I thought the flight went spectacularly. My first turbine experience — flying three hours solid over the Los Angeles trafficscape with the legendary helicopter traffic reporter Commander Chuck Street. In between his traffic reports, he’d given me the thumbs up and nods of approval. Life felt great. [Read more…]
We pilots of a certain age were taught in school that George Washington never told a lie. Teachers drove the point home with a story about America’s first president and a certain felled cherry tree. I’m not sure why a lesson about being honest had to involve George Washington. Maybe it was to make the point that people who don’t lie are destined for great things.
That’s why a report to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System I summarized at the end of last month’s column troubled me. In it a pilot admitted to fabricating a fantastical story to emphasize the importance of pilot courtesy. The lie was so huge and so unbelievable, it got me thinking about why we lie.
Are the reasons behind why we lie enough for a CFI to tell such a whopper? [Read more…]
I once was the instructor for a high fashion student. Her day-trading job had recently netted her a lot of money. Her hard work paid out handsomely and she wanted everyone to know it. If that meant stepping out of the pilot’s seat of her own airplane in stylish high heels, so be it.
Her determination to train in haute couture stressed out more than a few flight instructors at the FBO where I worked. They were frustrated by her lack of progress — the result of poor rudder control — and her dismissal of the many other dangers of flying in heels.
The first time she and I went flying, I complimented her on her looks and her awesome outfit. Then I asked her to jump into the left seat and close the door. She did, while I backed away from the fuselage a little bit. [Read more…]
I once told a friend that my first passenger on earning my private pilot license would be my brother-in-law and not my spouse, because flying my spouse would put too much pressure on me. At least I knew that much about myself.
So it was with that in mind that I queried NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System database. I used the simple directive “spouse.”
The 40 NASA reports obtained from that query revealed that having a spouse has a major impact on us. And by “us” I mean pilots, controllers, and mechanics.
Simply put, having your spouse on your mind can greatly affect your judgment, in both predictable and unpredictable ways. [Read more…]
In the spirit the new year brings, I choose to dedicate this month’s column to the pilots and aviation professionals whose teamwork, communication and training helped set things right after things went very wrong.
While this column normally offers its readers a chance to learn from other fliers’ mistakes, on this occasion, I’d like to showcase those pilots and aviation professionals who did their best in the face of long odds. [Read more…]
I recently read about a study involving dogs in homes, dogs in shelters, and wolves. The researchers rounded up 10 animals from each category and gave them each a puzzle box containing a food reward. The catch was that the box could only be opened with some persistence.
Eight of the 10 wolves successfully opened the box. Only one of the 20 dogs succeeded.
According to the researchers, the wolves spent almost the entire time working the problem. The dogs spent almost none.
It seems funny that this study revealed a remarkable lack of interest in minor canine self-preservation. Dogs are highly intelligent, empathetic and coachable. But have they become lazier than wild animals due to human contact?
Pilots as a group have a reputation for being independent, lone wolves. But after reading several reports to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System like the one below, I wonder: Are we really more like domesticated dogs? [Read more…]
Whenever I tell a group of pilots that I also fly helicopters, there’s always one guy in the group who says he can’t stand them.
“I hate those things,” he’ll spew. “They’re unpredictable when they’re flying in the pattern. You never know which way they’re going to fly.”
Helicopter pilots learn early in their training they have to cede the right-of-way to all other aircraft, yet other pilots don’t seem to know this. When I try to explain that fact is in the Aeronautical Information Manual, I still get, “I don’t care. I still hate ’em.” [Read more…]
Pilots and air traffic controllers think that they’re so different from each other, but they’re not. They’re really two branches of the same aviation family.
And judging from the research I did for this month’s column, they all agree that they hate the NOTAM system in its present state. [Read more…]
Once I began flying the line, I rarely thought about seat positions and calibrations. At a certain point, takeoffs and landings in an airliner are all about holding a particular deck angle. That generally means eyes more inside on the artificial horizon than outside. Plus the time pressures we were under to run our checklists, procedures and flows and get out of the gate on time pushed seat adjustments down the priority list.
Anyway, I rarely put anything up on the glare shield. And if I did, I’d see it, right? [Read more…]
I was once blinded by my best friend while flying at night. He was trying to help me read a map. We were out of KDAL, heading to KSMO.
Inbound to KSMO, at night, over California’s high desert, the earth below looked black as pitch, the sky above a planetarium ceiling’s worth of stars. I’d purposely kept cockpit lighting low to preserve my night vision.
When ATC descended us from12,000 to 8,000, I dropped my sectional. Thinking he was being helpful, my non-pilot friend saw this as an opportunity to show off the new, high-intensity headband flashlight he’d brought along, the kind intended for caves, not cockpits.
“Check this out!” he said. I turned toward him just as he flicked on the flashlight.
“AHHH!” I screamed and jerked away, but not before being blinded completely. [Read more…]