Around the Pattern

Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

Tag: airline flying (Page 3 of 6)

Big Tow Little Tow

Airline tow vehicle hooked to a Boeing 747.

Traffic was backed up a little as we were leaving Tokyo the other day which meant we had to to wait in line on the parallel for our turn to take off. We happened to stop just abeam a parking apron where a maintenance crew was readying a 747 for tow. They were using one of the big tugs that can lift the nosewheel off the ground and capture it in a cradle. This makes it very easy to maneuver the aircraft from one position to another and gives a very smooth ride if the plane is full of passengers. The tug also has auxilliary electrical power capability. You can see the yellow power cord coming from the tug, looping around the steering cylinders at the rear of the nosewheel strut and connecting to the plane. It’s not obvious what the other line is that is coming out of the nosewheel well, but it is probably the cloth streamer attached to the end of the nosewheel pin. The pin is inserted into a hole in the nosewheel retraction mechanism to prevent the gear from retracting. I have seen these tugs moving 747s around at what seemed like 30 knots. It was probably not that fast, but it was definitely faster than a brisk walk. For those of you who may be curious, the ANA on the side of the tug stands for All Nippon Airways. If you have really good eyes, you can see the letters NCA on the underside of the aircraft nose. That’s a Nippon Cargo Airlines 747-400 freighter, not the private plane of the National Cheerleaders Association. (Amazing the things you find with a Google search.)

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Professional Pilots (?)

I just received the latest issue of the AvFlash newsletter which summarizes the articles on the AvWeb home page. Once again I find myself saying “What were these people thinking?”. The article that generated my comment was titled: Airline Crews in Trouble over YouTube Videos.  Just the title generates all sorts of ‘wonderful’ mental pictures. One involves the commuter pilot and flight attendant caught not long ago running around the woods sans-clothes .[Link removed]   No, this was a new example of less than stellar judgment.

It turns out that a crewmember or a jumpseater, the article was unsure,  video taped a takeoff of a passenger flight from the cockpit. Unlike several people I know I have only flown for one airline in my career but I am not aware of any professional flying organization that does not have some sort of sterile cockpit rule.  Even the average private pilot who receives training from a conscientious CFI will be instructed on the need to eliminate all unnecessary distractions in the cockpit while in the vicinity of an airport. My airline’s rule dictates a sterile cockpit below 10,000′ agl and I know of others which specify 18,000′.

You may be able to rationalize away the sterile cockpit violation as not causing a distraction. After all, today’s video recorders are virtually silent and palm-sized. However, you are still left as the article mentions with the restriction on the use of electronic devices below 10,000′. Do electronic devices interfere with the ‘communication and navigation equipment on board the aircraft’ as the mantra says? That’s hard to say. In my experiences, yes they occasionally do. I have had erratic navigation indications that were traced to a DVD player being used in the front of  the passenger cabin. The erratic needles settled down when the player was turned off and returned when it was turned on. Why, I don’t know, maybe the planets were aligned at just the right angle. That happened several years ago, but it was something that I personally experienced. Does it happen with the newer electronics and our newer airplanes? It is possible, I imagine, that a malfunctioning electronic device could introduce a radiated signal into an airplane and several models of aircraft in service now are controlled by computers sending electronic signals from the cockpit to the flight controls. I have not heard of any actual cases of electronic interference lately. It’s doubtful that the electronic equipment effected anything in this case, but that is not relevant, the rule prohibits their use. Just because there is no traffic at an intersection doesn’t mean that you don’t have to stop at the red light.

And that takes us to the judgment involved with then posting the video on YouTube to show the world that you have, in fact, violated multiple FAA and company regulations. The article says that the video has been removed from YouTube, but does not say who posted it or removed it. The person who uploaded the video could have been one of the crew members or it could have been a jumpseat occupant doing it without the knowledge of the crew. Either way, someone’s job is probably on the line. As usual, the matter is under investigation.

It’s getting harder and harder to make a descent living in the aviation arena. More layoffs are on the way, airlines are cutting salaries in half to stay afloat and there are bound to be more consolidations on the horizon, both major and commuter. Don’t put the job that you have in jeopardy by doing something dumb. Play by the rules and use the judgment that got you the job in the first place. There is enough job pressure in this economic environment without adding more people looking over your shoulder because too many individuals did dumb things and forced a company or the FAA to ‘take appropriate action.’

Or is this just Darwin’s Theory in action? A natural weeding out of the weakest of the species.

NOTE: added 10/10
I just ran across this CNET article concerning electronic interference in airplanes. The comments bring up some good points.

Making Aviation Hard

I have been spending the past few days working in my hangar, but yesterday I took a little break and sat at a local coffee house, had a designer coffee and read a few aviation blogs and email newsletters.  At the end of my last trip I had started this post, but had not finished it, deferring instead to work that needed to be done on my plane. After reading those other posts though, I decided to finish what I had started writing since other people appear to be experiencing some of the same things that I have been.

Once your aviation career advances to jobs on the larger aircraft, you find yourself in a situation where you are required to work closely with other crew members both pilots and non-pilots and interact more often with ground personnel who service the aircraft and work with the passengers. Working on a multiple-person aircrew can often be a very rewarding experience. When your crew is professionally trained the process operates almost like clockwork, smoothly and professionally. Occasionally, however, you run into an individual (or individuals) who, for some reason, have decided to make the process hard.

These individuals appear to have a skewed attitude toward life in general. I’m not sure what the reason is. Perhaps somebody really screwed them in the past and they’re taking it out on those around them. Maybe on the inside they’re just unhappy people and try to pass it along. Maybe they feel like they’re ‘entitled’ and aren’t beeing treated as they deserve to be treated, or maybe they just feel trapped and frustrated at what has been going on in the airline industry the past few years. I’m sure these sorts of people are found in any profession. I seem to run into them once in a while as I’m out and about.

It is often said by non-rev travelers that they are treated better at other airlines than on their own. Does that make sense? Aren’t all the people at a given company in the same boat with a common goal to keep that boat floating upright? Did a few ‘entitled’ individuals generate a stereotype of the other workers that turned feelings agains those who followed them? Possibly.

Recently I had two trans-Pacific flights during which we, as the flight deck crew, were treated in completely opposite ways by the cabin crew. Both cabin crews were based at the same hub. On one flight we received a call from the cabin about every two hours asking if we were doing all right, needed anything  or had to take a break. (With a two-pilot crew and the extra pilot(s) on their break out of the cockpit, a cabin crew member must come into the cockpit to man the door while one of the on-duty pilots takes a ‘physiological break.’) If there were extra meals or snacks available after the passengers were satisfied, they were offered to the flight deck workers. Everyone was happy, we got to know who we were working with and the time went by quickly.

The other flight, however, took forever. Three and a half hours after takeoff we had still not heard from anybody in the back. The captain called back and finally asked for a crew meal so that he could eat before he went on his break. He asked for the chicken and was told it would be ready in 20 minutes (click). Forty minutes later he called back again and was told it would by up in 2 minutes. He got up, checked the door, saw the meal on it’s way and opened the flight deck door. The tray was handed to him through the open and the individual  turned around and waked away with not a word spoken… and he got the steak. Since we had a single additional pilot, we cut the flight time in thirds for our breaks and used those changeover times for our runs to the bathroom.  At about 7 hours into the flight we made another call to the back to get the remaining crew meals. Same process. No verbal interactions at all from the cabin crew. We took the meal trays back to an empty galley after we had reached the destination gate, the cabin crew nowhere to be found.

Why the big difference in the two crews? Part of the tone is set by the lead cabin attendant/purser, but individuals interact according to their own attitudes. Some cabin crew members have no desire whatsoever to interact with the flight deck crew and, for whatever reason, they seem to be the ones who bid the positions that include providing flight deck service. Maybe they’re trying to ‘get even’ for some past events. Who knows.

I can’t imagine that these people are enjoying their jobs. And if they aren’t, then why are they still in them? Or maybe it’s the animosity that keeps them going on a day-to-day basis, gives them something to brag about to their fellow workers with similar outlooks. The danger is that these attitudes can begin to poison the whole organization, slowly growing through the workforce and end up being passed along to the customers who pay the bills.

Yes, the aviation business and specifically the airline business is not the same as it was ten years ago. We’re working longer and getting paid the same or less. Bit we’re all in the same boat, people. If you want to get mad at somebody, make it the company management or you local politician, not your fellow workers or the unsuspecting passengers. We’re all in this together.

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