Why a Pre-Flight Discussion With Passengers Is Important

Don’t forget to take the Dramamine before you fly… not after.

Shawn Arena

This article highlights the importance of a dialogue with your first time and even seasoned passengers before flying, a sort of pre-flight discussion. You should be prepared to inform them of all aspects of the upcoming flight, and don’t forget to ask them about any concerns or comments they may have prior to the flight as well, if not an unexpected surprise may pop up…as I found out during this experience!

All In the Name of Charity

In April 2000, my wife organized, coordinated, and supervised a charitable silent auction held at our special-needs eldest son Matthew’s school in the northwest Phoenix area. Titled “Miles of Smiles” this event was in its second year after a successful inaugural launch in 1999. Among all the neat and exciting things donated by local Phoenix businesses and sports teams (the Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns), my wife had arranged with me to fly one lucky parent and their special needs child to Sedona Airport (SEZ) in northern Arizona for breakfast.

The lucky father Pete and his son Max were the winners for this adventure. After some coordination during the following week, Pete and I decided that May 6th would be the appropriate day. Now I must caution (or more likely advise) anyone who wishes to conduct a charity flight such as this to contact your local Flight Standards District Office (FSDO) for proper authorization to conduct such flights. After proper coordination with the PRC FSDO, we were good to go. Additionally, when a pilot wishes to venture into the world of special needs individuals, focused attention on the individual (and caregiver) must be heeded because this more than likely will be something so foreign to them, you do not want any unintended consequences to occur that would endanger all occupants in the plane

Well at Least the Flight to Sedona Was Uneventful

Springtime in Arizona is a wonderful time to fly. It is the ‘hot’ time of year and has not yet reached the ‘hotter’ time, and weather conditions are very favorable. However, it must be noted, that it can be warm enough even in the morning hours, to prompt an early departure ahead of the warm-up of the day.

Departure from Glendale Airport (GEU), was uneventful, and our Cessna 172S (N234SP) purred like a kitten as we climbed and comfortably cruised at altitude. SEZ sits on a mountain mesa at 4,817 ft. MSL among one of the most picturesque areas in the world – Red Rock country. Max thoroughly enjoyed the flight, Pete while a bit apprehensive, also seemed to settle in nicely. My youngest son Andrew also came along for the ride. We landed on runway 03, taxied to the transient tiedown area, and were looking forward to a delicious breakfast.

You Should Have Said Something To Me Earlier

After breakfast, it was back into the plane and ‘literally downhill’ back to the Phoenix metro area. Just a few minutes into the flight, I thought I heard a noise from the back seat area and asked Andrew to look back to see what it could be… ”Max’s dad is throwing up Dad” was Andrew’s reply. Uh, oh I thought to myself, we better go to hyper speed to get home ASAP. “It’s OK dad, he’s upchucking in the diaper bag,” Andrew so eloquently informed me.

Now I am about to share something personal, and I don’t introduce myself as this, but I am a sympathetic puker! I thought “Oh, boy Shawn, just focus on listening to ATC and concentrate on flying the plane and getting back to GEU.” I instinctively told Andrew to turn all the air vents on his face and take deep breaths into them, as I did the same. The remaining hour of flight was tolerable, though I was concerned about how much of the backseat I had to clean up when we got home.

We touched down back at GEU and taxied (in my best Southwest Airlines brisk style) as I could and opened the doors and windows to help the air quality. To my amazement, there was not a drop in the back seat, for Pete (smartly) tied up the diaper bag to prevent any ‘air leakage.’

Walking back to the FBO office to turn in the keys I asked Pete if he was OK. Sheepishly and embarrassed, he said yes and then this pearl of wisdom came from his mouth…” I guess I should have taken the Dramamine before we left, instead of after breakfast.”

“What?“ I thought to myself as I figuratively wanted to choke the guy (but held back just in case any ‘residuals’ might come out). So calmly I told him, “Yes you should have AND you should have informed me you needed to take it before we left.”

Another Lesson Learned, This Time About Pre-Flight

So while “Pete’s adventure” was the lowlight of the flight, I too learned a valuable lesson. Remember that important pre-flight discussion I mentioned at the beginning of this article?

As part of my pre-flight routine, I now ask all passengers if they are prone to motion sickness BEFORE we get to the airport, so we can stop for counter-acting medication on the way. When I earned my Private Pilot Certificate, the FAA Examiner flippantly told me…” Now you have your license to learn.” Boy, how true that statement remains. Happy Flying!

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Featured Image: Simon Moores

Dealing With Lost Communications on an IFR Flight Plan

John Peltier

A communications failure can be a scary thing – even on a beautiful VFR day. But throw in some clouds, limited visibility, and mountainous terrain, and suddenly this can be absolutely terrifying! As a pilot, maintaining a cool head and knowing your procedures will ensure this situation doesn’t get any worse.

Scenario

ATC has cleared you to RYANN via radar vectors as filed on your flight plan. Your last assigned altitude was 8,000 feet. On the way to RYANN, you determine that your radio will neither transmit nor receive. You are in visual meteorological conditions (VMC). Panicked? What do you do?

If you’re VMC, it’s actually not that complicated. Set your transponder to 7600 and proceed VFR, landing as soon as practicable. But what if you have your instrument rating, and you’re in instrument meteorological conditions (IMC)? You can’t just descend down through the clouds on your own, so what do you do now?

IFR chart for creating an IFR flight plan

There are three major things to take into consideration after setting your transponder to 7600. The three things you need to determine are you routing, altitude, and clearance limit.

Routing

Take a stroll down Avenue F. This is your mnemonic device – AVE F. Your routing priorities are, in order:

Assigned – your last assigned clearance by ATC

Vectored – your last assigned vector by ATC

Expected – your last expected clearance given by ATC

Filed – your IFR flight plan as filed with ATC

So, if you received radar vectors to a fix where you would then pick up the rest of your IFR flight plan, you proceed on that vector to that point and then pick up your routing as filed. In the case of this scenario, you would continue to RYANN and then to your next point as filed.

Altitude

What’s that important altitude between fixes on IFR charts? The minimum enroute altitude, or MEA? This is your next mnemonic device – MEA. Your minimum altitude to maintain is the highest of:

Minimum enroute altitude – the MEA listed on the chart

Expected altitude – the altitude ATC said for you to expect in a further clearance

Assigned – the altitude last assigned by ATC in your last clearance

So in our scenario, ATC last assigned an altitude of 8,000 feet. But looking at our IFR chart we see that the MEA for our routing (if we were flying northwest) is actually 10,000 feet. We must fly the higher of these, so we’d have to initiate a climb to 10,000 feet.

Clearance Limit

You’re going to have to continue the flight and eventually land. So where and when are you going to do this? We need to figure out our clearance limit. Fortunately, our IFR flight plan has a final fix and an ETA to help us with this.

First, we need to know if ATC gave us an expected further clearance. This is something we receive if we’re holding due to ATC or other delays. If we’re holding at an Initial Approach Fix (IAF) then we commence our approach once we get to the time ATC gave us in the EFC. If we’re not at an IAF, then we leave our holding fix at the EFC, proceed to the IAF, and hold as necessary to commence the approach as close to our ETA as possible.

If we don’t have an EFC, proceed to an IAF if not there already and start the approach as close as possible to our ETA.

  • We have an EFC
    • Fix is an IAF: Commence approach at EFC
    • Fix is NOT an IAF: Proceed to an IAF at EFC and commence the approach at ETA
  • We don’t have an EFC
    • Fix is an IAF: Commence approach at ETA
    • Fix is NOT an IAF: Proceed to an IAF and commence the approach at ETA
In Conclusion

Enroute communications failures on an IFR flight plan isn’t as scary as it may seem as long as we know what to do. Just remember the three major ingredients we need to safely carry out our flight plan.

Routing

Altitude

Clearance Limit

We go down AVE F for our routing, fly the MEA for our altitude, and go to an IAF for the approach at either our EFC or ETA. It’s really as simple as that.

You can check out FAR Part 91.185 for the actual regulations concerning communications failures on an IFR flight plan.

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How My Student Taught Me A Density Altitude Lesson

Shawn Arena

Welcome back! This is another installment of my personal flying experiences that hopefully others can learn from as well. The twist to this true tale, however, originates from a former student of mine who reminded me of the pitfalls and potential dangers of density altitude operations.

The Prelude

September 20, 2000, was a typical end of summer day throughout Arizona. The annual monsoon season was coming to a close, so the temperatures throughout most of the state were starting to ‘dip’ below 110 degrees. On that Wednesday afternoon, I flew three Arizona airport manager colleagues to a quarterly manager’s meeting to Flagstaff (FLG) from my rented aircraft’s home in Glendale, AZ (GEU).

While I was the airport manager at Phoenix-Goodyear Airport (GYR), I also was an adjunct assistant professor at a nearby college flight program. At the time of the flight, I was instructing an undergraduate Airport Management course, and one of my students (Herman) was also a pilot. One day after class, while he and I were chatting about the course, I mentioned to him that I had scheduled an upcoming flight with three other airport managers to Flagstaff (which for me was to be my first flight to FLG). It was then (as I thoroughly understood after the fact), that I was to learn my first lesson in Density Altitude operations.

A Good Lesson Plan

About two weeks prior to that flight, I was checked out in the flight school’s Beechcraft Sierra (Be-24), because I dreamed of (and still do) getting checked out in a Beechcraft Bonanza (what is referred to as the Cadillac of single-engine aircraft) one day. Since the school did not have a Bonanza, I thought the Sierra would be a good stepping stone towards it. This upcoming flight was to be only my third flight in the aircraft. In our impromptu meeting, Herman reminded me several times “don’t top off the fuel tanks at FLG because density altitude may bite you.” For those unfamiliar with density altitude and its dangers, let me conduct a quick Weather Flying tutorial for you.

A Beech Sierra taking off

Photo by: FlugKerl2

Density altitude is pressure altitude corrected for nonstandard temperature. As temperature and altitude increase, the air density decreases. For a pilot that can be a recipe for trouble if he or she is not aware of the conditions. Since the air at higher altitude is less dense, it takes a longer takeoff roll on the runway, and the climb to altitude is slower.

Flagstaff-Pulliam Airport (FLG) sits at the 7,000-foot elevation level in northern Arizona and runway 3-21 is 8,800 feet long. On the day of the flight, the outside temperature was a ‘cooler’ 85 degrees. There you have it: high altitude, high temperature, and lower aircraft performance.

OK Baby, Just Keep on Climbing

The incoming flight was uneventful (oh, I must add, at GEU the departure airport, at 0900 local time it was 95 degrees), so the coolness of FLG would be welcoming. Our departure was at 1:00 PM local time immediately following a delicious catered lunch. Unaware to me until I started my takeoff roll, the entire group of managers watched our departure from the balcony of the airport terminal (oh great, no pressure here Shawn).

I vividly remember lifting off at the 3000-foot remaining point and then it hit me – Herman was right, our aircraft sluggishly lifted off and barely started a climb at the rate of 100 feet/minute. Lesson learned, density altitude is nothing to mess with! Interstate 17 runs adjacent to the airport and heads due south. I made a slight course correction to fly IFR (I Follow Roads) and wanted to stay within landing distant of I-17 ‘just in case.’ Oh, and did I mention the forested areas around the Flagstaff area? So combine poor climb performance, high altitude and high temperatures and trees, you have an almost immediate ‘pucker factor’ of exponential levels. Just climb baby, just keep on climbing I kept telling the airplane!

After about 15-20 minutes we reached our cruising altitude and I uttered a sigh of relief. From that point on the remaining flight back was uneventful- if you consider the temperature rise as we descended into the metropolitan Phoenix area uneventful.

Thank You Herman

A few days after the flight I held my next class meeting and Herman (eager to find out about my excursion), came up to me and asked how things went. Well, I gratefully acknowledged if it weren’t for his advice, it may have turned out different. I couldn’t thank him enough and with that, I knew I had learned a valuable lesson that day. A good pilot should always be very aware of EVERYTHING around him or her and keep in mind all weather conditions that can impact a flight. Too many pilots have learned that lesson the hard way. Herman’s sage advice remains in my brain every time the same scenario occurs. Stay safe out there!

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Fatigue in Aviation: Countermeasures That Are Ignored

Unsolved Issues: Part 2, Amber Berlin

To read Part 1, click here.

According to Wells and Rodriguez, the majority of fatalities in aviation are due to commercial flights on final approach-and-landing, which experience hull loss (2004). In approximately 70 percent of commercial jet hull loss accidents, the main cause has been attributed to flight crew error. People are involved in every aspect of the aviation industry, creating a widespread problem with few sound solutions. Air Safety Week, a top newsletter devoted to news and the analysis of aviation safety, reported, “Among the leading cause of fatal accidents for U.S. air carriers from 1989 to 1996 were loss of control and CFIT (Controlled Flight Into Terrain). Human error was identified as a major contributing cause in a large percentage of these accidents.”(2009).

Aircraft cost millions, and sometimes billions of dollars, so why do aviation professionals make these costly mistakes? In short, they’re exhausted. Long hours in a high-stress environment for an extended period of time leads to fatigue in aviation. We have seen the effects of fatigue in aviation, and with the extreme growth in this industry, the problem will only get worse if not addressed. Air traffic controllers and pilots alike are being asked to push the limits of their ability as management tries to make up for the manning shortage. As we make leaps in technology, many safety program elements are focused on this new technology in the cockpit, to help the pilot make fewer mistakes. However, it should be noted that the misuse of new technology has been the contributing factor in some aviation accidents, and it does not address the underlying deep-rooted problem of human error due to fatigue.

According to the publication, Plain Language About Shiftwork, approximately 15.5 million people work shifts (1997). Working shifts disrupts the body’s natural Circadian rhythm, the 24-hour cycle in the biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes of living beings. Irregular hours, split shifts, and frequent rotations between day and night are common to members of the aviation industry, in addition to extended work hours and high levels of physical and/or mental stress. These Circadian disruptions are often accompanied by sleep loss, with the lack of sleep creating an environment where the individual is too tired to concentrate effectively, resulting in an increased possibility of error or injury.
Fatigue in aviation is also a contributing factor to human error. Fatigue has many causes, including shift-work, lack of personnel or manning issues, circadian disruptions, loss of sleep, long work hours, long periods of physical or mental activity, and fatigue is also a symptom of stress. As stated by Deputy Secretary of Transportation Mortimer Downey, at a fatigue management conference, “Fatigue, due to reduced sleep and irregular hours, has been identified as major factors in a number of crashes and costly incidents.” (2000).

A Boeing jetliner on a airport runway at sunrise

Photo by: Bill

The Body’s Normal Response to Stress

Dr. Peter Panzarino provides an excellent description of the process of the body’s normal response to stress.

A healthy human response to stress involves three components:

  1. The brain handles (mediates) the immediate response. This response signals the adrenal medulla to release epinephrine and norepinephrine.
  2. The hypothalamus (a central area in the brain) and the pituitary gland initiate (trigger) the slower maintenance response by signaling the adrenal cortex to release cortisol and other hormones.
  3. Many neural (nerve) circuits are involved in the behavior response. This response increases arousal (alertness, heightened awareness), focuses attention, inhibits feeding and reproductive behavior, reduces pain perception, and redirects behavior. (2008).

Dr. Panzarino further explains how stress triggers the body’s fight or flight response:

  • The combined results of these three components of the stress response maintain the internal balance (homeostasis), increase energy production and utilization, alter electrolyte (chemical elements) and fluid balance in the body. The also gear up the organism for a quick reaction through the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). The SNS operates by increasing the heart rate, increasing blood pressure, redirecting blood flow to the heart, muscles and brain and away from the gastrointestinal tract, and releasing fuel (glucose and fatty acids) to help fight or flee the danger. (2008).

The problem arises when there is no fighting or fleeing to help work those chemicals out of the body. In a natural environment, we would have to fight or flee, and the body would gear up and use those chemicals appropriately. However, in a stressful work environment, with no fighting or fleeing necessary, those chemicals remain in your system, effectively reducing your body’s ability to function properly. Under stress, the body produces cortisol to help meet the challenges of fight or flight. If your body is under high levels of stress consistently, the cortisol builds up in your system, causing damage.

How can we reduce cortisol levels, get a better night’s sleep and enhance our cognitive ability? Get a massage. Since the 1890’s, J.H. Kellog’s research on the effects of massage has opened the door for this luxury item to be realized as a necessary part of health maintenance (1897). However, despite the many documented effects of massage on the biological system, including improving sleep and increasing the ability to do both physical and mental work, it has not been applied to the aviation industry as a legitimate countermeasure to fatigue in aviation. A massage program has the potential to reduce the number of fatigue-related accidents by directly reducing stress and improving sleep. Also, because of the general reconstructive effects of massage on the body, overall healthcare costs for pilots will also be reduced. Understand the science behind massage and its application as a fatigue countermeasure, as well as other ways to fight fatigue will be explored in the upcoming Unsolved Issues: Part III – Working to Address The Problem of Fatigue in Pilots.

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References:

FAA Seeks to Improve Flight Crew Training. Air Safety Week. 23 Apr, 2009.

Kellogg, J.H. (1897). The Art of Massage.

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (1997). Plain Language About Shiftwork. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Panzarino, Peter. (2008). Stress.

U.S. Department of Transportation. (2000). Partnering for Transportation Safety Human-Centered Systems Operator Fatigue Management Conference. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Wells, A.T. & Rodrigues, C.C. (2004) Commercial Aviation Safety. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc

Feature Image: Kent Wien

How To Handle a Plane Crash as Pilot-in-Command

A plane crash involving mountains, ground or other airplanes make for a lousy end to a flight.

Vern Weiss

Have you ever thought about what it would be like to be Pilot-in-Command of a plane crash? Just because we don’t like to talk about them doesn’t mean they don’t happen and accidents come in all sizes. Some are surprises such as controlled flight into terrain (CFIT) or running off the end of a runway. Some are intentional like landing when your gear won’t come down or a water-ditching when low on fuel. Then again, sometimes they reach out and grab us unexpectedly like getting entangled in wind-shear. It’s obvious that they’re never a good thing. Even so, unfortunately, there are times when it is inevitable you are going to crash. When such misfortune comes your way the more planning you are able to do, the more you improve the outcome.

When impact with the Earth is a certainty, pilot preparation for it is different than when one is a passenger on a large aircraft airline flight. The most important thing you can do is keep your wits about you. There is an ancient cliché thought to be originally written for helicopters but the sentiment is pertinent for airplanes as well: “Fly it till the last part stops moving.” In other words, keeping aircraft control is paramount.

Pilots in the cockpit of an airliner

Photo by: The Zipper

On a commercial airliner, the safety briefing by the flight attendants covers only the most rudimentary of preparation and this is so because the actual aircraft response to impact is unknown. Federal law requires that persons seated near an emergency exit be asked if they feel they can open the exit door. They usually and nonchalantly grunt, “yeah” and go back to reading their newspaper. I’ve watched experienced airline crews train on opening the emergency exits on a new airplane and it typically takes 2 or 3 tries until they get it right. So imagine the reality when Joe Sixpack is doing it amid screams, a crush of people, cabin smoke et cetera. Although my bringing this up is not really within the context of this article, throughout your flying career you are going to find yourself as a passenger riding in the back of an airplane and I implore you to pay attention, read the placards and take sitting in that vital emergency exit seat seriously.

Most serious injuries and fatalities occur due to impact forces, fire, and smoke. It is not the initial impact but, instead, the second or third impact that injures most people. According to Transport Canada, 22% of smaller aircraft crashes would have been otherwise survivable but post impact fatalities were due to smoke and fire.1

In the frenzied bedlam that occurs in a plane crash, without flight attendants, it is important for pilots to do what they can to assist other passengers. Early in my career, I had just been type rated on a corporate jet and got a job flying one immediately. Since my training and even the check-ride occurred in a Level D simulator, I had never actually been in the airplane. On my first day with the new employer, I was sent on a trip with another captain whose job it was to more or less “keep an eye on the greenie (me).” The first leg of the trip, he climbed in the left seat while I was to administer the passenger briefing and close the door. Imagine my embarrassment when it came time for me to close the aircraft entry door and I had no idea whatsoever how to operate the mechanism! Now consider how bewildering egress from a smoke-filled airplane, possibly upside down in water would be to a passenger! Any fatal plane crash is sad but the crash of singer Rick Nelson’s DC-3 is particularly horrible because the pilots climbed out of the burning plane through the cockpit windows while the doomed and unassisted passengers remained inside.2

It is incumbent on every pilot able to do so to assist any and all occupants in a plane crash.

There are preparations to be made prior to an inevitable plane crash and these things are applicable for any non-standard landing such as when the gear won’t come down. Safety experts counsel airline passengers to wear non-flammable clothing, remove sandals and high heels and put on a coat if it’s cold outside. But in small planes, you likely will have such preparations stashed away and inaccessible by the time you will need them. So what CAN you do?

  • Advise all passengers of what is happening so they too can prepare.
  • Passengers, as well as pilots, should remove all sharp objects (pens, pencils, glasses, etc) from pockets and jewelry.
  • Cinch up the seat belts and shoulder harnesses.
  • Secure (as much as possible) any loose objects. Upon impact(s), anything loose will fly forward.
  • Radio your intentions. If not on an ARTCC frequency transmit in the blind on 121.5. All FAA towers, FSS and ARTCC facilities monitor this frequency.
  • If fuel dumping is possible, do so. The less there is to burn the less that might burn. (It may also improve handling characteristics of the aircraft.)
  • Isolate the fuel systems if possible. If there is a cross-feed, close it.
  • If possible, remove flammable cargo by tossing it out of the aircraft.
  • Review any pertinent emergency checklists such as those for gear up landings or ditching.

If landing off airport and out in the middle of nowhere you can sometimes get an idea of the wind from cows and horses. Cows, deer, and horses tend to stand north-south but in strong winds, they face into the wind whereas sheep face away from the wind.3 Pay attention to trees, flags or smoke on land and in water land between the swells or if that’s not possible, land on the backside of a swell. See the Aeronautical Information Manual Chapter 6 Section 2 for more information.

Once the aircraft as come to rest it obviously is essential to get everyone out as quickly as possible. To minimize the potential for injury during the evacuation, pilots should take all necessary actions to shut down the engines by using respective fire handles, condition levers, or fire push button to isolate the aircraft engines. This may not be possible due to the extent of aircraft damage.

In the event that the aircraft has come to rest and does not appear to be threatening smoke, fire or explosion, if possible, remove items that will assist in survivability in the event that help isn’t immediately available. Unless you have good reason to believe that search and rescue aid is not forthcoming, it is a better idea to remain with the aircraft. Collecting materials to start a fire and acquiring a mirror (or shiny piece of metal that can be used as a mirror as well as a women’s make-up compact) might be helpful for signaling SAR aircraft.

Although water seems to be more forgiving than the gritty hardness of terra firma, impact in water is not too different than with land. Typically there is a bounce and the structural damage may be just as bad. “Fly it till the last part stops moving” is good advice. Touch down as slowly and as softly as possible and keep flying until the aircraft has stopped. This means to continue to increase back pressure on the elevator control as the aircraft decelerates until the nose can no longer be held off the ground. Landing in plowed fields or on rough terrain often results in the aircraft flipping over on its back at the very end. Be prepared for this with tightly cinched seat belts and shoulder harnesses and securing any loose objects.

When a plane crash is inevitable, maintain slow, soft, control and let the aircraft absorb the impact forces instead of its occupants. Wings can be as effective as a bumper on a car.

You often hear it said that any landing you walk away from is a good landing but this is nonsense. Good landings infer a certain degree of finesse and precision. However in matters of crash landings, there is no such thing as a “good landing.” The best that one can hope for is a survivable landing. Plan for it accordingly because you’ll not have another chance to go around and try it again.

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Sources:

1 – http://www.skybrary.aero/index.php/Post_Crash_Fires and http://www.tsb.gc.ca/eng/rapports-reports/aviation/etudes-studies/siia0501/siia0501_sec2.asp

2 – Teenage Idol, Travelin’ Man, Philip Bashe, Hyperion Publishing 1992.

3 – http://www.livescience.com/5083-cows-strange-sixth-sense.html and http://www.pnas.org/content/105/36/13451.full

Feature Image: Enrique

How To Fly In Special Use Airspace

John Peltier

Does Special Use Airspace (SUAS) scare you? If you see a Restricted Area on the chart, will you always just avoid the restricted airspace because you don’t even want to think about dealing with getting a clearance through there?

Avoiding all types of Special Use Airspace because you don’t want to deal with the “hassle”, or don’t know how to deal with it, or you can’t even correctly identify them, can actually cause you more of a hassle in added flight time, fuel, and cost.

Knowing how to correctly identifying the different types of Special Use Airspace, their controlling agencies, and their restrictions will take a lot of intimidation out of flying.

The Different Types of Special Use Airspace

If you were to go to your commercial pilot check ride right now, would you be able to name all of the different types of SUAS and their restrictions?

Here’s a good mnemonic to remember them by: MCPRAWN – MOA, CFA, Prohibited, Restricted, Alert, Warning, NSA. Let’s take a look at each of these types of Special Use Airspace and figure out what you need to do to fly in them.

Military Operation Area (MOA)

An MOA is specifically set up to separate IFR traffic from military training traffic. However, this doesn’t mean that as a VFR pilot you’re exempt from acknowledging it. Activities in MOAs can include air-to-air intercepts, “dogfights”, and low altitude training. You don’t want to get in the middle of a dogfight! ATC clearance is not required for you to fly through an MOA.

MOAs have defined vertical and lateral limits – the lateral limits are depicted on the VFR Sectional and the vertical limits can be found in the margin of the sectional. In the same margin, you’ll find the ATC facility and frequency you can talk to before entering the MOA. Just ask them if it’s active. They’ll let you know if there’s any military traffic in there, and where, and then you can make your own judgment call about flying through it. FSS will know as well.

Here’s an example of the information found on the sectional.

Special Use Airspace MOA info on a sectional

Controlled Firing Area (CFA). What does a CFA look like on a VFR Sectional? Trick question – they’re not on there! You really shouldn’t have to worry about these areas while you’re flying. CFAs are generally used for small arms target practice or mortar practice. There are always spotters and/or radar that will detect you approaching the area. When they see you coming, they’ll stop all firing even though you’re most likely higher than any of their shells will reach.

Prohibited Area. A Prohibited Area is established for reasons of national security and you may never fly through one except for in emergencies where overflight cannot be safely avoided. With some prohibited areas, the dimensions start at the surface and as far as you’re concerned, they go up to infinity! However, the Special Use Airspace information in the margins of the Sectional charts contain the precise information for lateral and vertical limits, which vary depending on their location.

Prohibited Areas are identified on charts by numbers, such as “P-40”, which is the Prohibited Area over Washington, D.C.

Restricted. Flight through a Restricted Area is not completely prohibited, but doing so could be extremely hazardous to you! There may be dangerous military activities in restricted areas, like aerial gunnery or live bomb drops. You certainly don’t want to fly through that!

Fortunately, a Restricted Area is only “hot” when the users have it scheduled, which will only be during certain times of the day. You can find the status of Restricted Areas by referencing the margin of your VFR Sectional. Hours will be listed, as well as the ATC agency and frequency to contact for more details. Here’s an example:

Special Use Airspace Restricted Areas info on a sectional

Alert. An Alert Area is just as it sounds – when you fly through these areas, be on alert! You’ll usually find these areas where there’s a large concentration of military pilot training, parachuting, or glider activity. Alert areas are depicted on charts by either a hatched box or a Glider or Parachute icon. Alert areas are not regulated and therefore not under any ATC jurisdiction. Be extra vigilant when you fly through them – all parties are equally responsible for avoidance!

Here’s an example, with the “UA” indicating Unmanned Aerial activity near Fort Sumner.

Special Use Airspace Unmanned Aerial Activity on a sectional

Warning. A Warning Area, or sometimes called a “whiskey”, is only found offshore. They start three miles from the coast and extend outwards as depicted on the sectional. A Warning Area serves to warn pilots that there’s activity going on in there that may be hazardous to them if they’re not a part of it. Examples include air-to-air intercepts and naval exercises. An ATC clearance is not required but it’s advisable to make contact with ATC first and get the scoop on what’s going.

National Security Area (NSA). An NSA may sound like a Prohibited Area, but it’s not. It’s just a place where, for security and safety, pilots are requested to avoid overflight as depicted on the chart. For example, Livermore Labs has an NSA requesting pilots don’t overfly below 800’. Further restrictions can always be put in place by NOTAM, so make sure you check them.

Other Flight Restriction To Be Aware Of

Don’t forget the TFRs! A Temporary Flight Restriction is a “roving” restricted area, temporary in nature. They’re not on the sectionals and are issued by NOTAM. TFRs have different restrictions specific to why the TFR was setup. You’ll need to avoid them by a certain distance, a certain altitude, and/or just not go anywhere near them at all.

Examples for TFRs include rocket launches, wildfires, the Super Bowl, and movements of the President. Details for each TFR can be found in the NOTAMS or by contacting your Flight Service Station.

In Conclusion

It’s prudent to always check NOTAMs and study the charts before you go fly – this should go without saying, but yet many pilots still accidentally fly through active Restricted Areas, Prohibited Areas, and TFRs. Flying through a TFR can cost you your certificate! Don’t let that happen to you.

For more information on Special Use Airspace, see the Aeronautical Information Manual, Chapter 3, Section 4.

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 Flight Safety Articles:

The Different Ways of Checking Your VOR Receiver

Do You Know How To Give the PIREPs?

How Crew Resource Management Makes Flying Safer

The Pilot’s Ability to Self-Assess Pilot Fatigue

Unsolved Issues: Part 1, Amber Berlin

The FAA’s final rule on pilot fatigue places more responsibility on the pilot by making fatigue a joint responsibility between pilots and certificate holders (i.e. the employers). This stated responsibility is designed to curb the pilot’s desire to stay out too late and become overly fatigued. However, pilot fatigue is not only a product of off-duty pilot behavior but also a result of the scheduling practices of the certificate holder and circumstances beyond the pilot’s control. Some additional factors which contribute to fatigue include both positive and negative stressors, the suboptimal use of caffeine and alcohol, and improper diet and lack of exercise. These factors work together to reduce the quality and quantity of sleep and the level of recovery attained during sleep. With each of these factors even mildly contributing to the fatigue level, a pilot may become fatigued through no direct fault of his own, but simply because of normal human behavior.

Once fatigued, the pilot’s cognitive ability is reduced to a point where they are unable to determine, using their own fatigued brain, the level of fatigue they are experiencing. The conscientiousness that makes a good pilot, which “reflects facets of order, dutifulness, achievement striving, self-discipline, and deliberation” also causes the pilot to underestimate subjective fatigue (Calderwood & Ackerman, 2011, p.441). This attitude causes an erroneous perception of being able to discipline their body into compliance; the false idea they can try harder and achieve a state of wakefulness even though they are under the effects of fatigue. The pilot has a duty to the certificate holder to fly the schedule, and the pilot also wants to be able to fulfill this duty without repercussions. Because fatigue affects perception, the pilot may end up with the illusion of being fit for duty, when he is actually operating under a dangerous level of fatigue.

According to Neri, Dinges and Rosekind (1997), “when attempting to judge how sleepy an individual is, the worst person to ask is that individual” (p.11). When applying this statement to the FAA’s rule, individual reports of fitness for duty cannot include a pilot fatigue assessment because it is impossible for the pilot to make an accurate assessment of his fatigue level. Considering the magnitude of the problem of fatigue, a fatigue assessment is the main factor the FAA is seeking with this report.

While the FAA does realize the pilot is unable to make an accurate self-assessment of fatigue, they assume fatigue education and training will mitigate the problem and have mandated a Fatigue Risk Management Plan (FRMP). However, the solution they have provided is dependent upon a properly functioning brain, which a pilot under the effects of fatigue will not have. Therefore, the solution will not be effective for those who need it most, the pilots who are too fatigued to fly. Whereas a normal, rested brain will be able to assess the situation and make a determination of risk, and also recall from memory the information needed to do so, a tired brain operating at a fraction of its normal ability will not be able to provide an accurate assessment or recall the information necessary to perform this task. Is there a viable solution? This is what we’ll be taking a look at next time, in Unsolved Issues: Part II Countermeasures For Fatigue in Aviation That Are Ignored

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:

Calderwood, C., Ackerman, P. (2011). The relative impact of trait and temporal determinants of subjective fatigue. Personality and Individual Differences, 50 , 441445.

D. F., Dinges, D. F. & Rosekind, M.R. (1997). Sustained Carrier Operations: Sleep Loss, Performance, and Fatigue Countermeasures. Fatigue Countermeasures Program. NASA Ames Research Center.

Additional Resources:

FAA Brochure on Pilot Fatigue

Additional Flight Safety Articles:

Halley’s Comet and the Go No-Go Decision

Positive Exchange of Flight Controls and Language

How Crew Resource Management Makes Flying Safer

Featured Image: Morgan Schmorgan

Falling Back On Pilotage After an Equipment Failure

Shawn Arena

Hello, and welcome back to another installment of one of my ‘lessons learned’ stories from personal flying experiences over the years. This story illustrates “always have a Plan ‘B’ when Plan ‘A’ fails,” and the usefulness of learning navigation techniques like pilotage and dead reckoning.

Another Breakfast Trip to Northern Arizona

Like a previous story about a breakfast flight to northern Arizona, this story has a similar theme, but with quite a different start. This flight experience takes place in May 1999. I had rented and was flying one of my favorite Cessna 172’s (N361ES) from the local flight school at Glendale Municipal Airport (GEU) to Earnest A. Love Field (PRC) in Prescott, Az. As I remember, takeoff was uneventful. However, less than five minutes following takeoff (and about the time I was switching radio frequencies from GEU Tower to Albuquerque Center (ABQ Center) for flight following), my navigational equipment failed. But as the late radio personality Paul Harvey used to say, “now for the rest of the story.”

Technology is Wonderful … When it Works

At the timeframe of my flight, avionics technology had jumped leaps and bounds from strict analog instrumentation to digital. Specifically, this flight school’s aircraft were transitioning to global positioning system (GPS) navigation with a ‘moving map’ feature. Now having been an aviation geek and assistant professor for an aviation college, I prided myself in keeping up with all the latest trends, especially those related to flight navigation. I had read up on the ‘moving map’ capability and was intrigued and excited to see it operate in person.

First, a trip down memory lane (for those old enough to remember). When television had matured enough in technology in the mid-1950’s for Joe and Jane Public to purchase, it was a thrill (so I was told…) to see electronic images on a relatively small black-and-white screen, of real live television. Fast forward to our flight, and I was just as thrilled to try out this new ‘gadget’ called a moving map.

Well, I got about 4.5 minutes of my new experience, when ‘Poof’ it disappeared! After the first initial “What just happened?” moment, reality set in and a little voice (maybe my first flight instructor, Lance) in my head said, “Shawn, they have been flying airplanes since the Wright Brothers, using easy to follow navigational methods called ‘pilotage’ (the art of flying using fixed visual references on the ground by means of sight to guide oneself to a destination, sometimes with the help of a map or nautical charts) and ‘dead reckoning,’ (calculating one’s current position by using a previously determined position), so I just switched mental gears and the flight continued uneventfully.

Lessons Learned From That Day That We Are Still Learning Today

As the saying goes, “If one does not learn the lessons from the past, it will repeat itself over and over again.” Such is the case with this small incident. To this day, I tell my aviation safety and human factors students that this was the best thing to happen to me in my venture into electronic avionics. To simply switch navigational processes to those like pilotage taught in ground school and basic flight training turned out to be a non-event for me since I was taught “the old fashioned way” of flight navigation.

Unfortunately in this ever increasing reliance-on-technology world that we live in, things are great until a failure occurs. In theory, to lessen the flight crew’s burdens of manually flying the aircraft by conducting repetitive manual inputs, automation was a great invention. However, therein lies the trap: over-reliance on one system and complacency. Two recent high-profile commercial aviation accidents attributed to technology failure of automated avionics during the last 7 years bring home the point – always have a backup plan.

June 1, 2009, Air France flight 447 was flying through the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) over the Atlantic Ocean in a severe thunderstorm, en route to South America. It crashed as the automated flight control system became unstable and overloaded due to task saturation. This accident is now deemed one of the classic technological failure events in aviation. (It must be noted, however, that a post-accident report indicated that the flight crew had not been trained to recognize automation failure that resulted in an aerodynamic stall).

Asiana Airlines Flight 214, on final approach to San Francisco International Airport on July 6, 2013, hit the seawall and crash landed on the airport. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) report revealed that the flight crew did not have enough experience in the automated system of the Boeing 777, and when the autopilot disconnected, airspeed and altitude began dropping without anyone on the flight deck recognizing it until it was too late to conduct a missed approach.

A Boeing 777 in flight

Photo by: BriYYZ

The moral of these examples and of this story is to not only have an intimate knowledge of your avionics but be prepared to manually fly the aircraft if necessary. As these examples demonstrate, it’s important to maintain currency in manual flight, including techniques like pilotage. It doesn’t matter if you are flying a Cessna 172 or a Boeing 777, the principles remain the same: always stay ahead of the airplane OR the airplane will take you where you don’t want to go!

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 Aircraft Safety Articles:

Positive Exchange of Flight Controls and Language

How Crew Resource Management Makes Flying Safer

Competency vs Proficiency: A Look at Flying Aircraft Safely

Featured Image: Todd Lappin

What Are Airworthiness Directives?

Dr. Mary Ann O’Grady

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issues legally enforceable Airworthiness Directives or ADs for the purpose of correcting an unsafe condition in an aircraft, aircraft engine, propeller, or appliance under 14 CFR Part 39. The FAA Aircraft Certification Service maintains 12 Aircraft Certification Offices (ACOs) within four Directorates, and each one is responsible for the continued operational safety of the products over which it holds jurisdiction. This directorate responsibility is assigned by the type of product: transport category airplanes, small airplanes, rotorcraft, or engines and propellers. The Aviation Safety Engineers (ASEs) employed by the Directorate monitor the assigned products to identify unsafe conditions, and the necessity to generate airworthiness directives. These ASEs are also responsible for monitoring products that are manufactured in other countries but are approved for use in the United States as well as initiating airworthiness directives for those products as deemed necessary. The functions of the four Directorates can be details as follows: to draft, coordinate, and issue airworthiness directives based upon the information that is provided by an ACO or Directorate Standards Staff.

The responsibility of the owner of a Type Certificate that has been issued an AD involves:

  • Notifying the FAA when they are made aware of any failure malfunction, or defect in any product, part, process, or article manufactured by them.
  • Developing appropriate design changes to correct any unsafe condition.
  • Incorporating the correction (corrective action) in the future generation of the product that will ensure that the product remains in a safe operating condition.

Aircraft owners as well as operators are responsible for ensuring that they are in compliance with the requirements of all airworthiness directives that apply to their aircraft. Anyone who continues to operate a product that is not in compliance with an applicable AD is in violation of 14 CFR 39.7. In order to locate all applicable ADs, an online search must be conducted for the product, such as for the aircraft, engine(s), propeller, or any other installed appliance. If multiple series are discovered under the aircraft or engine model, it then becomes necessary to also search for ADs that are applicable to the model as well as to the specific series of that model. No person may operate a product to which an AD has been issued except in accordance with the requirements of the AD, and the owner or operator of an aircraft must continue to remain in compliance with all ADs within the compliance time that relates to the effective date of the AD which determines when the actions are required.

Airworthiness directives are constructed in two parts: the preamble and the rule, where the former section provides the basis and the purpose of the AD while the latter section provides the regulatory requirements for correcting the unsafe condition(s). Typically the ADs will include: the description of the unsafe condition; the product to which the AD applies; the required corrective action, operating limitations or both; the AD effective date; a compliance time; the source for additional information; and information regarding alternative methods of compliance with the requirements of the AD. ADs provide a three-part number designator which can be demystified as follows: the first part is the calendar year of issuance; the second part consists of the biweekly period of the year when the number is assigned; and the third part is issued sequentially within each biweekly period. It is important to note that not all ADs necessitate a corrective action; some ADs just include limitations, but each AD is intended to resolve an unsafe condition.

The Federal Register is the official daily publication of the United States government which generates the printed or hard copy method of providing information to the public regarding laws that have been enacted or will be enacted. Electronic versions of the airworthiness directives are available from the Federal Register and from the FAA Regulatory and Guidance Library (RGL). The RGL contains all of ADs which can be searched under the manufacturer, model or AD number itself. Electronic copies of the ADs can be downloaded from the RGL to the computer of the owner or operator, and subscription services are also available via email from the RGL home page. Once a subscription has been activated, any AD that pertains to aircraft and engine makes and models that have been selected, will be emailed as attachments within minutes of the document being posted. The FAA provides the public an opportunity to comment on the notices of proposed rulemaking as well as on final rule ADS that are published without prior notice. They are all published in the Federal Register and include information regarding how to submit comments. The FAA does not request comments regarding Emergency ADs at the time of their issuance although the FAA does request comments when they are published as a final rule AD in the Federal Register.

The standard airworthiness directive process for the three types of ADs (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking or NPRM, which is followed by a Final Rule, Final Rule, Request for Comments and Emergency ADs) adheres to the following procedure: once an unsafe condition is identified, a proposed solution is published as an NPRM, which then solicits public comment on the proposed action. After the comment period concludes, the final rule is generated while considering all substantive comments received, with the rule perhaps being changed as warranted by those comments. The preamble to the final rule AD provides response to the substantive comments or states that there were no comments received. In cases where the critical nature of an unsafe condition warrants the immediate adoption of a rule without prior notice and/or the solicitation of comments (typically in less than 60 days), a finding of impracticability becomes justified for the terminating action which allows it to be issued as an immediately adopted rule which is then published in the Federal Register with a request for comments. The Final Rule AD may be changed later if substantive comments are received. When an Emergency AD is issued, it requires immediate action by the owner or operator since its intent is to rapidly correct an urgent safety of flight situation. An AD is considered to be no longer in effect when it has been superseded by a new AD which states that the previous AD is no longer in effect and that there are no compliance requirements for an AD that has been superseded.

Different approaches or Alternative Methods of Compliance (AMOC) that are not specified in an original airworthiness directive can, with FAA approval, be used to correct an unsafe condition on an aircraft or aircraft product. Although the proposed alternative may not have been known at the time the AD was originally issued, it could be acceptable to accomplish the intent of the original AD. A compliance time that differs from the requirements of the original AD can also be approved if the revised time period provides an acceptable level of safety that equals or exceeds the requirements posted in the original AD. Provisions for an AMOC are desirable from the owner’s or operator’s point of view because it can eliminate the necessity of constant AD revisions when acceptable methods are developed for AD compliance. If an AD does not contain any provision(s) for approving an AMOC, the AD must undergo revisions before compliance can be accomplished by any method other than what is stated in the original AD. Each AD states which office within the FAA Aircraft Certification Service that is responsible for that particular AD. An AMOC can be approved by the manager of the office that is responsible for that specific AD including different compliance times for the requirements of a specific AD. One FAA Aircraft Certification Office will have responsibility for AMOC approvals for products manufactured within the United States while a product manufactured outside of the United States will be under the jurisdiction of a Standards Staff branch office of one of the four FAA Aircraft Certification Directorates.

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 Aircraft Safety Articles:

What Are the Aircraft Annual Inspection Requirements?

The Reasons Behind Male and Female Pilot Error

Positive Exchange of Flight Controls and Language

Do You Know How to Give PIREPs?

What Makes Us Aviation Professionals?

A Summary of Qualifications, Ethics, and Responsibility

Amber R. Berlin

I catch the look exchanged between the pilot and his cargo as they board their commercial flight to Los Angeles. Can we trust you? This unspoken request hangs in the air, each gaze finally broken by the crowd pressing forward to find their seats. A few of the passengers here are flying for the first time. All of them trust the pilot and flight crew with their lives. What is it that makes the crew able to accept the responsibility for so many? Do they hold certain personality traits that make them better suited for this type of work, or have they simply adapted to the high demands of the job, and high expectations of the public? These are the questions we will answer as I take you on a journey with an in­ depth look at today’s aviation professionals, their responsibilities, and the characteristics that enable them to carry our most precious cargo, the passengers.

An airline cabin interior

Photo by Ian Abbott

The aviation industry is responsible for thousands of lives every day. Each aviation accident has the potential to cost millions of dollars in equipment, and even more tragically, extinguish precious life. In a field where trust is hard earned, and accidents happen, they must hold themselves to a higher standard of accountability.

The ability to think clearly in times of crisis, when most people freeze, is what defines us as aviation professionals. Many people can do their job well every day, but when disaster strikes they stand frozen, unable to react. “Fear is the most powerful emotion,” said University of California Los Angeles psychology professor Michael Fanselow. (Associated Press 2007). Professionals have the ability to separate their personal feelings from the task at hand, and since their thought process isn‘t hampered by emotion, they retain the ability to make sound decisions.

The public also holds aviation professionals to a certain standard of excellence. They are expected to know their job, and know it well. Thousands of hours are spent learning in classrooms, on­ the­ job, and later in the field, and training on updated techniques or upgraded equipment is never ending. Every airline passenger expects certain needs to be met, with safety, timeliness, and comfort ranking high on the list of importance. If you let them down, they go straight to customer service, or the news, with their complaints. American Airlines Executive Vice President of Marketing Dan Garton said, “There are huge costs when you have inconvenienced your customers.” (Associated Press 2009). Staying current in techniques, technology, and industry news is vital to being able to assist the customer and your crew to the maximum extent.

As aviation professionals, we must have the ability to follow the rules, pay close attention to detail, and get the job done as scheduled. Following the rules means being aware of the rules in the first place, so staying abreast of changing procedures and regulations is vital to success. Because of the steady evolution of the aviation industry, professionals must continue to expand their knowledge, with a willingness to learn new techniques being essential. It is important to follow the rules, even when no one is looking. This “ethical behavior is learned behavior, and managers can build organizational processes and strategies that contribute to this learning effort.” (Menzel 2006).

Individuals in the aviation industry have certain personality traits that enable them to hold positions that require a high level of accountability. According to the Keirsey Temperament Test, most of these individuals have a guardian­ type personality, with a strong desire to protect others. This desire is what drives them to step into aviation instead of some other field. It is spurred by the desire to gain knowledge, and the motivation to step into a position of command.

The Keirsey website further explains a guardian’s motivation in their 1 1⁄2 page description:
“They have such a clear vision of the way that things should be, that they naturally step into leadership roles…they are extremely talented at devising systems and plans for action, and at being able to see what steps need to be taken to complete a specific task.” (DeBruhl, 2002, p.67).

Guardians have a deep set vein of integrity and they hold their crew’s honesty, as well as their own, in high regard. They also tend to hold themselves to higher than average standards, and consistently strive for excellence in their work. This description of a Guardian is accurate according to a survey of aviation professionals and college students taken earlier this year, making them a perfect match for the high standards of aviation.

As a former air traffic controller, holding oneself to a higher standard was a way of life. With hundreds of lives depending on you each second and only moments to make each decision, professionalism was a requirement of the job. It was this high standard that kept us safe, and training was focused on the perfect execution of each task. There was no room to be sloppy as the traffic picked up and when you’re too busy to think, you fall back on the training you worked so hard to master.

An ATC tower at night

Photo by Loaded Aaron

One evening I was working approach at Sheppard Air Force Base, TX. I had only been certified to work alone for a few months. Storms had hit northern Texas hard that day and the visibility was poor. A flight of T­38’s joined my pattern and requested a flight split. I separated and identified each aircraft, and my gut instinct was to vector them with additional spacing. Instead of the required 3 miles, I was giving them nearly 7. My supervisor came to stand behind my chair and started criticizing my way of working traffic, saying it was a waste of resources to make them use so much fuel in a wide pattern. I maintained my professional attitude and continued to work the pattern, although the criticism wasn’t easy to listen to. I felt a sinking sensation in my stomach…Was I wrong? The thought echoed in my head as I pushed everything out and focused on the task at hand. After several minutes the aircraft landed and the supervisor walked away, obviously displeased. Within the hour, one of the pilots called the RAPCON and asked to thank me for providing the extra separation on final with such poor visibility. I was relieved to hear that my decision was the right one for the situation. But more than that, I’m glad
I didn’t let the criticism compromise safety or cause me to respond to the supervisor in a negative way.

Each individual in the industry has the ability to prevent an accident from happening, and it is each individual’s responsibility for costly mistakes. They are constantly striving for the unattainable goal of perfection, and consistently falling short. However, this quest is not without rewards. Saving just one life is reward enough, and whether you’re the maintenance man who turned the last screw, or the pilot in command during flight, each of the aviation professionals involved in this process ensures the safety of the skies.

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:

Associated Press, (2007). Frozen with fear? Science tells why. Retrieved from
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21547710/from/ET/

Associated Press, (2009). As fares and fees rise, passengers want service. Retrieved from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/26791797/

DeBruhl, A.D., (2006). The ultimate truth: An objective commentary on just about everything. Boston: 1st World Publishing.

Menzel, D.C., (2006). Ethics management for public administrators: Building organizations of integrity. New York: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

Featured Image: Jetstar Airways

Aviation Safety: Just Fly the Plane

Welcome back to the fourth installment of one of my ‘lessons learned’ stories from personal flying experiences over the years that highlight aviation safety. This story reinforces that age-old aviation adage: “Just Fly the Plane!”

Shawn Arena

A Breakfast Trip to Northern Arizona

This story occurs circa 1996-97. I was working as the Noise Abatement Officer at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) and one of my co-workers named Doug (an IT Specialist at PHX) wanted to take a trip to Prescott, AZ (PRC) for a Saturday breakfast at the airport café. At that time, I was renting aircraft from Chandler Municipal Airport (CHD) which is located about 30 miles southeast of PHX. On the appointed day, Doug met me at CHD and off we went in our Cessna 172 to enjoy our breakfast at PRC. Now Prescott Airport (officially named Ernest A. Love Field), was (and still is) a busy facility – not only because of fly-ins like us on the weekend but PRC is the western U.S. location for a popular school’s resident campus, so the pattern is filled with “Echo Romeo” call signs from students transitioning the local airspace. The airport café (which I recommend to any pilot looking for a great meal) is decorated with all sizes of historic and current aircraft hanging from the ceiling – what else can a hungry aviator ask for! Needless to say, we enjoyed the food and scenery, and then it was time to return to CHD.

“What’s That Noise?”

Similar to many airports throughout the country, PRC has noise abatement procedures that aircraft are to follow immediately after departure (as my job title denoted, that was my “day” job at PHX to monitor). At PRC, in order to avoid neighboring homes to the southwest, aircraft are to maintain runway heading (210 degrees) for 3 miles before turning. As we approached the 3 mile mark to begin our turn further south, I heard a terrific noise and immediately saw that Doug’s door had flown open – the noise is something similar to opening a window while a car is cruising down the highway, only amplified – and we were wearing noise canceling headsets!

Almost simultaneously as the door opened, I heard my former flight instructor Lance in my ear saying “Just fly the plane, stick to aviate, navigate, communicate.” I had heard stories about pilots meeting their demise when the passenger door would fly open and upon reaching to close it, they caused the plane to ultimately end up in a spin. Fortunately for me, Doug was riding in the right seat, and without hesitation, he reached over and slammed the door shut – end of crisis. At the time, we didn’t seem to be that concerned about our moment of terror, as we uneventfully completed our flight home to CHD.

My “Then It Hit Me” Moment

After Doug and I parted ways at CHD on our respective drives home, I started critiquing my airmanship skills (this is something that Lance taught me years before, always evaluate how you conducted your flight so as to learn for next time), it was then that the gravity of our door incident hit me. I was fortunate to not only have a passenger with me to assist but one that did not even blink an eye and immediately nipped the situation in the bud by slamming it shut. (Later that following week when he and I were collaborating on a work project, did he sheepishly admit that he had trouble closing the door upon leaving PRC, which he surmised caused the door to fling open). So in my best Chuck Yeager (ah-shucks) moment, I told him no harm no foul as we made it back in one piece.

What I did not tell him, though, was that one situation made an indelible mark on me, reminding me of the age-old aviation safety adage: “Just Fly the Plane.”

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 Aviation Safety Articles:

Halley’s Comet and the Go No-Go Decision

How Not To Impress a Friend With Carburetor Icing

Flight Safety: Breaking the Chain of Events

Feature Image: Simon Moores

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