Archive for December, 2008


Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Confession is good for the soul and it’s good for aviation safety. Volunteering to the community that you screwed up gets the problem out where all can look at it and work on future prevention. Several airlines have recently canceled their voluntary safety reporting programs, known as ASAP. On the face of it, it appears that management –union relations have gotten so toxic that they just can’t accept the greater good that comes from letting someone off the hook in exchange for getting safety data that might well prevent a major mishap.

As in all these situations, there is truth on both sides with bad actors and vindictive players. It’s time for some leadership to get beyond self interest and focus on the greater good. GA has our own version of this, NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System (ASRS), which allows anyone to point out a safety defect that they observed or may have caused. If there was a violation and the FAA found out about it, they could pursue it but they could not inflict punishment, such as suspension. There is no continuing get-out-of-jail free card here. You can only use the “waiver-of-sanction” deal once every 5 years.

Every pilot should be familiar with this program– I’ve used it a number of times myself. ASF receives regular reports from ASRS on problem areas and we often take action to see that a particular problem is taken seriously by those in a position to do something about it.

Fortunately, ASRS is very much alive and well, even as various ASAP programs fall victim to internal politics. Bottom line: the management, unions and FAA need to get ASAP working again – ASAP!

Epilogue to Verify, Verify, Verify : You’ll recall we had a really close call in Allentown, PA where a RJ nearly ran down a Cessna that had not cleared the runway. I got a nice note from reader, James Marshall, who felt that I was a bit tough on the RJ crew for “Apparently not visually scanning the runway prior to takeoff.”

He had some additional information. “They in fact did, but were unable to clearly distinguish many of the runway features due to the presence of emergency vehicles at the far end of the runway working an accident and the associated scene lighting which significantly reduced their ability to see to the middle of the runway.” It’s a good reminder that there are often confounding circumstances, another link in the accident chain, that provide additional incentives to verify when anything is out of the ordinary. It also points out the hazards of the before-the-fact analysis that I sometimes do and it’s appreciated when someone has factual information to clarify misconceptions.


Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Triangles mark end of touchdown zone at ANP.

In the December issue of AOPA Pilot I wrote about Southwest Airlines B737 sliding off the end of Runway 31C at Chicago’s Midway airport. It was a one in a million sequence of events and pointed up significant holes in the system despite a phenomenal safety record. In GA, though, we have aircraft crashing with some regularity off short runways.

John Cutcher, who’s a pilot examiner at the Baltimore FSDO and based at Lee airport (ANP) in Annapolis, MD came up with a clever idea that would mark the end of the first third of the runway. You’ll recall what your first CFI told you about always landing in the first third. The runway here is 2,500 long but only 2,170 feet are available for landing. With obstacles and a 4 degree approach path one needs to be on speed and altitude. And Annapolis has had more than it’s share of accidents – usually with transients.

A different marking scheme at Potomac MD, (VKX).

So, we’re told to land in the first third but it’s not marked in any way. John persuaded the management at ANP to paint a triangle at the appropriate point. See the picture. Not on the ground and braking by the time the triangle marks pass? Go around.

John’s proposal is to make this a standard marking on all runways less than 3,000 feet. I like the idea. What do you think?