AVIATION SAFETY NEWSLETTER
Thought for the month....Beware of the pilot who is great at getting out of trouble.
WHERE DID YOU GO TO SCHOOL?....It's an often heard term in and around St. Louis. It helps define for many people, who you are, who and what you know, and to some extent, what values you may have. The same thing is true about where we learned to fly.
One of the really neat things about working for the FAA is the opportunity to experience diversity in flying. We are constantly climbing in and out of a variety of aircraft and flying with pilots with different backgrounds and flight experience. It is never appropriate to make generalizations or approach any individual with pre-conceived ideas about how they will fly based on their background. However, certain trends do appear which often relate to where we learned to fly.
A pilot who learned to fly at a non-towered, rural airport, may never have worn a headset, nor seen the necessity for having one. The aircraft speaker and hand held microphone are quite adequate for self-announcing his or her intentions on the CTAF and listening for the occasional traffic that might share the pattern. Frequency changes are few and the only requirement for the transponder is to check to be sure it is "on". After landing, clear the runway at the first available place and continue taxiing back to the ramp. It's flying as it was designed to be with time to think and make decisions.
Anyone who has only experienced these conditions could find their first flight into a busy terminal area a bit unnerving. Just trying to sort out the information on the chart can be tricky, as various layers of airspace are depicted and we try to extract 3 dimensional information from a 2 dimensional piece of paper. No amount of studying the AIM can prepare a person for their first encounter with approach control during peak arrival time. Suddenly we're trying to set frequencies in our single comm radio with numbers three deep into the decimal point. Strange and unusual transponder codes come up at us from a radio that is almost never silent. We might feel additional pressure because all the other voices seem cool, calm, and professional. And, most frightening of all, for possibly the first time, someone is telling us where to go and how high to fly and expecting us to do precision navigation aerobatics.
Assuming that things are going to get easier when we get on the ground could prove to be unwise. Failing to taxi clear of the "hold" line, or failing to stop once we do, will probably draw an unfavorable response from the controller. Depending on the size and complexity of the airport, the clearance we receive to taxi to the ramp might include a majority of the letters of the alphabet and take 10 minutes to accomplish, even taxiing at a speed just a little below lift off as we try to keep up with the other airplanes. Arriving at the ramp, an impatient ground guide wearing ear covers is trying to get us to squeeze into a parking spot between two business jets, with our wings underneath theirs! Opening the door makes it absolutely clear why he was wearing ear protection. The din is incredible, and as we zigzag our way across the ramp trying to avoid becoming FOD for someone's fan jet, we get our eyebrows singed as we unknowingly walk into the exhaust from an APU. Welcome to the city.
All that must mean that pilots who learn to fly at towered airports, around busy terminal areas, are better pilots. Right? Wrong! In many respects flying is like playing pool. You have to know how the table tilts to make the shot. Obviously, a pilot who has learned to fly wearing a headset with a boom mike, talking on dual comms with flip flop frequencies and always working with ATC, is going to be familiar with an environment that could terrify pilots raised in empty places. But, empty spaces can be just as unnerving to those of us used to endless chatter in the headphones, and having our hands held as we're guided to our destination.
I remember flying with a pilot to a rural destination when he received, for the first time in his life, a clearance to execute the NDB approach while we were still 25 miles out. He was shocked, and didn't quite know how to proceed. After landing, he wouldn't have been the first to be greeted and told; "Out here we sorta expect folks to enter a normal traffic pattern when it's VFR, even if your doing the instrument approach." "And, if you would have given us a call on unicom, we would have been happy to tell you that we're using the opposite runway." "By the way, the FAA called. They wanted to know if you got down OK. Seems you forgot to cancel IFR." Welcome to the country.
The environment in which we learn to fly will have an affect on how we do things. It doesn't mean that one pilot is better than another, just that our experiences and points of reference are different. Learning in one world can make us unprepared for the other. Even the differences from airport to airport can be significant. St. Louis Regional has intersecting runways, St. Louis Downtown Parks has parallel runways. The first time a pilot who learns at Regional flies to Downtown and is cleared for a right base to the left runway, things can get interesting.
Pilot Decision Making is at the top of the list for the FAA Administrator's SAFER SKIES - A FOCUSED AGENDA. As pilots, we can only make good decisions if we have good information and are aware of our limitations. Some of those limitations may be a result of where we went to school.
Highland Illinois, Highland-Winet Airport. 10:00 AM
Flying Without Power
Non-tower Airport Operations
At the Adam's Mark Hotel
American Bonanza Society 30th Annual Convention & Industry Exhibit
Seminars and exhibits, 10ththrough 12th, 9 to 5 PM
LET'S NOT MEET BY ACCIDENT
FRED P. HARMS
Safety Program Manager
1-800-322-8876 x 135