The Reasons Behind Male and Female Pilot Error

Despite the different reasons for male and female pilot error, cockpit resource management can make single-pilot flying almost as safe as in a two-pilot environment.

Vern Weiss

In the 1970s there was a rash of airline accidents. This was particularly startling because the accidents did not involve inexperienced flight crews but, instead, professional and highly trained flight crews! It was revealed in subsequent accident investigations that the accidents were preventable and largely due to human errors and frailties as well as crew members not utilizing all the resources available to them, including each other.

What I am about to tell you may find disfavor with some and if this is so, it is not my intention to cause controversy, but instead discuss these findings and how they relate to safer flying. In 2001, Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health released a report of the findings from research done on behalf of the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating:

Male pilots crash due to inattention. Female pilots crash due to aircraft mishandling.1

Johns Hopkins professor Susan Baker pointed out that air crashes by males are most often due to flawed decision-making and inattention. Flying aircraft with known mechanical problems, running out of fuel and landing gear up, the study reported, are typically male problems. Whereas women tend to be more cautious, follow the rules but exhibit more errors such as incorrect rudder use, poor control response and recovery from stalls.

Citabria aircraft suffering from landing gear accident possibly caused by pilot error

Photo by: Jeremy Zawodny

So regardless of who you are there’s work to be done by everyone. Each of us may have weaknesses and though the weaknesses are in different areas we should put our emphasis on mitigating them so we can limit or avoid pilot error.

Crew Resource Management was originally centered around airline operations with 2 or 3 pilot crews (flight engineers on aircraft such as the Boeing 727 and McDonnell Douglas DC-10 were considered the third pilot). However, when cockpits become downsized to a flight staff of only one pilot, things change dramatically. 71-80% of all general aviation accidents are due to pilot error and a single pilot operation statistically is 1.6 times as probable of having an accident.2

Isn’t CRM What We Were Supposed To Be Doing All Along?

When I first heard about the concept of CRM, I didn’t quite understand it because I thought that its methodologies were what pilots did naturally. But apparently they weren’t. I thought the elements of single pilot CRM were pretty much covered by FAR 91.103 (Preflight action – “Pilots are required to familiarize themselves with all available information concerning the flight prior to every flight”) and 91.7 (Aircraft airworthiness – “The pilot in command is responsible for determining that the airplane is airworthy prior to every flight.”). However, NTSB accident reports indicate otherwise. Have pilots just become too lazy to do due-diligence properly when guiding a lethal craft at high rates of speed on invisible roadways without shoulders on which to pull off when things get hectic? Or does the seriousness of what we’re doing when flying get lost in distractions and minutia?

The choices and solutions to the challenges, decisions and tasks of flying seldom are limited to a single one. Single pilot CRM begins with recognizing your own limitations and acknowledging your own experience level, personal minimums and physical and mental health. Are you really cranked-up after a big fight with your boss? Don’t go flying. Think you’re coming down with the flu? Don’t go flying.

Cessna aircraft with glass cockpit

Photo by Dmitry Sumin

Limitations are not absolute. Some days your personal limitations may be different than others. Let’s say you’ve been renting a Cessna 182 a lot but today you arrived at the airport and the only 182 available is one with advanced avionics with which you’re not familiar. Good single pilot CRM might dictate that you should not attempt flying that airplane in deteriorating weather even though you’d be quite comfortable in one of the other airplanes with more familiar avionics. Some of the sloppiest flying I have observed by otherwise skilled pilots was when they were flying sick (and also when they are sick of flying). So single pilot CRM begins with you. Once you determine that you are fit for flight you can begin a running assessment of all the resources available inside and outside of the aircraft before and during the flight.

The FAA developed a simple memory gouge to help single pilots evaluate every component of the pilot’s job. They call it the “5 P Approach” and this mnemonic represents (in order) PLAN, PLANE, PILOT, PASSENGERS and PROGRAMMING.

For each “P” you collect all pertinent information available, analyze it and then make decisions. Most importantly, always be willing to change your plan should conditions indicate the need for a change. Head-strong pilots have got themselves into trouble by making a plan and sticking to it even when alternatives would have been more prudent.

Start by getting a good weather briefing and study your route, carefully working out the fuel requirements based on both. This includes potential deviations you see which might need to be made for weather. Use all the resources that may help. Pilots who have just landed are excellent resources to fill you in on weather conditions. If the FBO has a flight planning room, print out all the weather information you think might be useful so you can take it with you. What good does a METAR report do when it’s an hour or two old? I’ll tell you. You can spot trends in weather and determine if it is deteriorating, improving or staying the same.

Next analyze your plane. Assess its airframe, engine, systems and avionics. If you’re knowledge is a little weak about one of the systems like its avionics, bone up before the flight. Pilots who must use an instruction manual during flight are adding to their workload. It’s helpful to stop by for a brief visit with the mechanic who may have worked on the aircraft you’re flying to ask about recent squawks or maintenance that’s been done. Even if something was recently repaired it might justify extra vigilance as you fly.

The planning portion for a cross-country flight is as important as the planning portion to determine aircraft performance and limitations. If you’re going to have a big fat guy sitting in the back seat, taxiing out to the runway is not the time to be wondering what elevator setting you should set or worse…when rocketing down the runway and wondering why the airplane rotated so soon and controls feel so spongy. Go back to basics and do a careful weight and balance computation. FAR Part 121 and 135 commercial operators do it for every leg they fly.

You may have heard it said that flying is hours of boredom accentuated by moments of “sheer terror,” but it need not be so. If a pilot is paying attention…monitoring…cross-checking…watching the systems, you lessen the chances of pilot error and other surprises befalling your flight. There are usually warnings when things are about to go wrong. The dimming of lights, roughness of the engine, oil pressure fluctuations, they all portend possible problems in the making. Remember, as a single pilot, you are also in the flight engineer’s seat, and can often get a heads-up on potential system problems just by watching, listening, smelling, feeling and comparing.

The third of the “5-Ps” is “pilot.” Are you physically, mentally and emotionally fit to fly? Before you even think about flying you should take a personal inventory. This inventory includes illness. Are you sick or showing symptoms of illness? Are you taking any prescription or over-the-counter drugs? Are there aspects of your life causing stress (job, financial, marital, etc)? How ’bout alcohol? You been tippin’ any? Remember the regs say 8 hours “bottle to throttle” but only then if your blood-alcohol content is less than 0.04%. Are you fatigued? When you’re tired your reflexes, coordination and thinking are dulled. Are you emotionally wrapped-up tight? Sad? Angry? Ecstatic?3 The guy in charge at the FAA (Federal Acronym Administration) stitched together Illness-Medication-Stress-Alcohol-Fatigue-Emotion and came up with IM-SAFE. Get it?

Pilot and passenger in a small Cessna aircraft

Photo by Dan Darling

The number four “P” is passengers. Passengers can come in handy especially when there is go- fer jobs to do like, “hand me that pastrami on rye” or on the ground, “go back in the FBO and ask that receptionist’s phone number for me.” However they also can create distractions, especially when they’re a frightened scare-d-cat white-knucklers, airsick or just a blustering blow-hard that will
not shut up. Although you’re busy as a single pilot, you should provide whatever assistance is within your power to do so to alleviate passenger apprehensions. When busy you might just have to “tune them out” so that you can focus on your job as pilot. Commercial operators procedurally adhere to the cockpit rule of no talking except that which is required for conducting checklists or other duties below 10,000 feet. Although your flying may rarely take you above 10,000 feet it isn’t a bad practice to tell passengers there are certain periods that are “sterile” and no talking is allowed such as when it gets busy on the radio as you approach an airport. You can signify this to them by furrowing your forehead and hissing s-h-h-h-h-h loudly. If your passenger is also a pilot, it is important to establish who is flying the plane and who is not. Sometimes rated pilots will move in on a flying pilot’s turf and this can cause confusion and lead to big problems. Make sure the passengers who are pilots recognize they are to behave as passengers.

The final “P” stands for programming. Flying has been inundated with lots of automation and electronic gadgetry. While this gee-whiz technology can reduce the pilot’s workload it can also lure the pilot into pilot error and potentially catastrophic scenarios. An obvious bad one is ignoring control of the aircraft while making programming inputs. It is essential that pilots become functionally familiar with their navigation systems, tablets, flight management systems et cetera so that they’re not “trying to figure it out” during high workload times. Routes should be preprogrammed prior to take-off and then only minor adjustments will need to be made to accommodate any ATC changes. Double-check your work, too. You may plug-in a navigation fix incorrectly by “fat- fingering” the dinky little buttons or touch screen. Once you’re done go back over it to make sure you’re not headed for Norfolk, Virginia (ORF) instead of Chicago O’Hare (ORD).

Unforeseen things still happen while flying, and no matter how much planning and prep you’ve done, doggone it…the demons sometimes still can reach out and grab your plane. When those demons have got you in their clutches keep these rules in mind:

1. FLY THE AIRPLANE. Period. Don’t allow ANYTHING to take you away from doing that.

2. FLY THE AIRPLANE!

3. ISOLATE the problem. Consider probable causes and possible causes.

4. Use the appropriate CHECKLIST for your problem. It will likely lead you to resolution of the problem and probably suggest the best or the only alternative.

5. Calculate how much TIME and FUEL you have to remain aloft and work on the problem.

6. Evaluate all ALTERNATIVES and assign pros and cons to each.

7. You always have 3 choices: LAND NOW, LAND SOON or CONTINUE.

8. Utilize all RESOURCES both on the ground and in the air including ATC and other aircraft to relay your radio message if you’re too low in altitude. Don’t be afraid to confess your predicament.

9.Remember the most important FAR of all is 14 CFR § 91.3(b) “In an in-flight emergency
requiring immediate action, the pilot in command may deviate from any rule of this part to the extent required to meet that emergency.”

10. FLY THE AIRPLANE!

Single pilot flying is busy flying but when you do your best to thoroughly prepare for a flight it greatly lessens chaos and the chance for pilot error. The philosophy of CRM is a good one. And although it is a fairly new term in aviation, it is really a very old concept that good pilots have been practicing for many years.

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Footnotes and Resources:

1 – “Gender Differences in General Aviation Crashes,” Prof. Susan Baker, Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health news release, May 15, 2001

2 – https://www.nbaa.org/events/amc/2010/news/presentations/1018_mon/safety_stand/Halleran-SPRM.pdf

 3 – You think you’d be in any mental state to fly if you just won the $35 million Powerball?

Flight Safety: Breaking the Chain of Events

Shawn Arena

Throughout my years in aviation, I’ve encountered a variety of situations in which by making the right decision, I avoided potential and real danger. And in the name of flight safety, I’d like to share another one of those stores here. This is a story that involves a chain of events that literally caused the hair on my arms tingle with trepidation, for I was witnessing in real life what Human Factors experts have called the “Swiss Cheese Effect.”

Dr. James Reason’s “Swiss Cheese” Model

For those readers who may not be familiar with Dr. James Reason’s “Swiss Cheese Model”, here is a brief primer. Dr. James T. Reason, from the University of Manchester, is considered the preeminent pioneer in the study of risk management and safety culture. In the mid-1990’s Dr. Reason published a document highlighting what he referred to as the “Swiss Cheese Model.” See the following graphic:

Graphic of the Swiss Cheese Model of Causation

As one can see, there are several segments that represent layers or ‘links in a chain” of events that if aligned just right, can cause an incident or accident (i.e. the “Swiss Cheese Effect”). If however, the sequence of events is recognized, it re-aligns or breaks the chain and an accident is avoided. This is the background of this flight experience.

The Chain of Events in Real Life

In early 2002, I was managing a general aviation airport, owned by the City of Phoenix, AZ, named Phoenix-Goodyear Airport (GYR). During that time, local airport managers held a quarterly airport manager’s meeting at a selected Arizona airport to share day-to-day airport administration and issues of the time, so as to learn from each other. On the day of the meeting, I decided to rent a Cessna 172 from Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU), about 15 minutes driving time from my airport in Goodyear. Mark, Glendale’s airport manager at the time, agreed to come along rather than make the 122 mile, 2 hour drive to Show Low Regional Airport (SOW) where the meeting was being held. By flying, we could make the meeting at SOW, in northeast AZ, in less than an hour.

This is when the ‘chain of events’ and potential flight safety risks began. Event #1: The aircraft I had reserved was inadvertently rented out to someone else, so I had to take another that I had not flown before. “No big deal,” I thought to myself, I’d flown several 172’s from this flight school before with no problem. As I was conducting the interior preflight inspection, I noted that the engine would not start after a few efforts. “Oh, well,” I thought. Maybe it was just cold and hadn’t flown in a while.

Event #2: After I finally got the engine running to my satisfaction, I noted that the Number 1 COMM radio reception was very intermittent, but I continued to the run-up area to conduct the pre-takeoff checklist. As I started to listen to the Automatic Terminal Information System (ATIS) broadcast at GEU (i.e. a pre-recorded message telling pilots cloud heights, visibility, active runway and time), I recalled the weather report for SOW (Event #3) was a 30 knot crosswind upon landing, with gusts up to 45 knots. And this was at a 2200 foot runway located in mountainous terrain. Immediately after hearing the local ATIS, the radio knob literally broke off and fell to the floor.

Fortunately for me, it only took these three events to stop the chain. I radioed GEU ground control for taxi back to the ramp. I felt that not only had the “Swiss cheese holes” begin to align, but a slight but very apparent case of “get-there-itis” also began to creep in. Mark was, to say the least, very unhappy that we had to scrub the flight. I apologized but told him: “ I don’t care, I’d rather be in a position on the ground wishing we were airborne, versus being airborne and wishing we were on the ground.”

Yes, at first I was bummed too, BUT a strong dose of reality came across me saying enough is enough. I called Dennis, the Airport Manager at SOW, apologized for not making the meeting and we would catch up at the next meeting.

Flight Safety Lessons Learned

By no means am I postulating that no one would have continued a similar flight, but what I want to convey to my fellow airmen is that I reached my personal limits and was not willing to risk further events. As the saying goes: “Learn to fly another day.” The gravity of the chain of events really sunk in when I called Dennis the next day, and learned the winds actually increased about the time we would have arrived. Thank goodness I had chosen to remain on terra firma. Here is hoping others will pay similar attention to flight safety and avoid the “Swiss Cheese” from aligning for them!

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Featured Image by Marshall Segal

Why IFR Flight Training Should Come After Your License

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

Any pilot who has been flying for a while has experienced flights delays due to weather conditions, and without having an instrument rating, those delays can stretch into hours or even into days. These delays can cause many pilots to make go no-go decisions that are not so good. So the benefit of a pilot having an instrument rating is that it increases the number of good choices available to him or her. Although most pilots eventually earn an instrument rating, a smaller number of them maintain instrument currency, so when a student is contemplating IFR flight training, it is best to know in advance what kind of instrument pilot he or she intends to be. If the goal is to be an instrument pilot in name only, then all the IFR flight training needs is to accomplish is passing the check ride. However, if the student wants to be an active instrument pilot rather than a victim of the risks, it is necessary to progress well beyond the basic IFR flight training requirements. Instrument flying is demanding and it requires active thinking, because when a pilot earns an instrument rating he or she is authorized to evaluate weather, dispatch the flight, and then fly the airplane within the same air traffic control system and weather systems that the two-crew turbine aircraft are using.

In essence, weather and VFR flying is a relatively simple and straight-forward [black and white] process which involves flying visually while avoiding the clouds and areas of poor visibility. However, weather for IFR flying enters into a more gray area which involves actually flying in the weather rather than flying to avoid the weather. This makes knowledge about the weather that much more significant. It is critical that students learn as much about the weather as they do about the elements or mechanics of instrument flying. Those pilots who believe that they can be fed weather data for IFR flights by an FSS are the pilots who typically find themselves in trouble due to unanticipated or deteriorating weather conditions. Passing the FAA’s knowledge test does not provide a pilot with sufficient [theoretical] knowledge on weather, which is why it is imperative that students find a flight instructor who is willing to fly in actual conditions on training flights. This will help to acquire the practical experience that will allow student pilots to understand the correlation between the information provided by a weather briefing and the actual weather conditions.

One means of examining the potential value of an instrument rating is to fly hypothetical flights by checking the weather to see if a trip could be flown in VFR conditions. If the answer is “no,” then examine the weather for a hypothetical IRF flight between the two points. There are several elements of weather than impact IFR flights: clouds, ice, turbulence, precipitation, convection, fog, low ceilings, low visibilities, and winds aloft so that only through study and actual practical experience can students learn to weigh each of these elements that could affect their flying. The FAA allows pilots to earn an instrument rating with 125 hours of flight time, which might be sufficient for full-time students who are pursuing positions as airline first officers. But for pilots who want to be able to fly single-pilot IFR in light airplanes, those FAA requirements tend to be inadequate.

Summary of the FAA requirements for an IFR Rating

Pre-Flight Review: Review all information and goals associated with the upcoming flight as well as how to achieve them whether in actual or simulated IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions), such as WFKART: weather, fuel requirements, know ATC delays, alternates, runway lengths, and takeoff and landing distances. If the flight planning includes shooting some approaches, it becomes necessary to brief those approaches and the missed approaches several times before the flight.

Ground School: This is the most cost-effective environment in which to ask questions of the flight instructor which can assume multiple formats, such as one-on-one dialogues, group classes, videos, or interactive DVDs or a combination thereof. To maximize learning within the shortest period of time, it is important to combine the ground school [theoretical] concurrently with the [practical] flight training.

Hood Work: Provides practical experience when no clouds are available. Hoods assume many shapes and sizes, and they are a regular part of the instrument training to block the students’ view of the horizon which only allows them to see the instruments on the flight deck. The purpose of the hood is to expose students to the forces of flight which can lead to various types of disorientation so that the experience teaches students to deny their body sensations and only trust the instruments on the flight deck.

Instrument Cross-Country: Most of the IFR flight training will typically occur near the students’ home airport, but the cross-country phase of the training will take the students out of the familiar which is when flight planning really begins to pay off. The pre-flight review allows the students to remain ahead of the airplane and enjoy the arrival at the pre-determined destination without having looked out the window. Attempting this in a vehicle is not recommended….

Check Ride Preparation: Once all of the ground school and flight time requirements have been met, the flight instructor will provide the students with a ground review which is when the students have the opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of the instruments and how they function as well as how they fail. The students must also demonstrate a familiarity with the FAA IFR regulations and how the system functions which is followed by a simulated check ride with the instructor. During this lesson, the students must adequately perform all flight procedures, maneuvers, and a number of instrument approaches to progress onto the next step of the process.

Instrument Rating Practical Test: This exam encompasses all the aeronautical information that the students have learned up to this point, and the students have the option to ride with a Designated Pilot Examiner or an FAA Inspector.

Once the students have passed the check ride, they are issued an instrument rating and are now allowed to file and fly in IMC. This allows the pilot to have a greater degree of freedom and feeling of self-confidence.

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Featured Image by Ryan Blanding

Halley’s Comet and the Go No-Go Decision

Shawn Arena

Over the years, I’ve had a lot of memorable flying experiences. And hopefully, by sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned, it will help other aviators in the future be able to make the decisions that will help them fly more safely. I hope you enjoy reading these stories!

Making The Go No-Go Decision

I don’t profess to be an astronomer or cosmic expert, but when the appearance of a celestial event like Halley’s Comet comes around, it does capture my interest. March 2, 1986 was right in the middle of the observation window to see Halley’s Comet, its last recorded appearance. Since I most likely won’t be around to see the next appearance in 2062, the 1986 event captured my attention.

Halleys Comet

Some quick backstory to set the scene: I earned my private pilot certificate in April 1984, so by the time March 1986 rolled around, I began to feel like a ‘real’ aviator. The flight school I earned my certificate at was based at John Wayne / Orange County Airport (SNA) in southern California.

During the last week of February, they hosted an aviation safety seminar (i.e. FAA Wings credit, type program). At the end of the session, a young (and eager I must add) flight instructor approached me and asked if I was interested in joining him and another student on an ‘observation’ flight of Halley’s Comet. They were to be flying a Piper Archer (N81918). Well, I was biased at that time to Cessna aircraft, because that is the aircraft type I was most comfortable flying. And besides, I make a terrible passenger in a small aircraft if I am not flying. Finally, add to that the fact that I didn’t know either of them really well. So, I kindly turned down his offer – a decision I would treasure for the rest of my life!

Grace, Fate, Not My Time – The Result of My Go No-Go Decision

Since March 2nd was a Sunday, the following day was a typical work day. About 10:00 AM I received a call at work from a friend of mine who also flew with the flight school and his first comment to me was “Good, it wasn’t you…one of our planes went down last night!” I didn’t quite put two and two together yet, and went about the rest of my day. For those of you who are reading this and were born after 1995, you probably find this next comment a little stone age, but there was no Internet, texting, or Twitter. We had to rely on the news broadcast at 5 PM, 6 PM, or 10 PM. So out of curiosity, when I got home to my apartment that evening, I turned on the local news. A shiver went down my spine (yeah you guessed it) as soon as the news anchor said, “There was a small plane accident over Newport Beach last night, and witnesses reported the plane doing a cartwheel into the ocean just past the Newport Beach Pier…”

At that moment, I just knew it was the plane I had been asked to be a passenger on. In the coming weeks and months, the mood around the flight school was somber and very sad. Even sadder was hearing that the student aboard that plane was the husband of the flight school administrative assistant. About 6 months later (being the aviation/flying geek that I was /am), I was able to locate a copy of the NTSB accident report (LAX86FA131). To my utter amazement, I read that the student’s wife reported that her husband and instructor had been seen drinking beer before they left for the airport, and that the toxicology tests conducted by the Orange County Medical Examiner revealed 0.32 micrograms of cocaine in the student’s body. So, call it what you want, I learned a valuable lesson from that sad event – never fly with anyone you do not know well and trust, because your life could be at stake. Flying an airplane is serious business, and needs to be properly respected. Trust me, when faced with this Go No-Go decision, I’m certainly glad I made the right one!

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Featured Image by D. Miller

How Crew Resource Management Makes Flying Safer

Vern Weiss

On December 29, 1972, an Eastern Airlines Lockheed L-1011 with 176 people aboard crashed in Florida’s Everglades only 3 minutes from touching down at Miami International Airport. Three flight crew members, the Captain, First Officer and Flight Engineer became focused on a landing gear indicator light bulb that was not illuminated. As the airplane descended rapidly the three pilots continued to fuss with the indicator lamp. This marked the beginning of a series of horrible aviation accidents in the 1970s involving highly trained, professional flight crews.

The Beginning of Crew Resource Management

Something had to be done and that same year a British aviation psychiatrist and professor, Elwyn Edwards, developed the beginnings of, what originally was called, “Cockpit Resource Management” that since has been expanded. CRM now includes crew members including flight attendants, on or off duty aboard an aircraft as well as others on the ground and today is known as Crew Resource Management. Little by little, Dr. Edwards’ concepts have been built-upon and enhanced culminating in a comprehensive study and proposal by NASA in 1979. The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has been instrumental in mandating CRM training and vigilance in aviation and has encouraged worldwide government aviation agencies like the FAA to comply with their CRM standards and protocols.

The NASA studies resulted in the belief that the primary cause of aircraft accidents was human errors created from interpersonal communication, leadership and decision-making problems. As defined, Crew Resource Management is a methodology in which the resources of equipment, procedures and people are collectively utilized as needed to safely complete every flying task. The individual components of CRM resources are communications, situational awareness, problem solving, decision making, and teamwork.

How Crew Resource Management Works

You are driving on a busy expressway. The sun is in your eyes. As you attempt to put them on you drop your sunglasses and they slide to the passenger side floor of the car. You should:

  • A. Forget about retrieving your sunglasses and continue driving even though the sun occasionally blinds your vision so your passenger doesn’t think you’re a wimp.
  • B. Pull over on the shoulder to safely retrieve the sunglasses before pulling back onto the busy highway.
  • C. To demonstrate your prowess as a driver, you reach down to the passengers’ side and grab your
    sunglasses.
  • D. You ask your passenger to hand you your sunglasses.

Obviously, answer “D” is best because it allows you to remain focused on control of the vehicle while using someone who is not otherwise busy to complete the task. This example is the essence of what Crew Resource Management is all about.

CRM is not about technical knowledge and the skill of flying an aircraft. It is he interpersonal and cognitive processes of situational awareness, communication, problem solving, decision making and working as a team.

Situational awareness is knowing what is going on around you and recognizing your place in the “big picture.” Walk through any Walmart and you’ll see any number of examples of people who lack situational awareness. As you walk down one aisle suddenly some guy who had stooped down to look at canned prunes stands up and immediately backs into you without looking up first. He had no idea that there could possibly have been anyone behind him even though your grocery cart wheels can be heard for miles around as you approached him. We don’t know where his head was but maybe that’s why he’s buying the prunes.

A flight attendant in the cabin of an airliner with passengersDon’t get me started on those myopic customers walking around glued to their iPhones, although they are great fun to watch when they walk into a clothing rack or knock over a display of ketchup bottles.
Crew Resource Management applies all the resourceful assistance each crew member requires to safely and efficiently perform flight operations. It includes all direct and peripheral personnel. Besides the immediate flight crew, it can include other pilots who are riding as passengers, jump- seaters, flight attendants, mechanics that may be on board; via radio, utilizing air traffic controllers, company dispatchers and pilots of other aircraft. For instance, you hear an aircraft ahead of you report that it flew through a large flock of birds. Use this information for your own benefit. “Old thinking” was that a pilot must be a “super pilot” and be able to do it all without asking for help. Not so. But pilots who are act autonomously and are unwilling to accept outside help tend to make big mistakes.

Crew Resource Management starts with receiving information, analyzing then making it meaningful. From this, analysis of all the choices enables the best decision out of possible alternatives. The consideration of various alternatives should include any available information, knowledge, prior experience, expectation, context, goals and greatest possibility of a successful outcome. There are times when decisions have to be made quickly, such as when an evasive maneuver is necessary to avoid a mid-air collision. In these instances you must fall back on training and procedures. In the example just cited…traffic at 12 o’clock and closing in on you fast, you veer to the right as per the Aeronautical Information Manual. But what if the bonehead closing on you veers the wrong direction and turns left? You must be willing to amend your response now. This is one of those extreme situations that fortunately does not arise very often. Most situations afford enough time to consult the non-flying pilot. There may be considerations that occur to that pilot that you omitted in your decision and the other pilot’s input will make the final decision a better one. Brittle methods practiced for years and unwillingness to consider others’ suggestions and unwillingness to do nothing have been diminished thanks to CRM, which is a giant leap forward in enhanced safety.

What Would You Do?

You’re headed straight for a black cloud. To its left is a blacker one. To your right the clouds are even blacker than the one on your left. Ah! No sweat…do a one-eighty, right? But the front is moving rapidly and has closed off everything behind you. Probably doing nothing and staying on course is one of the choices. Of course, there’s other things that can be tried like changing altitudes (the middle third of a cumulonimbus is usually where the most violent weather is found), slow up so you don’t hit the “potholes” so hard once you’re in the cloud. Ask your non-flying pilot to check on ride reports ahead of you. Maybe the blackest cloud wasn’t all that bad as reported by an aircraft immediately in front of you. What’s the radar show? Turn on your ADF receiver and watch the needle swing. It points to the area of strongest static caused by lightning discharges. Cinch up your seat belt and tell your passengers to do the same. If you have auto-ignition, turn it on. Follow the procedures in the checklist for turbulence and heavy precipitation penetration. And ask you non-flying pilot what he or she thinks. Maybe the non-flying pilot is more skilled at use of the radar than you and can “see” where the passage ahead would be better. Crew Resource Management uses everything at your disposal.

An important component of CRM is use of standardized checklists for normal, abnormal and emergency operations. When pilots start creating impromptu procedures things can turn ugly real fast. Checklists are developed, tested, re-tested, evaluated and authorized from manufacturers and the FAA have worked out the kinks. Obviously, if one pilot starts extemporaneously throwing switches, the other pilot won’t have a clue as to what his partner is attempting to achieve. Checklists. Checklists. Checklists.

A United Airlines airliner taking offLong overdue, awareness of fatigue and workload have fortunately become important considerations the last few years. There are times when the cockpit gets very busy and at those times both pilots should be sharply attentive. Even though one pilot may be listening to, say, the ATIS frequency and not monitoring the active ARTCC frequency, that pilot should continue to monitor that frequency in case something transpires that require urgency in getting back “into the loop.” Even ATC has changed their policies on issuing clearances, recognizing that pilot workload and information retention has its limits. ATC will not issue a clearance with more than 2 numbers at a time. If they want you to turn left to a heading of 160, descend to 4,000 feet and slow to 230 knots, they’ say, “Ercoupe 38 X-ray, turn left heading 1-6-0, descend to 4,000.” You respond with the read back. Then they call you and say, “Ercoupe 28-X-ray slow to 230 knots.”1

As aviation has developed, automation has increasingly become more integrated into the pilot’s world. Flight management systems (FMS) and a myriad of aircraft-specific enhancements like auto-throttles, thrust management systems and FADEC-controlled engines, to name a few, have placed more importance on staying on top of what’s going on. While the civilian perceives automation on an airplane as something that makes less work for pilots, it’s actually the opposite. In fact, automation requires more vigilance than non-automation, so pilots must now be more in a systems management role than switch-and-control manipulation role. This makes it imperative that Crew Resource Management be applied to inputs, outputs, programming and cross-checking of all automatic systems.

Simply stated, Crew Resource Management is two or more people performing as one. Pilots utilizing CRM help each other by filling in any voids when tasks mount up and one person can’t do the job without sacrificing attention to the airplane. As mentioned earlier, CRM involves people other than the pilots as well. An example is approaching an airport with deteriorating weather. One of the pilots could direct his or her attention to switching radio frequencies to get a weather update, however both pilots may be very busy. The ATC controller has access to the same weather information that pilots can get from the ATIS, so why not just key the microphone and say, “Approach (control)…you got the latest weather for Booger International?”

Done.

Personal Experience with Crew Resource Management

Some years ago I was flying with another pilot who consistently demonstrated acute and superb skills. One Monday morning, we took off to start a trip and he seemed uncharacteristically “behind” the airplane. I thought his unusual sloppy and lethargic performance was maybe just that this was a very early morning departure and he “wasn’t awake yet.” Second leg of the trip, he was flying the approach and the profile for an ILS was at glide slope intercept to call for landing gear down and full flaps. Glide slope intercept came and he started to descend which, of course built up speed rapidly. He then started reducing the power to counteract the speed. Something was wrong. I said, “Gary, you ready for the gear and flaps?” Breaking his reverie he responded, “OH! Oh yeah…uh…gear down…uh full flaps…uh… and the before landing checklist.” We completed the approach and landing without further incident. After shutting down the aircraft and putting our other duties behind us I asked him if everything is alright. He said, “Well, no. On Friday my mom passed away and yesterday my dad had a heart attack and died.” Whoa! What was this man doing flying an airplane? We were not in a position where I could initiate a crew change but I did convince him to blow off the rest of the trip when we got back to our domicile and replace him with another crew member. I wish I had known before we had even started that morning so I could have intervened. Knowing the stress he was experiencing, at the very least my CRM observations would have been heightened to watch for mistakes and omissions earlier. The goal of CRM is for two people to act as one well-tuned machine.

My first exposure to CRM was my first job as a whipping-boy/corporate co-pilot in a two-pilot turboprop. The guy I worked for was a jerk. But I sucked-it up because I needed to build flight time if I was going to make a career in aviation. One night he ordered me to get him a cup of coffee. The galley was toward the rear of the passenger cabin so I responded dutifully. Just as I returned with his %&*# cup of coffee we flew into an area of turbulence. I am standing there holding his cup of coffee and he turns to me and barks, “NOT NOW! Do something…GET RID OF IT!” I was not a coffee drinker but the only thing I could think to do as we were getting the you-know-what kicked out of us was to drink the coffee quickly. I wanted to puke. In retrospect perhaps my choice to alleviate the problem created by the captain’s cup filled with coffee in some abstract way was a bit of CRM. I also know that that first cup of coffee I drank lead me to try it again and that now I am a die-hard coffee drinker.

So the moral of the story is Crew Resource Management is beneficial to pilots because it enhances safety and allows us to discover coffee.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Footnote:

1 – Ercoupe? 230 knots? I’m joking, right?

Sources:

Advisory Circular for Air Operators, “Training Programme for Crew Resource Management,” International Civil Aviation Organization, 2013.

Internet Website: http://www.crewresourcemanagement.net/information-processing/decision-making

Featured Image: Kent Wien

Competency vs Proficiency: A Look at Flying Aircraft Safely

When Flying Aircraft, Exceeding Flight Minimums = Maximum Safety in the Skies!

Margie O’Connor

Competency versus Proficiency. Flying aircraft competently means you have met the standards. Flying aircraft proficiently means you’ve taken that extra step to gain a certain comfort level in the cockpit – you’ve refined and built your competence to a point where you are confident (but not arrogant). As pilots, we must maintain certain minimums to fly legally. But sometimes the minimums only make us competent…not proficient.

Take for instance the fatal aircraft crash of a Piper Arrow on approach to an airport under a moonless night sky with Visual Flight Rule (VFR) conditions. The pilot held a commercial license, instrument and multi-engine ratings and more than 2,000 flight hours.

How did this happen to a seemingly competent pilot? Despite his impressive history of qualifications, he had only logged 2 night take-offs and landings the previous month; prior to that, it had been 7 years since he had flown at night! And yet, he still chose to fly.

Good judgment so often goes hand-in-hand with practice and training. And everyone is different. The challenge is recognizing your strengths and weaknesses and admitting to when you may need a little extra to gain the edge necessary to become safe. To exercise your piloting skills safely and proficiently, you must avoid getting wrapped around the word “minimum” and strive to hone your skills.

Many General Aviation (GA) pilots are part-timers so flying on a regular basis isn’t always possible because of competing demands. So determining your level of proficiency is sometimes difficult. Looking at where you’re at in your flight training often provides a good gauge. For instance, if you just got your instrument ticket (congratulations) you’re undoubtedly more proficient than the general aviation instrument rated pilot who only flies the minimum 6 approaches within the preceding 6 months, to keep “current”.

Most are aware of the flight minimums but just in case you’ve forgotten, fly with me as we go through a refresher. Who knows, you may just discover a thing or two about your competency level and just maybe, how to achieve that level of expertise that will make you a much safer pilot.

Regulatory Minimums for Flying Aircraft

Recent Flight Experience (FAR 61.57 (a) and (b))

Simply put, if you plan to take your significant other up flying because you think it would be insanely romantic to propose to her during the flight (or if you’re just heading somewhere warm with all your newly acquired friends) then you must have made 3 takeoffs and landings within the preceding 90 days.
And if you plan to fly at night, those takeoffs and landings must be to a full stop and performed during the period from 1 hour after the sun goes down to 1 hour before the sun rises (now that’s early morning).

Flight Review (FAR 61.56) – previously known as the Biennial Flight Review (BFR)

Once you achieve the coveted ability to pilot an aircraft as the sole manipulator of the controls (very cool), you must maintain your privileges by undergoing a flight review roughly every 2 years, consisting of 1 hour of ground and 1 hour of flight. If you recently passed a test for an advanced rating or license (think Commercial or Instrument), you are exempt. Passing a phase of the FAA’s pilot proficiency program also qualifies.

Instrument Experience (FAR 61.57 (c))

To fly in weather less than VFR minimums or straight-up IFR weather, you must have your instrument rating (duh). And to comply with the regs, you must have performed 6 instrument approaches, holding and tracking, and intercepting and tracking using navigational systems within the 6 months preceding the month you are flying in either in an aircraft or a flight simulator (could this get any more confusing?).

If you have access to an aviation training device, then 3 hours of instrument experience within the 2 calendar months preceding your flight will suffice. You still must perform 6 instrument approaches, holding procedures, intercepting and tracking and 4 unusual attitude recoveries (from various configurations).

And it gets better. You can combine aircraft, simulator and training device to fulfill the requirements- yay! If you choose to accept this route, you must still log the 6 instrument approaches within the preceding 6 calendar months (plus the intercepting, tracking, and holding) but you can combine your flight experiences using the different modes.

Instrument Proficiency Check (FAR 61.57 (d))

Bummer. You failed to meet the minimum instrument experience requirements within the preceding 6 months or maybe you’ve been away from flying longer than 6 months – if you fall into either category, then to regain competency, you must undergo an Instrument Proficiency Check (IPC) with a designated examiner, an authorized instructor or other qualified pilot.

Working to exceed the minimums and gain expertise not only makes you a better pilot but also makes you safer in the air. And I, for one, would much prefer to be a contributing member of the friendly skies rather than a dangerous blob, flying “fat, dumb, and happy”.

When you go beyond your personal flying limits (or you purposefully break the rules…think little devil on your shoulder), you tend to get uncomfortable which can land you in some less-than-desirable situations.

Regaining Competency Flying Aircraft and Beyond!

Cessna 182 on the runwayPlentiful options exist to help you in your quest for competency and beyond. More flight time, conducted with a great fight instructor, is always a good place to start. But if cost is an issue, many less expensive (often free) alternatives exist to help get you back into the cockpit, brush up on your current capabilities or gain the experience and knowledge to dominate the skies!

A Rusty Pilots Seminar (provided by AOPA) may sound like an event planned for a retirement community but in reality, it’s an excellent way to get back into flying if the only thing you’ve “piloted” for the past (fill-in-the-blank) years has been your automobile.

A Rusty Pilots Seminar is free (which is always good) and offered at many locations (check the Rusty Pilots Seminar link for a list of seminars near you). I chose one close to my sister-in-law so I was able to combine a visit with the event. The seminar consisted of a few hours of ground lecture (with ample coffee and food provided), which fulfilled the 1-hour ground requirement for the annual flight review. Aircraft and instructors were available afterward (yes a fee but nominal) to complete the flight requirement per FAR 61.56.

The WINGS program (provided by the FAA’s Safety Team or FAASTeam) is another great way to get closer to proficiency. You learn through seminars, online classes or actual flight training. Sign-up is-you guessed it-FREE and many of the classes are free, too.

Remember, gaining expertise in flying aircraft takes consistent practice over time…10,000 hours, to be precise…yep, according to Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers, research shows that’s the magic number.

So open a book…or a browser and get studying. And the next time you embark on a flight into the wild blue, remember to do a self-check. Are you just flying the minimums or are you doing what you can to become an expert aviator in the sky?

Happy flying…safely and proficiently!

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

References:

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers.

National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). (2001). (Identification: IAD01FA038).

Quiz: How Do You Handle Aircraft Radio Communication Problems?

John Peltier

You’re ten miles away from your home airport, inbound for landing, and you switch over to the AWOS for a weather check. Nothing. Must not be working. You get closer to the airport and dial up the control tower to inform them of your intentions. No response. After some troubleshooting, you determine that your radio is dead. What do you do? When was the last time you really walked yourself through different aircraft radio communication problems, or “chair-flew” it, as they say?

Aircraft Radio Communication Problem – Uncontrolled Airport

The Scenario:

You just took your parents for their first flight since you got your license. You’re ten miles north of the airport, day VFR, setting yourself up for a straight-in to runway 18 at an uncontrolled airport. You haven’t heard anyone on CTAF even though you can see planes in the pattern, and after checking other frequencies you’ve come to the conclusion that your radio is inoperative. What are you going to do?

Walk yourself through the procedures now.

The Answer:

  • It’s a good habit to set your transponder to 7600 whenever you realize you have a radio malfunction, even if you’re not in controlled airspace. Build those habit patterns!
  • Stay clear of all traffic until you determine which runway everyone is landing on, and which direction traffic is in. If you fly at this airport routinely, it probably hasn’t changed. If you were setting yourself up for the straight-in, stay clear by holding your altitude (at least 500’ higher than the traffic pattern) and offset the runway laterally so that you can make a big circle around and figure out which aircraft are where.
  • When you determine that it’s safe to enter the traffic pattern, do so and stay predictable. Fly the same direction and speed as you normally do so, and don’t forget your landing checks.
  • Continue to key the microphone and announce your position just in case it starts working again.
  • After landing, clear the runway immediately. Survey the taxiways between you and your destination and taxi when it’s clear.
Aircraft Radio Communication Problem – Class D Airspace

The Scenario:

You’re returning home from a weekend at a cabin in the mountains. The time is 2030 local time and the skies are clear. Your home airport is in Class D airspace; the control tower stays open until 2200. You’re ten miles east of the airport, just wrote down the ATIS information, and switched over to tower frequency. ATIS says winds are out of the north and landing traffic is using runway 34. The tower isn’t answering any of your radio calls but they’re talking with other traffic; when you transmit, you can’t hear sidetones (clicks) in your headset like you normally do. No one is answering your radio checks and you realize your transmitter is broken.

What are you going to do?

The Answer:

  • As in the previous example, set your transponder to 7600.
  • You must stay clear of the Class D airspace boundaries until you determine the flow of traffic. This can be done horizontally or vertically, and at night, it may be easier to get a picture of the traffic by looking down on it from above.
  • Enter the traffic pattern when safe to do so – entering on the upwind gives you maximum time to prepare yourself.
  • From here, just fly your normal night traffic pattern and continue to key the microphone with your position just in case your radio starts working again.
  • Tower won’t know you have an operable receiver so they’ll give you light gun signals (they may also transmit your clearances in the blind, but they don’t on this night).
    • Which color are you looking for?
    • What if tower gives you a steady red light, what do you do?
    • How do you acknowledge these signals at night?
  • A solid green light means you’re cleared to land, and you may only land after receiving this signal. Acknowledge this signal at night by flashing your landing light. A steady red light means you must give way to other aircraft in the pattern. Continue to circle and wait for a steady green light.
  • After landing, continue to look for light signals – you’re looking for either a flashing red (taxi clear of runway) and or flashing green (cleared to taxi). The tower will most likely freeze ground traffic until they determine where you’re headed.
Aircraft Radio Communication Problem – Class B Airspace

The Scenario:

It’s a beautiful day and you’re returning to land at a Class D airport underneath San Francisco’s Class B shelf. You notice smoke coming from your radio so you immediately turn it off; the smoke goes away and you elect to keep your master battery and alternator on for the meantime. You’re 15 miles away at 3,000’ AGL, and it’s your closest runway.

What are you going to do?

The Answer:

  • Change your transponder. Here, you could set either 7600 or 7700. This is an age-old debate amongst instructors. Some say that in this case you can just set 7600 to indicate you’re NORDO. Other instructors will say that if you did any emergency checklist actions (like turning off a smoking radio), then you set 7700. In this case, that might be a good idea, in case the fire is smoldering at least fire trucks will be waiting for you on the ground. And this could always develop into something worse. No one will fault you for setting 7700.
  • Remain clear of the Class B airspace if you can (by going underneath). This is how most VFR pilots will operate anyways. If you can’t, ATC will see your transponder and keep other traffic clear of you – that’s their job in Class B airspace.
  • From here, it’s the same basic procedures as the previous Class D example. Stay clear until you determine traffic flow, enter the pattern, and look for light gun signals from the control tower. The fact that you might be in Class B is irrelevant at this point. How do you acknowledge a light gun signal during the daytime?
    • Acknowledge by rocking your wings.
Troubleshooting Aircraft Radios

Any number of things can cause a transmitter failure, a receiver failure, or both.

Indicators that your radio may be malfunctioning:

  • Lack of sidetones (clicks/feedback) in your headset when you transmit (at least a transmitter failure).
  • Not hearing any transmissions on automated frequencies like AWOS & ATIS (at least a receiver failure).
  • No answers to “radio checks” you transmit (could be a transmitter or receiver failure).
  • And, of course, the thing won’t turn on.

Steps to troubleshoot a radio in the air:

  • Start with the most basic things first, and that’s usually cycling the power on the radio unit itself.
  • Check the volume knob – did it somehow get turned all the way down? Do you hear any static when you turn it up? If not, you probably have at least a receiver failure.
  • Toggle the squelch settings – again, are you hearing any static when you do this?
  • Check your headset cord – is it still plugged in? Does your headset have a volume knob as well?
  • If your circuit breakers are accessible (and most are) check that it’s still in. If it’s popped, reset it. If it pops again, there’s probably a really good reason it’s popping and you should leave it off.
  • Don’t become so engrossed in troubleshooting your radio that you forget to fly your aircraft!

Remember at all times that you must maintain basic VFR weather minimums and visual contact with the control tower, if there is one. Further references can be found in the FARs parts 91.125-131, and in the AIM Chapters 4-2-13 & 4-3-13.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Additional Quizzes:

Do You Know These Five Aviation Acronyms?

How Much Do You Know About Aircraft Icing?

Additional Resources:

Understanding How Airspace Works – AOPA

FAR Part 91 – FAA

Aeronautical Information Manual – FAA

Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Aircraft Icing?

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

How much do you know about aircraft icing and the conditions that cause it?  Take this quiz, and see how well you do.

Aircraft Icing Quiz Questions
  1.  _____ ice is lighter than _____ ice, has an irregular shape and a surface roughness that reduces aerodynamic efficiency.
  2. The three negative outcomes of aircraft icing on the airplane are: _____, ______, and _____ .
  3. The three types of structural icing are _____, ______, and _____ .
  4. The two ingredients for structural icing are ______ and _____ .
  5. The most important effect of ice on the wings and tail is _____ .
  6. The three types of icing intensities are _____, _____, and _____ .
  7. When this type of icing intensity occurs so that deicing or anti-icing cannot reduce or control the accumulation, the pilot’s only option is to _____ .
  8. The type of cloud that produces the most severe icing is a _____ cloud.
  9. If a pilot encounters ice in cumuliform clouds during the winter, he or she should _____, or ______ immediately
  10. The first places that a pilot should look for the formation of ice on the aircraft are _____, or ______.
Aircraft Icing Quiz Answers
  1. Answer: rime, clear
  2. Answer: decrease in thrust, reduction in lift, and an increase in drag
  3. Answer: rime, clear, mixed
  4. Answer: presence of visible moisture, temperatures at or below freezing
  5. Answer: reduction of lift
  6. Answer: trace, moderate, severe
  7. Answer: get out of the icing [conditions]
  8. Answer: cumulous
  9. Answer: divert, descent into warmer air
  10. Answer: leading edges of the airfoils, any objects that protrude into the air flow, such as antennas, OAT probe, etc.
Discussion: Aircraft Icing Conditions

The motivations underlying why rational pilots who avail themselves of all available weather information and data during their flight planning process, yet ultimately decide to deliberately fly into icing conditions are varied. But one key element may be the fact that these PICs lacked sufficient knowledge about icing conditions, and they found themselves navigating into dangerous weather conditions. Aircraft icing has long been classified as one of the greatest weather hazards to aviation. This is because icing is likely to be both cumulative and invisible which can cause the aircraft to slow down, force it downward, and/or make it go out of control. In addition, engine performance can diminish, contribute to false indications on the instruments, and result in a loss of radio communication. It can also freeze the landing gear to a point where it cannot fully extend or retract, and it can prevent the brakes from functioning properly. During the winter months, structural icing is more of a concern for pilots during a flight than induction icing, which is why it’s the focus of this quiz and subsequent discussion.

Only two ingredients are required for structural icing: visible moisture and temperatures at or below freezing. Cooling occurs when lift is produced which can reduce the aircraft surface or skin temperatures to below freezing despite the ambient air temperature being above freezing. Supercooled water is defined as water that remains in a liquid state although its temperature has dipped below freezing. When a supercooled drop of water comes into contact with a cold aircraft, a portion of that drop freezes instantly and adheres to the aircraft’s surface while the remaining portion of that drop is warmed by friction. Aerodynamic cooling can cause that drop to refreeze, however, and it is the manner in which that remaining liquid freezes that determines whether the forming ice is clear, rime, or mixed. If the supercooled large drops flow out and freeze into a smooth sheet of ice, it creates clear or translucent ice that is hard, glossy, heavy, and tenacious. As its accumulation continues, it may build up into a single or double horn-like shape on leading edges of the aircraft which increase drag and a correspondingly inverse decrease in lift.

In contrast, rime ice is created from supercooled small drops where the liquid freezes more quickly before it has had time to spread out over the aircraft’s surface which traps air between the droplets giving rime ice a rough, milky, opaque appearance. Although rime ice is lighter than clear ice, its irregular shape and surface roughness reduces aerodynamic efficiency by reducing lift, increasing drag; and it is more easily removed with aircraft deicing equipment than is clear ice which is heavier and results in a solid sheet configuration. When the supercooled water droplets vary in size or mix with snow or ice particles, a combination of clear and rime ice can form very rapidly into highly irregular shapes that build up on airfoil leading edges. Regardless of which form icing assumes, the amount of the ice accumulation is directly proportional to the amount of liquid water in the clouds with the worst case scenario being a combination of large water droplets, temperatures close to freezing, and clouds having significant water content.

The effects of icing include a reduction in lift, an increase in drag, and a decrease in thrust where the effects of these three factors become cumulative which may require a full power setting and a high angle of attack to maintain altitude. However, this attitude may result in a new problem where ice can begin forming on the underside of the wing which adds more weight and drag so the need to get out of the icing conditions then becomes the prime directive. Depending on the PIC’s experience with flying in icing conditions, any ice may be too much ice but the FAA has categorized icing into three intensities: trace, moderate, and severe. Trace ice is barely visible and is typically not a hazard unless the aircraft is exposed for one hour or more. Trace ice can usually be handled by inflight deicing/anti-icing equipment for durations of one hour or less. Moderate ice accumulates at a rate where even short encounters with it are potentially hazardous, and the use of deicing/anti-icing equipment is definitely required. Severe icing is defined as an accumulation of so much ice that deicing/anti-icing equipment cannot reduce or control its accumulation so the only option for the PIC is to get out of the icing conditions as quickly as possible.

Get Started With Your Flight Training Today

You can get started today by filling out our online application. If you would like more information, you can call us at (844) 435-9338, or click here to start a live chat with us.

Reference:

Duncan, P.A. (2016). Rime and Clear and Mixed. Retrieved on March 10, 2016, from
http://avstop.com/stories/rimeandclearandmixed.htm

Additional Quiz:

Do You Know These 5 Aviation Acronyms?

Additional Resources:

Aircraft Icing Safety Advisory – AOPA

Aircraft De-Icing and Anti-Icing Equipment – AOPA

Aircraft Icing Advisory Circular – FAA

The Madness of Icing – Flying Magazine

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