place the blame on a lack of stick time, we just don't hand fly enough. But I think that misses half the problem. Many automation related accidents could have been easily avoided had the pilot flying realized his or her role shifts to the pilot monitoring the automation. It isn't so much that our hands are disengaged from the flying, it is that our brains have. I agree more stick time is in order, but when we practice, we need to so with a purpose in mind. Otherwise, our practice will not improve our skills.
Paperless Oceanic — January 1, 2019
Do you have to plot when flying oceanic? Yes, depending on how far from a NAVAID you happen to be. Do you have to plot using a paper plotting chart and pencil? No, you can use that fancy iPad of yours instead.
But the process isn't entirely intuitive. Just because you know how to plot with that paper chart doesn't mean you can transfer those skills to the iPad. But once you learn how, paperless oceanic operations are faster, more efficient, cheaper, and are more accurate. That accuracy means it is all safer too.
Happiness Takes Effort — December 25, 2018
Part of a young pilot’s ritual is to thrive on learning a new skill while wistfully wishing the arrows to come were already part of one’s quiver. When you are still on the first page of your logbook it is easy to keep a positive attitude because everything is new to you and the knowledge that you have conquered gravity goes far to motivate you for more.
But after a while it is easy to get bogged down by your lack of progress, someone else's seemingly effortless progress, or just the fact that things never seem to improve. We rarely pause to take a breath and realize just how lucky we are to be doing what it is we are doing to make a living.
Takeoff and Landing Data "Sense" — December 17, 2018
These days, we tend to program the performance function of our Flight Management System (FMS), a laptop computer, or our iPads to churn out all the numbers we need to safely takeoff, abort the takeoff, or climb out with an engine failure and subsequent emergency return.
Most of us rarely give the numbers a second glance. But this nonchalance has killed before and will likely kill again as we become even more distant from the number crunching. There is a way you can double check the numbers without too much trouble and, at the same time, develop a sense for what numbers are right and what numbers are wrong.
The Perpetual Student — December 10, 2018
Let me break this to you gently: you will always be a student pilot. And that's the way it should be.
This was a speech presented the Epic Aircraft Company fly in, September 7, 2018.
Cyber Security — December 1, 2018
It's a scary world out there, especially considering how much of your personal life resides on your personal electronic devices.
One common rationalization for not worrying about it is that you are a small fish in a very large pond. Why would they target you? That used to be valid thinking, in that the attackers were going for the big money payouts. But lately they've realized the little guys are not as well protected and it will be easier to take a little from a lot of targets that aren't as well defended. So you need to be defended.
Bad Ideas — November 19, 2018
It is often said that the two most dangerous words in aviation are "watch this." 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 but are still held by some pilots. Let's look at a few.
A common denominator seems to be that some pilots absolutely believe what they are doing is safe, until they end up breaking something. At that point they point the blame to the airplane, their training, or something else. I've had my share of bad ideas over the years. But once I figure that out, I am the first to say, "I screwed up," and then I try to spread the word so nobody else falls for the same stupid idea.
International Trip Planning — November 10, 2018
I spoke to the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA) International Operator's Conference (IOC), in March of 2018. I was one of three speakers on the topic of international trip planning.
My topics included what I call "standard" airport selection considerations (domestic or international), legal authorizations, the "Point A to Point B" considerations, the problems with NOTAMS, and where to look for extra intel.
Dodging the Golden BB — November 1, 2018
There is a theory in military aviation that enemy flak, anti-aircraft rounds, or even missiles don't matter because only the one that has your name on it is meant for you. If it was your time to go, the "Golden BB" with your name was going to get you no matter what you did. My theory is a little different. I do believe there are Golden BBs out there, but they don't have your name on them. They are first come, first serve. Your job as a professional pilot is to learn how to dodge them. And after you've done that, it is your duty to teach others the lessons you have learned.
So all this begs the question, how do you dodge that Golden BB if you can't see it coming for you? Well, you have to be observant. And then you can study cases where the Golden BB found its mark. Remember, these Golden BBs never travel alone. Just because someone else got hit, doesn't mean there isn't another identical round looking for another victim.
Rule Number 4: Deal With It. — October 25, 2018
I think I learned this rule while growing up with a mom who spoke very little English while my dad was overseas every few years as a Navy officer. When things around the house go wrong you deal with it, even if you are 15 years old. But this particular lesson continues through life and only gets better.
You've probably heard of the Five Stages of Grief. They are, of course, real. But we don't all experience them the same way, in the same order, or experience all of the stages. This fact by itself can cause even more grief. "Am I normal?" No matter how you experience grief, in the end you have to get on with life. "Deal with it" seems harsh when you are in the moment. But in the end, it is what you have to do. Some of these stories may seem petty compared to the word "grief." But that in itself is important too.
Favorite Blogs — October 18, 2018
I am often asked where I get my ideas and who my favorite sources are. I do have a good network of friends and few of them have aviation blogs that I visit often.
Here are just a few of them. Please give them a visit. Not all of them may interest you, but I think you will find one or two you may want to become a regular visitor to.
Check Ride Nerves — October 9, 2018
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 worry about it as you are trying to concentrate during the rest of the check ride? Natural. So let's learn how to deal with that.
In the Air Force, one of the purposes of the check ride was to put a student under considerable stress to ensure their performance in the training environment will accurately reflect their performance "out there." I suppose there is some validity to that. But learning to deal with stress in a check ride will pay dividends in the real world. Besides, it makes the check ride easier.
Contaminated Runways — September 28, 2018
Every year or so we have another case of a passenger-carrying-airplane sliding off the end of a runway and a fair amount of recriminations from all the usual suspects. More often than not, pilot error is implicated and more of the usual suspects issue a call for pilots to stop floating down the runway and to be more serious about the things that make the airplane stop.
But measuring a runway's "slipperiness" has always been a problem and turning whatever that measure is into aircraft performance is even harder. The new Runway Condition Assessment Matrix (RCAM) was supposed to help, but the information given to pilots in AIM and other pilot periodicals are dumbed down to the point of meaningless. Studying the AC given airport operators and talking to a few airport managers can fix all that.
Photography — September 20, 2018
I joke that I am a professional photographer because my photos appear in books and magazines. But it is a joke. I am an amateur photographer who greatly admires photographers who know what they are doing.
Here are a few examples, including the lucky shots of my own. (Appropriately, at the end.) Click on the Photographer's name for more of their excellent work.
Stupid Pilot Tricks — September 10, 2018
We aren't as smart as we think we are. I need a reminder now and then, but whenever I am reminded, I seem to fall for the trap again. Fortunately, my biggest mistakes are ancient history.
But it seems we pilots as a breed never run out of ways of being stupid. I think the best way to learn how not to be stupid is to look at others who are. It may be worth a laugh — "I would never do that!" — but keep in mind you may be tempted to do something along the same lines. You must always be on guard for the next stupid thing.
Paranoia — September 1, 2018
There are many things we do in cockpits designed to keep us safe and most of those are widely accepted as best practices. I say widely accepted because wise pilots who know better tend to have a quiver full of such arrows.
But not every pilot is so wise. In fact, pilots in the second group tend to think pilots in the first group are paranoid. Guess which group I am in? So here are a few examples of my paranoia and case studies where a little of that paranoia would have saved lives, or at the very least, would have spared the aircraft from significant damage.
It Takes Fuel to Carry Fuel? — August 20, 2018
You've been hearing this your entire career as a way of telling you not to take too much. But is it true?
As with many things in aviation, the answer is: "It depends." It depends if the weight of the aircraft is going to impact your altitude selection.
Stuck Mike: Movies — August 10, 2018
Mike is Stuck in a bit of a mood, so it is up to Eddie to sub for him again.
Eddie thinks what Mike really needs is a shot in the arm to reignite his passion for aviation. So this episode is all about Eddie's top ten favorite movies.
Safety 2.0 — August 1, 2018
We have this nagging feeling that in our effort to make safety routine, it has become routine. We know that is a recipe for complacency, but what can we do about that? What's next?
I think there is a way going forward. Allow me the chance to elaborate.
Sophistry — July 18, 2018
First, what is sophistry? It is the use of fallacious arguments, especially with the intention of deceiving.
Why does it matter to a pilot? It matters because it is a leading technique of instructors who are inept or are in positions where they need to feel intellectually superior to students. We see a lot of this in business aviation because those out in the field often have more experience than those in the school houses, make more money, and quite often know their airplanes better than those teaching it. I've witnessed several instances where the instructor in question was teaching things that could get people killed. Half the students realized it was all wrong and ignored it. The other half dutifully took notes. Those of us who know better owe it to those that don't to raise the "BS Flag" and call them out.
Stuck Mike 7: Pressure — July 10, 2018
Mike made a few bad decisions when operating his tires under-inflated and then not getting them properly serviced. Now he's stuck in a Motel 6 in Fairbanks, Alaska. So Eddie fills in again.
Eddie decides to talk about how to take care of aircraft tires from a pilot's perspective. How do you check tire pressure? Why you should use nitrogen and not ordinary air? Can you, the pilot, do any of this?
Case Study: Air France 447 — July 1, 2018
This crash would not have happened with a more experienced set of pilots, no doubt about it. But that isn't to say we need to blame the pilots here. They were, in many ways, ordinary pilots. And therein lies the problem.
But I don't agree that this situation is without a solution. The days of pilots who are well schooled at dealing with all manner of things going wrong are coming to an end. That generation of pilots has long ago started retiring and pretty soon they will all be footnotes in history. You cannot train this kind of thing in a simulator, where the absent risk of real injury are death cannot be simulated. But we can, I think, train pilots to realize when things are not as they should be, and how to return a situation uncertain into a situation recognizable.
Beating Murphy's Law — June 20, 2018
The patron saint of reliability engineering is Captain Edward Murphy, though he may or may not deserve credit or praise. He designed G-force gages for use in test rocket sleds and centrifuges. When these were needed for a rocket sled making deceleration tests, his unclear instructions led to faulty installation and lost test data. Some say he passed the blame onto his subordinates, while he was later interviewed and accepted the blame. The people running the program rephrased one of Murphy's explanations as "If it can happen, it will happen."
As pilots, we can learn from the History of Murphy's Law and how it relates to Reliability Engineering. That way we can come up with our own corollary: "If something unsafe can happen, it is up to us to predict it so we can prevent it."
Checklist Discipline — June 10, 2018
This was a speech to the Twin Cessna Flyer meeting in Nashville, TN on May 31, 2018.
We cover the origin of checklists, Challenge-Do-Verify versus Do-Verify (the "flow"), single pilot cockpit techniques, as well as the "Three Senses" technique. Oh yes, we cover some surgery techniques too.
Enhanced Flight Vision System — June 1, 2018
Yes, I've covered this before. Yes, it gets complicated. But the rules for an N-numbered airplane flying overseas have changed. But even if you aren't planning on using your EFVS for lowering your minimums internationally, those rules can give you a better way of doing what you have been doing.
Prior to December 13, 2016, the regulations for EFVS operations to 100 feet above the touchdown zone elevation (TDZE) were located in § 91.175(l) and (m). The EFVS final rule published on December 13, 2016 revised these regulations and moved them to § 91.176(b). The transition period for operators to comply with the new requirements of § 91.176(b) ended on March 13, 2018. Operators who conduct EFVS operations to 100 feet above the TDZE must comply with § 91.176(b) and the requirements of § 61.66. Do you need OpSpec or LOA approval? It depends. Are you operating commercially and using EVS from touchdown to rollout? Then yes. Are you operating internationally down to 100 feet above the TDZE? Then maybe. It is complicated . . .
Top Gun Debrief — May 20, 2018
By the time I saw the film, I had met two or three graduates of the Navy's Fighter Weapons School. I was impressed by each of them for their sober demeanor, no nonsense approach to flying, and professionalism.
I learned a few things about how Top Gun pilots learn, and I think they can be of use to us flying in the more genteel world of flying passengers from Point A to Point B. The key is knowing how to debrief your "missions."
The Stuck Mike Show: Criticism — May 10, 2018
Mike is stuck in a safe space, hiding from an angry mechanic. So Eddie gets to pick a topic when filling in.
Eddie decides to talk about how to give and receive criticism, covering the "what's wrong and not who's wrong" and the "leave your ego at the door" techniques. For more of the techniques, see: Criticism.
The Great Escape — May 1, 2018
I've had a few jobs where one of my primary duties was to teach others how to fly internationally. I liked to end the training with this: "The art of international operations includes the science of knowing how to pickup the pieces when they fall."
One of the more dire ways things can fail is having to bail out of an oceanic track. How do you escape that track without hitting another airplane? Your AFM has a few suggestions and chances are your flight planning service provider computed your Equal Time Points based on those procedures and performance numbers. Guess what, it is probably using a straight line to your ETP using optimal drift down procedures. That isn't going to be pretty if you are crossing tracks. There are ways to survive this.
The Normalization of Compliance — April 20, 2018
For almost a year after the crash of Gulfstream IV N121JM on May 31, 2014, you couldn't open an aviation magazine or attend a safety symposium without hearing the term, "The Normalization of Deviance." But here we are, three years later, and it seems we as an industry have already forgotten our promises to fix what is broken.
I must admit that I have also struggled with this thought. But then I realized I am uniquely qualified to solve this problem because I am uniquely mired in it. So I have all the ingredients for being a pilot who has normalized deviance baked into me. But I'm also an engineer who knows how to take things apart and put them back together again. So I am here to announce I have a cure for the normalization of deviance, it comes in three parts, but we can’t unveil the solution until we understand the problem first.
Data Base Update by Pilots — April 10, 2018
Can pilots accomplish an aircraft data base update without a mechanic? It depends. Are you just feeding a cockpit disk reader or connecting a USB stick to a cockpit port? Then the answer is probably yes. Are you hooking up a lap top computer to the airplane? Then the answer is probably no.
I had been doing the data base update on our G450 for eight years until someone brought up the regulations that say some forms of data base updates are actually maintenance and will require a mechanic. I asked Gulfstream about this (as did a few other pilots) and they were on the side of allowing pilots do to the updates on G450s. They went to the FAA for confirmation and were told unequivocally that we pilots cannot. I offer the regulation and the FAA letter so you can make your own determination.
Paper vs. Plastic? — April 1, 2018
I think I am high tech, no doubt about it. I program in C. I write the HTML for this website in raw code. Even my motorcycle has throttle-by-wire. This carries through to the airplane where we've issued every pilot a fully loaded iPad Pro and have paid for a full suite of iPad applications. But I had a very hard time giving up my paper plotting chart. But I have, in fact, done just that. But it was the months-long process of writing this article that gave me that final push.
This comes from a series of flights where we made the move from paper to paperless, from paper to plastic. Some of our first attempts were laughable, but there isn't a lot out there on how to do this. So perhaps you can bypass our missteps and go right to something that works.
Reading Minds — March 20, 2018
When we are paired with the same cockpit crew for weeks, months, and years in succession, we learn to anticipate the “flow” of information between pilots and how to make things happen almost automatically. It is as if we have learned to read each other's mind.
While I don’t think it possible for us to read minds, I do believe we can develop skills to accurately anticipate what needs to happen in a cockpit so crew coordination between pilots becomes more effective. We can reduce cockpit error even as we reduce the need for long verbal exchanges. There are times accidents can be avoided if one pilot simply asks the other, “Did you really mean for me to . . . ?” But eliminating the need for further explanations can make things safer still. The best way to reduce confusion in a cockpit is to ensure everyone works from the same procedures. We all need to be on “the same sheet of music.”
CRM Culture — March 10, 2018
There are three things most of us don't realize about the history of Cockpit/Crew Resource Management: The "captain is always right" culture in aviation was pretty much invented by one airline, Pan American World Airways. The solution to the "captain is always right" culture came from an industry that realized that things had to change and the best demonstration of how such a change can turn things around came from that very same airline, Pan American World Airways. There is a tendency in young and old aviators to return to that problematic culture. And therein lies the reason for this article.
This can be an eye opener for someone who never flew back in the "bad old days" before Crew Resource Management. You may assume that getting along in a cockpit is such a fundamental of aviation, that everyone "gets it." Not everybody gets it. If that comes as a surprise, perhaps you could use with a history lesson.
Professionalism — March 1, 2018
We in the aviation community take it as an article of faith that those who fill the seats in an airplane cockpit for a living are, in every sense of the word, professionals. Whether you wear the epaulets of a commercial flight crew or the coat and tie of a private operator, there is no doubt in your mind that you are a professional. When a noteworthy crash or even a “near crash” reminds us that not all who fly for a living live up to these ideals, our faith is unshaken. We are professionals.
But what does the word really mean? What are the requirements for entry into this lofty club of gravity defiers? Is there a litmus test of some sort? We are, of course, entering the “touchy feely” region of aviation here. But I think the effort will be worth it because coming to grips with the meaning of professionalism can provide us a way of establishing a level of safety amongst aviation practitioners. It will also provide a way for us to detect those who fall short.
Checklist Flows — February 20, 2018
I think roughly half of all pilots are on my side on this issue: we need to use checklists as they were designed, line by line: "Challenge-Do-Verify." The other half nod politely, usually not saying anything. Every now and then somebody offers a counter point. But roughly half don't agree that checklists need to be done so formally and advocate what some call "the flow," but is more properly called the "Do-Verify" method.
So let's look at checklists with a fresh set of eyes, from the medical community. Then let's look at the early days of checklists in aviation, the official view (from the FAA), the most common objections (and counter-objections), and a real life example showing the pros and cons of using checklists using Challenge-Do-Verify.
Performance Based Communications and Surveillance (PBCS) — February 10, 2018
If you use data link, PBCS is something you need to be concerned about. It provides a way to monitor your system's performance and your ability to respond to CPDLC in a timely manner.
The ability to respond in a timely manner will determine whether or not you can fly in the world's most congested airspace. But even if you don't need to do that, your A056 authorization will need to be updated if it was issued before the PBCS changes due March 29, 2018.
Rule 21: Some thoughts are best when unspoken — January 13, 2018
"The Rules" are twenty-six ideas I've collected over the years that seemed relevant enough to life in general that I've written each down with a short story to reinforce each in particular. This is Rule Number Twenty-One.
Just because you have a thought, doesn't mean it is worth sharing. It could be wrong. But even if it is right, it may not add anything to the conversation. But even if it does, there may be a better way to get your point across. And even if it gets your point across, the cost may be too high. This was a difficult lesson. But it was worthwhile.
Crew Resource Management (Plan B) — January 1, 2018
Having started my professional pilot career in the days before Cockpit (and then Crew) Resource Management, I immediately realized that CRM was a good thing. But over the years I think we’ve watered the concept down, had a few detours, and now seem to talk a good game without really embracing the original concepts.
After having spent the first twenty years of my aviation career flying aircraft with large cockpit crews, I came away with two undeniable truths about CRM. First, when dealing with two pilots, a flight engineer, a navigator, and a radio operator, leadership is critical. Second, poor leadership is easily spotted but often difficult to remedy.
Now, after twenty years of flying aircraft with a cockpit crew of two, there are still two undeniable truths but they are different. First, a good first officer can mask the effects of a bad captain. Second, poor leadership in a cockpit crew of just two pilots is harder to spot, but it is even more difficult to remedy. But I think we know good CRM when we see it and there is a way to emulate it by looking at how good crews approach "Plan B."
The U.S. as an International Destination — December 10, 2017
If your native country isn't the United States and you will be doing some flying here, you will of course do the obvious preparation. You will study the AIP (or the AIM). You will have a look at the most relevant FAA regulations. You will look at a few websites, maybe even this one. But is there anything else you should be aware of?
The process is fairly straight forward but there are some ways to get it wrong. You have to pick the right airport, you have to get approval from the customs folks, you and your passengers will need passports and, more than likely, you will need Visas. The Visa question gets tricky. But even after all that, there is still the matter of what to be careful about when flying in the United States. It pays to have a local friend who knows "what is what." Allow me to be that local friend.
Controllability Check — December 1, 2017
What do you do if you've sustained aircraft damage from hail, or just got out of an upset and the recovery took more G-forces than you thought the aircraft could withstand, or you took a lightning strike and suspect your flight computers have gone haywire, or . . . whatever it was, you now doubt the airworthiness of your aircraft and you still have an approach and landing in your future? Now what?
There isn't a lot written on the subject, that's for sure. But if you know how to do one, it can be a life saver. Let's look at a few examples, the available guidance, and then explore a generic procedure that can give you the confidence to attempt that landing knowing how to configure your aircraft and what speeds to fly.
The Stuck Mike Show: Careless and Reckless — November 23, 2017
A brief discussion of 14 CFR 91.13: Careless and Reckless Operation of an Aircraft
Eddie reflects on a few examples of careless and reckless operation he had seen over the years, and a more recent example.
Laser Exposure — November 12, 2017
I've never noticed a laser beam aimed my way in an airplane but understand it is quite a problem. Some of my friends in the airlines say it is an over-hyped issue while others say it is only a matter of time before a pilot is injured permanently and an airplane is put into jeopardy.
We'll take a look at a few opinions about the dangers, the "official" FAA approach to mitigation, and some help on deciding if you need medical attention after a exposure to a laser beam. Finally, we'll also point you in the right direction on how to report such an incident in the United States.
Criticism — November 1, 2017
They say you need thick skin to be a professional pilot and I think that is probably true. But no matter your derma's thickness, there is an art to dishing out criticism so that it has a positive impact.
There is a continuum of pilot types that ranges from laid-back to hyper-wound-up and everything in between. No matter the pilot type, most of these profess to not care about outside criticism because they've compartmentalized feelings outside of the space reserved for all things aviation. We are cool, dispassionate, and have ice water running in our veins. All that is great. But it isn't true. Pilots are ego driven and that means we do actually care about what is said about us.
G450 Flap Schedule — October 23, 2017
In all manner of Gulfstreams you've grown up flying clean down to 200 knots, flaps 10° down to 180 knots, and flaps 20° down to 160 knots. (Perhaps even a little slower in the GV or G550.)
You never give it a second thought, except perhaps when you are particularly heavy or landing at a high pressure altitude airport. Nobody questions this, but is it right?
Stuck Mike: Memorize This! — October 15, 2017
Mike is stuck out again this week, so he asks Eddie to guest host. Eddie decides it would be a good time to talk about immediate action items and how to memorize them.
If you would like more detail on this subject, take a look at the previous posting . . .
Immediate Action! — October 1, 2017
How often in your cockpit are you required to do something so quickly that you have no time to read your checklist, no time to consult the crew, or no time to think?
Growing up in the Air Force I had immediate actions that I not only had to memorize, but memorize word-for-word. In most civilian aircraft the memorization simply means getting the steps in the right order without forgetting anything. But in some aircraft there are no memorization items at all. Should you memorize those things that have to be done without reference to a checklist?
Note-Taking — September 20, 2017
Most of us learn to take notes in high school or earlier, and we tend to settle on a method that works best for us. What works for History 101 may or may not help you with Powerplant 101 or how to cope with flight procedures.
So I have for you a story about how I started, how I learned the value of writing when learning, the value of keeping notes you can edit, the value of sharing those notes, and finally a few examples of how it can be done to the next level. Even if you never share a note or instruct another person, the act of taking notes will make you a better professional.
The C-17 and Hurricane Irma — September 15, 2017
The United States Air Force is usually the first long distance responder to any crisis, anywhere in the world. Every now and then that crisis is at home.
I am a big fan of Adrian Vargo and the photos he takes all over the world. Even more impressive, he does this while flying and maintaining the C-17 airlifter. Here are his shots and words during the 2017 relief efforts for Hurricane Irma.
Expired Navigation Database Update — September 10, 2017
Can you fly with an expired navigation database? Sure. But can you do so legally?
The answer depends on where you fly. And even if you are permitted to do so, there are a few steps you need to take to ensure the database is okay. If it isn't, you are pretty much grounded just about everywhere.
Weight and Balance Curtailment — September 1, 2017
Do you use "standard weights" when figuring your aircraft's weight and balance? If so, and if you are operating under 14 CFR 135, you will need OpSpec A097 and must have a method of making standard weights work for you. Even if you are operating under 14 CFR 91, you should still understand how to make standard weights work.
I've attacked this problem several times over the years and the reaction has almost always been: too much math! You only have to do the math once and from that point on, all you need to do is use your narrower (curtailed) center of gravity limits. It is easy and safer.
Eddie's on vacation — August 8, 2017
Eddie is on vacation from August 1st to September 2nd, but he will be posting photos and sarcasm throughout.
By the date I've posted this we will have made it to Vancouver, Canada, and onto a cruise ship to Alaska. But there's more to come.
A New Standards Captain — August 1, 2017
Anybody can be a standards captain and quite often the worst pilot in an organization ends up with the check airman moniker because he or she outlasted the competition. Even a very good pilot can be a lousy standards captain if saddled with an unchecked ego or poor interpersonal skills. So let's just say such a pilot won't be reading this and move on.
You are a great pilot and you get along with your peers — that's half the battle. If you had a good reputation as a captain, you can solidify that as a standards captain. More importantly, you can capitalize on that.
Pilot Error: A How to Guide — July 21, 2017
Aviation safety professionals will tell you that pilot error is one of the most controllable factors leading to aircraft accidents. If you eliminate pilot errors, you can eliminate most aircraft accidents. I think they have that all wrong. Pilot error is inevitable. The problem is that we as pilots don't know how to deal with the very concept of pilot error. We are doing it all wrong.
Contrary to public opinion, pilot error is not the root cause of all (or even most) aviation accidents. While it is tempting to say all pilot error is evil and we must strive for perfection, that mindset may cause you to deny even the smallest errors and keep from analyzing those that can be prevented with a little research. I think freely admitting those errors and using them as "teachable moments" will allow us to improve on those while allowing us to put a greater focus on errors that really are more critical.
G450 Electrical System — July 15, 2017
Those of us who grew up in Gulfstreams before the GV thought of the electrical system as something mysterious that would bite you when things go wrong. We took that philosophy with us the to the GV. We shouldn't have bothered.
Starting with the GV the electrical system is not only easy to use but it is virtually problem free. You would think that kind of user simplicity would mean extreme system complexity but it isn't so. I used to teach the complete schematic, the one that says normal power flows down, abnormal power flows up, and emergency power flows from the center out. While that is true, it is hardly necessary. So let's take another stab of explaining this system, simply.
When Pilots Become Passengers — July 9, 2017
Have you ever been a mere passenger seated in row one of an airplane? (That's the seat with the best view and all those pretty screens and/or dials.)
We sometimes forget the most basic tasks every pilot must complete. At other times, we cede control of our aircraft to others who may not even be pilots. And, in a paradox of our Crew Resource Management training, we sometimes give up control of the aircraft to a crew who isn’t aware, leaving the airplane in no one’s control. How do professionally competent pilots find themselves in these out of control situations?
Cockpit Reference Guide — July 1, 2017
Chances are you already have some kind of cockpit guide with things you need to quickly reference on a recurring basis. Us too.
Here is our solution, complete with a Microsoft Word template in case you would like to take add some of the things we're using or just take the whole thing and adapt it to your operation. If you see something missing that we could add, just hit the "Contact Eddie" button.
Blue Spruce Routes — June 22, 2017
Flying the Blue Spruce Routes in the North Atlantic is a contingency maneuver for me, something I've never done. But for many airplanes it is the normal procedure. So how does one prepare for these routes?
For me, it would be a last minute and frantic decision. So I would study the Jeppesen North Atlantic Orientation chart and learn quickly. If you are flying an airplane that has to fly use the Blue Spruce Routes to cross the pond, then a little more orderly approach is called for. Jason Herman provides us with his notes.
SLOP Mandatory? — June 19, 2017
The world has gone to SLOP. You can (and should) employ SLOP in almost every oceanic area. There is a debate about using SLOP over land, but the legal and official answer is you cannot with only very rare exceptions. But there is news:
SLOP is now mandatory in the North Atlantic. There are a few other updates around the world. The Flight Service Bureau also offers some SLOP guidance given in light of a recent A380 wake turbulence encounter.
The Wrong Airport — June 10, 2017
Though I've never landed at the wrong airport, I know a few pilots who have or who have come pretty close. But these were in the days before GPS.
The truth is that it is easy to make this mistake when you are flying a very fast airplane with very small windows and are being pressured to do things very quickly. Looking at a few examples, however, can show you how easy it is to get this wrong. Moreover, thinking about it ahead of time can give you the techniques needed to avoid the same mistakes.
The G450: Not Your Father's Gulfstream — June 1, 2017
Many of us longtime Gulfstream drivers are fond of saying, "She's built like a tank!" Or, "the Gulfstream flies conventionally." In fact, I am guilty of saying these things on many of these pages. And that is, for the most part, true. But the G450 is an exception.
If you've grown up in anything older than the GV, thinking this aircraft flies like any other can bite you. Even if this is your first Gulfstream, you need to understand that the G450 is unique and has many unsavory traits that require you to rethink what you know about airplanes.
The Teterboro Circling Conundrum — May 23, 2017
What is a circling approach? Does it require keeping the airplane precisely on the Minimum Descent Altitude within the published visibility distance or TERPS circling radii? If you think that is true, you are setting yourself up for unnecessary challenges at Teterboro.
When approach control or tower tell you to circle to another runway they are not telling you to fly a circling approach procedure the same way the check airman is: you don't have to keep the airplane within circling radii or at the minimum descent altitude. Just remember your goal is to roll out on final no lower than 500' above the landing surface's elevation and that will take a mile and a half final to do that.
The NOTAM King — May 18, 2017
Eddie confronts the NOTAM system head on and is given a rare glimpse of the NOTAM King.
Discover with Eddie just how dangerously inept our NOTAM system is and the key to survival.
The NOTAM System is Messed Up! — May 10, 2017
If you've been flying for more than a few years you already know this: the NOTAM system is broken and has been almost since the beginning. The case of Malaysia Airlines MH17 should have erased all doubt about this.
So what can we do about this? Well, first we need to understand the secret purpose of all NOTAMs. Then we need to find an ally when it comes to figuring out where it is too dangerous to fly. And, finally, we need a strategy for discerning which NOTAMS are important and which are simply garbage.
Now Hiring — May 1, 2017
You may have heard there is a pilot shortage right now. Well, that isn't true. There are lots of pilots out there. What we have a shortage of is highly qualified pilots. Believe me, I've been looking!
So let's tackle the obvious questions (qualifications, resumes, and so forth). But let's dive deeper into those questions and others. What constitutes a "red flag" on a resume? How can you really discover what an applicant is really like during a series of interviews? How do you do a background check? If you are in the business of hiring pilots, perhaps we can trade a few secrets. If you are in the business of being hired, perhaps you can learn a few.
The Great Circle ETP Myth — April 24, 2017
I've been told by many international operations instructors that you should never insert an ETP into an FMS because it will change the course line between waypoints. At first, I just assumed they knew what they were talking about. But as it turns out, they didn't.
So let's try to kill this myth right now. You should not enter the ETP into your FMS flight plan, that's true. But not because it changes the course -- it doesn't. But you shouldn't enter the ETP because it will generate a CPDLC event contract, and you don't want that. What if you don't have CPDLC? You should still leave the ETP out because it does change your distances between waypoints and complicates your crosschecking.
Pointing and Calling — April 15, 2017
We in the aviation world are quick to beg, borrow, and steal procedural innovations in the name of safety. When one operator innovates, other airlines and flight departments are quick to follow suit. Pilots are eager to share techniques, knowing one aviator’s idea can save lives worldwide. We are, to say the least, selfless in the pursuit of safer skies.
But are we casting our nets wide enough to capture every good idea out there? The next time you board a train in Japan, you might notice a technique well suited for your cockpit. Known by various names, including “Shisa Kanko,” the Japan Railway standard procedure can be translated to mean: Pointing and Calling.
Minimum Equipment Lists (MELs) — April 1, 2017
Can you fly without an MEL? What about an MMEL? Is an MMEL good enough? The answer to all those questions is: it depends.
How about this: under Part 91 do you have to comply with the repair time intervals? As much as you are going to hate to hear this, the answer is yes. I seem to get into this argument whenever I move to a new operation where the maintainers are highly steeped in the ways of general aviation. Things are not always as they seem.
Good Pilots Gone Bad — March 13, 2017
I spoke to the Air Charter Safety Foundation in early March, 2017, about the pilots on N121JM, the Gulfstream IV that crashed in 2014 at Bedford, Massachusetts.
They asked me to hypothesize about the human factors involved that would lead two professional pilots to act with (as the NTSB put it) Habitual, Intentional Noncompliance. My theory is that they were once good pilots, but they had gone bad. This is a video of the speech. I also wrote an article about this for Business & Commercial Aviation magazine in an article called, "Fixing Problem Pilots."
The Big Sky Theory — March 1, 2017
The "Big Sky Theory" postulates that the sky is so big and airplanes are so small, that we should have to worry about a midair collision. Of course nobody admits to using this theory in actual practice, but many pilots conduct themselves as if they did.
With a better understanding of how our eyes actually work, we can make better use of them for the first half of the "see and avoid" directive placed on all pilots, even those operating under Instrument Flight Rules. We should also understand the help available as well as the limitations of air traffic control, ground based radar, ACAS/TCAS, and ADS-B In. The best way to avoid a midair collision remains to employ better situational awareness and to fly predictable so as to increase situational awareness for all those that share they sky with you.
V1 Reaction Time — February 1, 2017
How much time do you have to react at V1? None. The reaction should have already happened!
There is a reaction time built into V1, but it happens prior to that speed. Knowing this should effect when you make the V1 call. Your reaction time begins at VEF (critical engine failure speed) which must occur before V1 by at least the time allowed for reaction. And how much time is that? It depends.
Leadership in the Real World — January 25, 2017
We concluded a four part series on leadership with a look at a civilian flight department.
I've had several times at bat as a civilian chief pilot, flight department manager, or whatever you want to call the position. But I will look at another pilot's attempt at it because, (a) he was very good, and (b) I want to introduce quite a few elements to distance this flight department from ones that I was a part of. The point of this lesson is to give some pointers in story form while protecting the identities of the people involved. That's why we are looking at the Acme Paper clip Company's flight department.
Leadership Secrets — January 17, 2017
In the late nineties a great book on leadership made its rounds around the U.S. Army, "Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun," by Wes Roberts.
Not many in the Air Force would admit to reading it; the conventional wisdom was Attila was a ground pounder from days of yore. I thought it was the best book on leadership I had ever read. Apparently its lessons were lost on some of us blue suiters. But even there, we find lessons.
Leadership Styles — January 9, 2017
What style of leadership is best? Does a particular style of leadership always work?
As I took command of a flying squadron I was to apply the lessons learned over the years, thinking I would have the right solution my first time at bat. I certainly didn't make the same mistakes as my predecessors. But it took me a few years to realize that I did make a mistake.
Leadership 101 — January 1, 2017
How does a young pilot approach crew leadership for the first time? We had our share of leadership courses in the Air Force, but none of them really taught the "how" we need to run a crew or a flight department.
For that you need experience. Lacking that? Find a good mentor. Fortunately I had the best. The Nick is four years older than me. He is wise beyond his years and his lessons are as applicable today as when this story was written, way back in 1984.
A Question of Balance — December 15, 2016
How do you balance your hectic life as a professional pilot with all the demands placed on you by your non-pilot life?
Eddie gets that exact question for a reader and provides his answer which begins and ends at the same point. It may not be the right answer for you, but perhaps it will provoke some thought along your way to discovering your own answer.
Aviation Gurus — December 1, 2016
The long awaited for pilot shortage is here. That's good news, right?
The problem is that the most experienced professionals are "out there" flying, too busy to mentor the next generation. We need more mentors, but we need more mentors of the highest caliber. Here are a few aviation gurus trying to mentor the next generation of gurus.
SAFA Checks: Alternate Fuel — November 1, 2016
One of the hot items during these ramp checks in late 2016 has been an inadequate documentation of fuel reserves on aircraft flight plans for arrival or departure.
You need to have the minimum required reserve fuel listed as just that, reserve fuel. If you don't need an alternate, do you have the required holding fuel? If you do need an alternate, is the computed fuel realistic?
Safety > Comfort > Reliability — October 1, 2016
As pilots for the 89th Airlift Wing at Andrews Air Force Base (now Joint Base Andrews), we had hammered into our heads the idea of “Safety, Comfort, Reliability.”
“Safety > Comfort > Reliability.” The preceding elements are more important than the subsequent. But theory is often overwhelmed by reality. I cover the various interpretations of this motto in Flight Lessons 3: Experience, the third book of that series. The danger for crews at the 89th and for us in commercial aviation, is that we can be corrupted into thinking of the motto as "Reliability, Reliability, Reliability."
Declaring an Emergency, Effectively — September 1, 2016
There is a general reluctance to declare an emergency by pilots who believe it is either "less than manly" or will lead to a mountain of paperwork and unforeseen costs.
If you think the safety of your airplane is in danger unless you are guaranteed everything you need from the rest of the world, you need to declare an emergency. And do so using that word: "I am declaring an emergency." Air traffic control should understand. If they don't, try this: "If you do not approve this, people will die." Yes, you need to be blunt.
Maintenance Malpractice — August 1, 2016
I got an angry letter to the editor for the Business & Commercial Aviation magazine version of this article. A mechanic thought I was being unfair . . .
A doctor who jeopardizes a patient's life through unskilled, improper, or negligent treatment is guilty of medical malpractice. Any person in the maintenance profession — from the lowest mechanic to the highest VP — can be guilty of maintenance malpractice through unskilled, improper, or negligent treatment of an airplane. Malpractice. Is that too strong a word? No.
Pre-Accident Investigator — July 1, 2016
We all know the vital role accident investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies play AFTER an accident has happened. Their primary role is to learn from the past so that we may avoid future accidents. All that is great.
But what role do we line pilots have in all this? I contend that we would be the perfect PRE-Accident Investigators. We should be able to learn from everything at our disposal so that we can investigate the causes of accidents BEFORE they happen to prevent them in the first place. I think a perfect case in point is the case of what I call the "Ambiguous Gulfstream Auto-Throttles." If you aren't a Gulfstream pilot, I am betting you could find a similar system on your airplane that could use some good PRE-accident investigation. I gave a speech on this topic to the Teterboro Users Group, in June, 2016.
Weight and Balance (A Sensual Approach) — June 1, 2016
Weight and balance tends to be a math intensive subject and you should understand the principles. Because some airplanes are more sensitive than others and even those that are center-of-gravity-sensitive tend to be okay most of the time, we tend to let our guards down on this subject.
Even if you aren't a math wizard, having a "feel" for weight and balance can come in handy. If you can visualize where on your airplane the center of gravity resides, the forward and aft limits of your center of gravity, and how the seats and fuel tanks all relate to those points, you will have the skills you need to approach your weight and balance sensually. Sensually? Yes: weight and balance by feel.
Gray Areas — May 1, 2016
When we have incomplete knowledge about an upcoming decision we tend to say it is an issue mired in a gray area and therefore open to our personal judgment.
That kind of latitude leads to rule bending and more times than not, the wrong answer. A better way to respond to a question from the gray area is with the answer: it depends. Of course there are many so-called gray areas that need clarifying. But if you have the methodology down you can tackle them all. We'll look at a few here.
Functional Check Flights — April 1, 2016
The glamour days of the test pilot are long gone. It makes absolutely no sense to strap on an airplane that has never flown before, go up there an "punch a hole in that thar envelope."
You could very well be called upon to do a functional check flight in your business jet and those that came before you will say it is no big deal. You may start to believe that, because the pilot who had the task before you was nothing special. How hard can it be? I recommend you read this: "I've never been so scared." And then you should get serious about the task at hand.
Departure Obstacle Analysis — March 1, 2016
If I asked five pilots how to best deal with departure obstacles, I would get five different answers.
No wonder, this stuff is complicated! You can be a math wizard or math-phobic, but either way you should understand what will happen if you lose an engine anywhere from V1 through the moment you have cleared the last obstacle. And here is the bad news: some of that software that promises to keep you safe is lying to you.
Case Study: Bedford — December 1, 2015
We are told that on May 31, 2014, the professional pilot world got a wake up call when two pilots crashed their Gulfstream IV and killed all on board. The NTSB rightfully calls their performance an act of "intentional, habitual noncompliance" but this is being charitable.
We analyze the accident itself and debunk the thought that the "cause" was the design of the gust lock. It was not. The cause was the design of the two pilots up front. Then we'll look at checklist philosophy; it is more clear cut than you might think. Finally, we'll look at pilot complacency and a way to cure that.
Slow Onset Hypoxia — August 1, 2015
We in the high altitude jet set train extensively for the chance we may one day suddenly lose cabin pressurization and need to immediately don oxygen and execute an emergency descent. But how often does that really happen? Almost never.
But we are trained for this. When it happens, it will be obvious and we will know what to do. A rapid depressurization has never resulted in the loss on an airplane, at least not that we know of. The real dangers lurks when the loss of pressurization happens gradually. Slow onset hypoxia has killed and you are at risk.