Archive for October, 2012

50 Ways to leave your Lover

Wednesday, October 10th, 2012

But there are only six, two, or one out of this aircraft—depending on whether you are on a Southwest Airlines 737, a Cessna 182, or a Piper Cherokee. Everyone knows to brief passengers on a GA flight. It’s required by FAR 91.519 and requires, among other things, explanation regarding smoking, belts and shoulder harnesses, aforementioned doors and exits, survival gear, ditching procedures (if applicable), and oxygen equipment.

Many of us give this perfunctory attention, but maybe there’s good reason not to be so hasty. The fatal accident involving Senator Ted Stevens in Alaska likely resulted in additional loss of life because of several factors. The epirb beacon was apparently not well mounted, came loose, and became inoperable. Antennae are also sometimes broken in crashes leaving the equipment mute. Personal locator beacons (PLBs) or similar tracking devices are actually very good backups. The real kicker was that there was a fully functional satellite phone aboard that would have brought help much sooner had the passengers known where to look and how to operate it.

After the Stevens accident, the NTSB specifically asked the Air Safety Institute if we would raise awareness of after-crash actions and before departure briefings. With support from Jacie Ann Crowell, a major donor and a member of The Ninety Nines, that presentation and associated briefing card are now ready. This is essential viewing, and like the airline safety briefings that we’ve all ignored, don’t!

As an additional reminder, as we come into the cold weather, throw a good overcoat, some boots, and a hat into the aircraft, and perhaps a space blanket. It would be a pity to make the best forced landing of your life and not be able to tell the story because you succumbed to hypothermia!

A final thought—flying VFR, don’t forget the flight plan. It’s not something everyone does, and with good preparation and a little luck, you’ll never need it—sort of like life insurance!


Air Force One Misses an Approach

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

Remember when the New York Times’ slogan was, “All the news that’s fit to print?”

Today’s media has changed that to, “All the news that fits, we print…or something.”

CNN and a number of other outlets breathlessly announced last week, “Air Force One, flying President Barack Obama to a campaign event, aborted an initial landing attempt in Ohio on Wednesday due to weather conditions. The jumbo jet experienced turbulence on approach to Toledo and was within sight of the runway when the pilot pulled the plane up and circled the airport, according to reporters on board….”

At this point the weather did not appear to be particularly bad, but there are few details.

After the very routine missed approach (or at least routine to any pilot with more than a few IFR hours), the world’s largest GA aircraft landed safely (well, OK—it’s technically paid for by the taxpayers but functions exactly as any GA aircraft: one gets to go direct, with passengers of your choosing, and largely without TSA interference), the campaign stop was saved, and the world is better informed. So as not to be partisan, it was also reported that Ann Romney’s charter flight suffered an electrical problem, and her aircraft had to stop in Denver. There are worse places, and I’ve personally had an unplanned maintenance stop in several of them.

Wonder what the reaction would be if a similar amount of attention were paid to automotive miscues:

“The Mom-van with three kids aboard missed the exit to Flabob Avenue but ultimately arrived safely. The children were slightly late for soccer and tee-ball, but the teams ultimately prevailed, despite substitute referees.”

“George K. Slackjaw narrowly escaped doom while changing a flat tire on East Street undeterred by heavy traffic and the occasional distraction from muggers. With deft wielding of a tire iron, George was able to continue safely to his destination.”

Ad nauseum.

By now you’ve figured out that bad news sells, and success in informing the community is, at least for some outlets, secondary to business success. Then there’s the sheer volume of dead air or electrons that have to be filled which leads to all sorts of mischief and filler.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so surprised that people and media still find aviation remarkable, except the airline experience, which is somewhat less so. Less than one-third of one percent of the eligible population is certificated to fly, and you know how folks react when we casually let it drop that we fly ourselves.

I’ve already had some fun with neighbors explaining that missed approaches and occasional mechanical malfunctions are not usually life threatening and are about on par with missing an exit or changing a tire. Now, where did I put that tire iron?