Fatigue: The pilot’s common cold

Returning from a short tropical vacation, I barely napped on the transatlantic red-eye. It was the night before my third airplane instructional flight. During the ground lesson, I thought I was hiding my jetlag pretty well from my instructor. It turns out he saw through my ruse and blindsided me with one of his own.

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The importance of the preflight


I have been following the story about the 15-year-old boy from San Jose who stowed away in the main landing gear wheel well of an Hawaiian Airlines B767 going to Honolulu. Here is one amazing aspect of this whole thing — and I am not talking about how the teenager survived the flight. It’s the breakdown in the chain of security that has me wondering where the pilots were in all this.

All of the reporting I have seen has been discussing airport fencing, TSA surveillance and the like — completely missing or overlooking the fact that the flight crew was really the last line of defense in this situation.

Let me explain. Flight crews of big jet airliners are suppose to do preflights just like any general aviation pilot does on his plane, whether it be a little piston popper or a jet.

It is obvious this Hawaiian Airlines crew did not or could not have done a thorough preflight inspection of this B767 without seeing this teenager in the wheel well. Airliner wheel wells have excellent lighting, so even in the dark a person could not be missed in one.

Preflights are done on airliners within one hour of departure and that teenager had to be up inside of that wheel well long before one hour prior to departure time in order to have not been noticed.

I started out with Western Airlines at LAX in 1976 as a flight engineer on the B727-200 and was captain on several planes before I was done. Guess what? I never could get away from doing preflights.

I did them as a flight engineer and later as a first officer and captain on two pilot airliners like the B767. On the two-pilot jets we would take turns with the captain doing one preflight and the copilot doing one. We called them walk arounds and they are done before every takeoff.

Trust me it would be impossible to miss any person hiding in a wheel well if a pilot was doing a preflight like it is supposed to be done.

As far as jet airliner wheel well preflights go, the pilot is supposed to walk up inside of the big wheel well and inspect for hydraulic leaks and to make sure fluid and quantities are normal (fluid reservoirs and gauges are located in wheel wells) and that gear doors and the landing gear and tires are all up to speed.

Please explain to me how any preflight, even one done in a hurry, could miss a person in a main landing gear wheel well? Yet I have heard not a word about this angle when it is obvious that the flight crew, as in many cases, was and is the last line of defense in airline security and safety.

Currently I ferry all kinds of planes all over the world and I am not only doing preflights I also do a post flight. Guess what? Airline crews are supposed to do post flights as well.

My post flights are like quick preflights, looking mainly for hydraulic or oil leaks or anything obviously wrong. The sooner I find a problem, the sooner I can make arrangements to deal with it.

Let’s be careful out there folks and not slack off on the everyday mundane tasks, no matter what type of planes we fly!

Michael Magnell is owner of TransOceanic Aircraft Ferry.

Environmental groups file yet another anti-avgas petition

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Three environmental groups filed a petition April 22 asking the Environmental Protection Agency to take action against the continued use of leaded aviation gasoline.

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Backcountry Pilot: The Approach – Takeoff

“Backcountry takeoffs are probably one of the least talked about segments of operation in the backcountry, which is unfortunate as they’re the most limiting and critical part of a flight,” begins the second installment – Takeoff – of The Approach on the Backcountry Pilot website.

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AirFest takes to the skies over Durant, Oklahoma

The Take to the Skies AirFest returned to Durant, Oklahoma, for its second year March 29.

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Super Legend launched in Lakeland

SULPHUR SPRINGS, Texas – American Legend Aircraft Co. launched its Lycoming-powered Super Legend on the grounds of SUN ‘n FUN 2014, with the arrival of three new aircraft.

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Great War Flying Museum to bring aircraft to Oshkosh

EAA AVIATION CENTER, OSHKOSH, Wis. — Four replica aircraft from the Great War Flying Museum of Caledon, Ontario, Canada, will participate in EAA’s World War I aviation centennial activities at the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014 fly-in, which will be held July 28-Aug. 3 at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh.

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Bosch Aviation opens for business at AWO

ARLINGTON, Wash. — Bosch Aviation, a new aircraft maintenance and parts business has recently opened its hangar doors at the Arlington Airport (KAWO).

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Trine Aerospace & Defense gets FAA Part 145 Repair Station certification

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Trine Aerospace & Defense has earned FAA Part 145 approval as a certified repair station. Based at the Colorado Springs (KCOS) airport, Trine Aerospace & Defense offers engineering, manufacturing, and aircraft modification on general aviation, commercial, and special mission aircraft. It also specializes in avionics and installation repair.

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Intersection takeoff goes bad

Aircraft: Piper Cherokee. Injuries: None. Location: Lake Wales, Fla. Aircraft damage: Substantial.

What reportedly happened: The student pilot was practicing takeoffs and landings with his CFI.

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