Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Is your "co-pilot" ready to take over the controls?

The recent death of a senior airline captain at the controls should pose as a potent reminder that we all may become incapacitated at the most inopportune times. Armed with that possibility what should be done?

Well for a start, I'll briefly discuss the options and possible outcomes in the case of single pilot operations. Assuming that the pilot is suddenly totally incapacitated, what is the passenger sitting in the right seat to do? Panic is the most obvious option with an unpleasant and predictable outcome. But what if there had been a brief discussion before take-off including the handing to that person an instruction sheet of things to do, a "what if protocol"? Things such as: if the auto-pilot is on, leave it on. If not, push the auto pilot button to turn it on. These suggestions and those that follow assume that the plane is in a fairly stable flight regimen i.e. not take off or landing. How to keep the plane level and upright is a bit much to try and tell someone in a casual 30 second briefing. So anyway, the next thing is to call for help. That is done by keying the mike and calling Mayday three times and listening for a reply. Remember that the distress frequency 121.5 is universally monitored, and a prompt reply is almost a guarantee.

So now you get the idea. PPPPPP (prior planning prevents p-s poor performance) as mentioned in an earlier blog.

I have read accounts of ground personnel talking an unskilled passenger safely down in a small plane. Lets hope this scenario is not ever to be. But if it were, will you be prepared?

I just read an interesting write-up or to do list more complete, but also geared for someone with some flying know how by K. Truemper at:
Have a look and happy, safe flying.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Before You Go-Know Where To Stop To Abort

Reading about some recent mishaps involving inadvertant collisions between airplanes and trees, reminds me of a flight to Hendersonville, NC (OA7) in our Be-36, several years ago. Landing at this particular strip was ok, but taking off another matter. Although the runway is 3075 ft long by 40 wide and aligned 15/33 there turned out to be worrysome factors for this pilot. There was a considerable slope downhill towards the southeast terminating in a line of tall trees. It was warm and the wind although light was out of the NW. The slope meant landing uphill and taking off downhill unless one had JATO tanks aboard, with a slight tailwind.

Well, it got to be departure time and as we taxied to the departure end I noticed lots of small stones on and around the runway. That meant better be slow in advancing the throttle or risk flying stones in the prop and denting the skin. So we got rolling slowly and as I approached my half way visual check point (decision point for go no go) we had barely 60 knots, the trees looking menacing ahead. So I aborted the take-off with the usual discomfort, especially for my wife, the sole passenger. At this point my wife wanted nothing further to do with the plane, I could't blame her. She got out and I decided to do a practice short field take-off following usual procedures. I taxied back to the end of 15 and set 10 degrees flaps. Gunned the engine as soon as I was clear of the stones and was airborne and climbing by midfield. I landed and after promising my wife the moon and a four star meal she climbed back in the plane and we headed back to CLT.

So the message is always have a visual check point picked out to decide if you can safely make your take-off.

If you haven't reached your target speed by this point abort and try something else as I had to do i.e. short field technique. Trees or other obstacles surrounding the runway/airport must be avoided by using proper landing and departure techniques. When landing over an obstacle it is important to fly at your minimum safe approach speed or you will risk overshooting the runway.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Learn to coummunicate like the pros

Before I really ever did much of my own flying, I listened to ATC communications on my aircraft radio while watching the inbounds to Logan from my rooftop. Sounds goofy but I learned a lot about what and how to say it. I still turn on my transceiver occasionaly, just to listen and keep the lingo and rhythm in my head.

You don't hear the pros saying ah, um or waiting seconds to answer. No, they know what is expected and are ready with an appropriate reply. For example: United 123 you are cleared to 14000, not to exceed 250 knots. Roger 14 at 250, United 123. That is preferable to repeating the whole thing and wasting everyone's time.

Copying clearances can be tricky. However it is vital that they are copied verbatim as an error can be costly. So be prepared to copy complicated changes in routings, new clearances etc.

To make it easier to write as you fly, get a strap on writing pad arrangement for your thigh. They are commercially available. I even made my own when I was starting out.