Sunday, September 26, 2010

Aspen Arrival

There were several contributing factors to the Aspen Arrival accident.  The weather, of course, was a major contributing factor. The overbearing boss, who said that the crew should "keep their comments to themselves" and got very upset upon learning that there was a good possibility that they would end up at an alternate, was the largest contributing factor. This put a lot of pressure on the crew to get into Aspen. The high pressure put them in a difficult situation because they wanted to make their clients happy. Because of this, they put themselves in a dangerous situation, one in which they probably knew they were making a mistake. Another contribuing factor was the pilots configuring the aircraft in such a way that produced a very high sink rate. They were in a hurry to get down, out of the clouds and snow, to where they could see the airport and land. Again, going back to the boss, I don't think this would have happened if he hadn't put so much pressure on the pilots to get to Aspen. But then again, the pilots need to be firm in their decisions and not let an angry passenger (who doesn't understand the severity of the situation) tell them where they will and will not go.

The one thing that the pilots should have done differently, that for sure would have saved everyone, was not shoot the approach. They knew that they were taking a big risk when they started. And, after hearing the other challengers go missed, they should have definitely known that they were putting themselves into a bad situation. They should have been more confident in their decision making and not let someone else impact their decisions-- especially someone who doesn't understand exactly what is going on. Another thing they could have done, if they had to shoot the approach, was not configure the aircraft in a way that produced a sink rate over 2,000 fmp-- especially since the flight manual does not allow it.

I would like to think that if I had a passenger that was like the boss in this situation that I would be able to stand my ground and not let them make me make stupid decisions. I can see that it would be hard though, when your job is on the line. I would hope that I could explain the severity of the situation and that they would understand the extreme consequences of putting yourself in a situation like this. I think that if I didn't feel comfortable and confident with my ability to do something, then I wouldn't do it-- I could find another job if it resulted in me losing my job. I would rather find another job than be dead.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Single Pilot IFR

"Single Pilot IFR" had a lot of good advice for flying single pilot IFR. A lot of it was things that I was taught in ground school classes or during my training, but it went into a lot more detail and gave some good insight. The article gave helpful tips to being fully prepared to fly SPIFR. An interesting fact that I learned from the article is that studies have shown that people cannot juggle more than three to five tasks. Trying to add more tasks after that point will only deteriorate the pilot's ability to complete the tasks accurately and effectively. That being said, one of the helpful tips that I came accross that apply to helping a pilot stay ahead of the aircraft and organized are to stay in practice of making IFR flight plans. The article suggests that a pilot make at least one IFR flight plan a week if she is out of practice to keep up good habits like getting weather, looking at NOTAMs, picking alternates, determining fuel reserves, and reviewing approach plates. This is a good idea for someone like myself because I haven't made an instrument flight plan for about a year and a half now. I should make an effort to practice one at least every once in a while.

Another tip that the article mentioned that I thought would be helpful is that the easiest way to make SPIFR more manageable is through advance planning and organization. It suggests that you do this by getting charts and publications that you might need in advance and reviewing them. It suggests that you put the charts and publications in the order that they will be used and have them folded open to the appropriate page, or have the page marked so you can easily get to it. This will allow you to stay ahead of the aircraft and have more time to resolve an issue, should one arise.

The last tip that I really liked was the suggestion to write ATC clearances and frequencies in the white space on the low altitude enroute chart. This allows you to keep all the important information in one place that is relevant to your flight. Again, just simplifying things and making things run smoother.

Althought this article had a lot of great insight into make SPIFR simpler and less stressful, I still don't think that I would do it. At least not at this time in my flight career-- or training, rather. I would want to have a lot more time under the hood and in actual instrument conditions before I tried to fly SPIFR. I hope that some day I do have the opportunity to do it, but I would feel more comfortable with A LOT more instrument flight time.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Electrical Fires in Flight

In-Flight Electrical Fires is an informative article that really put everything I have ever heard about electrical fires together. It emphasized the importance of making flying the aircraft your first priority in a situation like this--getting on the ground is paramount. The article said that the ability to recognize even small things that are out of the ordinary is an important skill for pilots to have. It also stressed the importance of not waiting for a major problem to arise before you take action.

A short circuit is an electrical circuit that allows current to flow somewhere other than the intended path. A short circuit could cause an electrical fire.

The procedure in the Semniole PIM and the article for what to do in case of an electrical fire were similar.  The article warned against resetting circuit breakers though, and the Seminole PIM says that it is okay to reset them, as long as you allow a short time between resets. Another thing that the Seminole PIM says to do is pull out all the circuit breakers if, after turning of the battery master, alternator and radio master, the fire still persists. I don't remember anything about that in the article. Both the Seminole PIM and the article emphasized the importance of landing as soon as possible.

In the event that I experience an electrical fire, I am going to try to remain calm and fly the plane first and foremost. I will have the memory items on the check list memorized, and go through them first. Then I will run through the checklist and make sure I checked everything. I would work fast to go through the checklist, try to get the fire out, and land as soon as possible.