Ramblings about flying for fun and profit.

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Aviation Articles for July 22, 2011

Here are some flying stories you may have missed this week:

Lockheed Vega at the Fantasy of Flight Museum

Airplane bought on eBay finds it’s way to the Smithsonian
This article is from Channel 11 in Minneapolis. Matt Quy bought a basket-case airplane on eBay. His research during the restoration process found that he had purchased a historically significant airframe – significant enough that the Smithsonian bought it from him. A modern day version of finding an airplane in a barn.

The Joy of Flying
this one is from the TimesOnline of Beaver, PA. Two 86-year-old pilots and the 1928 National Air Derby. Lots of aviation history.

An airpark resident receives an award.
This article is from the Sacramento Bee. An 84-year-old Cameron Park resident was recognized recently for receiving the FAA’s Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for 50-plus consecutive years of safe flying.

How else would a pilot celebrate his 90th birthday?
This article is from the Santa Maria Times. Dan Daniels turned 90 recently. He has been a pilot and instructor for almost 70 years. Going for a glider flight seemed to be the best way to celebrate his birthday.

Airline pilot answers
Interestingly, this one comes from the Mother Nature Network and is an article published in Women’s Day. It seems really rare that the media gets aviation information correct. This article, though not my usual type, is fairly accurate in the information that it provides. See what you think.

Airlines and Airshows
This article is from the Journal Star in Peoria, IL. Not all airshow pilots make a living going upside down. This particular lady also pilots a 747-400. The Prairie Airshow is this weekend and the article give a little insight into one of the show performers.

Will you have the “Right Stuff” ?

Is There a Pilot On Board?

There have been a couple of incidents lately where a passenger with a pilot’s license has been pressed into service helping out in an airline cockpit, as in this instance. I have heard a few people comment that they sometimes thought/dreamed about what it would be like if they found themselves in that position. Most pilots probably have. Some looked forward to the challenge and some, given their level of flying experience, dreaded the thought of having the responsibility. Let’s see if we can’t give you a little ‘heads up’ on what would/should happen…

First Things First – Wind the Clock

Of course, this is a euphemism and you shouldn’t actually try to wind the clock – for a couple of reasons. One, transport category cockpits now have electric clocks and second, you probably won’t be able to find the clock anyway.  What it really means is that the first thing you should do (in almost any emergency) is to take a few slow breaths and then analyze your situation. You are almost assured of having a qualified pilot in the other seat who will tell you what you need to know and what he or she will be asking you to do. For this discussion, however, let’s assume the worst and you find that you are up there by yourself.

Second – Identify the Things You Know.

The chances are really good that the plane is highly automated and is, at that time, flying under the control of that automation. Before you spend the 10 minutes trying to figure out how to adjust your seat (the one I sit in has 8 ways of adjustment), look and see what the airplane is doing or is being directed to do.

You probably have spent some time looking at the various cockpit layouts in Flight Simulator and you can easily Google your favorite aircraft instrument panel and see how it looks. Glass cockpit displays are relatively standardized so it should be relatively easy to pick out your current altitude, heading and airspeed/mach. Navigation may be a little harder to figure out, mainly because you might not be familiar with the navigation point names.  Most of the cockpits will have the autopilot controls on the glareshield, something like this:

Typical Autopilot Control Panel

Everything on the panel is going to be labeled. A/P means autopilot, SEL means push or pull this to select it. A/T refers to the autothrottle system if the plane has one. Up is ON, down is OFF. If the button is lit, the system is engaged. LNAV and VNAV refer to Lateral (follow the course) and Vertical (hold the altitude) autopilot modes.

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.

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