Opinion

When pilots have too much experience

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As pilots we spend our flying careers amassing hours of experience. Our skill and competence, and qualification for new ratings, and certainly for flying jobs, is largely based on our hours of logged experience. But when does a pilot have too much experience? In other words, when do the number of years logged since birth matter more than the number of hours in the logbook?

Manual override and Occam’s razor

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What if there were an easier way to revert to manual control? To remove the so-called “envelope protection” algorithms built into modern flight control systems. We’ve all heard the adage: Aviate, Navigate, Communicate. But can you really aviate when control inputs are analyzed thousands of times a second and then spit out to the control surfaces?

The perfect pilot myth is finished

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The rules are that test pilots must recognize the trim failure, for example, by some positive event. Once that positive identification is made, the test pilot must wait exactly three seconds before taking the proper action to disable to system. When non-pilots hear this information, their mouths drop open. They utter something like “that’s crazy. Three seconds! That’s just nuts.”

Night, over water

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On a moonless or cloudy night, over deep water, without visual reference and out of normal VHF radio communications range with air traffic control, you are alone. Having charge of all souls on board, while always a heavy responsibility, feels heavier.

Pilots make a deal with the devil

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As an industry, we know how to essentially eliminate fatal accidents. As pilots flying for our own reasons we can learn how the big boys did that, and adapt as many of the lessons as we can afford, or decide are worth the required tradeoffs. We still must make our own deal with the dark side to fly our own airplanes for our own reasons by ourselves, but I hope we are making the best and most informed deal we can.

Snakebite and other associated conditions

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To begin with, this is not an actual bite inflicted by a slithering, legless reptile. The other kind of snakebite is a sailing term among owners and crew of small yachts that probably originated in Southern California. It means that thing you’re looking for is right in front of you.

So what’s the rush?

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The constantly-mentioned “pilot shortage” has created a cultural shift in flight training. More so than ever, companies, flight schools, and students alike want training to be completed in the shortest amount of time. I am in the minority who strongly believe that students who meet the minimum requirements in a short time are not necessarily quality pilots.

Low and fast – a bad combination

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Some pilots know that I am opposed to the practice of low-altitude flying for thrill purposes. This includes buzzing airports, houses, friends etc. While researching for this article and a presentation I gave on the subject, I found that this subject is debated by others as well. If you think the practice is legal and safe – change my mind. Comment on this article.

From anxiety to mindfulness meditation – a pilot’s journey to wellbeing

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I didn’t want to “self-disclose” anything that could ground me, and I really didn’t have a clue about what anxiety or depression was or how to treat it. I wasn’t suicidal or anything so who do I talk to? Who can I trust that won’t end up grounding me on the spot? For many of us, the thought of “talking to someone” can actually make the anxiety worse.

My favorite feature – a relief tube

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Everything was ready to go, except I really should go pee before we hop in the airplane…”Nah, I’ll just go when we get to our fuel stop in Kentucky.” Despite this being back in the stone age, we did have a GPS in the plane. Unfortunately I must not have been very adept at using it, because instead of the 20 knot quartering headwind that was forecast, this stupid thing kept saying I had 45 knots on the nose. “That can’t… be.. right…”

Can Boeing trust pilots?

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The media uproar created by two fatal accidents in new Boeing 737 MAX airline jets makes me wonder if Boeing, or any transport jet maker, can continue to trust pilots to be a critical part of aircraft systems. Let me explain.

A new aircraft – and a new dimension to air travel

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One day it dawned on me that if the aviation industry would develop a large airplane that gives passengers a panoramic view, it would lay the foundation for a new dimension to air travel. But engineering an airplane like that is nearly impossible given the purpose of commercial air travel which is to provide transportation, nothing else.

From zero to hero – every professional was once an amateur

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In aviation, a newly minted private pilot is given some of the same responsibilities and authorizations shared by their 30,000 hour ATP counterparts. I see many similarities to the newly graduated surgeon working among his more seasoned peers with 20 years of experience and thousands of operations under their belts.

10 ways to know you’re ready to be an airline captain

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I completed my line check last night, which went pretty smooth overall. I screwed up the usual stupid stuff you don’t normally screw up, but because the weight of the check is present in your head and really nowhere else, this stuff happens. I am left with the feeling of what now?

The case against practicing in the pattern

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The title is a misnomer, but if I were to put in the actual title it would be: As important as practice in the pattern is, it doesn’t always prepare you for what can happen before and after getting cleared to land, and practice approaching from beyond the pattern is important also.

“Is it always like this?”

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The purpose of programs like the EAA Young Eagles and Civil Air Patrol Cadet orientation flights are to introduce our youth to aviation. It is not only a good thing to do in and of itself. It is essential if we are to pass on our aviation heritage so that it can continue and develop through the future. Sometimes, though, I think we focus too much on the airplane or on piloting, and not enough on flying.

How to safely solo a student in minimum time

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Another CFI joined me in the grass area between the runway and the taxiways, as we both watched my student solo. I enjoyed smiling to the CFI who joined me and my student waved at me as he passed us halfway on his second takeoff roll. The student was smiling and waving at me with confidence in what he was doing – with only six hours of total time.

Chasing the rabbit

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You can go your whole career chasing the rabbit; chasing the airline, chasing the airplane, chasing the seat, always being junior. You can go your whole career and miss everything. You can miss your kids growing up, your marriage, your friends, holidays, weekend events, miss your life.

What are your favorite airports?

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Pilots all have their favorite airports, for any number of reasons including the fun that’s awaiting once they arrive. When a friend asked me the other day which airports were my favorites, I made a list. So, in no particular order…