Archive for May, 2009

Head-to-head on Base

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

This note came from a reader who flies a Piper Arrow

“Last night I was approaching XXX from the east, sequenced behind a PC-12 approaching from the south, both operating under IFR clearances. He canceled airborne; I heard him call “an extended left base for 34″. This seemed a bit odd, since 34 is published as right traffic. I waited until I saw him on short final, apparently in good position to land, before cancelling IFR and announcing my intention to enter a right base for 34.

The next thing I knew, he was calling his crosswind turn, again in left traffic, for 34. I asked at that point if 34 wasn’t right traffic, but got no answer.

So — what was I supposed to do now? Flying a right base toward converging traffic obviously wasn’t going to work. Circling until he got down again wouldn’t help if he was doing pattern work, perhaps for night currency. I asked if he was “closed traffic,” and he affirmed. Flying left traffic on what I knew to be a published right pattern didn’t appeal to me much, either.

I’d be interested to hear what your readers would have done.”

So, Readers:

1. Advise the PC12 Pilot in stronger terms (politely)

2. Go someplace else to practice

3. Take his tail number and report him to the FAA

4. Set Phasers to ‘Stun’ and blast him

Hate to put more verbiage on ASOS or AWOS on traffic patterns but that might be one solution.

I think this helps to make our case that right traffic patterns should be identified on IAP charts. There are some government types who are not yet persuaded but we’re working on that.

NTSB Confirms Buzz Job

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

The preliminary report on a Baron A55 that crashed after making three low passes over a work party in Minden, Nevada on May 9th confirmed it was a buzz. On the last pass the aircraft was observed at 100-300 feet agl when the pilot pulled abruptly into a steep nose up attitude and rolled left. You know what happened next.

What makes this so much worse is that four passengers were killed while the PIC attempted to display his prowess. This is remarkably similar to another Baron accident that happened a few years back where the pilot attempted some aerobatics with a plane full and with the same deadly results.

This quote from that article is a short survey that pilots should offer their passengers before engaging in such aerial stupidity.

“Try this on your passengers the next time you take to the sky: “OK, gang, I’m about to try a maneuver that I haven’t practiced and have had no training in. The aircraft is prohibited from this type of maneuver, and it’s never been tested by the manufacturer.” (Depending on the type of maneuver, you can add, “We’re going to fly really close to the ground and well below legal limits.”) Then say, “There’s also a good chance that we could all die if I mess this up, but if I pull it off it will be way cool! So, are you in?” Wanna bet what the reaction would be?”

The audience that reads this blog, takes online courses, and goes to seminars isn’t the problem so do us all a favor – please forward these links to all the young (most of them don’t make it to middle age) impressionable aces of the base. The smart ones will start to get it and the others will, as the attached Pilot Safety Announcement says, ” Keep General Aviation firmly in the public eye.”

Real Aviation Heroes

School Daze

If anyone has any PRACTICAL suggestions on how to constructively address this – we’d sure like to hear it.

Time in Type & Travel? Buffalo Q-400

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

The NTSB held its public hearing this week on Continental flight 3407 that crashed in Buffalo this winter. There has been much speculation about icing, tail stalls, autopilot weirdness, crew coordination, crew qualification, training – pretty much everything has been open for discussion.

The revelations this week noted that the captain had consistently failed flight checks, that the company (Colgan Air) failed to provide adequate training since the captain had not been trained in stall recovery using the stick pusher that is part of the Dash 8’s stall safety system. The pusher apparently activated as the crew allowed airspeed to decay. Colgan responded that the crew had been properly trained. There was speculation that the crew may have been fatigued at the end of a long day. The first officer (FO) had flown in from Seattle the day before after a skiing vacation and had said she wasn’t feeling well.

The FO also was heard on the cockpit voice recorder voicing concern about icing. The captain responded that it wasn’t a problem and he had experience with ice – but it wasn’t in the Q-400.

I’ll offer two observations: A significant portion of this may come down to experience in type. The captain had just over 100 hours in the Q-400. This is something that the Air Safety Foundation sees constantly regardless of the size of aircraft. There is a noticeable drop off in accident involvement after the first 200 hours in make and model. This happens for two reasons – In GA, not that many pilots accumulate high time in any one model so the exposure may be less and the pilot has started to learn how he/she and the machine interact.

There is more mental margin when one knows the aircraft well. You know its limits and strengths and generally have learned to compensate accordingly. That leaves more time for managing other distractions, such as icing. As an aside, being on guard to adverse developments and mentally running contingency plans is the mark of a pro. Amateurs dismiss such things as unimportant or an over-reaction.

Secondly, it seems logical that the first officer might be fatigued since she had acclimated to a different time zone. In the hearing it was brought out that she lived on the west coast and routinely commuted cross country. The captain was reported to have lived in Florida but both crew members flew out of Newark, NJ.

Two thoughts that will likely generate contrarian views and they are cheerfully accepted:

1. Airlines should leave pilots in make and model routinely so that when an FO upgrades to captain he/she already knows the aircraft well – it’s just a seat and mindset change. Some carriers do this and pay is based strictly on seniority, not the size of the hardware. It’s smart from a human factors and cost perspective. There should be some flexibility to allow equipment change but it really shouldn’t be the norm.

2. The time and distance allowed for commuting pilots should be limited. Long duty days become much longer when it’s a 3 -10 hour commute home and you’re subject to all the “variability” of airline schedules. This is one of the sacred cows of airline jobs that gets into pay/lifestyle issues but it collides directly with fatigue and readiness for flight.

These same factors apply to GA flight ops. We need to know the equipment and be ready to fly. Your thoughts?